What do TOFU, MOFU & BOFU stand for in marketing? It helps digital marketers to serve the right content to the right person at the right time using the sales funnel. Today, I am interviewing Greg Elfrink, Content Marketing Manager for Empire Flippers a marketplace to buy or sell websites. Today, we discuss creating customer avatars. Avatars enable us to better understand and serve our customers. Greg has an interesting background. He used to work on oil rigs in Alaska while freelancing on the side. Sometimes he would end up working 100 hours in one week. With the long hours, he was getting burned out. Greg is much happier now that he is part of the Empire Flippers team. We also discuss content length and the value of reading fiction to improve marketing.
listen to this episode
- How living in East Asia and working for Empire Flippers is better for Greg than working on oil rigs in Alaska.
- A little history of inbound marketing and Michelin the tire company and restaurant guide.
- Low-quality content and fake news are the scourge of the Internet.
- Top of the funnel content for getting leads and building awareness. Outreach and guests posts combined with a middle of the funnel lead magnet.
- It’s a marketer’s job to solve the customers’ pain points and get them to the solution through the funnel process.
- Know who you are speaking to so that you can tailor specific content to the customer.
- The bottom of the funnel content like case studies, testimonials, and research can be effective.
- Finding an angle that excites your audience.
Louis: Bonjour! Bonjour! Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are.
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Welcome to episode number 13 of everyonehatesmarketers.com. Today, I’m interviewing Greg Elfrink. He’s a copywriter and a content marketing manager for Empire Flippers. Empire Flippers is a marketplace to sell or buy websites. Here’s the main thing you’re going to learn today. You’re going to learn how to create what Greg calls avatars to complement your content marketing and also for your marketing in general, how to turn the conversations you have with customers into avatars or group of people, so that you can better serve them.
There are other things we’re going to talk about in this episode, including the fact that Greg used to work at least 100 hours a week. He used to work in oil rigs in Alaska and also freelance on the side as a copywriter. He was, as he said, burning out for years almost. He managed to get a huge opportunity at Empire Flippers and is much happier now.
We’ll talk about other things related to marketing and the fact that for example, you should read more fiction than just business books, and also the difference between short and long content and its impact. There are plenty of things that we’ll discuss so as usual, have a listen and let me know what you think.
Hi Greg! Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for your time!
Greg: Yeah. Thanks for having me on!
Louis: No problem at all. My first question to you is what is better, is it to work in the oil rigs of Alaska or to be part of Empire Flippers travelling East Asia?
Greg: My answer is pretty clear on that one. I’m back here visiting for the holidays. It’s still as cold as I remember. I’m missing my home in Vietnam. It’s just cool working with Empire Flippers because it’s always been a dream of mine. I used to read people’s blogs about these internet lifestyles on oil rigs. I’m now one of those people. Someone will even ask me for advice which is pretty surreal. But yeah, it’s been great, man.
Louis: I’ve never been to Alaska but I know of Alaska from seeing a few documentaries with my fiancé. There’s a few about those families living in the bush, living in the remote part of Alaska. But you’re from Anchorage, which is a big city there, right?
Greg: Yeah. Pretty much everyone that’s in Alaska lives in Anchorage. It’s like the 2/3 of the population, not that we have much to begin with. I think there’s still less than a million people in Alaska. I have friends who are Bush people. In fact, there’s a town that I go to, a lot of them go to, it’s called Talkeetna. The official legal mayor there is a cat.
Louis: That’s this city. I’ve heard of this story. I’ve read about Anchorage, it’s one of the largest city in the U.S. by square miles.
Greg: Bigger than the entire state of Delaware. Just landmass, not many people.
Louis: It’s pretty cold there. I’m interested, in 2005, almost 11 years ago, 12 years ago now because it’s new year, you were working in real estate, right?
Greg: I was never doing that full-time, it’s always part-time with my dad. I’m actually surprised you brought that up, not many people know that. I’ve worked with him in his business, his business is still going good. I’m still working in the oil field as well. Or actually no, in 2005, I was still in high school so I was just working part-time with him. Then 2007, I stopped working with him and went to the oil field for the most part. Every now and then, I’d still help out. It’s a family business, with his real estate company.
Louis: Sure. Tell me about the oilfield stuff. We’re not going to discuss about oil extraction or whatever too much, but I’m just curious about what does it entail?
