Behind the Scenes: Adventures in Advertising

Copyblogger and Rainmaker Digital have always benefited from what Brian Clark has called “brute force authority” — plenty of organic traffic. But we’ve started to experiment with something new.


This week I talk with VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital, Jerod Morris, about our forays into the world of marketing funnels paired with social advertising.

Jerod has created a brand-new course on social advertising, which pairs beautifully with our course on marketing funnels. These are both available in our Digital Commerce Academy — but pick them up now while the price is still low!

The enrollment fee for DCA goes up on May 27, 2016.

In this 26-minute episode, Jerod and I talk about:

  • The business reasons behind diversifying our traffic sources
  • Why this new strategy isn’t as new for us as we first thought
  • How the pieces of a strong advertising program fit together
  • Cultivating a culture of testing for maximum results
  • The first steps for someone who wants to try this strategy out
  • A great price (expires on May 27!) on our newest resource to help you master social advertising


The Show Notes


Behind the Scenes: Adventures in Advertising

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM is brought to you by Digital Commerce Institute. Do you want to build the business of your dreams without squandering time and money, stumbling around to find the right path, or making unnecessary mistakes? The market is ready and waiting for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s gotten any easier. Digital Commerce Institute is here to change that. Go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce and get the training, education, and community you need to start building your digital business the right way.

Sonia Simone: Hey there. I am so glad to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with all the folks who do the real work over on the Copyblogger blog. We’re going to be talking, as we always do, about lots of different resources and ideas. We always have additional links for you in the show notes. If you just go to Copyblogger.FM, you will get access not only to the notes for this show, but to the total archive for the program.

This week, I’m joined by our VP of Marketing, Jerod Morris. Jerod, how are you doing today?

Jerod Morris: I’m doing very well, Sonia. It’s wonderful to be here talking with you back on this podcast.

Sonia Simone: Exactly. Those of you with good memories remember that Jerod was a co-host on this podcast. He’s also got, gosh, he’s hosting The Showrunner, The Digital Entrepreneur, which he co-hosts with Brian Clark, he’s got some passion podcasts, so pretty much Jerod lives behind his mic, is what we’re saying with Jerod there.

Jerod Morris: Basically.

Sonia Simone: Like everybody at Copyblogger and at Rainmaker Digital, Jerod’s job description changes, I calculated, and I think it’s about every 10 days.

Jerod Morris: Seems about right.

The Business Reasons Behind Diversifying Your Traffic Sources

Sonia Simone: Lately, something he’s been working on is something really important and cool, a new growth engine for us, which is the world of advertising and marketing funnels. It’s a funny thing. I was talking with Brian Clark about this at our company meeting. I was saying everyone else in digital business does that first, while they’re trying to figure out how to do a really strong content play.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

Sonia Simone: We just sort of, I don’t know, we did it backwards. Brian described it over on the Digital Entrepreneur as what we have been doing as “brute strength authority marketing.” I thought that was a wonderful turn of phrase. Diversification is smart, you know, in any business. It’s just not a great idea to only have one source of traffic, so we have been adding ads into the mix. Jerod has really been, I don’t know, leading that charge or herding those cats. I’m not sure what the best description is.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you know, working with our team, Loryn Thompson, who we brought in, has been doing some great work with learning Facebook ads and helping us put that in. What’s interesting about it is that it’s such an integrated effort because you can have this idea for a funnel and start the funnel with some paid advertising, but that means that you need good design on an image. You need good copy written. You need someone who is there to analyze the data.

You need people on the back end who can make sure that when people sign up and give you their email address, that they’re getting the right opt-in bonus, and all of this. It’s interesting because it really is such an integrated part now, and there’s so many people on our team who have a hand in a piece of this as we go. It’s been a great experience, something new. That’s the best part about the constantly shifting job description, is getting to learn a lot of new things, which I always enjoy.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s really good. I think probably at least half of the folks listening are going to be pretty familiar with marketing funnels, and with this idea that you buy traffic, essentially, to go to those funnels. Can you kind of just give us a capsule view of what that means for people who haven’t really done it yet, or might not be quite as familiar?

How the Pieces of a Strong Advertising Program Fit Together

Jerod Morris: If you haven’t done it yet and if you’re not familiar, then you’re really like I was not too long ago, actually, when I first started learning about content marketing, Sonia. And a lot of what I’ve learned is since I joined Copyblogger several years ago.

