What playbook is one of the world’s leading marketers using to market and grow his new SaaS business?
In this week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Ian Cleary is pulling back the curtain on the process he’s using to launch and grow OutreachPlus, a new email outreach software platform that automates the sending and tracking of highly personalized emails.
As the Founder of RazorSocial and a sought after keynote speaker, Ian is known globally as a leading advisor helping brands navigate the worlds of digital marketing and social media. I was fascinated to hear how he’s applying his expertise to his own business – and you will be too!
Listen to the podcast to hear exactly what Ian is doing to grow OutreachPlus and get actionable tips you can use to market your own business.
Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth and I’m your host. Today I’m excited that my guest, Ian Cleary has joined me. He is the Founder of RazorSocial as well as the Founder of Outreach Plus. Welcome Ian.
Ian: Thank you very much, Kathleen. I’m delighted to be here, it’s great to be on your show.
(Here we are doing the podcast interview!)
Kathleen: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to digging in and talking with you. You have such an interesting background and you’ve done so many different things. Maybe you could start by telling our audience a little bit about yourself and the two companies, RazorSocial and Outreach Plus, and what they do, and then we can kind of take it from there.
Ian: Sure, no problem. First of all I’m Irish, like yourself. Kathleen, you must be Irish as well.
Kathleen: I am, my maiden name is Kathleen Slattery.
Ian: So, yeah. Based in Dublin, my background initially was mainly in technology. I worked in software companies for about 15 years, and generally I was running things, like I was managing a global support team, managing a testing team, and then I managed a CRM company and I ran developments, support, publications, documentation, IT. That company was acquired by a bigger company, and that was acquired by Sage.
Ian: I ended up in a very big company, and I was so used to working in small companies. I decided to leave and do my own thing.
When I left, I started doing some consultancy and project management, and somebody asked me to speak about social media. I didn’t know a lot about it, and the best way to learn is to teach somebody, so I ended up running training programs in Ireland.
Then I watched them build a development product, and it didn’t work out. Just fell flat on it’s face after a few months.
Well, I knew I wanted to do something international, so I got this idea of creating a blog. I looked at all the social media influencers around in the world, and most were based in the US. And I looked at all the content and seen that, a lot of them are journalist background, marketing background, where I sort of had the tech background.
I started writing a lot about tools — social media tools — and that content was quite popular, and that helped it stand and the website grew quite quickly. Within six months, we won the award as one of the Top Ten Blogs with Social Media Examiner.
As that grew, then we started building a business on the back of that. We started doing training and consultancy for friends, and speaking at events and things like that. Well one of the key things for me was, how could I build influence?
I wanted to get on stage. That was my goal — to get on stage at the top marketing conferences, so I knew I had to build relationships with the top people in social media. So, I started traveling to conferences, meeting them, stalking them. Eventually, they figured well, “Ian’s not going away, so we might as well become friends with Ian.” I became friends with a lot of the guys.
And then, I end up getting onto stage and getting speaking, and that sort of grew, which was great. I met so many people along the journey. Then I decided well, I started my journey in the software world, and now I’ve got the … I’ve more technology experience than marketing, so people know me as a marketer but I’m more technology experienced, and it’s unusual to have that combination.
I had this itch to build a product, and so that’s where Outreach Plus came in. Now, I’m not a developer. I’m the manager and the overseer, and I understand how to run the project, but I’ve got a CTO and a technical guy that builds the products.
I was known as an inbound marketer and I love inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is great content. You drive people to your site and you generate business, but unfortunately, it’s not all about inbound.
You need a combination of inbound and outbound and particularly when you’re starting off as a business. You go, “How did I get a lot of people to my site and how do I become influential at RazorSocial?” It was reaching out to people, interacting with people consuming my content. There’s as much outbound as inbound. When that kicks off and you build influence, then inbound starts building and growing. Then it gets easier as you grow.
Now, I’m back. Then I decided, well, Outreach Plus was a tool that will help you to do a lot of that email outreach. When you’re reaching out to people, you understand personalized emails. You need to followup, because sometimes people don’t respond the first email, and you need to track all those results. You don’t want to use an email marketing tool, because you really want to send a personalized email.
I was doing outreach this morning and in one of my emails, I was talking about Gus, the dog, that somebody had mentioned on the site. I thought, “Well, this person’s made an effort.”
We want to make the tool so easy. What happens is, you build a list of people, you import the list and then you’ve lots of customization fields that you can put in, so it’s a very customized email that’s prepared. Just before you send it, then you can do any final customization, so each email is individual. Then when you send it, it’s sent through your normal client, so we connect to Gmail client or Outlook client and send it.
