Your audience is the lifeblood of your business. Without them, you have no one to sell to. However, too many entrepreneurs build a product before they bother to build an audience, let alone consider whether their audience would actually want to buy their product.
Brian Clark built all of his businesses by creating an audience first, and he’s become a true master at growing audiences by delivering outstanding content. After founding Copyblogger in 2006 and turning it into the “content marketing bible” it is today, Clark started Rainmaker Digital to serve as the parent company for all of his related online businesses. He’s even begun branching out into podcasting with his insanely popular shows Rainmaker.fm and Unemployable.
Clark attributes much of his success to the power of listening to his audience’s desires and building products to satisfy those desires. In our interview, he opens up about how he began his content marketing empire, how he continues to evolve it today, and why building an audience should be your number one priority. He even has some insightful things to say about the surprising benefits of being “unemployable.”
I’m so grateful Clark took the time to share his story and his wisdom with the Powderkeg community. For more actionable advice and outstanding content from Clark and his team, I highly recommend tuning into the Rainmaker.fm and Unemployable podcasts. You can also connect with Clark on Twitter @brianclark. Enjoy the show!
In this episode with Brian Clark, you’ll learn:
- The unexpected benefits of being “unemployable” (8:33)
- Why you need to build an audience before doing anything else (14:52))
- How big “level-up” moments can change your career (18:47)
- Tips for building a business with agile development principles (24:05)
- The importance of creating robust processes (32:11)
- Why you can’t let new technology distract you from the fundamentals (36:56)
Please enjoy this conversation with Brian Clark!
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- Stream by clicking here.
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This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.
DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.
So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.
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Brian Clark Quotes from This Episode of Powderkeg:
“You don’t have to be a funded startup to buy into the agile processes the Valley is in love with, because they just make sense.” — Brian Clark
“It can be tempting to make the quick buck, but I was never going to do that, and I think that’s why we’ve never had a product fail. It’s always about the audience first.” — Brian Clark
“Email is the transactional channel. You’ve got to build that email list.” — Brian Clark
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Companies and Organizations:
Software and Apps:
Books and Magazines:
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Welcome to Powderkeg igniting startups episode 24 with Brian Clark and if you’ve been listening for a while you can see the recurring theme here. Brian Yes is yet again a another serial entrepreneur. Brian is a little bit different. He’s got several seven figure online businesses, including Rainmaker digital. Well actually, Rainmaker digital is now an eight figure software company, where he currently serves as CEO. And guess what, he did it all without moving to Silicon Valley, or raising any venture funding. Brian, I recorded this interview at a really interesting time just before he launched his unemployable podcast, and now reaches more than 10s of 1000s of subscribers. And you’ll see why after this interview. But for right now, what you need to know is I am your host, Matt Hunckler. And I’m the founder and CEO of Burj, which is the network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors, and top talent. And as my team and I have grown verge over the past seven years, we’ve hosted more than 1000 entrepreneurs at our events around the world. Those founders have gone on to raise more than $500 million in capital collectively, they’re disrupting industries creating wealth and changing the world. And they’re doing it in areas outside of Silicon Valley. That’s right. We are unapologetically unvalued here at powder keg, and that’s why we started this podcast. Each guest has their own powder keg full of raw skills and talents that have been ignited their startups and fueled their growth. These are their stories, you can find me on Twitter and on Instagram at Hunckler. And that’s Hu NCKLE are and what I want you to do is let me know how verge powderkeg. And I can help you with your entrepreneurial journey. In the meantime, please make sure you subscribe to The powderkeg podcast wherever you listen to your shows. We are on SoundCloud, Stitcher, all the major podcast outlets, including of course, iTunes, and you can find all of those links to subscribe at our website. powderkeg.com. Yes, we now have the.com, which makes us Oso official. And that’s powderkeg, all one word.com. You can also find all of the transcriptions the show notes, all the links to everything we talked about each and every episode, including this one. And of course, you can subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a single thing. Thank you to all of you powderkeg guests out there who have already left us a review in iTunes. It’s your feedback, and the sharing that helps us reach more people and grow this community. We’re reaching 1000s of people every month, and I’m so excited about that. This week’s episode of powderkeg is brought to you by developer town, something you might not know about developer town is that they actually help enterprise companies move like a startup. Corporate innovators often work with developer town to explore software solutions that support their business needs. And now the cool thing is developer town leverages