Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I’ve interviewed Rand Fishkin, the founder you’re about to meet several times here today and I have been beating myself up for something that I asked him in the past and a helpful answer that he gave me. And I think it’s time for me to bring it up.
Rand Fishkin is . . . Actually, it’s kind of funny. Someone on my team used my Twitter account to say that Rand is the founder, co-founder of SEOmoz, which is true. It’s no longer called SEOmoz, but it’s true. And the CEO of SEOmoz, which is no longer true. It is the leading SEO company in the world, which Rand then tweeted back and said, “No, we’re not the leading,” which I’ve never had anyone do. And I realized, “Ah. How did I miss that?” when I was proofreading stuff, number one. Number two, he’s so well known for this company. And number three, who stops someone and says, “I’m not the leading. I’m actually like number three or number four”? Most people put in leading when they just launched their company. “We’re the leading . . . ” No, it’s only Rand Fishkin. Nobody else would do that.
So I think it’s really honorable of him to have pointed that out, and it’s kind of interesting about his personality. I’m inviting him here to talk about marketing in general, because he did start Moz and because he is one of the leading voices in online marketing. And I also want to find out about this new thing that he’s started called SparkToro. I didn’t know how to describe SparkToro. And apparently, I was wrong about what it did.
Here is how he described it to me before we started. He said, “Andrew, imagine you’re a marketer who needs to discover all the sources that influence your audience, come to my site, or use my tool, perform a search, and we’re going to deliver that, that list of all the sources that influence your audience.” I have some questions about why I would need that and why he is now creating these free tools that help me understand who my fake Twitter followers are. But I’ll ask that within the interview.
And we could do this interview thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first . . . Oh, wow, it’s Pilot for doing books. If you want someone to do . . . Did I run Pilot by you before? I did. Okay, good. I want to make sure I’m not sneaking up an advertiser on you. Pilot, if you need somebody to do your accounting for you, they are the ones I use. I want to tell you why you should use them. And the second I ran by Rand. I said, “I’m going to delete it.” He said, “Don’t delete it.” I said, “They’re competitors of yours.” And then he goes, “Just go with it.” It’s Ahrefs. And we’re going to talk about how Ahrefs can help you grow your traffic with an understanding of content marketing.
Rand, it’s good to have you here.
Rand: It is wonderful to be back with you, Andrew.
Andrew: Why? Why do you have to like . . . Not had to. Why did you feel like you needed to tell people, “Moz is not number one. It’s not the leading”?
Rand: I think . . .
Andrew: What do you think about your personality there?
Rand: I mean, I think that my bias is always to trustworthiness and transparency. And so I have the sense that if I sort of low-grade, just let it slide, there would be people in the field who maybe not say anything, but they’d look and they’d see that and they’d go, “I hate how everyone describes themselves as leading even when they’re not leading. Didn’t Rand tweet last year that SEMrush and Ahrefs had passed Moz in revenue and customers? Why is he saying something like . . . Is this guy just . . . Does he really believe in transparency? Can I actually trust him?”
And so I want people to know, like, yes, you can actually trust me. I will tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I don’t think pulling punches on that helps. I think Moz has done some remarkable stuff, but full credit to Ahrefs. When Moz was taking its eye off the SEO ball, back in 2013 to 2016, Ahrefs was like, “No, this market is huge. We’re going to double down on it. We’re going to build exclusively for professional SEOs. We are going to find a world of customers that are looking for another solution after Moz hasn’t delivered their . . .” And they were right. They were so, so right. I think they built up a great reputation around their link index, and then they built some remarkable keyword tools. And Moz did some things that I think imitated but then improved upon in a lot of great ways. And same with SEMrush.
Andrew: This is the rudest question for me to ask you and it’s completely off base, but as I’m looking at you, I’m seeing someone who worked really hard, who even works hard after Moz to be accurate and a tweet that could have gone flying by. And then I think of something I remember in your book “Lost and Founder,” which I told you I loved where you basically were saying, “I don’t have that much money. I might be worth something because of my shares in Moz, but I don’t have that much cash.” Am I right?
Rand: Yeah, yeah, that’s absolutely right.
Andrew: So here’s the rude part. I kind of feel bad for you. Am I right to feel bad?
Rand: No. God, no. Andrew, I want you to look at the white American male in the United States of America in almost certainly the top 10% to 15% of income brackets.
Andrew: How? You were making what? A hundred thousand I thought you said in your book? This is just off the memory.
Rand: Sorry, in the book, 200,000, $200,000 . . .
Andrew: Two hundred thousand. Okay.
Rand: . . . in salary when I left Moz. And I got a generous severance from them, which was basically that much again for a year. And then I sold a book “Lost and Founder,” which did very nicely for me. My wife sold a book, Geraldine sold a book. Yeah. We’re doing just fine.
Andrew: But that’s like salary fine. Do you want to know something, Rand? The school that . . . We started applying to schools for my kid here in San Francisco. If you make less than $300,000, the Quaker school will give you financial aid, $300,000 a year. So you have friends who are super well off. That doesn’t bother you? Of all the things that bothers you, that’s not one of them?
Andrew: I wonder about that.
Rand: I think it does bother me, but well, let’s see. How does it bother me? It bothers me that I foolishly for all the years that Moz was growing at a rapid pace, I talked about that in the book too, that basically we had investors who said like, “Hey, do you want to take some money off the table? We’d be willing to buy some shares from you. We had that acquisition offer from HubSpot, which would have dramatically changed our financial situation probably, I don’t know, somewhere between 10 and 100X what we are now.” And I turned them all down.
Andrew: And that’s the part, that regret, not comparing yourself to other people. It’s the, “Ooh, I missed that.”
Rand: Yeah. I think it’s the, “Oh man, that was really dumb.” I was so cocky. I was so certain that Moz was going to have tons more acquisition offers, that they would be for way more, that the company would keep growing at these remarkable paces that it had for sort of those seven years that I was CEO, and obviously, that was foolish, right? I don’t . . . I am not upset by anyone else’s success. I’m only upset by my own poor decision making and cock-assuredness and just . . .
Andrew: I get that. You know what? I do when I go to some friends’ houses I go, “Not so . . .” I don’t feel any, like, jealousy or comparison in a negative way to them, except I do think, “Should I have actually not been an entrepreneur?” And it’s not even just other people’s houses. It’s like, “My wife, I’m looking at how well she’s doing. She didn’t take the risks I’m taking, and she’s earning more bank than me. What am I doing here?” And she’s got like a nice . . . She gets nice jobs. They get health insurance, the whole thing. I mean, the . . .
Rand: I do feel like there is . . . In San Francisco, I think and probably New York and maybe a few other cities, it’s a different story. But in Seattle, the cost of living it’s not great, but it’s not awful. If you have mid-six figures or a million dollars in the bank and you’re making high-five figures or low-six figures, you can feel pretty darn comfortable. You really can. Especially we don’t have kids.
Andrew: I was going to say one of the things that you told me I asked you years ago, why are you doing so well, you said, “One, I hate to say it, but one of the reasons is because I don’t have kids.” Do you regret that now looking back saying, “I sacrifice kids for this”?
Rand: Well, let’s see. No, no. I don’t think I have ever regretted that. Geraldine and I have talked about it a number of times, and I think that both of us are in a good place. Maybe I’m in an even better place with it. I think I was even more anti-kids than she was. She was sort of like, “Well, I’m on the fence. If you passionately wanted them, I’d probably say yes, but if you’re passionately against them, I definitely have no interest.”
