The Myth of Set-it-and-Forget-It Marketing

The Digital Entrepreneur
The Digital Entrepreneur
The Myth of Set-it-and-Forget-It Marketing


When you inject paid advertising into a content marketing strategy, the fundamentals that helped you succeed with content marketing don’t go out the window. In fact, your ad strategy and your content marketing strategy will be more similar than you think.

That is the topic of this week’s episode of The Digital Entrepreneur.

In this 26-minute episode, Brian Clark and Jerod Morris discuss:

  • How automated marketing funnels work
  • Why you can’t ever really “set it and forget it”
  • The advertising editorial calendar
  • Treating Facebook like an email list


The Show Notes


Voiceover: You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs.

DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur. I’m your host, Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I am joined by Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital.

Brian, as we mentioned on our last episode, we were getting ready for our company meeting in Denver. We are now both home after the company meeting in Denver. As usual, it was a great experience. We got a lot done, and we got to experience that special energy that you only can get when you’re working in person with folks. All in all, a good couple of days, a productive couple of days.

Brian Clark: Yeah, and as usual, so many new ideas and just slightly different ways of thinking that come together when you get us all in a room together, as opposed to the way we normally work now. Some people might say, “Well, isn’t that an indictment of the virtual model.” I’m like, “No, because we like each other a lot.” If we were around each other all the time, who knows if that would still remain the case.

Jerod Morris: Right.

Brian Clark: It’s almost the contrast that sparks the creativity. Not, “Oh, you have to be in the same room every day.”

Jerod Morris: Right, and there’s an urgency to it when you know we only have a few days. I think that’s part of what contributes to so much of that in those times we get together.

Brian Clark: Yep, it really does. Of course, given the topic of today’s show, there was a whole lot of very complex, in some cases, and sometimes not so complex sequencing and charting of adaptive content funnels, which we’ve been talking about quite a bit on the show.

I love it, and I know you do, too. I saw you get into Lucidchart, and you were just like a kid in a candy store. But it is cool, right? You can get that thing out of your head in a visual format. I’m a Word guy. So I try to explain things to people, and I get frustrated because it’s too complex. Then you sit down with a Word document or something, and you’re trying to map it out. You’re like, “This doesn’t work. I just need some boxes, triangles, and arrows.”

That really was productive when we literally started using that charting software, sitting there next to each other. Even though we were in the same room, we were sharing charts with each other. That was easier than explaining verbally.

Jerod Morris: It was. Well, we got a chance to get up on the whiteboard. You, me, Chris Garrett, and others, we’ve been having these conversations for awhile. It was great to be in person. You draw something, and then Garrett, add a little bit here, add a little bit there. Then put it in this Lucidchart program, like you were talking about, to share it.

It was great to get some of those ideas down, stuff we’ve been talking about, get it into a format that can be executed, that can be shared among the different team members.

Here’s the thing that’s interesting about this, which leads into the topic that we’re going to talk about today. We’ve been spending a lot more time, obviously, working on these marketing funnels and starting to link it up with what we’re doing with paid advertising. That, of course, is something that we’re relatively new in, in doing and learning more about.

How Automated Marketing Funnels Work

Jerod Morris: What’s been really interesting, and you and I just got done talking about this, is you can make this mistake in thinking that your strategy for paid advertising needs to be so much different from what you’ve done before if you’ve been focused on content marketing. Yet we’re finding, the deeper into this that we get, that a lot of the standard practices of content marketing, you don’t just throw them out the window.

Actually running successful campaigns is a lot more like blogging, a lot more like email marketing even, than you would think–which is surprising and very, very comforting at the same time.

Brian Clark: Yeah, because it ultimately comes down to email. People are like, “Well that’s where the funnel starts.” With blogging, you know that it really starts out there, with our concentric circle design.

You float content out there. It gets shared on social. People discover it. They come in closer, or maybe they come through a search engine. They’re a little more intentional. But you’re bringing them closer to you until they opt-in to a list. From there, that list can be segmented. They convert to a customer. They go onto a customer list. They go onto a repeat or recurring customer list.

This is what we were teaching for years before we even started experimenting with paid traffic. Almost immediately, I was looking around at best practices, talking to people who’ve been advertising the whole time. I’m like, “You’re just doing content marketing with paid distribution.” I say ‘just’ not to belittle it. I say that because it’s more familiar than you think.

