New technology and platforms have made marketing such an exciting industry of our age. Have you ever wondered how they did content marketing back in 1979? Let’s talk about marketing then and now with award-winning and an internationally-recognized author and speaker Brian Basilico. Brian is an online marketing strategist, and he shares the highlights of his career spanning almost four decades. Catch his tips on content management, defining your perfect customer, and using LinkedIn’s full potential. It might interest you to know that marketing principles have not changed since, but the speed of doing things now is the most critical. Brian details how outsourcing has been his ally in achieving that.
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Marketing Then And Now with Brian Basilico
My guest is Brian Basilico. Brian, how are you doing?
I’m fantastic, Nathan. How are you?
I’m doing great. I appreciate having you here. I know you use remote teams a lot so I’m excited to talk to you about that. For those who don’t know, Brian is an award-winning author of the best selling book It’s Not About You, It’s About Bacon: Relationship Marketing in a Social Media World. He was honored as one of the top marketers to follow in 2018. Brian is an online marketing strategist with over 40 years of marketing experience and the owner of the award-winning internet marketing company, B2b Interactive Marketing, Inc. He’s world-renown for his LinkedIn training and strategies and was one of the first of thousands of people who joined the social network in 2004. Brian is a syndicated blogger, podcaster and a sought-after guest expert featured in Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. The show The Bacon Podcast, which goes on in iTunes, was voted as one of Inc. Magazine’s top 35 business podcasts. I’m pumped to talk to you. Thank you for coming on.
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me on your show.
Let’s take a gigantic step back. What were you like growing up? Were you a rebel or a straight-A student? Did you know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I was an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. Even at six years old, I was holding contests and stuff in my backyard. It all culminated at eighteen when I started making money. I opened up a recording studio in my dad’s basement. One of the stories I tell people all the time is I was doing content marketing in 1979. Everybody goes, “How did you do content marketing in 1979?” There was no internet, no email and no websites. There’s none of that stuff. What I did is I had to this recording studio and I was doing commercials, bands, and things of that nature. I would use an Atari 400 computer to type up articles. I would cut them out with scissors and put them on an 11×17 sheet of paper. I’d fold them up, send them to a printer and have it mailed out to my clients. That was content marketing in 1979. That same principle is what we do now.
What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor outside of content marketing?
[bctt tweet=”The marketing challenge now is about getting the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. ” username=””]
I was doing the recording studio thing and then I got a gig. I went to work for AT&T for a couple of years doing video production. The next major thing, we were talking in hundreds of thousands of dollars, was a commercial recording studio in Chicago. We did everything from radio and TV ads and audio for TV. We did IVR which is Interactive Voice Response, which is those things everybody hates when you call, “Press 1, Press 2.” I did work for Motorola, AT&T, McDonald’s, and these large corporations. I had $500,000 worth of gear and made $500,000 in business. Nowadays, you can do all of that stuff on an iPhone.
Talk to me about when the internet first burst onto the scenes. How do you get to LinkedIn early? What other things were you able to take advantage of getting in on such an early time?
Way back yonder, starting to do websites, everything was hand-quoted. Everything that we didn’t have Content Management System or CMS. We didn’t have that stuff. Early email was AOL. If anybody remembers AOL, it says, “You’ve got mail.” You dial-up, you sit there and wait for the thing to jump on board. It was a wide-open west back then, it didn’t have any rhyme or reason. It was hard to say, “Can you make money doing this?” It seemed like the only people making money were the people that offered access. It’s come a long way. I remember postage stamp videos that were that big. That was like, “It’s so cool. You can make a video and put it on a CD-ROM.”
When I opened this business, my last gig was at Arthur Andersen. I took the recording studio and sold it to a production company. It worked for them. I didn’t play well in that sandbox. I got a corporate gig and didn’t play well then in that sandbox either. I opened this up in 2001. Back then, I was still doing websites for companies. We didn’t have WordPress, Squarespace, Drupal, or all the stuff we have now. The business was built on making Business card CD-ROMs with videos for clients. That’s what it was back then. I’ve been a programmer, content developer using audio and video. I learned how to program CD-ROMs and websites for years. I’ve got my hands deep into the code.
