7-Figure Interview Series: Brian Clark (Copyblogger) Interview

Uploaded by marketingshowtv on 14.06.2012

bjbj2 Marketing Show Episode #65 Clay: Hello everyone. I am here. I ve got Brian Clark
on the other line. This is the second installment of the 7-Figure Interview Series. I think
there s lots of people interviewing lots of other people online, and I think that s fine
and valid. I think that what s unfortunate is that often, the people who are hardest
to get a hold of and who are most sort of reluctant to do interviews, because frankly,
they don t need the publicity are the ones we need to most interview. So I ve got Brian
Clark on the other line. He s the CEO of Copyblogger Media. Brian, thanks so much for being here.
Brian: m glad to be here. Thanks for making time for me. Clay: So did you have you moved
to Boulder, Colorado? Are you speaking to us from Boulder right now? Brian: I am, yeah.
Last time I talked to you, I was in a completely different office in a different state, and
just 1-1/2 month later, finally and splitting, I m between Colorado and Texas and finally
made the transition just in time for summer, you know, thankfully. Clay: Awesome. So you
know, one of the things that I ve always admired about you is sort of how widely you read.
I m always seeing you cite just from a breath of different sources on one hand, you re talking
with Jason Calacanis, on the other hand, you re citing Clayton Makepeace, and then you
re bringing in, you know, social media, and yet you ve got this software company that
also has a blog that s fairly prominent and then also does education. So one of the things
I d like to talk about is sort of this intersection between the start of world in the tech world
and all these other worlds that you ve combined. So you moved to Boulder, Colorado, which is
actually one of the major hubs for kind of the start-up scene in the United States. Was
that a factor in what you re doing at all or like why did you move to Boulder? Did the
tech scene have any bearing on it? Brian: Honestly no, not upfront. You know, we lived
in, you know, spent summers in various towns in Colorado, considered Durango, which is
down southwest and it s kind of isolated, and then we just loved Boulder, and I was
like this is where I want to be Clay: Yes. Brian: and then I was like oh yeah, and Brad
Feld, and all these guys are here, and the town Clay: Tech town. Brian: little town is
getting this really, you know, prominence in the larger start-up world. So that was
a happy coincidence, and you know, it s been great meeting those people and having a very
tight knit community of people where everyone in this town is very smart and very tech savvy
and all that. So in that sense, it s a perfect fit, but it wasn t anything to do with the
business that led me here. It was the fact that my business allows me to live anywhere
I want to, and I sure wasn t going to live in Texas any longer. Clay: Awesome, awesome.
So one of the transitions that you ve made that I think a lot of other people who started
out primarily, you know, maybe identifying as bloggers, is you ve made kind of this transition
from a blog that sold information products, you know, in order to monetize, and maybe
that was the plan all along, to a company that, you know, from what I can see does as
much if not more from the software side of your business as the training side, and you
know, I d really like to zero in and talk about some of the key differences between
selling information products and selling software. So before I drill down with maybe some specific
questions there, do you have any like general thoughts on that and perspective on the transition
that you ve made from selling information to selling information, and you know, software?
Brian: Yeah. So on the idea with Copyblogger, which started as a blog, no VC, no investment
money, just content. Me writing to begin with, and then, obviously, we added another people.
It s always been driven by what the audience is telling me they need. I didn t go within
any preconceptions or anything like that. You know, I was a big fan of what 37 signals
was doing back in 2005. I thought that was beyond me, software development. I m a writer,
not a coder. I can t code whatsoever. So as we were serving the needs of the audience
with free content related to essentially what s now known as content marketing, at that
time, it was hey, there s an intersection between copywriting and content that helps
you sell stuff. Now we call that content marketing and copybloggers above alone with the terminology,
and the fact that that s an accepted big thing now, you know, at the enterprise level as
well as down at the lower smaller company level. So when we first started out in 2007,
the big thing was no one will pay for content, and we know that was not true, you know, if
you re paying attention. So the first thing our audience really told us is we need a way
to make money that s not advertising because advertising doesn t really work very well
unless you got just massive amounts of traffic and that s not most people. Clay: Right, right,
and websites with massive amounts of traffic that were both getting traffic from Google
and then selling that traffic back to Google with ads in are they re so happy these days.
