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Inverted Unicorns: How to Think Outside the Box for Unexpected Facebook Ads Success

It's no secret - Facebook ads are getting more expensive and the market for them more competitive. Luckily, there's another way. Forget the usual Facebook ads playbook - targeting people who are obviously relevant to your ads - and start getting creative. Join Larry Kim, Founder & VP of marketing at MobileMonkey, on this podcast to learn all the unorthodox tips and tricks he's personally leveraged - or witnessed firsthand - for finding Facebook ad success in the most unlikely places.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?

Larry Kim: Hey Adam, thanks for having me today. Today I want to talk a little bit about Facebook ad costs and how to drive them down, using some weird tricks. Let’s face it, Facebook isn’t cheap, audiences used to cost a dollar CPMs like five years ago or closer to a hundred, $150 these days. So if you’re doing Facebook ads kind of the normal way, I think that it’s going to be very expensive and probably you’re losing a lot of money on that. So I’d love to share with you some weird growth hacks, ideas to kind of get more out of your ads by just employing clever ideas.

AO: We get the problem, we hear it all the time. Could you tell us some of the impacts? How would you quickly summarize a strategy that you have, that’s going to help us get around this?  

Larry Kim: Let’s see here, in Facebook ads, I think there’s sort of this playbook where you sort of target the people who you think the ad is relevant to. But I wanted to explore a different angle, which is targeting people that are who have no relationship, where you’re targeting interests that don’t necessarily correlate to your target buyer or it doesn’t really, really make sense, but let me explain you a little bit. So you’re going to have to use your imagination a little bit. A friend of mine showed me this ad and the ad was to buy a t-shirt. Okay. And the t-shirt said, “Life took me to England, but I’ll always be an Arizona girl at heart”.

So this girl, friend of mine, she’s living in London and she was born and raised in Arizona, but that was like 20 years ago. OK. And somehow, some clever advertiser is targeting her in London with this ad that says “life took me to England, but I’ll always be an Arizona girl at heart”. And she’s like, WTF is my phone listening to me? How do they know this? And so that’s an example of what I call inverted unicorn ad targeting. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this, it’s just a made-up word that I’ve termed.  

But in a nutshell, it’s a recipe that you can copy to create really, really crazy ads that you know, where people are like do a double-take and they’re like, how do they know about that? And it’s actually really simple, Adam. If you break it down. The first thing that ad is doing is it’s targeting people who live in the UK, who are women because it has to have like the image, it had a woman’s shirt on. There’s a demographic that you can overlay. It’s called recently moved. So women who live in the UK who’ve recently moved, but the question is, how do they know that my friend was originally from Arizona? Cause that’s kind of the punchline there, like “life took me to England, but I’ll be an Arizona girl at heart”. How do they know that? Basically, it’s very clever, they’re targeting unrelated interests.

So what I mean by this is they’re targeting people who live in England, who recently moved and who like a local business or club or organization that’s located in Arizona. So it could be a high school, it could be a sporting team. It could be a bar but like the combination of those three kinds. If your audience meets those three criteria, it’s not a bad bet to guess that that person originated from Arizona. Why? Because why else would they like some random school or bar or sporting team, like way out, so far away from the UK. Do you see what I’m saying, Adam?  

So this is kind of goes against conventional advertising theory. So conventional advertising theory says, well, you’re supposed to go after related audiences. There’s a suggestion bar in Facebook ads where it says “type your interest”. And you could type in people who like marketing. And then it’ll say suggest more interests. Like people who do email marketing or people who like HubSpot or people who like SEO, you see what I’m saying? But these are all related interests. Like they’re kind of a subset of each other. Or, at least they’re sort of concentric circles. In terms of the Venn diagram, what I’m suggesting is that there’s a new way, there’s a possibility of coming up with ad targeting where you target unrelated interests. There is no correlation between people who recently moved and live in London, but who originated from Arizona.

They like a certain high school in Arizona, there’s no higher propensity for that person to be from Arizona than it is from Massachusetts than it is for Canada. Do you follow me here?  