Greg: I did several different jobs. I could talk a long time about it but I’ll try to be brief, but my very first job was being a sample catcher which meant I went to this room called the pits. There’s a pool of pits and there’s mud everywhere coming out of these shakers. The ground that was coming over the shakers are from thousands of feet down. I catch the sample and wash it and give it to the geologist on the mud logger and they could analyze where we were. That was my job straight out of high school. All my friends are like, “Man, you’ve got that golden handcuff job.” Yeah man, they’re paying me $9 an hour.
The crazy thing about that job, it’s a very easy job, but I had to do two months of training for it where they showed me all of these videos of people dying on oil rigs. The guy who had a similar job to me, same age, he had his lower body half cut off in a freak accident, someone left a plate open. He’s getting paid $9 an hour too. I said, “Man, maybe this shouldn’t be a long-term career for me.”
The first time I stepped in the pits, the pit watcher looked at me and there’s like these grated floorings, there’s all this gyrating ogres everywhere beneath the flooring and he looked at me like, “Man, are you alright?” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah. Just give me a second.”
Louis: Just give me a second to digest what I’m going to do now.
Greg: Let me get used to this real quick. I did a bunch of different stuff. I actually ended up right before with Empire Flippers, I was working in town and I studied the magnetics of the Earth, as the rigs were drilling. I’ll be monitoring these oil rigs around the world and every day I would get an email about the weather on the sun because it actually affected my job which I thought was pretty awesome. It’s a pretty boring job but I love getting those emails. I think it’s just cool to know what the sun’s up to.
Louis: The warmer the sun is—what’s the impact there? What’s the correlation between them?
Greg: Magnetic storms, the sun will have solar flares and the flares would hit the Earth and Earth has like a diurnal pole and all that magnetism that the solar flare causes go to the very North, which is where we are in Alaska and that would affect the rigs. You think your rigs are drilling left but it’s actually drilling right but you can’t tell because of the solar flares. I would correct for that, for the rigs, so they know where they’re actually going.
Louis: It’s these kind of stuff that you don’t know until you really drill into the industry.
Louis: I’m asking for all the listeners out there that are probably wondering why we’re talking about that but it’s always interesting to have the backstory of anybody working in any industry because I think it explains a lot about why they’re doing what they’re doing today. My guess is that from the awful weather you had in Alaska, the job was pretty dangerous and made you realize that there was probably something better out there, you started to look into online marketing, right?
Greg: Yeah. I failed many years. I guess five months before Empire Flippers hired me, I actually had given up. I was just writing content, like really cheap PBN content, Private Blog Network audience, SEO ranking tool. It’s basically fixed rate so the SEOs would pay me to do a lot of content. I didn’t think that I would ever actually succeed at that point.
I was working 84 to 100 hours a week in the oil field and I would work an extra 20 hours a week as a freelance writer writing a penny and a half for a word. I was able to do $25 to $30 an hour. It was fairly fast. That actually led me into doing a lot of big things. One of my clients told me, “Man, If I was you, I would be so burned out.” I’ve been burned out for years [00:09:07] what I could do but that’s when I saw the job opportunity with Empire Flippers. By that time, I had so much content and I’ve written a copywriting book for a client, I started writing these huge guest posts with some pretty well-known marketers. My little freelance writing business actually took off in ways that I didn’t think it would.
Louis: What do you mean by that? How did it take off?
Greg: Like I’ve said, I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of ever being one of those guys like a digital nomad or whatever, I just have this greedy determination that I get $200 or $500 a month from writing and I started to. My clients were really happy with me because a writer at that level, it’s kind of like herding cats so it’s really hard to get the writer to commit to actually put out the content. I was writing a ton. One of my clients, I was doing 25 to 30 articles a week for him just on plumbing, plumbers. That was rough.
I had this one guy, I wrote about roof shingles and perth, I don’t know how many different times. It was so many different angles about roof shingles. This all led to me getting these bigger clients. I had this woman who had an entrepreneurs group, she had me write a copywriting book. A big marketer in the SEO space, SEO training, he hired me to ghostwrite a bunch of content for him. It just led to one thing after another.
When Empire Flippers hired me, one of these other guys, they were right on the verge of hiring me as well. It was just crazy. I looked into potentially Pennsylvania or Southeast Asia, obviously, Southeast Asia definitely sounded a lot cooler. I made that little leap of faith to leave the oil field and go full time as a writer. The power of small things led to this very huge change in my life. It’s really cool.