I guess I just thought, and I don’t know exactly why this was, but my understanding just kind of came to be that it was almost like you did content marketing or you did paid advertising. It was almost like they were kind of separate things. I think part of that is because that’s just kind of how we operated.

Like Brian was talking about with the ‘brute force authority,’ we had built this authority, built these lists, and so when we’re getting ready to sell a product, we would send an offer out to our lists, and it worked really well. Obviously it sustained the company enough to the point where we grew to as big as we are now and allowed us to continue to develop more products and do all of the things that we’ve done.

Now, as I get into it more and learn more about paid advertising, and learn more about how paid advertising and content marketing integrate, they really aren’t two separate things at all. In fact, they are obviously different disciplines, but they come together. The fundamentals of them are so similar and they work so well together.

You’ve got to think of it this way. If you’re going to succeed with content marketing, that means that you’re putting out really good, valuable content, and that when people see that content, they want to engage with you more, and they subscribe, and you take them along these circles of belief, like we’ve talked about.

If you’re doing a good job with content marketing, what do you need? You need more people in your target audience to come see your content. The most efficient way to do that is to simply go someplace that will allow you to target the specific people you’re looking for and pay to put your content in front of them. That’s what paid advertising is. That’s what social advertising is all about.

If you look at it on the flip side, if you’re looking to get into paid advertising, and you have the best strategy, and you know everything to do to develop a good ad with a great image, and you know how to write the copy for it, and do all this stuff, and you know that you can convert and target the exact, right people, what do you need? You need to send people to content that converts. You need to be good at content marketing.

These two different disciplines, these two different activities, really work very well together. They compliment each other so well. That’s what we’re learning, because obviously we have developed a treasure trove of good content over the years at Copyblogger. Now, as we get into the paid advertising side of it, we’re really seeing the value of that, and we’re really seeing the value of not just sending someone from, let’s say, Facebook to a sales page.

Sonia Simone: Right.

Jerod Morris: But sending someone to a piece of content, giving them some value, getting them on the list, nurturing them, just like you would if someone came to When you have those two and they can work together so well, it really allows you to super-charge your content marketing efforts if you’re coming at it from a content marketing angle.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, one of the earliest posts I wrote for Copyblogger, back in the days when Copyblogger was a brand — because that was a time, not that long ago really, in the scheme of things — I wrote a post called “The Harpoon or the Net.” It was really about what at that time were maybe more separate ways, but yeah. It used to be that a certain kind of marketer bought ads and sent them to these landing pages, sometimes to sales pages. The sales page, if you were doing it right, you could spend ten, twenty, thirty thousand on a sales page because it had to convert this absolutely ice cold traffic.

Jerod Morris: Yep.

Sonia Simone: You had to be at the top of your game to be able to make that work. A few people made a lot of money. A lot of people lost a little money. It was hard. The content marketing model was more ‘create the environment, build the audience.’ I love that now both disciplines have matured enough that we realize there’s nothing wrong with buying traffic.

Certainly, there’s nothing bad about buying traffic at all. It’s just so much smarter to pull them into some kind of a sequence, something made with content that creates a relationship, rather than just slam it and run into a sales pitch. That is a thing you can do. It’s just not necessarily the thing that is the smartest way to go.

Why This New Strategy Isn’t as New as We First Thought

Jerod Morris: Yeah. It’s being smart about things, like a retargeting pixel, for example, on Facebook. We can put an ad on Facebook to a piece of content on Copyblogger, just a straight piece of content, an article. It may have a call to action at the bottom. In fact, it should have a call to action at the bottom.

If the person doesn’t convert at that moment, which we know that most people won’t on their first time, or maybe even their second time or their third time, you haven’t lost them. Number one, maybe they haven’t bought, but maybe you converted them onto an email list.

Or when it comes to advertising, you’ve set what’s called that Facebook retargeting pixel, so now we can actually start a sequence of ads on Facebook. Maybe you clicked on this ad here about meaningful content. Now, we can actually show you an ad that kind of takes the next step on the content journey that you might be going on.

You can set up and you can almost treat the people on Facebook — and Brian and I talked about this on the Digital Entrepreneur — you can treat the people that you’re targeting on social media sites with paid advertising, almost like someone who’s inside of your email sequence, where you’re sending them a sequence of emails.