How has content changed and what is working right now?
Content has not changed at all. You can go back to the 1900s and the same advertising, marketing, copywriting, and graphic principles work now as they did there. What’s changed is the delivery platform, how we deliver this content. Let’s go back to 1990 when I opened up the commercial recording studio. It’s pre-internet. Back then, the way that you got people’s attention is with this thing called the Yellow Pages. You may remember it. You may have one propping up the table in your office right now. The Yellow Pages back then were the only game in town. People would pay thousands of dollars to be in there. It was also a CRM, a Content Relationship Manager or a customer relationship manager. I went through it and looked for all the ad agencies. I’d pick up the phone, dial an ad agency and say, “Do you use audio in anything that you do?” If they said yes, I’d say “Who’s the principal? I want to verify your address.” I’d write it down and I would send them a print package in the mail. Basically, it was an open folder and I’d stick sheets in there. The ones that said no, I’d scratch them out. That is exactly the same principle that we use now. Instead of sending it physically in the mail, we send it via email or we might put it up on social media. The key thing is that the principles never changed.
What’s working now is more about getting the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. I talk about three different kinds of content. There is awareness content, educational content and sales content. I explained that in a philosophy called OPEN which stands for Oblivious, Pondering, Engaged and Need. Let’s talk about Oblivious. When I talk to clients or when I talk to people who are running their own businesses, I ask them, “Who is your perfect customer?” The ones that tell me it’s everybody, I say, “You don’t understand your perfect audience.” It’s what I call selling dog food to cat people. You’re trying to sell dog food to a cat person because someday, they may get a dog. That’s not always the case. Just because they like pets doesn’t mean they’ll have cats for life. They might get chickens, rabbits, or something like that but they may not get a dog. They’re oblivious, they don’t care. The Pondering people are thinking, “We might get a dog. I think I have to feed this thing so what kind of dog food do I need?” They’re not interested in spending any time. That’s awareness content. Make them aware that you are selling dog food. “We sell dog food. This is what it is.”
The Engaged people are the ones that are going to get a dog. They’ve got to learn about what kind of dog food is best. Is it kibble, wet food or natural raw food? What brands are better? Where’s it manufactured? People will go out and learn things. It’s called Google, you go and search for it. You find the brands that you want to engage with and you learn about this stuff. It could be videos, podcasts, articles and infographics. They’re interested in learning about the details of what’s better than this. The Need people are the ones that go, “We’re going to get a dog. We’re going to the dog food store and get something because the dog has to eat.” They’re in the need phase and they’re ready for, “I’m going to buy something.” They’re going to go talk to the people at the store and get that information.
If you break that down, the people that are pondering need awareness content. The people that are engaged need educational content. They need to be taught exactly what it is, what the differences are and why yours is better. The sales process is usually something that’s done in a one-on-one connotation. It can be done in direct messages in social media, email blast or email drip campaign, on the phone or in person. The bottom line is, you have to know where people are in the buying process. You need to have the right content in front of them at the right time.
What is it about LinkedIn and content? When a lot of people think of content, they think of Google, Facebook posts and Facebook groups. LinkedIn is becoming a little underrated. When people think of LinkedIn, they think of those spammy messages that they get over and over. How do you effectively use LinkedIn to share that content?
The biggest problem that you get is something called connect and pitches. There are a ton of people out there teaching you to use LinkedIn to say that you’re going to have over 30,000 contacts on LinkedIn, which is true. There are 600 million people on LinkedIn. Out of 600 million people, only about 10% of them are in the United States, X amount or only 25% even speak English. Connect and pitch is people who are selling LinkedIn leads or LinkedIn strategies, “Connect with everybody. Message them right away and say, ‘I know you’ve got nothing better to do. Why don’t you come on and watch my webinar which is an hour-long? Once you’re done with that, let’s set up a phone call. Here’s my link so you can spend another half an hour of listening to me tell you about how great my thing is that you don’t have any clue about because you’re in the oblivious state.’” That’s what people are being taught to do. The real brass tacks which is relationships.