It’s not suitable for sending 10,000 emails. That is an email marketing tool. But if you want to send a smaller number of highly personalized emails, you get great responses. I was looking at a customer last night. It was 80% open rates and about 55% response rates.
Kathleen: That’s really high.
Ian: Yeah, because it was really personalized. It’s not like thousands of people. It’s like 50 people in the list and very personalized to them. To promote Outreach Plus, I’m using Outreach Plus. I’m using this tool on a daily basis. I’m a normal user that goes, “I need this feature.” I’m going, “I can’t live without this feature.” I’m getting on to my developer and saying “I want this feature,” which is great because I’m just a normal user like anyone else as well.
Kathleen: That’s great. I love that you’re a technology guy who became a marketer. You’re right. That is such a rare combination. I hired one person when I used to have my own agency. One of the best hires I ever made was a person who was a computer engineering undergrad, marketing MBA. I thought, if I ever lose her, I don’t know that I’ll be able to replace her. There aren’t many out there like that. That’s really cool.
What I’m hearing is that when you started RazorSocial, you really got traction because you committed yourself to being a prolific content creator. That built you an audience. You published both on your own site, but you published through Social Media Examiner, it sounds like. Or, did you just get the award through Social Media Examiner?
Ian: I got the award from Social Media Examiner, but guest posting was a key part of my strategy. I guest posted at least a couple of times a week. I remember when I was writing articles on social media examiner, I had it in my head that I was going to write the best articles on this site because that was the best known social media site. My articles were always at least 3000 words.
Kathleen: You were doing that a couple times a week?
Ian: No. Social Media Examiner, I was doing once a month. I was writing other articles on other sites as well, but every article was 1000 words, because I knew I just wanted to get an in road through the detailed, well-thought out articles. I knew I had to put that effort in to get the attention on Social Media Examiner and have a big audience. It was worth putting in the effort into that site, but they were painful to write.
Kathleen: You started Razor Social in 2012. Ian: Yes.
Kathleen: I assume a lot of that initial blogging was started fairly early on when you started the company. Is it fair to say that maybe the same formula that worked back in 2012 is not going to work today? There’s certainly a lot more content out there, which is not to say that content doesn’t work, but I think maybe there are some more tools in the tool set these days.
Ian: Yes. I suppose, for example, Outreach Plus, my articles are all 2000 words at least. On Razor Social, they’re about 1000 words. I guess I’ve done some longer ones, but generally the minimum is 1000 words on Razor Social. Now, I’ve moved that up to 2000 words because it is that bit more competitive. What I’ve done is, I really want to build an email list and we all know the value of an email list.
What I do is I publish these really high quality, detailed articles. I provide the option to give people a summary of the article they can download.
Then, if they don’t take that up when they exit, a pop-up will appear and it’s the exact same thing. Every single post has a pop-up and an opt-in specific to that post because I know I need to build email subscribers and I need to work a little bit harder building the email subscribers rather than just a generic, “Hey, sign-up to my list” or “Here’s a generic guide.” It’s very specific to that post, but my conversion rates are between 20% and 50%.
They’re reading a long, 2,000 word article, but they’re thinking “This is a good article. I don’t have time to read it all. I’ll download the checklist,” and I give a one page checklist.
Now, from the checklist, if they just pick off one or two things off that checklist and implement it, then I’ve won.
Kathleen: That makes a ton of sense. One thing I’ve observed is in the early days of content marketing everything was put behind a gate. That’s what we were told — you gate your offer and people will fill out a form and get it. Unfortunately, I think what happened is there was a lot of really crappy content put behind gates. I think people, in general, have become very jaded about converting and they need to feel like it’s really going to be worth their time.
I’ve actually seen that — what you’re doing — work very well where you give away the great content. That demonstrates that you’re going to get value, so that by the time somebody’s presented with an opportunity to convert, you’ve already proved to them that you’re delivering value. There’s no question in their mind that it’s going to be worth it.
The checklist, or whatever it is they’re converting on, becomes a no-brainer as opposed to the reverse where they had to put it all on faith that what they might get behind the curtain was good.
Ian: Yeah, exactly. I was on CoSchedule’s site the other day. I opted into something, I was going, “That’s funny.” There was no opt-in.
What I realize they did is, when you opt-in to the first guide, then any other guide after that, there’s no email opt-in. They detect you’re the same user revisiting, which I thought was good because it doesn’t annoy a person that wants to download lots of guides.