So what this targeting method does it does two things. The first thing it’s doing is making an educated guess by thinking if these two things, these three things apply I think I can spin a narrative of your life. The second thing that it’s doing is it’s making something, it’s creating goosebumps. Like people are commenting on this ad. They’re saying, “WTF,  is my phone listening to me?” How many Arizonians are actually live in the UK? Why am I seeing this? It’s just, it’s just crazy.

So when you make these guesses about someone’s demographics or interests or behaviors, based on what a plausible scenario targeting certain areas and kind of extrapolating some kind of a hypothesis about their identity and then that you’re usually right. Those tend to get very, very high engagement rates, like people commenting, liking, sharing, clicking, and then, of course, the way the Facebook algorithm works is higher engagement rates that means more impression share. That means more the ad server will be more likely to serve it at a lower, effective cost per engagement because you’re generating so much engagement from the impressions that you’re you’re accruing.

AO: One quick question that I have is just the size. It sounds like in this example, the limit, it’s like a super limited size. Is that been a problem for you now?

Larry Kim: So what you would do is you would roll this out, in a thousand campaigns, as “Life took me to Canada, but I’ll always be an Oregon girl at heart” or “an Oregon guy at heart”. It’s just an exercise in cloning, a gazillion campaigns with ultra-high engagement rates. Do you see what I’m saying here? 

AO: I did it, I mean, this is it’s brilliant and it makes so much sense. Could you help us with even more examples potentially around B2B buyers? Because I know I can think of examples in my head, but I’m curious if you can help us, like sure, sure, sure, sure, sure.

Larry Kim: Look, I use this in my marketing all the time. My company MobileMonkey, we’re a Facebook, we’re the world’s leading Facebook messenger marketing platform as well as SMS and SMS and webchat. But like a lot of B2B companies, we’re trying to get our name out there. And so we do a lot of content marketing like just blogging. And one of the things I wrote like a year and a half, two years ago. This was during the election, just after the 2016 presidential election in the US. It was just an article on fake news and how easy it is to spread fake news on Facebook. I thought that was a relevant topic because we do Facebook, our core audience is Facebook marketers. I just thought that was an interesting topic to write about.

And so we just wrote about it a story, how I just create a fake website called, “Citizens news” or something like this. And then I created a fake news article on that fake website. And then I created a fake Facebook page and posted the fake articles to my Facebook page. And then I just ran an experiment and showed how Facebook makes it very simple to like, boost posts, and then generate an insane amount of clicks and views and comments and likes and all this stuff. So that was sort of research. And then I wrote it up as a case study. So the blog post was written, “Here’s how you create fake news on Facebook and in four easy steps in 10 minutes or less”.

So that was the article that I wanted to create as kind of a PR stunt for link building and trying to get attention to your business. You see everything. So this is kind of a B2B brand building kind of thing. And so now I have this really great article that kind of goes through the step by step approach to spreading fake news. And I think that it’s going to be interesting to a wider audience of people. Now, I just need to promote the article. I need people to read the article so that they start sharing it and stuff like this. And the problem is I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this stuff, I’m cheap. So I limited the promotion budget to 50 bucks.

But we generate tens of hundreds of thousands of views for the article. So the question is, how did I do it? And the answer is I did it with Facebook ads, and I did it using the same inverted unicorn ad targeting method that I just described to you a minute ago.  

Adam, I had a hunch that this article would be more interesting to liberals. Because they were upset about the election, rightly so. And like, they thought they were going to win it and this unexpected thing happened. And naturally, people want to point the finger at somebody “Oh, see, it’s Facebook’s fault”. You know, like this is all because of Facebook’s and the Russians, and they’re doing all this nasty stuff on Facebook, and that’s why this happened, you know?

Like they want to sort of explain things. Does that make sense? 