Louis: 100 to 120 hours a week of work is insane. I don’t actually tell you or encourage you to exactly do the same but I guess you have the drive to do it, to change something and you kept at it and fair play for you for doing it because now you’re in a much better situation. I think it’s a good lesson for anybody out there.
Greg: Yeah. If you want something, just go all out. When I put in my application with Empire Flippers, one of the things said was, this isn’t just a gap year job, sometimes you have to work 12 hours a day. My YouTube videos, they have me do YouTube video for the application. In the video, I said 12 hours a day sounds fantastic, that’s four hours less that I’m working right now. It changed my life though, man. It’s been really good.
Louis: I guess I have a few questions on marketing because you pointed a few things here. First, the fact that you are a dark side marketer, like you’re on the dark side of the force.
Greg: With the PBNs.
Louis: Yeah, and that you wrote for very, very specific subjects. There’s a few questions that I’m planning to ask you but I think I’m going to ask you other questions now. Going back a little bit to one thing, let’s move on to marketing and what you’re specializing which is inbound marketing and copywriting and getting people to go to your website and do what you want them to do.
Michelin, I don’t know how you pronounce it in the US, it’s a tire company and they are from my hometown, Clermont-Ferrand in France. They came up with the Red Guide, the Guide Rouge, more than a century ago. It was basically a guide for cyclists to tell them about the nearest stations and the nearest places where they can find tires or refreshment or whatever. They were giving this guide for free to all cyclists and then they realized that car drivers that was starting to be popular enough in the early 20 century in France, needed this information as well. There was literally like maybe 15 petrol stations in France and it was expanding. The got a free guide as well. This led to success they had after that to be one of the biggest tire company in the world.
Not a lot of people know that but it’s also the Michelin Guide, the restaurant guide is also from this tire company. It’s not two separate companies, it’s actually the same thing. What I’m leading to is inbound marketing or whatever you want to call it has been there for centuries. People get in touch with companies when they needed something and helping customers is nothing new.
Do you think that inbound marketing is just a made up word for something that is already existing or do you think that it’s a genuinely new thing?
Greg: I think what Michelin was doing, inbound marketing, I think people have been here around a lot more than they used to but it’s always been around forever. Direct mail in a lot of ways is a more basic form of content marketing. Then there’s permission-based marketing back in the days of newsletters, printed newsletters and all that stuff.
Inbound marketing I’d say is real, it’s a buzzword kind of like content marketing. Content marketing, that can mean so many different things, the other buzz word that is used so much in the industry. If someone asks you, what is great content, oh, just write valuable content. Well, what does that mean?
I do think inbound marketing is a real thing. It’s obviously super powerful. The thing that’s changed today that wasn’t there back in those days when you’re handing out physical newsletters is pretty much every entrepreneur can do it now. Your local dentist can do it. All the tools are just totally accessible now.
Louis: I think that’s the key. You mentioned that you are writing some dark stuff.
Greg: I think they prefer grey hat.
Louis: I call it bullshit, but hey whatever you want. When was that? When did you stop doing it? When was the time where you were doing this work?
Greg: This was probably almost right around this time last year. I built up my portfolio based off that. Those people which where agency owners, some of them had other businesses as well, they had me start writing money content. By money content, I mean on the actual money sites, so like their customers plumbing sites and stuff like that or their affiliate sites, whatever they had, I’d write their copies. Eventually, I wrote some sales letters and then wrote the book on copywriting, all the stuff I’ve known for years, I never really applied myself with that burning determination until that happened. I’d say I started the freelance career probably about last year around this time.
Louis: Why do you think that many companies still today are paying other people to write, paying $30 or $20 for an article that is just mediocre, to not use another word. Why do you think it’s the case?
Greg: It depends on what you’re doing first of all. I’m hoping you spend $20 on a piece of content, hopefully it’s a good piece of content. In these roundup posts, a $20 in these roundup posts probably won’t be that bad. There’s probably maybe 300 words on there. It’s all images. Hopefully, they’re investing in good writers, but if you find a writer that’s cheap, that’s good too for you.
People are investing in content mainly because it’s hard to write content. Even simple content, most people just can’t do it very well. They could do it if they put in the time, if they learn the skills and start writing a lot but a lot of people just don’t want to do it. I have so many friends in the digital community, software agency owners, they all just hate the idea of writing content. Ironically, SEOs hate it the most. They use it the most out of anyone.
Louis: Yeah. You can find a good writer for $30 or $20 an article but I always had a preference for long, helpful content that you couldn’t live without once you discovered it. There’s this good blog, you probably came across it, it’s called Wait, But Why.
