Podcast

Episode: 148 |
Tobin Slaven:
Conversations at Scale :
Episode
148

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Tobin Slaven

Conversations at Scale

Show Notes

Our guest today is Tobin Slaven.

Tobin helps entrepreneurs build email lists, conduct conversations at scale, and then monetize those lists.

He is the host of a podcast that I’ve been enjoying: Stop Marketing Now, Do This Instead.

Tobin emphasizes the importance of engaging in a conversation with potential customers and building a relationship.

In explaining to me his approach to building remarkable, successful email lists, Tobin recalled his own sleepless nights, worrying about where his next client would come from and what he could do to move beyond word of mouth.

In this show we cover the nuts and bolts of which email platforms to use and how often emails should be sent as well as techniques to use email as a continuing conversation from which business can grow.

To learn more about Tobin and to find plenty of useful tips, visit tobinslaven.com

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will: Hello, Tobin. Welcome to the show.
Tobin Slaven: Well thanks, Will. I appreciate you having me on.
Will: All right.
Tobin Slaven: Very excited.
Will: First I’ll say thanks for reaching out on LinkedIn. You reached out to me and as I’m sure you’re dreadfully aware, people get probably half a dozen, a dozen people reaching out everyday offering marketing advice or, “I can do legion for your business,” and I always don’t accept those. But yours kind of stood out. You’re sort of in that space I guess, but stood out, had a different approach. Much different message. And then I checked your website, I was like, “Wow, this is really good stuff.” And I checked your podcast and I said, “Wow.” Stop Marketing Now, Do This Instead, and I’ve listened to over a dozen episodes of your podcast. Really love it. And I said, “Oh, wow. This guy’s awesome.”
Will: So, I’m really delighted to connect with you and psyched to have you on the show. And what I was thinking is we could kind of give us a master class for our listeners of … you do much more than this, but on this episode, maybe give us a master class on how as an independent professional should we think about building an email list, who should we be sending stuff to, what kind of content should we send, how often, and maybe even getting some of the tools we should use, if it’s Mail Chimp or Hub Spot or whatever. How does that sound?
Tobin Slaven: That sounds great. I just love this topic. I get a little bit nerdy about it at times, so I’ll try to do my best to steer through that. But yeah, LinkedIn is a really, really interesting space because there’s no more target rich environment for the B2B. Like if you’re in the B2B space, you have to connect and nurture those connections, build your network that way. And at the same time, there’s a lot of folks that are … I think you expressed this, but they’re approaching in a really unattractive way, and it sort of reeks of desperation, it’s very salesy. Our program that we deliver is all about creating conversations. We actually call it Conversations at Scale, but LinkedIn is one of the tools. It’s not just a LinkedIn program. And it’s not just an email program. We go into email and we love that space.
Tobin Slaven: In fact, my background is there. I’ve been doing it for a dozen years. I’ve had clients where we grew their email list to 275,000 subscribers. At one point we sent two emails that produced a million and a half dollars for them. So, we’ve had some big wins just on email alone, and ultimately email is the … I think it’s the key to future proofing your career and your business, because you own that, unlike the other social media platforms. We’re seeing a lot of huge Titanic sized changes, like on Facebook for example right now where there are a lot of marketers that are flooding over to LinkedIn. That’s one of the reasons why we have this problem of people being salesy. They’re taking tactics that work for them on Facebook and they’re trying to apply them to LinkedIn and it’s not a great response that they’re getting back from folks.
Will: And before we dive into the content for this episode, I did want to up front make sure and ask, for anybody who likes what you’re saying today, what’s the best place to find you online? Your website, or Twitter, or whatever contact info you want to give.
Tobin Slaven: I appreciate that. My website and actually all my social media profiles are just built around my name. So, it’s Tobin, T-O-B-I-N, and then last name is Slaven, S as in Sam, L-A-V as in Victor, E, that’s the one that people, it sounds like an I but it’s an E, N, dot come. So, TobinSlaven.com. Or any of the social media platforms you’ll find me a /TobinSlaven.
Will: Great. And your podcast again is Stop Marketing Now, Do This Instead. Which is, nice title.