All right, I’m going to target this ad for my blog story on my blog. I’m going to target it to liberals. All right. Like people who donate liberal causes, people who vote democratic, these are all targeting options in Facebook ads. The problem with that approach was that there were 55 million of these liberals. It tells you in the audience estimator how many people you’re targeting here. All right. And I was like, well, wait a minute, like 55 million people in this audience. And I only want to spend 50 bucks on this, on this PR stunt.

So that’s kind of what I describe as a sort of like your audience size is not commensurate with the amount of money you have to spend. If you’re even close, if you’re only spending 50 bucks, then you have no business targeting such an enormous audience. You’d be better off whittling it down from 50 million to 50,000 or 5,000, even. So that’s where the inverted unicorn comes into play. So I need some way to slice and dice these 50 million people. And conventional advertising says, well, why don’t you get the really, really, really like liberal people, like people who, what’s a liberal publication? Like people who also like MSNBC or something. 

You can find even more liberal people who are more likely to eat this stuff up. And I was like, no, let’s try a different strategy. Let’s try an inverted unicorn strategy where we target something that’s completely unrelated. So in this case, and this is kind of ridiculous. I targeted people who like a television series called “Star Trek. Deep Space Nine”. It’s like a very modestly popular show, like 20 years ago in the nineties. The Star Trek genre.  And there was this one episode where there was some kind of a Romulan Senator who, his name was Senator Vreenak.

And the whole point of that art or that episode was basically like fake news was, about fake news kind of using, how fake news was used in the 24th century to get these, the species into a war. So this is like a real niche, who the heck is going to know? Only a very, very small number of people. This is so niched. So I went after liberals, who also liked the steepest deep space, nine fan page, and it cuts it down to the audience to like 100,000 people. And basically in the ad copy, in the image, I used an image of that Romulans Senator Vreenak where he’s saying “this is fake”.  

It’s like a meme. But it’s a very, very obscure, it’s an obscure meme. I don’t expect anyone here listening today to understand that need, because it’s just such an obscure show, but that’s okay. Because I only have $50 to spend. And I don’t need all 50 million of my audience to recognize this. If it’s even just five or 10,000 or a hundred thousand, I’m fine with that. You see what I’m saying? Cause I’m only spent 50 bucks. So I combined this kind of imagery of an obscure, Romulan Senator saying “this is fake”. And then using that as the hero image for this article on fake news in, on Facebook for the 2016 election.

And that was my experiment, going after unrelated interests rather than correlated interests. That’s the inverter unicorn ad targeting method. And basically the thing went bananas. So within minutes of posting this thing, it generated, hundreds of thousands of impressions and tens of thousands of clicks to the website. And you can even see like the Facebook posts, it’s, there’s thousands of comments and likes and shares and I know that it worked because people usually don’t drop comments on ads. But there was hundreds of comments in the ad saying like, “ha ha ha. I love that episode”. Someone even incredulously, wrote a comment to the ad saying, “I don’t get it, how so many people in the world even know what this obscure reference means?”.  

But yeah, he’s opining in the comments saying ”how is this possible? Like, the person is so happy to be on the inside of that inside joke. But what he didn’t realize was the only reason why he’s seeing this ad is because I have had a hunch that based on the fact that you liked such an obscure fan page, that you, you would be in on this joke. 

AO: So good. And the fact that we know that he’s potentially liberal in that, in the way that Facebook categorizes it. So you put those together and it’s just like an explosion of, like, I can’t believe that someone gets it.  

Larry Kim: This is an article that I’m interested. And it’s a cultural reference that I actually understand. And look, you just have to think a little outside of the box here. You asked for a B2B example and every B2B company is doing content marketing. And every B2B company has a small budget for content promotion. this is an example where a little bit of creativity, targeting unrelated interests and then reflecting that back in the ad copy. So that it’s not just one interest that is drawing the viewer of your ad to engage with your content, but multiple interests simultaneously. So love of “Star Trek. Deep Space Nine Plus” a love of like political content. Those are unrelated. That it just opens up kind of new opportunities to engage with users in a much more effective way, than what every other freaking advertiser in the world is doing, which is targeting you based on your more obvious interests you’re following.

