Hello, and welcome to Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, and I have the distinct pleasure of inviting on the show today James Schramko. I have met James Schramko at various internet marketing events. Of course, his reputation precedes him. It’s just a real pleasure to have you on, James. I wanted to give a little bio about your history and how you got into this space. You run Masterminds, you run a business called SuperFast Business that helps companies scale and systematize their marketing. You have multiple podcast shows that have many, many, many thousands of downloads a month, and you’re just a general overall internet marketing rock star. You didn’t start out that way. You had to work your way up and, in fact, you were in a regular corporate role until you decided to start off on your own. I believe you were at a Mercedes Benz dealership.
Yes, that’s correct.
Right, so you have a business based in Sydney, Australia that also has a whole team in the Philippines, if I’m not correct. How did you end up creating an offshore business like that and what are the benefits?
Well the main steps were originally it was just me, so that’s why it’s an Australian business. It was started in Australia as the entity and I’m in Australia. Then I hired someone in the U.S. to help me with support, and then I hired someone who was actually my receptionist at the motor dealership I worked at to become my article writer, as a contractor. Then I started building out my search engine optimization services. At that time, I trialed a few different contractors. One of the contractors, who sort of followed me halfway around the world to pitch their services to me, was based in India. I started that business by doing all the work myself. I realized that to scale I need someone else to do the work and I should focus on the marketing and strategy. I took on this contractor company and they were quite good for the most part, but then we got to quite high volume, and we’re talking about 6 or $700,000 a year in volume, and I realized my profit margin was very low at about 15%. I didn’t have much control over the quality of work. As you know about SEO, it’s definitely a big comma game of quality and real inputs, not robot stuff and mechanical replication of things. I wasn’t happy with the product in the end, so I, in the meantime, had started getting an assistant in the Philippines to help me on the idea that maybe I could have someone else doing some of the things that I’m doing. Maybe, I don’t know if I’d have enough to keep one person busy, but it turned out that I did. I sort of kept hiring new people to take on more roles.
By the time I got to about 10 in my team, we had built up quite a big blog network of around 1,000 blogs. I actually asked them to start taking over the SEO work and they did such a superior job that, within a few jobs, we had moved entire contract work across from India to the Philippines and our team scaled from the SEO team at the time of one person with one assistant to a team of 38 people within 6 months. We have maintained a team in the Philippines ever since. We’ve also moved our website development scene from a contractor in the USA, who was slow, and sloppy, and expensive to the Philippines, where they were fast, and talented, and a lower labor rate. We’ve got the website development services, the search engine optimization services, and my publishing team. I’m sure we’re going to cover that with our marketing. This is the team who helped drive my blog and podcast and manage my memberships.
So let’s talk about marketing and how to systematize it and scale it, because you have your hand a number of different marketing channels, multiple podcasts, and you’re involved in running live events and masterminds. There are so many different things both with online marketing wise and offline that I’m amazed that you can pull it all off. It’s a lot of balls in the air at once to juggle. What’s your process, your recommended process for systematizing one’s marketing both online and offline?
Well, it probably sounds more complex than it is. In reality, I’ve got one primary website with a podcast that is the most popular of the ones I do. Each year I run a live event which is easy to sell from that podcast, even using a P.S. signature. Just putting, “Hey, come to the live event.” We usually sell a couple hundred tickets just from our own customer base without any effort. The things that I’m not doing is probably a way bigger list compared to most marketers, because I’m not doing big joint ventures other than my podcasts. I’m not doing incentivized competitions and JV prizes. I don’t have affiliates. I don’t do big launches. I don’t run Facebook ads, or Google ads, or Pinterest ads, or Twitter ads. I’m not crazy about social media. I’m really just focused on publishing a good podcast and the supporting blog post that goes with that. Then I’ve got a couple of joint venture podcast projects, which are the smaller volume but very strategic because they allow me to overlap into different audience bases.
Great. So let’s talk about these podcasts. I love them. For example, the joint podcast you have with Taki Moore is fabulous on sales, marketing, profit. I’ll provide links to your various podcasts in the shownotes. The style of this podcast is so fresh. It’s just refreshing to listen to that I love this format. You basically riff back and forth about a particular client or member of your Mastermind. There’s just all this fun banter back and forth, but it’s all a very strategic discussion and the client who is the focus of the case study isn’t even on the episode. It’s just the two of you. I love that format.
