Rand is the founder of Moz, a company that made the transition from client services to products for inbound marketers. In this interview Rand talks to us about why inbound marketing is a hack that all startups should love, and some of the tips and tricks to do it extremely well.
→ Why inbound marketing is a hack that all startups should love
→ How much debt was CEO Moz
→ How is it that the blog could be a turning point
→ Tips and tricks to do it extremely well
→ The transition from client services to products for inbound marketers
→ How does inbound an SEO save his day
→ What percentage about the
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Actor TV, Bronson Taylor. And today I have Rand Fishkin with us. Ryan, thanks for coming on the program.
Rand: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Bronson.
Bronson: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to this talk. I think this is going to resonate with a lot of the people watching. But let me tell the people a little bit about you. You are the CEO of Maus. You’re the author of The Art of CEO. Came out a few years ago. You’re the cofounder of Inbound dot org. You’re a regular conference speaker. And by regular, I mean all the time. All the time. And you’ve been named to a sub GS 40 or 40 list and Businessweek 30 best tech entrepreneurs under 30 list and probably other leaders that we don’t know about. So that’s about sum up so far.
Rand: But it sounds pretty good.
Bronson: There you go. Now, that’s a pretty awesome intro right there. But things haven’t always been awesome for you or for your company. Maus, which is now called Maus, used to be CEO Maus. So I want to go back to the dark days a little bit because that story, I think, will actually illuminate a lot of the stuff we’re going to talk about. So let’s start when you were in debt. So how much debt was CEO Maus in just a few years back?
Rand: Let’s see. I think the worst we ever had was in 2000, late 2005 into early 2006. So we’d been essentially burning cash. We had taken out a bunch of credit card debt and some equipment loans, business lines of credit, that kind of thing from banks in 2001 through to 2004. And I think it was around 2005, our end of 2004, beginning of 2005, that we stopped being able to make the minimum monthly payments. And we had about 100 and maybe 120 hundred and $30,000 worth of debt. And so that ballooned up to $450,000 worth of debt. And remember, this isn’t business, that this is essentially personally guaranteed debt, which is why I still can’t buy a house or a car or rent an apartment in my own name. We’re renting an apartment, but it’s in my wife’s name. So, yeah, it’s, you know, it was a very challenging experience to go.
Bronson: Through, you know, the joys of being an entrepreneur, right?
Bronson: You know, I’ve heard you say something really interesting is that the essay or Maus blog was really a turning point. And the reason I had you say how much debt you were in is because for a blog to be a turning point when you’re in for a K of debt like something’s going on there, that’s worth understanding, right? So how is it that the blog could be a turning point? How does inbound an SEO save the day for you there?
Rand: Well, so the interesting thing here is at the time we were in a product and software business, we were a consulting business. And in 2000 well, late 2003, the blog started and it wasn’t until the blog itself started taking off, which was then sort of before beginning of oh five, that we managed to start getting higher value customers because they read the blog, they enjoyed the content material there. They wanted to work with us. Right? They felt like they know they knew me through the blog. And so they had a sense of, okay, this guy really understands kind of what’s going on in the field and how we can drive more traffic to our website and what we need to do to improve. Let’s contract him. Let’s contract SEO laws at the time of SEO laws. And that ended up being the clients who helped us get out of debt. By middle of 27, we were completely out of that debt, or at least we had settled it. Right. So you don’t go? No, we didn’t pay $450,000. We called up a credit card company, said, hey, we owe you $2,000 in actual cash and you put $10,000 of penalties on it. We owe you 12 grand. We’ll give you three. Or you can sell it to a collections company. Right, for no insult to the Russian. Right. And yeah. And you’ll wind up with whatever you get from the collection company, 800 bucks. And so they usually take you up on that. They’d be like, okay, we’ll write off that. We’ll write it off as bad debt, but it stays on your credit record. And so that, you know, the blog was a turning point in that it helped us attract the attention of people who then were able to turn into clients and help us get out of that debt.
Bronson: And like you said, initially, you were services and you were consulting health, right? I know that kind of thing. And now you become, I think, 100% product based. But as you look back, you kind of everything the the client side of things and the product side of things, the entire kind of history of the business. How much would you say of your business came from inbound as opposed to paid channels, you know, things that you had a, you know, pay per click or whatever. What percentages are we talking about here just so people have a grasp of them?