And yeah, I think that fundamentally, maybe it’s like a combination of I’m a selfish person and I’m not selfish enough to want to prioritize like a legacy. I don’t really believe in that. I don’t have any particular desire to see my line continue or see my family name be big and important. But also I really value my time, right? I value my time doing the things that I exactly want to do. And I love taking care of our friends’ kids. I love hanging out with them. I actually really love children and get along with them great. But I don’t want to sacrifice the thousands upon thousands of hours that I know would go to that.
Andrew: Yeah, literally, and then also the hours that don’t go to that are sacrificed partially in your head for that.
Rand: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: So here’s the part that I kind of regret that . . . I’m not regretting it, as confronting it. Years ago, I said, “What could I do to get more people to pay attention to my stuff?” Like, I forget how I phrased it, but you said, “Look, Andrew, Google Plus, it’s doing well. It’s going to send you more SEO traffic.”
Andrew: Let’s put aside the fact that they’re closed now. You’re giving me a piece of advice that worked at the time that I could have used and I didn’t use it. And I don’t believe in . . . Believe it or not, I don’t beat myself up. I have this thing where I’m very comfortable with myself, which is why I could admit stuff like regrets. But I have to accept that I didn’t do it because it was one extra job and I couldn’t get it done. And instead of beating myself up, I have to ask myself, “Why couldn’t I do that? And if I couldn’t do that, what can I do?”
I feel like one of the challenges with marketing online, with promoting is you are really good at it, Rand, that there’s a whole process that’s gotten so advanced that people are really good at it and the process is really hard. What could someone like me who says, “I would rather spend time before my interview with Rand, I would rather spend time reading his book. Before my interview with Dave, the founder of Proof, I’d rather obsessively contact his competitors and say, ‘Is he full of it? What am I missing?'”
And understand someone like me who still wants that, what do we do that still works, that still says, “Andrew put in a lot of time and work into his interview, a lot of time and work into what he does. People should find out about it. Andrew is not going to be the best at SEO. Andrew is not going to be competitive in using Google Plus even if it disappears”? What do you think about that? What do you say to someone like that?
Rand: I think that is absolutely fine. I don’t think that . . . I don’t think that the only way to be successful with building a business or a brand, a personal brand or a business brand or an organizational brand, a podcast brand, what have you, I don’t think any of those are dependent on one single marketing channel. I think that you can essentially prioritize based on what you love. Right? Meaning, it is absolutely fine to say, “Gosh, I really like visual content. I’m good at it. I love Instagram. I know that it’s kind of a challenging scene out there, but that’s where I want to prioritize my effort. And this SEO thing, I don’t get it. I don’t like it. I don’t want to have to write that way. I don’t want to have to publish that way.”
Great. There’s lots of people using Instagram. You can build a heck of a brand and a business doing that. Same thing is true in podcasting. Right? What your focus is, is the quality of the guests, the quality of the interview, the quality of the transcripts, and the publications and all the things that come out of that. And then you use essentially, I don’t know, conferences and events as your primary method of distribution, which I know a few people who do, right? That is okay . . .
Andrew: You mean they go to conferences and events and that’s how they promote their stuff?
Rand: They speak at conferences and events. They talk about who they’ve interviewed. They find new people to interview. Those people turn into amplifiers of what they’re building. They help them attract folks through search and social media. They link to them and talk about them. That helps build the brand. I’ve seen folks get their first thousand subscribers that way for sure.
Andrew: I get that. I think that there still needs to be a way to like get things started and then have things moving without . . . because it’s too important. I don’t want to be someone who says, “I’m working hard, then people need to . . . I deserve to have people know that I’m doing this.” It’s . . .
Rand: So what you can’t do is say, “I’m not going to do any of those.”
Rand: What you cannot do is say, “I’m going to build something great and then people will come to me.” There is . . . I don’t think that anyone should bet their business or their career or their brand on build it and they will come. I think that is foolish, and you will almost certainly be disappointed and you’ll almost certainly then reply to me with, “Well, what about x and y and z because they did that?” And I think usually those examples are wrong. When they are right, they’re outliers, and I think betting on the 1 out of 1,000 times when it happens as opposed to the 999 times it doesn’t is folly. So I’m not saying don’t invest in internet marketing, don’t invest in web marketing of some kind. I’m saying you can choose the channel that works best for you and what you’re great at and what your audience engages with.
Andrew: Have you seen . . . I’m not in this bucket. I’m not someone who hates it. But have you seen someone who hates it, who hates promotion do well with it?
Rand: Okay. This is good. So I know that I help a little bit but not as much as you think. But my wife Geraldine DeRuiter, who runs everywhereist.com who last week won a James Beard Award for her writing, she hates promotion, hates it, despises it, will not do keyword research, refuses to try any form of web marketing other than, “Well, I’ll tweet about my stuff because I’m on Twitter anyway and I like doing that.” And she has had a disturbing amount of success from that, granted sometimes because of our connection, I’ll do some stuff on that front. But she was very resistant to doing any kind of marketing.
Andrew: I’ve noticed that actually about her. I actually really . . . I actually . . . This is where I don’t want to come across as unkind at all, but I enjoy following her on Twitter more than I enjoy following you. You’re very business . . . When I’m at Twitter at night, I just want to like be . . . And I want some kind of mental something. I want . . .
Rand: You want the thread about the inventor of the microwaves, right? Like that kind of stuff is genius. And . . .
Andrew: Yeah, that personal connection that’s not directly related to my work.
Rand: Yeah, you don’t need . . . Rand Fishkin is going to tweet some things that he saw on SparkToro trending and Hacker News and commentary about Google’s monopoly and Facebook’s bad behavior, and you’re like, “Great. Yeah.”
Andrew: I was looking for her Twitter name. I see it. She’s Everywhereist. Yeah. Does she have more followers than you? She might.
Rand: She does not. Not even close.
Andrew: Oh, how many do you have?
Rand: I think she’s somewhere a fifth of my followers. And yet if you go into our Twitter analytics, fascinatingly, you will see that her tweets on average receive more views and engagement than mine do.
Rand: Yes. More individual people see her tweets and more of them engage with them than mine despite the fact that I have, yeah, five times as many followers.
Andrew: So it also feels like she’s not very like . . . Not intent . . . I don’t want to say she’s not intentional. She’s not working it and she’s . . .
Rand: She’s not, yeah.
Andrew: . . . participating in it.
Rand: She’s absolutely . . .
Rand: She’s 100% authentic. She doesn’t have a . . . Technically she has a financial motivation behind her blog and her career, right? Like she tries to get pieces published. She tries to . . . She got her book sold, and she tries to get more people to buy her book and people do invite her to events and these kinds of things. But it does not feel that way because I think she’s a very authentic promoter of the material rather than herself.
Andrew: So let’s break that. She’s not just that, does like here . . . It’s not just even that she’s . . . I don’t want to break down her process just for the sake of it, but she is doing something . . . I think you came up with a great example. She’s doing something that’s easier to replicate I feel than what you’re doing. She is . . . But let’s break it down and try to understand it. What is she doing? Sometimes she’s writing about news articles that she’s seen. Sometimes she’s just thinking out loud. Why is all that working? What is she doing that’s working?
Rand: I think it is a combination of four things. One, she is inherently a good writer and a humorous writer. And I think humor works particularly well. Twitter is a medium made for amplification of humorous observations.
Second thing, she targets an audience that is very heavily addicted to Twitter. I think they . . . There was a Pew Internet and American Life Project, they put out a sort of like here’s the top 10% of Twitter users and how actively they use the platform, which is nearly hourly and all these kinds of things. And those people tend to be women. They tend to be younger or middle age. They tend to be more interested in politics and social causes. Those are all perfect fits for Geraldine, right? So she’s found a place where her audience is and she’s amplifying messages that resonate with them.