You really can t describe, you know, how happy and how well that panned out for them Brian:
Right. Clay: except not, you know, but Brian: Yeah. I mean 5 years later, it s funny the
initial education program that we put together teaching sales was based on my background
and Clark s background in instructional design, learning psychology, and direct marketing
like total deep topics that all actually worked quite well together, and now, the whole online
education thing, a dull education has become mainstream. You ve got like Mark Cuban saying,
I don t want an employee with a piece of paper. I want someone who knows how to get things
done. Clay: Right. Brian: And I think you re seeing that 5 years later, it s validating
what we were talking about then, which is education is changing. Education is going
to be a just-in-time thing that comes from subject matter experts, not academics necessarily,
right. So that was the first product, but as we kept moving on, the audience was telling
us more things like we can t do this stuff. Technology s hard, you know, and that lead
into the WordPress base, and the themes, and all the plug-ins, and the tools that we ve
developed because we built in for ourselves because we re basically our audience. We publish
content online, you know. Clay: Yup. Brian: So it s been an evolution that looks like
it was some master plan, but the real secret is you have to be in tune with what your audience
really wants. We ve never had a failed product not because I m a genius, but because I listen
very, very, very carefully. Clay: Okay. So man, there s two really cool forks that we
could down in. I d like to pick up actually both of them. So one is sort of the evolution
of value, so you know, what people are finding valuable over time. And the other one is sort
of this discussion. It s almost a debate about whether or not your market can truly tell
you what it wants. You ve got Henry Ford saying, If I had asked people what they want, they
d say a faster buggy, whether or not that s a valid critique, and then you ve got the
lean start-up people saying, you know, don t ask people. Put a minimum viable product
out and then iterate rapidly. So let s start with the first one. Brian: Yeah, let me jump
on that one right away. Clay: Okay. Brian: ve never asked anyone what they wanted. I
know better than that. I m not big. Whether it d be Henry Ford or Steve Job who says it
s not their job to know what they want, right? Clay: Right. Brian: If you re an entrepreneur,
it s your job to figure it out, and it s your job to deliver it, and if you re improving
on another product that may be out there, you re seeing feedback, discontent, shortcomings
of that product, it s your job to make a better, you know, version of that. So never ask. I
don t even do surveys. You can do surveys smartly with open-ended questions and whatnot.
I ve never done one. I don t necessarily recommend that to everyone because I do have some kind
of mutant skills at absorbing and kind of pattern recognition and stuff like that, but
really, it s just s like Einstein says. He s like, m not a genius. I just worked on the
problem longer than anyone else. Clay: Right. Brian: That s kind of how I am. We re trying
to figure out what people want, but asking them is never an option, and the lean startup
thing is right, which is actually a throwback to the old school direct marketers, which
is what they actually buy is the only correct answer. Clay: Right. Brian: You know, there
Everything else is bias up until someone opens their wallet and buy something, and that s
valid. Clay: Yup. So you know, I think a sort of an interesting distinction there. We do
do surveys and we ve been incredibly successful with them. What I found is that users won
t say I want a $47 e-book that has 12 chapters, and these are what many chapters, which is
sort of the fantasy. Brian: Yeah. Clay: What they do tell you is what they re frustrated
with and the outcome that they want. So I think Henry Ford got it wrong. I think that
if you really listen to people, they d say they want an easier way to get from point
A to point B, and it s Henry Ford s job to come up with the solution. So users do know
sort of kind of how they want to benefit, but they don t know what the features should
be that line up with these benefits. Brian: They are very good at telling you their problems
and desires, and there s nothing better than social media for, you know, tapping into how
people really feel. Clay: Yup. Brian: And again, I didn t want to come down on surveys.
I just happen to have not done them. They can be incredibly valuable. Also, it can be
invaluable as paying attention to this broader market that s out there talking upscripted,
unprompted. You know, you get some really raw material, gold if you will. Clay: Yup.
Brian: s what you do with it that can be difficult, and you got to find a way to Before we started
this interview, you mentioned something that I guess it was a 37-signals guys you said
if it s not worth remembering it s not that important. Clay: Yup. Brian: I kind of operate
that way. The stuff that sticks with me is what ends up being not only our products,
but additional features of our products. Clay: Yeah. Yeah, the brain is an amazing filter.
