Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the Founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. A few weeks ago my team got an email from someone who said that they know someone who’s making money by actually getting customers. Making money is a byproduct of it, but getting customers through LinkedIn. The team was a little intrigued, they did a little bit of research, and then they invited the person who we were talking about via email onto Mixergy to do an interview.
Today I’ve got him here and frankly I’m a little bit hesitant in my intro because I don’t know that much about his business. I’ve done a bunch of research in preparation. My team has done a bunch of research. We had a pre-interview. I’ve got notes here, but I’m going to have to learn along with you guys. His name is Josh Turner. He is the Founder of LinkedSelling. It’s an agency that helps business get more clients using LinkedIn. I invited him here to talk about what he does, what his process is for getting more customers from LinkedIn. How he built up an agency, you know, where he’s doing this for other people. And finally, what his next step is? How he’s going to be teaching his process to others in the future, including a book?
We’ll learn all that and so much more thanks to HostGator. They’re my sponsor. If you need a hosting company, if you hate your hosting company, later on I’ll tell you why you should sign up for HostGator. If you need a developer, I’ll also tell you about my second sponsor, Toptal. They have the best developers out there. I’ll tell you more about them soon. Josh, first, welcome.
Josh: Thanks, man. It’s awesome to be here.
Andrew: We started talking before the interview about the questions I had while I was researching you. One is how exactly do you get customers from LinkedIn? You started telling me about one of your clients, a guy named Tom. Can we give his last name?
Josh: Yes, Tom Swip.
Andrew: What does Tom Swip do?
Josh: His company is called Swip Systems. They’re an IT company, and they do software development. And they build big ERP systems, and they do network maintenance and stuff like that.
Andrew: He came to you and he said, “I need new customers.” What kind of customers does he need?
Josh: He needs anybody that has an interest in those services, but as we furthered the conversation. And we said, “You know, as far as LinkedIn goes, it’s difficult really to build a campaign that’s going to work really well if you’re trying to be all things to all people. Let’s zero in on a niche or a vertical that works really well for you guys, and manufacturing was one that really stood out.
Andrew: I get it. You’re not buying ads for him, you’re doing some organic stuff on LinkedIn, right?
Josh: It is. It’s organic. It’s nurturing prospects in and taking it all the way to the point where people agree to a phone call. There’s a distinction to be made there because if he was interested in ad campaigns and doing direct response stuff and getting people to sign up for webinars, then LinkedIn Ads can…you can do a lot of things to go after a very big audience. But with these nurture-type campaigns where you’re developing direct one on one relationships, trying to be all things to all people doesn’t work very well.
Andrew: Your process is geared towards getting your client on the phone with their prospects so that they could hopefully close a sale.
Andrew: It doesn’t happen in bulk.
Andrew: That’s interesting. Now, you’ve got his avatar. You know the kind of person he’s going after. You told me that you first starting going after them one at a time. How do you do it?
Josh: Essentially the way it works is once we figured out, we’re targeting…one of the very first steps is that we do what we call a database build where we go and we are working on behalf of our client. We will connect them with targeted prospects that fit their avatar, sending one on one personalized connection requests, essentially. What we found is, you see, you’re a famous dude.
You probably get lots of connection requests on LinkedIn. I get a lot as well, and what I see is that the vast majority of people, they just click the Connect button and send that stock LinkedIn message. Well, what we found is if you personalize that, you get anywhere from a 50 to 70% response rate from people that never heard of you before. And so by putting in the hard work of connecting with a lot of people in a short amount of time, we can build a pretty big database for our clients in just a couple days.
Andrew: How many people are we talking about for a guy like Tom?
Josh: For a guy like Tom, we’ll start with somewhere around 500 connections within a couple days of really targeted folks that are the exact fit for who he’s looking to work for.
Andrew: I thought we needed to have the email address of the person we’re connecting with, and before we started you said, “Andrew, if you just hit the ‘friend’ option, you can send anyone a message and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. You don’t need to know their email address.”
Josh: The interesting thing about that too is that people ask me all the time, but I’m not their friend. So when it comes across that they’re going to think it’s weird, but that information doesn’t come across to the recipient. When they receive that request, they don’t see what button you clicked, or how you know them. They just get the request with the message you put in there.
Andrew: I see. All right. Now, you send them a message. What’s that message?
Josh: The message is usually, “Hey, I came across your profile here on LinkedIn, and if we can, we’ll insert some personal anecdote pulling something out of their profile. But even if we want to play the numbers game and assume let’s just get out as many as we can, something as simple as “I came across your profile here on LinkedIn and thought we might benefit from being connected. I’d love to connect here if you’re open to it. Thanks, Tom,” can get a really high acceptance rate. But a big part of it too is the positioning for when you approach these people because if you’re Joe Salesman selling X,Y,Z widgets, and you’re trying to connect with CEOs and CFOs of companies you want to do business with, a lot of them are not going to connect with you because they don’t want to be sold to. They’re going to see you coming a mile away, and they’re going to ignore it because they don’t want you humping their leg, you know?
So a big part of it is how do you position yourself initially so that when people get that request, they think, “Oh, this is somebody who I want to connect with.”
Andrew: I see. A colleague as opposed to a sales person.
Josh: A peer or if you can position yourself as more of an authority in the space that you’re marketing in. That can work too. In Tom’s case, CEO to CEO, it can work, even if they look at you like, “Ah, maybe this is a vendor that’s going to try and sell me something.” CEO to CEO is much more successful than salesman to CEO. The other thing too though is if you can use the…and we’ll probably get to this. But we help our clients build LinkedIn groups that position them as leaders in their space. And then leveraging the group as part of that connection request gets people to really open up to…
Andrew: How would you include a reference to the group?
Josh: For Tom, targeting manufacturing companies, we built a group called Midwest Manufacturing Leaders. It’s full of awesome content that manufacturing executives are interested in. It’s not a group all about software development which is what our client does. Then when Tom reaches out to people, in his headline it says, “Founder, Midwest Manufacturing Leaders.” Then it also says, “President, Swip Systems.” So when these manufacturing executives see that come across, they think, “Oh, this person’s obviously some sort of a player in the space” and they’re much more open to connecting with them.