AO: I, man, this is so good. And I, like, I know that we can directly apply this just as growth marketers here immediately. So I thank you so much, Larry, for going through this example. And I love the humor in it. I think that’s a piece that we can’t miss and just the creativity and like, you just, you did a great job connecting something that, that you knew that that audience would find funny. And like, it sounds like you nailed that. And that’s something we can’t overlook that I know that’s probably the hardest part here. You didn’t pick, you pick the right thing to show them, but you did, but yeah, you nailed it. And I can’t believe that you spent $50 on that and got that kind of impression.

Larry Kim: So there was one other crazy thing that I did with Facebook that had a really amazing impact. It was kind of inspired by the Russians. The Russians weren’t just trying to promote content that was very one-sided to people who have held those biases. Like they were trying to create a fight. They were trying to create a food fight. The meaning is they would create content and then they would promote that content to the people like the vis of content, on the vis of social issues, they would then promote that content to people who held very strong views that were both for, but the genius part was both for and against that point of view. So what they, they kind of correctly inferred was that these Facebook algorithms, they really, really weight comments and comment replies, in terms of the weighting of their, ad and newsfeed algorithms.

So if you’re, this is going back to this point, if you’re just targeting the people who are interested in something. Then the comments which are so valuable, they have nowhere to go. They’ll just be like, I agree or great posts, but the stuff that the newsfeed algorithm likes to show to the surface is where there’s like lengthy, comments and comment replies. And comments, uploading, or downloading, like thumbs up or thumbs down of those comments.

Another experiment that we ran was just trying to promote content to both people who would eat this stuff up, but also people who would have an allergic reaction to that content. I did this with an article called, “Harvard study shows that working mothers, generate, oh sorry, raise more successful daughters”.

So “Working moms raise more successful daughters“. So that’s an incredibly divisive study because, first of all, stay at home moms hate that. Because they’re working moms too. They just happen to not be working in a conventional office setting. They might have it harder, and of course, you have the working mothers too, who will have mommy guilt. So they feel bad for having a nanny raise their children. And so they want to clean, they want to validate their life choices. So they see this article saying like, Oh, Harvard study shows that working moms, raise more successful children. So they’re going to engage with this. They’re going to write long comments.

Like, “this is why I work so hard, it’s to provide a great example to my daughter”, we targeted this, this piece of content to people there’s people who are female, but have CEO titles or managing director titles, really high powered women, parents. Everyone has children and home. So that’s kind of the people who are gonna eat this up and want to support and share this thing, like crazy. Right? Cause they want to validate their worldview. And then simultaneously we were spending 50 bucks to promote the content to the opposite. There are all sorts of targeting things like a stay at home mommy. There’s one Mommy CEO group worked for, for stay at home moms, just targeting the opposite, people who are not employed in a workplace, but have children and are raising their young children. And we just put 50 bucks to each group, then the sparks just flew, there were 64,000, reactions on that one post. Well, it’s because the magic is the comment replies and then the common engagement. So I just wanted to share that.

AO: It’s amazing. I mean, it just makes me think, man, it’s just, so it’s so creative, like you’re in touch with, with your audience.

This is what the Russians used. Like literally, they just wanted to create a food fight. Now, in terms of your own marketing, I’m not suggesting you start a food fight, but, there are definitely ways to spur legitimate discussion. Like if you’re promoting the keto diet, there’s going to be people who want, I don’t know, the paleo diet or something, so you can target others, people who have different strong views on something else. And a little bit of civil discourse, I think, goes a long way for these algorithms. So you just need to sort of think beyond this idea of targeting kind of the people who are likely to be interested in the ad. In the first example with the inverted unicorn, I was suggesting targeting unrelated uncorrelated interests in order to create a more, kind of captivating ad experience. And in the second example, I was suggesting targeting people with the opposing view in order to generate comments. And if you combine those two together, I think that’s a very effective way of using Facebook ads that still works in 2020.