What we found is actually interesting. When you’re paying for something, you’re much more conscientious of conversion. Everything is trackable, right down from the campaign, the traffic source, etcetera. We got much more intentional that way. For the last five years, we have launched multiple, if not one huge new thing each year.

That was always a big catalyst for revenue growth. Generally, anything we launch becomes a seven-figure line of business pretty quickly. Then, once we were out of building and launching mode and more into optimization and growth mode, I thought everything had to change–and to a certain degree, it does.

I’d say, when we were in build and launch mode, we relied on brute-strength authority marketing. That’s not a bad thing. Big email list, big customer list, great new products, announce them everywhere. People buy, and you grow. It’s a little more nuanced once you’re in optimization and growth mode and not building something new to add on to revenue.

Yet what I found through the first quarter of this year with testing and whatnot, it’s a lot like what we’ve been doing all along–except more targeted. And really, we’re held more accountable for why are we creating this piece of content.

Instead of creating as much content as possible–because you know only certain parts are going to stick with certain people–you can be much more intentional and targeted. Yet ultimately, what I hope to get across today, is that it’s a lot more like the combination of blogging to email marketing that we’ve been doing since 2006 than most people think. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Why You Can’t Ever Really ‘Set It And Forget It’

Jerod Morris: All right, so let’s dig into that. A lot of times, when people hear about the promises of paid advertising and what you can do with Facebook, and you hear these terms thrown around like ‘machine,’ ‘get your machine in order,’ and ‘automated marketing funnels.’

I think people feel like you can get a couple of landing pages that work, you set up some different ads and test them, and you can just set it and forget it. One of the things that we’re learning is that the set-it-and-forget-it mentality isn’t really the right mentality to go into with this, is it?

Brian Clark: It’s not. I knew that going back to, I’d say, 2003 when I created my early autoresponder courses for my real estate business. I really did have a set-it-and-forget-it type thing. In that business, the topics don’t change, but things do change overall–market conditions, etcetera–to where you want to go back and look at your content stream.

In that case, it works while you sleep. It’s automatic, all that kind of good stuff. There was no adaptive element to it. But it still dripped out according to your content marketing strategy of, “What do they need to learn before they’re going to do business with me?”

To a certain degree, even with autoresponders, it’s always been kind of a myth. Automated marketing funnels are really cool with the technology we have now because you can literally do a mini-launch to a new prospect and/or a promotion to a new prospect, like a one-time, ‘this week only’ discount or bundle, or some sort of incentive that’s not made to the general public.

With the marketing automation technology in Rainmaker and just some short codes that we give, you can basically make a time-limited offer with a page that, after whatever many days after they enter the funnel, disappears. Not just with cookies, either.

We’ve figured out how to do it with Rainmaker to where, even if you think you’re crafty and you try to bookmark the page or clear your cookies or whatever, no, the page is really gone. It’s like we’re doing a manual promotion where we change the page, delete the page, change the product offer, or whatever the case me be–what we’ve been doing for years–and that’s all automated.

Again, that leads one to believe that set it, forget it is alive and well and better than ever, to a certain degree. If you create the right kind of opt-in funnel and you adapt appropriately based on behavior within it, that can remain in place for quite awhile.

What we’ve found is, it’s what happens before they enter the beginning of the funnel. But it’s way more like blogging has been used to deliver a steady stream of content, often related by topic or whatnot. For example, I started Copyblogger, more or less, by writing Copywriting 101, a series of 10 articles. That’s a great introductory lead-in.

Each of those articles could have a so-called ‘content upgrade’ that got you to the next level, which could be, let’s say, a free workshop on the most important copywriting skill you could learn. Then that workshop leads to an offer of a paid copywriting course. That was a blogging technique. That’s our whole cornerstone content approach.

That’s good for general converting people to customers. It’s good for search when you aggregate them on a content landing page. It’s good for social because people share the aggregated pages–all of that stuff. Yet I didn’t realize that, conceptually, that’s how you treat Facebook, for example.

Jerod Morris: When you’re saying, “Treat Facebook like that,” you’re saying, to use your example, you would take each of those individual parts and pieces from that Copywriting 101 and basically run a Facebook Ad to it and expose that content to people.

Of course, you aren’t going to know which one is going to get them to click or which one is going to end up being the one that leads to a conversion. But continuously expose those ideas to people over time in a sequence, and let the content work for you on Facebook, just like it does on the blog.

Brian Clark: Yeah. There are different levels here. I don’t want to mislead people. It’s not like we don’t advertise the free trial of the Rainmaker Platform directly. Really, when you think about it, you would hope that, that would work, and you could just spend as much money as you could possibly throw at it.