Tobin Slaven: Yeah, we have fun with that, ’cause we always get that hook in there, which is … people say, “What is the this,” and we leave them with a little bit of a cliffhanger, but for your audience, I’ll tell you. Here’s where I came at this, Will, is that I used to lay in bed at night and wonder where my next client is gonna come from, where’s my next project when you are an independent and your business depends on what you go out there and produce on a daily, or a weekly, or a monthly basis. You’re always looking forward and I was getting referrals from folks, that’s sort of a sign that you’re doing good work and that people appreciate it and that they’re willing to refer, but it’s inconsistent. You can’t count on those.
Tobin Slaven: And the paid traffic approach probably works in some cases, but there’s a lot of downsides to that as well. So, I just kept, I had this one thought in my head that I just kept coming back to, which was if I could create more conversations, you think about like a convention where you’re just talking with a lot of people, and if the conversations with the right people, I knew good things were gonna happen. So, that’s what we created. So, the LinkedIn comes into that, but it’s not just about that platform. And the email, we very much love that space, in fact, I’ll tell you a little bit about our secret sauce in that space and why it works and why folks should tap into that as well.
Will: Great. And I don’t know if you’d agree, but it feels to me, having listened to more than a dozen episodes of your show, you really kind of have … kind of follow the philosophy of Seth Godin and Permission Marketing, and getting people’s permission to be in their inbox and providing value first before you ask and try to sell something. So, it’s really about, I really like that kind of philosophy. Let’s talk a little bit. Let’s say an independent professional, maybe they’re a former Mackenzie consultant who is doing marketing and worked at Coach, and now they’re independent. Or maybe it’s a supply chain person who was at AT Kearney and is now independent. Or someone from another top firm who’s now an independent professional. Let’s say that they’re thinking, “Oh, maybe I should have an email list,” give us a master class. Who should they be inviting to it? What kind of content should it be? How often should they send it out? And what technology is a practical way do they actually need to use to get started?
Tobin Slaven: There’s two things I would tell you. The first one is, everyone should have this asset in their life, because your background experience, your skill set that you bring to the table is constantly changing, particularly in the world that we live in now, because there’s so many different technologies that are being disrupted and all. So, that is constantly changing. Your network is constantly evolving as well. But when you have a list, no one wants to be on a list. But when you think of it like your network or your warm … a circle of people that you can reach out to, that is the most valuable asset because while all the other things are changing around you, those relationships can be solid. They can be foundational. And they can be lifesaving in some cases. If we get a chance, I’ll give you an example of what I mean by that. It literally is, again, future proofing your career and your business by having access.
Tobin Slaven: And the second thing is the biggest reason why people don’t have a list yet is because they think they have to have a list to start. They don’t realize that every, like all these folks that you hear about that have 60,000 or 100,000, or 500,000 people on their list, that they’re able to broadcast to and share messages to, and it gives them this enormous influence, impact in the market space. All of those lists started with one person. Or the first five or ten people. So, what we’ve been seeing and what’s super interesting to me is these tiny lists that just create monstrous opportunities and profit for people, honestly. They might have a list of 500 people, but the production of that list, what they’re able to generate, new opportunities from that list, far exceeds people that have lists that are tens of thousands of times bigger.
Will: Yeah, you just need the right 500 people, or sort of the classic, a meme is 1000 true fans, which anyone can Google and get the Kevin Kelly essay.
Tobin Slaven: Yeah, that’s very much in sync. There’s a great resource, actually a newsletter writer that I tune into, he’s a blogger and newsletter, his name is Josh Spector. But he has a definition of your audience and he basically says people have it backwards. They’re looking at the size of their audience and what they’ve done for you in the past, how many people opened your last email or something like that. But the best measure is actually what is the size of the group of people that you can reach out to on your next project and they’re actually gonna be receptive, they’re gonna open that message, they’re looking forward to hearing from you, because you built a relationship there.
Will: Cool. How does someone get started? Let’s say someone, they probably have 500 in contacts or something and maybe they have a bunch of other emails. So, let’s say someone doesn’t have an email list and they say, “All right. I listened to Tobin Slaven on the show, I’m gonna do this.” What would be the first step to getting their stuff together?
Tobin Slaven: The first thing, going back to your point about permission based marketing, is please do not go to your LinkedIn account, because when you are connected to folks, you are able to see their contact information. A really bad process or honestly smarmy process would be to just scrape those emails off and start putting those folks on your list and treating them as though they’ve opted in for those kind of messages. I don’t like to receive those. I’m sure you don’t either. No one does. Permission based marketing works on two levels. The first one is just someone making that choice themselves to say, “Yes, I’m open to receiving additional messages from you.” So, it’s really important to follow, that’s both by law and regulation but also best practices. You don’t want a list of people who don’t want to be there, ’cause they’re not gonna produce the results that you’re looking for.
