Transcript: Earlier this year, I had the chance to interview our CEO, Clay Collins, during a live online fireside chat. I got to ask him some of the top business-growth questions submitted by the LeadPages community.
I thought that what Clay shared in this Q&A session could benefit a lot of businesses, so I decided to create this audio slideshow distilling my favorite insights. For even more advice from Clay, download the complete, 50-minute audio mp3 of this interview above.
Now for my favorite questions and answers.
Jeff: You’ve done it all before LeadPages, and you’ve grown LeadPages to quite a large company. What do you think are the most important areas for any business to focus on to see substantial growth?
Clay: There’s an interesting article by this venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, and he describes the three things that a CEO needs to be doing as:
1. Recruiting great people. So, I spend about 25% of my time on recruiting.
2. Setting the vision and communicating the vision, both to the market and to the company.
3. Keeping money in the bank.
When you’re first starting, the best thing, in my opinion, that you can do is to work on building a passionate and loyal audience. Before there was LeadPages, there was a blog called The Marketing Show, and it was just at MarketingShow.com (which now redirects to our blog). We built an audience there.
A lot of people talk about building a minimum viable product. Brian Clark from Copyblogger talks about building, instead of a minimum viable product, a minimum viable audience. I think that’s a really great approach—to take the audience-first approach and make sure that you are intimately connected to a growing audience of people that share their needs with you, share their ideas—and that you’re really building that list and that community.
Because you can work with that community, listen to them, and build an empire from there, if you want to. You can co-create a solution for them that really meets them where they’re at.
Jeff: What do you think is a good size for a minimum viable audience?
Clay: I think it has less to do with the number of people that are on your list and it has more to do with the number of active participants that you have.
Jeff: What do you think is the best way to get started building that audience?
Clay: I think it’s important to find a repeatable, scalable process for building content. With The Marketing Show, I just flipped on the video camera and reviewed a landing page, and then we allowed people to download it for free. And I went from getting maybe 10 or 15 people commenting on a blog post to getting, sometimes, 40 or 50 or maybe even 100 people commenting on a blog post—and it took me a fraction of the time of writing a standard post.
And it was only when I had a scalable, repeatable process where I could create 3 or 4 of these per week that I started getting ideas for a scalable, repeatable business model.
If you don’t have a scalable, repeatable content strategy, you’re probably not going to build a scalable, repeatable business around that content strategy.
Jeff: I would like to switch gears a little bit, because somebody asked this in the questions, and I see a lot of people struggling with this: when did you decide to stop doing everything yourself and start hiring people like me to do videos, a copywriter to write some blog copy, and that sort of thing? Was there a specific point, or was it just kind of like you got so busy you had to find somebody else to do this? How did that work?
Clay: You know, I think it all depends on what part of your business you’re hiring someone for. When it comes to marketing and, to some degree, sales, you really shouldn’t hire someone until you’ve figured out what works. It really behooves you to crack the code on what’s going to work, and then hire someone else to scale it.
Jeff: What would you do if you had to start a business from scratch? What would be the first thing you would do to get another one going?
Clay: First, I’d do some kind of consulting thing on the side—something where I could charge a high dollar amount per hour—and then I’d just start blogging. At some point you arrive at the ideas that you’re really passionate about talking about, and the ideas that are attracting an audience.
Once you’ve done that, you can really start laying the groundwork for building your next business.
I would start playing around with ideas until I started generating a following. Once I started figuring out the ideas, the messages, the headlines, the concepts that really seem to take hold, then I’d shift into product-creation mode, and I might think about preselling a product to that audience.
Jeff: Let’s say you had a month to do that. Would you focus more on the consulting, or would you focus more on getting the product created? Where would you focus if you had to generate money in like a month?
Clay: I would come at this from two angles.
1. If you’re doing consulting for $500 an hour, and you can find a way to automate what you’re charging people a high dollar amount for, then you definitely have a business idea. So I think consulting is good until your product takes off.
2. I would also start a presell. It gets you paid up front, because the last thing you want to do is spend 6 months creating a product that, in the end, people aren’t going to want.
Jeff: What is your opinion on being in a market where maybe there’s somebody who already does something similar to what you’re thinking about?
Clay: It depends on a lot of things.
Some markets are winner-take-all markets. I’d say that social networks, in a lot of ways, are winner-take-all markets, because they have network effects. So the first thing to determine is if it’s a winner-take-all market.
If the answer is no—and most markets are not winner-take-all markets—the next thing to do is figure out how big the market is. And if it’s a multibillion-dollar market, potentially, and there’s a lot of successful businesses in there, in a lot of ways that can be a great sign. It means that it’s a proven market, with proven buyers, proven traffic sources, proven customer-acquisition channels . . . So I think in a lot of ways, it can be good.
In a lot of ways, it’s a kiss of death if someone is trying to build something that there is no market for, where no one has been successful in that space whatsoever, and they’re trying to do it.
Jeff: It almost seems like there’s nowhere you can go where there’s not already somebody.
Jeff: With that, Clay, thank you so much for being here and dropping the knowledge bombs on us.
Clay: Thanks so much for having me here, Jeff.
For the rest of this wide-ranging conversation on business growth, download a free mp3 of the complete 50-minute conversation below:
What questions would you like to see covered in a future Q&A with Clay? Tell us in the comments!