I find that when I give presentations, if there s a point that I have to memorize, I
m probably not going to deliver it that well Brian: Right. Clay: because you know, it hasn
t made it through the filter of my ADD, and so it s not going to come out Brian: In the
same way. Clay: in this pure incised chunks, you know. Brian: m glad someone else said
that. I just thought I was only weirdoed that way, you know, because I ve never been the
type who will just sit there and memorize something like a can. Oh, I would hate that,
you know. And there are You know, everyone from standup comediennes to probably the best
presenters are probably more rehearsed when they come across than in their That s why
they re brilliant, but I was like Seth Godin s approach, which is he puts a picture up
as a slide, usually kind of ambiguous, and that prompts him to tell us a story about
it, and that story has made it through, you know, his ADD, his filter. It s right for
telling. And that s his presentations. I love that. Clay: So let s talk about the evolution
of value. You know, there s something that I found sort of we You know, in the past,
we ve done a lot of, you know, just driving traffic to random offers on sort of nonpublic
pages that are kind of below the radar, and I ve kind of seen this evolution in what people
find valuable in terms of opt-in drives. So back in the day, it was sort of the free report,
and everyone kind of wanted that free report. And then videos at some point were getting
a higher opt-in rate than free reports, and then later after that, it kind of was like
this sort of random handwritten notes on napkins were doing better. So kind of like And video
started to suck because everyone was giving away videos, but then we tested giving away
a software bribe, actually giving away a pretty awesome WordPress plug-in, and nothing to
date has gotten an opt-in rate like that. In fact, it s getting linked to from forums
all over the internet. People are writing reviews of it. There isn t that typical oh,
this is an opt-in bribe and I m going to go on your list and be promoted to. What s your
take on that? Are you finding something similar? I mean there s definitely this progression
that I ve seen you guys make, investing more and more in software, and I ve just found
that sort of the, maybe not the quality of people, but the quality of thinking that happens
in the tech world around software seems to be a little bit more sophisticated than kind
of this sort of homegrown, you know, entrepreneur ripping out, you know, some sort of report
that no one cares about anymore. What s your take on that? Do people care about free reports
anymore? Brian: I think they do. I mean there are incredible marketing tools. You know,
the vast majority of the training we create is free because it educates people enough
to do business with us. In the software world, I love it because that means people are doing
something. I can t stand the idea of selling something so I make some money, but they never
do anything. They re just stuck. They go off and buy the next overhyped marketing package,
whatever. I mean there s a lot of money made from that space or at least there was. I don
t know. It s kind of backlash now, but to me, that s not interesting. I want to help
people do stuff. I mean beyond building a business and making money, that s what excites
me, and if I can t get people to take action, I d rather just not do anything. You know,
go do something else. Clay: Right. Brian: So that s what led me into software development
when I initially didn t think that was something I was capable of because it was actually the
audience having the reach, having someone saying hey, I want this, sell it to me, it
s a wonderful thing that you figure out a way to get it done, and likely, I ve had some
very talented partners, and now we have a development team that blows me away. We can
make anything. The question is what should we make? Clay: Right. Brian: But as far as
using software as the next level of ethical bribe I mean basically, all marketing is an
arms race, right? Everyone will outdo each other, and it s nothing worse than in our
space where we re competing against each other in some sense. You know, I like to think that
if you truly care about yourself you re not really competing against anyone, you know,
and that s the goal. But yeah, so you re having to offer more value, and of course, free software,
free apps, that s a really cool thing, and people don t think about it as opting in.
they re registering for software like Twitter or Facebook, right? Clay: Right. I mean Facebook
has Brian: Twitter and Facebook e-mail you all the time. Clay: Yeah, they do. Brian:
So people have been conditioned to sign up for web software or other things, and it s
a service, so therefore, I wouldn t think a plug-in standalone would work as well as
some sort of perhaps web-based service that s free. You have to register for it, and you
legitimately have to stay in contact with people, you know, related to that. Clay: Yup.
Brian: But we still do fairly well with just, you know, instead of putting it in a report
that someone can download and unsubscribe or whatever or give you a bias e-mail address
and grab it, we drip it out over time like our internet marketing for smart people course.
It comes out in 20 installments. Give us a bad e-mail address, you re not getting it.