Tobin Slaven: The strategies that take you from your first 25 or your first 500 subscribers will be a little bit different from what you’ll do when you get to 1000 or when you want to grow to 5000 subscribers. I’ll give you a couple examples. At the first, at the most basic level, you want to think about what is the thing that the group of people that I’m interacting with, what would they find valuable. So, the way I’ve done this myself, if folks want to see an example, on my website, again TobinSlaven.com, we have two one page sheets, like a cheat sheet or a useful resource. One is called Five Simple Tips to Skyrocket the Value of Your List. The second one is actually called The Five LinkedIn Pitfalls that You Have to Avoid if You want to Get Clients from LinkedIn.
Tobin Slaven: Neither of these require an opt in. So, the traditional marketer’s playbook, what people have been doing for dozens of years now, is you have to stick your email in to get people to opt in to that list to get these downloads. I’m actually not doing that. I just put them on my website. People can click a button and they can download it. The one pagers are just in my Drop Box and I give them the direct link. Why am I doing that? Because I care more about building that relationship with folks. If I provide, I really believe in the value on both of these downloads. I put really good information and it’s not, it’s a one page sheet but it’s sort of a summary. They both have links to podcast episodes where we take a deeper dive and all. So, I’m building the relationship first and trusting that if I give value with folks, they’re gonna come back for more in a way that makes sense to them.
Tobin Slaven: That’s the kind of thing I would think about to get your list started is think about who those folks are, what is something that you can put in front of them to start to build that relationship so they eagerly come back and they eagerly look for your next message, because you’ve already provided value and they’re looking forward to what’s coming next.
Will: Cool. Let’s say we start by saying, “Okay, we’re not gonna just span everybody in our LinkedIn network,” but let’s say we identify people that we actually have a relationship already with. Clients that we’ve served that we know, colleagues maybe at our former firms. So, we put together a list of people that we think, “Hey, if they got an email from me, even if it’s kind of a Mail Chimp email, they’d be cool with it. They’d be interested.” So, maybe the first step is we do that and we get their first name, their last name, and they’re email address, and we’ve created that list in Excel, let’s say. So, we’ve started, we’ve done that step. What would be practically like the next things to get started on this, in terms of either set it up technically, like Mail Chimp or Hub Spot, or other programs? Do you have recommendations there on how you … for someone unsophisticated like me who’s used to email but hasn’t used one of these platforms, what would you … how do you get started on doing the list part?
Tobin Slaven: Yeah. I actually have three … this is like right in my, this is in my sweet spot of talking about email service providers, ’cause I’ve used all of them either for myself or for clients, and I’m going to give you three examples that fit three different situations that people may be interested in. But I’d like to go back to one thing before we dive into the tools and technology, just for a second.
Will: Sure.
Tobin Slaven: This idea of connecting with folks and putting value in front of them, so I gave the example of using, I put these two one pagers on my website, just to put them out there for folks. When you are on LinkedIn or your in a real life networking event, there’s also this conversation that’s going on that you’re having with folks and you have to again invite folks in and sort of give them a preview. No one wants to join your newsletter, and if you frame it that way, I mean I don’t know about you, but there’s no … Why? I’ve already got enough email. I don’t need more of that in my inbox and most folks don’t. But if you’re conversing with folks.
Tobin Slaven: So, an example of this would be I deliver a weekly curated newsletter. Curated means that it’s not just messages about me and from me and more me, me, me and my promotions. It’s curated in that I took all the best stuff that I saw from the web in the past week and I put it in one email newsletter with again, sort of the same format as these one pagers I was telling you about, but they’re summaries with the links. So, I put this collection together. I call it like a basket of goodies. This is all the good stuff, you don’t have to go searching for it. I do weekly curation just as part of my business. Put it in one place and I send it out once a week to my folks. So, when I’m talking with folks, I’ll usually say something to the effect of, “It was really great to meet you and one of the best ways for us to stay in touch actually is if you want to take a look at this newsletter.” And I’ll send them to a page on my website where they can see I’ve been doing this for a couple years now.