Andrew: Gotcha. Now, you do that. You start sending one on one emails. Any sales happening from these one on one emails, or are we just establishing a base so far?
Josh: So far all we’ve done is send connection requests. Sometime you’ll have someone respond and say, “I’d actually be interested in talking to you about what you do. We’ve got something going on right now.” But that’s a needle in the haystack. Really where the appointments are going to come from is through ongoing nurture and messaging campaigns where we’re personally messaging prospects one on one through the LinkedIn messaging system. We have a whole methodology for how we do that.
Andrew: I referred to him at first as Tom Swift, and then I realized it’s Tom Swip. I found him on LinkedIn, and sure as enough, where my thing would say just Founder of Mixergy, his says Tom Swip, President, CEO of Swip Systems; Founder, Midwest Manufacturing Leaders, and Vice President at Guard911. I see. Now, if I were a Midwestern manufacturer, I’d want to be connected with this guy.
Josh: You would be much more open to connecting with him because it seems like he’s somebody that’s in the space and more of a peer, an authority, than just somebody trying to sell something.
Andrew: Then you create a group, and now we understand your thought process around creating a group. Next step is what? Do you start inviting your contacts into the group, or do you do something else?
Josh: The group growth initially comes from inviting all of those new connections that we got in that database build. Otherwise, if you don’t have a list to start with, growing a LinkedIn group can be challenging, but using this database build process you can build a list really quickly and invite those people to join the group. That’s where the group growth comes in at first, and then on an ongoing basis we grow it by inviting more and more people continually to join the group.
Andrew: What’s your process for inviting people to join a group?
Josh: It used to be more dependent on messaging prospects that we would find in other LinkedIn groups because LinkedIn used to have a…you used to be able to message group members, anyone that you were in a group with, you could message them. LinkedIn recently, basically, eliminated that for all intents and purposes because now you can still do it. But you can only message 15 people per month for free in other groups. It’s really made the platform better because it’s really cut down on spam. But it took away one of the best ways to grow groups.
And so now what we focus on is even more of the relationship building and developing new connections, and then inviting them to join the group once we connect, one on one.
Andrew: There’s no other way to promote your group within LinkedIn?
Josh: Within LinkedIn, I mean, you can post status updates. You can share information about your group into other groups. If you have a budget, you could spin up some LinkedIn Ads promoting your group. You could develop partnerships with other group owners, send out announcements on your behalf promoting your group. There’s certainly a lot of tactics, but there’s nothing that’s a silver bullet for quickly growing a group. It takes work.
Andrew: How many people in his group that has to join, and I don’t think…
Josh: At this point? It’s over 5,000.
Andrew: Over 5,000 people who are in this group? How long did it take to build that?
Josh: I think we’ve been working for Tom for two years.
Andrew: Then what do you do to convert these people who are in a group to be, maybe, not customers but to, at least, take a customer call, to take a sales call?
Josh: Our philosophy is that if you take the time to develop relationships with prospects that your response rate will go way up. And so what that really means though from a practical standpoint is that we design messaging campaigns that nurture prospects along. And so we’ll design a five or six touch messaging campaign where we’re sending personal one of one messages to prospects every few weeks for several months. And it won’t be until maybe month two, sometimes month three that we ask for the phone call.
Andrew: Josh, this is via LinkedIn messages that you’re sending these one on one emails?
Josh: Yes, they’re not emails, they’re LinkedIn messages.
Andrew: LinkedIn messages, one on one. That means someone manually has to type. Do you have a system to automate that?
Josh: No, we don’t. So we have people in our office, account managers, that basically just do the hard work that most people aren’t willing to do.
Andrew: They take user name and password that you guys have in your system and you log in as him and you send out his messages on his behalf, like a team of assistants.
Andrew: I see. What do you use to keep track of who responded and what message you are with each person? What CRM can allow you to do that?
Josh: There are no CRMs off the shelf that are great for doing what we do, which is actually why we’re developing our own custom solution to make our lives a little easier and give our clients a better interface as well. It’s a tool that some of our students can use too. But there are no off the shelf CRMs that are great for managing the kinds of campaigns that we run where you’ve got hundreds of people being worked through different messaging campaigns at different times.
We’re constantly adding new batches in, so we use spreadsheets and Google Docs spreadsheets so that our clients have real time access to the data. And we track every prospect in the campaign. All the pertinent information about each of them, what messaging campaigns they’ve been exposed to so far, which ones they’re queued up to receive. And then at any point in time when somebody raises their hand and says, “Sure, let’s jump on a call.” It’s at that point we turn it over to our client and then we remove them from any other campaigns.
Andrew: I see. I feel like even Trello, Pipedrive would be better than a spreadsheet. But I can understand how you have to use whatever tool you have and then build your own.
Josh: Obviously, we started doing this in 2011. And so it’s evolved, but it’s a pretty sophisticated system, and we’ve never had a client who came on and thought that their CRM could do it better. Once they use it and see why we do it the way we do, they’re like, “Oh okay, we see why you’re using this Google Doc spreadsheet approach because this is really customized.”
Andrew: I could see. I get it. I get how this could be really complicated. All right. Let me do a quick sponsorship message, and then I want to talk about what’s in the five messages that you send out and also how you built this up? It all has to do with you needing it for yourself and how you then started offering it as a service for others.
But first, if you need a developer, let’s say you’re like Josh. You have this idea, this thing that’s working for you, but it’s in a spreadsheet and you don’t want to keep having to use a spreadsheet. How do you find a developer who’s going to do it? Some people go into the cheapo freelancing websites. They’re not the audience for this sponsor because they don’t want the best software, they just want quickie, cheap solution.
Others who do want the best are going to go out and look for a headhunter or start placing ads everywhere. Then they start to field all the applications. If you have a headhunter, it’s going to take a long time. It’s going to cost you thousands of dollars. Or if you do it yourself, you’re going to end up with a lot of applications. You try to figure out who’s really right? Who’s going to stick around? Who’s going to be a big pain in the butt?
