Dec 14, 2020
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to dive with sharks in Papua New Guinea, share a house with a monkey, or wrangle a wallaby on the Las Vegas Strip? And what does that have to do with marketing?
Biologist and wildlife filmmaker turned Silicon Valley growth hacker, today's guest shares how taking the road-less-traveled in life will help you become a better business leader.
Please welcome Sara Bayer.
Sara Bayer. Thanks for jumping on learning from others. How are you doing? Hi, I'm good. I'm pretty good. Good. Well, um, I got a couple of questions for ya, but not before the usual. Um, two questions I like to ask guests. So question number one is what are you good at? And what are we going to learn from you today?
So I would say that I'm good at being a growth hack. That is something that people just don't wake up as a job title. Uh, you, it takes a lot of different variety of experiences and I've had a interesting career track. We'll just say. Um, but I am here to help kind of share my knowledge on how to get businesses growing.
I have a lot of questions for you specifically with, um, growth hacker as the title, but not before question number two, which is what do you suck at? Softball. Have you done that? Have you tried it enough to legitimately suck at it or you tried it once and you just said, I suck. No, I'm just legitimately very bad.
It's awful. I'm a huge sports nut. I come from a family of professional athletes and AF athletics has always been a huge part of my life. Um, As well as, you know, just kind of my family culture and, you know, I like to be good at everything and I'm just not, and I'm just really bad. It's awful in particular.
So you get at other sports and it's really just softball or you just bad in general. Yeah, no, I would say I'm proficient in all other sports except softball. Does so, so I'm, I'm really digging into compare softball versus baseball. Is it, is it the same suckiness? You know, I find baseballs easier to throw.
I don't, if they're just soft balls or an awkward size, I don't know who came up with these dimensions, but they're not a good size. I'm with you on that one. Alright, so you do have an interesting career and that's even for me only knowing so much, um, I think a good example of the diversity is your LinkedIn post from a month ago, which the title is.
Weed wine and weapons, my digital marketing for regulated industries. So yeah, I'd say you have a diverse portfolio of internet marketing experiences. So where do you want to start? Yeah, well, I can start there, so that's a great place to start. So, um, I've been fortunate enough to be a part of, of many industries.
So I'm actually a biologist by training. Um, I was an underwater filmmaker, an underwater photographer, a Marine biologist for, for a while there. Um, and, uh, you know, twists and turns took me to kind of forging a path, um, in digital media marketing and digital media in particular, when I started with web MD.
So I started as a. Content creator. I'm using my biology background and my knowledge of how the human body works and sell, being able to diagram cells, um, and to create slideshows for weapon D uh, and then I got into SEO and digital marketing and kind of learns like, Hey, you know, I may not be passionate about I'm making slideshows of psoriasis, but there are some cool things in here that I really do like, uh, and I, I really kind of got hooked on the digital world and found my talents in it.
When I realized that my newsletter was going out to 3 million people every day. And I was like, wow, you can, this is a platform that you really can leverage. Um, storytelling. To, to reach a lot of people and there's a way to make money doing that. Wow. Okay, great. So I, that's kind of how I got into to the quote unquote growth hacking, uh, was really just all about leveraging storytelling along with audience building and data kind of merging all of those together, uh, to, to grow audiences.
And then to turn that into revenue. When you had the list of 3 million, was that something that you curated yourself or part of, um, you know, an employer's list or what was that set up? Yeah, so, um, you know, we had a big list coming from a lot of different places. Um, that's something that took, you know, over 10 years to build, uh, 3 million people for a newsletter is a lot of people.
Uh, you have to generate a lot of traffic and it takes a lot of time, um, to get. You know, users that are actually going to read your content and take an action. Um, that's the really important part. And that's one thing that I would stress to anybody who's, who's starting out in kind of wanting to use their brand to start to grow that online audience or that fan base.
And it's not about. Buying lists or buying Instagram followers. Cause that looks great from a surface level numbers perspective, but it really doesn't convert. Right. And to grow your business, what you need is convertible traffic. You need people who are really interested in have become fans and are actually when you tell them to read a recipe or to, um, sign up for an event that they're actually going to take that action.