Tobin Slaven: So, literally there are just dozens and dozens of examples of what the quality of these baskets of goodies look like, so people can see whether it makes sense for them to … then they actually can choose to opt in. They put in their name and email, they will get that every week for me. It’s a great way for us to sort of stay in touch. Social media very much imposes on our life, but when it comes into our inbox, we get to make those choices. Is now a good time to read that message? Do I want to snooze it for later? Do I want to just archive that one this week because things are really busy, but I don’t want to forget about that person? They’re gonna show up in my inbox next week as well. But you’ve got to have value there, just saying you’re gonna deliver a newsletter, no one needs more of that in their life.
Tobin Slaven: That was what I wanted to share. You asked specifically about tools.
Will: Yeah, but actually-
Tobin Slaven: Mail Chimp is …
Will: Let me respond to that. So number one, put me on your list, Tobin. Or I’ll go sign up.
Tobin Slaven: Okay.
Will: And then number two is, I think that’s a really important point that you raise, which is a lot of us think, “Newsletter. Oh my god, I have to create all this really amazing content.” Part of your strategy could be not necessarily creating all of it, but the curation part. And if weekly is overwhelming, once a month, or in some periodic basis of, hey, if you’re a supply chain person like, “Hey, there’s this upcoming conference or this conference I went to, it was fantastic,” or “Here’s three white papers I read,” or “Here’s a book that I read,” or “Here’s a really good documentary,” or whatever. “Here’s a great YouTube video.” Even that curation part can be providing value. You don’t have to create all the content yourself, is a good takeaway for me.
Tobin Slaven: Very much. There’s a lot of work in creating content, so you remove that baggage of having to do all that work and you reveal a different side of you. So, in a curated newsletter you may have work related content, but you might also have other things that speak to your interests and your personality. So for example, every once in a while I’ll throw in a psychology story, or because I have a background, I used to teach in a university in that space, or I might talk about Star Wars, ’cause I’m kind of nerdy every once in a while. So, those things, that’s how you build trust and authority with folks, is over time they get to know who you are. They get to see that you have a distinct voice. And curation is about becoming a taste maker. We live in such a noisy, overwhelming world. No one needs more information. They need someone to make sense of that information.
Tobin Slaven: So, you’ll see on my newsletter when you get it that every link that is curated is not just the link. There’s a little snippet that says, “Tobin’s Note” and I tell them what this is, why they should care about it, and what I thought of it, why I actually chose, why it made the list to be shared, because I sift through hundreds of things that don’t make the list. I’m only sharing the best of the best.
Will: Fantastic. Okay. Back to platforms. Someone who hasn’t done this before says, “All right, I can do some curation. I’ll write some of my own stuff, too.” Technically, what sort of platform should we … we shouldn’t just use our own email, right? What should we set up?
Tobin Slaven: The first place most folks go, and this includes … again, there’s many email service providers. There’s big names like Mail Chimp and there’s Convert Kit and A Webber, and Drip and Cartra, and Active Campaign. I could go on and on with all the different … Hub Spot folks that have platforms that do this. But a lot of people go to Mail Chimp first because it’s the biggest, most active brand in the small to medium size business space. They allow you to have up to … to start with a free account and have up to 2000 subscribers, so people really love that. You can start doing this. You can start sending out your newsletter or your updates or whatever you’re doing with it for free, initially using their platform, and you only have to start paying when you want some of the premium features.
Tobin Slaven: So, that’s a big plus right there that you can just get a professional level platform, because there’s some big organizations that are also using Mail Chimp. They continue to use Mail Chimp because it’s got a lot of advantages. A second platform that’s actually owned by Mail Chimp, they bought it a few years ago, but it’s very, it’s specifically good in the newsletter space, and that’s called TinyLetter.com. And here’s why someone might want to look at Tiny Letter. By the way, it’s also free and we love free tools, ’cause it sort of allows people to get up and running. Tiny Letter allows you to have a sign up page. Let’s say for example you don’t have a website or you’re doing this for your own personal brand. You can have a page to subscribe. It will archive your past messages that you send out. So, it’s got all those tools sort of baked into one place and all you have to do is just write the message that you’re sending out.
Tobin Slaven: So, Mail Chimp, those newsletters or messages might be a little bit more designed with color and headlines, and sort of look like what we expect a webpage to look like. Tiny Letter is more likely gonna look like a text email. It’s a little bit simpler approach, but it’s very effective to start to build. A lot of folks have started their newsletters and their lists on that kind of small, simple platform, and then they grow into something else, the additional functionality when they need it.