Rand: Sure. So we did not spend a single dime on advertising or pay per click or any performance driven channel until 2011. So literally never in the during the consulting business years and not at all for the first four years of running the software company. Right. Which was 2007 through two to today. Today and over the last couple of years, paid is about 15% of our free trials. Right. So, you know, you go to mass website and you’re like, man, you know, I really want to get access to these tools. You can just sign up for a free trial. You put in your credit card, it starts a free 30 day trial. And then at the end of 30 days, it turns into a paid subscription. The you know, the the process there is essentially that the interesting thing about that 15% of customers that we acquire through paid channels is that they tend to perform worse in terms of retention and customer lifetime value than those that we acquire through inbound sources, SEO, social content, email, you know, conferences and events, all that kind of organic stuff. And I think, well, that sounds kind of weird. It makes sense intuitively if you found the Maus blog and you subscribe to our RSS feed. To reading it. And you went, this is this is really what I need to be doing, right? I’m a professional marketer and I need help with this stuff and I want to monitor and track all these things. Then yeah, amass this product makes great sense. If you search for, you know, rent tracking tool and Google and our, our PBC ad pops up and you’re like, click, okay. They have a ring tracking tool sign up. I have four months later. I feel like I don’t need ring tracking anymore because my client doesn’t care about SEO as much. Turn it off. Right. Those clients, those customers who tend to stick with the product longer are the ones that are attracted to the content and the community as opposed to just I need this tool. Yeah. The other interesting thing about that is when you look at our funnel, the more times you visit our website before you sign up, the longer you stay with us as a customer really well. So this is fascinating, right? Brunson Because imagine this essentially a lot of a lot of people think about, you know, oh, I want to do some growth hacks to increase my conversion rate, get more of the people who are visiting my website to become paid customers. And I go, I don’t want that. I actually don’t want that. Right? I want you to come back a bunch of times. I want you to get into the blog. I should read The Beginner’s Guide. I want you to try some free tools. And then after you’re, you know, if you visit, I think the average right now is seven times before you sign up for a free trial. But if you visit 12 times, you’re going to be a far better, happier customer. Like our products are really going to serve you well as opposed to folks who sign up their first or second time. And so that that sort of intentional non conversion rate, you can read a lot of the stuff, you can lose a lot of stuff on the website and never realize we have something to sell you. Yeah. And that’s intentional.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, it’s such great advice on how to think about it because you know me personally, like I don’t quite see it that way yet and I need to, I need to more because I’m thinking, Oh, they’ve already been a couple of times what’s wrong with me when instead if they’ve been a couple times, they’re getting hooked more and more every time and they’re going to stay around. I mean, everybody talks about retention, but we never really connect retention with the amount of time they come to you before they sign up. And so that’s kind of, you know, that’s there. Yeah. Now we’re thinking.
Rand: Right, well you and you really want to have I’m not saying that this is going to be true for every company, every business, every website. But what I am saying is if you don’t measure it, you’ll never know, right? So when you do the cohort analysis of what’s the difference between customers who stayed with me a long time versus customers who quit, who left early on, versus customers who never even converted to pay to take a look at those three different groups and say what? What characteristics can I find about them? And then how do I translate that into actionable items that I’m going to do in my marketing work?
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now our audience is filled with people that want to have the same kind of story you have, right? Things aren’t going so hot right now. They’re in their dark days of 400 K negative. You know, they’re watching. And that’s where a lot of people are at their level of trying to figure this stuff out. And they watch things like this for hope but also for advice. They’re trying to figure out, all right, what do I do next? So I want you to kind of guide them a little bit. And that’s where I want to take some of the questions here. So first, kind of at a high level, define inbound marketing for us. What do you mean when you say that? So everybody’s on the same page here.
Rand: Yeah. So when I say about marketing, what I really mean are channels where you earn your traffic, your visits, your attention, rather than channels where you interrupt people to get their attention. And so it doesn’t it doesn’t always necessarily mean paid versus non-paid, although very often channels where you pay are ones where you’re interrupting someone. Right. It’s a pop up ad pop under a banner, a television ad, a billboard or radio ad. It’s like, no, I’m trying to browse the web here and you’re getting in my way, or I’m trying to watch TV and you’re getting in my way. I’m trying to drive down the highway and you’re getting in my way. All of those channels are, in my experience, expensive. They don’t produce as highly desirable results, and they don’t bring new customers that are as valuable they are. They tend to be pay to play entirely. So there’s no flywheel effect. Right. In an inbound channel. Think about something like SEO. You start producing a few pieces of content. You earn your first few links, your domain starts gaining authority in Google. And now as you start producing content, you need fewer and fewer links to individual pieces to be able to rank for them. Because Google sort of recognized your site as an authority. That’s the flywheel in action, right? That that driving momentum that you build up over time. Yes. The first few turns of the wheel are really hard, but then it generates the momentum that keeps going. This doesn’t happen in the eruption side of world. Right. That that spammy email list that you bought from that guy, it’s going to cost just as much to get another thousand email addresses. Right. There’s no sort of momentum building up. So this is what I really define as inbound. That it’s it’s earning rather than interrupting, you know, rent.
Bronson: I love what you just said about the flywheel because I feel like that’s what’s happening to growth. Hacker TV Like as of today and I woke up this morning and I’m looking at the analytics and I’m like, That’s odd because now Google is the biggest refer, but I didn’t have some like mastermind strategy there. I’m not an SEO genius, I just kept producing content and the flywheel wasn’t going that fast for, you know, six, eight weeks and for many people much longer than that. And now all of a sudden it’s the main driver of everything. And so it’s kind of like, huh, that’s interesting that that’s happening this morning as kind of the first time it like tipped and now you’re coming on the show and telling me, yeah, that’s what’s going to happen. That’s that’s the way the world works now.
Rand: I think it is. I think it is. And this is just a super valuable thing to keep in mind about inbound marketing is that you can get this incredible value, but you have to be willing to invest for a long time before you see the returns.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you think about how many interviews we’ve done here and how much stuff we’ve produced. But week one, nobody hears, you know, multiple and nobody cares. Like it is a flop. The flywheel. I love that phrase for it. Now you’ve called inbound marketing a marketing hack that startups should love. What do you mean by that? Because this is growth hacker TV.