all of their years of working with startups. And they can help companies better understand the viability of potential software solutions, apps, products that they’re doing digitally, and quickly bring them to market. Developer towns created this proven sprint to market process so that large enterprises can move like a startup. You can find out more about developer town read up on them at developer town.com/powderkeg. That’s developer town all one word powderkeg. All one word. Again, that’s developer town.com/powderkeg. Developer town. Start something. Okay, listen up Patrick Aigars. Because today, our guest is Brian Clark, who is a pioneer in the NOW $44 billion content marketing industry. He’s been building businesses with online content marketing since 1998. Way before anyone used that term. And way before I was even in high school, he’s amassed a massive following, as you might suspect, and you can find him on all the social channels at Brian Clark or even at Copyblogger, which is the publication that Brian launched in 2006 Copyblogger started as a simple one man Blog. Today they’re known as Rainmaker digital, a digital commerce company with more than 200,000 unique customers. This software company has grown using useful content, smart copywriting, an exceptional products and services. I know I’ve actually used them myself, I can testify. Really great software. The cool thing is they took a really unusual path for a software company. Rainmaker digital didn’t look for venture capital to fund the development of its platform. Instead, the company grew to $12 million in annual revenue, and more than their 200,000 unique customers without advertising without venture funding, and all thanks to content marketing that built and served their audience since 2010. They grew from their small team to now 65 Plus smart, passionate people all around the world. They’re based in Boulder, Colorado, and everyone at Rainmaker digital is free to live and work wherever they want. I told you they’re on Conventional, such a cool company. But you know, as I mentioned, this is an old recording, and I’ve never released it. I’ve just been kind of sitting on it. I’ve been waiting for the right moment, until we had a big enough audience for all this to really soak in, because I wanted the audience to get the most value and get the biggest impact with this episode. Since it’s recording. As I mentioned, Brian has launched unemployable a killer podcast with incredible audience and incredible resources. You can check out all of email@example.com and you’ll want to subscribe to it after listening to this episode, because Brian’s a super smart tell it like it is kind of guy. He’s totally unconventional. And if you’re anything like me, you’re gonna love him. Are you ready for this? Let’s set this thing off. Hey, Matt Hunckler here and I’m so excited today because I’m here with Brian Clark, co founder of Copyblogger Rainmaker, FM The Rainmaker Platform, Brian, thanks so much for being here. Happy to be here. Thanks
for having me. Well, Brian,
you have an awesome history. And you’re calling in there from Boulder, Colorado, which is just a real hub of startup activity, both on the tech and entrepreneurship side, sort of more of the startup in the software space, all the way to kind of the new media Freelancer types, really creative space, you yourself, have founded nine companies, eight of which have been successful you and your entire blog Copyblogger, were a real inspiration when I was starting my first real company in 2007. And I’ve been following really ever since as much as I can you know how startup days can be sometimes when you just go into media detox mode, but when I have to cut it down to one or two blogs, yours is always the one that makes the cut, I’m really, really excited to be here and excited to dig in.
It’s great to hear that number one. Number two, it’s always even better, you know, more than even, I learned how to write better, or I learned to content marketing, I started a company, that’s what I love to hear V or more than one company. That was the real original point of Copyblogger, even though it kind of morphed into this content marketing resource. My original idea was to teach writers how to become entrepreneurs, and you’d be amazed at how resistant they are to that. But luckily, a reached a broader audience. And we have, luckily, there’s lots of great stories of people who have launched businesses and have said thank you over the years. So I love that. Well, Brian,
why do you think people are so resistant to the idea of entrepreneurship? Sometimes?
Oh, you know, it’s scary, I think to a certain degree, those of us who are drawn to it or are maybe wired differently, and perhaps not even in a good way. I mean, I just started a new podcast called unemployable. And I’m not kidding, that’s a funny name to call ourselves. But I was not good at working for other people.
Yep, I can absolutely relate to that, despite having no more than a dozen entrepreneurial jobs in the past, actually being able to run my own show, create the kind of impact that I want to create in the way that I want to create it from wherever I want to create, it has been really empowering. And stories like yours have been really encouraging along the way. You know, I’ve listened to every episode of the unemployable podcast. And by the way, for anyone that’s listening, I highly recommend checking out that series, Brian does an awesome job of giving you just the nugget of exactly what you need to hear. Obviously, Brian’s got the radio voice of all radio voices. So it’s a great way to start the day very inspiring and actionable as well. But in in talking about that term, unemployable, you kind of frame it as these people could get jobs if they wanted to. They just prefer not to. And why is it that you think entrepreneurs would actually make a good employee in a growing company?