On LinkedIn, for example, do you know how many out of the 600 million people post content? Only 0.5% of people post content. The reason is that people think that people don’t engage with that content. A lot of times people go on LinkedIn, they consume something and then they leave. LinkedIn is different than Facebook. Facebook works hard to keep you inside of their bubble, inside of their sandbox. LinkedIn allows you to put in links to external documents. In other words, on LinkedIn, you can go to an article in Inc. Magazine, you can go to another article on Virtual Assistant Daily or Executive Team Daily, whatever it is. A lot of people don’t log in as much because of that connect and pitch. When you’re posting good content on LinkedIn, people tend to pay attention to it because it’s different, unique, and should be educationally-focused or awareness-focused. Don’t go on there and be all pitchy and sales because people will block you. They’ll block you mentally and they won’t pay attention.
Can you give us an example of some good content that one of your clients or you have seen on LinkedIn that tends to engage and help people get in front of their ideal audience?
One of the things that are working great is what I call awareness post. I do them all the time. What they usually are graphic. Videos are the biggest thing. Most people are in an office, they don’t have a headset so they can’t listen to the audio. Some people circumvent that by putting the text in there so they’re just sitting there, staring and waiting for the next line. You’ve got eight seconds and that’s it. Sometimes, even less than that to three or four seconds when people are scrolling. If you create great awareness graphics that asks a question, has a good image, or links back to something, that’s going to get people’s attention. What I find my clients doing is they are generating a huge amount of traffic to their website. When I say huge, I’m not talking about millions of visitors. I’m talking about ten to a hundred of the right visitors. It’s people who are interested in what they have to sell by using that linking back to a blog post, article or page. They’re doing that in a way that’s creating engagement on their own website which is converting into sales.
[bctt tweet=”Pick the right virtual assistant not based on their location but based on their skillset. ” username=””]
You love using remote teams and you’ve got virtual assistants. How are you as a marketing agency owner and marketing influencer using remote people?
I use them in a lot of different ways. First and foremost, I have specific needs. In other words, I have somebody who is going to write content for blogs. I have somebody who is going to write content for websites. I have somebody who going to create graphics. I’m going to have somebody who is going to take care of my email marketing. I look for people with specific skillsets on specific platforms, the ones that I use, to fill out my team. When I owned my recording studio, I had five contractors. I ended up pushing more paper than doing what I loved. I was running the business but I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations. By using virtual teams, I can engage them in the tasks that I need done to serve my clients and still be hands-on with them. I can get in there and talk strategy to help them figure out who their audience is and what they need to say. I can guide these virtual people to do these specific things that I need to fulfill my client’s needs which I can make money on. Not only do I make money on their services, but I make money on the services that I provide. It gives me a wide array of skillsets at my fingertips as needed.
One of those stints I had was at an ad agency. I worked at an ad agency and that ad agency sold to its contractors. Somebody that was a radio commercial guy was constantly selling radio commercials. I was hired to be their Google guy. I was there to do Google ads and analytics, set up websites and do all this other stuff. Because they had this high-paid guy, we would go into meetings and they would talk radio and TV commercials for 45 minutes. They’d give me fifteen minutes on the internet because that’s where they were at. They were selling to their payroll. I get to sell to the customer’s needs. If they don’t need graphics, I don’t have to pay a graphics person. If they don’t need blogs, I don’t have to pay a blog person. I can bring in the right team at the right time at the right volume. That’s the beauty of outsourcing, of using services like yours, that helps you fulfill exactly what your customers need, just in time with the right volume of it.
It’s what I talked a lot about with marketing agencies is building your Rolodex of reliable people that you can depend on. If you have two or three designers, two or three writers, and different projects come up, you have these people ready to go. Maybe one of them is unavailable but the other two are. It gives you a ton of flexibility in scaling your business. I’m sure you have some VAs that have more ongoing work and you’ve got others that are more project-based when stuff comes up.