The other approach is go to this new site that’s out there. It’s called Toptal, T-O-P-T-A-L. That’s top as in top of the heap, tal as in talent, Toptal. You go to them. In fact, if you go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. In a moment I’ll tell you why that’s a better approach. You tell them what you’re looking for. They will find a developer that meets your criteria, that works the number of hours that you need, that can integrate with your team as if she is a member of your team. In fact, he or she will be a member of your team, and you can get to work within days.
If you’re not happy, they’ve got a refund policy that is unreal for a development shop of their caliber. Here it is, and there’s a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. That means you don’t pay if you’re not 100% satisfied. The developer will still get paid, and if you’re a Mixergy listener, you’re going to get 83 Toptal developer hours when you pay for 80.
Eighty free developer hours, that’s unheard of in this space. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy for this really unique offer.
Josh is a guy who’s hired developers, a guy who’s building up a business. What do you think of Toptal? Was this the kind of thing that you needed?
Josh: I haven’t heard of it before, but for 80 free hours it sounds like something worth trying for sure.
Andrew: How did you find your developers?
Josh: I’m a member of EO, the St. Louis chapter. Before being part of EO, I was in their accelerator program which is for businesses that are under a million but tracking towards a million. I met a guy named JP Revel in that program. He has a shop based here in St. Louis but also is flexible enough for a small business like mine that he’s willing to also work with offshore people to help us keep our costs somewhat in line. So it’s kind of a hybrid model, and we have some expensive guys here in St. Louis and some cheaper people to get the blended rate down a little bit and still really get a great quality product.
Andrew: They’re all working on this new version of your software?
Josh: Yep, it’s not out yet, and it’s supposed to be…the beta version is supposed to be ready in like a week. So we’re really excited about it.
Andrew: Cool. All right. If your guy needs another developer, if you need something added and you don’t have enough space and they don’t have enough capacity, they don’t have enough people, they could also go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and get an ace to jump in there and take care of things for them. I’m grateful to them at Toptal for sponsoring.
Actually, let’s talk about the five emails.
Andrew: Give me a rough overview of what you say to a prospect that gets them to be willing to get on the phone with someone.
Josh: Every campaign is different, and I could give you the work for word script right now of our stock playbook, and somebody could take it. It may not work as well for them because you’ve got to massage these things. You’ve got to test different things. That said, the framework is generally going to be something like, okay, once we connect with them, we’re going to send a message that just a, “Hey, thanks for connecting. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.”
Then maybe a couple of weeks later, we send them a message that says, “Hey, I just came across this article or this case study I thought you might be really interested in it.” It needs to be a third party article or case study so that it doesn’t feel like you’re being promotional sending them a link to your latest blog. Then the third message is oftentimes we’ll point them to a discussion a happening in the group say, “Hey, there’s this conversation happening in the group that I think you might be able to add some great insight to. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.”
And so that’s three messages sent over a month and a half, and then maybe a couple of weeks after that we’ll reach out and say, “Hey, it’s been great keeping in touch on LinkedIn. I’d love to jump on a call some time and learn more about what you’re up to. How’s next Tuesday look?” Then we’ll send a follow up if they don’t respond to that, say “Hey, I just want to make sure you got my message from last week, etc., etc.” And then there’s all sorts of variations within that because you know we have clients who are founders of a company that want to be the figurehead of the campaign, but they’re not the ones that want to really kick it off.
Andrew: How do you make that transition?
Josh: We do more handoffs in the messaging process. And so we’ve developed some scripts that work really well for that, and it’s just a matter of building the relationship and then, basically, making a handoff to somebody else in message four and five. And then from there when if somebody doesn’t respond? Well, for starters what we’ve seen across all the industries that we’ve worked in is that 29% of the prospects worked through this process will agree to a phone call from either message four or five.
Josh: Or it could be five or six, or six or seven, depending on how the campaign is structured. But that still leaves 71% of people that haven’t agreed to a phone call at that point. So there’s a couple of things we usually do. We usually take all those people and put them in a more long-term nurture bucket where they’ll get like a monthly message, just some value. We almost treat it like an email newsletter.
Andrew: That’s, again, another human being that sends out an email on behalf of your client that says, “Hey, just thought of you and sent this over.”
Andrew: That’s a lot of work, but Google Groups allows you to manually send out emails to each person, one on one.
Josh: It’s not Google Groups.
Andrew: I meant LinkedIn Groups that lets you do that to members of your own group as long as you’re an organizer, right?
Josh: No, you have to be connected with them to do it for free, but if you’re connected you can send as many messages as you want until they…
Andrew: It’s not enough to be a member of the group. So now that I joined this group, Tom might actually send me an email saying, “Let’s connect one on one too.”
Josh: Yes, yeah.
Andrew: I see. Otherwise, he can’t message me. I see. There was a time, wasn’t there, where LinkedIn Groups allowed you to send messages to your whole group?
Josh: Exactly. You can still do that. You can send an announcement that goes out to your whole group. You can do that one of those a week, but they’re not personalized.
Andrew: Oh okay, not individual messages.
Josh: Individual messages. This is what I touched on earlier. You used to be able to send unlimited messages to people that you were in a group with. Now, it doesn’t matter if you run the group or you’re just a member of the group, you can only send 15 of those per month. So it’s really, really limited, and you can’t do much with that.
Andrew: Wow. All right. You guys must have people who just sit. They’re not in the U.S., are they? These people who are sending out emails on behalf of your clients?
Josh: Yes, they are. We don’t have anybody overseas. The majority of our office is based here in St. Louis. Our staff is here in our St. Louis office. And then we have a few people in other places around the country.
Andrew: I saw the staff on one of the videos on your website. It was pretty cool, and I could understand why you might not be there today. There’s just a lot of people in the background in that video that you posted.
Josh: I don’t know which one you saw, but it can be challenging to find quiet time because we’ve got a big open, floor plan. There are no offices at the office, basically. So it’s a really cool building and a great place to work and collaborate. But for stuff like this, I usually have…
Andrew: So when you shot that video, I kind of thought what you did was you had someone shoot a video of your floor where everyone was working. And then someone shoot a video of you in front of a green screen, and then meshed them in. But it sounds like what you’re saying is you were sitting there on your floor with everyone behind you. As they were working, you were just recording it to the camera.