I think the third thing is that she is an authentic member of this group. So it doesn’t . . . There’s no disconnect between like, “Oh, it’s some sort of brand promoting. It’s, whatever it is, a makeup brand that’s promoting feminism,” as opposed to, “Oh, no, this is an actual human being who deals with a bunch of online harassment and abuse and sexism and blah, blah, blah, and has in her career.” And she channels that, right? She writes about it as she’s experienced it and in the ways that she hears about it from her friends.
Andrew: And occasionally she links back to her site.
Rand: Yeah, and she rarely does, right? I mean, technically . . .
Andrew: I’m actually scrolling to look for that because you said, “And she’s there to promote her book,” and whatever. And I’m actually scrolling several pages down and haven’t found it.
Rand: Yeah. It is not primary in her mind at all, and I don’t think it’s primary in her audience’s mind and that’s what makes it feel very authentic. Now, the question is, can you scale . . . Could you as an entrepreneur scale that to a brand?
Andrew: No, but that could be a nice start. I like when Gary Vaynerchuk says, “You need to be everywhere. I am publishing 60 different posts a day on all these different networks, and it’s still not enough. You need to do more.” I liked when he finally said, “Look, if you’re not participating, just start with, oh, I tripped.” Just go and publish that. And then you’re going to see that there’s someone like a few people down going, “Who cares? And whatever.” And then another person will respond, “I tripped too. It’s amazing.” You know, just start simple like that.
And I feel like what Geraldine is doing is kind of simple, that it’s an easier way to start than, “Here’s how to get all the data that you can and go to BuzzSumo and just reverse-engineer everyone.” Right? That is not as approachable.
By the way, I didn’t get into the sponsorship ad. I want to go into the sponsorship ad, and then I want to talk about, like, let’s take it to the next level. If you’re someone like me who’s really into starting simple but also systemizing, what do we do? And then I don’t want to forget about SparkToro, what you’re doing there and what I should be doing there.
The first sponsor is a company called Ahrefs. What do you know about Ahrefs? You know more than I do about them.
Rand: I do. Yeah. So Ahrefs is sort of a platform. It’s a suite of different tools and data that helps web marketers, those who are publishing content, those who are attempting to rank in search engines do all those things. So basically, you can do keyword research there, find the words and phrases that your audience is searching for, and then prioritize those in their products. You can do link research, find who’s linking to you, who’s linking to your competition, who’s linked to your competition that’s not linking to you, which links should you try and acquire. They also have rank tracking data. So lots of tools to help professional marketers and SEOs.
Andrew: For an interview like this, could I type in Rand Fishkin, see what words relate to you and then try to find one of those to highlight in the headline? Is that what I should be doing?
Rand: Yeah. I think the one that will probably come up is net worth. So many people search for . . .
Andrew: That is a big one. For everybody, actually, you’re right. I’ve actually thought what we should do is everyone is like Rand Fishkin net worth, and then . . . Actually, at the end, imagine . . . You know how some podcasters have that one or five questions that they ask every guest and then they accumulate it into an e-book and they give it away? Imagine if mine was just, “Look, net worth is more than just how much you’re worth. What is your net worth?” And then have them have like a cutesy response and then we close with it.
Rand: Oh, that is so good. And then just have it as a little separate page for the little instant answer box, and then the part of the interview, right?
Andrew: That’d be good.
Rand: [Practice 00:22:10].
Andrew: All right. Here’s why Ahrefs is not doing great with my ad here. I wonder how they feel about me just calling them out on this. They didn’t give me a URL. How is anyone going to know that I just talked about Ahrefs and people are going to go to Ahrefs and try them out because of me and maybe sign up? There is no way. They didn’t give me a URL. Like, Pilot is going to give a URL. At the end, you’ll see it.
Rand: There’s is a promotional one, like you usually have ahrefs.com/mixergy?
Andrew: Right. Where instead of $7 to sign up, it would be like $6. It’s the . . .
Rand: My understanding is Ahrefs does not do any promotional pricing. I’ve never seen them give a discount.
Andrew: Even if it’s just like . . . Yeah, you’re right. Maybe that’s their issue. Maybe it’s like tagging somehow to tag it. I think that’s an issue. But you know they know their stuff, so we’ll see. When this ad is done we’ll see . . .
Rand: They are fascinating. Their head of growth . . . oh sorry, head of marketing wrote a wonderful blog post that a lot of folks in the industry still reference. I think it’s a couple of years old now, but it’s basically about how they do marketing without paying attention to cost of customer acquisition, churn rate, any of the SaaS metrics that you would expect to see. They basically look at MRRs. MRR going up? Great, we’re doing something right.
Andrew: So in general, is monthly recurring revenue going up? If it is, then . . . so we bought an ad from Andrew, that’s probably part of it. It’s good. You know what? I get that, but they also did this post where they said, “We tried podcast advertising, it didn’t work.”
Andrew: And I get it. It has to work in certain way.
Rand: But they’re advertising with you.
Andrew: Because I reached out and the founder is a fan and so he said, “Okay, Andrew, let’s give it a shot.” But what I meant for them to do was . . . there are few things that work in podcast advertising. I’m going to tell you exactly. Number one — this I learned from Clay Collins — have someone from your company go over the software, the way that I did with you before we started, screen share, go over, make sure the person understands it. Ideally, they should be using it before but make sure they fully understand it. They did this with me because I insisted with Ahrefs because I wanted to understand. So that’s number one.
Number two, I hate to admit it, but a landing page does work. I had an argument with Matt Mickiewicz, the founder of 99designs. He bought a bunch of ads for me in the early days. He stopped advertising even when they were like, what? A thousand bucks a month. It’s nothing. I said, “Dude, I’m not charging you much. You don’t have to count it.” He goes, “Yeah, but I count everything. It has to be 99designs.com/mixergy. You’re saying no, so we cannot advertise.” I said, “Okay.” I had to give up that ad because I refused to pollute my ad with a URL that people have to remember. They have to remember 99designs and my special URL? Forget that. Sorry, Matt. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for the listener. He was right. I was wrong. You need a URL. People do remember. It turns out they do remember.
Andrew: And number three, there needs to be an incentive for them to use that URL, something that makes the audience feel like they have to use the URL to track, but also that makes the guest and the host and the audience feel like they are ballers, like they got something special that you can’t get from anyone else. That is a pat on the back to the host from the sponsor and a pat on the back to the audience that we are here, this company cares about us more than they care about the general population. If you don’t even use the URL, you feel like you’re in there. Those are important, and I hated all three of them. But I have to admit it. That’s my little rant.
Rand: I really appreciate that. I think that’s a fascinating experience, because podcast advertisers are . . . podcast is one of the things that SparkToro is trying to help folks with because podcast discovery for a marketer, if I want to reach an audience, is really, really frustrating, like nearly impossible. And so as we’ve been thinking about this, we’ve also been trying to figure out like, “Oh, okay. How do we tell folks when you engage in podcast advertising or podcast marketing of any kind, what should you be doing?” I think those tips are gold.
Andrew: And so you were thinking about including it as a tool for SparkToro as a part of the product or for your promotion?
Rand: So, sorry. What I’m saying is that SparkToro is going to help marketers discover podcasts that are relevant to their audience.
Rand: One of the things that we almost certainly will need to do in at least our content marketing is to say, “Hey, how do I take action now that I know that this podcast is listened to by the audience that I want to reach?”