I’ve got one VA who is specific. She proofreads my blog and sends out my email every single week. It’s a repetitive task. She knows exactly what she’s doing every single week. That’s steady. There are other VAs that I also use. When a client comes in and wants blogs and a website page written, that’s usually a one-time thing. You’re writing the webpages, you’re done and you move on. You find another client. It’s an ebb and flow kind of thing. It varies depending on the client and the task. Some of it is for me, some of it is for them.
A lot of clients were around at the beginning of the internet struggle to communicate with people in the Philippines and outside the US. They don’t have a Skype account. What methods do you use to communicate and to keep that communication strong so that you can run your business?
Everything I can. It’s a combination of Facebook messaging, LinkedIn messaging, telephone, email, Zoom and Skype. Whatever it is, it depends on what the needs are. If I need to do visual stuff, I’m going to open up a Zoom meeting. I’ll go to pull up a screen. It’s the only way that you can do with people that are remote. I’ve got people all over the country. I don’t use a virtual assistant within 500 miles from my office. They’re all over the place. I love that because I’m able to pick the right person not based on their location but based on their skillset.
Any tips to someone that is trying to build a marketing agency using remote teams? Any last tips before we move on?
The biggest thing that you’ve got to do is give everybody a trial period. You’re going to learn from your own mistakes. You’re going to learn how to communicate better and be patient. That’s the key thing. People are going to try to please you. If they don’t please you, don’t fire them. Try to work with them and get to know them better. Make sure that the level of expectation is matched on both sides that you’re meeting their needs, they’re getting paid with their worth, you’re communicating things well and they’re getting feedback when they do good and not so good.
What new marketing trends have been effective for you or for your clients?
It depends on the kind of client. That’s the hardest thing. I deal with everything from solopreneurs to a hundred million-dollar companies. The most universal thing that’s out there is relationship building which takes time. I’m seeing a lot of success in mining relationships on LinkedIn. I’m finding Facebook to be a lot harder because they’re clamping down to the ability to post to be seen. Everybody’s going down to Instagram train. I’m not a huge fan of it because it doesn’t allow you to link out of it at all unless you’re on the profile. There are varying things.
Number one, generate content. Number two, share it everywhere. Number three, make sure you measure what’s happening and what’s working for you. Sometimes it might be a Facebook post, a LinkedIn post or on Twitter. You never know when something is going to start spiking. You’ve got to pay attention to the numbers. Like anything else, you would never run a business without having Quickbooks and standing your numbers. Otherwise, you’re going to spend yourself into a black hole of oblivion and debt. Why would you do that with your business when it comes to online marketing? You need to measure what’s working and do more of what’s working less and what’s not.
Thank you so much for coming on. Where can people find out more about you and what are you most excited about?
The best way to find me is to go to Google and search Brian Basilico. You will find me everywhere. Where you want to meet me? It’s there. That’s the key. What I’m excited about is podcasting and the way that it’s starting to become so much more mainstream. People are getting it in their cars. It’s showing up on my watch and my phone. Being audio is easily consumable at the gym, at the car and other places. Video is probably not. You could get into a car crash trying to watch a video so I don’t recommend it. The other trend that’s happening is speakables like Alexa, Echo and Google Home. I think the audio revolution is starting to take off.
I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on.
Thanks, I appreciate it.
- It’s Not About You, It’s About Bacon: Relationship Marketing in a Social Media World
- B2b Interactive Marketing, Inc
- The Bacon Podcast
- Yellow Pages
- Brian Basilico
About Brian Basilico
Brian Basilico is an award-winning author of the best selling book “It’s Not About You, It’s About Bacon! Relationship Marketing In A Social Media World!” He was honored as one of the Top Marketers to Follow in 2018. Brian is an Online Marketing Strategist with over 40 years of marketing experience and the owner of an award-winning internet marketing company, B2b Interactive Marketing, Inc. He is world renowned for his LinkedIn Training and Strategies and was one of the first 1000 people to join the Social Network in 2004.
Brian is a syndicated blogger, podcaster, and a sought-after guest expert featured in Entrepreneur and Inc., magazines, His show “The Bacon Podcast” on iTunes was also voted one of Inc. Magazines top 35 business podcasts.