Greg: That’s my favorite blog. I actually just got them agree to be on the Empire Flippers Podcast later this month.
Greg: Yeah. I am a huge fan of them.
Louis: It’s tough for a lot of companies to produce this type of content because it’s just one of the best types of article you can read. I guess this should be the aim for everybody. When they choose to write content and they understand why they’re writing content, content as you say, content marketing doesn’t mean anything unless you know why you’re doing it, but let’s say they want to write content to create awareness for their business and be discovered by more people online, then this type of content to me is just so much more valuable than any crappy, 300 word article that are written for Google, not for humans.
Greg: I think it depends on your application. If I’m writing about cryogenics, like Wait But Why, one of their posts, I could see a 300-word article, I’ll be like, “Okay, that’s not going to be that interesting to me.” But at the same token, if I’m researching a vacuum cleaner or something like that, I’m probably not looking for a 15,000-word post that goes in depth. I’m just looking for what most people think is good. It depends on your function. If you have a SaaS product or some kind, your content marketing might just be your FAQs, your frequently asked questions. That’s a very powerful piece of content for your customers. It really depends on the application, in my opinion, what kind of content you need.
Louis: I’m glad you said that because I’m teasing you a little bit. Yes, I think the aim is to give the most helpful answer in the quickest amount of time possible. Sometimes, exactly as you said, there are some very complex subjects where you need to spend a lot of time on.
Greg: Yeah, exactly.
Louis: For sales copy, you need to answer every single objections that customers have or may have and therefore, your sales copy can be quite long because you need to make sure that every single objection is answered. But if you’re looking for, let’s say if you want to know if it’s Thursday today and you don’t need—
Greg: You don’t need a 5,000-word article. Probably, you might be.
Louis: You might sound crazy.
Greg: You’re the 1%.
Louis: People just need a no or yes. Point taken. Anything that you see online or in marketing in general that boils your blood?
Greg: I kind of mentioned it earlier, whenever I see someone teaching about content marketing and they say just add value, what do you mean by that? Give me some specific stuff, what are you talking about? Break it down for me. I saw this before I could join Empire Flippers, in fact I bought some of their courses probably back in the heyday, back in 2007 or 2008, I was first learning this stuff and there’s just nothing in there. They produce value and pretend as if they set it over and over again that their course is valuable. I’m agitated by content marketers that teach about content marketing for the most part.
There’s some good stuff out there, don’t get me wrong. There’s some really great content marketers out there that give great advice about things especially in the SEO world. I’m a huge fan of Brian Dean from Backlinko. I think he got some of the best content on there about backlinking. SEO is very much related to content marketing. He’d be like a content marketer, teaching about content marketing that I really love but most of them, not so much.
Louis: I’m going to come back to this, this value thing because I think that we can dig deeper into how to do that for any listeners that are listening to the show, step by step, how to actually find value. I think this is one of the questions I can ask you in the next few minutes. But going back to the internet, the state of internet as of today, I remember vividly the first time I used internet. I remember vividly, the noise of the modem 66k when I was trying to connect.
Greg: Good old days, man.
Louis: It’s a memory that a lot of people have in our generation at least. But I think there is a lot of bad things happening on the internet as of the minute, there’s a lot of pollution, there’s a lot of ads that are just not useful, a lot of articles that are returned by people who clearly don’t know what they’re doing, a lot of fake news and bad advice. What do you think marketers and people in general could do to make the internet a better place?
Greg: First, for all of our friends out there owning fake news websites, you should stop that, be nice. Content marketing is a very simple thing. It’s there to solve a problem. If you’re going to do it, you should research it and be honest with your people. Sometimes, that means writing something that may not necessarily reflect well upon what you’re trying to sell me. Maybe you find something that’s bad, talk about it because if you talk about it in your marketing, at least they know. And also, by talking about it, you can actually increase your conversions too, as long as it’s ethical. Go figure. I’m not sure how do you really curve the pollution.
I actually wrote an analysis on fake news sites for Empire Flippers. Basically, I don’t see how Google or Facebook really stop them. Right after Facebook came out against it, just two weeks later, I got tricked into a fake news thing because Facebook got tricked with their alert system. It said that a bomb went off in Bangkok. I’m like, “Oh, shit. My friend’s in Bangkok. I hope they’re okay.” I posted this stuff and asked if they’re alright. He’s like, “Oh, it’s fake news.” Oh great. I fell for it because of Facebook’s alert system. Hopefully, that goes away. I’m not sure if it will, which is sad.