Will: All right. Cool. Let’s say someone says, “All right, I’m just gonna go with choice of the crowd, so Mail Chimp sounds like a good place to start.” If you want to create your template of what you’re gonna use to send out, do you recommend just going with one of the pre out of the box ones that they have? Or can you get a freelancer or someone off of Upwork to help kind of custom design it and add in your logo and your color scheme? Tell us a little about just that practical part of getting that part done.
Tobin Slaven: Yeah, so I’m actually gonna give you some advice that’s gonna seem a little bit contrarian. This one might surprise you from what you expected by how you phrased the question. There are, just so folks know, on any of these platforms like Mail Chimp, there will be templates where you can fill in your information. I’m actually not gonna advise that you do that. We use, because we do this for our clients, ours is a done for you service, so we produce a weekly curated newsletter for our clients each week so they don’t have to touch it. We use a platform called Publicate. And we use Publicate because it allows us to make these really gorgeous, sort of magazine style newsletters, and they look really good and it’s a very effective platform for curation. So, we create the newsletter there. We don’t send through Publicate, we just use it as the sort of design space. And then we take that code and we send it on whatever email service provider our clients are using.
Tobin Slaven: So, that’s our process internally. That’s maybe over built for what a lot of your folks might need to get started, but I actually would recommend, this is the contrarian advice, when you send a message out to folks, and we’ve all experienced this. You know for example in Gmail there are different tabs, right? The email services providers are looking at a couple things. Here’s an email that just showed up and it has graphics. It has a graphic banner at the top. It’s coming from a IP address that is not Gmail, but it’s actually … the name is right, but it’s coming from this other IP address that we know is associated with an email service provider.
Tobin Slaven: I see headlines and I see buttons and colors in this. Most likely, that email is going to end up in the promotions tab. Or maybe even in the spam folder. Our email platforms that we all use, whether it’s Gmail, or Yahoo, or whatever you’ve chosen. Outlook would be another example. They’ve all been engineered, just try to cut out that clutter. So, what we’re actually doing for our clients is we’re utilizing … there’s a class of software out there that will work and plug into your email, like your Gmail account or if you use Google Apps, it would plug into that. And there’s a distinct advantage to this in that you can send one off messages to folks, okay? This is a really important distinction. There’s two things that we’re talking about. A broadcast of one to many, and we’re talking about one off messages. If you have to get an email to someone and it’s important, so if you for example want to say, “Are you still interested in” whatever your industry or topic is, the value that you’re delivering. If you want to reactivate someone you haven’t talked to in the last six or nine months, “Are you still interested in this thing?”, you want that kind of message to go out through your Gmail, ’cause your likelihood of getting that message being open and received and responded to is dramatically higher. Much, much higher, okay?
Tobin Slaven: In fact, I have a campaign right now that’s getting 84% open rates and 26% click through rates and this campaign has been running over 90 days now. So, it’s not high volume. If you need to send a message out to dozens or thousands of people, then you’re gonna need to use your email service provider, that’s more that broadcast, that’s the kind of message that has a link at the bottom that says, “If you want to unsubscribe.” You don’t unsubscribe from a Gmail message, right? You just message, you reply to that person and say, “Please don’t email me anymore.” I just want people to understand there’s two different things going on here. And then the second thing to know about that is when you do send, when you create a curated newsletter, so for example I’ll send a message out, text only, the same kind of email that you send to a friend. I just check in with my folks on a weekly basis, and again, it’s sort of getting through some of these filters that Gmail or Yahoo or whatever have set up.
Tobin Slaven: It’s a text only message where I’m writing to a friend, Will, you would open this and there would be only one link in this message. And it would say, “Hey, Will. Just letting you know this week’s newsletter’s ready.” And when they click on that link, it will go to a web version. I’m not putting my whole newsletter into the email, ’cause it’s not the best experience for the person who’s receiving it. If they want to read that newsletter, it’s right before them, but we’re not forcing it on anyone.
Will: Interesting. So, rather than sending out the newsletter as this rich HTML, you’re sending a simple text one liner saying, “Hey, the weekly email’s ready. Here’s the link to click on it to get it”?
Tobin Slaven: Correct. And I will, let me caveat this by saying I do have clients that still prefer the rich email newsletter experience and we send that for them, that’s an option for us. But we’re finding a better response and truthfully we are moving to a world where folks are using Facebook messenger. They’re texting. The message format, that short, very short snippets of conversation back and forth, that is how people are communicating now. So, we’ve modified our email approach to really fit and work well in that world and get best results.
