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This is Episode 15 of the Social Pros Podcast : Real People Doing Real Work in Social Media. This episode features Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion. Read on for insights from Marcus, and our Social Media Stat of the Week (this week: email opens on smartphones and tablets have grown by 82% in the last […]
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Jay: Yes, indeed. That was a new introduction on the Social Pros podcast. We’re stepping it up here a little bit in episode 15. I am Jay Baer joined by my trusty sidekick, Eric Boggs from Argyle Social. Eric, how are you, my friend?
Eric: I’m doing just fine, Jay.
Jay: Glad to hear it. Amazing guest on the show today. Actually, sitting here with me in an undisclosed hotel room in New Orleans, Louisiana, Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. He will be joining us in just a second on the show. He’s going to blow us away. We should’ve gotten a bigger hotel room.
Eric: So Marcus spoke at a conference, evidently, that a couple Argylers attended. And one of them sent me a text saying, “Do you know this guy, Marcus Sheridan? He is blowing the room away.”
Jay: That is his MO. In fact, one of the tweets this morning was, “Who needs bloody marys when you have The Sales Lion”. He is the antidote to what ails you in New Orleans.
Jay: So I want to just quick shout out to our fantastic sponsors here on Social Pros. Of course, Argyle Social, Eric’s company, data driven, social media management software. Our friend, Jim Kukral from DigitalBookLaunch.com. Infusionsoft, who we use for all of our email stylings. And a new sponsor joining the podcast this week, our friends at Janrain, who do social sign-in and a bunch of other like magical voodoo. We’ll talk more about them in a week or two.
Eric: Yeah, good guys at Janrain. I know a guy named Jamie Beckland that I guess went to work there from working at an agency.
Eric: Good folks.
Jay: Yeah, great. Jamie’s super-smart. We should have him on the show sometime. He used to be at Whitehorse. Really smart guy,
Jay: So here’s my rant of the week. I actually wrote a blog post about it. And I was so mobilized by this, I wrote a post on Saturday and used it to ignore my in-laws, which is probably a bad call long term. But you know, it is what is.
Eric: Also a bad call to publicly acknowledge that you ignore your in-laws on a public podcast.
Jay: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re Social Pros listeners. They probably are now. Tristan, edit that out.
Eric: Yeah, cut that. Cut. I was with my in-laws in D.C. all weekend, so I feel your pain, Jay.
Jay: Did you write blog posts while they were there?
Eric: No, I didn’t.
Jay: You’re a suckup.
Eric: Yeah, I just keep my mouth shut.
Jay: So the premise of this post is that we spend a lot of time in social and in content marketing talking about eyeballs and how much traffic do we have and how many visitors do we have and how many unique visitors do we have and all this. And at the end of the day, that is a crappy metric. It is perhaps the most overrated metric in the history of math, because just because somebody shows up at your site doesn’t mean they do anything on your site that is inherently of value.
The reason I got on this soapbox initially is that there’s been a lot of reporting lately – in fact, I think we even talked about it here on the podcast a few weeks ago – about Pinterest’s power as a referring source, that Pinterest is sending more traffic than Facebook. Pinterest is sending more traffic from Twitter. The original source of that, I think – as you pointed out, Eric, or Tom Webster did – was a ShareThis study, which doesn’t necessarily mean everybody. It just means people who use ShareThis. But beyond that, my question is who cares? So what if Pinterest does send more traffic equivalently than Facebook to your site? Does that mean that people from Pinterest actually buy things from you? Does it mean they fill out a lead form? Does it mean they sign up for an email newsletter? Or does it mean that they look at one pretty picture, never to return again? And unless you know the answer to that question, you are fooling yourself. You do not understand how digital marketing works.
Traffic is actually an expense, not a benefit. You can break it down, right, but ultimately when you figure out your server costs, your amortized design costs, what it requires you to create content, etc., every person who comes to your site actually costs you money, doesn’t make you money unless you’re selling advertising. In that case, it’s a different story.