Louis: It is quite sad. Let’s move onto something a little bit more positive. When I listen to podcasts and read articles and view videos, I always almost, like about marketing, I always feel like, “Okay, but give me more. You started to talk about something interesting but now I need the step by step. Give me a concrete detail action.” In this podcast, that’s what we’re trying to do. I have questions written but I’m completely going to forget about them. We talked about two things that I think are more valuable. The first thing is, and you said it right, a lot of people say you just need to write content or produce content that is valuable. We all know that it means nothing, it could mean everything.
Let’s say we are a small SaaS startup, we have five or six employees, we have a good product that is being used by a few people, we are on the brink of finding product market fit and we need to move on to scale a little bit, and grow it, and get more leads in. The first step from attracting visitors to the website, what does it mean to create valuable content for this part of the funnel?
Greg: It’ll be the top of the funnel kind of content. Ryan Deiss on Digital Marketers who I’m a fan of, top of funnel, middle funnel and bottom funnel. You’re getting the weeds and that’s top of funnel stuff. For SaaS, it depends on your product. You want to build that awareness around it. Your top of funnel content should be the awareness piece. This is like your outreach stuff. You’re doing guests posts, you’re writing content that solves this problem or how to solve the problem rather where your software is the solving portion of it. The top of funnel should have some kind of lead magnet which would be the middle funnel component.
Say your business was about Jungle Scout with their tool that you can research different Amazon products for Amazon FBA owners, it could be a lead magnet about here is the cheat sheet on products you need to avoid or something like that. To get the people to optin to that, they could have a huge blogpost about the common things that people love to see on them. They pop up whatever they had, the side bar comes in to advertise that MOFu piece of content.
But yeah, top of funnel stuff would be definitely awareness. I’d be going to guest posts—we just did a guest post of Empire Flippers in the personal finance sector which they probably don’t hear a lot about internet marketing, especially not about acquiring online businesses. I wrote a very introductory piece to the concept of buying an online business. I just did another one similar to that Huffington post that breaks down the process for a beginner because that’s who I’m talking to.
Top of the funnel should be talking to whoever your customer avatar is and getting them interested, making them aware of the problem if they’re not aware of the problem and getting them interested enough in who you are to come back for that second piece which would be hopefully inside your funnel.
Louis: I’m going to stop you right there. You said two very important things. The first thing is you need to mail your customer avatar, your customer buyer persona, so you really need to know who you’re talking to. That’s marketing 101 but so many businesses don’t even do it.
First thing, if you have a SaaS startup and you’ve been sending the product to a few people now and you start to have an idea who your target market is, then you need to really drill into who they are and the key problems they have, exactly as you mentioned. Exactly as you mentioned as well, the first step should be to make them aware that they have a problem. Because sometimes they don’t know that they have a problem.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. The majority of people don’t know that they have a problem. Like, “Wait, I could do that?” There’s a guy talking about, I don’t remember the SaaS product now, but basically, we funded money or something like that on supplies. Most of the suppliers of the people who owned these businesses didn’t realize they could ask for a refund. They’re losing all this money. They didn’t know this opportunity existed for them to get this refunded product money back. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know. These top of funnel marketers are great.
Louis: That’s it. There’s this good book called The Brain Audit. We’ll put all the links by the way and all the articles that we’re mentioning in the shownotes. The Brain Audit is basically talking about your customer brain is like a conveyor belt you know in the airport where you have luggages coming in. They have problems in their mind but the only problems they will look on solving right now are the most painful, severe problems they have on top of this conveyor belt.
Greg: Top of mind.
Louis: Your goal, if your problem is not on top of their mind, on top of this conveyor belt, your role is to make them understand that it should be top of their mind, it should be more important than any other, and they should solve it right now. Top of the funnel is there to make sure they know they have problem, talking about this problem, really draining down into helping solving this problem. At this stage, you don’t talk about your solution just yet, right? Or you start talking about it a little bit?
Greg: Yeah, I mean you could talk about your solution about using, Jungle Scout for example, you might be talking about researching products. In that content, you have links to Jungle Scout so they know what the solution is and now they’re aware of the problem as well and the hope is that your top of funnel content adds enough value, there’s that word, to make them interested in the solution. We go to the next stage which is the courting stage. There’s the awareness like, “Hey, I’m here.” Then the courting stage which is like your lead funnel, lead nurturing and all those systems in place like email follow-up and all that good stuff. Let’s see if you guys are a good fit for each other and hopefully if you did you avatar research well, they’ll convert.
