Noah Kagan was an early marketer at Facebook and Mint before he set out to became a creator extraordinaire. I first found his blog when reading the framework he used for building out a marketing plan for Mint (and later ripped it off shamelessly) – the post also made it into a post of mine on timeless marketing reads.
In this episode, we talked about frameworks…but really just as an excuse for the right way to find marketing channels and mediums. We also touch on the nuances of running a business heavily based on your own personal brand, on giveaways, and talk a lot (seriously, a lot) about YouTube as an audience distribution channel.
Oh, if you’re looking for all things Kagan, also check out:
Noah Kagan: [00:00:00] It’s the fundamentals are always the same. Like who is the customer? Where are they? And are you actually solving something that they really cared and are excited to give you money for? Because if you do then finding them is generally the easy part .[00:00:10]Eytan Buchman: [00:00:10] There are only so many Lego blocks and so many ways to put them together when you do it right, you get these incredibly intricate Apollo 11 recreations that you never want to take apart. But your little brother breaks. Side note, Avi, I will never forgive you.[00:00:23] But blindly shoving them together is the equivalent of throwing all of your ingredients into a bowl at the same time and shoving it into an oven. It’s not just about what you use, it’s how you use them.[00:00:33]Putting together a marketing plan is just like my weird Frankenstein cooking and Lego analogy. You can’t just shove one part content, two part distribution and some sales collateral, and call it a go-to market strategy. Which is why when getting started, the articles that today’s guest wrote were so helpful. Literally a playbook.[00:00:49] But first, my name is Eytan Buchman, you’re listening to Marketers in Capes with GCMO and yes, despite some Lego tragedies, I do still love my little brother. I also love this episode’s sponsor, Strattic an incredible website hosting company. Strattic turns WordPress websites into static sites that load blazingly fast and are really, really secure.[00:01:08] I know that because I use it myself. Head over to strattic.com to learn more.[00:01:12] But back to today, we’re going to be talking channel selection, the role of individual personalities in branding, and also talk a lot about YouTube as a new marketing and discovery platform. But first meet the taco man.[00:01:25] Noah Kagan: [00:01:25] Hey, Noah Kagan here from San Jose, California. I have been into tech my whole life. I helped start appsumo.com and right now I am full-time creating a YouTube channel, youtube.com/okdork, where I help people on their business journeys and appsumo.com is the number one marketplace for entrepreneurs, so people starting or growing a business. We have reached over a million people a month promoting tools, books, software, and courses, to help people on their business journeys.[00:01:48]Eytan Buchman: [00:01:48] So I first encountered Noah’s stuff while reading his posts about the framework he used to scale Mint’s early marketing. Noah, what role do frameworks actually play in shaping your own marketing and your approach to business in general?[00:02:01] Noah Kagan: [00:02:01] So let me give you a recent example cause I think that will help put structure around this. As we’re creating the YouTube channel, Youtube.com/okdork we’re making a lot of videos and that’s fine, but if you’re opening a restaurant, you want to have the same dish every time.[00:02:15] So if I go to Eytan’s diner, I know maybe you have like a bagel restaurant, it’s like, I want the same darn amazing bagel each and every time. I do find frameworks good for making decisions as well as for putting structure and things to have consistency.[00:02:28] So for our YouTube channel, I’m trying to grow the channel, uh, to, you know, a million subscribers and beyond, and having a framework for how are we choosing which videos to make and how are we actually, uh, putting out these videos makes it a lot easier to find success in the videos versus just more randomness and. I think frameworks in general, like just put structure to like, how am I making better decisions? And if it’s not a great decision, how can I change my framework to make a better one?[00:02:52]Eytan Buchman: [00:02:52] So we’re going to come back to that YouTube framework, but first let’s talk about starting. What is square one when you’re approaching a new strategy or a new framework?