Well, I mean, anyone who is a self starter creative has the ability to seek out innovative ideas based on just raw curiosity. It hasn’t always been the case. But now that’s the kind of person that companies of all sizes are looking for. And it’s interesting, I’ve touched on kind of this coming wave of automation, and computerization, that’s going to apparently eliminate and not a lot of jobs. And when you read the jobs that are safe, or the type of people that are safe, they sound exactly like entrepreneurs, which begs the question who wants a job? You know, even if you’re highly compensated if you could do your own thing, because the news, there was a particular Fast Company article that said, every industry will become like Wall Street, and, you know, Palo Alto tech, in that. You’ll have all these perks so that you never go home. So you worked 80 hours a week. And I’m like, if I’m going to do that, I’m doing it on my own, right.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I know that you haven’t always been an entrepreneur yourself. Can you take me back? Back to the day. I don’t know how many years ago that was maybe it’s decades at this point. What was the last job you had where you relied on a paycheck? What was the office? Like? How did you feel every day going into that office?
It was terrible. And I had a really, you know, objectively Great job, I guess. I was an attorney. So I graduated from law school in 94. At that point, I did really well in law school, but I knew pretty much already I didn’t want to practice law. Well, and it was interesting, because 94 was the beginning of the commercial web, also. So for four years, I went home and looked at this really creping monitor and think it was Compaq computer, I had, mainly only to get online. And I’m thinking there’s got to be a reaching all these people that you can make a living. My problem was, I was a liberal arts major with a law degree, I’d never taken a business class never read a marketing book. In many ways, that was a blessing, because the internet really did turn some things upside down, especially with regard to marketing. On the other hand, you should never quit your job, that clueless because I was about as clueless as you can get. But I think the key point being that I was just miserable. At the time, I was convinced I wanted to write for a living. I dabbled with the idea of becoming a screenwriter. But then here’s that independent streak. Again, I didn’t want to deal with New York publishing, and I didn’t want to be a cog in Hollywood, you know, writers are not exactly treated the best in Hollywood, or at least they weren’t. So I went back to the internet thing, and I’m like this, there’s got to be something here. So probably not the best way to get started. But I’m the type of guy who works really well under pressure. So instead of doing the side hustle, as it’s called, now, I just quit. Are there things
that you would do differently now? Or in general, if you’re recommending an entrepreneur, or someone that wants to be an entrepreneur of how to get started down the entrepreneurial path? Would you recommend taking the same approach that you did those years ago?
Well, as a father, now, I would have to think, what would you tell your son or daughter and I would say, keep your job and work nights and weekends until you get in a position? Where you feel like, you know, you can you can pull that off without a lot of drama? Odds are, they would probably say, Dad, I have an idea for a business can have some money. And I’d be like, No.
Wow, tough love dad.
Well, I’m a big fan of bootstrapping, you know? You know, reality is, they’re not listening to this, but I probably would. But I would be tough. I’d be an investor more than dad to a certain degree and just say, look, have you thought this through? I mean, do you know who you’re trying to reach? Do you know how you’re going, you know, all the standard stuff that a lot of times when we’re young, we have an idea. And we don’t think about everything that that involves, including? Does anyone actually want to buy or use this thing, which is number one?
And so how did you test that out in the early days, because I know, your kind of approach with Copyblogger was sort of to build the audience first, and then find the products that they wanted to buy, create those products, and sell those products? Are you doing the same thing now, now that you’re in the software business?
Well, yeah, so you know, all the software, we started getting into software in 2008, in the WordPress space, and then it just continued to get more sophisticated each year. So but it’s all been the outgrowth of serving a particular market. And to a certain degree, that market is me in that I’m a content creator. I’m not technologically illiterate, but I’m not a coder either. So our goal, it’s interesting story, if you’re familiar with 37 signals, which is now known as Basecamp. Yep. But back in 2005, before I started Copyblogger, I looked at how they transition from a design firm into a software. And I said, it’s too bad. I could never do that. And then of course, that’s exactly what we did. Not because I learned how to code, but because I collaborated and partnered and, and built what we needed to do that. So but at Essence, I’ve always kind of been our target target audience, except that I understood this content marketing thing before it became a thing. Well, now,
Brian, I’m gonna have to stop you there. Because you said you said to yourself in the past, I know I could never do that. But then you went ahead and did it anyway. So my question to you is what changed? As you
you know, as you go along, and you start seeing the possibilities, but you know, I didn’t really plan I really did build the audience that Copyblogger with not Is faith but the understanding that I would identify problems and desires that they have. And then I’d figure out what to make in order to satisfy those problems and desires. And that’s kind of the opposite of what people do, they have an idea for a product. And they’re not even necessarily sure that it solves a real problem. And then they go out and try to sell it, and then they struggle to reach people. And even then, when they do that, they realize that people didn’t want it. So flipping that on its head, the minimum viable product approach is more in line with what we do, except rather than some of the other ways that you can test whether someone will buy a particular product, whether it be software or a t shirt, you know, for that matter, we started with an audience first. So that we had that group of real people to interact with identify those problems and desires as we were dealing with them from a broader sense in the information realm. And then so are, we always launch with an MVP process, the promise is always this is 1.0, it’s going to get better with your feedback. So you’re getting our best deal. We’re like the opposite of Apple, Apple, you know, who will give you their early version, and screw all the early adopters, including me, because we all run out and buy it even though that’s why I didn’t buy an Apple Watch. Because I learned from the iPhone, it’s gonna be a lot better in about three years.