That’s right. It’s just the two of us, and we’ve usually had a surf just beforehand or just after. All these different little tentacles of joint venture podcasts, they all laid back to my offer and the episodes laid back to Taki’s offer as well, so it worked out well for both of us.
Perfect. You have also a joint podcast with Ezra Firestone.
Tell us a bit about that.
Ezra came to me as a student. He’d heard about me and he wanted help with his website called Smart Marketer, which he just started and he’d made, I think, less than $100,000 with it when he started. His big concern was that I might not help him because he thought it might be too similar to SuperFast Business, but I said, “I’m happy to help you.” This is where cooperation is often better than competition. He was a bright kid and he had a lot of good information in his space, which is predominantly eCommerce. I said, “I’m happy to help you.” A few years later he’s made over $2.3 million from it, so it worked out well for him. I thought he’d be a great person to partner with because we’re quite different. He’s very hippy, dippy, and trippy, and young, and free-loving sort of a guy, and I’m far more structured, and strategic, and serious than him. We have one topic per episode. We also use a framework for the episodes. We come at it from different angles. Often we debate stuff. For example, he would tell me that he once had a diet where he ate 27 bananas at a time and I will debate that that’s not really an acceptable diet. It’s not something that I’ve imagined too many people would even think for a second is something that they should be doing. We have a great laugh. We often laugh. We have great chemistry and, again, we’re reaching both of our audiences and we do lots of collaborations. We did a retreat to Hawaii where I learned to surf. He speaks at my events, which is fantastic. He comes over here and he shares great eCommerce information. We call him Ezra the eComm bomb because he just drops gold nuggets everywhere. He’s also shared the stage with me at Traffic and Conversions and he’s spoken in many platforms in his own right as a world expert. It’s great to be in collaborations with other great artists much like our music industry would do.
Right. I know Tony Robbins talks about the three types of people, artist being one of them, but then there’s also manager leaders, and finally, entrepreneurs. For the longest time I thought I was an entrepreneur, which technically I am. I start businesses, and sell them, and so forth, but I’m more of an artist so I’m really into creating something amazing and utilizing my creative muscle. It sounds like, I don’t know, maybe you’re an artist as well. Maybe you’re more of an entrepreneur, but I don’t know. I’d say you’re an artist.
Yeah, I think I probably crossed over the point when I had good confidence and a great track record to picking and choosing my projects more. We often start from a point of compromise where, in my case, I had a mortgage on a very expensive Sydney property. I had an investment property. I had a shared portfolio. I had six people I had to feed. My partner never really worked from the time we got married and we had four kids, so I was responsible for this household budget. I felt the pressure in having a job where I’m getting paid by one person. The start of my entrepreneurial pursuits was really about driving income. Let’s be frank about it, I needed to generate income and create some stability. Now the topic shifts a little more to thinks like legacy and creativity. I’ve learned that a great way to make a lot of profit is to serve a market really well, and to present ideas, and information, and to innovate in ways that create more value for your customers. There is a huge creative to innovation, and once you embrace change, and you realize that you can have some artistic design over that you can determine how you want things to look, and which projects you want to work on, and who you want to collaborate with. I think there’s definitely that creative element and I would say that the artistry will come through in the work that you do. One thing that drives me is I want to do good work.
Yes. I do, too. I have such high standards. I have to be careful that I’m not being perfectionistic because that is actually equivalent to having no standards because nothing gets done. Everything is in a holding tank ready to launch once it’s perfect. As they say, perfect is the enemy of done. Let’s talk about your big podcast, the one that has the largest subscriber base, most downloads. It’s t SuperFast Business podcast. Let’s talk through how did that come about. How did you grow it? How do you market it?