Rand: So yeah, well, so if I think about what a startup is good at, they’re good at creativity, they’re good at putting an exceptional amount of effort, providing incredible value. What they’re not good at is spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to compete with big brands, right? In places like paid media, outdoor radio, TV, print, even even web banners and that kind of stuff. Just display advertising, video advertising. Those are areas where you really need a high budget. But what does it take to produce a great block? What does it take to produce a great YouTube video? What does it take to produce a phenomenal graphic or great slideshow? Mm hmm. It takes creativity and energy and devotion to the content creation and the promotion of it and to networking. That is a skill that startups should have and a skill and a channel that startups should love. The other thing that’s beautiful, beautiful about this is it really shows that you can do marketing at scale. So if you can if you can get this flywheel kind of going, you will be generating traffic that can turn into customers in a repeatable fashion. That isn’t going to require that you go and raise $10 million of VC money. Yeah, one startup doesn’t want that.
Bronson: Exactly. It sounds pretty good all around from here. Now, walk us through kind of typical buying cycle nowadays, because I don’t think people actually have a good grasp of this. I think they assume, oh, people do a Google search, they click on AD and then they buy it like they don’t actually understand what goes into buying now. So walk us through that and tell us how inbound really plays a part of that story.
Rand: Sure. Well, I think this is a it’s a weird misconception for people to have because nobody ever thinks of themselves. Yeah. You know, the last pair of shoes that I bought on the Internet, the last event conference where I went via the web, the last time I subscribed to a piece of software, I basically all I did was search for what I wanted, and then I bought it right away. Nobody does that. Nobody does that. Right. What you do is you might perform a search and you evaluate several vendors and then you talk to your friends and you look on Facebook or Twitter or Quora or whatever it is, right? Whatever channels you’re involved in to kind of get some information about that provider and then you make an informed decision or you don’t even know that you need something. And, you know, you stumble across this fantastic interview with, let’s say, a guy who, I don’t know, maybe provides great WordPress hosting. And you think to yourself, yeah, you know, my my WordPress blog has been having a lot of stability issues. Let me move it over to, you know, WP Engine or whatever, because I really enjoyed what Jason, the guys over there had to say and that seems like a great company. I’m going to do that. That that’s a true buying cycle, right? It either starts with a considered kind of list of all the things I’m going to evaluate or it begins more organically. But I almost never see the, you know, oh, wow. Really lose £60 in 30 days. Yes, that is for me, Clay. I’m going to do that rate is. Come on. I mean, that’s it’s a very small subset of the buying audience and certainly not most of the more sophisticated customers that startups are chasing, particularly B2B, but even B2C. So that buying cycle to me means you have to have some inbound.
Bronson: Yeah. Do you think that companies, startups there, they’re lured by intent? Because that’s what we hear. You know, when somebody does a search on Google, it’s intent based. They’re looking for something. So if you can come up, you know, and be the answer to their intent, it’s magical. Do you think we’re lured by that when that’s not reality? A lot of times.
Rand: I think it’s important for us to continue to pay attention that one of the things I worried about, especially a couple of years ago as social was getting super hot, was that I heard a lot of you know, when I go down to the valley and go to San Francisco, a lot of this search is dead. So, you know, search is an old channel now. It’s it’s going to be all about social, mobile, local, sort of like yeah, those things are still search.
Bronson: Mobile and.
Rand: Local especially are still search. And so I’m glad to see that we’ve sort of it feels like we’ve conquered that mentality of search is dead. However, I do think that while you should be passionate about an intent driven query and Google does drive an incredible amount, you know, 50% plus of of Web traffic. I think conductor did a great study recently where they evaluated 320 million visits across a large number of websites and looked at the traffic distribution. And it was about half Google. Half is Google search. So that’s still the way we navigate the Internet. But I would I would caution people against believing that all they have to do is appear in the results. SEO and PPC is not show up, it’s show up and provide all sorts of other great stuff. Make sure you’re good at other channels, make sure you’ve done some PR and some press so that there are some reputable outlets saying some things about you that really builds up trust in consumer. Make sure there are some reviews out there. Make sure that bloggers have talked about the news so that when someone searches for your brand, they can see lots of people saying, Nice thing, make sure that you’ve got a compelling website that provides all the answers to the information they’re seeking, not just a page that can rank number one. If you just have that one piece, you are going to be losing out to people that are ranking two or three, four or five, six who have all those other channels. I yeah. I can’t tell you how much it means to be multi-channel in this day and age.
Bronson: Now, that’s great to hear that from the inbound expert. You know, when you tell us that focus on everything but inbound is massively important. It just it’s a very holistic way of doing things. It’s not us versus them. It’s not. Forget about that. I mean, you even said, you know, I think 15% is pay per click for you. So you’re playing in that world. It’s not the main thing, but it’s not nothing the same. Absolutely. And so I like that. I like that kind of attitude. Now, let’s talk about content a little bit, because tell me if I’m wrong here. When I think about inbound, my head just thinks about content. I think, okay, that’s kind of the engine, the heart, you know, it’s the thing that makes inbound a possibility is that kind of the way you view the world and just tell us how important is content and how do you define content? Because I think you talk about it in some unique ways before.