It’s like, they’ve read that post. If they’ve enjoyed that post or read something go, wow, this is great, but I don’t have time to read. I’ll download the summary and I know exactly what it is. It’s just a summary of that piece of content they either liked or didn’t like.
Kathleen: That’s great. Fast forward from 2012 when you were building up your initial audience with RazorSocial. In the fall of 2017, you launched Outreach Plus. In the interim, you’ve been counseling and advising other companies on how to do social media and other digital marketing strategies. When it came time to put together the plan for your own new company in 2017, walk me through what that plan looked like knowing what you know now. It certainly is a very different world than it was back in 2012.
Ian: Yeah, it certainly was. I did all the work in terms of trying to figure out the personas of the people I’m targeting. That sort of evolves as I’m going along, but that was a key part, to understand that audience, to get people in early and start understanding the audience and talking to our customers. I’ll talk to you in a second about how we got our first batch of customers in. We actually talked to them and developed that persona.
Develop that, and then I’d done a lot of keyword research. I actually researched our top six competitors in the industry. I researched all their products and I spent at least a week going through like a 300 point checklist of every single feature, the small little details of everything for every product to really understand all the features and what was providing. That would give you an idea of what people needed for content.
Then I did another keyword research to see what all the competitors are ranking for, what companies in a similar industry were ranking for and I made a whole list of the keywords and then sat mapping out my content for the year.
Basically, I’ve written out and said, well, here’s the individual blog post I want to write. Here’s the top level post that’s going to be overall about this topic. That one will link back to all of them. What I’m doing is I’m writing individual posts and then I’ll write summary posts which will link to all these 2000 word articles. I’ve mapped that out for a year.
From that content, then I’ve said you know … Like I said, on a blog post, I’m looking for at least 20% to 30% conversion rate to build my email subscribers, to get people in that way. For the initial launch … I wanted to do an initial launch, so I said to people, “Hey, I’m going to open this up for the first 100 people. Only 100 people can buy because people love when there’s … They’re like, “Wow, only 100 people can get on that product.” I used a tool called KickoffLabs initially.
With KickoffLabs, it allows me to run a competition. I said, “Enter this competition, and if you’re on the first 100, you’ll get an early bird offer.” What happens is, when someone registers on KickoffLabs, the next page after that said, hey, you are 1000 on the list, if you want to get in the first 100, share on social media. Share over email and get your friends in and you’ll get on the list.
That helped me a lot because a lot of people started sharing on social so more people heard about the product, which was great. We built about 3000 email subscribers for running that.
It was a good starting point, getting 3000 subscribers with 75 customers at the end of it signed up, which I was very happy with, to get 75 paying customers. Then from them 75 paying customers, I start offering them opportunity to have conversations with me.
I’d get on the phone. I’d show them a tool. I’d ask them questions about why they bought and what made them not nearly buy. Actually, there was a guy that did a review of the HubSpot site and increased conversion by 50%. Can’t think of his name. The guy was named through Andy Crestodina. He asked eight questions of his customers and I started using some of the eight questions. It was just brilliant, the questions.
Then after that then I started interacting more with the customers, start feeding that into the website, building out the content.
But I also wanted the content for the product as well, so I started building out really good help within the product, good helpful videos. We did these playbooks that showed people, from start to finish, how to actually implement a campaign. That’s what people wanted.
In the next stage, I learned I had to build the authority of the website. So now, at the website I have the content, but I had no authority, so I’m not going to drive to any traffic. So I start doing outbound campaigns.
So for example, I’d make a list of websites that mentioned similar tools. I’d reach out to them to see if they’d add my tool in, they could be … Like, for example, Brian Dean of Backlinko had a list of SEO tools, and there was a section there for outreach. So I reached out to him, and I reached out to so many people that way, and I got a lot of links that way.
So that’s building the links. And of course, I reached out to friends as well and said, “Hey,” to get some links. So start building those links. The authority will start rising, starting to rank for organic traffic.
While we’re doing that, we’re still reaching out potential audiences to generate more sales. So I have a campaign running at the moment where I’m reaching out to a group of agencies which are very relevant to use the product, because they’ll use it for clients.
What I’m doing, my outreach is really going, “I have this, I’m an agency owner myself. I’ve built this tool. I’d love to ask you three questions about outreach, how you do outreach.” So I don’t lead with, “Hey, I have a product. Do you want to buy it?” It’s more, I want to get a conversation going.
And I’m also guest posting. So I’m reaching out for guest posting and podcasting opportunities as well. I’m reaching out for guest posts, so I’m doing at least one to two guest posts a week.
Ian: Last week, I was on Spin Sucks, which has more of a PR audience, you probably know Gini Deitrich.