AO: Larry, I’m excited. We got to try stuff like this in terms of just the two principals you said, and I cannot believe the low amount of money you spent. I mean, I just like it when I’m here 50 bucks, I’m like, Oh man, that’s not going to go far in, like, this is incredible. I wonder the equivalent, to get the equivalent traffic that you generated, how much money you had, would had to have spent in a traditional way of viewing ads. Yeah. Yeah. That’s like, you can’t, you can’t do it that way anymore because the costs are just too high. So you gotta get creative it, man, this is incredible. Our audience is gonna love this. Thank you so much, Larry. that’s all I got, man. We’d get, we got to have you on the show again and maybe a year or so when, as you continue with these really cool experiments,

That’s it. Another great episode The One Growth Show the official podcast of Growth Marketing Conference to learn more about upcoming events visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate if you give us a 5-star rating, it’s super easy, just click the last star on iTunes and also share this episode on social media after all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

How To Turn LinkedIn Into A Personalized Growth Machine.

Melinda Byerley, Founding Partner of Timeshare CMO, explains how she finally cracked the code on LinkedIn. No, it was not some hack, she went back to the basics with a single post offering 4 hours of her time to anyone that met her target criteria. She said a high percentage of these calls turned into deals, but it wasn't about that. It was about serving people and learning from their challenges.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Episode Summary Introduction:

MB: Till one day it occurred to me that what people really wanted was to spend time talking with me. And so I basically put out an offer to speak with people who are in our demographic. I laid that out very precisely and then I said “this is why I’m willing to give free time to talk to and to solve certain problems with” and for the first time I really started to see LinkedIn generate results.

Adam O’Donnell: Boom, welcome to The One Growth Show brought to you by Growth Marketing Conference. We are the only podcast in the world that breaks down a growth experiment or delivers an actionable growth strategy.
No fluff no nonsense so you can get back to your day and start making a real difference to your bottom line.

We’re your hosts. I’m Jorge Soto.

I’m Adam O’Donnell, here we go.

AO: Melinda explains how she finally cracked the code on LinkedIn. No, it’s not some hack. She went back to the basics with personalization. She created a single post that offered four hours of her time to anyone that met the target criteria. She said “a high percentage of these calls turned it into deals”, but it wasn’t about that. It was about trying to serve the people that she loved serving and learning from their challenges.

Here’s Melinda Byerley, a founding partner of Timeshare CMO.

MD: Well, I think there’re a lot of misconceptions about growth tactics that they have to be scalable, they have to be fast, they have to be impersonal and really the most recent growth tactic that I’ve used is to actually be very personal with people. So as I thought about who our customers were at Timeshare CMO, they were senior-level marketers and many of them are used to being approached by people all the time all day every day in their LinkedIn invites and I tried the advice that was given to me by many different sources on the internet until one day it occurred to me that what people really wanted was to spend time talking with me.

And so I basically put out an offer to speak with people who are in our demographic. I laid that out very precisely and then I said “this is why I’m willing to give free time to talk to and to solve certain problems with”, and for the first time I really started to see LinkedIn generate results.

So, what’s the takeaway here?

I mean, we’ll talk about some of them but it’s really about being human. I think this is going to be the counter-intuitive narrative, which is really getting clear about who your target audience is and making sure that what you’re offering is uniquely tailored to them.

AO: Oh my gosh, this is going to be fun to talk about because we use LinkedIn all the time. So you’re saying what you basically did was an initial post. Or you had to change your title on LinkedIn? What was the initial thing that you said: “these are the people that I’m trying to talk to”? Could you dive into that?

MB: Well, I was reading Seth Godin’s book “This is Marketing”, which I think is probably the most important book on marketing written in recent memory. It is a slim little knob,

A slim little book, just like most of what Seth writes, but it’s just it’s pure distilled wisdom delivered like mainlining and I kept stopping and making notes. And one of the things he talks so precisely about is when you segment your audience, we spend a lot of time talking about where do they live and how much money do they make, and are they men or the women, and how big is their company. And instead of talking about who they are, what they believe in, who is like them, and why they are like us, and why we seek to serve them and literally in the middle of reading that book I was inspired. And so I logged in to LinkedIn at that moment and I made a post with this offer and it blew my mind like how it was the first time that any tactic I had really tried on LinkedIn seemed to have tangible sort of results.