Andrew: Okay. And so you’ll actually help me understand what the podcast is that my audience is listening to?
Rand: Yeah, yeah. So let’s say you want to reach . . .
Andrew: Got it.
Rand: . . . lighting designers in Los Angeles. You type in “lighting designer”, you filter to Los Angeles. You click the podcast tab, and you get a list of podcasts that lighting designers in Los Angeles listen to.
Andrew: Okay. I’m just like constantly re-checking with you, because data for podcasts suck so much that I can’t get that, but I would like that for myself. Right? Just so . . . Like we were looking for agencies. We were doing well with agencies. I said, “I’ll go do podcasts with anyone who has an agency podcast. I’ll go do an interview with them. I’ll do whatever.” We couldn’t find them, and most of them were dead, and if you do a search on iTunes, you end up with like a dead old podcast in many cases.
Rand: Yeah, I know. It’s all junk.
Andrew: That’s the challenge.
Rand: So we’re basically doing it indirectly. So essentially, what we do is crawl tens of millions of social and web profiles and then essentially aggregate up all of their observable behavior. When I say observable, I mean web trackable behavior, right? So we can crawl your bio on your website and your Twitter account and your Instagram and your LinkedIn page and your YouTube channel, whatever, and then we can say, “Oh, okay. Look, we found 7,412 people whose bio matches entrepreneur and tech and then we look at what websites that appear to be podcasts they have shared, liked, followed the most.”
Andrew: So I want that. How soon before you have that?
Rand: I technically have a little alpha version. I can do a quick search for Andrew . . . I kind of want to see what your audience is doing. Mixergy . . .
Andrew: Is that light driving you crazy, that the sunlight is hitting your face more and more?
Rand: I know the sunlight hits . . . It’s the perfect timing, right? It’s like the time of year plus the where the shed is.
Andrew: Are you working out of a shed?
Rand: Yeah, I’m working out of a shed in the back of my house, which is actually lovely.
Andrew: I’ve actually been thinking of doing that too.
Rand: About 14% of people who visit mixergy.com and have a social profile, we have about 1,000 samples in our current database, which hopefully we’ll be scaling up. Okay, no surprise. Number one podcast they listen to is Mixergy.
Andrew: Yes. Good. That means your [inaudible 00:28:43].
Rand: The second one is Growth Show from HubSpot. Third one is Startup Report Lost At Home podcast. Fourth one, Control-Walt-Delete from Walt Mossberg. So you can start . . . They all make sense, right? There’s sort of like, “Oh, these seem like natural fits.”
Andrew: So now if I have that, what I should do then is say, “All right, my audience is listening to Growth Show. Let’s see if we can pitch HubSpot on a few different ways for me to get on there. Startup Report, I’d never heard of it, but maybe that’s a thing . . . I don’t think maybe when I see their cover art, I’ll know it. Control-Walt-Delete is a dead podcast. But would it be interesting to have Walt come on here to do this?
Andrew: Oh, Startup Report is that? Maybe that’s the CB Insights thing.
Rand: It’s called Lost At Home podcast.
Andrew: Lost At Home. Okay. Let me see.
Rand: Lost At Home podcast. Their Twitter account is @startupreport for some reason. But anyway, and then you can go and look at what websites do they visit. And your audience . . .
Rand: . . . I know you’re going to be shocked by this.
Andrew: Checks out Mixergy?
Rand: It is Neil Patel, Moz, Mixergy, Buffer App, Small Biz Trends. Yeah.
Andrew: And what I should be doing is, “Can we pitch something to be on there for? Am I right?
Rand: Can you pitch something . . .
Andrew: Yeah. Can I pitch something . . .
Rand: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: . . . to Neil Patel, like we’ve done in the past, say, “Hey, Neil, you missed this thing. You might want to do that. Right? And then have them come to us.
Rand: For you, I think this is a semi-obvious thing. But I would go and I would look at those websites. I’d say, “Those should be my advertisers.”
Rand: Right? Because those are people who have high audience affinity with what I talk about. So if I go to them and I say, “Hey, did you know that in the last six months, 11% of people who listened to my show have linked to, followed, or shared your website?”
Andrew: Got it. So, Neil Patel, you’ve got this agency, that’s what neilpatel.com is. You’re probably going to want to bring people in. Why don’t you sponsor and let’s create a mixergy.com/neilpatel page?
Rand: Yeah. I mean, Buffer App is a perfect one. First Round Capital is highly visited. You should probably pitch First Round. Like, that they should be . . . Especially because you speak to so many entrepreneurs and First Round is trying to build their brand there.
Andrew: VCs don’t buy ads, but they do participate, right? But . . .
Rand: I mean, you say they don’t buy ads, but they sponsor so many events.
Andrew: Do they? I wonder if they have . . . I guess maybe they do. I feel like VCs are the cheapest when it comes to stuff like that.
Rand: I won’t argue. They have an odd model, but I think First Round is a little different than classic VCs.
Andrew: But yeah, you’re right. But what’s interesting is when I started doing courses on Mixergy, First Round was the first to say, “We want to help you. How can we help in any way?” And that still is enough of an overlap that we can come back to them and say, “Here are a couple of places for you guys to participate.” That’s also good for pitching guests. So when I go to SparkToro, I don’t see that.
Rand: No, no. It doesn’t exist.
Andrew: Right. When will I be able to see that?
Andrew: When will I be able to get access to that?
Rand: We hope to be able to launch this summer. So we’re only about six, eight weeks away from a beta. Not too far.
Andrew: Okay. And will I have to ask you for beta access? Is this the kind of thing that there’s a place to sign up for it?
Rand: Yes, there is. So on the product page where it sort of describes this product there is . . .
Andrew: And what we’re building.
Rand: Yeah, what we’re building. Exactly. And we have like 11,000 people who signed up. So we have not been promoting that very actively, because we sort of have a much larger list that we won’t be able to serve with our initial beta, but hopefully, in the weeks and months after that, we’re going to get some more folks in there. But it’s been fun. It’s kind of exciting to see . . . You have this theory, right? Casey and I had a theory, “Oh, what if we crawled a bunch of this data and then looked at the Venn diagram overlap of who follows and shares what? Would you be able to get interesting numbers out of that?” And the answer looks like yes right now. So, pretty cool.
Andrew: You know what? So Julian Shapiro who I was just interviewing and hung out with you while I went to the bathroom and got . . . I’ve been here since 10:00 in the morning. It’s now 5:00.
Rand: Oh my God, I can’t even imagine.
Andrew: I have the biggest stamina of anyone I know. I will go for long runs, wake up in the morning and be with the kids. I’m really good at that. What I’m not good at is here’s have a couple of hours, just relax. I’m not good at that. He wanted to know what was different about SparkToro from Moz for you. Why leave one to do the other? I have a theory. I want to hear from you, though.
Rand: I mean, let’s see. So I think it is good to have an honest perspective and an honest conversation about why leave Moz and go do this other thing? One of the things is my departure from Moz was sort of 50% voluntary. Right? I think if I had not been the one volunteering, I would have been volunteered. Right?
Andrew: But that’s partially because you were a little bit burned out. Am I right? Where you’re just like, if you were at your best, you could have been there, but you weren’t. You were just . . . You did so much.
Rand: No, I don’t think so. I think most of my . . . And I was pretty open about this in my blog post, and you can probably get that sense from “Lost and Founder” as well is that I was not on the same page with the leadership about what things should be done and how things should be done and . . .
Andrew: I guess there’s a part of me that thinks Rand can do anything within this space, especially within your own world that you created, but the truth is they went in a different direction. Okay.