And they're not just, um, You know, a bot. So what's your, what's your sweet spot in marketing, essentially dabbled in a variety. Is there one vertical that you prefer more than others? That's a great question. Um, you know, I think successful marketing leverages an omnichannel approach, and I know this is like not a popular sentiment at the moment, but I, I don't, I also think experiential marketing.
Is something that you know, is going to really change after this pandemic that we're in, but it's an important component. So marrying the digital world with the real world is super important. Um, and as a filmmaker, I think video's a great way to do that. And I. Could actually see virtual reality, um, interactive games, interactive apps, kind of being that way, that we safely merge these two ideas together in the future.
Um, specifically augmented reality. Uh, I think we haven't really seen that take off, um, you know, besides Pokemon go, which is awesome. Uh, I ha we haven't seen that take off in the business space, but there's a lot of, there's a lot of. You know, sentiment there that could really work. Um, so those are some of the things I'm excited about in the future.
Um, but you know, there's really touching, feeling, experiencing, and having emotions, um, is easier to do in real life and not see experiential marketing. But if you can do that digitally as well, I think that's a slam dunk. Yeah. You know, what's interesting is, um, as of the time we're talking now two episodes ago, the air does a gentlemen named Michelle as from France and he.
Built an app called caviar like caviar. Um, and it's augmented reality. And it was interesting conversation because he talked about a little bit about what you, what you just touched on about using it for business purposes. But what was cool is that product that he's brought to market is like traveling through augmented reality because his app, you turn it on and then it makes a virtual door and, you know, augmented right front of wherever you are in real world.
And then. You walk through it like a step forward as the motion detection, and then it opens the door into a beach or the grand Canyon, but then he started talking about what you touched on using it for business purposes. So you could advertise virtually. So this would be a platform for, you know, travel agencies to say, Oh, well, if you want to go to the grand Canyon, well, Check this out.
And then like you can send them a clip where, or an app segment where they can go in and like virtually tore it instead of just sending them a brochure. Yeah. And I think there's applications there for the future of retail. So we've seen a huge hit to brick and mortar businesses. Right. Um, and, and restoration hardware is a brand that I was fortunate enough to work with, um, for a while.
And they had this great vision of, you know, reinventing retail. You know, about six years ago. And I think they could even take it a step further with something like augmented reality, because when you step, if anybody's been to a mall, right, you've seen a restoration hardware, you've seen they're beautifully designed showrooms and, and they try to create these emotional landscapes so that when you're sitting there, you can envision yourself in your own home.
Right. But how cool would it be to be able to like actually tour that in your own space and see it in your own living area, but see that furniture actually populated there in front of you be so cool. How have you seen Amazon? Amazon does that. Yeah, it's very cool, but we haven't done it in like the true retail shopping experience.
I just think there's so much more that can be done. Um, but I don't know how startups leverage it. That's actually, you know, one of the questions I have is, you know, what's really feasible for a startup. Um, having been at multiple, you know, you've got limited resources, so you really want to try things that are tried and true.
So that's one of the other things, you know, that I was always tell people. Is, you know, there's all these great ideas out there, but you've got to take those calculated risks. So if you can't measure the reward, probably not one to jump into right out of the gate. Yeah. What, so when you work with people, where do you start like with, for exactly the reason you just mentioned, there's so many options.
So, you know, do you have a checklist you go down or, or I'm assuming it's pretty dynamic? Well, it's pretty simple where to start, and that is to define your goals. And then to define those success metrics of how are you going to measure along the way, uh, that you are actually getting closer and closer to your goal?
So it's really like business one Oh one back to basics, but there's specific growth metrics that we look at called the pirate metrics. Um, and so that's kind of ways that you can, especially SAS. Businesses or anybody that's kind of in a service space. Um, if you don't know about the pirate metrics, um, but it's definitely something where you, you set out kind of different segments and then you have measurable attainable kind of units of measure for each of those.