I m sorry. And we respect our list, but that s where our best promotions go, you know,
when we re launching new version software and we re doing, you know, a small price,
right, then those people get that. So you got to reward them with the content that they
re getting it first then you have to reward them for being on the list itself. I think
that s what it comes down to. You said it. It s value, but how does that value work for
both sides in business and perspective customer? Clay: Yeah. You know, I think that, you know,
what I believe you re doing, and certainly, you know, what I hope we re doing is in some
respects, when you can provide the right software, you can make education obsolete. So rather
than putting out an entire course on SCO, you can for example, publish the word press
plug-in that automatically, you know, forces people to, you know, incorporate best practices
in SCO, and so the knowledge sort of behind it becomes irrelevant because the service
is taking care of that, or you know, with the WordPress theme, you can have it incorporate
all the best SCO practices, and as someone doesn t have to read a 50-page book necessarily
or it s going to save them, you know, from having to memorize a large portion of that
every time you go and write an article. Brian: Well one thing that we found with our Premise
software is that bundling the how-to seminar type education. It s not a recurring product
so there s no motive for us, you know, to keep people signed up or anything like that.
We really are just trying to get them better. But upfront at purchase time, we ve heard
time and time again like I would have paid just for the education, you know, but here
s the software that allows you to implement the education. So to me, that s very satisfying
and it s a hell of an offer as well. Clay: Right. Brian: I think what you re talking
about, and we ve been getting into much deeper. We re now geeking out about user experience
pretty heavily, which is how do you really smartly have the education right there in
the tool. We ve been working on that for the last 1-1/2 year or so. It s fascinating stuff,
but if you get it right, that experience goes through the roof. I mean you ve got a really
usable and valuable tool. Clay: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let s go back to kind of the differences
between selling software and selling information. You know, I d really love to hear your take
on this. It seems like in the information world, you ve got more launches where there
s scarcity. The cart closes. You ve got more people with squeeze pages on their front pages.
You ve got more sort of bonuses that are going away whereas in the software world, things
tend to be sold more on an evergreen basis. You ve got sort of the home pages of software
companies not making a huge push to get an e-mail address, and you know, it s just different
marketing. There s something at its core that is different about selling information than
selling software and time and time again, you know, with my clients, and you know, even
in I see this reflected in your business that more aggressive marketing is used doing selling
information than software. Why is that? Do you think information is inherently harder
to sell or do you think it s just a different style like what s your take on this? Brian:
Yeah, so no matter what you re selling, for us and this is what we ve been preaching for
6 years if you can establish an upfront relationship with content, people know you, they like you,
they trust you, they re going to be a little bit easier or more willing to give something
you offer a shot. On the flip side, you re probably making stuff that they want if you
ve been in tune with this very spe s not a broad market. It s a very specific group of
people that you re talking to over time Clay: Right. Brian: so that s number one. Number
two, with software, it goes back to what I just said, which is you have to be very smart
about creating something that people actually want, and then you just use copy to, you know,
lead with benefits, and then if they re okay with the benefits, then because that s why
they would want to buy it and why you create it in the first place, right? Clay: Yup. Brian:
and then they dig into the features to see how it actually implements those, and then
you buy, right? And then you do occasional bundles or temporary price or whatever when
you want to move the needle, but you re right, people show up and buy everyday without being
beat over the head. And again, with our model, I think the free content we deliver day in
and day out has earned us an incredible amount of goodwill, plus we re on our fourth, you
know, level of software product now, and we ve had people that have had a great experience
with StudioPress, great experience with Scribe, great experience with Premise, so now when
we launch a WordPress hosting division, people are like sign me up, you know. s not overnight
success. You earn it every step of the way, but it becomes very powerful down the line.
Now, information. You have to sell information with information without giving away the information.
That s not easy. Clay: Right. Brian: There s an art to those fascinating bullet points.
I mean that is classic direct response copywriting applied to selling information, and some of
the greatest, you know, financial newsletter, companies, boardroom, you know, with all the
reports, even up to the data analysts who are delivering rather drying information.