Rand: Yeah. So I agree with you. Content is very often to almost always the engine driving inbound. However, that being said, I strongly urge people to to kind of think about how they want to do their marketing as finding an intersection of three Venn circles. Right. So one is what you’re passionate about and love to do. One is where you’re uniquely qualified and great at making something that will be valuable and interesting. And the third is stuff that is hyper valuable to your customers and to potential customers and or to people who influence potential customers. There’s a lot of businesses out there who are targeting people who are not very web savvy, aren’t going to be using a lot of social media or blogging, or they’re barely going to be using Google. Right. And so those for those people, it’s really who are their influencers? How do you reach them? And then finding that intersection, if you find the intersection of all three of those, I think you’re in luck. But that that could be a lot of different things for some people. That’s I’m a great blogger. I can write regularly, you know, every day or every week produce something really interesting that other people want to share. For some people, it’s I’m more of a once every 3 to 6 months, I can produce something really fantastic, a big resource that I’ve invested lots of research and effort into, and it’s going to be a visually based, graphics heavy report on the state of an industry, and that’s what’s going to attract a lot of my traffic and customers. I’m not a daily blogging kind of person and for other people it’s you know, I’m great at making slideshows. I’m going to use PowerPoint, I’m going to create a lot of SlideShare visuals. And SlideShare is a great place to drive tons of traffic and get a lot of views. And that’s going to be my platform. Other people, it’s I’m really good at interacting with. People over social media. Twitter is great for me. Facebook is great for me and for some people. The Internet’s not a fantastic platform, though. Like, I like going door to door when I meet people in person. I’m great. Great. Set up those coffee meetings, build that network and let that network do your web marketing for you or hire somebody else to do it right. So find your passion, find what you’re good at, and find that intersection with what your customers value. I think that’s the content that you need to be creating, and then that will be the engine that drives social shares, links that send traffic echo, you know, that earns you rankings, people subscribing to your your RSS feed, people paying attention to your website and going navigating directly there, you know, building up a brand on the web that people are familiar with and have positive associations with getting press, media, all of those different inbound channels, right, of which there are so many now, can all be driven by, you know what I’m loosely defining as content?
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I love the three of the Venn diagram there. And just to remind people, you know, even if you find that intersection of the three, it’s still a flywheel. You have to get it going. So you find the intersection and there’s still crickets. Nobody cares.
Rand: That’s right.
Bronson: That’s right. Work. And you work and you work and things start to move along and then you have something really meaningful happen. If you stick with those three kind of Venn diagrams and really work the system you’ve created there. Now let me ask you something I think is really important, and I almost don’t even know how to ask this question. I have something inside. I’m trying to get out, but I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s the idea that the companies that are good at inbound, we know them because there’s so few of them. Right? Like we know them off the top of my head. I mean, I had the people on the show and it’s like, you know, it’s just like they’re household names because of all their inbound content they’re doing and all the stuff that we know about them. Inbound is not built into the culture of so many startups. It just it’s not on the radar. And yet the ones who do it are killing it. They’re crushing it. I mean, they’re just they’re just, you know, they’re growing and they know why. They’re teaching people why, because since they’re doing inbound, they’re always doing interviews like this, telling you what’s working. I mean, it couldn’t be more not hidden how it’s working. How do you build inbound into the culture of your startup when it’s such a powerful channel and yet it’s so ignored?
Rand: Well, so this is I think it’s a cultural thing, right? So it needs to start at a belief level, right? We believe in investing for a long time as opposed to getting short term returns. We believe in, as a company culture, being able to fail at something for a long time and learn from those failures and iterate. And we believe in making investments that are marketing driven, not just product and engineering driven. Those cultural things are very hard for a lot of startups, right? I mean, when I think about Paul Graham’s essays over the last decade and I think about the advice that I had always gotten from sort of Silicon Valley VCs, of which I pitched many, right? It’s always a take a lot of money, right? Get a lot of traction, get it quickly, ramp up customers fast. Have this investment cycle where you put dollars to customer acquisition and find a mathematical formula that scales up that does not fit with the inbound methodology at all, that does not fit with the idea of I’m going to invest a lot of time and a ton of hours into blogging for a year and a half before we really see any return. MM That is not what an investor wants to hear. That’s not what a startup wants to hear. What they want to hear is, how do I be an overnight success, right? How do I, how do I turn on paper, click tomorrow and get, you know, five customers for every $20 I spend. Mm hmm. Right. Because I have 1,000,000.2 in the bank and I have 600,000 that I can devote to customer acquisition. And this is my conversion rate and this is how many people I want to onboard. And boom. Right. That is a that’s the equation that they’re comfortable with. And the reason why inbound is so successful, in my opinion, is because it lets you stand out from the crowd, right? When there’s when there’s 100 people doing pay per click and doing social media advertising, doing display, doing, you know, big brands, doing old media, it’s pretty easy to be the one of the world’s top bloggers on modern network security software for mobile devices. Mm hmm. Well, who who owns that right now? Well, nobody does great. If your company provides, you know, this fantastic mobile app and you want to be known as the leader, you want to be the person The Wall Street Journal calls every time there’s a security breach of a mobile device. Boom. You can be that person, but you can’t do it by buying ads.