Kathleen: She’s great. I’ve followed her for years.
Ian: This week, I’m writing a blog post for SEMrush, which has more of an SEO audience. I’m doing an event with SEMrush. So it’s great on that content, trying to drive that inbound. But while that’s growing slowly, then reach out and start bringing traffic to me and generate the leads, and getting the word out as much as possible. And so, it’s spreading yourself as much as possible, so eventually people go, “Yes, I’m actually familiar with Outreach Plus,” and build that reputation.
Kathleen: Yeah. I keep hearing about that tool. I’ll need to check it out.
Ian: Yeah. That’s it, yeah.
Kathleen: So really, there is no magic bullet, it sounds like … and this just reinforces what I’ve heard from so many of my other guests.
People do tend to think that there’s some secret thing that successful people are doing that if they just knew about, it would be the magic bullet, but it does sound like it’s just rolling up your sleeves and doing the yeoman’s work of inbound marketing and SEO.
I’m particularly interested to learn a little bit more about the volume of writing and publishing that you’re doing, because it sounds like it’s three to five articles a week between what you’re posting on your site, what you’re guest posting, is that accurate?
Ian: A little bit less. So at the moment, because … I’m doing far too much work at the moment, because we still have RazorSocial going, we’re building the product and stuff.
At the moment I’m only posting once every two weeks on Outreach Plus. The articles are 2,000 words lots of images in there, custom images, the opt-in, the summary guide, a lot of work is going in to make sure they’re super high quality articles, so that’s once every two weeks now.
Then I’ll probably write at least two guest posts. So between two and three thousand word post, will probably take me a half a day to do and now I still have an editor that helps, my wife does a lot of the images so I leave in notes saying, “Hey, instead of this six bullet list, can you create a really nice image.” Which is great, so I do get help with that as well.
Ian: Saturday morning, 6 a.m. I was writing content and Sunday morning. You talk about … It’s like how do you get a new software tool, or new product out there? It’s just, I don’t like the word hustle, but it’s just hard work. You have to … You’ll go are you mad working on Saturday? Well, if I work on Saturday, when I come in on Monday I can focus on doing Outreach and reaching out to people as opposed to spending Monday morning writing the content, so I try to do a lot of it early mornings at the weekends.
Kathleen: Yeah and I think if you talk to 10 start up founders, 9 or 10 of them would say they do the same thing. They’re working off hours because you just have to and that’s kind of part of starting a company and especially if you want it to be a high growth company.
Ian: Yeah, I have a wife and three kids, so I make sure to have time for them but my routine really is I start at 6.00 in the morning, I’ll generally work till about 12.30, if I can I’ll go to the gym to get a break, then I’ll come back and I’ll work till 5.00 or 6.00 and I’ll then I’m sort of free for the evening.
I’m rudely efficient with my time so I time myself. I have this timer for 25 minutes and I go 25 minutes, stop, have a break, 25 minutes … You have to be really conscious of your time because that’s your most valuable asset.
Kathleen: Yeah, you’ll appreciate … so when I first started my Twitter presence, I chose the handle workmommywork and the reason was that at the time, I owned my own company and so I would get up really early in the morning and work before my kids woke up and then I would be Mom, getting them off to school et cetera, or on the weekends, spending the day with them. Then, once they went to bed, I would start to do some work again.
So I was like … That Twitter handle so perfectly captured what my life was like at the time. You just have to find the time where you can and fit the family time in, I think.
Ian: I know, it’s a struggle. I was talking to a guy last night when I went to pick up my daughter at gymnastics and he said that he’s working in a full time job and he said but he likes being able to switch off. That’s hard, you know. There’s advantages working for yourself and working for someone else.
Kathleen: Definitely, you just have to know what’s right for you.
Ian: Yeah and at the time of your life, it could be right now and not right in two years time.
Kathleen: Exactly. So let’s go back to you when you were first starting Outreach Plus, you decided to get that initial traction, you used KickoffLabs and you promoted the notion that if people could get on that list of the first 100 people, they would get the product and you were able to gamify it. So you encouraged people who were further down the list to share information about it, to promote it to their friends, to be able to advance on the list. Did KickoffLabs track that for you? How did you track those shares?
Ian: Yeah, KickoffLabs gives you all the information. It shows you how many shares were made for everybody and also then it shows you when somebody shares, there’s a unique link shares. So it tracks, “Kathleen shares it and five other people sign up,” it automatically gives you points. So you can see each individual and any people they brought in and then you can see overall. So it shows you, “Out of those 3,000 leads, 2,000 were individual people and 1,000 were groups due to referrals from people that signed up already.” Which was great, so it was great to see that.