Louis: That’s another very important piece. Top of the funnel, it’s basically the ‘why,’ why you should care about this problem. Let’s talk about the solution a little bit. Middle of the funnel is ‘how.’ Okay, I know I have a problem now. Your solution seems to be interesting, give me more. You said something and I just forgot it literally five seconds ago.
Greg: Creative fuel.
Louis: Yes, the right fit. Your product shouldn’t be for everybody, it should be for your buyer persona, the few people you’ve identified. Yes, it should be is it the right fit? You should ask yourself the question. You shouldn’t try to get any leads possible, right?
Greg: Absolutely. There’s an old quote, I don’t know who said it, if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing nobody. That’s super true with marketing. You should go for very specific persons. We have very specific people that we look for in our business. We have several different people. You can have multiple people you’re looking for but you need to know which one of those people you are speaking to and what piece of content.
I’m not going to give someone who’s investing seven figures in SaaS business, a guide on how to split test their AdSense. That wouldn’t make any sense. What is this? You want to make sure, even if you have multiple avatars you’re going after, that each piece of content is tailored to just that specific person and that piece of content.
Louis: Avatars are so much cooler than buyer persona by the way. It’s better than ours. We’re going to start checking avatars, it sounds like World of Warcraft type of stuff. Okay, let’s be more specific. Top of the funnel, you’re being valuable by teaching them about the problem they have, how much it costs them and why they should solve it. Middle of the funnel, you’re teaching them whether or not they are a right fit for your solution and you give them more in depth knowledge about your solution and how it works. Is it the best scenario to literally create one funnel for one Avatar or buyer persona that you have?
Greg: Usually, I’d say yes. There could be a certain point depending on how big your lead nurturing is where all those avatars end up in the same place. If someone comes to Empire Flippers, they’re brand new to online businesses, they might start off on the track where we teach them about the concept. But they might end up eventually getting to the point where now, they are knowledgeable enough to be included in everything that we send out to all of those people about much more advanced things. Now, they can understand because they have a good foundation. It really depends on who your avatars are. It’s a very multifaceted idea, question.
Louis: Sure. You’ve got their email address, you start to talk to them and you know they are a right fit because you’ve been giving them a piece of content for free and helping them along the way and now, they are ready to buy or they’re almost ready to buy. That’s the bottom of the funnel part. What’s the next step then?
Greg: The bottom funnel content is, in my opinion, the best one is case studies. People actually using your product or service successfully, having really beautiful testimonials and case studies especially if you have an avatar that has a very specific problem and you know that that’s your main customer base, having a testimonial of that person is fantastic because now, you’re speaking to 80% of your customer base. Top of funnel stuff would be like case studies, testimonials, any kind of research, any kind of empirical facts are always really good. Stuff like that is what I’d recommend for bottom of funnel.
Louis: How did you come up with the personas in Empire Flippers?
Greg: Well, I was very lucky. It was already done when I came on board. We have six buyer personas. I’ve expanded on them. We have one persona, Newbie Norms, people who are just starting out. I wrote an 11-part blogpost series that literally breaks down every single popular monetization model on online business world, AdSense, Amazon FBA, SaaS businesses, apps, the whole nine yards. That was a really popular piece for that crowd of our avatar. I have expanded our content towards each of those personas. It’s teaching you to do so.
Louis: Do you know how they came up with it? Was it from experience, the fact that they’ve been in the business for awhile, they kind of know the customer now, it’s more intuition rather than anything else?
Greg: Yeah, exactly. They started off obviously with some vaguely defined people and then they added more. Of course as the business learned more about them and grew, they had more details that they could add to that customer avatar. Just because you don’t know what your customer avatar eats for lunch yet, doesn’t mean you can’t start marketing to them. You should start as detailed as possible and then as you go forth, if it works, if you’re seeing conversions, you should keep adding the more you learn to the Avatar. Learn the nuances of who they are as much as possible because it’s only going to make your marketing more crisp, it speaks to them more that way.
Louis: You mentioned in the start that you wrote articles for very, very specific industries and very specific subjects which is really interesting. There are a lot of SaaS businesses out there, a lot of businesses in general that are very vertical, like very specific to a specific niche, it seems like the trend in SaaS is going more and more towards specialized SaaS rather than generic SaaS. For those SaaS businesses out there who are actually struggling to create good marketing that is actually interesting for people because the subject is so specific, what will be your advice to them?