We know that, when we do that, we get a very healthy return on investment about three times what we spent. You remember, of course, that Rainmaker is a recurring product. We’re making three times ROI on the initial payments. That doesn’t count next quarter’s payment, next year’s payment, or whatever the case may be. That’s very healthy.

Why don’t we just throw $100,000 a month at that? Because you can’t scale it that well. Because that very direct approach will be ignored by a lot of people. Facebook’s algorithm will say, “Look, you’re about to waste your money. I’m not going to let you spend anymore.” Which is awful gracious of them, but it can be frustrating because you’re like, “Ahhhhhhh!”

The Advertising Editorial Calendar

Brian Clark: Let me plant the idea in your head of an editorial calendar, just like you would use for blogging, for your advertising. You’re not just creating ads. You are creating content. Beyond the ROI that you can get from advertising a product directly and beyond the ROI that you can get for advertising a landing page directly, the next level is to have individual pieces of content that point to a landing page, that puts them in a sequence that eventually presents the product.

We’ve known for years of pay-per-click advertising that selling the product directly went way down in effectiveness, while getting someone on the email list boosted conversions significantly. It’s not any different now. People want and share content. That’s the fundamental basis behind content marketing.

I’m not saying with ads that you can’t advertise a product directly or the opt-in directly. You’re just not going to get as much traffic into your funnel as you’d like by stopping there. Again, it’s almost like thinking about it in terms of, “I blog to put content out there so that social sharing and search engine traffic feeds my funnel.”

Here, we think, “Oh, I don’t have to mess with that because I’m spending money.” But in order to scale the amount of people that get into your funnel and really make an impact on your growth, it really is a combination of all those things.

Some people want to buy now because they’re interested in this thing. Some people want to opt-in now because it’s very compelling to them enough at that moment. Then the rest of the people, that’s why we’ve done general blogging for 10 years.

It’s still the same thing, which is why you think of your advertising campaigns more in lines of content series as part of the mix that includes direct ads to your product or service, and direct landing-page advertising.

Treating Facebook Like an Email List

Jerod Morris: I love this idea of treating Facebook like an email list. If you think about it with maybe an email promotion you may have, and maybe you have three emails in the promotion, well, your call to action or the way that you’re going to try and relate the offer to people is going to be different with each email.

You’re not going to use, let’s say, just the direct benefit in each one. One may have scarcity. One may have urgency. One focuses more on the direct benefit. Same thing with a single email. If you have multiple calls to action, you want to try and hit people in different ways.

I think what you’re saying is that this is similar. You’re going to put the direct sale to the landing-page offer out there for the people who are ready for that, but this benefit with Facebook is that you can really get granular with your targeting.

You know you’re targeting people who are going to be interested in what you’re doing. Now you just have to find the right way to speak to them. Okay, so some people want just the direct link to the landing page. Great, you’ve got them. But now, how can you speak to the other people? How can you give them value? What topics are they going to be interested in?

Again, you put out this series of content. It’s not like whichever one draws the click, that’s the only one that worked. But continuing to expose them to different ideas to different content–maybe they’re not ready to buy, but get them into your funnel–now, you’re really allowing the work that you’re doing in Facebook, the money that you’re spending in Facebook to pay off more in the long term.

You’re allowing people to take the next step with you, wherever they are, instead of just putting out these one or two things that require people to be in this specific spot.

Brian Clark: Yeah, and I’m going to give a little credit here to Tim Mayer, who’s here in Boulder. We had lunch. Marty Weintraub of aimClear told him this a long time ago. He related it to me, and with all the work we’ve been doing, I didn’t need any explanation.

He said, “Treat Facebook like an email list.” I’ll add to that, ” … like a blog,” at least the way we blog. We plan each message–like you said, coming at an issue or a different pain point, the framing of an offer or whatever in an email funnel, in an email sequence–very carefully.

We sit there, and that’s why we map these things out. Yet with advertising, for example, with Facebook, we started out thinking, “Well, we’ll try this approach. If that doesn’t work, we’ll swap out this approach, and see if that works better.”

But the reality of what Marty was saying is, no, you try all of them–not swapping things out, but in series. If you have a campaign aimed at a certain interest group, or say it’s at people who ‘like’ your page … that’s a perfect example, people who like Rainmaker Digital’s Facebook Page. Our blog is posted there every day. The algorithm messes with us, but conceivably that audience would get our sequence of posts that hopefully have some thought of what the ultimate business objective is to that series of content.