They still have to find a way to make it enticing, right? Clay: Yup. Brian: So it s not necessarily
harder because if you re delivering information that people actually won t need, you have
to communicate enough that it s on point, and you got to make a great offer. So the
essence is why do we have to use some form of long copy? I mean we try to make it look
like not long copy somehow whether it s the large sequence where you drip out, you know,
the sideway sales letter, whatever you want to call it. It takes a lot of copy to sell
information because you have to basically describe the information without giving it
away. And people are very skeptical about that. And again, with software and information,
strong risk reversal. You know, stand behind your product. Don t worry about the people
who are going to rip you off. They re a minority compared to the increase in sales, and this
is still true today that you re going to lose to pirates or whatever. And in both cases
And this is something that was kind of novel I think 5 years ago, but a lot of times with
software, we say we re actually selling support, right, you know. Clay: Well, with the GPLU,
you kind of are supply enough greats. Brian: Right. But I mean that s actually the benefit
people want the most. Clay: Right. Brian: I mean people don t realize that on the outside
sometimes. Same thing with information. I think there s got to be something more, and
back in the teaching sales days, and it s still a core component that you re really
selling access, not information, that s another key component. So in software, the way it
is with open source, you re selling support. Red Hat became a multibillion dollar company
doing that with Lenux. With information these days, with all the free information out there,
you re selling something more than that. Sometimes that s access to you or it s access also to
software that works with the information like we discussed earlier. So they re different
animals, and one requires more elaboration, and again, it depends on what kind of market
you have. Long direct response copy can be used in any niche, it just can t look like
the yellow highlighter stuff, you know. Clay: Yup. Brian: That works or has worked with
the business opportunity market, and people find it still works. That would never work
for us. Not only do we kind of preach against it, but people in the WordPress community,
oh, they would kill us. Clay: Yeah, totally. Brian: s the wrong approach, but the fundamentals
are the same. Clay: Do you think that has shifted over time? I mean I don t want to
name You know, I don t want to name this specific incident, but I remember back in the day,
you guys came in as a fairly like top level affiliate for a $2000 information product,
and then I saw you guys promoting that a little bit later, and it seemed like you promoted
as hard, but you didn t do as well. Do you think your audience at some point shifted
after you started selling WordPress themes and just sort of the way you go about things
changed, or do you think the whole world changed? What s your take on that? Brian: I think it
s a combination of things. I think we changed. You know, I was one of Jeff Walker s original
product launch formula customer. It was the very first time he released it, and it was
important to me. At that time, it only cost $1000. It was important to me because I looked
at it and I m like oh, I get all this. Clay: Right. Brian: That s important to me. That
was worth $1000. Clay: Totally. Brian: What I didn t have was that kind of tactical framework
of releasing it out over time. It s really a great content marketing, you know, approach,
instead of a 2-week launch to 2-year campaign or whatever. And then, I think Sonya bought
Mass Control and thought it was okay. It s worth $2000 just to remix you know, Dan and
Kennedy remixing Eugene Schwartz. That s up to you. But for some people, you know Anyway,
so eventually, we were just kind of like, you know what? Now that we re in the software
business, we just We can teach people this. We ve always thought that just give it away
for free that stuff, and your business model has to sell something related, and for us,
that become the tools. So I don t know if the audience shifted or we just kept giving
away so much of what was being offered, you know, at very high prices. Clay: Sure. Brian:
So I guess you d have to say that probably the audience shifted, but so did we, you know.
Clay: Yeah, yeah. Wow, this is a fascinating discussion. So one of the things I ve been
thinking about and I d really like to ask you about is well first, let s talk about
Seth Godin. By the way, when was the last time Seth Godin came out with The Purple Cow
product? What he would do The Domino Project Anyway, I know you re a big fan of him. I
think you are, but do you think information can be a purple cow? All the examples cited
in The Purple Cow are sort of like physical tangible things where we can readily comprehend
sort of the uniqueness of the product, but information is one of those things where maybe
your marketing can be remarkable or maybe the marketer, maybe someone like Frank Kern
can be a remarkable person, but the product itself, you know, unless it s a book called
Go The Fuck to Sleep or some sort of like rare pop-up novelty item Brian: Yeah. Clay:
information itself, you know, you don t get a shot at that information product until you
ve bought it, so do you think that s a challenge with information or do you disagree with what
I m saying altogether? Brian: No. I mean the essence of the purple cow is positioning,
and that s purely a marketing concept. You know, Seth uses the example in his next book
about the wineglasses that are marketed as making wine taste better, but they don t when
you do the correct double blind taste test kind of thing. It doesn t matter though. People
want to believe it, and therefore, their subjective experience is enhanced, and that company is
doing quite well. And Seth is very big about, you know, that everything is marketing. It
s baked into the product. Apple is the greatest, you know, example that brilliant marketing
company on the surface, but also by using design and other elements. They re baking
that desirability into it. They say apple products just sell themselves. That s not
true. A lot of incredibly smart people made it seem that way. But anyway, to get back
to your point. So And again, coming from a perspective where we ve been selling less
as far as training and using content more as marketing, right now, you ve got to have
fantastic positioning just to get people to pay attention to you for free, right? Clay:
Yeah. Just leave a comment on your blog, you know. Brian: Right, yeah. It s really tough
out there, and again, it goes back to that arms race, the value. Clay: Yeah. Brian: So
I think all information comes down to positioning. I mean look go to the bookstore or see what
the latest I mean not to pick on my social media guru friends, but you know all of them
are saying the same thing. They re each positioning themselves differently, right? Okay, that
s fine. I even did a post one time that showed how the original what was it? guy who invented
the term USP. You know his name. He s one of Rosser Reeves. Clay: Yup. Brian: Okay.
