Everyone has their heroes. Some people love sports and have a couple players that they just love watching. Some people love music and have that favorite band that they will never miss. And for some other people, it might be a favorite author that they pre-order every new book and opt for the autographed version.
For me, I look up to a handful of entrepreneurs that inspire me. These select few provide perspective and motivation to Crush It! on a daily basis.
Earlier this week I had the (lucky) opportunity to interview Gary by phone for this very blog. Before I get to that, I want to tell you why I think what Gary says is so incredibly important.
How we get our message as web professionals in front of ideal customers—and how we help our clients do the very same—has been in a constant state of change for the last decade. Marketing has moved from push to pull. And in order to do that well, you need three ingredients:
Brent: I’m Brent Weaver and you’re watching uGurus TV, the must watch web series to become a more profitable and in demand web professional. Today I’m really excited to welcome a special guest to our program. Our guest is somebody that I’ve followed on social media for a long time. He’s pretty much the foremost leader when it comes to social media marketing and how businesses should be telling their story on the Internet. If you haven’t caught one of his keynotes or read one of his books or seen one of his presentations or his blog, then you’re definitely really, really missing out. And with that I’m really excited; I can’t say that enough, to welcome Gary Vaynerchuk to uGurus.com. I appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning.
Gary: No worry, it’s good to be here.
Brent: So our audience is primarily web professionals. They’re web designers, they’re online marketers; small one to five person creative agencies. And social media is definitely something that they’re all trying to bring to their customers, but I’d say across the board they’re struggling to do that. What do you think the role is of small business online marketers with small businesses?
Gary: That’s a good cross section of relevancy in the world we actually live in right? And so, social media unlike digital media ten years ago is a much more patient game. When SEO came out in search engines and banner ads and email marketing it was all instant gratification. Social media isn’t, and that’s why so many people are struggling with it. The reason so many don’t get it is they’re not willing to put in the two years of eating crow to get the results, the end.
I mean, it’s just social media is a more human play, and it takes a hell of a lot more effort and just a far majority of people are not willing to put in the time and effort to get the results out of it. They’re looking for something that converts quicker, is a more efficient use of their time, and gives them instant results to [inaudible 02:03] based world. And so Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, [inaudible 02:07] Vine, [Matchout], these things don’t necessarily appease the people that grew up with email marketing and SEO, and that’s the problem.
Brent: So how do you think that works with small businesses that are trying to outsource that work to online marketers, web professionals? I mean, is that a service that can be offered by another small business coming in to help a restaurateur or something like that?
Gary: Yes, the answer’s yes, but the problem is too many of these small businesses don’t tell those clients the truth when they start with them. They promise bigger results upfront than they can actually deliver.
Brent: And is that why you think so many small businesses are currently kind of failing with social media? I mean, when I got to Facebook profiles, for instance, for the majority of small businesses out there they barely have any fans, and are doing complete push marketing. Why are they struggling so much with social media?
Gary: Because they’re lacking the benefit of the two things that matter, either money or time. And both of them are tough for small businesses, right? It’s funny, small business should really win in social, but they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Growing up in a small business I know the problem here for so many, and obviously so many people at this point know my backstory growing up in a small business, that I’ve spoken to so many conferences and consulted very close to the scene.
Here’s the problem; one, most small business just can’t afford to hire a company that really knows what they’re doing, like VaynerMedia, for example, like us, because they’re not going to spend $50,000 a month on a company like that, right? We can all agree to that.
Number two, they don’t have the time in their mind to do it, right? To really do social well you need three, four, five, six, seven, eight hours of good work a day. Most small businesses if they try to do it themselves can’t do that, don’t do that, or don’t make the allocation of people with the organization to do that.
And then finally, when they’re working with other agencies that are charging them less money, I think a lot of times those smaller agencies have done a bad job in articulating, hey, listen, pizza shop or restaurateur, or auto body shop, this is a three year play. They get caught into the small business saying if I don’t see results in 90 days, 120 days, I’m getting out. And then to get the business a lot of times the agents will say, yeah, we’ll get you results, and then it ends up being a bad situation.
Brent: Very interesting. And with these different platforms I’m seeing a larger play, a larger prevalence of paid advertising. So take Twitter for example; paid advertising wasn’t really a big thing on Twitter a year or two ago, but they’re trying to monetize that platform further. Do you see businesses kind of starting to pull back their authentic engagement and try to push up the amount of paid advertising they’re doing on these platforms, potentially diminishing their effect?