I’m actually working on a competition at the moment again, it’s just to do another sort of big … So I’m looking at partnering with a few different tools that are relevant to Outreach. So for example, there’s two sides really to Outreach. One is, discover all who you want to reach out to. So you might use SEMrush for example to identify a group of people or BuzzSumo for example, or you might use GroupHigh which provides you with some bloggers and then it’s the outreach and we manage all the outreach.
So we’ll partner with a group of them so as well as being associated with this group, we want to be associated with this group which is much more established and been here for years and we want people to see, “Well Outreach Plus is in that group with BuzzSumo.” And I want to see the logos on the page with our logos and we’ll be strategically placed in there somewhere and run that competition and get another big batch of email subscribers and build some attention and the tool providers will help share amongst their audience as well. So I think that’s going to generate us another batch of users.
But at the moment, people are signing up. Like I said, just before that I put on Live Chat, on our site and some guy said, “Hey, I’m just over watching the demo, just had a question about, I’m working for SaaS companies and I’m doing this process manually where I’m emailing 50 people, if I send it out and I send a series of emails to your system and I want to add five or ten more people, can you do that easily?” I said yes he says, “Okay, I’m sold.”
So people are buying … it’s building momentum, you say, “There’s a sale today, another sale this afternoon, no sale for two days, oh what’s going on?” You know?
Ian: It’s just getting that name out and I think that competition’s going to help with a new batch of people and also the number of people signing up daily will increase gradually and all the work we’re doing related to the content and driving the traffic up and the links, all that together gets people talking about the product. Like you said earlier on it’s like, “What is this product? I’ve heard about it loads of times, I’m definitely going to check it out this time.” You know?
Kathleen: Yeah, now once you got that initial traction with KickoffLabs and that’s such a cool tool, I love that it gives you that all in one solution, once you got that initial traction, then you talked about reaching out and really working on the back links. I feel like I’ve been in digital marketing now for a long time, I won’t say how long because that’ll date me, and what I’ve observed in that time is that back link generation is one of the things that confounds marketers the most.
There’s kind of two schools of thought with it. There’s the one school that just purchase back links and those tend to be lesser quality and I think increasingly are becoming less useful because I think, increasingly Google can see right through it, and then there’s the other school that does the very individualized hard work of reaching out to people, sending them relevant content, asking for the back link in a way that feels organic and not forced. That definitely seems like the approach you took and I’m assuming that’s where you used your own tool, to do the outreach?
Ian: Yeah, so what I did is, with the guys in my team, I went off and I said, “Influencer outreach, outreach tools, blogger outreach …” I get my whole list of keywords and I wanted to look at what was on the first page for all those terms. What’s a list of all these … who are all the people behind it and what was the page itself? So he built me a list. Then I imported that list, then I created … well, most of the times it was just one email because I actually knew a lot of the people because I’m in the marketing industry, so I knew them. So it was a little bit easier, but I didn’t do all that work of all finding it and then when I import it, I still want to send personalized emails, so I had a batch maybe of 50 people and the emails were created. Then I’d have the first email which would be already going, “Hi, Mary …” and it’d have all the details of where the link was and all that and then I’d go in and tailor it based on if I knew the person or not.
I’d really tailor it then I’d send that out. I got a lot of links that way. It was stuff that people were going, “Well you haven’t included our tool on that list.” Then I started looking at resource lists and resource lists were a lot of people I didn’t know, that was just, “Here’s a list of SEO tools, or outreach tools.” And then we, again, produced a spreadsheet, imported, then I’d create a series of emails, did the first the email and then five days later, if we didn’t get a response, we’d just go, “Hey, I know you’re busy but I’d love if you could possibly have a look at this, it’d be great.” And the second email would get us better response.
So our conversion would be lower for that but we’re still getting links, we’re still rapidly getting links. I don’t send 10 follow up emails and I don’t care if the stats say, “Oh the more emails you send, the better conversion.” Because I don’t want to annoy anybody, that’s what it’s about. So the very most I’d send is three emails. I’d send one and then I’d send a follow up which will have the first one in there. Then maybe a week later, I’ll send a completely different one and that’ll be it, then I’ll stop.
Kathleen: So are they spaced out by about a week each would you say?
Ian: Yeah, yeah. So sort of five days in between it. Like I said, what I’m trying to do now is I’m trying to provide value. So another we’re doing is we have outreach and one of the things people use it for is just speed up the process of building links. So you still have to work, it just means it’s a lot easier, you know?