Bronson: Yeah. No, I think it’s great advice. And I like your advice because. It’s not tactic based, it’s mindset based. You just have to come into it thinking very differently than all the peers that are at the conference, right? That all the people that are in your co-working space, like you have to be the one that’s like, no, I’m doing something different. It doesn’t look like what you’re doing. No one’s excited about what I’m doing, but it’s going to work.
Rand: And this is this is what’s so weird to me, right? Is because this mindset right or bias exists. And yet if you think about all the articles that we have ever read about, you know, companies that have experienced fantastic success, there is always something exceptional about them. And I don’t mean exceptional in terms of really, really good. I mean exceptional in terms of the exception to the rule. There is something exceptional about each success story. And yet somehow people get into this mode of thinking of if I do what everyone else does. Right. In the marketing world, especially because a lot of people, I think a lot of people in the startup world think that their differentiating factor is product based, software based, code based, approach based, not marketing driven. Mm hmm. And to really succeed in this field, you have to do both.
Bronson: Absolutely. Now, this next question. I think you’ve already answered it, but I’ll I’ll ask you real quick anyways. If you were starting a company today, what shape would your inbound efforts kind of take? What would they look like? And I ask it from the point of view of you don’t have a lot of resources. You have a small team like you’re not Maus, you’re a guy in the garage, try to some inbound. What would you do? And what I’m thinking, the answer is, is the Venn diagram find where they come together. And the answer is it depends on you. But is there anything more than that that you would say if you had resource, you know, really limitations there?
Rand: Yeah. I mean, at the tactical level, one of the things that would be really important for me to set up is a lot of analytics, right? So I constantly be monitoring, hey, I’m because I’m me, I know I’m going to be doing lots of social and lots of blogging and content production and I am going to be measuring relentlessly. I want to see exactly which tweets of mine got the most retweets, and I want to see the the follower wonk, which is a company we bought. But right. I want to see the follower want like who are the new people who started following me with the highest number of followers? And I want to start interacting and engaging with them. I want to do that on Google Plus. I want to see my ripples. You know, every time I do a post, I’m going to be constantly in an analysis mode, probably for the first six months at least, before I start to get what I call like the, the seeing the matrix, right? Like, like the guy’s watching the screen and he’s, you know, he’s like, I don’t even see the color anymore. I just see blond, brunet, redhead. Right. And for me, it’s like I don’t even see the the the social sharing and the blog anymore. I just see, you know, a thousand clicks, 2000 clicks, 3000 clicks. I just see the this is what’s going to move the needle. This is what I really care about. And once you get that mouth feel for your industry, it becomes almost a nature to produce stuff and to share stuff that people just love and link to and share and plus one and tweet that like and that becomes your, you know, an inbound strategy. And that’s not that’s not exactly for every right. Right. Some people are going to do lots of different things. But getting that analytics set up early so you can measure and get the sort of the intuition of what’s going to work. Amazing. Amazing what you can do once you have that.
Bronson: Yeah, I love the Matrix analogy. I mean, that’s perfect. I mean, how long does it take to get that level of mastery, just maybe with you personally or just in general, what you see? I mean, it seems like that takes a few years. That’s not something to happen in a few months.
Rand: I mean, this is you know, this is the classic Malcolm Gladwell 10000 hours thing. I don’t think it takes the 10000 hours, but I think it does take, you know, a few hundred to 1000 before you start to get it. And certainly, again, this is that flywheel concept. It’s not just that, you know, all that content you’re sharing is going to get all this extra attention and links and rankings and traffic. It’s also that you yourself will become a more powerful driver of inbound value because you get this sixth sense.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Let me ask you this. The people that master inbound are the ones that do it. Well, like I said, it’s not that many. It doesn’t seem like there’s some of them. What do they have in common? What? You know, maybe habits. They all have characteristics they all have just. Is there any pattern matching that you’ve done against people that dominate inbound?
Rand: Huh? I don’t know if I’ve ever done something like that, at least not in a not in a way that’s measurable. I could give you my intuition on it, but because I think that would be a phenomenal research project that would be so interesting. I should try and do. And try and survey a large number of folks who are exceptional at this. And here’s the basics right now.
Bronson: You’re seeing.
Rand: I am. I’m seeing The Matrix right now.
Bronson: I mean, for me, because I’ve had some people like I had Joanna Lord on who just recently, you know, work for you. And I see so many similarities between you and her in terms of personality. You’re saying when you like talking, you’re very transparent, like, you know, that’s just two people. There’s a little bit of pattern matching going on there. If I were to add in, you know, you know, Mike Volpe, the CMO of HubSpot, I start seeing the same thing, you know, transparency, openness, a joy of being around people. So I don’t know, like, those are just some of the things that I’m starting to see. But I think there’s a lot more, though.
