Growth Hacking Interview Series #99: Ian Brodie
Ian Brodie teaches consultants and coaches how to win more clients and build a thriving business online.
As a marketing speaker and coach, he has been named as one of the “Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Marketing and Sales” by Top Sales World magazine and as one of the “Resources of the Decade” for professional services marketing by Raintoday.com.
His book “Email Persuasion” has been the #1 selling book on email marketing for the last year or so on Amazon globally with over 100 five star reviews.
How did you start out as a marketer?
I suppose that depends on what you mean by marketing. I did an MBA back in 1992 and fell in love with marketing then and went on to do marketing consultancy for large corporates.
When I set up my own business in 2007 I discovered that marketing for small businesses was very different and I had to re-learn a whole load of things.
Then a few years later I went through a whole new learning curve with online marketing too.
Looking back, what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
I think the biggest struggle when you’re working with clients and trying to get them results is getting them to actually implement and follow through.
It’s particularly true in large organisation where politics, bureaucracy and slow decision making get in the way.
But even in smaller organisations it can be a challenge because the key people often struggle to find the time to do what they know they should be doing.
It’s very easy to get distracted from marketing that has an impact in the longer term by day-to-day emergencies.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
My first clients came from referrals from people who knew me from when I was doing consulting for big firms. Frankly, I’d do whatever they needed.
It was only later as I began to establish my own reputation and track record that I was able to specialise in the elements of marketing that I wanted to do.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
It’s hearing stories from people who’ve implemented what I’ve recommended and got great results. Especially from small businesses and individuals who’ve been able to win versus bigger competitors.
We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?
Freelancing is a great way to start. My business moved in the direction of online products, but they can take time to build and you need a pretty big audience to have impact.
Starting off by freelancing to build a “war chest” and get to grips with your trade is an ideal springboard into that.
The one thing I’d say is to think of yourself as a consultant rather than a freelancer.
What I mean by that is a consultant has a defined set of services and clients come to them for advice and listen to them and they work together on things.
The word freelancer kind of brings up an image of someone who will do anything clients ask for money. It feels like more of a subservient role when really you want to be working in partnership.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again, what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
I’d have gone solo much faster. I spent 6 years or so in a “normal” job in R&D in software, then 12 years working for big consulting firms.
It was great experience, but if I’d been braver I could have gone solo after 5 years with a big consulting firm.
I had fun and earned a lot of money in the later years in consulting, but I could have been building my own business at that time.
How is your typical work day structured?
There’s not a lot of structure to it – that’s what I like.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it’s my job to drop our youngest off at school, so after that I head to a coffee shop and work there for a while.
On Mondays, I do planning for the week. Other days I’ll work on new ideas and written content. Or maybe get in some reading.
I plan out my big tasks for the week in that Monday session, but I usually have very varied weeks depending on what my priorities are.
I spend quite a lot of time working on in-depth content for my membership site, and answering questions from members.
The rest of the time I’ll be creating content for my main site or working on marketing. Or, of course, having fun.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
I’ve always been pretty good at balancing doing short term impact things to bring in immediate work with things with a longer term payoff.
So blogging and building up my web presence until I was relatively well known took a good while, but I was never waiting: I always had other activities that were getting me in front of clients.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
Honestly, I’m just not a big branding person.
My approach it to understand your ideal clients, find ways of connecting with them, nurturing your relationship with them, winning them as paying clients, then delivering tremendous value to them.
Do that and your brand will take care of itself.
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
It’s not just one situation, it’s constant. That’s the life of an entrepreneur.
When I started up the big things was to balance doing client work with attracting and winning new clients.
Now it’s balancing marketing with creating content for my membership programs and supporting the members in there. It’s just a part of life.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I’m mainly interested in old strategies that still work really, really well.
So my main focus is on email marketing, blogging and Facebook advertising. My audience is not quite into snapchat yet!
Of the relatively “new stuff”, I do experiment a bit to see what works – but I make sure it doesn’t divert too much time from what’s getting me the best results right now.
Believe it or not, Instagram is working reasonably well to get me new subscribers – but it’s not mainstream with my audience yet. And I like to use video as much as possible too.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
First and foremost, I’m really interested in marketing, so I subscribe to lots of email newsletters and blog and am a member of a number of Facebook groups where new stuff gets shared.
Once I hear of something, I’ll think about whether it could be a good fit for my market (rather than just “cool”) and if so, I’ll schedule a bit of time to test it out.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
My client work tends to be confidential, so I’m not going to go into too many details. But what I particularly like is when people get results fast – especially from simple steps.
So one example would be a guy who implemented my “21 Word Email” strategy and within a week had a meeting with a potential client he’d been struggling to get together with for ages, and a week later had landed one of his biggest contracts ever.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
Well, apart from my book (Email Persuasion) 🙂 I would recommend going through the classics first.
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins and Breakthrough Advertising by Gene Schwartz for a grounding in direct marketing.
The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes for the importance of regularly nurturing relationships.
Influence by Cialdini.
How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp for a challenging view on accepted wisdom.
What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?
Plan your week and put your key long term project activities into your schedule just like meetings.
Don’t let yourself be diverted from these key tasks by short term “emergencies”.
If there’s one Marketing Guru you'd recommend who and why.
I’d try to avoid becoming guru-obsessed. No one has all the answers.
Learn to pick and choose and think critically for yourself.