AO: I love it. Can you tell us the actual post that you wrote or something as close as you can get?

MB: Well you have to know, this is the beauty of it Seth says “if you tell people your tactics they can copy your tactics. If you tell people your strategy they can’t copy your strategy because very few people are willing to put in the time and effort to think through what their audience wants and who they are”. So I could say well I’m not going to tell you that because if I tell you that you’re all going to try and do it. But the fact is that you can’t all do what I did because your customers are not the same as my customers.

So here is the insight for me. Was that my customer from Timeshare CMO is not even a CMO. Every CMO is not my customer. My customer is a particular type of CMO. They have certain things in common. They have certain things that they believe, they have certain ways that they work and act and think and so with that in mind the post that I offered was “four hours of my time to anyone who was new in a CMO role to talk about how to be more successful and how to keep their job.”

And I offered that to only two people in my network or people who were referred by my network. So you couldn’t just call me up on the phone and get this offer or you had to be someone who was known to me directly or known by somebody who knew me.

And it worked gangbusters. I positioned it as a gift. It was like it is a gift because I don’t do this, I don’t give away my time, I’m very protective of my time.

And so it was hey, you know, you’re doing a favor for a friend of yours because they’re getting four hours of free coaching essentially free support with no strings attached.

No sales process. No hassle. Just four hours of time with me to talk about how to keep their job and how to be successful in the role that they’re in and that worked.  

You know people who wanted to refer to their friends. I had people in my network call me. I had people who heard about the offer and begged to be spoken with. Even though they weren’t in my network and I made an exception in a couple of cases because it made sense.

AO: This is so cool. I mean it’s so basic but it’s so insightful at the same time. I’m just already thinking about how we can apply this and just what we’re doing as well. Help me with those actual calls. You obviously weren’t doing a four-hour time thing. This may be like, hey, let’s have an hour a week at least…  

MB: Yes, and this doesn’t work for everybody because not everybody out there has 20 years of marketing experience in Silicon Valley to make the first hour with the top CMO value-added.

The point of this tactic is not that everybody listens to this should go out and do this. Because chances are unless you have had 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley or whatever you’re doing, if CMOs are your target it will ring hollow, it will ring fake.

That’s why I’m able to talk about it or not be possessive about it because you can’t get away with this unless you can deliver. If you get on that phone call with that CMO and you’re not delivering value in that hour you won’t get another phone call or another one.

So the point of all of this, of the growth tactic, is to slow down for a moment and really think about who your customer is and what do they have in common with each other? Not just their demographics, but their what we call psychographics.

It affects their beliefs, their attitudes, what they’re afraid of, what they need, what they want, and how you can be useful to them at that moment. It’s a point of service. It’s really thinking about how to serve your customer well.  

So the tactic may not work for everybody and that’s not the point. The point is the strategy which is really getting at who you seek to serve and trying to make your offer combined with that.

AO: I love it. Yeah. This helps us kind of paint the picture for our listeners. They are trying to ask themselves this question, wow this worked for Melinda. But how do I apply this to what I’m doing? Because I’m not as well known or maybe my company is. But how can I take this same method?

So do you want to talk about creative things that you’ve seen that could be similar? I mean obviously rooted in like I want to serve my customers if you don’t want to serve them then you probably shouldn’t be in that business.

MB: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And that’s where the creativity comes into play. So one of the things that has really sort of concerned me in the sort of growth marketing movement is the sort of like repetition of tactics and that’s what makes them feel like spam.

That’s what makes them feel impersonal because they are impersonal. And you have to be willing to say who is not my customer. So who is not your customer who is not the person you’re seeking to serve and to take a risk with who you seek to serve and be only towards them.

