Being everywhere doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere, or so says Andrew and Pete, so they’ve created a 90/10 rule that they believe is the backbone to great content marketing strategies. Rather than try to be a jack of all trades, be remarkable at one. So much so that it becomes your signature, something that people look to you as an expert in.
It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds of all the social media channels out there. But rather than doing them all because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do or it’s what you need to do to get more visibility, the only thing you’re doing is spreading yourself too thin and doing a lot of things mediocre, instead of only one or two things excellent.
Rich: They are the fun content marketing duo who helps businesses and brands get fast results from their content. They have a weekly YouTube show called, Marketing Unboringed, and run the UK’s leading content marketing membership community called, Atomic. Winners of the Digital and Social Media Company of the Year Award, and also Business Personalities of the Year Award.
As the authors of two hit books, The Hippo Campus, and Content Mavericks, they regularly keynote international conference and have been featured on sites such as INC, Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner, Convince and Convert, Entrepreneur on Fire, and Kim Garst. And they also host one of the UK’s largest digital marketing conferences, Atomicon, happening in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Andrew and Pete, welcome to The Agents of Change Podcast.
Andrew: We are so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having us, Rich.
Rich: I’m stoked that you guys are on the show, this is going to be fun. We were talking before about a wide variety of topics before we started rolling, and you guys make me laugh all the time. So I’m looking forward to this.
Andrew: So just as a Maroon5 fan it seems, so there we go.
Rich: Yes, there you go. What was the word that I learned earlier? You don’t get “fussed” over them?
Andrew: Yes. We’re not fussed about Maroon5.
Pete: Which means we’re not interested particularly, we’re not bothered.
Rich: I am not fussed for them either. I think my daughters are fussed for them.
Pete: We love teaching Americans new words.
Andrew: “Fussed” is a good one.
Rich: So you guys are like the dynamic duo of digital marketing. How did you guys meet up and start working together?
Andrew: So we met at university. We got randomly placed in the same halls of residence, our eyes met across the kitchen, and we became best friends. And when we graduated we decided not to get a proper job, to move to Newcastle, and start up our own business.
Pete: It’s funny because Andrew actually wanted to leave me all the way to go to Newcastle, which is on the other side of the country to where we actually grew up and went to university. So I had this big, brave, scary decision after university. Do I stay at home, get a job, or do I move all the way to Newcastle where I’ve never been and set up a business with this guy that I’ve met at university? And I took that brave decision to move up there and move in.
Andrew: He’s the third wheel in my relationship.
Pete: And that’s how we got started. We knew absolutely nobody in Newcastle and we didn’t really have a business, we just started completely from scratch. And the rest is history.
Rich: So how far a drive was it form university to Newcastle?
Andrew: So we went to university in the Northwest, and we now live in the Northeast. That is maybe a 3 hour drive, which might not seem that far in the states, but in the UK that’s like the other side of the country.
Rich: I was going to day, in Texas, that’s like how far you go to get groceries.
Andrew: It’s a trek in the UK.
Rich: We’re grading on a curve, obviously. Ok, so talk to me a little bit about the 90/10 rule.
Pete: So essentially the world is so busy and full of so much great content out there, and the only way to really make a difference to grow fast is to have amazing content, really good content, or as we say, “remarkable” content. Because remarkable content is worth making a remark about.
Rich: So there’s something to be fussed over.
Pete: Yes, exactly. It’s not just good content, it’s not great content, its remarkable content. And we preached this for years telling people that they need to create great content, and we’ve come up with a thousand different case studies about why they should do it, and yet no one ever did it. And we had thought to ourselves this is really strange. Why?
What it boiled down to was, they weren’t putting the effort in to create something remarkable, and it’s not their fault. Because what happened – or what happens to people – when they start on this journey to market their business and they start their content marketing journey, they probably start with a blog and a Facebook page or a Twitter page. And they start creating these blogs and they maybe try and get better at it. Then they start a podcast and a YouTube channel, and to promote the YouTube channel they want to start using Instagram because that’s quite hot right now. And they’ll start using Instagram Stories and then Instagram TV comes out, and you can do carousel videos. And all of a sudden people have spread themselves too thin. They’re doing all of these things, but they’re not doing one thing remarkably well.