[00:03:01] Noah Kagan: [00:03:01] So I think the idea of the framework is not about the framework. I care more about how do I make sure I hit what I’m trying to accomplish. So specifically let’s take the YouTube channel this year specifically, we’re trying to get 250,000 subscribers. So I think there’s two things to be clear on. There’s basically goal orientation, and then there’s frameworks for decisions.[00:03:16] So I think those are actually two separate things. Like Mr. Beast, there’s a famous YouTube where he’s trying to launch a burger store. He created a framework saying which cities have the most viewers of my shows and that’s where they launched the restaurants.[00:03:29] For goal orientation, I want to get to 10,000 podcast downloads a month, or for me, I want to get to 250,000 YouTube subscribers by the end of 2021. And so based on that goal, I create a framework or structure of what do I need to do to accomplish that. And so then each month it’s like, well, each month I need 8,000 subscribers to, to get that goal next year . And then I break that down to what’s the strategy and then what are the tactics within that to accomplish that goal? How many videos am I putting out? How many partnerships am I doing? How many emails swaps am I doing? And then based on that, I have to change the dials. If it’s not helping me hit the goal, I’m trying to target.[00:04:05]Eytan Buchman: [00:04:05] One of the reasons I was really excited about this interview is that Noah has been active on a ton of different platforms and has used a lot of channels. But before we get started it is so important to remember how you zero in on the channel that works.[00:04:17] Noah Kagan: [00:04:17] So I think number one is that each business has to figure out what’s the marketing channel that they can scale to acquire customers. That’s really business at the end of the day. It’s, you know, am I solving a problem? What’s the problem. And then ultimately, who’s the customer and where the hell are they?[00:04:31]Eytan Buchman: [00:04:31] So that hasn’t changed. Have the mediums that you use in order to acquire customers changed significantly over the past five or 10 years?[00:04:39] Noah Kagan: [00:04:39] Yes, and no, um, I mean the mediums change, right? Like Instagram didn’t really exist years ago, but now Instagram ads are pretty effective for a lot of businesses. I think actually a lot in our business, honestly, has stayed pretty similar. So the major channels that we’ve used, like we still a big channel for us is email marketing. Big channel for us as Facebook ads. We did, you know, Google ads. Uh, affiliate marketing has gotten larger for us, but I don’t actually think there’s been like, wow, this is a brand new channel that really didn’t exist. Uh, I think one of the successes of our company over time besides finding product market fit very early on is just that we, we run up the score on the channels that are working and I think most companies are very timid on that. So what do I mean by that? I think last year we spent somewhere around $10,000 on sponsoring influencers to promote AppSumo and it worked, worked well. And so now this year, it’s like, how do we spend a million dollars? And last year we gave away a Tesla, my Tesla, as a giveaway, which worked well. Now we’re thinking, how do we give a Tesla away a month? And I don’t actually think that many channels have really evolved. Maybe there’s a little bit more sophistication, but then day with the business.[00:05:42] Noah Kagan: [00:05:42] It’s the fundamentals are always the same. Like who is the customer? Where are they? And are you actually solving something that they really cared and are excited to give you money for? Because if you do then finding them is generally the easy part .[00:05:52]Eytan Buchman: [00:05:52] Shifting away from channels and acquisition for a second, let’s talk about branding. So Noah, you’re a very prominent personal brand, and I think you infuse a lot of that into the different projects that you take a part in. How does that influence your marketing strategy as a whole?[00:06:07]Noah Kagan: [00:06:07] It’s an interesting, I don’t know the answer. I would say people admire brands, so people buy clothing just because it has a swoosh on it. Like I don’t particularly, but people buy Supreme because it has a sticker on it. So I think people do get associated with both.[00:06:20]As a consumer, it is cool to associate companies with an individual. So Amazon who’s the person? Bezos. Tesla? Musk. And you can actually argue like it’s Tesla. It’s a great car, but is it as popular also because Musk is extremely popular. Potentially. So I think there’s value in all businesses to at least consider and try out, having someone be the face of the business and see if that makes a difference or not.