So you're. Making progress. You're having all your great ideas and then you're, you're using your data to not only prove your concept, but then to be able to create a model that actually shows your investors, your fans, whatever that you're on target to achieve those goals that you've set up. I'm going to make you pick a favorite child.
And I know that this is not a, there's no hard and fast rule, but if you had to pick a favorite marketing child, whether it's paid ads, Google ads, SEO, Facebook ads, email what's fair child. Ooh, that's really good. Um, and I might be biased on this, but I'm going to say SEO. So yes, you and I are on the same page and I'm actually going to use steal your quote from the other day.
So SEO is an investment. Not an expense. Um, and this is something that, you know, I think is a really good notion for especially folks who are trying to really take their business from, you know, maybe the 10 million to the 30 million in revenue. When you're investing in content, that's getting placed all over the internet.
It's getting placed in magazines wherever you do with your content. But when you're investing in content, it's a tangible asset. Right. So you can think of it just like investing in a region, hail space. Um, and that's what SCO brings to the table that other digital channels don't, um, you know, ads you're really just borrowing that traffic.
It's not yours. You don't own it. But with SEO, you're building a permanent profile online and. Basically buying that permanent real estate I'm on the internet, which is very valuable. And as we see, you know, increases across the board and every vertical, um, you know, e-commerce is, is through the charts and I suspect it will remain this way, you know, boomers and folks who weren't shopping online are now shopping online and they love it.
Um, so I think that, you know, if you haven't explored investing in SEO, it's definitely the one thing that you really can't go wrong with. Yeah, and I, I, you bring up a good point about owning it because you don't own Facebook. You don't own it. The gram I'm sure Facebook seems more stable and having a longer shelf life than my space did, but something will probably come along eventually to maybe not necessarily wipe it out, but dilute it.
And then you have to start over again on the new thing, but with your own website or even your own email list. Um, you know, you own those assets and can continue to scale them. And, you know, we had, um, the post that you reply that the, you just kind of commented on that. I had mentioned the other day on LinkedIn about it being an investment versus an expense.
Like I think that post I shared a client who in two months has increased 130 grand in revenue. In two months. So certainly that didn't happen in two months, but it was the culmination of the, the slow grind of SEO over the year prior. But once it kicks in, not only do you own it long term longterm, but short term, you can have massive wins too.
Exactly. And it's really the only truly, you know, Is what is permanence, that's a different podcast, but permanent marketing channel, um, that, that you, you know, in the digital space, right. It's really one of the only lasting legacies that you can put out there, um, and domains that are, you know, years in the making, those are the guys that are, you know, really reaping those benefits.
Yeah. I think it's interesting about how one, some people ask if, well, okay, Damon, you just said Facebook can go away. I'm just like my space did. Um, is SEO going to go away? From my perspective, the answer is no. And it's very easy to say why? Because the only way it would go away is if Google went to an entirely paid model, which ain't going to happen because as soon as they do that, it, it instantly dilutes their credibility of the search results.
Exactly. And you are, you brought up my article about weeds and weapons and so. I actually am an owner of a regulated industry business. Um, my family has a winery. Um, also been a consultant for various cannabis and hemp businesses. And I work with a lot of these clients who are in their kind of hypergrowth phase, trying to build these global brands, but for regulated businesses.
Uh, you know, SEO is really the place to be because it's the only kind of wild, wild West, where you have the freedom to be able to publish and say what you want to say and, and have your audience, your fans be able to find you, um, you know, I do. I think that CBD is. Regulations here are going to be lifted.
I think we are going to be able to run more advertisements on CBD, you know, as a first step towards, you know, being able to run advertising on, on cannabis. But you know, it's a surefire bet, guns and ammunition. Um, anybody that's, you know, even in that gray zone of adult entertainment, I mean adult entertainment, billions of dollars a year in online subscription revenue.