Greg: I’d say they need to come up with more angles because almost anything can become interesting if you look at it at the right angle. My proof for this is one of my favorite shows, it’s called Mad Man, it’s all about marketing in the 60s. If anyone is out there who had never seen it, it’s all about marketing in the 1960s. The main character is this guy named Don Draper, he’s a creative director. He can literally sing poetry about borax or laundry softener.
It’s all about coming up with angles. If you haven’t found an angle that excites your audience yet, you need to keep looking because if your product is good, that means it’s actually solving a real problem. That means there is potential to write real content that will excite people. That means you might not have to write a thousand blog posts, you might only have one very specific avatar and maybe 12 really in depth articles is going to be all you need to get that going. But if you haven’t found anyone excited about your content and you know you have a really good product that actually is solving a problem, you need to approach it at a different angle.
Louis: What kind of angle are we talking about here? Let’s give a concrete example, let’s say in the plumbing business.
Greg: Let me think about it. If you’re selling really high end plumbing services, let’s say very expensive plumbing packages for whatever reason, you might not be getting very many residential people coming in. You’re targeting people on commercials and all these stuff but what you really need is to change your angle of who you’re targeting in your marketing.
Yes, you can sell this high quality plumbing but maybe it’s not good for the residential market who are looking for a better deal but the industrial market, say the oil field, who need things to be good, you can probably cut your marketing budget in half by creating content that’s going out to those specific people around their world problems than these other people. Your product will solve both people’s problems in this example but your product is more suited for someone else with a different world, a different concern. That might be something to look into. It really depends.
For example, in Empire Flippers, an angle would be like Strategic Sally and Portfolio Paul, those are two of our buyer personas. Portfolio Paul, he’s looking to own several different portfolios of websites or online businesses that are diversified. That’s one angle. Then there’s Strategic Sally, she’s not really looking to own a bunch of different businesses, she’s looking to own a bunch of complementary businesses. While they’re both looking for businesses, they’re both coming from very different angles. Does that make sense?
Louis: It does. It goes back to what we discussed before, with the buyer persona. You will find the best angle for your content once you found the best buyer persona. Once you found the buyer persona that struggled the most where your solution is the best suited. Your example of the oil field and plumbing is excellent. Let’s say a piece of plumbing breaks down in your toilet at home, it’s annoying but it’s not necessarily going to happen that much, it’s not that you use it that much, and it’s unlikely. However in an oil field, if your piece of plumbing breaks down…
Greg: It could be a very serious thing.
Louis: It could be, as you discussed, it could be death, or freak accidents and could be thousands or even millions of dollars of lost revenue.
Greg: Definitely millions. The island that I worked on, when it shut down for just a day, I think it cost around $600,000 or $700,000 a day of no productivity.
Louis: But I think that’s a good lesson. It sounds a little bit simplistic when we said that but I think it’s a good lesson. If you find this buyer persona that has a very, very painful problem that your solution can solve, then focus on those first because it will be much easier to sell and even price it a higher price point because their problem is much more painful than others.
Greg: Absolutely. That is totally correct. You can, a lot of times, charge a better price, a premium price, if it feels like you’re having an intimate conversation with that person. For those who are still out there, tweaking with their marketing, you might be surprised who ends up being your customer audience. It wouldn’t be the first time I heard of an entrepreneur who thinks his customer’s A but it actually ends up being people in the E section, something you never thought it would be his customer became his customer.
Louis: I’m not going to be able to find it now but I’m going to give the example and I will put it in the shownotes. There was this business that started selling something completely different, a product, I don’t remember what, a very bright product, as gifts, they were giving something away as part of the package, something very small. It turned out that this very small thing was actually even more successful than the main product they were selling. They ended up selling this very product then. They’re very famous but I don’t remember, it’s a very, very famous company.
Anyway, we’ll come up with that in the shownotes. Moving onto the future of marketing, we talked about step by step which is really interesting and powerful for listeners out there who want to implement it. Marketing is a field that is moving very fast especially in SaaS. SaaS is an industry that moves very fast. But I think the concept of marketing has always been the same and we touch on it, which is understanding people so well that you can sell and solve the problems they have. What do you know about marketing today that will still be true in 10 years or 20 years?