Every time I put out something like we serve some very high-end clients like DVD Netflix, GitHub, Stack Overflow, like if I just put that out there that wasn’t enough because there are lots of great agencies out there that serve top brands.

But the people that want to hire Timeshare CMO, look at the world a little bit differently.

It’s not everybody. Everybody is not your customer and that’s going to feel strange to anybody who’s all about scalable growth tactics. But the first step in this strategy is to accept that not everybody is your customer and to be very clear about who is not your customer so that you can really drill in and talk to the people who are. One way you can do that, for example, is to create a matrix. A 2 by 2 matrix where you plot two attributes, again, this comes straight out of Seth Godin’s book. It’s two attributes that you were thinking you said, it could be your price. It could be your service. It could be all kinds of things with certain features. It could be anything. But figuring out where you are and where you want to be.

You can’t just go out and copy what I wrote on LinkedIn, because, first of all, my customers may not be your customers, there are CMOs that I serve that you may not want to serve and vice versa.

And so go after the customers, see what your customers have now, what do they have in common. It is not just like their companies so many agencies focus on industry. We serve companies in many different Industries because we serve people and people. Look for the commonalities.

AO: I got it. When I ask these questions I know that it’s just a weekend-long to get a categorical answer here. But what was the conversion of the people that you talk to that became business down the road?

MB: Well, it’s another thing, my customers take a long time. This is a relationship business.

So my conversion rate is irrelevant really because it’s been successful for my business and that’s my point.

So I can’t say to anybody that if you go do this your conversion rates are going to be X. I can tell you that it blew me away that a wild idea that I got after reading a book, posting it on LinkedIn at 10 o’clock at night yielded, you know, probably half a dozen or a dozen phone calls with people within 24 hours.

That was unheard of for me up until that point.

I really felt like I hadn’t understood LinkedIn and even though I was very successful on Twitter and I’d gotten a lot of business off Twitter. I hadn’t figured out LinkedIn yet. And this one worked for me. It may not work for everybody but I do think the takeaway is the power of Seth Godin’s book, which is really understood and finally figured out who I served and why I served them and then the people who wanted to be served in that way. They found me.

AO: That is so good. Yeah, could you share some of the learnings that you did learn from those calls that you had?

MB: Well, I mean, I do think that you know, again it reaffirmed there were some calls where it became very obvious after a couple of hours that this person was probably not going to be a client from for us, but that’s okay because they might refer someone else to us, or they might call us when they are at the next job. 

Second of all, I learned about other Industries. So some came out of industries that we had no experience with so that was interesting I could learn about what was going on in a particular field and some became clients quickly, some very quickly converted into clients, some are still in discussion some are you know taking their time and sometimes it’s obvious there’s a perfect fit.

There are some commonalities with dating in the work, I would say one of my biggest learnings is that the thing I spent my whole life learning to be an expert at which was scalable marketing was exactly the opposite of what my company needed at this time.

AO: Wow, that is really interesting.  

MB: So you have to be willing to say, you know, once you have this tool that not, you know if you have a hammer everything starts to look like a nail and you’ve got to be careful about that marketing is service business to top CMOs, consumer packaged goods, B2B, Financial Services like that is not something you do in a scalable way. It is a relationship and it is a completely different approach.

It took me longer than it should have to learn that but the faster you can really grab onto that the faster you’ll be successful 

AO: So good. So, I mean, let’s just say that this is the right approach for someone like in terms of this LinkedIn Outreach just sincerely saying hey, I really just want to talk to people in this category.

What were some of the roadblocks that you found?  

MB: We kept it simple like everything I think again growth marketers tend to over-engineer things, especially if you have an engineering background, the whole point is to be human, the “be human”.

So it was a simple Zoom call. There was nothing to mess up.  

I do have an assistant who helps organize my calendar and most of these people have assistants as well.

So that went pretty easily sure there were people who didn’t show up but usually, it was by accident and so we learn to send out reminders the day before to say “don’t forget you have a call tomorrow”. But nine times out of ten, you know by the second or third call we were talking on cell phones, you know, I would be talking to people while they were walking their dogs or renovating their apartment or you know, cell phone numbers were exchanged and it got casual very quickly.