Gary: No, actually I think it’s enhancing, but I think your question is leading me in the right direction and your innuendo is the right thing. If people that grew up in the web 10 world, they see Facebook and Twitter ads as a scalable automatic way to be able to get results. So you’re right in the way you’re asking your question.
Where the real answer lies though is if you do paid properly with organic community management and organic native quality valued driven content well then it amplifies it. I mean I love paid for Facebook and Twitter, because I actually know how to put out good content and then when it’s doing well I know how to amplify it in reaction to it doing well, using paid. And that’s the way to really do it.
Brent: Gotcha for sure. Now I’ve been to a handful of social media conferences and a lot of these gurus will promote kind of content formulas for instance. They’ll give you equal parts of thought leadership and culture and this and that as kind of ways to do turnkey social media. And after following you for several years it doesn’t seem like you are engaged in any kind of content formula for social media. How do you approach marketers that try to promote those types of behavior?
Gary: I don’t agree with them. And the silence was there for a reason. I just telling you, and I think that even the way you said “gurus” and the way you set up the question I think you intuitively and DNA-wise realize that they’re not right.
Brent: Yeah. I try to participate on social media as authentically as possible. I don’t have like a checklist of things I’m trying to do every week, but the people that are teaching a lot of businesses out there how to do social media, they just seem like they’re trying for the formula; they’re not trying to do it authentically. Like, why is authenticity so difficult to achieve?
Gary: Because it takes time, and nobody wants to do that. The reason I over index is because I’ve allocated the time. I valued that engagement higher than other things I could be doing.
Brent: So our audience, primarily we build sites, and integrating social media platforms into websites is something that a lot of business owners try to achieve. Now I’ve been to the website where you hit the home page and there’s just these giant Facebook and Twitter icons and they’re trying to get you to somehow go between one page over to Twitter and then back. How do you see websites and social media platforms playing well together? Like, where is the perfect scenario?
Gary: For me the perfect scenario is social being a gateway to drive towards sites. I’m less excited about sites with heavy Twitter integration, their Twitter screen there. I think you should make people aware that you’re on other platforms and maybe have links to the icons, because that’s awareness, right? If you land on the website, okay, wait there on social as well. Obviously the content or the things that you put out, the product pages you can integrate with social. But to me the ultimate Holy Grail still is that social media is a gateway driver to the landing page of a website. I still think that’s the flow.
Brent: Gotcha. Now recently in your Elevate NYC Keynote you have a phrase; you said, “Marketers ruin everything,” which I find quite entertaining considering that VaynerMedia seems to be a marketing company. But one of the . . .
Gary: Let me make it even more entertaining. I would tell you that I’m a marketer.
Brent: Okay. So obviously you see marketers having some type of role within the business spaces. It’s just that every time we get our hands on a scalable platform we basically just ruin it to the point where consumers are no longer paying attention there, and then they move to the next hot thing.
Gary: Yeah, or we ruin it to a point where the returns are diminished. I don’t think it’s necessarily an absolute statement of it’s ruined forever, and that’s that. But we pay attention less to the television commercials today than we did in the 1960s and 1970s. We pay attention less to banner ads today than we did 15 years ago; the click ratios prove it. We pay less attention to AdWords than we used to, Google AdWords are down 15% click through. We listen to email marketing less, right? I built my library on email marketing, right? We used to open our emails and actually convert; we do that less. And so, it’s what we do. Social media I would say in the last six years I’m starting to see diminishing returns from Twitter because the fire hose is bigger. And so it’s what marketers do.
Brent: Now one of the things you definitely said was that email returns are diminishing. I still find email highly effective; I find most businesses aren’t using it right, and they’re not using enough of it. Does email have a place in the future of marketing or are these things just kind of diminishing so much from most businesses that they might not be worth it in five years?
Gary: Yeah, and I mean, I think that’s right. I think that they’re worth it, and direct mail might be worth it for somebody still, or for some companies. But eventually these things become less effective, right? Like, I have this argument about Yellow Pages 15 years ago; we finally got to the place where for the most part if you have half a brain you’re not advertising in the Yellow Pages. Right? And so, they’re still doing it, out of like habit for a $200 ad. But it really makes no sense. And so, email marketing is going to make sense for a long, long time, but there’s a big difference between the effectiveness of email today than there was in 1999. And there’s a substantial difference.