He wrote a book on advertising and introduced the USP. And then it moved forward, and then
you got Al Reese, and then doing positioning Clay: Jack Trout. Brian: Jack Trout, right,
positioning the Battle For Your Mind, then Seth Godin s Purple Cow, which is really a
positioning book, and then Made the Stick by the HeathBrothers. I showed the progression
I m like you know what they all have in common? They re all talking about the same thing,
but they re positioned differently. It was the most meta post ever Clay: Right. Brian:
but people were like oh, I never realized that. Clay: And the USP dude wasn t the first
guy because then you ve got like Eugene Schwartz, and then the guy before him, and like Brian:
Yeah. Well, he s the one who came up with the He came up with the buzz phrase for us.
Clay: Right. Brian: Sometimes, the first one with the buzz phrase gets all the credit.
Clay: Yeah. Brian: re right. Clay: Totally. So but I mean would you agree or disagree
that when you are selling a product that people can actually, on some level, manipulate and
interact with in a product that kind of does things like either software physical product
that you have sort of a wider array or maybe a broader palate of options for baking sort
of remarkability into that product or do you disagree with that? Brian: Yeah, no, I agree
with that. I mean so some of the stuff we re doing now, as far as really geeking out
about user experience with our software is that happiness literally goes up when the
functionality is the same, but the experience is better. Clay: Yeah. Brian: But isn t that
the same though as, you know, the same functional information in a very dry academic course
or something that s written with flair and fun and great analogies and whatnot? Clay:
Right. Brian: To me, copywriting is, you know, user interface design of the informational
world. Clay: s the same thing, yup. Brian: s how you re making people more engaged, the
information becomes more memorable. This is instructional design. It s interesting. I
forgot the name of the book, but it was really an epiphany for me the day where I learned
that at least in the adult education space where you can t force someone to sit down
in a chair and listen, it remains to be seen whether that s everything good for kids either,
but for adults, you know, they ve been applying copywriting techniques to the course materials
to keep people paying attention, and also awake, you know. Clay: And game mechanics
as well. Brian: The ramification is the same thing. It s exactly right. It s engagement.
Engagement is not just a word. It s like what do people get into? What fascinates them or
at least makes them want to keep going because teaching this people stuff in this day and
age is hard? ADD doesn t begin to describe what we re facing. Clay: I know, right. That
s awesome. That s awesome. So okay, this is really cool. So you know, I really like some
of these contrasts we re talking about, you know, information versus software, and things
like that. Let s take into this a little bit deeper because you kind of you took a turn.
It seems like a little bit with what you re doing with Entreproducers. So you ve got Copyblogger
where, you know, you don t have to opt in to see the content entrepreneur. Copyblogger
where it seems like when you post the videos or maybe you haven t really done that, but
you tend to use YouTube Entreproducer their unlisted Vimeo videos, and you even made a
comment that like, you know, YouTube was for suckers. You ve got this incredibly open environment
and you ve got a close environment. Is it that your opinion on how things should be
done has shifted or is it that it just sort of a different objective, and so you re doing
things differently because the outcome you re seeking is different? What s going on there?
Brian: Yeah. So really, Entreproducer, to begin with, is me writing a book and applying
this concept of agile content development to the writing of the book itself because
that s the story of how Copyblogger actually evolved, grew and learned what people actually
want to buy. So I m writing the book the same way, and it s funny. I only wanted There s
no RSS feed. You have to sign up with e-mail. I just really only wanted people who were
serious, you know, because I m going to be depending on their feedback, and I ve gotten
so much thoughtful, you know, comments. We re getting more comments. Less exposure, but
more comments because they know this is the deal. Clay: Yup. Brian: re seeing things before
anyone else does, but you re helping me adapt it, tweak it, reorder it, all this kind of
stuff. So 3 weeks in on Entreproducer, the whole focus of the book changed just from
the feedback that I got. Clay: So what was that change? What was that shift that took
place? Brian: You know, it s weird because I ve been living with this now for 6 weeks
or more and developing content, but I just had a general outline of what I thought the
book was going to cover, and looking at it, I was like this is not remarkable at all,
you know, that kind of thing, but it s some place to start, and then I don t know. It
just hit me. I can t point to like one comment or whatever. It was just one of those things.
