Asa part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jayson DeMers.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, a productivity tool that visualizes email activity.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure! For about the last 10 years, I ran an online marketing agency. We had dozens of employees and contractors, and everyone worked from home. There was no central office. Our business operations relied almost entirely on email communication. Throughout the day, we exchanged emails with vendors, contractors, clients, leads and with each other. In my business, email activity was a good indicator of workload and productivity; if my employees weren’t emailing, they weren’t working.
For businesses like mine, where every employee worked remotely, trust and accountability were incredibly important. I needed a way to monitor productivity and provide accountability for certain employees, and the usual time-tracking apps didn’t give me what I needed. I began looking for a way to easily monitor email activity; a way to visualize the ebbs and flows of email throughout the day for each member of my team. But I was surprised to learn that no such solution existed. So, I decided to build the tool myself. Well, not exactly myself — I’m no developer, but I hired a team of developers to build the app.
EmailAnalytics gave me the insight I needed to monitor my team’s email activity, and helped me re-balance workloads among my team members, identify areas of productivity improvement and start new initiatives with my team members who had extra time to spare.
EmailAnalytics started as a way to solve a problem, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do as we build more features and functionality to help our customers solve problems, gain insights, and improve team productivity.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started with online marketing, back around 2008, search engine optimization best practice was to build as many inbound links as possible, regardless of their quality. It was common knowledge that inbound links boosted rankings, and Google had not yet implemented any sort of policing of this system. So, link building was a wild-west industry, and people were building spammy links en masse.
It worked really well for a few years, but in 2012 Google launched its infamous algorithm update known as “Penguin” which which penalized sites with too many links deemed to be from dubious or spammy sites.
Google gave webmasters a way to clean up these links and get away from the penalty, but it involved a ton of work to identify all the links built, followed by outreach efforts to webmasters asking to have links removed.
I was able to get the Google penalty lifted, but it wasn’t easy!
I learned that Google was getting serious about policing quality in its search results and link indexes, and from them on I only pursued quality methods of link building and content marketing.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
With the marketing agency, I got my first customer at a street fair. It was a dog food company that I recognized because it was the brand of dog food that I fed to my dog at the time.
It was a small company, and I introduced myself to the man at the booth, who turned out to be the owner of the company. I gave him my pitch and he handed me a business card and asked me to contact him.
He became my first client, and I spent a lot of time meeting with him and his marketing team to improve their marketing efforts. They even took me out to a Mariners game and invited me to company events as we grew our relationship.
After achieving initial success with his company, he referred me to a friend who owned another company in the pet care space. I did good work for her, and she referred me to two other business owners. They, in turn, referred me to other business owners, and my business grew from there.
So for me, it was all about word-of-mouth advertising from customers for whom I was doing a good job.
I learned that it’s incredibly important to develop strong relationships with your customers. You never know who they know, and one referral can turn into dozens more!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company (EmailAnalytics) is young, so we’re still working on what makes us stand out. From a literal perspective, it helps that I’m a professional marketer, so I know how to make the website stand out in search results. We are winning with organic search visibility right now.
In terms of product features and functionality, we have the most advanced suite of customization features available for any email analytics tool. Our customers can create custom filters on domains, email addresses, labels, and much more, unlike our competition.
And we’re building in new features and functionality constantly! So we’re always innovating and building a better product for our customers.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We’re working on version 2.0 of EmailAnalytics right now, which represents a complete re-build of the database and architecture, as well as a snazzy new aesthetic redesign and new features. Version 2.0 is coming soon, and will enable a ton of new functionality for customers, and enable us to scale our services up to larger enterprises due to the re-architected database design.
So we’ll be able to help more types of customers, and provide more ways to visualize email activity, enabling a new level of analysis and insights.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Avoiding burnout is all about finding and doing something you love to do. For me, I’m a data nerd, so I love conducting A/B tests like conversion rate optimization. I also love strategically crafting blog content and posting it, then promoting it, and measuring results.
Find what motivates you; figure out what you want to do rather than what you have to do, and you will avoid burnout!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had help along the way from many people. Over ten years ago, my mom loaned me $5k when I first started out, to help me get my business off the ground.
My wife, Brittney, has been a source of consistent support through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. She’s also a business owner and entrepreneur, and so she’s able to relate and provide valuable perspective when I need it.
And a couple friends, Kevin and Sam, have acted as mentors in their various areas of expertise through the years.
A few years into my business, I used to regularly grab dinners and lunches with Sam and Kevin to chat about how things were going with my business, and get their ideas on ways to mitigate concerns or solve problems. Both of them are also entrepreneurs.
Having close personal friendships with people who understood the hardships of entrepreneurship really helped me get through tough times and make tough decisions that helped lead to my current success.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
It’s hard not to like what Nike has done with the “Just do it” campaign, or what Old Spice has done with its “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign.