Greg: The core principles of marketing like what you just said, I don’t think will ever change. The main concept of marketing is there’s about two roads you can go down. There’s the pain and the pleasure side. Pain typically converts more because people want to be out of pain but you can always market the pleasure side of things too, of how great your life is going to be with this thing that you’re selling. I think that is going to be the biggest core, that marketing at the end of the day is just helping the right people with the right solution and making them realize, “Oh yeah, of course, this was the right solution. What was I thinking? Of course, this is the product I’m looking for.”
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in 10 years?
Greg: Psychology. You can learn all the stuff about SEO, the latest craze on how to rank, Facebook algorithms, or UI design, or all this different stuff but really none of it works without understanding psychology and good copywriting. Speaking about that, you mentioned a book earlier, there’s a book out there. It’s not at all a copywriting book but I think it’s the best copywriting book I’ve ever read which goes back to what I was talking about what content marketers teaching about content marketing.
There is this psychologist from Stanford, Michael Shermer, who wrote this book called The Believing Brain. It’s the best book I’ve ever read on copywriting because it goes into how belief is formed. It’s really eye opening. It’s very interesting. It has nothing to do with copywriting but it has everything to do with it in my opinion. I just read a copywriting book then read that one, they just worked together so well.
Louis: That sounds awesome. I never heard of it. I’m definitely going to read it pretty soon. I completely agree with you and that’s a question I ask every guest on the podcast. Psychology is the basis of our day to day, we need to understand people and psychology is a very good start. You started to talk about one book in particular. I wanted to ask you about other resources that you would recommend to marketers in SaaS and digital marketers in general.
Greg: Believing Brain is great. There’s a book called Web Copy That Works. I don’t have my phone on me, otherwise I could find it, I’ll definitely email you in the shownotes. It’s one of the best copywriting books I’ve read as well that actually is about copywriting. The reason I like it the most, I’m a fan of Dan Kennedy and all that stuff, but the reason I like this book the most which is not really by Dan Kennedy, it’s by this really smart woman, I can’t remember her name right now. It has a bunch of empirical evidence backing up what they’re talking about. They’ve done all these experiments, it’s back in the 90s. Now she’s updated it for a web copy. I think it’s called Web Copy That Sells, I have to check it but I love that book because it’s all evidence backed which is really not something you see very often in a marketing book.
Louis: With a lot of bullshit, it’s good to have facts and proper facts to back things up.
Louis: Any podcasts or authors beyond marketing that you think people should check out?
Greg: I’m a huge fan of Freakonomics, outside of Empire Flippers of course, biased. I think Freakonomics is one of the best podcasts out there because again, it’s usually very empirical based. They’ll run their own experiments. They’ll dive really hardcore on the research and just gets you thinking critically about weird things which puts you in a really creative mode. I think that’s one of the biggest things that marketers need to really game, they don’t need to brush up on Facebook marketing as much as game up on their creativity.
Outside of those three things, I would also recommend reading fiction because that really helps you distance yourself from the problem. A lot of people get stuck in a loop of business blogs and all these business blogs say the exact same thing. You’ve got to step out of the problems sometimes to really solve the problem. I’m a big fiction fan. I also write fiction.
Louis: Do you?
Greg: I do. I’m a lover of literature. I’m just a prolific writer in business and fiction.
Louis: Elon Musk said the same thing about science fiction in particular. He read so many books when he was young about science fiction and it literally gave him the idea of changing the world the way he’s doing it at the minute. I think we should take your advice and read more. I’m definitely guilty of that. I tend to read a lot of business and forget that it’s not all about business. Sometimes, you read books or watch good movies that are not about business whatsoever but that triggers some points in your mind.
Greg: There’s something to think about on a copywriting perspective if you feel empathy, like you have feelings for the character in this book, that means you’re literally growing your ability to have empathy because you have feelings about a made up person. It does help you get into the different mindsets and perceptions. It is entertaining. It doesn’t feel like work.
Louis: I love that. It’s a very good advice. Greg, you’ve been really great. A lot of great advice, a lot of good step by step advice as well. Where can listeners connect with you, hear more from you?
Greg: I’m, as everyone out there knows, a content manager for Empire Flippers. If you want to contact me, you guys can reach out to me at email@example.com. I’m always writing content on the blog. If you guys have any kind of questions, feel more than free to reach out to me. I love to talk about this stuff and hopefully I gave you guys some good stuff.
Louis: You definitely can guarantee that. Greg, thank you so much once again, I’ll talk to you soon.
Greg: Yeah, you too man.