Rand: Yeah, I mean, I see a lot of qualities, so I have a presentation that I’m going to be giving. It was one that talks about sort of the secret ingredients of marketing. And I think some of the ones you mentioned are certainly in that that transparency is a very powerful one. It’s certainly not something everyone does or needs to do, but it is they’re being the exception. Being the exception to the rule is hugely powerful. And I think you see that in virtually all of these exceptional marketers who focus on inbound channels. I see people being very giving. Yeah, right. They’re essentially willing to give to almost to a fault. They’re willing to invest a huge amount to help other people with no expectation or thought of return. Right. I mean, in the back of my mind, I always think, well, karma will have something good happen from this if I’m helpful to all these people. And that has generally tended to be the case. I think. I think karma works extremely well. The concept of it, anyway, works extremely well in the Indian world and in the web world. I see I see people having authenticity, people who are authentic, people who you feel like, yeah, I know who that person is. I get them and I understand that they are being themselves and they’re not trying to put on some sort of bullshit facade just to earn my interest or my traffic. And I think when you don’t see that authenticity, you fall flat. It just sucks, right? Just terrible things coming from it and and people hating on them and attracting lots of negativity. And I think karma, again, punishes that, that lack of authenticity. So those features, those traits, I think, are, you know, clearly secret ingredients of great marketers.
Bronson: No one, the one that really stood out to me, they’re all that great, you know, all the ones you said. But the giving, because I look at your SlideShare and I can’t imagine how many hours went into your presentations. Like, I just can’t imagine I’m doing a lot of interview and I’m thinking, Oh my goodness, like I don’t know where to begin going through the amount of content that he’s put together in the last five, ten years, and it’s all good. It’s not like throwaway bullet points, it’s like deep and good and helpful and relevant. And I just think, okay, like there’s a reason inbound works for him because he worked it like he gave a lot to the community to make it work. And it’s so true, the inbound people that come on the show, they always have SlideShare and they’ve always given a ton into their presentations and whatever, whatever their SlideShare is, sometimes it’s literally SlideShare, but whatever they’ve invested in, it’s deep. They’ve invested a lot. Yeah, I think that’s a great takeaway right there. Let me ask you this. Is there anything on the flip side of pattern matching to avoid like I think you net you hit on a little bit just now, but what should we kind of stray away from as we do inbound?
Rand: I think that there’s a few areas where many marketers will get caught up in being wholly data driven and never investing in serendipity. Okay. And that is outsource. Yeah. So that’s actually quite. It can seem to work well in the short run and tends to do poorly in the long run. So I’ll give you an example. You sort of if you find one channel that’s performing for you and you give a couple other channels a try. So let’s say, for example, that you go, Hey, my customers are mostly on Facebook. I’m going to do, you know, lots of Facebook posting an interaction there. But I just don’t I just don’t have time and energy to invest in blogging or Twitter or video and YouTube or SEO or, you know, conferences and events and and SlideShare. So I’m going to kind of ignore all those channels and get this one flywheel going and invest in that. Because I’ve tried those other ones, they just didn’t work out for me. And my my advice there is you’ve got to be willing to let some serendipity happen, right? So if it’s hey, yes, maybe it is the case that you’re just not seeing valuable visits come from Twitter. And even though you’re doing multi-channel attribution, you just don’t see people showing up. That is a funnel from there. I might I might suggest that you stick with it, stick with it for a while. Even if the metrics are saying this, this isn’t right. I think there’s a lot of those types of channels where you need to just find your groove. And it takes a while that that would be something I would avoid is getting to getting data driven without the extra layer of letting your intuition also play a part. Yeah. And having a belief in serendipity. Another thing, you know, another thing that I do see some marketers getting really frustrated and challenged by is essentially conflicts with web developers and engineers. So essentially kind of saying, Hey, man, I can’t do my job because, you know, these guys won’t listen to me or I don’t have control over what happens on the Web site, because that’s the devil. I think that many people, unfortunately, are all over the, you know, the business world let their role define their influence rather than having their influence define their role. So if you are a a marketing consultant and you get to a company, you know, you get to one of your clients companies and you’re working with the VP of marketing in that team, and they go, Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t make these changes because that’s really owned by i.t. And you know, the CIO owns that and we just can’t touch it. It is not up to you to go, well, okay, I’ll step back. I think it’s up to you to go. Let me sit down with that person. Let me hang out with them like I want to spend time with them. I want to let my influence define the role that I’m going to play here and make it truly have an impact. And that’s true internally, too. I think the people who are really successful in the startup world, this is excluding founders because they always get to have complete influence across whatever kind of by virtue of their role. But for everyone else from the startup world who’s who’s listening to this interview, that would be a strong suggestion of mine. Don’t let your role limit your influence.
Bronson: No, that’s great. I love that. Now, let’s talk about the product models a little bit and I want to tell people kind of about our email exchange that we had last night. And this morning I sent over some of the questions that we’re going to talk about today. And, you know, in that I have some questions about models because I want to educate our audience about the product itself. And your response was something like, let’s not dwell on the product too much. I don’t really want to do that. And I thought, okay, that’s awesome because that’s inbound. Like, you get it. Like you’re coming on the show doing an interview, giving us a great episode. Not so you can talk about Maus for 80% of it. You actually don’t really care to talk about it because you know, it all works out. Like, you know, people are going to click through, you know, they’re going to end up on your stuff. You know that it’s going to work. Overall, the karma stuff you talked about, whether or not you make it a commercial for half the interview. So I just wanted to say that to people so that they get, you know, if you’re going to do inbound, then do inbound like do the pattern matching stuff we talked about really give. It’s not about you. You have to go and give. You know, right now I’m trying to do some inbound personally and I’m guest blogging. You know, I’m getting some some content out there. And one of the rules I have is just don’t mention growth out of TV that much. You know, maybe in the intro it’s like, hey, this has brought some growth out of TV and then just give value for the next, you know, couple of thousand words, you know. So anyway, I just want to point out that’s a great trait of yours and then it actually plays out in reality. But that being said, we are going to talk about MOS because for my reasons, because I wanted people to know about it, not for you. So what is Mars? Who’s it for?