Josh: I don’t know exactly which video you’re talking about.
Andrew: But was that something you would typically do, or would you have a green screen?
Josh: We do that sometimes. We have such a cool office with the brick walls and all the kind of hip stuff that oftentimes we almost never shoot with a green screen anymore when we’re doing marketing videos or any of that kind of stuff.
Andrew: I wonder where I saw that video? All right. Maybe as I keep clicking around here, I do research as I do the interview, I’ll come across it.
Josh: It’s one of those things like in our space we like to differentiate ourselves by making it clear that we’re a legitimate, real business that’s got an office and there’s people on our team and all that kind of stuff. So I like shooting videos that have people working behind me.
Andrew: The way you got into all of this…actually, how much money are you making with this? What kind of revenues can you generate?
Josh: We’re going to do close to $3 million this year.
Andrew: Three million and we’re basically at the end of the year. So that means you’ve already exceeded $2 million, am I right?
Andrew: And that’s the consulting business and the education business? All right. I’ve got to get into the education business in a moment too. That’s LinkedUniversity.com is the site where you teach it. But let’s start with how this whole thing started. You were an outsourcing CFO. What does it mean to have been an outsourcing CFO?
Josh: Before I was an outsource CFO, I was a CFO of a construction company here in St. Louis. It shut down in November, 2009. It ran out of work. It had to close the doors. I picked up a Business Journal, and I saw that there were a couple guys who had been featured for this new thing. I think they were calling them fractional CFOs or CFO for hire. I thought here’s a couple of guys out there that are basically running their own consulting business as outsource CFOs. So I said I can do the same thing, and I started doing it. So in 2010 that’s where my business started. I was helping small businesses in St. Louis with finances, and all like financial management. Not investments and stuff like that, but business finance stuff.
Andrew: You needed to find customers. What did you try before you tried LinkedIn?
Josh: LinkedIn was one of the very first things I had tried because I had been using LinkedIn for some different entrepreneurial projects that never really went anywhere. But LinkedIn was successful in getting me some meetings with some people as early as 2008 when my buddy, Ben, and I were doing some stuff. So that’s why LinkedIn…I had some 500 connections by the time I started my business. So I had a nice little database of people to start getting the word out about what I was doing.
It was one of the very first things that I started using. I started doing some of the other stuff too, you know, blogging and going to networking meetings and having coffees and all that stuff. But LinkedIn was one of the things that was working best for me compared to some of those other things. Also, the thing about LinkedIn that I liked was it got me in front of so many people that it created an awareness of me and this brand that I was building because me, here I am working out of my house in 2010. When I first started I had one client, you know, and I’m feeling like do I even have a real business?
This LinkedIn campaign that I started building, and I started connecting to so many people and putting content out there, that then I started getting referred in on projects where people were saying…you know, a couple of people actually told me, “You were the guy for this.” So like I don’t know why people were saying that about me, but I think it’s got a lot to do with me getting my name in front of so many people. LinkedIn was one of the tools I was using to do that.
Andrew: How did you realize that this could be a service that you offered to other people just like you were offering CFO services?
Josh: I had a client of mine that asked me if the kind of stuff I was doing on LinkedIn would work for their business. I gave him some ideas of what I thought would work, and they said, “We don’t really know how to do that. Why don’t you just do it for us?” And so I looked around to see, are there other companies I can refer them to. Couldn’t find any. I’ve never been afraid to try new things. So I thought, “Sure, let’s give it a shot.” We worked out a deal, and I started running a campaign for them. They were my very first client in 2011.
And so really quickly after that, I started thinking, “Maybe, there’s some other people out there that could use some help with this too and built LinkedInSelling.com and put a little bit of marketing behind it. Started writing some articles and doing some more LinkedIn stuff focused on that business. It started taking off. It was pretty quickly I realized this could be a decent size business. For me it was a lot more fun than the finance stuff. I had started really getting burned out on helping people with spreadsheets.
Andrew: At the time was your process similar to what you described at the top of the interview?
Josh: It was not. No, it’s evolved.
Andrew: What was it in the beginning?
Josh: In the beginning it was the process for taking all this kind of brand awareness marketing of building a group and connecting with people. We didn’t have the messaging component totally dialed in until a little bit later, maybe six months in. So in the beginning it was just more of like top of mind marketing and hoping that by putting your name in front of enough people that you’ll be the one that they think of when they’re in the market for what you do. And that works, but what we realized was that people were not going to be willing to pay us a lot of money for a long time for that kind of marketing.
Andrew: It’s like land marketing as opposed to direct marketing.
Josh: Honestly, it’s a lot of the kind of stuff that most people who are doing social media work, that’s what most people are doing, and they’re not getting much results. They’re posting updates and trying to connect with people, and just trying to get the word out. No one’s paying attention to it. So it was combining all of that, brand awareness stuff with the messaging process where we figured out how we can actually quantify a certain lead volume. We realized that, “Oh, there’s a lot of businesses out there that need more appointments and need to get on the phone with more prospects. And this process can really help them.”
So it’s taken some refinement, but I would say probably within a year we were doing what we’re doing now. There’s always tweaks, but it’s going pretty well.
Andrew: I’m looking at an early version of your site, and it looks like workshops are one of the ways that you got people in your funnel.
Josh: Webinars, we started doing webinars really early on, and those webinars were totally geared towards just, “Hey, we’re going to give you some education on how to do this LinkedIn stuff,” and then at the very end there was a very soft pitch about if you want our help, we can do it for you. Here’s how to get in touch with us.” We realized that the vast majority of the people that were on those webinars were never going to be in the market to pay us a couple thousand dollars a month to do it for them. And that these, most people were just on the webinar to try and learn something because they wanted to do it themselves.
And we didn’t have anything more advanced for them which is why a few months later we created LinkedUniversity.