Will: Okay. Yeah. Counterintuitive, contrarian like you promised. Okay. We talked a bit about the tools and Publicate sounds pretty interesting. I guess that you can use that with any of these providers. So, let’s say someone says, “All right, I’m gonna start kind of simple. I’ll do Mail Chimp, or maybe even the Tiny Letter.” How frequently should people be sending it? If it’s someone who maybe just wants to stay top of mind to 100 former clients or 200 former clients and colleagues, something on that order. We’re not building a list necessarily yet with people that we haven’t actually met in person, in real life, but we’re trying to just stay top of mind to our core network of people who know us. How often would you recommend we send something out and what are some ideas of things that you’ve seen successful people in that situation of what you actually send?
Tobin Slaven: We actually advocate, again, you may not expect this, but we advocate sending weekly. And the reason why we do that is numerical. You can do the math yourself, but if you take a round number, like 1000 or 10,000 just to make the math easy to start, but whatever your number is, if you start applying the average industry open rates, which is like only 10 to 20%, so only one or two out of 10 people are actually going to open and see those messages. If you only send once a month, when you start doing this math and projecting out the total number of opens, it’s only touching base with the people that you care about and that you want to groom those relationships, they’re only hearing from you a couple times a year.
Tobin Slaven: So, we’re doing two things differently. We’re sending weekly. People, I can hear the screams through the phone. People are saying, “I’m busy enough. I don’t have time for this in my life to do this.” But here’s the thing, if you share, if you’re already finding that you’re sharing stuff with your friends, your family. I started doing this, I would find a really cool article or something that I wanted to share with my wife. So, I just started putting all those curated links in one place. So, I take a couple hours each week, put this all together, and I have this newsletter ready to send out. So, I’m essentially doing the work anyways. I just have to organize it differently. We send it once a week and then the other thing you see with this curated approach, because there’s actual value there, not a me me me kind of message, the open rates are two to three percent … two to three times higher. Excuse me, not percent. Times higher. And they’re one to two times higher on the click through rate, so much bigger response.
Tobin Slaven: So, instead of a 10% open rate, they’re getting a 30% open rate. We’ve seen open rates as high as 70% on these curated newsletters, because you’re training people week after week to … you’re just top of mind in their inbox. It doesn’t have to be fancy, doesn’t have to be sales-y or promotional. You’re just touching base and you’re bringing value to them on a regular basis.
Will: One approach is curating, here’s some stuff. And if you’re, for somebody who’s kind of focused in on an industry niche or a functional area, presumably some of that content would be curated around that. Like if you’re into oncology, research and development, or supply chain with Asia, I suppose you would say, “Here’s some of the latest industry news around this.” Beyond curating, what’s your thoughts about creating content and what sorts of things have worked for your clients on that?
Tobin Slaven: The approach that you just described, we call it the market watch approach. So, all of your audience, every single one of us actually, we have access to certain information that other people could benefit from. So, that market watch approach, it’s always a good way to lead if that … see what’s a particularly good industry reports and things you can summarize and sort of help people understand what’s important. That’s always a great approach. For the other things that you could include, we talk about news that you could use. So, it could be a how to video. It could be an explanation. I just shared on LinkedIn a post this morning about blockchain because there’s so much discussion around that.
Tobin Slaven: A lot of folks want to understand that space better, because they can see it coming in a big way, but they don’t really understand the nuances. So, I actually shared a link to a podcast actually called Chain Unlinked, I think is the name of the podcast. But that was, they’re really digging deep into that space where folks are interested. That’s news that you can use for anyone that wants to tap into that kind of resource. And then the last thing, strategically you can place your offers, your promotions, your call to actions, the thing that actually make their business go, we’re not ignoring that. We’re actually making those more effective, because when we do place them in the newsletter, we’re strategic. For example, your curated information might have small thumbnail images to catch people’s eye. But when you share that one link, for example, Will, with your podcast, you could give your podcast center stage and have a big graphic and give it a full space. You’ll see some examples of this in my newsletter.
Tobin Slaven: But you can give it a different look and feel and it really creates a stage for your content and your platform, and at the same time it’s bringing great value to your audience.
Will: You mentioned you have a name for the market watch concept, and then there’s the news you can use. Are there other categories? Is there four or five categories that those are two of?
Tobin Slaven: Yeah. Interesting. Another one we talked about was the how to approach, we talked about people’s own promotions, and then something that often gets overlooked by folks, but there are actually eight other ways to monetize. When you start building an audience, most of us think about the product or service that we are actively involved with. Maybe we sell it or we deliver it. There’s other, when you start building an audience, you can monetize that audience in ways that not only benefit you, but ways that they will thank you for. You introduce them to things that they want and they’re needing, because you really are paying attention to what those folks need in their life.