It came about because the first podcast that I did was a collaboration with Tim Reid called Freedom Ocean. He really introduced me to the whole podcast concept, and the idea of a show, and show notes, and publishing the audio, and making a blog available, et cetera. I retrospectively fitted out my internet marketing blog at the time which was called Internet Marketing Speed. I got all the audios that I’d done, and then I submitted it to iTunes, and it retro-populated, so I now have two podcasts. It backdated all the posts as if they’d been published years ago, which was great, and in the re-branding of my business where I had 12 different business units, we picked it all up and threw it on to SuperFast Business one day a couple of years ago. The Internet Marketing Speed posts went across and it’s basically metamorphosized into a new name and new artwork. I think we resubmitted it and I think, eventually, I killed off one of the feeds. That’s how it started. Overtime I’ve experimented with different mediums. I did a lot of videos a few years ago and they were super popular, and they were fun to make, and I did them pretty much everyday. Then I found that I really prefer the audio medium to work with. It’s so much easier. You can be fairly creative with the formats. I’ll do anything from a five-minute episode with just me to an hour episode as an interview. I’ve got a lot of flexibility on what I publish and I’m now doing serialized podcasts where I’ll do four parts or six parts. They were a lot of fun and very successful as well. I think I could see more of those coming. I’m doing collaborations now with other people, but instead of creating a whole new show and committing a lot of resources in the future, now I just do serialized podcasts and that has been far more effective, and it’s probably what I should have done with my other shows in hindsight just because the biggest problem with co-hosted podcast is usually the co-host being available to record. That’s what I found the number one sticking point is.
Is there a particular frequency that seems to be the sweet spot? Is there a particular platform or format? Let’s say the interview format, or the two co-hosts riffing back and forth, or just the monologue? Is there a particular venue that is way more important than others, like iTunes for example?
Basically, I encourage people to subscribe in iTunes because they want those push notifications going. Of course, it’s a platform outside of Google. It’s a completely different platform, so you’ve got some protection. I’m getting a lot of search engine traffic to my site because of the transcriptions that I publish and because it’s a high quality site, fast loading, works on a mobile, good navigation, all those good things. Original content, original art. To answer your question specifically about formats and lengths, the most shared content I’ve published in the last month was a monologue where I was just doing an episode by myself. It was called Are You Leaving Life on the Table? Seven Tips to Reclaim Your Life. The things that resonated wasn’t the fact that it was an interview or not. It wasn’t the fact that it was long or short. It was a fact that I’d hit my topic right in the eyes. That’s where my market is. They are fed up with being told, “You’re leaving all this money on the table,” and they end up working themselves into businesses that they hate. It’s like that Mexican fishing village story of the share trader and the Mexican fisherman, which is a great story. The bottom line is, I think, people are sacrificing their life for money in many cases. Because I’d researched this topic very well and because I had enough metrics indicating that this topic is the right topic, I was able to publish a relatively short episode but I got the most shares, I got the most external links back to that post, and I got a lot of sessions to the site, and page views, and a low bounce rate, and minutes listened to, et cetera. All the stats where up on that post. The one that came behind that was an interview, was a storytelling interview with Valerie Khoo. It had quite a lot of back links, and shares, and downloads, and low bounce rate, and all the good stuff as well. Then some of the less shared and visited ones were a review that I did of some software, however, it makes sales. It directly monetizes. The people who do look at it often go and buy something that makes money. Then the other types of posts in that particular month were a couple more interviews, a weekly digest, and another monologue. The weekly digest is really quite innovative because what we do is we bunch up the posts from the week and put them all together in a curated post that’s literally just an additional page on the site that summarizes the top post for the week. That allows us to offer a weekly frequency for our subscribers. We’ve got the choice for people to get a weekly email instead of as the emails come through for the daily posts. We also get an extra page for SEO, which has got relevant topics, subgroups, and linking off in the sites that’s really good for the site structure. It’s actually easy for people to consume and then get hooked into some of our contents by just having that digest, which I call long line fishing. It’s like trolling with 10 hooks at the end of your line and you’re going to catch something with that, and it’s good to share on social media and within communities because it’s easier for people to chunk that to find a topic they like.The bottom line is, I think, people are sacrificing their life for money in many cases. Click To Tweet
Right. You said a few minutes ago that you weren’t that keen on social media as a primary platform for your marketing. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
I’m not spending eight hours a day on Facebook like most marketers.
I spent one and a half hours a week.
Do you have a team working on social media marketing?