So you’re no longer an early adopter, you learned your lesson.
I’m trying to develop some restraint.
That’s important, especially in the technology world. You know, I think that I, I bought an early version of premise, was that one of your products?
Yeah, that was a plugin that did landing pages and membership functionality. The membership functionality was always fine. But we were never happy with the landing pages because it really needed to be in a hosted environment. So that was a precursor technology to what’s in the Rainmaker Platform now, which is hosted.
That’s kind of what I was. I was gathering from looking at Rainmaker on the website earlier this week. You know, it was interesting, because you mentioned that you invited people to be early adopters. And I’m pretty sure that that’s that was what I was an early adopter on. And I ended up sitting with that piece of software for probably a year and a half before he actually implemented it. But whatever you did, I’m sure it was a combination of the copywriting and the trust that you had built me over time as a reader of Copyblogger. That I said, Hey, I don’t have two nickels to scrape together. But this seems like the thing I should spend my money on.
I’m going to need this someday. So. Exactly.
Exactly. Well, speaking of trust, I think I first heard about you in a book called trust agents by Chris Brogan and Julian Smith. And I’ve gotten to know both those guys over the years. And one of the things that they one of the books that they wrote later was the impact equation. Did you happen to read that? Brian?
I did. It’s been a couple of years now. And I remember that Brogan and I were actually going to collaborate on something related to the whole impact brand. And then we both got busy and it didn’t happen. But that was a good book.
Yeah, you know, I think impact equation in terms of the books that I’ve read over the last three or four years impact equation has been one of the more kind of eye opening ones sort of frame shifting. And one of the concepts that they talk about in that book is sort of the leveling up. And one of the questions I have for you is, you know, looking at where you are now with an eight figure business 50 Some employees all over the world, you know, creating not just create content, but great products that are clearly very profitable. What were some of the level up moments or even what was the most memorable level up moment for you? And then when I say level up moment, I mean, you know, obviously, you do the same things every day. And you’re gonna see incremental increases over time as a whole, obviously, not every day is up. But hopefully, over time, if you’re consistent enough, which you clearly are, you’re gonna go up into the right. But there are some of those moments where you just really level up and go into a different league. Were there any moments like that for you in sort of the entire process of Copyblogger? Or even the businesses before that?
Yeah, that’s a great question, by the way. And the here’s the funny thing, it’s almost been a decade since I started Copyblogger. And if you would have told me that in January of 2006, I would have laughed at you, right? Because I’m like, Look, this is just a blog to get, you know, out there, show people what I can do. And my whole thing was I’ll just partner with people on different businesses and kind of build this portfolio of income streams. And that’s what I did for the years. And each year was kind of a level up. You know, you asked how did I end up doing what I said I couldn’t do is with regard to software, well, that was a level up moment and then the next you You know, from a WordPress design framework to a SAS was a huge leap between 2008 and the end of 2009. But I’d say the biggest jump was when I took, you know, the companies that I had launched off a copy blogger did some shuffling and swapping out, and basically merged five companies together to form Copyblogger media, which is the company now since September of 2010. And I say that was the biggest level up, because I never aspired to run a 55 person company, which is really kind of small for what we’re able to pull off. But still, that wasn’t my intention going into it. All those people I was partnered with weren’t talking to each other because they had no economic incentive to do so. So the first time all of those people were ever in one room together was in Denver, in 2010. And in two hours, we formed a new company, merging all the other companies, everyone’s equity was worked out. And that sounds kind of amazing. And frankly, it is, but we had a shared vision that we wanted to build a certain thing and that thing was an all in one solution. And that finally came out in 2014. And it’s called the Rainmaker Platform. And obviously, that will continue to evolve into a more sophisticated version of that original vision.