Ian: So link building is one of the things in there. We’ve built a tool for finding broken links because people in link building are going to look for broken links. I haven’t launched it yet but while I launch it, I’ve registered a site called brokenlinksearch.com and while I’ll reach out to a lot of people and say, “Hey …” You’re looking for a broken links search tool, you’ll find one which looks awful and it’s okay of a tool and I’ve used it for a couple of years but I hate the look of it.
Ours will just be a little bit prettier and it’ll have a little bit extra functionality. I’ll reach out to a lot of people now because all I’m going is, “Hey, have this cool tool, it’s completely free, I thought you might be interested in it, here’s the link, have a nice day.” That’ll be it.
I’ll probably just send one email, that’ll be it. But what will happen is, people will start using that tool, people start sharing the tool, people start linking to that tool but when they go to brokenlinksearch.com, that’s going to redirect over to outreachplus.com/brokenlinksearch. So any link that comes in is all going to come to us.
That is one as well, I can reach out to a lot of friends as well and say, “I’d love if you could share this on social or talk about it or mention it somewhere.” We’ll get a lot of links for that, so my plan is to build a good few of these individual sort of sites that are linking back to Outreach Plus that provide a little bit of functionality that’s very useful because I think it’s like … If I want to rank for brokenlinks, I’m not going to rank through a blog post, too competitive. I wouldn’t rank through a tool like that and I have a couple of developers so I might as well make the most.
Kathleen: So there’s some really good tactical takeaways there that I want to pause and just recap for anybody listening. When it comes to back links, I think the first thing that really stood out at me was you said that you really built a list and searched for sites that were already talking about tools that had similar or comparable functionality to what Outreach Plus was able to do. And you reached out to them and basically said, “Can you add us to the list of tools that you’re talking about?” That was number one.
Kathleen: Number two. What I heard you say was, was it “round up” or how did you term that? The posts or the lists … the reference post.
Ian: Resource list, yeah.
Kathleen: Resource list, okay. So looking for blog posts or websites or pages that list resources for different things and getting added that. Kind of like being added to a directory. Same idea.
Ian: Sometimes depending on what it is, if it’s a really good quality article and I know they want to rank in that, I’ll say, “Listen can you add me to the list? I’ll definitely share it out. And by the way, here’s a post on RazorSocial. I’m going to add a link into this.”
And they go, “Oh great,” because now they think, well I am actually providing value as well. I’m going to share it to my audience which will give it a boost. They’ll get some traffic to it and the link, that should help them as well.
Ian: So I won’t do that for everything but I will do it for good quality articles where I know it’s going to be difficult to get that link. Everybody wants to get links and stuff and everybody wants to rank higher, so. I seen actually one that came to mind, I got a really smart outreach email from somebody the other day saying, “Hey Ian. I notice on your websites there’s three key words that you don’t rank for, that your competitors rank. I’d love to write a guest post around one of these. Here’s some sites I’ve written some articles for.” And all I’m thinking is, what are those keywords? I want to know those key words you know?
Ian: So I replied, “Yeah, let me know.” So I’m using that sort of tactic as well, looking for guest posts as well. So if you put a little more work into it and a little more value, and put more effort into the personalization, you get great responses.
Kathleen: Now when you look at all of the sites that you could target to get a back link from, you mentioned at least mentally categorizing some as perhaps more valuable than others and that determining how much work goes into it. How are you evaluating that? Are you using something like Alexa rank or what metrics are you using to determine the value of the different sites?
Ian: Yeah the one I find the easiest to use, I use Moz. So Moz provides that number between zero and a hundred, and a lot of it’s based on the links coming back into the site. So it looks at what’s the authority of the website and then it will look at the page authority of that website as well.
Kathleen: And what level of authority are you looking for? Is there a certain threshold for you? Like it’s not worth it if it’s under “x”?
Ian: It’s a minimum of 40. So if it’s under 40, I’m not particularly interested. If it’s 50 and above, I’m delighted, but if it’s just over 40 that’s where I’m interested in getting that link.
Kathleen: Okay. That’s good to know. And then the last one you mentioned which I thought was really interesting, was the notion of creating these little mini tools, like you’re back link searcher. And redirecting that back to your site as a way of getting more back links. So that’s definitely something for people out there who have the ability to create a tool to consider.
Kathleen: And just to clarify, so you have the actual domain that you’ve purchased, but anybody who types that domain into Google and hits enter is going to go to a sub directory on the OutreachPlus site correct?
Ian: Exactly. We haven’t launched it yet, so you won’t see it in there at the moment. But in the next two weeks, you’re right, it will go into a sub directory.