Eric: I think I’ve used this gimmick before, but I’m going to use it again. Here comes the audible sigh, Jay. Yes, you are preaching to the choir. Yes, marketers are lazy. Clicks are the easy thing, and it’s often the easy way out in terms of justifying existence and justifying resources invested. You know, it’s something that we have been railing about at Argyle since the very beginning, and I imagine it’s something we’ll be railing about forever and ever and ever. As it relates to our listeners in social, this is sort of just a phenomenon that has existed with online advertising and email marketing that is now just being translated to social, which is sort of this inability to get over the hump in terms of mapping channel inputs to onsite outputs. And there are definitely some technology challenges around that, some of which we are working very hard to address at Argyle in terms of making these things possible. But it’s not rocket science, especially as it related to Pinterest. Mapping Pinterest referrals to onsite conversions is as simple as a custom report in Google Analytics. I would imagine everyone listening to this broadcast has Google Analytics on their website, and maybe a lot of these people even ask themselves whether or not Pinterest is moving the needle for their business. So what we’re asking people to do, it’s not impossible. And to me, that’s what’s the most frustrating bit about this kind of stuff.
Jay: I agree. But you know what’s weird about it? I don’t know that it’s always laziness. Sometimes I really believe that people think that traffic and visitors is, in fact, a reliable metric, that that has inherent value. Actually, there are a lot of comments on my blog post about people saying, “Oh, no. Traffic is good because that traffic will eventually create email subscriptions.” To which I say, “Nuh-uh. Not necessarily.”
Eric: Traffic is potentially a leading indicator. I will agree that it is potentially a leading indicator. But you can segment traffic in the same way that you can segment everything else. So traffic from Pinterest may not have the same value as traffic from LinkedIn or paid search or organic search.
Jay: Yeah, and I don’t have enough Pinterest traffic on my blog, although we have a Pinterest account, of course. I don’t have enough Pinterest referalls to really do much with it from an analytical perspective. But my hypothesis, and maybe there’ll be somebody who listens to the podcast who can comment on this on the blog post, my hypothesis is that Pinterest traffic will behave more like search traffic rather than social traffic because Pinterest, in my estimation, is more about discovery than it is about social sharing. It’s more about finding new things as opposed to voting for things that you already know about.
Eric: I don’t disagree. You ready for some stat of the week?
Jay: I am. What is the social media stat of the week?
Eric: You did it again. That was good. I tease you for the ridiculous stat of the week intro. I guess I could…
Jay: We’re also supposed to do Angry Birds sounds this episode because I was going to do [makes sounds]. That’s the best I can do.
Eric: All right. Stat of the week comes from Return Path, which is an email marketing data company. They’ve been around for a while. I think they’re probably, gee, it’s probably 10 or 15 years old. So these guys have been in the business for a long time. They track broad email marketing data behavior from vendors to publishers to email recipients. They released a great report about email consumption and the big takeaway from this is that email opens on smart phones and tablets grew by 82 percent in the past year. So mobile devices are on track to be the dominant email platform over desktops and laptops by the end of this year. There’s a long report. We can link it up. The takeaway here is that marketers aren’t ready for this. Very few marketers are optimizing their email content for consumption on iPhones and iPads and mobile devices.
Eric: Well the funny thing to me is people kind of got hung up on apps with the iPhone App Store gold rush. And now there’s this realization that, “Oh, you mean my website, not an iPhone app or a Droid app. Oh, I get it now.” You know, our website, I think, it’s written completely HTML5. There are parts of it that probably look wonky on an iPhone, but the main bits of ArgyleSocial.com are going to look really good on your iPad and your iPhone. And it’s not easy to do, especially if you’re invested in a custom website and really trying to do something kind of fancy pants. So this issue, I think, is a little different than what we were talking about with mapping traffic all the way to conversion. Mobilfying your online experience can be expensive and it can be time consuming, so it’s something that people should probably start sooner rather than later.