But I’d have to say that my favorite branding campaign has got to be Coca-Cola, which specifically captured the hearts and minds of people from a young age with its nostalgia-inducing Christmas-themed ads, such as the many depicting Santa Claus drinking Coke.
In targeting Christmas with its ads, Coca-Cola aligned its brand to the warmth, happiness, friendless, and all-around warm n’ fuzzies of the holiday season. In other words, they aligned their product with happiness.
It’s the “most wonderful time of the year”, it happens every year, and it’s hard not to think about Coca-Cola during this time because of their strategic advertising that invokes nostalgia now because of how long they’ve been aligning with the holiday season.
Furthermore, they successfully win over children with these ads, who grow up to become loyal consumers. It’s a brilliant branding effort that has world-wide impact to this day.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
Well, a marketing campaign can vary largely depending on lots of things, so I’ll focus on marketing for what I know best — content marketing for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs.
The blueprint would look like this:
- Conduct keyword research to understand what your target audience is searching for in Google
- Produce content around those keywords and publish it
- Blog posts
- Videos (Youtube)
- Audio content (such as Podcasts)
- Graphical content such as Infographics
- Promote that content
- Social media channels
- Guest blogging
- Blogger outreach
- Collaborations with other companies in your field
This is the basic blueprint for a content marketing campaign. Hubspot is a banner example of a company doing content marketing right. So is Neil Patel, a well-known marketing expert who teaches others how to do content marketing.
For my own company, EmailAnalytics, I focus on content marketing via blog posts, because that’s the lowest-hanging fruit. It’s a bit more difficult to do videos for Youtube and podcasts, so I focus my efforts on what I’m most comfortable with. If I had more resources, I would absolutely put more time into Youtube videos and I’d love to start a podcast!
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
Across most industries, consumers are tired of salesy, pushy advertisements. However, one thing that has stood the test of time and proven to be a winning marketing strategy is content marketing. That is, instead of pushing salesy advertisements on people, try giving them something of value instead.
Doing so will make consumers aware of your brand, and if your content is good enough it, it will give them a positive impression of you. And when they need to purchase your product or service, you’ll be the first company they think about.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- If you’re developing software, find a CTO first. My current project, EmailAnalytics, has taken 5 years to get to this point. And about 4 of those years were spent just trying to build the tool. I went through 4 different developers or developer teams who tried, unsuccessfully, to build my vision for the app. And guess what? I still had to pay all of them! Needless to say, I lost a lot of revenue because I didn’t have a strong CTO to guide my efforts.
- Focus on quality content marketing from the get-go, and don’t try any shady marketing shortcuts. Earlier, I told the story of my run-in with the Google Penguin algorithm. Had I started with quality content marketing from the get-go, I could have avoided that mess and had a huge head-start on my competitors.
- Focus on only one project at a time. I tried building and running a new company based on a fun idea I had, while I was still working full-time on my marketing agency. I wasn’t able to give enough love and attention to the new project as a result, and so it failed.
- Failure is okay — in fact, it’s an inevitable part of the path to success. There have been many times in my entrepreneurial career where I felt I was failing, or on the verge of failure. One time, I became so stressed that I lost too much weight, and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) insisted I see a doctor because of it. My doctor advised me that I was losing weight due to stress, and that I needed to put weight back on, and find ways to de-stress in life. Looking back, all my failures or near-failures were valuable learning experiences that made me a stronger, better entrepreneur.
- Perfection is the enemy of progress. If you get stuck on making something perfect, you won’t ever get to actually make progress. Instead, go ahead and launch — whether it’s a product or a marketing campaign — and gather feedback that you can use to iterate on the next version it. As a perfectionist, I often find myself caught up in details, trying to anticipate problems that may or may not actually exist. I often have to remind myself that “good enough is okay” because the goal should always be to make progress.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
Yes, there are three tools I use almost every day:
- AgencyAnalytics, which is a marketing dashboard that centralizes all my important online marketing metrics, such as keyword rankings, Google Search Console data, and Google Analytics data.
- Ubersuggest, which is Neil Patel’s keyword research tool. It’s also very useful for competitor analysis.
- Intercom, which is a tool that enables marketers and sales reps to communicate directly with customers browsing your website or users using your app. It also enables email drip and onboarding campaigns.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I listen to Neil Patel’s Marketing School podcast and read his website a few times a week. I also subscribe to Brian Dean’s blog, Backlinko.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
I don’t really have a hero — I draw a lot of my strength and inspiration from within, actually. I think of myself as someone who can do anything if I put my mind to it. Unfortunately, I find certain things difficult to put my mind to, like practicing guitar enough to eventually become a rockstar 😉
How can our readers follow you online?
EmailAnalytics blog: https://emailanalytics.com/blog/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
It was my pleasure! Thank you for having me!