Rand: Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I have very high hopes. I hope that . . . God, I hope that they are right and I’m wrong. Well, that would be heaven, because all of my financial success and probably a ton of my reputational success is riding on that too. I think if two years from now Moz is doing amazing and it sells for ton of money or something like that, the perception of Rand Fishkin the brand will be massively more than if Moz sort of keeps plateauing and kind of grows but slower growth and it’s not really a breakout company. I think then the Rand Fishkin brand will be diminished by that as well, obviously, my personal finances. But what’s funny is I won’t have contributed much of anything to either of those scenarios, right? So it’s just . . .
Andrew: Okay. I feel like then the other thing that’s different is reading “Lost and Founder” you basically, you took this thing that people idealize and you said, “Here’s the reality of it.” I mean, idealized path is not the one you want to go to. You want more of a realistic one. No outside funding I’m imagining for SparkToro, I mean, no VC funding.
Rand: Yeah, no institutional. We did an extremely unusual round . . .
Andrew: I saw.
Rand: . . . of funding. We basically are an LLC that distributes profits, not dissimilar to how a VC firm operates by the way, but very dissimilar to how most companies operate, right? We’re sort of a throwback model. We raised $1.3 million. Was that 10 months ago, 10, 11 months ago? And have been sort of cranking on this thing. But we did not want to take and probably will never take institutional backing, because we don’t know what SparkToro might be. And so we’re not going to play those, oh, 1 in 100, 1 in 1,000 odds, roll the dice. Why do that?
If SparkToro . . . The beautiful thing about the model right now is if SparkToro is $1 million a year business or a $10 million a year business or $100 million a year business, it can be successful at all those numbers. And that is not true of venture-backed companies. Even at $100 million, you’re often not successful.
Andrew: So that’s the part that I picked from the book that made me think, “This is not what he wants to do anymore.” You also . . . Didn’t you invest in . . .
Andrew: Yeah, TinySeed. They have like a similar worldview, right?
Rand: Yeah, yeah. So TinySeed fund . . . Einar and Rob actually talked with me a bunch when we did the SparkToro round and they said, “Hey, can we just use your structure for the TinySeed investment mechanism?” And I was thrilled. Yeah, I loved it. And Geraldine and I are investors in that. I am super excited for more models to exist, because I think tech entrepreneurship has way more opportunity than just the sort of venture model, but so few people can do that and the bias is really strong too. Yeah, I have a bunch of frustrations on that front as well, but . . .
Andrew: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of the people who you’ve gotten here also are weird like you in that world view, right? Like Rob Walling, weird like you in that worldview. Who was it? It’s Leo, isn’t it from Buffer who’s also an investor, right, also has a similar worldview. Chris Savage just expressed his worldview where he said to his investors, “Take your money back. I need to just run this business like a business instead of . . .”
Rand: Yeah. I think that those types of opportunities should exist for a lot more companies. I think that companies don’t have to be as obsessed with growing at all costs or dying trying. I don’t actually think that’s particularly healthy for . . . I don’t think it’s healthy for companies. I don’t think it’s healthy for entrepreneurs. I think it’s rarely healthy for employees. I think it’s often unhealthy for customers. And I think it’s kind of bad for the sort of socio-economic situation of the world, because it obviously bifurcates into the 3 out of every 100 investments that are successful and the 97 that aren’t, which means wealth distribution goes the wrong way.
Andrew: Yeah. All right. Let me read my second sponsor and then I want to come back in and ask a question that Nathan McCauley asked, which is, “How are you monetizing this?” I want to know what I can do to use SparkScore right now. That was my favorite report that I got on your site.
Rand: The funnel, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Can you tilt your camera up a little bit just so we get more of the top of your hair? That hair is so good. Now we even have the ceiling in the shot.
Rand: Yeah. And the problem is that the light is just in this . . .
Andrew: No. Now when you step back, we should . . . There you go. The light shouldn’t . . . Well, there. I’ll tell you, my second sponsor is a company called Pilot. Even if it’s not Pilot, it’s totally fine to say you use someone else. Who do you use to do your books, your accounting books?
Rand: Yeah, we actually have an accountant, a human being.
Andrew: Full time or a person?
Rand: No, no. Part-time.
Andrew: Part-time. That’s what a lot of my friends have. My problem with that has always been I don’t want to like screw up with the person. What happens if they get sick? If something goes on in their family, they don’t show up. They have another client who takes too much time. How’d you find your bookkeeper? Through a friend?
Rand: Actually, so we are connected to the folks at TechStars, and she does TechStars’ books as well.
Andrew: Got it. Got it. Okay. So I’ll tell you what I ended up doing. This company Pilot wanted to sponsor and I said, “No, I can’t. I don’t know you guys.” And Sachit, the seller said, “Andrew, they do all the Y Combinator people.” I said, “Yeah, but who knows? Maybe there’s no Y Combinator books to do. Maybe it’s just . . .” And then I finally, after a while, said, “You know what? I’m going to throw them $1,000. Let’s have them do my books.” I think it was a lot.
And then I ignored them. And then I looked at my books in January, and it was phenomenal. They just had it all down. It was just amazing that they did all that. Actually, I shouldn’t say I just ignored them completely. I hit a couple of buttons that they gave me to connect everyone except for Citibank. Citibank was a hardest to connect to their software, but Chase I connected easily, Stripe I connected easily, the rest. So they pulled it all in. The data was great.
I had this thing where I said, “I think you guys made a mistake on this one thing.” And then I realized, “No, they didn’t.” We were selling these beads as like a thing because I love these beads for focus. This is what I used to stay focused mentally. Someone on my team says, “Andrew, you love it. Why don’t we just sell it for $5? We’ll see what happens. We’ll throw it over to ShipBob and ShipBob will mail it. Don’t worry about it.” I didn’t realize we had done it.
I looked at my books, the number was there categorized great under True Mind, which is what I came up with the name True Mind for it. That’s when I realized these guys are phenomenal. So I said, “Okay. I could take them on as sponsors. I really like their stuff.”
And then I did a call with them, which is I think best practice, you’ve got to talk someone at the company, and they start going over the whole thing and I said, “Okay. So someone’s going to use this link. I need you to have pilot.com/mixergy. Great. I need them to have a discount 20%. Great.”
Then I said, “And then how much are you charging them?” They said, “We don’t want them to buy.” I go, “How’s this working?” They said, “Andrew, we just would rather do a consultation call with them and then if it makes sense, it naturally works. But if we’re trying to sell bookkeeping services off the bat, it’s not going to work.”
Rand: I think that’s really smart, actually.
Rand: I’ve heard a bunch of folks doing that upfront consultation call. Casey, and I’ve been talking about it for SparkToro, and I think that’s a really smart thing for software as a service based businesses or even service-based businesses that have a monthly, ongoing, recurring revenue system because you prioritize right customers and you don’t get wrong customers into your customer database, which can then bias you to build all sorts of dumb stuff and prioritize wrong things. So I love that.
Andrew: I think you’re right. I think they’re probably at a space where they’re doing this now. I don’t know if they’re going to do it forever, but it does make sense for them to get to know every single one of their customers. And also people aren’t ready to switch bookkeeping companies right away. So what we’re going to do is if you go to pilot.com/mixergy, once you sign up there, you’ll get 20% off for some limited time. It’s on the site, but that’s not really why you go there.