So the 90/10 rule basically suggests that to get really successful and to get really fast results, spend 90% of your marketing efforts doing just one thing remarkably well. And the other 10% can be spent farting around because we’re not all perfect, we’re all going to get distracted, us included. But spend that 90% on your marketing efforts – and by efforts we mean time, resources, budget – on doing one thing remarkably well.
And I’ve got a bunch of examples that we could maybe go into of people that have done that incredibly well. Because although the idea sounds very simple – just do one thing remarkably well – it’s very tempting to do other stuff. It’s very tempting and difficult to pick the right thing, and it’s very tough to actually put 90% of your efforts into it. So we could maybe discuss that a little bit more and give you some examples of how people have done that in the past.
Rich: That would be great. If you can anchor it with and example or two, just so the people who are listening at home can kind of understand what that looks like, that would be fantastic.
Andrew: Yeah. So one of our favorite examples is a guy called Brian Dean that runs the website Backlinko. I think you’ve come across him before.
Rich: I love Brian Dean, he’s been on the show a couple times. One of the smartest guys I know.
Andrew: Yeah, really, really smart. And so his blogs are the most epic blogs in the world, all around digital, all around SEO specifically. But we asked Brian about them. We dropped him an email because we were like, how do you find the time to create those blogs which are the best blogs in the world. And he actually went completely against the grain. When you’re doing an SEO strategy what a lot of the advice is, create a ton of content, create a ton of backlinks. All of this kind of stuff that you need to be doing.
And what Brian actually did was just spend a ton of time making the best blogs in the world on the subject. So I think he only posts like every 4-6 weeks. But he spends 90% of his efforts doing what he does amazingly well.
Pete: And so what we did was we took a look at his other content creation. Now if you look at his Instagram – I hope he doesn’t mind us saying that – it’s not the best Instagram account in the world, let’s put it that way. And it’s the same with his Facebook, he’s just posting links. He’s only every done two videos on Facebook, and do you not know that Facebook is all about video, that’ show you get the most amount of reach and where you can do retargeting at.
But then if you think about it, if he’s not spending his time faffing on and doing all these things on Instagram and Facebook… and that’s another word, by the way, that we Brits say, “faffing on”.
Rich: Can you spell that, because I know my transcriptionist is going to be looking that up.
Rich: Alright. She’s probably going to have to go back and fix the first one now. (Transcriptionist’s Note: Nope, got it right the first time!)
Pete: So by not faffing around and spreading his time so thin on all these other platforms, he’s been able to actually create the most in depth, amazing blogs in the world. And because of that, each one of his blogs gets shared hundreds if not thousands of times. They gets hundreds and hundreds of comments and they gets tons of backlinks. And that all results in him being able to get higher up in the rankings and dominate search for those search terms.
And this is the strategy that we want people to take. It’s not necessarily just blogging, it’s any type of content, but you have to do it incredibly well. And the only way to do that is to focus and spend most of your time doing it.
Now the only caveat to that is – because a lot of people will probably pick us up on this – is that Brian Dean now has a YouTube channel and he creates epic videos on that, too. And this is fine because he’s done that one thing remarkably well for so long that he’s kind of got that taken over now. And he can afford the time and resources to now spend on YouTube. But if he had done that straight away, his blogs wouldn’t have been as good. In fact, his time would have been split 50/50, his blogs would have been half as good, he would have got half the rankings. Which means, let’s face it, he might not be on page one, he’d be on page 2. And he’s screwed and he wouldn’t have done as well. But now he went to Apple, IBM, so forth, and he’s one of the top SEO guys in the world.
Andrew: And when you look at all the big success stories in content marketing, you’ll see that generally they create an audience in one place first by doing one thing remarkably well, and then they start to branch out. The problem a lot of small businesses have is, like marketers will preach that you’ve got to have an Instagram, a Facebook, be on YouTube. And you can see people having success on all these platforms and it looks like you can have that same success, too. And you can, if you focus down a bit. But if you just start splitting your resource, that’s when it becomes really hard.
Rich: I absolutely agree and I notice this myself. Like Amy Porterfield started with Facebook and then she grew into list building, and then a whole bunch of other things. Lewis Howes started off with LinkedIn before he moved. Even Facebook started with Ivy League college students and then expanded to all college students and then expanded to every human being on the planet.