Rand: So Mars actually produces a couple products right now, the primary one that we have just launched in private beta and that we’re kind of rolling out over the summer is Mars Analytics. That’s our kind of, you know, $99 a month. It is really designed for professional web marketers. So if you’re someone who day in and day out, you’re doing. Lots of content reduction analysis of your SEO results and your rankings and your traffic, and looking at how your Twitter and your Facebook and Google Plus perform comparing not against your competition. Most analytics is sort of a way to get all of that data in one place without having to go and pull from these sources. We also produce a couple of interesting kind of big data projects. One is our link graph called My Escape, and that’s essentially a crawl of the entire web or a good portion of the web and giving you the ability to say, Hey, who’s linking to my competitors? That’s not linking to me. Where are those links coming from? What are they saying? Who just started talking about me? That kind of thing. And then we have a service called Fresh Web Explorer that uses an index we call Fresh Skype. And that’s essentially a limited subset of the web that is fresh content produced on daily basis. So we subscribe that we have that that service subscribe to like four and a half, 5 million blogs and RSS feeds across the the web. And you can do a search for, you know, my name or my brand name or how I want to see people who have mentioned my brand name but haven’t linked to me. Yeah, give me give me all those people. And then I’m going to go reach out to them, be like, Hey, man, you. You wrote about us, but no linky link about how about you fix that? Right, right. So that that kind of stuff is all a part of the product.
Bronson: Yeah. Would it be fair to say if somebody has been watching this episode and they’re nodding their head after you get on talking like, yes, I agree, I want to do that, that they should probably go check out Mars as a product because it really empowering them to do the stuff you talking about.
Rand: I mean, you know, I think the nice thing about Mars is you can you can sign up for the free trial and figure out whether you’re going to get value from in the first 30 days and not pay anything if you’re not right. So it is pretty it’s a it’s a nice kind of introduction to it. But what I would say is if you’re not at least semi sophisticated with these channels, you might find the product a little frustrating. You’ll be like, what are all these numbers? And what are they telling me? What should I do with this data? I think one of the faults of our product right now is actually that it’s not it doesn’t guide you to the action. The action that you take has to be kind of driven from your own intuition and experience and knowledge of how this data interacts with each other, you know, with each other. So that that’s something we’ll need to work on in the years to come.
Bronson: There you go. Now, here’s a fun question I like to ask people that have a product, because it really illuminates the product in interesting ways. What’s one of those features? Or when people see it and they’re like, it just kind of blows away like, wait, wait a second. Is this magic? Is it black magic? Like, what’s like, how do you do that? What are some of the features, one or two of them, that when people see it, it’s like audible. They’re like, wait, how?
Rand: Well, so I think there’s a I’ll mention a couple of things off the top of my head that I think are just hugely valuable. I talked about Fresh Love Explorer. I think the ability to search for two things is just huge. One is who’s mentioned my brand or my website but didn’t link to me because those links are free. They’re just, you know, that is just like I send an email, I get a link. When does that ever happen? That will do wonders for your like it’ll just, you know, blow it out of the water. It’s incredible. And by the way, it helps build a relationship with the people. So, you know, if you reach out to a blogger who mentioned you and you’re like, Dude, that was awesome. I really appreciated. By the way, I notice that you usually link to people you mentioned here’s here’s our website and and see a link to in there let me know if I can ever be helpful again in the future. Boom, you get a link. Boom you establish a relationship. Win, win, win, win, win. Yeah. The other one that’s hyper valuable in both in there and an open site explorer that people freak out about is just seeing who links to my competitors. It doesn’t link to me or who mentions my competitors. It doesn’t mention me. It just gives you someone who’s radar to get on right. If you see that, I don’t know. Let’s say you’re in the footwear industry and you’re like, okay, well, who’s mentioning Clarks and Keen, but not talking about my brand, you know, I don’t know TiVo’s or whatever it is, right? Well, crap. I mean, any time you see multiple competitors mentioned, you know, that’s an opportunity for you to be included in there to make that relationship. Another big one is inside the tool follow along. There’s a couple of killer super killer features for me. One is seeing that there’s actually a literal visual Venn diagram of who follows any two people. And so I can see, you know, who’s following you, who’s following me and who’s following both of us. And what’s super slick about that is if I pick a couple of people from my world and I look at who’s following me, who’s following Mars, and then I export that Excel list, I sort the the list of websites by, you know, domain authority. Mm hmm. That’s. That’s my outreach list, like. Those people I know they already know me. I know they already like me. I have a great opportunity to whatever it is, guess blog for them and get them to retweet me, get them to share my stuff and be like, Well, it’s the best list you can possibly imagine for every chance. Yeah. And then the last one that I really love, especially for new folks, is when you set up a when you first set up a mars campaign, it goes and crawls your website and finds errors and warnings and issues. And sometimes it’s just shocking to me how many people are like, Oh crap, I put 302 redirects and Google isn’t following them and I could just fix those two or three old ones and suddenly I’d be ranking for all this stuff or Oh, I wanted to rank for this keyword, but I don’t have any pages with that keyword in the title. Yeah, right. Yeah. But that kind of simple stuff that helps keep people get their echo going.