Kathleen: And the back link authority will transition, will flow through the 301 redirect?
Ian: Yeah the technical … yeah for 301 redirect, exactly.
Kathleen: Okay. Great. Well I love getting into the technical details. That’s great and then … go ahead?
Ian: I was just going to say, we don’t forget about the social media either as we’re building our presence as well, because the more people hear about us on social, the more people like you were saying earlier on Kathleen, you go, “Oh I’ve heard of this tool a few times.” So we need to get that name out. So we’re still building our social presence.
We use Agora Polls to manage all our social profiles and things like that to get all that out there. And more people that hear about us, the more likely people will talk about us. Then we start getting these links that we don’t even ask for.
So a guy the other day called Shane Barker, wrote a blog post about influence or outreach? And he said, “Here are some of the tools.” And we were right in the middle. I was going this is great, because I didn’t have to go out and get that link. So. And, the thing about being on the list now, a lot of the lists of these tools, is a lot of people are picking from these lists you know. Even if I write new articles, they’re looking at existing lists out there. So that gets us on new lists as well.
Kathleen: Yeah, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?
Ian: Yeah exactly. Exactly so.
Kathleen: Well I would be remiss given your strong background in social, with razor social , if I didn’t ask and take a few minutes and just ask you for your opinion on, with everything that’s happening with Facebook these days and all the changes that are going on in terms of the news feed … we don’t have to get into the politics of the Cambridge Analytica thing but I’m just curious if … I know there are a lot of listeners out there who, for whom Facebook is a very important part of their business marketing strategy.
Any tips, advice or insight that you want to share as to what those people should be thinking about now in terms of how they approach Facebook? And specifically when you look at the mix of effort, how much should go into a company page, versus a group, versus paid social, et cetera?
I know that could be a whole other hour podcast, but …
Ian: Yeah I mean it’s like, your page reach is going down. Facebook were just making changes to group so that group was, instead of seeing all group updates it was highlights only, and they were doing that because they’re going to bring in an advertising model for groups. So groups will end up the same as pages. So don’t think … groups is great at the moment because so many people see content. In a couple of years time the reach in groups will be the same as pages. Unless you’re getting … you’re probably getting more engagement. So where is this all going?
I think the next year is going to be difficult for Facebook as a lot of businesses will move off of Facebook I think. Because a lot of them will really start questioning the value they’re getting. But will that open up opportunities for other people if it’s a little less competitive there and more people get involved? I think the key is, you have to assume that you have to pay money to be on these channels if you want to get the reach. So you go, well what is it there for? Is it for brand awareness and people getting to know about us? And am I prepared to invest in that?
Or if I invest the money to actually drive sales, well then I’m looking to go and put in “x” amount. I’m driving people into my funnel, and I’ve a very optimized funnel at the end that results in sales and money. So I think we have to look more from a commercial point of view of how we go, “Right, well it’s actually worth our time and money to actually … and we’re driving actual sales through this funnel.” So yeah, it’s hard to know exactly in a year’s time where we would be, but it’s going to be still a lot of disruption over the next year I think.
Kathleen: Yeah. I think we’re going to see a lot of changes in a very short amount of time.
Ian: Yeah. Yeah.
Kathleen: Well thank you for sharing that insight. Before we wrap up, there’s two questions I ask every guest that I have. The first is company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
Ian: I love Andy Crestodina. So I know you had Andy Crestodina on a show recently from Orbit Media. And he runs a large web design company but he gets content marketing, inbound marketing so well. And he’s really good at analytics. So he’s really, really clear about what posts, what content is driving traffic and completing the goals. So he has the goal set up on the site and he knows exactly, this type of content, this type of post, is going to drive this amount of leads coming into our site. So he has it off to a Tee.
And I think a lot of us just don’t have that analytics set up. So we’re creating a lot of this content, and we really don’t know which is the content that’s working the best.
And so I love following him and what he does because he’s built a great business and he’s a never ending supply of leads, he’s getting from his business and he’s writing fantastic content. So he just seems to be doing really well. So I admire him a lot.
Kathleen: Yeah, I did have him on a few weeks ago, and the reason I had him on is that I had previously interviewed Oli Gardner from Unbounce and I asked him this same question, and Oli said only one name. He said, “There’s not a lot of people I think do this well but the one person I can think of is Andy Crestodina.” So of course I immediately had to get Andy then. So I think there’s really something to that.
And the other thing I really came to appreciate, he’s incredibly bright. And you’re right, just really knows his stuff. Knows what he’s talking about. He’s also just one of the nicest guys out there.