[00:06:42] I would say for our business, it’s, it’s helped over the years. Definitely about a third of our customers. Like, yeah. I’ve, I’ve seen Noah on Tim Ferris or I watch his YouTube. Uh, if that grows our audience, that that’s amazing. Uh, you could take the opposite, like there’s the chevrons of the world. Uh, Exxon’s. Honestly, they’re doing just as fine. So I think there’s a lot of different approaches and strategies of, you know, of success.[00:07:01]Eytan Buchman: [00:07:01] One interesting challenge that this can lead you though is that it dilutes your own personal voice. Like as the company skills how do you educate people to talk Noahese?[00:07:10] Noah Kagan: [00:07:10] That’s actually been a little bit of a struggle, I would say. When we started Neville from copywritingcourse.com was the guy who really defined like AppSumo’s, uh, wildness, I would almost say and very distinct voice. And then I think that set the tone. And then I, I do think over time though, brands tend to become more vanilla.[00:07:31] Uh, and I think AppSumo’s got a really great voice, but still it’s not as, and, and I think, cause also society changes. Like we can’t, we used to talk about like kidnapping people and really like aggressive stuff that honestly just wouldn’t fly today. And so you have to evolve with the times. I think what I would say for all brands is talk more human.[00:07:46]Ah, I want to sell you a solution for a synergy. It’s like, dude, just, just talk normal, you know, human And have something, you know, distinct about you. That’s just, that’s just who you’re, you’re being yourself. So I eat a lot of tacos. Uh, so that’s like something in a lot of our different branding. I like talking like normal people. So if you look at a lot of our websites, I think it speaks pretty clearly, but it’s not as wild as I say, we, you know, we used to be.[00:08:08] [00:08:08]Eytan Buchman: [00:08:08] And the best tip in order to find the right words to use for that[00:08:11] Noah Kagan: [00:08:11] Look at the customer support emails or your live chat requests or talk to your own customers and then just use their language.[00:08:17]Eytan Buchman: [00:08:17] One thing that came up again and again, is that Noah is incredibly all in bullish about YouTube. Here’s why.[00:08:23]Noah Kagan: [00:08:23] I believe today that YouTube is the best opportunity for organic growth in every business. Period. I have not seen a channel since, you know, Google SEO 10 years ago, that you could relatively control and grow an audience for free at a very large scale.[00:08:40] I tried podcasting, podcasting audiences, really high quality, but the, the growth of it is very limited because it’s a zero sum game. If you’re listening to a podcast, let’s say everyone listens to your show, it’s really hard to get them off that show. Cause they’re just like, “Hey, this is what I do, my commute. This is what I do when I cook” to change. That is very difficult. But on YouTube, you’re kind of there a little bit to find out something specific to get entertained and then kind of just to find magic. And so I found with YouTube that they bring around 80% of the audience are people that don’t know me on every single one of these videos. YouTube is like, gifting me all this audience.[00:09:13] With any business, you’re trying to find that marketing channel that you can rinse and repeat on. I tried LinkedIn, I’ve tried to Instagram, I’ve tried podcasts, I’ve tried blogging and YouTube is something that I’m enjoying and it’s something I can repeat over and over.[00:09:26] And I can see that the results are happening. With podcasts. I spent a year trying to grow it. I tried all the tactics and a lot of different things, famous guests, partnerships, and it grew marginally, but this YouTube thing put out a video it’s, you know, we’ve had a few videos, you know, reaches hundreds of thousands of people, uh, within a month or so.[00:09:42]Eytan Buchman: [00:09:42] So I’m sure you’re not the only person to discover that and we’re past the gold rush stage of YouTube. How has it changed now that so many people are creating content there?[00:09:51] Noah Kagan: [00:09:51] It’s becoming professionalized. I used to put out videos 10 years ago on YouTube and I literally would just be sitting at a desk talking and we’d get like 5,000-10,000 views. And now, like the level of quality to get to there is, is, is harder.