You can send people a sequence of messages on social media and kind of walk them through a process. And of course, you’re nurturing them along the way, you’re warming that traffic to some sort of eventual end. But again, you’re really seeing the fundamentals of what you want to do merge. Obviously, there are specific elements to content marketing and elements to social advertising that you need to understand, specific strategies. You’ve got to get comfortable with the tools. The fundamentals are a lot closer and a lot more related than I initially thought. That’s probably been the biggest eye opener of this whole experience for me.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, I think for me too. I could sort of see it coming for quite a while because a few of the very, very smart people on paid traffic have been talking for a long time about sending traffic into sequences, but the tools just keep getting better. I’m really impressed by how relevant you can make your marketing message, and therefore get a higher quality. You’re actually talking to people about what they care about, instead of just spewing endless irrelevant pitches at them.

Jerod Morris: Yep.

Sonia Simone: I’m really, really impressed with the way the tools enable that now, in a way that’s not creepy or pushy, because you have to be pushy when you don’t have the right message. Then you just have to turn up the volume. This lets you have a smarter message instead of just a louder message. I really think it’s very cool.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Cultivating a Culture of Testing for Maximum Results

Sonia Simone: You mentioned Facebook, and it seems to me that right now, so we’re recording this in May 2016, things do change. Right now, Facebook really seems to be such a strong platform for this kind of work. Would you agree with that?

Jerod Morris: Oh yeah. It’s great. Here’s the thing, even if you’re not going to put an ad out on Facebook, if you’re never going to buy an ad, I really encourage everybody to just go in and get comfortable with the Facebook power editor, and look at what it allows you to do from a targeting and an audience perspective. Even if you never pay for an ad, you can actually get some pretty interesting information about the potential size of markets just by going in there and kind of fiddling around and looking. There are so many different ways that you can segment and target. Just doing that can be really instructive.

With everything else that Facebook allows you to do, once you get in and learn the tools. And look, you don’t have to know — because there is so much to know when it comes to Facebook, and it can be really intimidating when you get back in there and it’s like, “Oh man. Do I optimize for clicks, do I optimize for impressions? Now I’ve got to do a desktop ad and a mobile …”

There’s a lot, and it can feel overwhelming, but what I’m starting to find is it’s like anything else. There’s about 20 percent of it that gives you 80 percent of the results. When you can identify that, and get good at that, and really zero in and spend the majority of your time in the right areas — and I will say, make sure that you have a culture of testing, either if it’s just yourself or among your team.

That’s one really big step that we’re taking that is allowing us to be more successful at this than we otherwise would be, is really making sure that we’re testing, figuring out which ads work, optimizing landing pages and conversion pages, and all of that. When you do that, then you can really get the results from it.

I think that for people listening to this, you’re probably like I was, where you’re good at the content stuff, you understand the content stuff, you probably have a pretty nice archive. You’re ready to now take the best pieces of that and start getting some highly targeted traffic to it. Facebook is really, once you get in and learn that 20 percent that’ll give you the majority of the results, it can be a little bit scary because you are paying some money, and obviously, you can spend a lot of money really quickly if you want to, but if you’re smart about it, you can also make a lot of money really quickly, too.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I think that’s such an important success principle. Anytime you’re paying for social media platform advertising, pay-per-click advertising, you really want to make sure it works before you throw a billion dollars at it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Sonia Simone: That’s what’s great about it, is that you can actually invest a pretty modest, manageable amount of money to do your experiments with. And then when you know it’s working, that’s when you turn the faucet up a little more.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

The First Steps if You Want to Try This Strategy Out

Sonia Simone: I know that right now, Brian Clark is like, “Why won’t this faucet open any further?”

Jerod Morris: Yes, he is ready to turn on the faucet. That’s the thing, we’re working on some tests right now. For instance, we’re doing one particular content funnel where we’ve taken three or four different old posts from Copyblogger, a couple of them are from you, actually. I think one of them is your Digital Sharecropping post. We’ve taken those, and those are at the top of the funnel. We’re putting those out to a targeted audience.

Again, the level of granularity that you can get with the audience is really cool. You can do look-alike audiences, and you can do people who have visited your site before, you can do people who like such and such, someone who does something similar to you and has a big profile, so many different ways that you can target. We’re putting out those three or four different pieces of content. Just general pieces of content, and a little call to action at the end, but really, we just want people to see this content.