Now, tell me a little bit about the kinds of companies that are using the Rainmaker Platform right now. Because I think that a lot of times when people see these marketing software’s or platforms that are good for content creation, they think, Oh, this is for people who are creating a blog, and that’s their main source of income is doing affiliate sales or creating information products, are you currently serving any customers outside of that realm, they’re selling physical products or software products,
lot of professional services, less on the E commerce side, although I think that will change when we add that functionality, which is coming very soon. So I would say and you’ll, you’ll see, as we go forward, really can start seeing it now, the division between Copyblogger StudioPress and now Rainmaker FM, that we’ve identified different types of customers, and one type of customer, I would say, would be a content marketing customer, they sell everything from physical stuff, they may have a retail store, a lot of professional services, like lawyers, realtors, consultants, freelancers, and it’s basically a lead generation organism that works really well. And then the other big group of people that we have, I would call digital customers, and essentially Copyblogger, and we are a digital commerce company, meaning we sell digital products and services, we don’t sell physical things. We’re not in retail stores, and we don’t really sell services. So there’s a big contingent of people who, you know, they create online courses, they sell ebooks, they sell software, there are people who more or less are in the same kind of business that we are. So we’ve even as a go forward thing, we’ve identified that we really have two very, very distinct channels that need to be talked to differently, provided different content, provided even different training and services. So those are our two main channels. And it’s fairly well split. I think we’re just going to continue to try to grow both of those in tandem, even though it’s the same platform. That
makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like you’ve really done a lot of analysis, whether it’s the metrics, or even talking on the phone with some of your customers, to better understand who it is exactly. Who wants this thing that you’re creating. And it sounds like you might even be creating a new persona was sort of the E commerce side of things that would give you another channel to market your platform to Why is it so important to know who it is you’re selling your end product to?
I mean, that’s everything. I mean, you have to know who they are to a certain degree before you even launch. But once you do, I only you know, the launch is only the beginning of the iterative process. You know, this is lean startup stuff. I guess I was fortunate. When I started Copyblogger I somehow just fell into this adaptive kind of iterative content development thing, where I didn’t plan too far in the future, I would always see what happens, you know, do more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. And when I met Tony Clark, who was my first partner, but he’s also now our CEO, we’re not related. You know, he came from a software background so he’s like, you know, what you’re doing is agile content development and, and this is a form of Have lean and I’m like, What are you talking about? This isn’t 2000s. And so he explained it all to me. And I’m like, okay, yeah, that makes sense. Because it seems like good common sense to, to do that way. You’re, we’re in an interactive, real time environment. So you have to play it that way. It’s almost like improvisation with a plan to a certain degree. And then a few years later, obviously, all of those Lean and Agile concepts have become the norm. And I think that is fantastic. You know, you don’t have to be a funded startup in order to buy into those processes that the valley is in love with, because they just make sense. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in Indianapolis or Boulder, or, you know, Silicon Valley,
share. That’s really good perspective. And it’s cool that you mentioned, Tony, because I’ve heard you talk about Tony Clark, your co founder previously. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you two met and why you decided it was a good idea to partner up with a co founder, as opposed to go it alone? And do it yourself like you had in previous businesses?
Yeah, so my plan lager was really only to collaborate, usually either partnerships or joint venture to some degree, because I wanted to, at that point in my entrepreneurial career, I wanted to do what I was good at, and that I loved. And that’s it. And in my previous businesses, I kind of did everything like we tend to do. And I wasn’t really good at processes. Mainly, I didn’t take the time to implement any. So I worked 18 hours a day to make sure everything stayed together. But that wasn’t a very good time. So when I met Tony, Tony was he’s a consummate processes guy, and he was a blogger at the time, but he wanted to quit blogging so badly. He said, You know, the light, he said, the day that we partnered is the last day that I’m rocking anything and more or less, that’s been the case. But the main reason I partnered with him that first time is we talking and we came up with something we both wanted to do. And it was a big thing, turned it into a online education course. And it just made sense to me that, you know, I need a designer and coder, which Tony can both do. And I’ll primarily be the content guy. And we’ll do this. And that was a smart move. And in that first company, which went to about seven figures in a year or less, that was really the beginning of you can trace that forward to Copyblogger media. But the next year, I did another partnership. And the next year, I did another one. So there were co founders of individual companies, by the time we got to 2010. If you’re going to do a merger, you’ve got co founders built in, right? So really, if you look at it, I followed a path. And it took opportunity as it came along. I got a lot of people who approached me to partner in varying degrees, because I had the audience. And I said no to 95% of everything. And that’s the key saying no. But I said yes to things that were right for my audience, not just right for my wallet. And it turned out to be ripe for for both. And that’s the key. It’s so it can be tempting, I guess, to make the quick buck, but I never was going to do that. And I think that’s why we’ve never had a product fail. It’s always about them first. And yet, we ended up getting rewarded for doing that correctly.