Ian: I just love that guy. I love just spending time with him. He’s … and he will do anything to help you. I don’t know how he gets the time, but he’ll do anything you know.
Kathleen: Yeah and I think honestly that’s part of what makes him a great inbound marketer. And that’s part of what makes the people who are the great inbound marketers great, is that they are very much givers. They give of their time. They give of their knowledge. And that naturally attracts people to them, so.
Ian: Yeah. Can I give one more name?
Ian: I’m cheating, I’m cheating now. So Syed Balkhi, Syed Balkhi is a guy to watch. And I’ve watched most things he’s done over the last few years. And he ended up becoming involved in OutreachPlus. But he has, he runs, he’s a 28 year old guy. He runs WPBeginner. So any time you look up any WordPress career he comes up. He runs OptinMonster, an email lead generation tool, and there’s hundreds of thousands of people using that tool.
Ian: And he has a load of other sites as well. And he just understands the whole process of content. He just supplies it to new businesses all the time. And he has it off to a Tee. So he, if you have an idea now, he’s a really smart guy.
Kathleen: He sounds like somebody I need to chase after for an interview. He sounds like he’s got a lot going on if he’s got that many sites.
Ian: Yeah, yeah, he’s a lot and he’s just super smart.
Kathleen: Great. Well nobody’s mentioned him yet, so that’s a new one for me. So I’ll let you slip in that cheat.
Ian: Giving him a referral.
Kathleen: Second question. With the world of digital marketing changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date? What are your go to sources of information to keep yourself educated?
Ian: Yeah, I mean I do, I read a good bit. So, like for example Garett Moon came out with a book, he runs CoSchedule which is a social media scheduling tool. He came out with a book recently about how to 10x your content marketing. I mean I love my content marketing and I’m not bad at it, but there’s always room to learn. So I read his book and I picked up some great points of his book. So I do that.
Then I follow people like Mark Schaefer you know, because Mark Schaefer just comes up with these great ideas all the time that challenges the way I’m thinking. When everybody was saying Snapchat was going to be huge, he was saying Snapchat is going to be niche. It’s going to be a really small audience, it’s never going to be a Facebook or anything. When Google Plus came out he said it’s not going to last, it’s not going to work. So I follow him and the likes of Jay Bear from an agency point of view. Again he’s just a really clever guy.
So there’s a group of people like that I would follow. So, I use Feedly where I put in a list of all these people I track and I watch their blogs and what they’re saying, and I read a lot of that content and any of the books I do. And from conferences I go to, I go where I can meet people. So I hardly ever go to a session. But on a Saturday morning early, I’ll be up early watching sessions.
So I watched maybe about 12 sessions on social media marketing worlds already. I watched most of the sessions from Oli Gardner’s Unbounce conference last year, because they were made available for free on his site. And it’s amazing super valuable content. I learned so much. And I summarize everything I learn. So I write down the notes of everything I learn because you forget most of it.
Kathleen: Yeah so true.
Ian: And then I try and use that within my business. So, yes I’m constantly, I definitely spend four or five hours a week learning.
Kathleen: That’s so important I think for any marketer. If you’re not just a voracious reader and an innately incredibly curious person, it’s hard to keep up. So great tips. And I love the tip about watching the conference presentations, because it’s so true. There’s a lot of great resources out there that are there for the taking.
Ian: And I’m writing content, people go, “Well where did you get your content ideas from?” Constantly reading and learning, so there’s always something new and testing things out all the time. With Outreach Plus I don’t have all the best ideas but I’m testing stuff out and seeing what works and doesn’t work and then writing about what works and doesn’t work.
Kathleen: Great. Well Ian this has been so interesting and so many great takeaways. I’m sure that there’s some folks who are listening who are going to have questions or who might want to learn more about OutreachPlus. What’s the best way for them to learn about OutreachPlus and also to find you online?
Ian: Kathleen thank you. Well on OutreachPlus if you go to the homepage, you’ll see there’s a demo video there. If you watch that demo video I actually show going from the start, doing outreach all the way through. So people will see, oh now I get it. Oh now I get why this will save me so much time and a lot less hassle.
So yeah if you go there and on the contact form there on RazorSocial. I’ll get a copy of that email so easy to reach out to me there.
Kathleen: Great. Well thank you again for joining me. And if you were listening and you found value in what we talked about today, I’d love it if you would consider giving the podcast a review on iTunes, Stitcher or the platform of your choice.
And finally if you know somebody doing kick ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me at workmommywork because I would love to interview them.
Kathleen: That’s it for this week. Thank you so much Ian.
Ian: Thank you Kathleen, it was great to be on the show. Thank you.
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