I think you know there’s real power in the human approach in the and so thinking about you know, even if you are looking for a scalable tactic, I think the extent at which you really can try to be human with it will determine your success.

AO: No doubt. Well, just a final question. Can we talk about the agenda of that call? And I know I’m sure that word may be too structured even considering what you’ve been sharing so far, but could you just kind of discuss like the beginning of how you would start a call?

MB: Well, it’s again, you know, it depends on what you do for a living but in my case, I serve CMOs who are typically new in their role or seeking a change in their company. And as Seth Godin says “marketing is about change”. And so hearing a lot of its listening and I think that’s a good marketer should be a good listener.

So again, who are these people you seek to serve, and what are their problems? How are they solving their problems? What are their pain points? What are their fears? And every conversation I had just kept reinforcing what I was learning about what our customers have in common and what they don’t have in common and it’s made it easier for me to do some of the more classic LinkedIn tactics that were not having success before so if I’m now doing an inmail now I can talk about maybe I don’t use an email maybe I only use second-degree connections and I send something very personal. I like congratulations on your new role and I’m and it’s and it’s a very personalized thing. It is not something that’s done by bots or by a link farm or by some people who don’t even know me or know the customer.

There are just some things that I won’t do at this point.

We’re trying to build relationships with people because they’ve seen it all. These people have seen it all and there’s no fooling them. They know what a bot is. They know it’s a fake spammy automated outreach email, they know and most of them don’t even go on LinkedIn anymore because of that. Because they’ve been overwhelmed by spam. So how do you deal with people who have that mentality you have to be personal and you have to end. You have to be patient and sincere and it’s really about asking questions about the pain points and seeking to solve them the minute you get into this mindset.

Say, if I have to sell something you’re dead. Because you know, I can’t outsell McCann, Erickson, or BBDO, you know, those guys are great. They are the world’s best at selling services to large companies, marketing organizations. They’re great at it.

But that’s not what the people I talk to are looking for. They’re looking for human and real and very supportive marketing services.  

AO: Love it all. I mean at the end of the day, you’re basically just saying like is your purpose genuine like start with your heart there in terms of art. Do you actually want to serve these people and then work from there?
And then we’re not using the words tactics and hacks and do this and do that. It’s like hey, I honestly just want to know these people because I relate with him and I love being able to interact with them and just start from that and the answer becomes a lot more obvious.

MB: Yeah, and then if you start to do it, you can find ways to automate the process you can find ways to save time over time. But until you actually do it you can’t automate it. It and I see so many startups make this problem.

That’s what the founder will say. Oh, I just need to hire a salesperson and then our sales problem will be solved. No,  if the founder can’t sell. no outside salesperson can solve that problem for them.

They have to sell first, they have to learn how to sell it because they know the product better than anyone else and if they don’t know how to sell it they will never be able to teach someone else and that was the way I felt about where we were in the growth of our firm.

I knew that I wanted us to grow but I also felt like our growth has been so organic. We are blessed to have been grown organically over the last five years through word of mouth, through the networks.

And I knew that I couldn’t just hire someone to go fake that.

Otherwise, we’d be moving away from everything we stood for. So it was I have to go out and learn how to sell to people who don’t know me and until I understand how to sell to people who don’t know me how could I ever ask a salesperson to do it for me?

AO: So good. Yeah, this is the ultimate qualitative way of understanding your customer so that you can put things that are more scalable and placed in the right way. Yeah. I love it. This is amazing. I’m going to take these things for myself as well. And I know our listeners going to be able to apply this immediately. So thank you so much, Melinda. This is amazing.

MB: I’m glad I could help have a wonderful day.

That’s it. Another great episode The One Growth Show the official podcast of Growth Marketing Conference to learn more about upcoming events visit and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate if you give us a 5-star rating, it’s super easy, just click the last star on iTunes and also share this episode on social media after all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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