That’s a really good thing to call out in terms of that relationship with Tony, and your willingness to test things. Obviously, he has a propensity to be a little bit agile in his approach and kind of embrace the lean startup methodology, which I don’t think was actually released back in 2007. But I think probably probably 2009 or 10. But it sounds like principally you guys are we’re really aligned. And that’s probably why that’s made such a good partnership there. But I’m guessing that over the years as you guys built this technology company, there are times that you just wanted to pull your hair out. And there were certain things that Tony did they kind of drive you crazy at times. If I were to talk to Tony and ask him the question, what’s the one thing that Brian does that gets in the way of this? The success of Copyblogger is true potential. What do you think he would say?
It gets in the way? I don’t know Tony and I are in the as the company has grown. The philosophy and processes that we had when we were three people are still in place at 55 people because they scale right. And we have had certain people who come from a more corporate background. They’re the ones who want to pull their hair out with us because you You know, we never, there’s never been what would be called a true pivot, where we just completely said, No, that was a bad idea. But it is a constant iteration are small enough to where we can turn on a dime. And we do. And I think a couple of years ago, it took some people, they thought that was crazy, and that we were crazy. And yet, they’ll see it work, you know, they’ll see that we adapted to the indications we were getting from real people, not an idea that we came up with, or not how we wish the world worked, but how it’s really happening. So Tony, and I complement each other really well. I’ve got nothing bad to say about him. So he better not say anything bad about me.
Oh, that’s a good philosophy to have. Elena, it’s not necessarily bad. You know, I think that sometimes our weaknesses or failures or shortcomings, you know, having someone that can call you out on that, obviously, hopefully,
that is key, though and or the relationship because, yeah, he’s not afraid to say no, and I’m not afraid to say that to him. And I think that’s what makes it a good working relationship. So long before we would have a chance, I think, to complain to others about each other, we’ve already hashed it out. And that’s a lesson for those out there who have partners, co founders, or considering, you know, bringing someone in at that level, the ability to be frank, honest, you know, even brutally So, and yet still walk away with respect for one another on an ongoing basis. That’s a thing to really treasure, you know, but you on the other hand, I could easily given the position I was in when when partners or potential partners came to me, you know, I could have attracted a bunch of use men. And I would hate that, because that’s the worst thing in the world. Yeah, I
think the idea of having people that just say yes to your ideas all the time would be exhausting. And not just for them, but for you, too, because then you’d have to go and execute on all of those ideas. When you’re, when you’re looking at kind of scaling that company from three people to 55 people, you said that the systems you set up when you were three people scaled to the size you were when you were 55? You know, I think a lot of the founders in the verge community have similar teams in that in that range. I’m curious, what are some of the key systems that you had in place when you were three people that helped you scale to that 55?
Yeah. And this, again, would be a conversation I have with Tony, and frankly, he would be a great interviewer. I’m actually going to do a webinar with him for our unemployable audience on last on that very topic. But essentially, it’s, you know, at its essence, I would say, I’m very exacting, and put it that way to put it nicely, in that the audience and customer experience down to the finest detail. There’s nothing that’s too small. And anytime you come back to me and say, Oh, that doesn’t matter, that’s about the only way to make me upset. Because, you know, I always say that it’s the aggregation of a ton of little details, and you don’t know which detail so you just have to try to do your best to get, you know, everything the big thing, certainly, but also the little things. So whenever I would go to Tony and say, okay, look, this is an acceptable, instead of putting a bandaid on it, Tony would work it into a process that was teachable, scalable and replicable. And that’s his genius, really, in that he never bandaids anything now me. You know, in my previous companies, why work so hard. I was constantly mandating things. Instead of taking a step back and saying, Okay, you need to create a process that lives outside your brain number one, and make it so that other people can repeat it and act on it.
Sounds like a pretty awesome partnership, almost like a Batman and Robin there. And I’ll let it let you and the other Clark decide which one gets to be Batman. But it’s cool to hear how you guys operate and how you’re growing. Copyblogger and Rainmaker. I’m curious to hear your perspective. You know, being in the software space, and then deciding to launch Rainmaker, FM podcasting network, and really one of the premier podcasting networks out there right now with some of the best podcasts on there. Why did you decide to go into that world when really you’d been living the online world of tons of great typed and written content? And then creating software around that that seemed to be working? Why go into the world of podcasting?