Go there and set up a call immediately with someone who’s one of their bookkeepers who’s going to go over your books with you to see if there are any mistakes, any opportunities to adjust. One of the things that I learned was I have two different products. They showed me that they could categorize each of my two products, my chatbot part, which is Bot Academy which I’m excited by, Mixergy separately. They just said, “Andrew, if you do these little adjustments, you can figure out what’s making more money for you and where to spend more of your time.” I said, “Okay. That’s too tough.” They said, “No, it’s not. You use Stripe.” I said, “Yeah.” “Here’s how Stripe will pull that data in and you could suck it into your QuickBooks.” This is brilliant.
So they can help you guys, if you’re out there, find these little opportunities, or if you haven’t started a business or aren’t using QuickBooks, they’ll just tell you how to set it up right from the beginning, go off and then when you’re ready, you can sign up with them. All you have to do is go to pilot.com/mixergy. All right. I really like them. And they got pilot.com, which is impressive as a domain name.
Rand: It is. There are some very, very jealous flight instructors out there.
Andrew: Right. They can’t afford this. These guys do bookkeeping. There’s more money in bookkeeping than flights. It is the SparkScore, isn’t it? Yeah, SparkScore. That’s the one that I like the best. I type my Twitter handle in. It’s @andrewwarner. I’m going to type in, “Get SparkScore.” I really like that I see the top people who I care about. But what am I doing with this? Like I see that Scotch . . . What’s his name? I’m forgetting his name. Josh Pigford. He is . . .
Rand: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Like, what does it mean that he has a SparkScore just under mine? What am I doing with that?
Rand: So I think that basically what we were trying to do with SparkScore, and let’s be totally upfront because I was upfront when we released it, we needed a lot of Twitter API keys and we also wanted to be able to analyze people’s Twitter accounts in ways that correlated well with how many impressions their tweets received, because we knew that was something we wanted to put in the SparkToro product. So that when you go and you see a list of like here are social accounts that are well followed by architects or plumbers or entrepreneurs or whatever it is that you’ve searched for, we want you to be able to sort by people who have high engagement in their social account and we didn’t want that engagement . . . We didn’t want just to use follower account and we don’t like the methodology behind things like CloudScore.
So we came up with our own. And then coming up with our own, we realized, “Hey, there’s a great way to get more Twitter API keys. Let’s make this free and open it up and then lots of people will join and give us essentially access to an API key so . . .”
Andrew: So making your software smarter.
Rand: Yeah, make our software smarter, test it out, see if it hits. And it did nicely. It brought us a bunch of traffic, brought us a bunch of people who signed up for the email list, all those kinds of things.
Andrew: So what I’m seeing here, for example, let’s take a look at my friend Shane Mac. He has a SparkScore that’s just under me. He has just a few more followers than me, but he has a much higher engagement score. That means more of his tweets are getting responses.
Rand: And probably also means that he is responding to many more people who talk to him.
Andrew: Okay. And then why do we care about him responding back and other people responding to him? What am I doing with this?
Rand: I think that it is less a case of what would you specifically be doing. But if you are a marketer and you’re inside the eventual SparkToro product and you’re trying to figure out who should I sponsor, advertise with, reach out to, get to promote my product, talk to about doing a webinar together, talk to about doing a podcast, you want to find . . . one of the metrics that you almost certainly want to optimize for is people who are engaging on their social profiles as opposed to just have high follower accounts.
Andrew: Okay. All right. So Sahil Lavingia, the founder of Gumroad, he has a very high engagement score. That means that he is much more likely . . . He’s someone that is active on Twitter, and if I’m going to ask someone to tweet, he’s a good person to ask for a tweet.
Rand: Yeah. And in fact, you might prioritize him over someone who has more raw followers or more raw tweets or more raw retweets per tweet because you know that that engagement is happening.
Andrew: I wish we could do this stuff with Instagram, you know, that that’s where so many people are. I wish they would give us that data, especially since there . . .
Rand: Instagram is a true pain in the ass. Although Casey and I have some hopes and plans. He did some experimenting a few weeks ago and was like, “I think I can get out of some of this data.” Although I don’t know if you saw, Instagram is hiding the likes . . .
Rand: . . . in Canada, which that’s going to put a thorn in the side of so many social media [inaudible 00:47:30].
Andrew: Yeah. I wonder . . . I would give you . . . Well, if I’m trying to work with sponsors, I would give you access to verify like how active my account is, but I don’t know that Instagram is going to encourage that.
Rand: No. As with Instagram . . .
Andrew: But they will. They do with business pages.
Rand: Instagram’s API is nearly useless for getting any competitive data. It’s fine for giving you data about your own account, but yeah, I think if you . . . Basically, if you want to get Instagram data, you have to use scraped crawled information.
Andrew: So Nathan was asking, “How are you going to monetize this?” And I think it’s just subscription to all this data.
Rand: This is another fascinating thing. So we are planning on having a subscription, but I think by virtue of the fact that we are not venture-backed, we are also planning on offering the product for a one-time type of purchase because essentially . . .
Andrew: Oh, really?
Rand: Yes, if you say to yourself, “I don’t need to do this research every month. I’m not a marketing consultant. I’m not a content marketer who does this with every new piece I publish or social marketer who does this every day.” You can say, “Hey, can I just do my research, my audience intelligence research, figure out who I need to target all that kind of stuff, one time? I’m going to do it all in a week.” Great. You pay us whatever, few hundred bucks for one week of high-level access, no subscription. That is something we absolutely could not possibly offer if we took institutional money.
Andrew: Because they were counting on that SaaS model, the model of monthly revenue coming in.
Rand: Basic . . . Even worse than that it’s because that revenue is useless. It is no good for the business. Like they don’t want to see it on your books. They don’t want you to have non-recurring revenue. It dilutes the impression of future funding rounds, potential acquirers if you ever go public, like . . .
Andrew: Even if people keep buying again and again, like they might have bought that one week, they loved it, but a year later they need to come back when they’re changing it because every December they decide they’re going to be a different company?
Rand: If you have like seven years of history of that, I think, yes . . .
Andrew: Right, right. They’re not . . .
Rand: . . . then you’re fine. But in year one, you’re screwing yourself and so your investors will be like, “Don’t do that. Stop doing that. Do everything but that.”
Andrew: That makes sense. And you don’t . . . I kind of like that model too. I like knowing how much money is coming in every month.
Rand: Well, one of the interesting things that we discovered during the process of talking to customers, potential customers about this, a lot of our customers are almost certainly going to be agencies and consultants. And a ton of them told us, “I hate that I cannot bill my client for the use of a software product.” They’re like, “If I could ask, if we could just pass through, I’d be like, ‘Oh, hey, client X, I did some SparkToro research. It was $399 for the week of use that I used for you.’ And I could do that seven times for my seven clients and be amazing. But instead, I can’t just send them all one subscription because that’s an agency cost, and so I can’t pass it through. If you would, please, give me a receipt and charge me for a one-time use would mean the world to me.”
Andrew: I didn’t think of that. I didn’t realize that. What other kinds of conversations are you having to uncover problems that your customers are having, your ideal customers will have?
Rand: I think a big part of it is how do you solve this problem now? You know what one of the weirdest? Actually, I almost want to ask you this.
Rand: All right. So the process by which you’re working . . . Let’s say you’re working with a new startup and you’re talking about marketing with them and one of the conversations that comes up is, “Okay. Where should we reach our target audience? Like, which social platforms do they use? Who do they follow? What accounts? Which websites they visit? What podcasts do they listen to? What events and conferences do they go to? What news publications do they read?” What do you call that?
Andrew: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t even know where I would go find that.
Rand: I mean, so far everyone I’ve talked to has either said, “I don’t have a name for that,” or every different person calls it something different.