Brent: Sure, in 1999 though, I mean, for our business our customer wasn’t really even on email. There was a little bit of it, but . . .
Gary: I think you’re right, and so, let me paraphrase. I think every industry’s different and has nuances; for me they were, and that’s why it worked. But there’s a big difference between Open Reach from 2006 and today. Now maybe you’ve gotten better at it; maybe it’s the specific business has gotten better at it, but over all data shows that Open Reach and click through rates on email marketing are down. And those things happen, right? I mean, look; do you think Google with Gmail now having promotions at a regular tell; that’s in response to that reaction.
Brent: Yeah, for sure. In 2006 Wine Library TV you had the foresight to say look, video’s going to be where it’s at; the social platforms were just starting to scratch the surface at that time. You saw where the puck was moving, you went for it, you went all in on that. There are tons of shiny objects in the space now. I think your new book kind of covers some of this, or at least the summary of it says that you’re going to talk about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, all that kind of stuff. So is the puck moving to these new platforms or is it moving off line? Where do you see, where are you going all in for two years from now?
Gary: I think Facebook and Twitter are going to continue to matter for the next two years. But I also think that what’s going to be really interesting is to watch where Snapshot, Vine, Pinterest, Wanelo is another site I’m paying a lot of attention to. So there are a lot of things emerging. I don’t know; I’m not a Nostradamus; I’m more of a reactionary guy than a prediction guy, right? Like I had no idea when Wanelo or Vine were going to come out this year, but they did, and now I mention them.
Brent: Yeah, and I mean, everybody’s seeing the prevalence of Vine. I’m still not quite sure how that may be relates to the average small business, I mean. I guess I see that shorter videos is easily sharable; I’m not seeing a huge amount of businesses on main street that are taking it up, but definitely interested to see how that plays out.
Gary: Well you know what’s funny? That’s exactly how everything was; that was how Facebook and Twitter. Like, if I’m having this interview with you in 2007 you just basically said the same thing about Facebook and Twitter.
Brent: Very true, very true; I’ll definitely take that one. So now you’ve got your own media company, VaynerMedia, which you know, I won’t lie, your website’s a little bit elusive as to what you guys do. I assume you’ve got a million keynotes out there. People pretty much know what they’re going to get with Gary Vaynerchuk. But what does VaynerMedia do?
Gary: We’re basically a modern day creative agency, a strategy agency. So what Bain and McKenzie do for businesses, we do for businesses is social very focused on what they should be doing strategy- wise. And number two, what RGA and all the creative agencies in New York City do, which is the commercials, and that’s what we do. We create the pictures, videos infographics, animated gifts, the Pins on Pinterest, the Facebook pictures, the tweets. We do the creative on social media for them.
Brent: Okay, and how big of an operation do you guys have right now?
Gary: We’re up to 280 people, with about 50 clients.
Brent: Wow! That’s a pretty good employee to client ratio.
Gary: Yeah, but we’re going for it, so I’m not even worried about employee to client ratio; I’m not even worried about profit to honest with you right now. Right now what I’m most worried about is being the leader in this space.
Brent: And so I think your ideal customer is big name brands. Am I correct there?
Gary: Yes, for Vayner we’re very premium, so to spend $50,000 a month minimum you’re going to have to be a pretty big company to afford that for your social media budget.
Brent: Sure. But I think a lot of small timers can learn a lot from how you operate. I mean, your website pretty much says nothing, but you’re out there participating getting in front of your ideal customer all the time. So I mean, is that the primary way you guys market, is Gary travels the country, speaks, writes books, interacts with people, and then you guys just attract and lead through that method?
Gary: Yeah, I think you’re right. But that was what we did four years ago when we started. And then that gave us our base. Now where we’re actually attracting leads from is using the sizzle to get the first five people to buy the steak, which is what you just said, right? And after that just serving the best steak. I mean most of our clients now come for the fact that we’re doing the best work out there, and people are talking. Right? People in the industry.
So yes, the initial part was me, back when we got our initial customers. And our initial customers got such great work they started talking; they started talking about our work at conferences. Some of them left and went to other clients, and that became clients because they knew our work was the best. So I think that it’s sexy to think about how I’d done it to attract the bees with my honey; but the truth is once they come into the door and see what the work is it’s actually having the goods to deliver and be great at your work. That’s been the biggest gateway to new business.
Brent: And I think a lot of people can learn from that. So you’ve got a new book.