Jay: Yeah, and it’s certainly easier to do in a major construction project as opposed to slapdash after the fact, unless you have WordPress or something like that. So next time you do a website redesign is the time to go through and make sure it’s mobile friendly.
Eric: And next time you do website, a massive redesign, if the person that you’re working with doesn’t suggest a mobile optimized version, fire that person and find another person.
Jay: Yeah, get somebody else. Exactly. Yeah, I’m going to start a company that creates apps to help customers find your app. It’s just going to be a super-meta business.
Eric: There’s an app for that.
Jay: There is. There is. Well, I am excited about our guest today, who has been sitting here patiently. This is the longest I’ve ever heard him be quiet. It is Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. He and I are both speaking at the Counselors Academy PRSA Conference here in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. He gave a rousing keynote – he gives no other kind – this morning to a bunch of PR firm owners. Mr. Sheridan, thank you for being on Social Pros.
Marcus: Hey man, it’s a pleasure. But how do you hear somebody being quiet? That’s what I’m trying to figure out in my head right now, man.
Jay: It’s Vulcan.
Marcus: Okay. I got it.
Jay: It’s sort of a Vulcan skill.
Marcus: I’m feeling it.
Eric: I’ve heard you being quiet, Marcus. You’ve done a really good job.
Jay: So Marcus, in the unusual chance that somebody listening to Social Pros is not familiar with the now legendary Marcus Sheridan story, do you want to summarize your career in 60 seconds with regards to your background as a purveyor of swimming pools, etc.?
Marcus: Yeah, super quick story. Thanks, Jay. 2001 I started a swimming pool company with two other guys. And then in 2008 when the economy crashed, we were going to crash with it. We didn’t have any money for marketing. We had to maintain a lot of sales. We did about 75 in-ground fiberglass pool installations a year at that time. And so without having any money and going basically on the brink of bankruptcy, I was looking around and discovered this whole thing called inbound and content marketing. That’s when we decided to start a blog, and we really embraced the whole concept of let’s just be teachers. So we answered every single question on our blog that we had ever heard from a consumer. Within a year, we had the number one trafficked swimming pool website in the world. It really increased visitors, but more so, to what you were talking about earlier, it increased leads and ultimately customers. It saved our business, and we did it by cutting down drastically all of our advertising dollars.
About a year after we did this, I started another blog called The Sales Lion, and it teaches everything that I’ve ever done, all my ingredients to my secret sauce. It’s been a great ride, and now I teach other businesses how to embrace the power and the vision that is content, which I feel is the greatest sales tool in the world.
Jay: So you were sort of the swimming pool version of Gary Vaynerchuk, where he built his wine business just telling people what he thought about wine and creating tons of free content. You did the same thing in the swimming pool industry.
Marcus: You know, it’s really funny because when people hear me speak, the first time I ever spoke somewhere big, a bunch of people kept saying to me, “You’re like the Gary V of the swimming pool industry,” because we have a similar funky style. We’re really off the cuff and use wacky words and stuff. We come from these industries like how did that happen, type of stuff. But yeah, it’s similar to Gary, and I like Gary a lot. So I take that as a complement. But yeah, and for me it’s great because whenever I hear people talk about marketing, I can relate to it because I’ve been in the trenches. I still own the company, and I just have two business partners that run it. But for me now, it’s a playground where I can experiment all day long with content.
Jay: And you are a big proponent of HubSpot. I know you use HubSpot software. That’s kind of one of the backbones of the things that you use, and you’re familiar with that software. We talk a lot on this show about the difference between the wizard and the wand, and that right now, we’re in a weird space in content and social where a lot of companies believe that the software is their salvation. How do you feel about that?