Andrew: And that is what you want to offer, but you want to know, here’s the name that will immediately put in your head this is what you’re getting.
Rand: Yes, I want that, but it’s [like a gift 00:51:53].
Andrew: Yes, yes, yes.
Rand: [It kills me 00:51:56].
Andrew: Yeah. And so the way that you phrased it before we started was a marketer who needs to discover all the sources that influence your audience. Yeah. And you want to know what that is. You need to know the sources that influence your audience. You need to know the influencer’s influence, the audience’s influences. Yeah.
Rand: But we can’t use the word influencer marketing, because that means you pay half-naked people on Instagram $500 to pose with your product.
Andrew: Right, right. Right. It’s what’s the thing that they look at? What’s the . . . Yeah. I don’t know.
Rand: What used to be . . . What was . . . So this was called influencer marketing in 2012, but in 2019, we don’t call it that anymore.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s the thing that influences your audience. Yeah. And Brandon Birkmeyer is saying media habits, but . . .
Rand: Yeah. I think media habits works really well if we’re talking about big picture, like brand media, like radio.
Andrew: It’s like are they using Forbes or Fortune magazine to learn about business? Not are they on Instagram or Snapchat?
Rand: And who do they follow on Twitter and LinkedIn and which Facebook groups they subscribe to you and what email newsletters do they read and which conferences and events they go to? Like that whole . . . Essentially, it is often part of the audience research that a marketer does, but it is an unnamed part of it. So that’s essentially what SparkToro is trying to do.
Oh, I wanted to go back to your earlier question, because I didn’t answer it fully. I sort of dragged off. But you mentioned, like, why build this instead of doing something Moz-like? And certainly one of the things is I like small companies and I think I like solving new problems. So I wanted something outside of SEO.
Andrew: I wonder . . . A lot of this stuff is data. I wonder how much more pain is inflicted by more data. Like Josh Pigford’s company, for example, I’ve talked to him about this. Baremetrics for the longest time was telling me what my churn was. All I would do is have a stomachache looking at it and then knowing I have nothing . . . there’s nothing I could do about it. It wasn’t until he finally said, “I’m going to add Dunning,” meaning if somebody’s credit card doesn’t work or they’re getting something free, then I thought, “Okay. Now you’re doing something with this and I have something that I could maybe I change the copy of the email you’re sending out or something, but have some power.” Like, a lot of . . .
Rand: Yes. One of the reasons that we felt good about SparkToro is we looked at a bunch of mostly agencies and consultants, but some internal pitch decks as well, essentially where like a marketer would put together a slide presentation for their CMO or for their marketing team saying like, “Here is our strategy. Here’s why we’re going after what we’re going after.” And we kept seeing the same slide, which was essentially like, “Here’s the people we need to reach on social. Here’s the websites we need to target. Here’s the conferences and events. Here’s the podcasts. Here’s the . . .” whatever it is. And that work was all manually done, like it was dozens to hundreds of hours of research that were . . . I shouldn’t say. It was almost like it was dozens, not hundreds.
Rand: But it was almost it was manually done, meaning someone’s just like googling around and then taking follower accounts or whatever public data they can to try and figure this out, or they’re running very expensive surveys. Big brands run these crazy expensive, like $50,000 surveys with SurveyMonkey audience or Google or another provider like that to try and get at which sources to pay attention to when, of course, people are terrible about telling you what they actually [want 00:55:48].
Rand: So this was where we were like, “Hey, I think [inaudible 00:55:53]
Rand: Like, we are not just saving you money or whatever. We’re like a true pain pill here.
Andrew: And so for someone like me, you’ll let me go in and say, “Andrew, your people are specifically on these sites and these social networks. It turns out, Andrew, you’re wasting time with Instagram because it’s the thing that’s fun, but it turns out your people are actually on Twitter. You’re enjoying it, stick with Twitter.” Am I right? But you just said one of those . . .
Rand: A little bit of that and a little bit more of where on like who on Twitter are they paying attention to? Who on Instagram are they paying attention to?
Rand: Which podcasts are they listening to? Not just, are they listening to podcasts?
Andrew: Oh, that’d be really interesting. If you told me who the Instagram people are that they pay attention to, I would just invite them to do an interview here as long as I am curious about who they are, right?
Rand: Exactly. Right? That is the . . . I mean, I think as a media . . . As someone who’s producing content, that is a perfect use of your data. Same thing like we just went through on the website side like, oh, Moz and Buffer and Neil Patel and Copyblogger and First Round Capital should all be your advertisers because they have a high affinity with your customers . . .
Rand: . . . or your listeners.
Andrew: Okay. I didn’t come back to this, so we’re not going to do it justice, but I did mention earlier that I was going to come back to after Geraldine’s basic, like, passion play, what’s next? Here’s where I generally work. I generally say, “I’m going to come up with something really ugly for a start. If it works and I like it, we’re going to systemize the next version and the next version.” So the first version of me doing live interviews was fairly, I wouldn’t say ugly because Megan ran it and she puts effort into it and she makes it look good. But it had a landing page that was from ClickFunnels, it had Zoom, and it had a couple of other things and it had a bunch of mistakes. Nothing major that even the guests felt, but okay.
We then leveled up with a checklist and we’re going to improve it. The next level up is I see that I have some mistakes that I’ve made with the way that we’re doing things. We’re going to keep improving it until we can get to once a month doing this really well and every time we improve it.
What’s another . . . What’s a simple marketing technique that we could use with that framework of start ugly and simply, keep systematically improving it? Don’t drive yourself crazy sitting down thinking, “What am I going to Instagram today? What am I going to write a blog post about?”
Rand: I think you can do that with nearly every single marketing tactic. Right? If SEO is your tactic, you start with I do a little keyword research, I publish a post, I try and figure out a few people who might link to it, I drop them a line.
Andrew: That’s it. That would be the simple first checklist.
Rand: Super simple, first little version, right? And then maybe I upgrade that by figuring out more people who link to multiple competitors and I buy a subscription to Ahrefs or Moz or somebody like that, right, and I try and put that data-driven approach in there. Then I do a little bit more with social media by broadcasting it out and trying to find people to amplify it on social so that publications might pick it up and maybe I learn a little bit better which types of content resonates. You could do that with . . . We talked about conferences and events. Every conference and event sponsor I’ve ever seen does exactly this. They go to an event, they buy their booth, they sponsor whatever, they get the name tags and the badges, right?
Rand: And then they . . . What do they do? They drop an email line to everybody they interacted with and talked to and they see what types of people worked. Then they try and figure out, “Okay. What other events did those kinds of people go to? Let’s do it again at the next one. And what was the better opening line and how do I have a better conversation with these people to make them interested in what we’re doing? How do I improve our sales pitch at the event? How do I get invited to speak on stage at these events so that I’m not paying but instead I’m communicating?”
You start ugly in all these different ways with every tactic, and then you evolve. I think that’s exactly the logic behind the marketing flywheel, which everyone should be using.
Andrew: That’s how I approach everything, including like poker in my house. And I started inviting people over. I got my playlist on Spotify. Everything’s good. The last one that I did in my house was horrible, because I got so good at the food. I knew the food that people wanted. And then everyone hated that it was distracting with the freaking food, Andrew. Just sit down. It was a distraction. So I got too good at the food part, and I need to just say, “All right, we’re good here and people were fine.”
Rand: I suck at poker and I would like to come over so that I can enjoy you’re too good at the food.
Andrew: You know what else you would have liked? The conversations were great, but it distracted from the poker. Yeah, there the light is definitely in your face.
Rand: I got [inaudible 01:00:29]. Right?
Andrew: All right.