Yeah, because we do have a very large audience of readers. The type of people who create content writers, etc, tend to favor reading not universally, but it’s pretty strong correlation. But if you look at the overall population of people reading is the smallest preferred information absorption medium, if you will. So how do you grow beyond that, and obviously, if you look at video, audio and text, video is probably a lot of people’s preferred way to be entertained, but also to learn. I’m not one of those people. I’m a reader. So that makes sense that I started writing for writers if you will. But audio has a lot of advantages in that it’s the one format that doesn’t require you to look at a screen or to use your eyes, you can truly do other stuff like drive, workout, run, hike, walk, whatever the case may be. So it’s portable on demand, podcasting broke big last year, just as we were starting to take it seriously. But the real reason for the podcast network is twofold. One, audience expansion if we just stick to tech or ignoring all those people who don’t like to read, and that’s a lot of people. So it wouldn’t be viable just to stick to text, I think when you look at the universe of people who are interested in what the platform might be able to do for them. Number two. Rainmaker. FM is built on the Rainmaker Platform. So it’s also a demonstration of the platform that the network is promoting. And we’ve always been big on that. Don’t claim that it’s great, show that it’s great. And then if we can get someone to sign up for the free trial, they can, they can see for themselves?
Well, I’m sure you’re thinking about these things all the time, as are the rest of us. Anyone who’s in any industry is thinking about how the web is changing, and how digital formats are changing, or analog formats for that matter. I’m curious to hear your perspective on where do you think we’ll be here in the next three to five years as it pertains to anything, whether it’s audio and video content to even things like virtual reality or wearables? Like the I watched that you didn’t buy?
I get asked this question a lot. And I always say if I could call this one. Exactly right. I’d be on an island right now. And we wouldn’t be talking so. But I do actually have an answer for that. And I’ve actually written about it before, you know, when it comes down to it, you’ve got, you’ve got text, you’ve got audio and you’ve got visual content. Now, there are blends of those content and virtual reality and wearable certainly present the most interesting evolution from a contextual and technological standpoint. And yet, I always tell people, don’t worry about that quite so much, until you have the fundamentals down until you know who you’re trying to talk to, until you know what it is that they’re going to respond to. And you’re delivering that to them one way or another. Because once you get that down, you can transport into other mediums, other context, all of that. And that’s fine. But I always people are like, what’s your Periscope strategy? Well, it would be exactly the same. If I got the indication that people wanted to see me talking into my phone, on video, you know, I mean, so don’t just chase after the new and shiny if you if you’re not connecting now connect with a blog, and then move to video or audio, you know what I’m saying you’ve got to start somewhere and figure it out. And then you can move into pretty much any other realm that comes along.
That’s really, really good perspective. And something that I think people can act on immediately. If they’re not already blogging, getting their first blog post out, it couldn’t possibly be any easier than it is today. No, I think that one of the things that has come up a couple times in this interview is that you’re a reader. And I think that’s really cool, because I’m I’m a reader too. And not even the Kindle variety I for whatever reason, really like analog books, I like being able to highlight them, mark them up. And I like being able to go back and reference
them. I feel the same way about real books. But the fact that I can take 1000 of them with me and you know, on my phone, can’t beat that either. So I’m adapting to the digital book thing, but just because I have my wife is so thrilled because I have a whole room of bookshelves, and I’ve stopped adding to them, essentially because they’re all digital now.
saving space now you don’t have to go buy a new house.
Yeah, she’s like, can you get rid of some of these books? I’m like, you don’t get rid of books. You know what, that’s sacrilege.
I totally agree, especially since all those valuable notes are in there, at least from my from my books, and one of the things that I’m looking at doing is getting your perspective on if you could read one book and recommend one book to an entrepreneur that is kind of a classic, what would that recommendation be?
That one’s easy. And I do it all the time. And even though it’s 15, almost 16 years old, and it’s specifically related to online marketing, people are like, There’s no way that’s still relevant. And it is, and it’s permission marketing by Seth Godin. It was the first marketing book I ever read. And thank God, I was so clueless before, because really, that got me started the right way. I had nothing to unlearn building audiences that you have a direct relationship with, and then building trust, and then selling them things. And every company I’ve started, the first one failed, but it was based on those principles. I just didn’t have anything to sell. I was trying to do advertising that was the crash and burn at that time. But everyone since then, has been built on that same principle. And they’ve always succeeded. And they they keep getting better, why they’re better are the people that I work with. So I can’t take credit for that. But it still goes back to the principles in that book. So some of the references may be different emails, still the number one sales channel all these years later, 40 times greater than social media. And I think a lot of don’t want to hear that. But trust me, email is the transactional channel, you’ve got to build that email list.
Wow, I think a lot of people need to hear that. And it’s cool, particularly being in an email town with exact target, you know, obviously, being founded here back in 99. And selling recently to Salesforce, Indianapolis is has long since been an email town. And it’s just refreshing to hear that it’s not all necessarily Periscope and Twitter.