And so then I ve continued on that course, and it s really proving itself to be the better
way to go. And it actually is more lean startupish than I had anticipated, but we were applying
lean principles to content development in 2006 forward and then 2007, starting with
products. It was my partner, Tony Clark, who introduced me to agile and lean and all that.
I just thought it sounded like a sensible thing to do. Clay: They re like I m boot strap.
This fucking makes sense, you know. Brian: It does, exactly. If you don t have money
to burn then who does? But to answer your question, Entreproducer, the site, after the
book will be actually very open and very different than it is right now. It will be much more
broader. It will look more like Copyblogger, but it will be a focus on a different type
of online activity. Clay: You know, it seems that, you know, what you re doing with Entreproducers
more lean start up than the lean start up. Sort of where I think Eric Reese kind of assumes
ventured capital, and a lot of resources that most people don t have I don t think most
people have the resources to quickly put out a software product or any product at all,
and respond to user feedback for 4 months until they get it right? I think most businesses
are out of business at that point, and I think that most people don t even have the traffic
within the first 4 months to be able to run a statistically significant AB test in the
first place. So you know, I like that you re starting out talking a minimum viable audience
because, you know, without that, there isn t much else, and so I like what you re doing
there. Brian: Well you got to realize that Eric is, you know, speaking from his experience
and a real startup, right, based on the principles of his mentor Steve blank. So I don t really
fault that at all, and I wrote an article over at Forbes. We re kind of riffing on another
article about how, you know, the Beastie Boys did this early pivot from punk band to rap,
and the fast company article that I was riffing on didn t really focus on the fact that it
was the audience that made all the difference with that pivot, and Eric actually re-tweeted
that because I think he understands that you have to have real live people to begin real
live buyers and that can be the tricky part. So to me, audience development is my VC. Clay:
Right. Brian: s more valuable than taking VC, and no one gets a part of my company,
right? I mean to me, it makes way more sense and it s the story of Copyblogger so it s
my experience. I m just trying to give a different perspective on it because there will always
be people running off to go get investment money. Clay: Right. And Brian: I think bootstrapping
is way better, at least until the point when you really know, okay, we re not going to
be like go for it or we re not going to be compete effectively without a little bit of
money. Clay: Right. Brian: But at least you know then. You re not just walking up to someone,
you know, a shark in a suit whose basically job is to make a lot of bets on a lot of companies
and how one or two of them hits. That s not the most nurturing environment, but you know,
I know some VCs are better than others so take it with a grain of salt. Clay: Right.
Well, you know, I m not knocking Eric. I think that he wrote that, like you said based on
experience, and he s speaking to, you know, what is his minimum viable, you know, audience.
Well, it s really silk and valley entrepreneurs and that s a very different reality than most
bootstrapped people, and that book absolutely changed my life, so you know, the principles
there are solid, but I guess I was just sort of speaking to how applicable, you know, I
think your message is . . . Brian: Yeah, even That was the whole minimum viable audience.
I mean you don t have to have a huge audience, you know. You got to have the equivalent of,
you know, the Beastie Boys and their punk ace. They had a small m sure rally audience,
and when they would do their rap songs, everyone went crazy. Clay: And they were like let s
scale this. Brian: Exactly. It s the same concept. I mean, you know, I m kind of famous
for using pop culture analogies, but they re more valid than I think some people realize
because we re all kind of playing the same game when it comes to figuring out what it
is that people actually want. Clay: Yup, yup. Yeah, you know, I m big on the bootstrapper
thing as well. I think that if you can make it, you know, as a bootstrapper, certainly,
you know, being profitable right out the gate, you know, doing that when it comes time if
you ever actually do want to raise ventured capital, it s going to be pretty easy, and
you re going to get much, much cheaper money Brian: Yeah. Clay: as long as you have your
IP lockdown and your legal shit in place, but I mean you guys could probably go for
a pretty significant round if you wanted to, not that you guys don t want to. Brian: Oh,
we got people trying to give us money. It s funny when they come to you, and they are
like come on, take some money, you know. And it s not completely inconceivable, but I m
still holding out. I have I think we got some more legs under us without taking any money,
you know, so Clay: Yeah, awesome. Brian: ll see. Clay: Awesome. Let You know what, I want
to be respectful of your time here. Maybe we ll go for about 5 more minutes if you re
cool with that. Brian: Sure. Clay: Okay. So you know, I would love to hear your thoughts
on You know, you mentioned it before, so I d just like to bring it up in this interview
since this is the 7-Figure, you know, and sometimes, we have 8, 9-figure people on here.