Tobin Slaven: So, examples of these, some times strategic partnerships. So, you introduce them to a partner who, and there’s an agreement on a referral fee, so you’re introducing folks to something they don’t know about, but they need in their space, you have insider information on that to let them know why this is valuable to them, and that becomes an extra stream of revenue for you.
Will: And then for this space, I can sort of see it for certain categories of professional, how you’d have that call to action. For someone who’s an independent professional, a consultant, some kind of advisor, a coach, particularly for management consultants, I think we struggle a little bit with the call to action. We don’t want to say, “Hey, if you got a project, give me a call,” or “If you have a project …” it sounds super sales-y. So, any ideas around how you would frame a call to action for someone who’s not selling a $299 course or “Hey, I just launched this PDF” or that kind of thing. But for someone who’s more looking for an … to get called when there’s a $50,000 project need. How do you advise that kind of person?
Tobin Slaven: I’m actually gonna give you and your listeners, I think this is probably one of the most effective things that we do. We’ve found that there’s this approach that you can take. It’s really that, call it the hand raising offer or message that you share with folks, and that is that things start to feel sales-y and promotional when you hit the audience with the same message over and over again. ‘Cause you’re trying to get through, you’re trying to get a response from them. Honestly, it’s a mistake that most email marketers are making. They’re just hammering their audiences. And no one wants to receive those kind of messages. But if you put together in a very conversational way, “Are you still interested in …” So, this approach was made famous by a gentleman by the name of Dean Jackson. He has this thing called the nine word email. I think he first sort of uncovered this approach talking to folks in the real estate space.
Tobin Slaven: He was working with realtors who were trying to reactivate leads that they had had, dead leads, folks who had not engaged with them in months and months. And they would send out a message and just say, “Are you still interested in buying a house in,” and then they would name the neighborhood, “in Georgetown,” for example. And what they found by being very short and conversational, there was no promotional language, no sort of adjectives or fancy 25 cent words in there, just the way we would talk to friends, they were getting an enormous response from people who were replying and saying, “Yeah, actually we just started looking again,” or “No, we bought ourselves but we have a friend that’s looking right now.”
Tobin Slaven: And it just created this surge of response. But more importantly, once those folks have raised their hand, you know where to focus in and you can go deeper, which means additional messaging just with the folks who have asked for it, not with your whole list. So, now you’re not burning … when we work with a list, it’s not only about building the list. It’s about bonding with that list. And you do that by making deposits, think about this like a bank account. Every time you give value, you’re making a deposit with those folks. Every time you ask for something from them, you’re making a withdrawal. And most email marketers are trying to withdraw on an account that has a zero balance, they haven’t made any deposits. But if you do this consistently and you give value and you’re sharing useful information, and people see you as a trusted authority in your space, every week you’re making deposits and then when you do put a call to action out there in front of them in a very conversational way, people will respond and you can make a withdrawal that it’s gonna benefit you and your audience, the folks who respond.
Will: Fantastic. Tobin, I wanted to ask you something that I ask a lot of guests. A little change of pace here. In your own personal practice, do you have any kind of daily or weekly routines that you have either recently adopted or had for a long time that you find have really helped with your being effective?
Tobin Slaven: Yeah, funny you should ask that. I ran into a skint this summer. My family was traveling and I stayed behind to work. We were in a busy stretch in the business. And I started grabbing a legal size sheet of paper, and I would create like a timeline for my day. You know, where a legal size is really wide. Not tall, but very wide, so it looked like a timeline format. And I started spacing out all the things I had to get done during the day, plus my personal fitness and things like that. And I’ve since created, when I first just started making my notes on these lined sheets of paper, I now have a … I call it my score book. So, my background is in actually athletics. So, before I was in the business world, I used to coach first high school and then college basketball. So, I was used to this idea of having a score book for the games and I created a score book for my day, and my goal at the end of the day is to just win the day.