Andrew: How did you figure out what to charge for a service where you’re getting onto people’s LinkedIn accounts and sending messages for them? How did you figure out the pricing for that?
Josh: You know at first I just tried to figure out, you know, I would just gauge the situation and kind of size somebody up and think like, “What do I think this person’s willing to pay for this?”
Andrew: That’s honest.
Josh: That was pretty much it in the beginning, and then as we kind of got going and had a little bit more traction behind the brand and kind of knew what we were doing better and figured out how to sell it better, we had more confidence and started raising the price. One of the things too is when we were first getting started, I just wanted to get the clients. I was willing to do it for almost anything. So we were charging, at the time, maybe a third of what we currently charge.
The other thing we eventually realized is that we’re really in the business of helping people get on the phone with more prospects. It just so happens that the tool that we use is LinkedIn. Most of our clients are not hiring us because they want to do LinkedIn marketing, they’re hiring us because they want more appointments with qualified prospects.
And so when you go out and look for who else offers that kind of service in the appointment setting industry, AdAge sent out results from a survey or something a couple of years back. I think it was anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $700 an appointment was what B2B companies are used to paying for an appointment. I don’t put my stock in that, but our pricing works out to significantly less than that, anywhere depending on…it depends on the campaign, but most of our clients are going to be spending 2400 to $3000 a month. Some more, some a little less, but it just depends.
The kind of campaign I described for Tom that most of our clients are doing, 2400, 2800 a month, something like that is pretty typical. The cost per lead is usually going to end up somewhere around $150, something like that. So compared to what other people are doing, it’s definitely in line, maybe less than some other options out there.
Andrew: Along with this, in addition to the clients that you get, you also get to build up this reputation in the industry. You get this whole community that you’re now a leader of on LinkedIn. It’s really powerful. I could see it. The first person you brought on board was Ben…is it pronounced Kniffen?
Josh: Kniffen, yep.
Andrew: Kniffen. How did you connect with him, and why did you hire him first?
Josh: Ben and I have been friends since high school. We played in a band together, and he’s just an awesome dude that’s got a ton of skills in a ton of different areas. He and I had tried some different projects, working at nights and on the weekends before starting this business. So when I started LinkedSelling and we basically got to a point where I had too many clients. I couldn’t do all on my own anymore, and I realized like I think we can grow this business. That’s when I said, “Hey, Ben, do you want to come do this with me? I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to pan out, but I think we can turn it into something good.” And he said, “Sure.” So he kind of took a risk to come on board and help me grow this business. Essentially, he’s now basically our COO overseas, all the account side of the company, putting in the operations and everything.
Andrew: But he’s not a co-owner of the business, is he?
Josh: He’s a minority partner.
Andrew: All right. Let’s continue then. Actually, before we do, I’ll do a quick sponsorship message. Message number two, Josh. Josh, has is this interview going for you?
Josh: It’s going good, man. How’s it going for you?
Andrew: I feel like I’ve been sitting in this chair since 8:30 this morning which is exactly what I’ve been doing. It’s now 2:30. I’ve just been doing back to back phone calls, and if you see me squirming a little bit, like adjusting my sleeves in a weird way, it’s just because I just can’t sit like this all day. But I ended up with a bunch of back to back phone calls today.
Josh: I hear you. So most of your days you’ve got a little more variety in them?
Andrew: Almost all. So yesterday I didn’t even come into the office, I just went and sat outside with my laptop. And then I rent from a company called Regus which has offices, frankly, all over the world but there’s tons now in San Francisco. I heard about this one that has this beautiful view. Sure enough, I went there, it was stunning. It was like my own living room, up above the Ferry Building looking out at Treasure Island in San Francisco. So I was leaning back and working like that. So some days I go to Napa Valley. That was last Friday, I just took a drive over to Napa to work. But today I have to sit, which is really hard.
And when people talk to me on the phone, I find it’s easier to see them eye to eye like this, so I have to put a Skype video on or some kind of video on, and that’s forces me to stay seated which is pretty hard. Anyway, so that’s the squirming is about. I’m also trying to find like Ben Kniffen’s Facebook page. Maybe, that’ll tell me something about your friendship with him. Maybe, as you’re talking about CFO, I’m looking that up. I’m looking up your early clients. I’m just checking out the whole story as I do to see if there’s anything I should be interjecting.
In the past, by the way, when I did that I would force something out, like, oh I found Ben. He used to do this when he was in school, right? He used to have long hair, or something. Now if it’s not valuable, I don’t include it.
Josh: Here’s some interesting stuff about Ben and I that I don’t talk about too often. But we’ve achieved a certain level of success at this point that I am willing to share some of the goofy and embarrassing stuff we’ve done over the years. So in addition to the high school band which was awesome, not embarrassing at all, we had a web show called Camping Gear TV. We did 400 episodes. Following in Gary V’s footsteps, inspired by Wine Library TV, we started Camping Gear TV, and we went hard. We treated it like a real freaking business. We made little money with it, certainly not enough to live on. Then LinkedSelling exploded, and we stopped doing it basically. But we’re really proud of the body of work we created there because 400 episodes of a video show…
Andrew: Most people give up after five.
Josh: The coolest thing about it is that we did something called Jerky Madness one year, right at the same time as March Madness basketball. We did a 64 beef jerky bracketed competition where we taste tested all the jerkys and crowned a winner. It was intense, man. Eating that much jerky is difficult to do.
Andrew: It’s very salty. It makes your head feel empty, like lightheaded, right?
Josh: We had to do it in multiple days of different sittings because there’s no way to knock all of that out at once.
Andrew: I see. You know it, you got some good viewership on that. Five years ago you did…
Josh: A million views on YouTube, I think. It’s still out there. You guys can check it out. There’s some funny stuff.
Andrew: Most popular has 47,000, almost 48,000 views. Well, that’s impressive. Hey, you guys put in a lot of work, and it’s not just like I am, sitting here in front of a mic. I see you out in the field a lot. Sometimes you’re sitting in a room with a poster behind you looking at the air, but I see you in the snow. I see out in the sun in shorts. I see you by the water in one of them .