Marcus: HubSpot has never saved any business. HubSpot certainly didn’t save me. HubSpot is as good as the person that’s swinging the hammer, because that’s really what HubSpot is. It’s a hammer that is effective when used properly. Unfortunately, just like anything else, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Same thing with HubSpot. This is the thing about HubSpot. Ultimately its greatest value is the fact that I can sit here and say that because I’ve been blogging and I can track the leads that I have gotten specifically from my blog, my blog has made me over $2 million in sales. That’s why I like HubSpot, because we’re constantly having this ROI mystic debate thing going on, which drives me nuts. Usually we’re debating ROI because most people don’t have proper analytics. I know you use Infusionsoft and I know you have analytics there, too, because we want to be able to track the stuff that we’re doing. Just like somebody came to me today and said, “Yo, Marcus, is PPC good?” I’m like, “PPC is good if you’re making money with it. But if you’re not tracking it, you won’t know that. So the first thing is are you tracking your PPC? Can you tell me how many customers you’ve actually gotten from PPC?” If not, we’ve got to change something up here really, really soon because we have a major break in our ability to close that loop. And everybody’s got to be able to close that loop, man.
Jay: Yeah, and that is the nice thing about that particular platform is that you can get end-to-end analytics.
Marcus: Huge for me, man.
Jay: A lot of times I feel like the challenge for people who believe in the ROI of social and content and believe that ROI is possible is that unless you come out of a analytics background, the way Eric does and the way I do, you’ve got to be your own middleman a lot of times.
Marcus: Yeah, and here’s the thing that people have got to understand about Google. Google tells us traffic, but Google doesn’t tell us names of people.
Marcus: Oh, you’re so right. There’s a magic behind writing a blog article and being able to say definitively I know this one article in the last two years has made me at least $150,000 in sales. Until companies catch that vision and they’re starting to use some type of software that allows them to do that, I think content marketing in social media is going to get a bad name, because I can sit here right now and say how much money I have made, minimum, that I’ve been able to track because I can’t track it unless somebody’s filled out the form. But once they have filled out a form, then I can track everything from that point on. And I can sit here and say from the swimming pool perspective or from The Sales Lion or anything else like that, I can say, okay, PPC has made me this much. Organic search has made me this. In fact, breaking down organic, this blog article has made me this because this keyword is what it ranks for and thus I know it goes back to that particular blog article on and on Facebook, Twitter. All those things, I can say how much money they’ve made my particular company at a minimum, because what we can’t track is phone calls to the office. That’s the one thing we can’t really track and say, okay, they called me…
Jay: Well, you could. You could put a phone number on there.
Marcus: Right. The problem is… yes, you can. That’s a very good point. Most companies don’t do that, and that is the other way to deal with that, Jay. But most don’t do that. And sometimes when we ask them on the phone, “How’d you hear about us,” they give us the wrong information.
Eric: Yeah, I don’t know.
Marcus: Yeah. They say the radio and I haven’t been on the radio in eight years. You know what I mean?
Jay: Right, right. Precisely. I’m glad you mentioned keywords. You are very straightforward about creating content that answers customer questions and sort of giving away what you know and things of that nature. Basically, taking the sum total of your expertise and giving it away for free one post at a time has been very successful. How much do you think about high efficacy search terms and SEO and rankings before you create posts?
Marcus: I do think about it, but I think about it in this: Has somebody ever asked me the question? Okay, that’s about the extent of it. And as soon as I know that they’ve asked me the question, then I know that merits being a title to a blog post. Because if somebody’s asked you the question, a thousand people have searched that very same question online. It used to be 10 years ago when we were figuring out search, Jay, it was “pools”. And then five years into it, we might have typed in “fiberglass pools,” and now we type in stuff like “what is the best type of fiberglass swimming pool if you live in Virginia”, right. So we’ve learned how to search differently. And so all I did, my only strategy-and for the first two years, I never used a keyword suggestion tool, because I very, very passionately feel that if we are great listeners, our customers are the best keyword tool that we could every possible use.