No. I’m not spam [inaudible [00:19:30] anything on there. I’m not regurgitating stuff. I’m not trolling Facebook to try and generate leads. I don’t have a team going out there doing crazy stuff. I’m just periodically sharing a post, or an update, or a funny video, or whatever, if I’m genuinely interested in it. I believe that a common trap for marketers is to just get sucked into social media. It’s got a very low return for the amount of time people spend on it. A lot of them use it for lead gathering, like they’re there selling. They might as well just be in direct response role. As far as I’m concerned, an hour and a half is plenty of time for me to be on Facebook awake. I usually use Twitter from my phone just to respond to re-tweets. That’s where I get my news from. I’m pretty much only subscribed to news channels. I’m not in a position anymore. I got to go and be buttering up and sucking up to experts and romancing them on social media to try and win interview spots or whatever. I’m not down for that. People generally approach me these days, which is fantastic. I’ve created a pool marketing environment on the strengths of my content and strategic appearances like speaking at the right event or having the right audience, and just being a publisher. Just continually publishing good information and making it freely available for people. I’ve got lots of free courses that people can get and they often lead to purchases down the track.
Yeah. I have real mixed feelings about social media myself. I oftentimes tell people that it is pretty much the beginning of the end of society. Facebook is the devil in so many ways in terms of creating a whole society of narcissists and so forth. Yet, on the flip side, I am publishing books on social media marketing, which is, I know, kind of ironic. I co-authored Social eCommerce, an O’Reilly book that has mutual friend, Jennifer Sheahan, as one of the co-authors too. It is a potential time suck for sure, but it can be used in a very effective way, so I’m on the fence. I could argue either way on it.
I want people to share my content there and I’m happy for them to be there, but I don’t want to be there.
Yeah. It’s not an effective use of my time. It’s not my highest best use and that’s why I have delegated to my virtual assistants all the tweeting, and Facebooking, and so forth. Very few of the posts that make it onto my Twitter or Facebook, even my personal profile are written by me.
That’s what I mean. If I’m on Facebook I’m dealing with drones, or underlings, or robots and that’s not a good experience that I want. Anything I publish on Facebook or Twitter is put there by me and people know that, but it’s also sparing and I think it’s good to get in and get out. I call that hit and run. I get in the social media, I get out, and I measure things like effective alley rate is one of the key performance indicators of how I’m doing on a monthly basis. Social media will rob you of your alley rate. It will make you dumber if you’re not careful.
Yeah, absolutely. You have to be careful. I try and stay out of it. It is a huge time suck, especially Facebook for me. I find as long as there’s an editorial calendar for my social media and I review the tweets, the drafts of the Facebook updates and tweets before they go out all in one go for the following week, it’s all good. It’s still my voice. It’s stuff that I find interesting. If I happen to see an interesting news article about some new trend or whatever, I’ll add that to my list of links and then that’s [father [00:23:52] for my virtual assistants to use as a base for writing tweets and updates for. I definitely understand where you’re coming from on social media. What about YouTube? YouTube is a social network and it is also the number two search engine. What’s your position on YouTube?
It’s really to convert people from YouTube back to your site and it’s easy to lose people from your site to YouTube. For that reason, I publish my videos using a Wistia player. That’s a self-contained environment where I’ve got no leakage, I have my own call to action, and I’m able to analyze it, and it also has good search engine optimization characteristics. I’m not a huge YouTube marketer at this point. I think I might use it to run advertisements at some point with ad rolls inside other people’s videos, but I’m not really utilizing YouTube as a traffic or lead generator. I much prefer podcasts.
What’s your position on webinars?
I think they’re fantastic for attracting, and converting, and delivering. I’ve had a subscription to go to a webinar for about nine years. I run a live training every month for my SuperFast Business members. Where a lot of people run free webinars and pitch people, I do it a little bit around the other way. At the moment, I deliver a paid webinar. I feel like I get paid like 30 or $40,000 a month to deliver one webinar a month and it’s basically on subscription and that suits me. I also use it within my mastermind, my high level mastermind. I’m using GoToMeeting for that twice a week. I like paid webinars as a delivery mechanism and I think free webinars for selling things are also quite leveraged, especially if you don’t want to or can’t travel, and if you don’t want to speak from stage. It’s probably the next best thing because it’s virtual and some people even take it to next stage of automating it. I think there’s a place for that too, as long as you’re not calling it live when it’s not, which some people are shifty about. I mean, that’s extremely wrong.