Bronson: No, I’m so glad you went into some of those, despite your reluctance, because those little anecdotes they illustrate, oh, that’s what it could do with a little bit of creativity. Those are the kinds of things I would walk away from the product, be able to put into place, and that some people need just a little bit of a story around the product to kind of get their head around it. So that’s awesome. Thanks for doing that. Now, this has been incredible. I mean, I want to go out on a limb and say this is going to be one of the most helpful FSA episodes we’ve had, but only with a few final questions here. And these are kind of what I call the fortune cookie questions. We’ve talked about the deep stuff, the media stuff. This is the pithy one liners where it doesn’t always apply. Okay. The first one is, what’s the best inbound tactic that you’ve ever done yourself or you’ve seen someone else do? Just the single thing where you’re like, it may not be repeatable. There may not be takeaways from it, but that was awesome and they pulled it off.
Rand: I was really, really impressed by a company called Minted out of San Francisco. This might not be the most impressive one, but it’s definitely top ten and at the top of my head right now, and they essentially had a program where you could get a free card and mint. It makes these lovely cards, holiday cards or birthday cards or wedding invitations, that kind of stuff. I printed stationery cards, but they are it’s crowdsourced design, so it’s essentially a bunch of designers competing for the most beautiful and best cards and they’re just really awesome, right? It’s like it’s like Hallmark Times a hundred. And the cool thing that they did is they had you. If you connect your Facebook account, you can send free cards to people. And there were two genius parts of it. One genius part of it was when you connect to your Facebook account, what it would go and do for you was detect your look at your friends birthdays and tell you whose birthday you just missed or or was about to come up so that you could send them a free card immediately. And then it would auto personalized to that friend. It was just genius, like it was just this click. Oh, and you know, the completion rate for them I’m sure was insane. Yeah. The other really smart thing that they did is because they knew that, I mean, their cards cost money, right? Like it costs money for them to print. It costs money for them to ship. So they can’t be offering this for free. And so they were actually really careful not to send the URL all over the web. They shared it specifically with primarily women bloggers. They went out, got a big, you know, developed a big list of women bloggers, reached out to them and said, hey, we’re doing this offer. Feel free to check it out. And they didn’t even say promoted on your blog. But those people, when they signed up for it, they did it. It was genius. And then the other I mean, the other incredible thing is they now have everybody, you know, everybody’s Facebook address book, right in their product. So when you sign, you know, when you sign into minted, it’s just there’s your friends right there. You know, you don’t have to you don’t have to go and enter. Everybody are just so it’s such a smart use of social connection.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I love that story because, you know, we always look to Spotify as the poster child for Facebook integration and we always have a hard time finding, well, who else has done it? Because it’s you know, there’s not great examples of long term kind of deep integrations. And that’s a great one. It’s a company that’s not as known as Spotify. And yet look at all the genius things they’ve done to really make it work for them. The last question and they.
Rand: Knew their they knew their viral coefficient really well, right? So they knew, hey, when someone sees one of our cards, they’ll never buy a crappy Hallmark card again. And once they see how convenient it is to do it on the web, they’ll never go back to, you know, filling out everybody’s address at the kitchen table for, you know, for three nights around Christmas. Yeah. Sounds so super.
Bronson: Smart. Last question here. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup that’s trying to grow?
Rand: Best advice I have for startups that are trying to grow.
Bronson: No pressure.
Rand: Yeah. Gosh, I think it’s going to be around hire. As you are growing and hiring. I think one of the one of the things that to me is a clear signal that you’re getting the right people on board, especially early stage. But even sort of mid-stage is folks who do their do the work that will be part of their job for fun. Meaning if you are hiring a software engineer and they have never done a commit to GitHub other than what was part of their job. Right. Where, wherever they were working, that’s a little weird to me. Like it if you really a passionate software engineer and I know tons of them. Right. I mean there’s there’s our engineering team is nearly 70 people at Mars that I know those folks. Right. Like they love those side projects and putting stuff together and doing, you know, little commands and opensource contributions, that kind of stuff. Same story with marketers. If you have someone who they’ve never invested anything in any of their social accounts, they’ve never done any blogging on their own side, they’ve never sort of produced a SlideShare or made some video content or any of that stuff except for work. I’m not a great signal. So for startups out there, if you’re looking for hiring, I think that’s a that’s a good bar. And if you’re a professional in the field, you should make sure that whatever you’re doing is your passion and that you spend some of it, some of that time on yourself. Yeah, right. If you love doing what you’re doing, do some of it for you.
Bronson: People don’t realize how that is the resume now.
Rand: It is like.
Bronson: Think about growth after TV. I’m going to job growth in a lot different places now because of this, not because I went out and asked for a job to do it, you know? That’s right. That’s right. But they asked me to grow tired of TV, just decided to do it. And so but that that’s true with a million different other scenarios, like just go and do something awesome and that becomes your resume. And that’s what people going to look for to hire anyway. So I think it’s great advice to end on. Ran, thank you again for having an awesome episode on Growth TV.
Rand: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, Brunson.
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