Josh: It’s fun, man. In one of the videos we did was we made a little mini documentary about a sleeping bag factory in Alabama. That one was really, really well done, really cool. That’s the one we’re most proud of.
Andrew: What kind of revenue did you make from this?
Josh: Almost none.
Andrew: Almost none, and you still kept going.
Josh: Yeah, man, because we thought we could build a following to a point where we would be able to attract some sponsorships and stuff like that. Or that it could spawn into other things, like co-marketing type relationships and stuff like that. But it never really quite panned out for us.
Andrew: Are you upset at Gary V. for getting your head on this and it didn’t work?
Josh: No, because we learned so much by persevering in that business for a couple years and producing all that content and building all the contacts in the industry. There were a ton of great lessons from that experience.
Andrew: I’m looking at a photo where one of you is putting his foot in front of the other one’s face. I’m guessing to check which shoe is better or some kind of shoe reveal. I see one where you’re doing an interview, like me, with a guy named…
Josh: I did some of that stuff too.
Andrew: All right. On to my sponsor. My sponsor is HostGator. If you need a hosting company that will actually be there to support your website, if you need one that will actually take your phone calls after they take your money. You know, most will take your money. Then they’ll give you an email address, and frankly I’ll say this for hosting companies. A lot of hosting companies, you go to their website. They have a phone number right at the top, and you think, “Great. I feel safe. I don’t need to call them right now, I’m just going to sign up. Everything looks good.” So you sign up, and then you have a problem. You say, “Aha, there’s a phone number on their home page. I’ll call that number.” I know I’ve been there. You call that phone number up, and they say, “Sorry, this is for sales. If you have a tech support issue, please upgrade to the mega expensive, tens of thousands of dollars a month package, or email us using the ticketing system.”
So you use a ticketing system. That’s a really hard thing to explain via ticketing system what problem you’re having with your iPhone, right? That’s why Apple will have a Genius Bar for you to talk to, a human being or a phone number, right? But when your website goes down, many hosting companies expect you to use their stinking ticketing system to explain your problem to them.
And so you’re doing it, back and forth. Meanwhile, your site is down or it’s really limping along, and they don’t care because you didn’t upgrade to the mega expensive super whatever project. You don’t want that, you want a hosting company that will actually be there. In fact, you can go to HostGator any time and see their tech support number and do what I did in a past interview and called them. You’ll see within minutes you get on the phone with them, and for the most part you’re not going to need to talk to tech support. If you’re listening to Mixergy, you’re going to know how to set up your website.
Do they make it easy for you? Absolutely. They’ve got a WordPress, one click install, that will make you smile. They’ve got easy systems for installing most of the bigger CMSs. So if you don’t like WordPress, you want to use a different platform, fine. You can do it. Can you leave if you want to? Absolutely. It’s your own software. It’s your own content. You could take it and go to someone else if you’re ever unhappy with HostGator. That’s what HostGator is about. They make it easy for you to get in. They give you a good experience after you pay, and if you go to HostGator.com…
HostGator, I’m going to do it right now, HostGator.com/Mixergy. They will give you 30% off which means they’re already low priced. This is not just me saying already low, low prices. Everyone know HostGator offers low prices. That’s what one of the things that they’re known for. Well, they’re going to give you 30% off if you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, and that’s in addition to the 45 day…not in addition to. You get 45 day money back guarantee. But that’s in addition to the unmetered disk space, unmetered bandwidth, tech support number that you get to reach if you need anybody, easy control panel, unlimited email addresses, hundred dollar search credit from Yahoo and Bing, hundred dollar AdWords offer from Google AdWords.
We’re talking about so much that they’re giving you, and yes, as I said earlier, 45 day money back guarantee. All you have to do is go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, and if you’re listening to me and saying, “Why did I sign up for this other hosting company? They stink. I should have listened to Andrew first.” It’s not too late. They will help migrate you. In many cases, they’ll even do the migration for you. If you’re unhappy with your hosting company, they will make you happy if you switch to HostGator.
To get the big discount and be a part of the Mixergy crew, which means if you ever have any issues, you can always say, “Hey, Mixergy introduced me, and you know, people always pay attention.” If you want all that, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, and when you do you’ll also help me get some credit for having introduced you to HostGator.
All right, Josh. Josh, have you ever had any experience with them, with HostGator?
Josh: I think HostGator was the first website I ever created, maybe it wasn’t the first. One of the first was through HostGator.
Andrew: A lot of people do. Frankly, when it’s so inexpensive. We’re talking about under five bucks a month. If you have an idea, just go to HostGator and you just set it up. If it doesn’t work out, within 45 days you get your money back. A lot of people start out with them like that. All right. So now you’re getting your own customers. Did you use your own LinkedIn process to get customers for LinkedSelling?
Andrew: You did?
Josh: We still use it to this day. I mean, LinkedIn, we have a huge presence. We have a number of LinkedIn groups that we manage internally for our own marketing efforts. We spend a lot of money on LinkedIn Ads. We’re doing a lot with LinkedIn Pulse now. So if there’s a marketing play on LinkedIn, we do it.
Andrew: Do you buy ads for your clients also? Is it all the stuff we talked about? You do do some ad buys for them too. All geared towards getting their prospects on the phone with them, no mass selling.
Josh: Well, with LinkedIn Ads it’s a little different. You can use ads to drive people straight to a phone call, but it’s going to be really expensive. You know, it’s a big ask. What we found works much better is driving them to a webinar or a free report or a lead magnet or something like that. And so that’s what we help people do with LinkedIn Ads.
Andrew: I see. So this business is going well. You know what? At this point in the interview I would have probably hit you with the question about your biggest challenge. But I know what you’re going to say. This is what you told our producer. You said your lowest point was when you worked for your previous company. They built up the business from five million to 23 million in four years, and then it was gone because, as you said earlier, their client base dried up. But what about for you? What is it with LinkedSelling that has been a challenge so far? Anything, or has this been all smooth sailing?