They see it, we can set that Facebook re-targeting pixel, and the goal of this is to actually get people to see the Rainmaker Platform, because it’s among the many things it does, it’s obviously a great platform for putting your content out there. People see these posts, and then we retarget them with a content-focused testimonial about the platform. So now they’ve seen the second part. They’ve seen content talking about the importance of content that relates in some way to the platform. They see this testimonial, and then, only then, will we show them an actual link to a conversion page for the platform, that talks more about the platform.

It’s a step-by-step process. We’re testing this. What’ll be interesting is we’ll be able to see, which pieces of content do we get the most clicks for for the least amount of money? Now we can put these other ones away, we can double down on this one, and really kind of allow this funnel to go work its magic — it’s not really magic, what I really mean is just to do its work — and then we can start with another one. You test a bunch of different ones. You see what works best. You do limited, smaller tests, and then double down on what works.

For us, it’s just been a process of getting processes in place to do it, finding the content to get out there, but it makes it so much easier that we have this great treasure trove of tested, proven content, where we can see what really resonated with an audience in the past. And a lot of that content, whether it was a year ago or a couple of years ago, so much of it is still relevant today on some of these fundamental topics. You put it out there, and you know it’ll be useful to people. You’re just paying to make it a much faster process of getting it in front of the people that you want to get it in front of, instead of being a little more passive and waiting.

Sonia Simone: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: The money that you’re paying just kind of shortcuts that for you.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s such an interesting strategy. A couple of things I want to recommend to people. First is you did a neat interview, I thought, with Brian Clark over on the Digital Entrepreneur podcast about the myth of ‘set it and forget it.’ I thought that was great, because I think this idea of buying traffic on a platform like Google or Facebook, and then sending it to a sequence, I think people think of that as the kind of ‘make money while you sleep,’ quick and dirty kind of business model. You can make money while you sleep, but that’s because you’ve been doing plenty of work while you’re awake.

Jerod Morris: Right.

Sonia Simone: There’s nothing wrong with that, right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would recommend that episode to people. I will give you guys a link in the show notes, because Brian and Jerod kind of just explored some additional facets. This is one of those topics, and I think content marketing is this way as well, it’s not that it’s hard, but there are a lot of steps. There are a lot of pieces. All of the pieces are something that anybody who’s listening to this can master. It’s just that there are quite a few of them that you need to stitch together, and you need to see how they go together.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, it’s like we always say, it’s the difference between simple and easy.

Sonia Simone: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: It’s not easy because there is a lot to keep track of, and there is a lot of work involved. When you line them up, and when you can kind of follow a proven workflow and a proven format, a proven framework, then it is relatively simple, but it’s an important distinction to make.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, certainly that’s one of the great things about content marketing. There are so many little pieces that a lot of our competitors will just say, “Well that seems kind of hard,” and they won’t do it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Sonia Simone: They’re all manageable and they’re all learnable. You’ve just got to walk through it step by step.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

A Great Price (Expires on May 27!) on Our Newest Resource to Help You Master Social Advertising

Sonia Simone: We do have some resources for people. We do have, of course, that Digital Entrepreneur podcast. Great podcast. Get your feet wet with some of the ideas. But you have also been putting something together, is that correct?

Jerod Morris: I have, yes, for Digital Commerce Academy. When Digital Commerce Academy launched, we had two courses in there — one from Brian about building your online training course the right way, and then another course from Chris Garrett and Tony Clark on building automated marketing funnels that work. Obviously, then we also have the coaching Q&As in there, and we have the community, and we have all the case studies, kind of the ongoing education that is constantly being updated with new events.

I’m really excited that we have our next two courses coming. And so Chris Lema, who I’m sure most of the people listening to this know and know well, has done a course inside of Digital Commerce Academy on developing WordPress products. Obviously, Chris is an expert in that area. He is going to be speaking at Digital Commerce Summit. He and I even did a case study inside of the Academy on that. He’s developed a great course to walk you through the process of the smart way to develop and sell WordPress products, to enter the premium WordPress marketplace, whether it’s a plugin, a theme, anything like that.

I am actually creating another course called Savvy Social Advertising. A lot of the concepts that I’ve hinted at today we’re going to talk about in there. The big idea is for folks who do have probably a content marketing background and have some digital products that they’re ready to sell and get out there, but they just need to get more people into their funnel, to get more subscribers, to get more people to see their stuff.