Gary: I think, real quick on that. I think a lot of people focus on hunting and not enough people focus on farming.
Brent: And that’s just purely on wowing somebody with great delivery, great project putting the time and effort into making every single project a win.
Gary: And whatever the KPI is, right? Like whatever the business objective is. If you’re delivering on it you have a funny way of sticking around. If you’re losing a customer after a year it’s much worse than gaining a new customer. You know, like it’s devastating. You’ve put in so much work to get the customer, to lose them makes no sense.
Brent: Yeah, and it’s interesting in the web game, which I’ve been building websites since 2000, but a lot of times web designers go and they build a site and they literally like walk away from the customer and they go to the next customer to build a site. And it’s something that they don’t understand the follow on, and it’s something that’s very difficult to teach, but it sounds like that’s a core part of VaynerMedia.
Gary: 100%. For attention it’s much more important.
Brent: So you’ve got a new book coming out, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that book? It’s not coming out until November.
Gary: Yeah, so it’s coming out November 26th and it’s going to be about what we’ve been talking about here. How do you natively story tell on the social networks that are relevant. I’ve basically turned this book into a utility; 86 case studies of status updates on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, going deep into like what they did wrong, what they did well, and try to paint pictures for people on how to actually story tell in these platforms.
Brent: So it sounds like from some of your recent presentations and from the descriptions of this book that you’re really getting more into the story telling aspect versus the platform aspect. And I kind of mentioned it earlier, which is the shiny object problem. There are new platforms coming out all the time; I attend a lot of startup conferences. I know there’s a ton on the horizon. How do you deal with the shiny objects of the platforms, like it just seems so overwhelming for any business owner to try to figure out just how to learn to use Facebook, let alone tell you a story on ten different platforms natively?
Gary: For me I’m all in, I mean. I look at all the shiny objects and try to figure them out and put out the effort, and it’s seven out of ten of them fail and don’t become anything a year later on. I don’t care; it’s like a living. It’s what I do; it’s why I wrote this book. Yeah, it’s hard, but I think it’s a hell of a lot better than what people are doing with their time as an alternative. People go like, oh, it’s a waste of time. And I’m like, what do you do during your ten-hour day? And then when they start talking about it they start getting devastated, because they’re doing five hours of dumb s**t.
Brent: Yeah. I’m definitely looking forward to the . . .
Gary: There’s always a yen to the beginning.
Brent: Yeah, I mean, listening to you early days of pushing one library; you weren’t working eight-hour days. You were dominating social media and you were working like the 18 to 20- hour days, which I mean, I’m definitely a fan of some parts of the year, but that seems like not necessarily scalable for every single business out there.
Gary: That’s right, I think that’s right. But you get what you give, like I don’t workout four hours a day either, and the people who do get results in those abs, right? So like that’s fine. I agree. Like, people have different priorities, work-life balance, I spend less time working at some level today than I used to because I have two children now. It evolves, but it still doesn’t take out the fact that if you put in less hours you’re going to get results, especially if you’re putting in good hours.
Brent: For sure. So I think your . . .
Gary: I mean, you’re just far more likely to get a base hit if you can have six at bat instead of three. Right?
Brent: Sure. I mean, I think dedication obviously to any business, I mean, the passion, if you’re able to dedicate the hours, I mean, it’s going to come out in the storytelling. I mean, I feel like the authenticity is almost when you’re totally dry on sleep is when some of the real stuff comes out about my business, at least. Like, when I’m up at 2:00 a.m. working on a blog post that’s when my most interesting stuff comes out. But that’s just me, and not every business owner is like that.
Gary: For sure. Well, thanks so much for having me, man.
Brent: Yeah, I appreciate it. So what’s next for Gary Vaynerchuk? A statue in Times Square? What have you got in the works?
Gary: All head down, build Vayner, sell the book, and look for startup investment opportunities. It’s very much the same as I’ve had this year and very focused.
Brent: Very cool. Well, thanks for joining us this morning. I hear you’re on vacation; I appreciate your time. And we will definitely link up to your new books and are looking forward to that.
Gary: Thanks fellow, take care of yourself.
Brent: All right, thanks, Gary.
Brent: So there you have it folks, from Gary Vaynerchuk himself, where social media is moving, what you should be focusing on within your business, how you can help leverage social media for your customers, and there’s no better person to talk about social media than with Gary Vaynerchuk.
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