Rand: Yeah. I think this is . . . I am almost . . . I’m so scared to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’ve had exactly that experience, but I don’t play poker.
Andrew: So what’s your thing? You still did poker night and it still ended up that way?
Rand: No, we played D&D.
Andrew: Oh, you do D&D.
Rand: I just started playing about, yeah, about 12 months ago my first time ever and kind of fell in love with it, and so now we host people over and do it almost . . .
Andrew: Do you actually talk to people, or is it verboten to talk about life while you’re playing D&D?
Rand: Oh, no. I think that during the game, people talk about all kinds of things.
Andrew: That’s the thing. Poker is good for conversation, but not too much conversation. I guess D&D . . . I’ve never played it. I guess that’s a little bit more open. We did Settlers of Catan. That was more open to conversation.
Rand: Oh, yeah.
Rand: I even played that only once, but I know a bunch of people who just love that. There was a whole crew at Moz who was super into that game.
Andrew: It forces you to sit down. That’s where scotch night is actually really nice. You just sit down for a bit and it’s about conversation.
Rand: Yeah. I do love . . . I love the human interaction element of all these, like, physical games. I mean, D&D is basically group improv, for lack of a better word, right?
Andrew: I have no idea. I have no idea what it’s even about.
Rand: I mean, everybody . . . Just a bunch of people like telling a make-believe story together and rolling dice, but . . .
Andrew: And so do you do this for like, who’s in my network that I want to get to know, or are you genuinely looking for friends? Because I’m . . .
Rand: I don’t think I’ve ever done it in terms of a network people I want to know, but we have a couple of times met some totally amazing people through it. Yeah, we got to meet and play D&D with Anita Sarkeesian . . .
Andrew: Who is that?
Rand: . . . which was like, mind-blowing for me, right? I think I’ve been a fan of her. So I think, unfortunately, she is most famous . . . She runs Feminist Frequency, but she’s most famous for being one of the big targets of Gamergate back in the day.
Rand: Yeah. She’s just what an extraordinary, resilient, kind person.
Andrew: I’m on her Wikipedia page. Yeah, I see what you mean.
Andrew: Yeah. And that’s what I love. I want that. I want that interaction. You think I’m talking all day to you, Rand, and I’m talking to everyone else here today and you think I’d want to go home and just shut up. No. No. I want you to come over for scotch.
Andrew: Tell me about like this, Anita Sarkeesian interaction that you had. I would like your wife to come over and tell me about what she’s reading lately and how . . . I would actually want to know what her process was for writing her book all over the place.
Rand: I mean, you should interview her. She is . . . Just as she’s a more enjoyable Twitter follower than me, she is a more enjoyable guest because she’s just . . .
Andrew: Could I hook it into an entrepreneurial audience? What’s the entrepreneurial hook?
Rand: I mean, I think if you were doing that, I would ask her about three things, which is I think, one, building an audience authentically without this sort of like marketing flywheel promotion system, like doing the classic build it and they will come, which has been so successful for her. I think there’s also . . . there is a strong bias in our field towards men, and she has seen and experienced a ton of that, both through personal experience, but then also through our network of people, women entrepreneurs that we supported and people who would run into our lives. And I think you could almost certainly ask her about writing as well, which I know lots of your audience does.
Andrew: All right. I’m into it. As someone who’s followed her, this would be completely out of the blue for me, and not out of the blue. It’s just like out of left field.
Andrew: I’m going to send you right now . . . I have your cell phone number. I’ll email it to you because who needs another cell phone message right now? I’ll send you a link for her to privately send me a message and book. Could you just introduce me, but I want to get her link?
Rand: No problem.
Andrew: All right. Okay. That’s one of the things that I remember actually listening to Howard Stern, and he would always have these people who are so spot on with who his audience was and then he’d have this person who was just his personal interest.
Andrew: Right? And that was in many ways more interesting unless he tried to force it. I feel like that’s one of the benefits of doing these interviews here at Mixergy that I get to know people because I’m really into their stuff. Bob Garfield was one of those people. I used to listen to him forever on NPR. I found a way to have Bob Garfield on here. It was great. Except that he thought, “What the hell am I even doing here, Andrew? What do you want from me?” I go, “Dude, it’s okay. I like you here. They’re going to like you.”
Rand: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have been on shows that have nothing to do with web marketing or entrepreneurship, and sometimes those can be really enjoyable. I think the quality of the host and the questions asked and the depth of the conversation can be incredible even if the topic is not exactly what the audience came for.
Andrew: All right. We’re going to hook it up. I’m going to follow up via email. Thanks, Rand. I actually do have kids, but I got to run home and go pick up from school.
Rand: Good, good, good.
Andrew: All right. That’s one of the hardest parts. I hate having a hard stop to my day. I like to just keep going until my passion runs out. And it stinks because my passion doesn’t start at 9:00 in the morning. It takes a little while. And then 5:00 is where I get really energized.
Rand: You and I are both night owls like that.
Andrew: Yeah. All right. For anyone who wants to go check out Rand, frankly, there are tons of different places to go check him out. I think that the most interesting thing to me right now is this SparkToro, SparkScore which . . . So if you go to sparktoro.com, you can just sign up and you can check it out. For some reason, I’m fascinated by that. Is there another place that people should go see?
Rand: Yeah. I mean, my most active spot is Twitter. So if you’re interested in sort of web marketing stuff, @randfish over there, and hopefully, we’ll have a product for you this summer.
Andrew: And someone in the audience said, “Andrew, you’re not recommending books anymore. You’re not asking the guests for books anymore.” It’s true. I think that that wasn’t working for the conversation much, but I will say Rand has a great book. It’s called “Lost and Founder” that I’ve said to him privately before we started, I’ll say again, it’s probably a bad business move for him to have created it. Like the next level marketing would have been more interesting thing to advance your career, something and that’s the next thing. But Rand doesn’t operate that way. Rand, you’re operating in the, “Here’s where I could be helpful. This is the interesting thing that came to me. I’m going to write about that.” And you’re trusting that that’s going to overall help your business and your brand.
Rand: I mean, it’s the same reason I tweeted at you and said, like, “Hey, hang on. I’m not actually CEO of that company, and they’re not number one in the world anymore.”
Andrew: Yeah, you just want to be authentic, which you know what? I very much do when I’m on mic here and very much hate myself for doing. Like who needs another authentic person? Authentic people are respected, is what’s going on in my head. But . . . And again, people say they respect my stuff when I’m authentic.
Rand: You find your people, right? I don’t want to be respected by the people who are like, “Oh, what electromagnetic resonance chamber did Jack Dorsey buy? I need to buy that. What retreat did Gwyneth Paltrow go on? I need to go on that retreat.” That doesn’t interest me. I don’t need that crowd. I need the crowd that says, “Oh, man, you seem real. Let’s hang out.”
Andrew: Yeah. And that does come across. All right. Thank you so much, Rand. And thank you so much for the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will do your books, meaning your accounting right. It’s called Pilot. They do mine directly into QuickBooks, and I love them, but don’t hire them. Just go to pilot.com/mixergy and have them go over your books and give you feedback, and when you’re ready to switch, then they’ll be there for you. And then second, if you’re looking to do some keyword research, if you want to understand what’s going on with content on your site and other related sites, go check out ahrefs.com, no slash or anything, Ahrefs. If they’re happy with me and their numbers go up for the month, they’re going to say, “Andrew, it’s because of you. We’ll buy a bunch.” If not, who knows?
All right. Thanks, Rand.
Rand: Great to see you, man.
Andrew: Thank you.
Rand: Take care.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.