We’re going to show you some simple methods. It’s not going to be for the super advanced person, who already knows everything and wants to get just that one percent gain, but it’s for people who have only barely started, who haven’t even really given this much thought, and want to learn the fundamentals, and want to learn that 20 percent that’ll give them 80 percent of the results. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to really talk about Facebook, really get into LinkedIn and Twitter, and show you those fundamentals, give you the tools, and give you a roadmap so you can make this work for you too.

Sonia Simone: For those of who you haven’t seen our Digital Commerce Academy, it’s quite a cool model. You pay one membership fee, and then you can take all the courses that are relevant to you. You can take all of the courses if you want to, or you can really focus on one and really make traction on that one. The price is very advantageous. It’s about to become slightly less so.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Sonia Simone: You can still get in on what I think is the launch price, which was $395 a year. Is that correct?

Jerod Morris: The launch was $295, and then we raised it once to $395, but it’s been there for a while.

Sonia Simone: Again, all the courses that Jerod mentioned, as well as, because this is how we do things, all the things that we add. We’re just going to keep adding to it, keep making it more robust. However, that price expires on May 27, 2016, and then it will hop on up to $595 a year, which is still, considering how much material is in there, it’s still a good value. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Jerod Morris: Oh yeah. What’s funny, Sonia, is that we were doing an episode of the Digital Entrepreneur, and I had my call-to-action all ready, “the price is going up,” and I thought it was $495, because that’s what we’d talked about. I say that, and Brian’s like, “No. I’m changing my mind. It’s going up to $595.” He’s like, “There’s too much stuff in there.” I guess what I hadn’t realized is that for the individual courses, we will eventually sell those courses individually for $595, so if you just want Brian’s course, it’ll be $595. Basically for that same price, you can get everything else. It’s a pretty remarkable value all told when you see everything that’s in there.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, I really like the synergy, to use an overused word, of the courses that are in there right now, because really, it is about you’ve got the course on “courses.” If you need a product, you don’t have a product yet, it walks you through exactly how to create a product, and a product that has the marketing built into it, so that you don’t have to be like a super-advanced marketer to get people to understand the value of your product.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

Sonia Simone: Then you’ve got your marketing funnels course, and that really helps you create and craft the sequences that will walk people through why they want to buy your wonderful thing. Then we’ve got the new social advertising course, and that helps you get the traffic to those funnels. Of course, if you are in that WordPress world, you know Chris Lema. He is a wonderful guy, a smart guy.

Jerod Morris: And a great teacher. That’s what’s so great about Chris is he is a great teacher.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, it really comes through because he’s just a generous person, so I think that that’s kind of what informs that. Just like our business is composed of all these pieces that fit together, the pieces of the course really fit together. I think you guys are going to dig it. It’s Rainmaker.FM/DCA. DCA is for Digital Commerce Academy. Do hop on that. If you are interested in it, hop on it now. Just might as well get the best price on it.

Jerod Morris: Exactly.

Sonia Simone: No sense in waiting. Yeah, I’m proud of it. It’s sort of maybe the latest and greatest in some of the things that we’ve been playing with, some of the things that we’ve been seeing really work in our business, and we want to share them with you guys because we like to do that.

Jerod Morris: Hey, and you know, I’ll throw this out there, too. If you have seen any great examples of just great social ads, sequences, anything like that, even if it’s your own, Tweet them to me @JerodMorris because I know part of what I’m going to do in the course is just put together some great examples for people to see, and I’d certainly be happy to feature anybody who’s listening who has a great example or one that you’ve seen. Again, just send me a Tweet @JerodMorris because I’m always on the lookout for good examples.

Sonia Simone: That’s really cool. All right, well we’re at the 25-minute mark, so I’m going to leave it there so I’m not over-soaking people’s brains with stuff. Again, that’s Rainmaker.FM/DCA if you want to check that out. I really would encourage you to. There’s a lot there if you are putting together, whether you’re already a digital business owner and you want to just do better with that, or you want to just launch something. Very appropriate for either profile. Jerod, it’s just always a pleasure to talk with you.

Jerod Morris: Same thing, Sonia. I always appreciate our time when we get to chat.

Sonia Simone: All right, good stuff. Take care, everybody, and I will catch you next week.