Hey guys, today’s interview is with Ryan Deiss, CEO of Digital Marketer. Over the last 36 months, Ryan and his team have invested over $15 million into marketing tests, sent over one billion emails, and run approximately 3,000 split and multi-variant tests.
Ryan and his team are heavy-hitters in the digital marketing space, and you’ve got to make sure you check out their blog… what they do is amazing stuff.
The Digital Marketer Collection of Companies
Basically, what Digital Marketer does is take all the cool stuff they do across their different money-making web properties, and report on what’s working.
Entrepreneurial ADD is built into their business model, and they sell everything from flashlights and worm farms to makeup brushes and eyeliner.
And though it seems like a crazy mix, their model for making a site profitable is the same no matter what niche it’s in.
The Model for Online Money Making
In everything they do, says Ryan, the hardest thing in the world is to gather a crowd or get an audience.
Lots of people build great products, he says, but no one is there to buy them.
At Digital Marketer, they want to make sure that before they go through the effort of product creation that they can gather a crowd willing to buy that product.
And with that crowd gathering, absolutely everything starts with digital media. Since there’s no such thing as mass media anymore and people prefer to aggregate around only the things that they like, Digital Marketer focuses on building interest-based markets.
Once they know they can gather a crowd that all thinks and feels in much the same way as it relates to particular things, then they can start selling stuff to that crowd. (And not just by monetizing through advertising, which a lot of people try to do.)
The Sizes of the Crowds They’ve Built
Digital Marketer has some online properties that get millions of visitors per month, and some that get tens of thousands… all depending on the relative size of that particular market.
For example, DIYready.com is one of their sites that gets a few million visits per month. It sounds like a lot, but for a media property, says Ryan, it’s nothing.
If you’ve got a media site that makes money via advertising, he says, you need to hit critical mass and get tens of millions just to be on the low end of things.
But because all of their properties are so niched and specific, they don’t need to focus on monetization via advertising, and can instead focus on making money from audience-specific product offerings.
Traffic-Building Advice for a Startup
For a company with a $500,000 seed round and a product that’s ready to sell, Ryan would advise paid advertising. (Digital Marketer is a huge fan of using paid ads to build their traffic.)
The trick, he says, is to not fall into the trap of buying advertising just to drive that purchased traffic to a landing page, because conversion rates on that are fairly low.
Because if you drive traffic to an offer and someone leaves, then that’s it. They’re gone.
Instead, he says, drive your purchased traffic to content. And not gated content like a downloadable offer… but just a simple blog post that provides loads of value.
What you should be most interested in is the ability to set a retargeting pixel so you can follow up with people who’ve already received free value from you with retargeting ads.
With this approach, after 30-60 days, you cost per lead and cost per conversion will be much lower than if you were driving your purchased traffic directly to a landing page.
Basically, Follow the Protocol of Normal Human Relationships
If a guy sees a girl he likes in a bar, he doesn’t walk up to her and offer to buy her a drink if she promises to make out with him later. (Or at least we hope he doesn’t.)
It’s the same online when you make someone give you their email address on the promise of being able to preview your app. You haven’t given any value upfront, so the person is less likely to trust you.
Everything on the web is quid pro quo, says Ryan. We’re intuitive in our relationships in real life, but we get all pervy online.
Expected Cost Per Pixel
The cost per pixel totally depends from one niche to the other, but Ryan says with Digital Marketer’s properties, it’s anywhere from $0.25 to $0.60.
And figuring out the CPP is easy… it’s the same as your CPC. Because every time someone clicks through, a pixel is set.
What’s more, you can set that pixel to reflect what kind of content someone viewed on your website, so the retargeting ads you show them are far more relevant, and more effective overall.
The Journey from Pixel to Sale
Pixel > Content Upgrade (Lead Magnet) > Low Ticket Offer (buy-in) > Next Step (bigger sale)
An Example of An Effective Content Promotion Funnel
For example, if Digital Marketer is trying to get new audience members to their actual Digital Marketer website, they might target people on Facebook who like Single Grain or this podcast with a specific blog post about how to create a content engine.
After people come to the blog post and read it, they get pixeled for having visited Digital Marketer and being interested in content marketing.
Now they’ll do retargeting ads with an offer to opt in for 212 blog post ideas, which is relevant to the reason they visited Digital Marketer in the first place.
After someone opts in for that, they’ll start showing them ads to buy a $7 course for execution plans related to content marketing.
If they buy into that, then they send them up their funnel into hopefully becoming a Digital Marketer lab member or buying their content marketing certification.
Ad Distribution Across the Funnel
Ryan says how much of your budget you allocate to cold or warm traffic at different stages depends on how many people you have pixeled at a given time.
At this point, for example, Digital Marketer has so many people pixeled that they only allocate 20% of their ad budget to driving ice-cold traffic to content.
However, in the beginning, you might spend anywhere from 80% to 100% of your ad budget on collecting pixels, especially if you don’t have anyone pixeled yet.
If you’re looking for good ROI numbers on a seven-day or a 30-day return, Ryan admits that those numbers might look a little ugly, because this process does require an up-front investment and time to build up.
Driving Traffic to Amazing Content
In the beginning, Ryan asked his editorial director to give him 10 amazing pieces of flagship content… the type of stuff people would normally turn into a special report… and to publish it in the form of an un-gated blog post.
For the strategy Digital Marketer uses, you’ve got to have world-class content. Sub-par stuff won’t cut it.
If your content is crap or you decide to put your best stuff behind a firewall, says Ryan, the more traffic you buy, the more money you spend to convince people that you suck.
Native commerce, says Ryan, is the whole idea that media and commerce have merged… even though they were completely separate in the past.
For example, in a traditional newspaper or magazine, you have the editorial department separate from the advertising department, and they’re not allowed to influence each other.
But with native commerce (not native advertising, like the advertorial), you create the theme park where people come to ride your roller coasters (read your content), and then they exit through your gift shop.
And the difference is, you sell your own products, rather than advertising for someone else’s.
For example, if one of their beauty sites shows a makeup tutorial on how to do a smokey eye, they can turn around and sell the makeup brush (which is produced by them) used in the video.
If you’re in the physical product space, says Ryan, this is how you can de-commoditize a commodity.
The Traffic & Conversion Summit
This is an annual event that Digital Marketer has put on for the last seven years.
When they started, Ryan and his team knew they wanted to put on an event, but instead of inviting a bunch of speakers to create a corporate pitch-fest, all they did was teach in every session.
The first year, 180 people showed up. Each year following, it continued to grow, and now it’s well over 3,000 people.
The Struggle of Defining Their Audience
Over the years, Ryan says their biggest struggle has been getting clarity on who their market really is.
It’s changed, because with Digital Marketer, he just talks about what he’s doing.
So when he was the guy in the trenches getting started without any money and just trying to pay the bills with an online business, he talked about that.
When he wasn’t that guy anymore and was a small business person, he talked about that.
In fact, he says, there were many years when their summit was the only good thing they did, because they didn’t know what the heck they were doing or who they were catering to online.
In they end, they decided to serve small business owners. While startup folks can get a lot out of what they talk about, they’re not the guys for startup-specific advice.
In fact, once they set their mission and vision to double the size of 10,000 small businesses in five years or less, they got great clarity and could easily figure out the type of work they needed to put out and the value they needed to provide.
Resources from this interview:
- Digital Marketer
- Digital Marketer blog
- Traffic & Conversion Summit
- GE 61: How Backlinko’s Brian Dean Built His Traffic to 90,000 Visits Per Month
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Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.