Yeah. That’s really sketchy when you –
I had a marketer send me an email asking when I wanted to schedule my fake live webinar. I’m like, “Well, never in that case.” I don’t do fake anything. If it’s not live, then I’m going to be telling my audience that it’s a pre-recorded webinar that was scheduled to run at this particular date. That’s what I put in my email. I was pretty offended by the words that they’d used.
Yeah. Wow. That is really sketchy. Then if you set it up wrong and you get caught out in the lie, like the webinar starts when you arrive even if you’re 10 minutes late. People are not dumb. They can put two and two together, realize this a canned webinar even though it was told as being live. It’s not integrous. It’s not effective. My personal opinion is if you can do it live, great, but then if you can test it against pre-recorded webinars, and position it as pre-recorded, and give lots of options for them to sign up straight away, that’s great too. Do you do any pre-recorded webinars or is it all live?
No, I don’t. I really use multi-part email sequences with accompanying videos to deliver my training these days. They’re multi-part pre-recorded videos. I’m not talking about webinars. I’m not making an event based, but I am using strategic delivery and tracking of consumption, and feeding that information back into the machine. I really do like using emails and videos. I love emails for marketing. I mean, nothing beats an email to the right person with the right message at the right time. That is something we’re focusing on. I think in the future I’ll probably do some pre-recorded webinars, but I’m not really seeking huge growth or extra volume.
Right now I’m very happy with the business that I’ve created because that I think some people who pursue growth for the sake of growth end up with a miserable Frankenstein of a business. It’s all these extra things. [inaudible [00:28:36] extra tick, this extra follow up, this extra paid traffic. Just adding paid traffic to your marketing channel means you’re now on the hook for performance, and monitoring, and constant change, and dealing with reps or learn it yourself, and dealing with systems. It’s a massive amount of complexity you’re going to add to have that additional channel.
Right. A lot of people they make the mistake of building all these different bridges but never finishing them. They’re working on their podcast, on their YouTube channel, on their Facebook advertising, on their SEO, and 10 other things, and then they never complete one. A 90% built bridge doesn’t get you across the river. Finish some of these bridges first and then move on to the next things.
Yeah. Just pick one channel that works well for now and just get that flowing. At least you’ve got traffic getting over the river. You can strengthen it and replace it later. For me, I’ve broken it down to the point, using systems and fine tuning my machine, where my main role is just to create some content from time to time and that’s it. That’s the main role. If I can do that, it powers my entire business.
What sort of system do you use as the CRM, and the email delivery platform, and so forth? Are using Ontraport, Infusionsofft, ActiveCampaign, something else?
I use Ontraport as my primary email delivery system. Of course, if I have encouraged people to subscribe on iTunes, then I’m using the Apple platform to push notifications as well. I call this a list guarantee. Try and have people subscribe through different methods. Some people subscribe via RSS. Some people subscribe via iTunes. Some people are getting the emails. Some people go and look at my blog on a regular basis because it’s really easy to remember the name and to type in.
What do you recommend in terms of best practice for email marketing? Is it like a four-email sequence after somebody opts in for a lead magnet, a free PDF download? Is it an ongoing weekly summary of what’s been happening on your blog, new stories and tips and tricks for the week? Is it trigger based emails? Somebody does something, abandons a cart, and an email gets sent to them after a day or some combination, obviously? What do you think?
It’s a mash-up of those. You most definitely want trigger sequences for the most important things, which will be someone unsubscribes from a subscription. That’s a major one you need to have in place. Then you want to have cart abandonment for someone who didn’t actually buy but was thinking about it. You’ll have sequences for people who opt in for a multi-part course where you deliver the course as promised over multiple sequences. Then you basically schedule regular broadcasts, which we do, fresh each week or each few days for updated news or content, new podcast episodes. That’s great because it serves prospects, it serves customers, and it serves exited customers who might re-engage with you, so it reactivates people. By having that constant baseline of news broadcast cycle that system on the race course. That’s about publishing on your own platform and making it an exciting place for people to keep regularly visiting. That’s why almost 70% of the traffic to my site is people who have been there before. That means you’ve got a sticky audience.