Same with an email list. Like I said, if you put someone in a sequence, some emails are to get them to know, like you, and trust you. Some are to teach valuable information in order to prime them for an offer. Then you start making the offer. Then you follow up and position that offer in different ways, like you said, direct benefit, scarcity, whatever the case may be. Usually, it’s a sequence that ends with, “This is going away.”

That one statement made me realize that it’s just like blogging. It’s just like a sequence of carefully constructed messages that go in a certain order. We know, with blogging, that people don’t read every piece of content. It depends on the headline. It depends on the context. It depends on how busy they are. That’s why you take multiple shots at the apple.

Going back to advertising clichés, it takes seven messages, really, in order to get inside someone’s head and get them to notice you. Why would it be any different with Facebook Ads? The concept here is, you’re not swapping out different ideas. You’re presenting those different ideas in order. Just like we do on the blog. Just like we do in our email list.

And through the course of that sequence to that particular interest group, that particular campaign, something or other is going to catch a prospect’s attention. One or two will probably catch attention better than others, which is very valuable to know because maybe you can pare down your sequence or your series.

I’ve heard it likened to playing roulette. You don’t really take anything off the table. You just move your chips to the things that are hot.

Why the Fundamentals That Build Success Don’t Change

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I love that one. It’s interesting. Just on recent episodes, we’ve talked about digital sharecropping. We’ve talked about having an app versus a mobile-responsive website. We come across all of these topics. The tools are new, and there are these hot new strategies. Yet there are always these underlying fundamentals that it comes back to, that success is built upon.

We’re finding that exact same thing here with building funnels and using paid traffic to fill them up. It’s the exact same thing.

Brian Clark: Yeah, and it can happen to anyone. You know I get on people for thinking all this is new and shiny. Really, it’s the same fundamentals that worked in 1920 at the beginning of scientific advertising as a testable and trackable discipline. Now, we’ve got more ways to do that than ever. Yet I almost let myself think that, what’s been working for us for the last 10 years, wasn’t going to work once we started trying to advertise and actually make a significant difference with that.

Hey, I’ll own up to it. There are no mistakes. What’s the saying? There’s only success in learning.

How to Take Your Digital Business to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Right, exactly. What’s interesting is, you were mentioning earlier when we were on the subject of automated marketing funnels, how especially using the Rainmaker Platform now, you get someone on your email list, and you can set up maybe a special offer on a page that will go away after a certain period of time. We’ve actually got an example of that, that people can see built on the Rainmaker Platform.

If you go to Rainmaker.FM/DCfree, that’ll be the offer page for the Digital Commerce Institute free membership, which has a bunch of lessons of Brian’s course. It’s got lessons in the course on setting up automated marketing funnels that work that Chris Garrett and Tony Clark did. When you register for that, you get on an autoresponder email list that has an offer and will give you an example, Brian, of what you talked about, that very thing, using the platform.

For folks who want to see it in action, again, we talk about these things, and a lot of what we’re talking about on here, we’re talking about right after or right before we’re implementing it ourselves–doing, showing, and telling you all at the same time. That would be a great way going and signing up. Not only will you be getting all that great information, but you’ll get to see an example of this in action.

Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s also an interesting point that I just realized. This podcast is an example of one ‘campaign’ or ‘channel,’ among all the other stuff. We’re not advertising it. It’s more organic. Each topic that we cover, we are covering things in series now, aren’t we?

Jerod Morris: Exactly.

Brian Clark: We’re going to do more of that. At the end, there’s a call to action that basically is what we’d like you to do. I will say that telling people to go watch your marketing is great for them. It doesn’t necessarily convert as much, but I hope you will actually sample the content over there if you’re trying to build a digital business. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to help you to do.

Jerod Morris: Yep, absolutely. Again, that URL, Rainmaker.FM/DCfree. Go over there, claim your free membership to Digital Commerce Institute, and keep listening to The Digital Entrepreneur. We’ll be back next week with another brand new episode, and we look forward to talking to you then.

Brian Clark: This is the easiest podcast ever because of what you said. We discover, implement, and test so many things each week. We always know what we’re going to … no, we never know what we’re going to talk about the next week, but we end up figuring it out, no problem, which is actually kind of interesting. Real-time marketing, real-time education, only here on The Digital Entrepreneur.

Jerod Morris: That is right. We’ll talk to you next week, everybody.


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