So I have this vision where it’s easier to fill up a straw with water than an entire bathtub. In other words, by going narrow you’re much more likely to fill that up quickly than trying to go broad, which is our nature because we see, “Ok look, somebody is having success over there. I’ll just go over there and I’ll have that same success.” But you’re absolutely right, once you start splitting your attention you have dramatically poor results.
So, if we know that we should be going after just one thing, how do I decide what that one thing is? Should I be on podcasts, should I be blogging, should I be doing Instagram Stories?
Pete: So there’s a few ways to kind of get into this. And to start out it’s worth thinking about where your customers are, what you enjoy doing the most, and all that kind of stuff. And to be honest, it is more about finding the fun, finding the one thing that you enjoy the most. Because let’s face it, unless you’re taking to someone really specific that’s only on one type of platform, that’s not for most of us because people are everywhere and almost everyone is on Facebook. Or you could argue that everyone, to a degree, watches video or read blogs. You can’t just say my audience only listens to podcasts, that’s not going to happen.
So if you ever want to get consistent with this and get passionate – because let’s face it, you want to do one thing remarkably well – you need to have the passion for it and to actually enjoy it. You need to find something that you actually enjoy doing. And that’s what’s going to help you to become consistent with this. And what it comes down to as well is punching out what we call “reaction spikes”.
So there’s a guy called Joe Wicks, I don’t know if you know him in America, but in the UK he’s really famous. He’s got a business called Body Coach and he’s got this personal brand. He started off as a personal trainer/fitness nutrition guy and he was creating incredibly generic content. He had about 500 Instagram followers and he was kind of struggling a bit. One day he started to get really frustrated by this so he started to post these little 15 second videos. So he started doing these fun recipe videos where basically you would be very quickly educated and it was very raw, it was just done on his phone, but they were kind of cool. Eventually he got better and better at these so he did 180 in a row every single day. The first ones were ok, but what he found was the cheekier and cheekier and more fun he got, the more people reacted to those videos. Until eventually he got this whole brand and tone of voice and it was so different to every other recipe video you’ve ever seen. And because of this, he got so much traction his Instagram went up, he’s got TV deals, book deals, he makes like 8 figures a month. He makes a lot of money. But all because he started doing something and led into what works. He saw what was getting a reaction and went into what was working.
Now a lot of people, they don’t think that we have the ability to do something fun or we could argue that Joe Wicks’ success is because he was handsome and really funny, and maybe you’re not that type of person. But it’s not about that. It’s about he went into what works. And that’s the real key. You’re all probably doing something that you know if it does or doesn’t have a reaction. And if you’re creating content that doesn’t have a reaction, then you need to change it up and experiment, you need to try something new. Because if you’re just going to create the same average content, you’re never going to grow. If you’re not getting a reaction now, you’re not going to get a reaction tomorrow.
Andrew: I think one of our biggest book bares is when marketers felt that content marketing is a long term strategy. And it is a long term strategy in the sense that the longer you do it, the more results you’re going to get from it. But I think what a lot of people take from that is that I should get results from it now. So they’ll just keep on doing the same thing over and over again hoping one day that crappy blog that I do every single week is going to pay off.
When if you’re not getting any reactions like day one, even from 1 person, then you probably need to switch something up.
Rich: So one of the big shifts that I’m hearing from you guys is that it almost starts more with what you enjoy, and your passion. You need to pay attention to whether or not you’re getting a reaction from what you’re putting out there in the world, but it starts with something that you…maybe because you love talking you do podcasts or speaking, maybe you love writing so you’re going to do a blog or email newsletter. Start with something that you can do that you find fun that you’re passionate about, and then you look for the spikes in attention or engagement, and that’s how you know if you’re actually getting somewhere. But you’re starting with yourself in a way that you’re describing.
Andrew: Yeah. Say you really like LinkedIn, but you’re actually targeting 12 year olds, then potentially you’ve got an argument that’s probably not the best thing to be doing. But if you can make a good case that your audience is where you actually enjoy creating content, then just do what you enjoy, because you need to keep it up. To get those long term wins you need to be consistent with them.
And I think people can tell if you’ve lost the passion or you don’t enjoy doing what you do. I think when you do enjoy it, that’s when it becomes a lot more infectious. That’s when you start building that audience. So yes, think about where your audience is, but I think it’s more important that you actually enjoy that.