[00:10:05] Right. You have to put out a little bit better stuff, but, uh, I think right now the audiences is more on YouTube. I think more people are going to YouTube to learn as well to get entertained than ever before.[00:10:15]Eytan Buchman: [00:10:15] I typically associate youtube with viral videos that I can stop watching does it work for b2b as well?[00:10:21] Noah Kagan: [00:10:21] Every single business can do YouTube. The thing that a friend and I talk about is the, you know, the quality of one. So you don’t need to get a million views on a video, but you might want to get 10 views of really high quality people that could find your stuff. If you are a freight company or you are a like gas and oil company, I think there’s probably more effective ways of reaching your customers cause you have a very limited, uh, audience size. So if your total available audience is like a thousand potential customers, you could do YouTube and then hope they find it, or you can just directly reach out to them.[00:10:49] And so I think that’s kind of what I was saying originally with, with a framework. It’s like, here’s how I’m making my decision. I’m going to try to reach this many people. Here’s the ways I’m going to reach them. And then from doing that, you can see how effective that is or not. I think if you have a small ass audience, it’s like, you don’t need to be spending time trying to highly produce a video and you can just text them or email them or call them directly.[00:11:07] [00:11:07]Eytan Buchman: [00:11:07] You mentioned before given away your Tesla, and I know you’ve been very big on giveaways for as long as I can remember. How does that work in general and how does it converge with your YouTube strategy?[00:11:16]Noah Kagan: [00:11:16] At the end of the day, what you’re really looking for is like, what’s my most affordable cost per acquisition. So let me give you an example. We did a giveaway on my YouTube channel. We gave away a Mac book and we got 200 subscribers. So the Macbook was $1,200. We got 200 subscribers, so $6 a subscriber. Now, they’re all good people, but are they the right audience for my channel?[00:11:36] That’s debatable. What we found is generally about half the people who joined via a giveaway are potential customers. And so I think that’s also a function. Are you giving away stuff that your ideal customer want? Like if we give away a MacBook, it’s kind of broad, but if you give away, Hey, here’s something for startups here’s like Evernote for someone into productivity that’s tech-related. But, uh, ads that we’re running for my YouTube channel, we’re getting $1 subscribers.[00:12:00] And so I think you have to be mindful like, Hey, what am I trying to accomplish? If we’re getting $1 subscribers, I’m like stop doing giveaways completely, and then let’s run these let’s run ads until that $1 gets closer to the $6 amount. And then we can go back to exploring giveaways.[00:12:15]Kagan – Eytan: [00:12:15] A lot of people experiment. It’s really hard to find a winning recipe. Do you feel like you’ve landed on a winning recipe that just works? Like, do you ready? What’s what’s do you have a playbook? Yeah.[00:12:24]Noah Kagan: [00:12:24] We have a playbook but let me just give you an idea. Like we had one, let me just pull up my channel just to give you some context. One video a few days ago got 30,000 views and the video recently got 3000, so that’s almost a 10 X difference. I think what I’ve found from YouTube, but it’s probably true for any level of content creation and honestly any business is try a lot of dishes out, see which dish gets like a response and then double down on that dish.[00:12:46] Last year we did about 75 videos and of those 75 videos, three of them got over a hundred thousand views. But now that we’ve found three videos that work it’s like, all right, 80% of our videos are now going to be one of those three and just kind of dialing in what stuff really works.[00:13:01]Eytan Buchman: [00:13:01] That’s a great place to end actually. And a good point that dialing in never really stops. I always catch myself screwing up experimentation and doing an AB test, but then not going one more step down and A1 and A2 and so on and so forth.[00:13:13]You could find the videos that Noah recorded and have picked up hundreds of thousands of views on youtube.com/okdork. Or check out their app marketplace, which I’m a huge sucker for at appsumo.com. You can also find some of my favorite articles that Noah has written at buchman.co.il/noah, including one that I use to actually structure this podcast. In the meantime I’m Eytan Buchman, I really like my little brother and now I’m going to build some lego and cook some food.