And they grew that billions of dollars. Through SEO alone. So, um, you know, there's a lot of examples that other businesses could look at in the SEO space to prove, Hey, this does work. Um, and it's ones that you might not think about. You know, what's so bizarre about the adult industry is that for as obscure as they are.
You know, understandably, they're not like the forefront of internet marketing discussions, but what's bizarre about them is they are usually the ones that drive the technology innovations. So they're the ones that drove the ability for e-commerce by creating the platforms, you know, gateways and being able to conduct transactions online.
They're the ones that figure out like all these crazy things to serve different media. And then it's just embraced by the more, you know, adopted by the more. Friendly areas of commerce on the world, but it's really interesting to understand how much when you start to learn about how that industry has contributed so much to day to day stuff.
Oh yeah. Mobile, mobile. I mean, they were kind of the pioneers of, of, of, you know, mobile apps and traffic. So it is really interesting and I see cannabis in particular being another one that you're going to see, you know, down the road, a lot of innovation coming out of that space. Yeah, I could see that. Um, let's talk about the term growth hacker.
So I, I have a love, hate relationship with that term because okay. Because like half the people, alright, Sara, I'm gonna let you get away with it because you, you pointed it out at the very beginning. It's, it's a necessity to have, um, a diverse background in marketing to really be able to genuinely say you're a growth hacker, but the problem that I have it on the flip side of that is.
The people that come along and just say that. Cause it sounds cool. I remember I had a client, this huge company, um, about three years ago. So this big international company, I'm just gonna leave it at that. Cause I didn't wanna give it away who it is, but it was this big company and they hired a new, um, you know, VP of marketing or whatever.
And so beneath him, they brought in. I'm a younger guy. I don't know his whole credentials, but he looked, you know, shiny and amazing. And his self proclaimed, proclaimed title that he had to have for him to accept the position was VP of growth. And I'm just like, Oh dude, this is like, what is this? Your second job?
It's so painful. The other people that misuse your title. Well, and it's funny, cause I actually didn't choose it. I was labeled as this by others and I was like, well, I guess that is what I do. Cause when you ask. To me, like, what are your strengths? I'd be like, well, let me, do you have time? Let me tell you.
Well, I love finance. Um, I love, you know, dollars and cents revenue conversations. I love Excel spreadsheets. I love storytelling. I'm a digital photographer. I do digital and it kind of like spirals all into this big bucket of. Well, I guess, yeah. I mean, you need all of those things to really look at a business and say, how do I take this to the next level?
Because it's so multifaceted. Um, and so growth hacker was, was thrusting upon me. Uh, but now, you know what, I kind of like, I'm taking it back. I kinda like it now. Um, and it's, it is something that, you know, You don't go to school, right. To be this thing, like it's so core of at its core. It's it's so ambiguous.
Would you change, would you change your title now? You said it sounds like you're, you're embracing it now, but at one point, what would you have chosen otherwise? You know, it probably would have been too long. Uh, but I think, you know, I've, I've also been called, you know, just the secret weapon. Um, so I think that's more of, of how I see it.
Right. Um, so having somebody in your corner. Uh, that understands all the different areas of your business that need to work together in order to achieve that growth and growth as measured in dollars. And if you don't have a strong financial background, if you don't understand, um, the way that all of these investments that you're making right on the marketing and actually generate revenue, um, you'll, I don't think you can call yourself a growth hacker.
Yeah. Do you, you had made a brief comment about, you know, you don't go to school to be a girl. Okay. Do you have a take on, um, you know, internet market? Like what they, and, and you may not have an answer. You may have not necessarily been exposed to this, but what the curriculum is in college about internet marketing versus reality.
And you know, if you have somebody come underneath your wing and they just graduated and they're like, well, I went to school for marketing, and then you actually bring them to the. Marketing streets. They're like, Holy crap, this is totally different than what I thought it was taught. Yes. I deal with this quite often.