Rich: So Maroon5 should stay off LinkedIn, that’s what I’m hearing. Their audience is not there.
Pete: Even if they love it. Even if they heard that LinkedIn video is giving out insane amounts of organic reach, they should stay off of it.
Rich: So one question I have is, let’s say I have a podcast – because strangely enough I do – now Isn’t it going to help me…
Pete: We don’t give free advice, Rich.
Rich: That’s the only reason I had you guys on was for free advice. Listen, if I’ve got a podcast, doesn’t it make sense for me to also be on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn to promote this? Like, how do you find that balance between going really hard on one platform and also using maybe some other channels to promote that one channel that you really like spending most of your energy on?
Andrew: Ok, that’s a great question. I think if you’re looking at promoting the podcast then we can kind of class that as your 90%. So if you are looking to promote that podcast on Twitter or you’re going to do a Facebook Live that’s going to drive traffic back to your podcast, we can look at that as going all in on podcasting.
If you start creating brand new content for a Facebook Live show that has nothing to do with your podcast, then we’re starting to kind of split our efforts. So we do love repurposing content, but we should have in mind what that 90% is.
Pete: Brian Dean will post links to his blogs on Facebook, but he won’t create original content for Facebook, necessarily. So there’s a difference there.
Rich: Understood. Now this one’s not for me, this is for my audience. So I’m sure a lot pf people are sitting there listening and saying, “That’s great advice, I wish I had heard it 5, 10, 15 years ago when I started. But now I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and I’m blogging and I’m podcasting and doing YouTube videos, what do I do just drop them all? How do I scale down if maybe I’ve built up a little bit of an audience here and there?” What advice would you have for those people?
Pete: This is a beautiful question because people get attached to all these platforms and they believe that to be in front of everyone we need to be everywhere. Whereas actually, to be in front of everyone, you don’t need to be everywhere on every platform. People are on most of the platforms and you need to make that sacrifice if you’re going to focus on one of them to drop the others. Even if that means a few of your followers might not be on the main platform.
But the thing is, you do just need to drop it, literally stop it. Now you could put something like a pinned tweet or a saved post on Facebook at the top of your page or top of your profile just to say, “Hey, thanks for finding me over here. I create most of my content on YouTube, go check me out there.” But you can easily do that.
Andrew: And we get that’s really scary. So we’re not saying just do it from your gut. So the best way is just feel confident about doing something is to base it on some kind of data. Whether that’s Google conversion goals or whether that’s just tracking where your customers are coming from, but pull the plug on whatever is not working based on data.
Our good friend Janet Murray recently dropped her Facebook. Now this Facebook group she had been building for years and she had over 12,000 people in this Facebook group. So it was booming, but she also had a podcast and she also had some other Facebook groups that were her paid for Facebook groups.
Pete: And she had a YouTube channel.
Andrew: Yeah, and she had a YouTube channel. So she actually looked at where is the business coming from, what actually makes sense for my own personal business to keep going. And she made the decision that was the podcast, she wanted to double down on the podcast. So she closed down that Facebook group, but she did it in a really smart way where it wasn’t just like, “see you later guys”.
She pre-warned the audience. She told them why, she gave a reason why she was pulling the plug on that Facebook group, and then she told them where to go to actually keep connected with her. So she said go subscribe to the podcast, and actually if you still want this community vibe, I’ve got these paid for products as well that you’re more than welcome to join.
Pete: And what this allowed her to do was save her a ton of time form attending that Facebook group and creating video on YouTube and actually reinvest that into creating a much better show and promoting that show much better. And that allowed her to increase the amount of people listening to her podcast.
Andrew: Another example of that, I was watching Social Media Examiner’s, The Journey, on YouTube. That’s not the one that’s just starting, it’s the one before. And they were saying that’s not been all Pinterest activity, because even though they get traffic from Pinterest, the guys that were coming from Pinterest weren’t sticking around.
Pete: They weren’t buying it.
Andrew: They weren’t buying it. They were looking at the Google conversion rates.
Pete: There was a lot of traffic but no one was actually buying anything from Pinterest.
Rich: Social Media Examiner is so good about the data piece of it, too. That’s one reason alone just to follow what they’re doing, because they really are so much data driven.