Josh: In the grand scheme of things, it has been smooth sailing. I mean, I’m friends with a lot of other business owners who are fighting some fights that we just don’t have to go through right now. This is a pretty solid business in a lot of ways. So I’m really blessed that we’ve been able to stumble into this. But, no, at this point we have a pretty good size team. So we’re dealing with some of the challenges of going from a smaller company to kind of a bigger company that now has a little bit more management in it and some of those other things. And then figuring out where we go from here.
I already mentioned that we’re going to do about $3 million this year, and what’s next year going to have in store for us, we’re planning a lot of growth. We’ve got a lot of momentum, and what’s that going to look like. And scaling the business brings a lot of new challenges and opportunities. So those are some of the things that we’re focused on right now.
Andrew: So the big challenge actually happened when you were running Camping Gear TV and with the previous business, but here things are good. So let me see if I got my big takeaways from the consulting business before we go on to the education part of your business. Big takeaways are give people the result, right? You’re not selling them an understanding of how to use LinkedIn. You’re not selling them a community. You’re not selling them a brand, you’re selling them a result which is customers. And the result should be one that they’re used to buying, maybe, from other people, right?
If you said I’m going to get you more attention online, it’s hard to sell it. But if you say, “You’re already paying for leads, I’m going to sell you leads. This happens to be the process that I take, then it’s helpful. Am I right?”
Josh: That’s a good way of saying it.
Andrew: Here’s another thing that I’ve taken from this part of your story. The first system doesn’t have to be good. It could be really duct taped together, but as you evolve, look for a system that’s repeatable and keep looking for ways to automate more and more of it, right? The first version was pretty rough actually to put together because you had to do a lot of it, and it wasn’t working as well as it does today. But you just keep evolving it so it’s more and more systemized.
Josh: The biggest part of our growth has been that we have a systematic process and a general framework for what we do for our clients. So we’ve been able to bring on people to grow the team to be able to service our clients and do the work and still do great work for our clients. Whereas a lot of people that are in the marketing business, they try and do too much and they’re all things to all people. And it’s just like one person at the head of the company that’s super smart and awesome, but then they have trouble growing because he has trouble building the team underneath them. Because they’re trying to do all sorts of stuff, and it’s just not that systematic.
Andrew: I see. How long into the process did you start to document and systemize it and organize it?
Josh: It was probably six months in or so.
Andrew: And today…
Josh: I was going to say, you know, Ben started working with me in March of 2012, and then we brought on our third employee, our third team member in January of 2013. And so it’s been a lot of growth in basically two and a half years, if you look at it that way. When Ben started working for me, we had to start developing some of these systems and processes so that he could take the stuff in my brain and start doing the work without needing me to sit there with him. Then he started developing a lot of the procedures and operations manuals and stuff like that. We continue refining that stuff.
Andrew: All right. Then at some point you said, “Not everyone’s going to be able to hire us to do this work for them, we’re going to start to teach it.” When did the first version of your course look like?
Josh: The first version was…essentially we tried to create…it’s an online training program. There’s videos and workbooks and group coaching and webinars and all the kind of stuff you expect with such a thing. The first version, we tried to build the Cadillac, and it was. We put in months of effort into building, and we wanted to make sure that if there’s something about LinkedIn that somebody wants to know about, not related to getting a job or HR stuff, but like using LinkedIn for marketing and sales, we wanted to make sure that we had every nook and cranny covered.
So we spent a lot of time building the course, and fortunately we launched it with moderate success. Otherwise, it would have been terrible the amount of work we put into building it. But we launched it in August of 2012 just to our internal list, and I priced it so cheap because I wanted to make sure that we had enough people join. But I think in the first month we sold 100 people at 97 bucks apiece.
Andrew: Wow. And what were they getting for 97 bucks?
Josh: They got a one year membership to the program which included all of the training, the videos, the workbooks, all that; monthly group coaching sessions, and some other bells and whistles.
Andrew: Was it all a bunch of video modules?
Andrew: Was there a community involved?
Josh: No, not at the time.
Andrew: How big was your list?
Josh: It was a few thousand.
Andrew: It looks like you eventually built it. I see a monthly plan for $39 a month, an annual for $178, and premium, which is $695 per year. Is that the next pricing level?
Josh: That was, yeah. So we pretty quickly went…the $97 was good for like the first month when we were doing the launch, introductory pricing kind of stuff. And then we did the 178 for a little while. I totally forgot about that, and then it’s risen since then. And we’ve built a lot of different and new stuff into that.
Andrew: Did you find that anything that you added was just too much?
Josh: No, I think what we found though is that we don’t need to cover every single aspect of LinkedIn under the sun.
Andrew: For example, what shouldn’t you have included?
Josh: We had training about how big companies should create social media policies.
Andrew: Oh no, okay.
Josh: No one has ever asked us about it. I don’t know why we created it, I don’t know. And then there’s just like all sorts of things. I don’t know. There’s a lot of different nooks and crannies within LinkedIn, and we’ve just realized that what we need to do is focus on systems. Because what people want is just show me what to do to get these results. They don’t want to be impressed by all of our knowledge about LinkedIn and every little bell and whistle. They’re not trying…
Andrew: Just a step by step system for what you’re teaching.
Josh: Yeah, so that’s what we focus mostly on now and making sure that the content is up-to-date. LinkedIn has recently done a huge facelift and changed things related to what the home page looks like and the navigation as well as LinkedIn Groups. They changed the messaging system recently. So a cost of doing business for us is updating almost our entire library of videos whenever LinkedIn does that, which is exciting and fun.
Andrew: That’s awful. Do you re-record everything, or can you just go in and change the screenshots?
Josh: Here’s the thing. The principles that we’re teaching in the videos don’t change. The only thing that changes is the navigation and what it looks like. The problem is that there’s people out there who would join our program and say this stuff is all out of date. You’re showing this button here. It’s not there, and I’m confused.
Andrew: To them everything feels out of date because of that one change.
Josh: So they’re understandably…they feel like they bought something that’s not really being maintained properly. And so we have to keep it fresh.
Andrew: But can you go into your videos and just change the screenshots?
Josh: No, because the videos are screencast where we’re navigating within LinkedIn. They’re not Power Points where we can just swap out the screenshots.