So I do, um, at our agency, we hire a lot of young talent that, you know, are great books and they're this maybe their first or second job. And they always ask me, you know, Sara, you know, do you have any tips or like, do you have any career advice? And I'm like, yes, yes. Forget everything
one. Okay. So that is my advice to anybody starting their career, who wants to get into the digital space, um, is, is you are a sponge. So every project you work on, everything that's new, you know, you have to take away something from that and you have to tie it back to kind of like the business model, right.
The need. Um, so having a core understanding of. Of how all the businesses you work with, or if you're in house or if you're an agency, how they all function then is step one. And you can only really learn that. Having worked day to day and, and seeing really how the business world works. Um, you can read a balance sheet.
That's great. I think you should know how to do that, but to know, um, you know, how does a lead become a sale? How does a sale become a customer? How does a customer become a fan and an evangelist? And how does that fan of Angeles drive referral traffic? And what does that mean? And how do all of those things fit into, into the model to really achieve that growth?
So that's my biggest advice. And the other thing is, you know, yeah. Open to new experiences you're in your career and learn really what your true talents are that are applicable in. The professional world. So micro has a great podcast. Um, and actually my family are all garbage people. Truly. We owned a garbage company.
My dad was a garbage man on a garbage truck. My grandpa, my great grandpa had a garbage wagon in San Francisco that was pulled by donkeys. We add there as the will, you know, going from the bottom all the way to the top. And they eventually wound up selling, you know, silvers state disposal as, as a huge corporation.
Um, and, but they started as literally on the truck garbageman. And one of the things that micro talks about on his podcast is, you know, nobody thinks being a garbageman is super awesome. Like nobody's like, Oh, I can't wait to grow up to be that garbage guy, but you know, what, if you're a hard worker, if you genuinely enjoy, you know, machinery, if you.
You know, like working and, you know, in a plant setting, and those are your talents. You could be a great garbageman and you can make a great living. And then maybe you figure out that you're a great manager. And then after you become a great manager, sure. You're like, you know what, I'm going to go get my MBA because sit on the board of directors and all of a sudden here you are, you know, 20 years later, being able to, you know, being an executive at a company that sells for, you know, Oh, you know, a hundred million plus.
So I think it's one thing that a lot of people set out as, you know, They have this dream job. And I was guilty of this. I wanted to be a nurse national geographic filmmaker that was like, wanted to do that so bad. Um, and I wound up becoming an underwater filmmaker. I wound up traveling the world and living on pirate ships, then filming mantis shrimps in Papa.
New Guinea. But, you know what? I was miserable and it wasn't my real talent. Um, and once I kind of had that light bulb moment with, uh, you know, digital marketing, it was like, wow, you know what? These mesh, all of those things that I love about, you know, Work with my talents, which are spreadsheets and, you know, bringing that science data mindset, um, and marrying it with the creative and being able to actually, you know, make money and have a career that allows me to, to buy a house and, you know, own a car.
So that's my advice to all the young ENS out there is, you know? Yeah. The young ins, you know, you learn what your talents are and what they're as applicable in the actual professional world. And don't come in with preconceived notions that you've learned at all in your four years of college. I think that we are internet marketing, spirit animals, Sara.
I agree. I feel the vibe because I often say the same thing that you need to, uh, trip over yourself a little bit and the way that I kind of. Phrase it is you, you know, find what you like by identifying what you don't like. So it goes through the journey of the paradox about figure out, go date your careers and identify what you, what you want in a long lasting relationship.
So when you find the right opportunity that you're dating, you can marry it. There we go. People. That's how we're going to close it with that story. Sara, you've been a pleasure. Um, I want to say, thanks Jo, about learning from others. I want to give you the last few moments to put out your contact information or tell our listeners how they can find out more about you.
Yeah, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Um, I'm currently at a digital marketing agency based here in beautiful Boise, Idaho. It's flocks media. I'll give you my email, even it's Sara Sara@voxmedia.com. I would love to connect with any of you and if you're looking for any help with your business, uh you're you just have questions about growth or, uh, you know, startup life.
I'd be happy to connect with each of you and answer whatever I can. Thanks so much, Sara. I appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you.