Ep 129: Eric Siu – Create Exponential Growth with Your Marketing


Eric Siu is the CEO of the digital marketing agency Single Grain and cofounder of ClickFlow, an SEO tool that is saving businesses time and tracking their revenue. He’s also the cohost of the Marketing School podcast with Neil Patel, and host of the Leveling Up podcast, which are aimed at helping people scale their businesses faster.

Today on Stay Paid, Eric Siu discusses digital marketing strategies to help generate exponential growth for your business.

Key Points:

  • Build an audience first to help you generate organic reach.
  • Stand out from competitors by creating content that doesn’t follow the status quo.
  • A product-led strategy is key to scaling growth.

 Q: Introduce yourself to our audience.

When I was a kid playing games growing up, I did E-Sports before it was a thing. I thought if I could take the mentality I had with these games and apply it to something in real life, that would be great. And I didn’t realize it would eventually be business. My goal is to help the entire world level up, but that gives me a lot of rope to do what I want to get there.

I think what’s really important for people to grow their audience is, Bill Gates said “every company needs to become a media company” so I think you build audiences first and build your business around that. The way I’m working right now, honestly it feels like it’s all a game.

The first couple companies I had were complete failures. The first one I had I sold Magic game cards. But my first real shot was taking over an ad agency called Single Grain. I bought the company for two dollars out of pocket and turned it into what it is today, so there’s a lesson there for real estate. You buy low, and make money on the sell. There was no way I could lose money there.

I came into the company as a number two, became the COO, and basically what was going on was we were an SEO company and Google was changing all its algorithms so basically everything we were doing was invalid. They were saying to me get out, we’re all getting out right now. But I said look, biggest upside is it becomes something and I learn a lot and the biggest downside is I learn a lot.

It’s led to me being able to parlay into all the other projects I’m working on that are growing very quickly, but fortunately it worked out how I wanted it to.

Q: What is on your mind today in the world of marketing and digital marketing?

 Warren Buffet is always talking about “building a moat.” So if all the marketers are giving e-books away or doing infographics—these are all marketing tactics that people copy—how can you differentiate yourself right now? What Neil and I on the Marketing School podcast talk about is a topic called product led growth, so I recommend everyone Google that. The whole idea is you build a product and you give it away for free, and then later people can start paying for it if they want. What you’re trying to do there is you’re building a moat because a product isn’t that easy to imitate. The second this is, if it’s free, a lot of people will talk about it and you’re going to get word of mouth. The third thing is you’re going to get a lot of links coming to that tool. It becomes a self-perpetuating machine.

If you’re in real estate, you might build some kind of calculator. You can use outgrow.co, that allows you to build a bunch of calculators. Or you can build a tool specific to your audience. You can easily go to a site like codecanyon.net and get projects for very cheap, or buy a project that developers have thrown away. There are lots of ways to get started, people just make excuses and try to do the easy stuff everyone else is talking about.

Q: How do you build a product-led strategy from a funnel perspective, and how do you turn people into clients?

I’ll give you a couple examples. With our software ClickFlow, it’s content intelligence software and it helps you drive organic traffic. So what we do is we have a couple free options that people can access. Once you go in and access the free option, we have some calls to action that ask people if they want help doing this, which leads over to my agency Single Grain. Or it might say upgrade here to get more use of the software.

So our software starts at the top of the funnel and we can drive traffic to it if we want. We have all these upsells and cross-sells within the tool. A good example of this is if you check out Hubspot, their entire software is free right now. They have a bunch of locks that you can upgrade that are strategically placed. But you start at the top of the funnel, and you can strategically place other elements and calls to action within the software.

Q: If you’re a business owner and you have to balance your marketing, where should you be investing your time to see the most exponential growth?

This is probably not the most ideal answer, but when I was trying to save Single Grain, I think about it from the perspective of the early days, you kind of have to do everything. When the company was on fire, I started my first podcast Leveling Up, this was about six or seven years ago. I was spending six hours a week on that while I was trying to save the company. And that led to exponential compounded growth. The first year I was only getting nine downloads a day, so pitiful. The second year I was only getting thirty downloads a day. It took time to get where we are now, which is, cumulatively with the two podcasts, we’re at about 1.3 million downloads per month. But it wouldn’t have gotten that way if I didn’t stick with it. So it’s finding a media property, whether it’s blogging, video, or podcasts, understanding that it’s probably a two to three year journey to get where you want to, and keep going while you’re running your business.

If it’s something where you need money tomorrow, I would say go out there and do a webinar. Let’s say I’m targeting course creators, I would say what if I built a funnel for you tomorrow that could put sales on autopilot and sent it to my email list, to my friends, and put it on social media. You’re going to get a couple bites there, and then hopefully you can put an offer in front of them.

Q: What are some of the biggest trends for marketing in 2020 and where are we headed?