Andrew: I’ve tried to actually go back in and change video, screen captures. It’s very hard and then to keep it in line with the words, it’s just not worth that.
Josh: So what we found, and maybe this tip will be beneficial for other people that do this kind of thing, is that for one, it takes more time to try and edit the video to put screenshots of the new site in than it does just to redo the video, shoot the 20 minute video again. But the thing that we found beneficial is that as long as the content you’re producing starts with an outline of what you’re going to teach, then recreating it is not so cumbersome. Because you’ve already got the outline. Then you just got to go through and record it again and read through the outline and expand on some of the topics.
Andrew: You know, I went to see what it costs. And so I went to LinkedIn, I keep saying LinkedIn, LinkedUniversity.com. I clicked on the join now section, and then I clicked on the button that says Learn How. And then it took me to a page using LeadPages.net where I could sign up for a webinar to find out about this. And so that’s the only way you sell. You don’t even let people just go to the website and buy, do you?
Josh: No, we don’t. Your URL went to LeadPage.net?
Andrew: No, sorry. I just happened to know the tools of LeadPages?
Josh: Gotcha. It’s a webinar landing page, yeah. Cool. So we found that our best way of getting somebody into the program is to have them attend a webinar. So we don’t just leave it open to the public, if you will. They have to sign up for a webinar to get an opportunity to join.
Andrew: I see. And you’re offering it this Wednesday, this Friday, this coming Monday? That’s recorded, right?
Josh: Those are.
Andrew: What do you use to playback your video?
Andrew: I’ve heard good things about them.
Josh: We like them. We’ve been using them a long time.
Andrew: What are some other tools that you like for teaching and for getting new customers?
Josh: For teaching, we do a lot with GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting. We use Camtasia for recording a lot of our videos. Recently we’ve been using Zoom for a lot of meetings, but those are more internal small group meetings. But the suite of tools, Infusionsoft and LeadPages and a lot of the software that everybody’s using is the stuff we use to kind of make it all work behind the scenes.
Andrew: You’ve got your new book, “Connect.” I’ve seen it promoted a bunch on your site. Why did you write a book?
Josh: The same reasons that everyone writes a book. I wanted to get the message out in front of more people. I wanted to have that credibility piece that we didn’t really have at the time. A book is, as they say, it’s really the best business card that you can have. I wanted it to really be a big deal though when it launched. So one of our primary goals was getting it on the Wall Street Journal Best Seller List, which we achieved, and has given us a little bit of notoriety and brings in even more credibility to the book and into our brand. And so it’s basically though, the book, a lot of people these days are doing book launches where they are selling a program off of the back of the book, basically. And doing multi million dollar launches with books.
We didn’t do that. This was all about the book. We put all of our effort into just getting the book out there in as many people’s hands as possible, just to have it for positioning and credibility and lead generation. And our sales team can use it, and all that kind of stuff.
Andrew: Why? When they do a million dollar launch, they’re launching a book the way that they might launch an online course. And then within the book it’s to sell for their online course.
Josh: Well, the book is the first entry point into the launch funnel so that Brendon Burchard’s last one, for example. I forgot it’s called. You know, you can get the book. They’ll do a special offer in the beginning where it’s either a free plus shipping offer or it’s buy it but opt-in here to get bonuses that come with it. And then once the opt-in, then they’re exposed to the whole marketing funnel behind the scenes.
Andrew: I see. That’s his book, “The Motivation Manifesto.”
Josh: That might be it, yeah. He’s got a few of them. I know his last one he did really well with it. I heard an interview that was on Joe Polish’s show, “I Love Marketing” and it was pretty good.
Andrew: That’s a good one for me to listen to. I’m curious about what they did there. Cool. What’s the best part about having done all this?
Josh: Oh, man, I really enjoy business. I had a day a couple weeks ago where I was spending a Saturday at home working on video scripts for a new program launch. I was feeling a little bit kind of like I wish I was doing something else right now. I walked outside to take a little bit of a break. You know, it’s Saturday afternoon. I’ve been working hard, and I just kind of thought to myself, “If I wasn’t doing this, what else would I be doing?” And it’s just like, I really enjoyed building the business, and it’s been amazing to see how our team has come together.
And as we’ve gone from being one guy kind of running the show and wearing all the hats to now we have this team of people that are so committed to what we’re doing that people are working at nights and on weekends without anyone asking them to. Because they’re really passionate about what we’re trying to achieve here as a company. Everything that we do. Of course, the results we get from our clients, all that kind of stuff, is what gets me excited but, yeah.
Andrew: I could see that. Man, when you were a kid in school, you tried to sell candy. They shut you down. They didn’t allow you to do it, right?
Andrew: And now you’re getting to actually live out that childhood dream. You get to build your candy store. You get to get your customers. You get to think about how to make it into whatever you want. That’s one of the best parts about being grown up. Sorry?
Josh: You could say that. Honestly though, when I was in seventh grade selling candy in between classes, I didn’t have in my mind that someday I want to start a business. But I knew I wanted to make money.
Andrew: You know what? I’m really frustrated that schools don’t encourage that, that they don’t say, “Little Josh Turner, you’re interested”…I guess, in seventh grade you’re not little. “But Josh, you’re interested in selling. Go on and do it. Just don’t hurt anyone. Go on and do it. Then let’s come back here and I’ll give you a book so you can see where you can take this in the future. Open your eyes to the possibilities of this gift that you have.”
Andrew: But they don’t so that’s what Mixergy is here for. All right. Your two websites are LinkedUniversity and LinkedSelling, each one with a dotcom. Your book is available at Amazon. Anyone that wants it can just go and search for “Connect” or your name, Josh Turner. Did I leave anything out?
Josh: I think that’s it, man.
Andrew: I think that’s it. And my two sponsors are HostGator.com, if you need a sponsor go check them out and Toptal.com. If you like this interview, please go to iTunes and rate it five stars or 100 stars or however many you can do. I’m trying to get more and more people to listen to this revolution. Teachers shut us down, and we are not going to be shut down forever. Go to iTunes please and rate it whatever you think is best. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye everyone.