Here’s the thing. If people are asking you the question in your business and that answer is not on your website, I think you’re very, very flawed because we have been trained by Google that if we go to a site and we’re searching for something, Jay, and it ain’t there, we’re gone, dude. If I’ve got a question I can’t find, I’m gone. And basically, it’s almost like the teacher that’s not calling on the student in class that keeps raising his hand. It’s crazy to me that we see that everywhere. So SEO works well when you are specifically answering specific questions the way that your specific consumers ask those things. Not like we think them, not with our silly acronyms, but exactly like they say them. Then I think, honestly, I think we make SEO out to be much more of a science than it is. I think truly giving those great specific answers is the only long-term solution to every single Google update from now until the end of time.
Jay: Well and they’ve certainly said that their direction, and the last two or three updates have pushed them this way, is that search needs to be conversational. It used to be you have to do search for Google and, by the way, also for people. But Google has very much moved in the direction of rewarding natural language and rewarding natural content, which I think is a boon for everybody. Eric, you’d agree, I presume?
Eric: Yes, indeed.
Marcus: Well, I see this all the time and people get on me like I’m talking Matrix language, but I feel like Google is going to be smarter that humans in terms of creating search quality, content quality down the road. Now I don’t know how they’re going to do it. But my feeling is that they are going to be able to do that, and so when I write, that’s the only thing I think about. I’m not thinking about all these other things that we see so many SEOs or content marketers think about. Because I think, although it might work for the next six months or it might work for the next six years, there’s going to be a day when that junk I was doing that wasn’t really legitimate, it’s going to come back and bite me. Just like we see all the time these companies freaking out. It’s just like with the recent update and you saw all these people that had been using these link building tools that were supposedly white hat. I mean, come on people. I mean, if it’s a link building tool, automatically it’s black.
Jay: By definition, not white.
Marcus: Yes. It’s black. Let’s call a spade a spade here.
Jay: Well, let me ask you this. Being an old school sort of SEO myself and Eric has done a lot of online direct marketing as well, what would you say to people who posit the notion that Google and the nature of search is going to wane in importance and our relationships will bridge that gap? So that eventually, let’s fast forward three years, Google drives a heck of a lot less traffic than it ever did and Facebook now drives a heck of a lot more because instead of asking Google who’s the best builder of swimming pools in Virginia for fiberglass, we’re going to ask our friends.
Marcus: I don’t think that’s going to happen, personally. Here’s what I see. This is just me, and I’m going to write about this here soon. I see a future of two types of search engines. I see a search engine that is social driven like Google and where it’s going, and I see somebody else that’s going to come up and be old Google, which is not going to be so social, which is going to be purely just great content based on the algorithm. That might sound very unromantic. But see, it bugs me. I’m the type of guy, I actually don’t want to see what all my friends are choosing when I do searches.
Jay: You don’t want +1 s.
Marcus: I log out on specific searches. I see the day when we have two types of search engines, and I think what, in many ways, is Google’s greatest advance right now could be their biggest downfall for inviting a potential second party-which we don’t have a two-party system right now in search. I think we will have a two-party system for general search engines, because Yahoo and Bing don’t count to me. They haven’t made enough ground.
Eric: So Marcus, there is a company called DuckDuckGo, kind of like Duck Duck Goose, but DuckDuckGo. And they just raised a ton of money from Union Square Ventures, and their entire premise is we don’t track you. It’s a high quality search engine you don’t login to. There’s no bubble of sort of tailored results for you. It’s just old school Google.
Marcus: That’s really cool Eric. And I’m glad you bring that up because, honestly, that’s how I like to roll online when I’m researching. Not everybody’s like that. If I really want to know what my friends think, then I am going to go to Facebook. I am. But there’s always going to be certain things, I think-in my opinion-that we don’t do so socially online. Like I have articles on swimming pools that have been read hundreds of thousands of times, but they’ve been tweeted twice and liked once or twice. It’s like people look at them, and they think just based on those share numbers that the articles stink and they’ve made me hundreds of thousands of dollars because…
Jay: You need to go back and get the old school hit counter on the bottom.