You’re doing something pretty special with your mastermind Silver Circle and I’d like the listeners to understand a bit more about this mastermind. You mentioned a little bit about it, that you have two webinars a week or two GoTo Meetings a week that you offer your mastermind members. Are there live in person meetings? What’s the value prop for the member, and the cost, and so forth? How does that all work?
The value prop for the member is they’re going to have insanely more profit compared to when they start. That’s the simple answer. How it works for different members will be customized a little bit. It’s not like a speck shaped. It’s actually being closed for about two years, although I do accept members who are referred by existing members, or someone I meet at in events who qualifies. There are strict qualification criteria. You have to be in a certain business type, and at a certain phase in their business, and they most definitely have to be the owner, someone who’s the driver of the business. It’s not for employees, for example. Assuming that someone is a good fit, and I want to work with them, and they want to work with me, then we will have checkups each week and we’ll have an onboarding diagnostic when they start that’s just for them and a special custom plan. I go through this extensive diagnostic order that I’ve collated over more than a decade that finds money. It basically just unlocks a lot of the things that are holding someone back, and we document the first action steps, and then we follow through each week to make sure they’re happening. That means they get the results. I’m really just interested in getting a maximum result from small inputs. That’s why we don’t value the program in terms of how many hours they get with me and how much they spend with me. All of that is really relevant. What it comes down to is will they get a return on their investment? Are they better off joining? The overwhelming answer has been yes. What’s really exciting is just rearranging the puzzle for people so that all these little jigsaw pieces actually make a picture now. If there’s anything I’m well-known for, it’s getting directly to what needs to happen and stripping away all the unnecessary stuff. It’s quite often the case that someone coming to me will end up with less things to do than before they start, but they’ll make much bigger results from that from doing less things.
Less is more, for sure. We’re coming up to time here and I want to be respectful of your time. What would be one last major tip or piece of advice that you want to leave our listeners with?
Give me a defining result that you want. What result that you want?
What result do I want? For my listeners, I would like them to be able to have some tangible value, like a dollar value that they could achieve from something that you suggest and can implement it pretty quickly, like next week, and then they could start seeing the results maybe even the week after.
Then it would be to circle one item from your notes from this podcast and execute it very quickly, like today, or, at the latest, tomorrow. Just get onto it. It might be an idea around a system. It might be an idea around repackaging. I know I’ve dropped the hint a few times but subscription is absolutely a winner. That’s what powers my business so far. This huge recurring subscription machine that just needs feeding from the podcast. One instant action that could give a huge award that involves doing less work is simply list down all of the things you’re doing right now that drive traffic to your business and then put a circle around the top two or three things that are actually creating a result. If you’re not measuring that, then that would probably be the first action. If you are measuring it, then you know. Then I would just say do a lot more of that and ignore all the other stuff. You might have 27 traffic channels and one or two of them deliver the bulk of your sales. You should be just scaling up on that to start with. You don’t need too many traffic channels. You just need ones that drive traffic to your offer that actually converts. The big wins are working on frequency. That’s getting a recurring happening. Instead of one purchase have multiple purchases. The next big win is working on conversion ratio. Go from 2% to 4 or 5% and you’ll more than double your profit. The next big win is to cut out all the unnecessary stuff. Just delete the unnecessary, the unfruitful. Chances are that most of the things you’re doing are completely useless and only some of the things that you’re doing are highly effective. You want to identify those. Once you know what they are, then you can confidently remove the things that aren’t working and now you’ve got less stuff to do, but anytime you’re doing the stuff that’s very effective you’re getting a much bigger result, so you will get a better result from less effort.
That’s beautiful advice. Thank you so much, James, for being on the show. Listeners, if you are interested in learning more about James and SuperFast Business, go check out his website superfastbusiness.com, subscribe to his podcast shows, and also go to marketingspeak.com for the transcript of this episode. It includes a checklist of some items that you can take fast action on. Then also please rate and review the show on iTunes. It will greatly help us. We’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks for joining. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer.
- Super Fast Business with James Schramko
- Think Act Get with Ezra Firestone
- Sales Marketing Profit with Taki Moore
- Freedom Ocean
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
About James Schramko
James Schramko is the founder of Superfastbusiness.com, host of the Super Fast Business podcast, and co-host of three other podcast shows, including Think Act Get, Sales Marketing Profit, and Freedom Ocean. He lives in Sydney, Australia.