I mean, and people are figuring this out. I mean, people the whole Facebook bait and switch, you know, a lot of people were like, wait a minute, I need to go build on my own land, which we’ve been preaching for. I don’t know how long and and we need, we need to focus on email. So and it helps that, you know, it was McKinsey, that did the study that said emails, 40 times more effective. And this is, this is not an old study, this, I believe was at the end of 2018. So it’s funny, the big brands, were some of them people on social media, but I think they’re figuring it out.
Yep. Absolutely. Well, and one other question, and that is, which book have you read in the last year that you would recommend to any and all entrepreneurs?
Oh, that’s a tough one, I read a lot. I’ve been on this Cup for the first time in my life, kind of a personal development kick. Cool. I was, you know, I’ve been friends with some of the biggest personal development bloggers, but I was always like, I don’t need to pay attention to that, you know, all I need is coffee, and, you know, bad attitude. But I’ve come to realize that, that it’s not just, you know, how hard you work. And it’s not just what you learn in a business context. And I’m glad to see that so much more of this information is getting out there such as the importance of exercise, not only for staying healthy, but for your brain, you know, for your ability to have clarity, and to find the right answer, sleep. Instead of pulling all nighters, you should be adamant that you get enough sleep, whatever that is for you. I used to think it was six for me, it turns out, it’s more like seven and a half. So I always try to make to get enough sleep. And here’s the other thing, eating well, all this stuff seems like it just about you and your body. And that has nothing to do with your business. Oh, the last thing, study after study shows that working past a certain point, it’s beyond diminishing returns. And so again, we’re as entrepreneurs, we’re taught to crank it out, you know, but this is for people outside of the valley. Right? So yeah, you’re writing your own script. So you know, take care of yourself. One book on this, there’s a book called spark. That’s the one about the effects of exercise on learning. In general performance in general. It’s amazing how much it matters. If you’re really trying to be all you can be, you know, putting in 18 hour days and neglecting exercise, diet, sleep, all of that kind of stuff. You’re you’re actually hurting yourself. So that is my counterintuitive advice and a book to read.
And that is great advice. And I spark I haven’t actually heard of that. So I will, that’s gonna be the first thing I do after I get off this call is hit up amazon.com And get that book. And then right after that head off to basketball to play with the other entrepreneurs that are in the verge league with me. There you go. That’s right. Well, Brian, you have such an inspiring story and I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. Not just on being an entrepreneur, but all in all leading a really good life as an unemployable. Awesome, Brian, thanks so much, man. That’s it for our interview with Brian Clark from Copyblogger Rainmaker, FM and unemployable. But as you will know, that does not have to be the end of the conversation. I hope you take to the Twitter’s to the Instagrams to the Facebook’s, to the Snapchat to whatever new social platform is out there. And hit up my man Brian Clark, he’s just at Brian Clark, that’s CL AR K, just like a sounds. Hit him up. Let them know what you learned. Let them know what you what questions you have for him. Let him know what you’re working on right now. And if you think any of his products like Rainmaker might be a good fit, or even his approach, maybe you’re thinking about growing a software company and this whole venture capital thing doesn’t sound like the right fit for you. Let him know. He’s got great, great resources for you at all of his properties. unemployable.com Rainmaker, FM Rainmaker digital copyblogger.com, it has been an awesome resource for me, I leveraged it highly when I started my first company in college, as I was growing my own audience with my own products. So I really appreciate it having this conversation with him. I really appreciate you for tuning in. powderkeg is presented by verge which is a network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors, and top talent growing companies beyond Silicon Valley, we have a ton of free resources for starting and growing your business at verge hq.com. We also host several events every month around the country. So check us out and see where we’re at, I would love to link up with you in person, learn a little bit more about what you’re working on and how we can help. So again, that’s verge hq.com. And of course, you can always find me on Twitter and Instagram at Hunckler. That’s at hunc K, L E R, I appreciate all of your feedback, all the conversation and dialogue there. Thank you so much for continuing to give great feedback, great ideas for future shows. And of course, let me know how I can help I want to help you. I want to help your business. And I want to help make this podcast better and better. So that again, we’re helping more and more people. The more interviews we do, the more episodes we have. So thanks to everyone who has done that. And of course, thank you. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has left us a review this past week and subscribe on iTunes. You can leave us your honest review by using this link powder keg.co/itunes Please give us a subscribe while you’re at it. And we’ll be forever indebted to you. Because it’s your reviews. It’s your subscriptions and your feedback that helps us get better and reach more people to build bigger and better businesses that really matter. Thank you so much for tuning in.