Andrew: Yes. And it’s a little bit tough. And to be honest, we’re not the most data geeky guys. But it can be really useful, and actually really impressive, when you start looking up where actually are my customers coming from, or where am I actually spending my time and do I actually need to do this. It’s kind of freeing.
Rich: Oh, absolutely.
Andrew: And it makes you feel great.
Rich: Well one of the things that we’re doing here at flyte is I’m going back through all the business we got in 2018 and trying to track it back. If it turns out that we’re getting business from a place I wasn’t expecting, then that’s where we’re going to double down. And if we’ve been expending a lot of energy and money towards something that has literally brought us no customers, then it’s time to stop that. Because either we can refocus that attention like you’re talking about, or I can take the weekends off. That would be nice.
Andrew: Definitely. Exactly.
Pete: Exactly. And what we find as business owners is we try and do all of this stuff to make it work and we keep on hustling harder and harder. And we get told by people that you need to create good content. And it almost just makes people work even harder and get even less results because they were just spreading themselves even thinner. And it’s a shame.
The way to combat that is to literally stop doing stuff and see that you can focus your efforts on doing one thing remarkably well. When you do that you can get known for it. People can actually start to say, “Hey, have you seen this fella Joe Wicks on Instagram? He does these funny recipe videos. You should check them out.” Or, “Have you subscribed to Brian Dean’s blog? It’s one of the best blogs ever about SEO.” So it starts to get even more traction than just the simple idea of putting more effort into it.
Rich: So I have kind of one final question to ask. Maybe this is a super easy one. Like a lot of people I have an entrepreneurial brain, and if something comes along I say, “Oh yeah, I’ve totally got to do that!” That’s got to be happening along the way and I’m sure it happens to you guys, too, where you get excited about new ideas. But if you’ve made a commitment that you’re just going to do the YouTube or you’re just going to do the podcast, how do you say ‘no’ to these opportunities?
Andrew: That’s a great question as well.
Rich: I’m on a roll.
Andrew: Yeah, you are.
Rich: This is only the greatest interview I’ve ever done.
Andrew: You know what, it comes back to the 90/10 rule as well. So once you have decided on what your 90% is, then you’ve almost got something to measure these new things with. So for example we knew Instagram isn’t where we spend 90% of the effort, so when we see something like IGTV come out we can objectively say I can clock that, but I know Instagram isn’t my 90% so I can ignore it and just see what everyone else does on that.
For us our 90% is our YouTube Channel. So as soon as something new on YouTube comes out, of course we’re going to pay attention to that, because we might get more reach in the algorithm especially if they’re trying to push the new features. But if you have your 90% and you can say that your 90% is creating X, then every time there’s a new shiny object you can just ask yourself is that shiny object going to help me with that or is it just going to be a big distraction.
Pete: It just helps filter everything.
Rich: Yeah. Make sure that it’s in alignment with your channels. So I thought I had one last question but you brought up the 90/10 thing again. So we’ve talked about the 90, let’s just briefly talk about the 10. What kind of experimentation do you guys do, or how do you decide if you’re going to experiment with it, or do you have any rules or advice around that 10%?
Andrew: You know what, I like the 10% having no rules. So you can do what you want if you are that type of person. So we do like dipping into Instagram if Instagram has a new feature so we check it out. But we’re not going to get hung up on it.
Like Pete has got a really hard SEO nerd head on at the moment. I can’t go a day without him talking about keywords or something. But I let him experiment in the 10% as long as it doesn’t take away from our 90%.
Rich: Hey guys, this has been great. Where can we find out more of you online?
Pete: If you head over to andrewandpete.tv, that will take you right to our YouTube channel, and that’s our 90%. If you want to watch some Marketing Unboringed – that is a word that we made up, which isn’t a boring word – then you can entertain yourself and learn, we’ve got some crazy good tips on how to do content marketing better.
Andrew: We spend 10% of our time on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, so you can find us there.
Pete: But mainly YouTube.
Rich: And we’ll have links to all that stuff in the show notes. Guys, thanks so much for sharing your time and your expertise with us today.
Andrew: Thanks so much for having us, Rich.
Pete: Thanks for having us.
Andrew and Pete believe that less is more when it comes to your content marketing efforts. Check out more of their great advice, tips, and expertise on their YouTube channel.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.