At least we hope to in the future. You mentioned what your revenue was. Could you share that?
I know you mentioned that in the past publicly. Brian: Yeah, so we did $5 million in revenue
last year. Clay: Awesome. Brian: We have You know, we sell digital download software primarily
so Clay: Margins are good. Brian: the profit margins are nice. We re almost halfway through
this year, and you know, we I think we re on pace for a 40% increase so far Clay: Damn.
Brian: which is a good sign because our big push is for the new version of scribe, which
just went in to beta. It s a whole new reinvented product. We poured a lot of money and time
into it over the last year, and basically, coming on the heels of panda and penguin,
we look like we re geniuses, but it s really it was just where we wanted to take the product
as a piece of content marketing software, but Google catching up with, you know, basically
the tactics they don t believe in is really good timing. So anyway, there s going to be
a huge push in the second half of the year, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes
up for this year, but I m really looking forward to 2013 at this point as far as, you know,
taking that next big leap, certainly in the 8 figures. It s just, you know, how many,
how deep in the 8 figures can we get is I guess the question. Clay: Yeah. Have you You
know, this is a question I ve always wanted to ask you. You could start an incredible
ventured capital like fund. You ve got an audience that if you back someone, you could
give exposure to. You definitely Like what is Y Combinator giving away like 10 grand
for 7%? I think you guys coming up with, you know, 15, 20 grand to back 3 to 4 companies
per year wouldn t be a difficult idea, but you could provide something that no other
ventured capitalist firm, or you know, small seed fund could provide, and that is, you
know, access to an audience for that very first launch to kick them off, and that s
worth so much more than any amount of money. Have you ever thought about kind of going
down that road? Brian: What do you think Entreproducer s for? Actually, there s lots of things I
can do with Entreproducer and I m really I mean I m passionate mainly about content and
entrepreneurism. You know, marketing is just part of it, and yet, that s what I m most
well known for, but yeah, you know. I mean I want to be able to highlight people that
are doing great content, kind of focus startups and independent media if you will, but yeah,
the opportunities to actually help as I think of it more as a production company than a
venture capital company because really, you don t need a lot of money. Clay: Right. Brian:
I mean Y Combinator is a great example of that. So you throw in 20, 30 grand, but what
you re really doing is introduction to the audience, introduction to key people in the
industry. Clay: Right. Brian: Just getting it off the ground, right? Clay: Yeah. Brian:
And that is ve made 5 people millionaires from doing that just for Copyblogger, so Clay:
You know, it s awesome. Brian: I think there s a good story to go there forward if we chose
to go that way. And I think honestly, no matter what happens, you know, whether we sell the
company or whatever, that s the kind of role I d like to be in, you know. Find the smart
young people with the great ideas, and you know, just be that old guy in the corner.
It s like oh, you got to do this. Come on now. Clay: Yeah. I mean I m sure you taking
an 8% stake in a company in exchange for advice and access to your audience is not something
that s inconceivable by any stretch. Brian: Again, the audience gets all the credit. I
was just I guess smart enough to focus on that s the first thing that you build. Clay:
Yup, that s awesome. Cool. Well, you know, you re a huge influence on me. I really appreciate
you taking the time to do this for my audience. This is the second time we did this interview.
The first time, I completely screwed up, and wasted an hour of Brian s time, so he was
very gracious to do this with me again a second time. So Brian, thank you so much. I absolutely
want to respect your time. Thanks for kind of evolving the online business model for
people like myself who, you know, did not conceive of a lot of the things, you know,
that you ve been doing years ago, and so it s been great to have you kind of pave way
in a number of regards. So thank you for the amazing work that you re doing. Thank you
for being here today. Thank you for so generously sharing your time, and maybe we ll talk again.
Brian: Yeah, Inc. All Rights Reserved PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT ph333 ph333 phZZZ [Content_Types].xml
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#30 Normal.dotm James Lepine Microsoft Macintosh Word Grizli777 Marketing Show Episode #30
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