One thing you’re going to see more of is Stories. Twitter and LinkedIn are both coming out with Stories. LinkedIn’s organic reach is great. Just don’t write all the “broetry” stuff you see. I’ll give you an example. Ten years ago I my business was down and I got divorced and today I am a multi-billionaire. That provides no value.

What works on LinkedIn carries over from Instagram. I interviewed this guy Chris Do, and his Instagram grows by something like 10,000 a week or a day, organically. He does these carousels, and it’s basically one image post followed up by other image posts and you can swipe through. When we repost it on LinkedIn the reach is three to four times higher there. So if you can do carousels, use something like Canva and post it to Instagram, to LinkedIn, those do really well. And, I mean, podcasting right now, I think that’s the biggest opportunity right now. There are 700,000 podcasts in the world but there are over a billion websites. The podcast to me is such high leverage because advertisers are willing to pay a premium. The other thing is, I hate using the word mastermind, but we have a mastermind and we get to curate who we want in the group, and in addition to that we’re planning on adding a subscription to our podcast.

Q: What do you think people should be posting, especially small business owners, to get engagement?  

I’m pretty terrible at it, but what I would say is I would almost look at it like step one, two, three, four, five, and repurpose a lot of the content that I make. Marketing School comes out every day, so I would take that snippet, take the key takeaway, and do a minute story which is just four slides. Graham Steffen is a good example, he’s always teaching stuff on YouTube. Not enough people think about repurposing their content. Once you produce something think about how we could chop it up into different pieces and put it on different platforms.

Q: Who are some thought leaders in marketing we should be following right now?  

We just did a podcast on this, so these are the marketing geniuses you should be paying attention to in 2020. Ryan Bonnici, who is from G2, a software review company, Kevin Indig (he’s really good at SEO), Russell Brunson from ClickFunnels, Gary Vee, another CMO of a company called Nextiva, his name is Yaniv Masjedi, so these are just a couple people you can follow.

Q: Why did you decide to go daily with your podcast instead of weekly?

There’s a lot of noise right now and everyone is creating a lot of content. The question is how do you zig when other people are zagging. We knew if we went daily our output in terms of downloads would go up, but it would just be very different. So instead of the longer interview format like I have on the Leveling Up podcast, a bunch of people are doing that so what can we do that’s a little different. Let’s go very short and daily instead, and the feedback has been tremendous.

Q: How do you coach people on how much of their content should product-based and how much should be lifestyle content?

The 80:20 rule does really well here. Maybe even 90 percent of your content should be genuinely helpful. You can use a tool like Ubersuggest which will allow you to do a keyword based search for free and look at where the volume is. I would try to search for keywords that have volume and try to make a piece that’s ten times better than whatever is ranking on Google, say if you’re writing a blog post.

Q: Do you prospect with phone calls for your business?  

Once you’re producing a certain level of organic traffic or SEO traffic coming to your site, the beauty of it is, for whoever is visiting my site, we use a customer data platform called hull.io that looks at every single IP address that hits our website, and it knows that anyone from an enterprise company that hits our website twice, we will automatically uncover four people from their marketing team and it will automatically drop them into a sales enablement tool called Outreach and we’ll tell them we have a free tool over here you can use or we actually have a webinar we created just for you, would you be interested in it? So it does it automatically where we save a lot of time and effort from doing it manually.

I’m only giving you one use case. I think a lot of people aren’t thinking about how to leverage the data that they have. So basically what hull.io does is, let’s say you’re using a CRM or Facebook ads, it will connect all the data into one place and you can filter it.

Q: What routines have you implemented in your life that have driven success for you? 

One thing I try to do is buy my time, and some people think I’m lazy for it. So like, when people come over to my house, my fridge has some water bottles in it and that’s it. I used to have a cook, so they would basically drop food off at my door and I would put it in my fridge. But now, down the street from where I live in downtown LA there’s a salad place called SweetGreen and I order from there all the time. It saves me a ton of time, it’s not really costly. I’m constantly thinking about how I can save time. When you get to the level where you’re building a compounding business machine, you start to think about “OK, who can solve my problems.” That kind of goes into recruiting.

But going into personal habits, I wear an Oura Ring when I go to bed so I track my sleep. I have a chilly pad under my bed so I sleep at 68 degrees or so. I used to sleep without the AC on and I would have to get up like four times a night to go to the bathroom which is crazy. Now when I have the AC on I don’t get up anymore so my sleep is way better now. I have bamboo sheets and I wear this silk sleep mask. And I also have an Alen Air Purifier and no longer sneeze in my bedroom, so those five things right there should be more than enough.

Q: What advice would you go back and give yourself?

The older I get the wiser I get. We’re all impatient, we want things to happen, like, yesterday. But as I continue to cultivate good habits and stay the course, things just start to gradually fall into place. I’ve realized you just have to stay patient and stay consistent, no matter what, you’re going to hit success. There’s no way you fail.

Action Items:

  • Start posting valuable content on LinkedIn

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