Marcus: Yeah, right. Hit counter on the bottom. Classic.
Jay: That’s social proof 1.0, baby.
Marcus: It’s different for everybody. I’m not saying social’s not important. But for certain industries, I don’t think it’s a huge metric.
Jay: In certain categories, crowds are not wise. Other than you, the number of friends that I have who could tell me anything about swimming pools numbers one -you and one other guy. So I could ask all the people I know on Facebook, and I’m going to get not a lot of good information back.
Marcus: Because we don’t practice buying pools until we actually own a pool, right? So most people, they don’t have anything to say about it and we’re not exactly bragging to our friends, I just spent 50K on a pool. So we don’t tweet it out, “Yo, I just dropped 50 grand but I own a swimming pool now.” Most people, unless we’re a professional athlete trying to show our crib, we just don’t do it that way, and that’s why it’s not a very social industry yet. It’s more of a search industry, old school style. And I think there’s always going to be a place for that. But honestly, I’m saying all this stuff, dude. Three weeks from now, I could change my mind because that’s how fast we’re developing, and I think we’re all idiots, kind of.
Jay: You’re going to shut your blog down. You’re going to have a Lion Pinterest board and that’s it. Just different lions, that’s it.
Marcus: Oh man. Going off about that whole traffic thing you were talking about earlier. I’m like Pinterest has become way worse than StumbleUpon in terms of, you know, I have friends that hate it when they get stumbled because it just means that they got a huge…
Jay: A bunch of traffic they can’t convert?
Marcus: …that they can’t convert and drives them crazy and it kills like all their bounce rates and stuff like that. Pinterest, in a lot of ways, potentially does that. Not that I don’t see the value for it, but it’s clearly not the end all. And the quality right today of the Pinterest visitors, so far for many companies, hasn’t been that strong. I mean, let’s just be real. It might be at some point, not right now.
Jay: Awesome. Eric, any questions from you, or are we going to Social Pros shout outs?
Eric: No, man. I’m interested to hear what Marcus reads.
Jay: Social Pros shout outs.
Eric: Shout outs.
Jay: From Mr. Marcus Sheridan. Go.
Marcus: Okay. I’m just going to mention two for you that nobody’s ever heard of probably.
Eric: Google and Pinterest.
Marcus: Yeah, Google, who clearly love me now, right? Okay, this is outside of the box. There is a company called Block Imaging. All right. And I don’t even have the URL. Just type in Block Imaging blog. They sell refurbished medical imaging equipment. Here’s what’s special about this company. They have about 70 employees, and 40 of those employees are active on their blog. So they have a true culture of blogging within the company. I think that’s beautiful. And they’re Block Imaging – I know about them, they’re one of my clients. But I think they’re so amazing and I love their story. And to me, they get this whole idea of what it is a culture of content marketing.
There’s another one that most people probably haven’t heard of. I think he’s a big up and comer and his name is Ryan Hanley. He comes from the insurance industry. He is passionate. He is a great guy and he is now starting to talk about marketing. So kind of like Gary V of wine, he is a passionate guy from the insurance industry.
Jay: He’s the Marcus Sheridan of insurance.
Marcus: In some ways, yeah, he is. I think he’s a great young guy, and I think he’s going to be big time because he has the passion to carry the day.
Jay: Awesome. Good shout outs.
Marcus: Thank you.
Jay: Thank you very much for being here. Good stuff. Awesome. That’ll do it for Social Pros. Who do we have next week, Eric Boggs?
Jay: Oh, fantastic. Our friend, Maria from Marketo. That’s going to be great. Talk about content marketing, they’re all about the content marketing over there. Thanks as always to our sponsors, Eric’s company Argyle Social, data-driven social media management software used by none other than me, Jay Baer. Our friends at Infusionsoft, Jim Kukral from DigitalBookLaunch.com, and a big Social Pros welcome to our new sponsor Janrain, social sign-in and a bunch of other wizardry. That’s it for this week. We’ll see you next time.
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