Tobin Slaven: Like every task I complete, you can think of it like making a shot or grabbing a rebound … I’m just having fun with my day, because honestly when I don’t do this, the days just beat me down. There’s so much to get done. So, I did two things that turned my day into a game. And one of the reason why I love the digital marketing space, too, is any time you have a scoreboard, if you can create time and score, you’ve created a game. And when you’re playing a game, you’re having fun again like kids. And I think we lose that a little bit, and I miss that. But if you reinject it into the business world, and email marketing is a great space. LinkedIn is very gamified. You get to see how many, we’re producing 500 to 1000 new connections every month for our clients with the program that we do. So, that’s fun. I guess I’m just a nerd, but seeing those connections come in every single day, and these are qualified, like really great connections for folks, not just random people. So, that’s just, it’s a game.
Tobin Slaven: And I started tracking it first on paper and now we’ve sort of engaged on the digital end and it’s just fun. I want to play games. I’m a kid at heart.
Will: The timeline for the day. I love it. I love it. I started doing something like that a few years ago and it’s just, it also kind of relieved so much stress for me, kind of getting it all on paper. And then I don’t have seven things swirling around in my mind, “Oh, did I forget something? What did I forget?” Just put it on my sheet of paper and then I’m like, “Okay, I don’t have to worry about it,” focus on one thing at a time. That’s great. Any books that you really have often gifted or just have had a really big impact on you?
Tobin Slaven: That’s a great question. I work with a lot of folks in the coaching and consulting space. I’ve actually been looking at, Elaine Pofeldt actually has a book called The Million Dollar One Person business, and I bought that and I’ve shared that with a bunch of folks, because honestly that’s my avatar. That is the group of folks that I’m working with because they tend to be either a solo-preneur or maybe they have a small team or agency, but they would hire someone like us to come in and do a very specific, they want the outcome and the results that we can provide without expanding their in house team.
Tobin Slaven: So, it’s just amazing. I think that these folks are flying under the radar and when you read Elaine’s book, there are 35,000 people, this is based on US tax information, there are 35,000 of these business, non employer businesses, so they only employee the principles essentially, that are making a million dollars or more. Then when you go down to the $500,000 to a million range, that number is I think 250,000 or in that magnitude. You go down from $250,000 to half a million, there’s another 500,000. So, there’s just big cohort of businesses that are flying under the radar and way more opportunity out there Ethan most folks realize. So, that was an eye opener for me and I’ve talked a lot about that to a lot of folks that I thought would benefit.
Will: Fantastic. And folks by now may have gotten a sense of it from discussion, but we sort of flipped, a standard interview would start with, “Tell me your bio and tell me a little bit about your practice.” So, we kind of flipped it here, but as we close, let’s do that. So, you’re a basketball coach. Tell us a little bit about your business and what are the services you provide?
Tobin Slaven: Yeah. I’ve been working in the digital marketing space for a dozen years. Again, I talked about some of our wins on the list building side. We’ve run giveaways, like in the B2C space you can do these viral giveaways that are really fun to sort of construct and do list building around. But right now we are focused really on just this one program that we call Conversations at Scale. And we’re focused there because one, I love the work. It’s fun and two, it’s the most effective thing that we’ve been doing. There’s no better … this is kind of a marketing speak, but target rich environment on LinkedIn. I have never been able to … I’m located in Maine, so I’m not in New York City, I’m not in a big business hub. But my ability to connect with folks like you, Will, honestly. Folks doing really interesting work that I might never have met otherwise, but to be able to have this kind of conversation and to do that at scale so that every single day I see new conversations showing up on my calender. I don’t go into them just trying to sell them something.
Tobin Slaven: I really genuinely think if you build real relationships and a lively network of folks around you, good things are gonna happen. So, I’m just thrilled to be able to do that for myself. And then we do, our program works two ways. We either have a done for you service where we’re actually in the profile for our clients and doing this. I have a team of VAs and I do the strategy and they do the day to day work. Or alternatively we have some folks that have their own VAs or they want to the work hands on. So, we coach them. We give them our playbook so that they have a really good framework to get the best results.
Will: Awesome. Well, you’re a fount of knowledge. I can personally recommend to my listeners your podcast, ’cause I’ve experienced, like I said, plenty of episodes, Stop Marketing Now, Do This Instead. And the question is, okay, what’s instead? So, I guess you gotta listen to the podcast to find out. And I’m gonna explore more on your website. It sounds like there’s a lot of great resources there. So, Tobin, this has been really educational, fun talking with you and thanks so much for joining.
Tobin Slaven: I very appreciate you, Will, giving me the opportunity. You can see I get excited and maybe even a little bit nerdy about the topic, but more than that, being able to connect with folks that are getting great information out there, and I just appreciate you and what you’re all about.

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