The power & limitations of LinkedIN for content - w/Mark Evans


Mark Evans is a Fractional CMO and advisor to scale startups. He's previously been a news reporter and launched his career as a consultant since 2008.

For any online marketer, this episode will definitely be insightful and fun - the conversation includes:

  • How LinkedIN has become more relevant to its users yet stalled in providing adequate support for the creator economy - a major point here being how opaque the algorithm is to its users - which limits the reach people can expect their content to have when posting.
  • How an ecosystem of apps is developing around LinkedIN for pro/power users where core features are limited - e.g. and
  • Why conversations trump content (its userbase is ready to network and start conversations)
  • Why the economics of the Internet are broken, and have always been broken.
  • How the cost of operating Ai platforms can't be financially feasible.
  • Why marketing agencies don't market themselves - typically relying on inbound from announcements celebrating award wins. How can clients expect expertise and results?
  • Digital marketing is limited by zero-click activity and private silos online.... plus the fact that algorithms driving ad auctions and platforms are black boxes - with irregular performance.
  • The power of video to drive authentic storytelling online that can really enliven a brand, but that it requires strategic agility.

Read the full interview transcript:

Mark Evans 0:00
And the fact of the matter is, they're the tools. There's more tools than ever. They're easier to use than ever. And so the barriers to entry to becoming a creator are so low right now that if you have the time and the energy, Nothing's stopping you've been becoming a content creation machine. We are in a stage right now where we're sort of in a content conundrum, where everyone's creating content, and the barriers to entry are as low as ever, but it's so hard to attract the spotlight. So we're all pumping out content, we're all writing blog posts, we're all shooting videos, but no one's watching this stuff unless you've got a brand, unless you've got a big enough brand where people look at what you're doing and saying, that's a go to resource. That's content that I need to read because it matters. If I were a small business right now, my advice to you would be to keep creating content, but make video a core part of of what you do. So you can take a video and you can turn it into a blog post or an infographic or LinkedIn post, but video should be at the core of of what you're doing like just like if you sat down for a day in a studio like this and you recorded like eight hours of video, you could have 12 months of content.

Qasim Virjee 1:10
Founded in 2017 startwell is Toronto's independent hub for innovators to collaborate. Our podcasts relate perspectives from the world's most diverse urban population to reflect unique insights into global business, Media and Culture.

Qasim Virjee 1:32
Mark, we were just saying downstairs off camera, that I haven't seen you in a long time, but I did you have been here before. You've been in Star World before

Mark Evans 1:41
I have, I have been in startwell. I was a part of a mastermind group pre covid That used to mean on a regular basis, when I used to come downtown and go to events and hang out with other people. Yeah. And one of the other things we mentioned when we when we met and we had coffee, is that people, I think a lot of people, are lazy socially because of covid. And I think a lot of people think of excuses not to get together these days because we're comfortable in our little cocoons and wherever we are. So it's a it's a mindset, yeah, that has to change, and that's going to take time, both professionally and socially for a lot of people. But it's nice to be in a podcast studio. It's nice to be talking to person people in real life.

Qasim Virjee 2:23
Yeah, it's funny. How many podcast capital P podcast people are doing that are just like, telephone calls, right? And it's like, wow, I do a podcast, you know? Yeah, that's great. And then you like, check it out, and it just, it sounds like a tin can. And you could do it well online, yeah, you could do it well, but, yeah, no, it is nice to have the facilities to be able to welcome people to for sure, and it's, of course, something that we're all about here at stairwell, right bringing people together. So we were, again, we were just kind of running through some of the cool things that we could chat about. I'm going to flip that script. We were talking about the list or the it wasn't really an order. But one of the things that was kind of cool is we were saying LinkedIn, big question mark on LinkedIn. It's changed a lot in the last few years, and its role has changed, and the way that people, I think, look to it for social interaction, which is weird, like a few years ago, you wouldn't think of that. What's your lens on LinkedIn?

Mark Evans 3:22
So I've been hardcore on LinkedIn for four years. Just before the pandemic, I recognized that people were getting a lot of traction, a lot of engagement on LinkedIn, and that's this whole idea that LinkedIn was a place to look for jobs or people to find you. Yeah. Was no longer the case, and LinkedIn has become essentially a place where creators gather or connections happen, a lot of conversations. So the LinkedIn is a completely different beast than it was four years ago. But I would say that LinkedIn, under Microsoft, in some respects, is strategically lost. I think the business is split between the core advertising, selling services to Headhunters, that old school business model, right? And the new school, new school, which is around creator economy and meeting the needs of creators who are driving engagement on the platform and making people spend more time on the platform, whereas before, you wouldn't even go to LinkedIn, other than if you're looking for job. Now, you go there for information, yeah, and to engage and to make relationships and to have conversations, right? And I think LinkedIn is doing a terrible job of serving the creator community. In terms of those millions of people, which are very small, it's less. It's probably about, I don't know 5% of the LinkedIn ecosystem is actually active creators, but they're not serving that audience as well as they should. In fact, I think they're doing a lot of things that are one step backwards, as opposed to moving the platform forward. But examples. Okay, so for a creator, what matters? To me is understanding how the algorithm works, understanding what kind of content I should be creating that drives engagement for me personally and to support the platform overall. So how do I bring more people into the platform so they spend more time there? So LinkedIn can make more money and I can make more money. That's one second. Is in terms of analytics like this is just one example. Yeah, how well is my content doing? Should I be spending should I be doing different types of content? What's the ROI that I'm getting right out of LinkedIn? They haven't done anything on that front.

Qasim Virjee 5:35
They the only stats that you can pull out as someone who posts things on LinkedIn is like impressions and then reactions. Does it even, I don't know. I don't even know if it really details the reactions, like, you have to almost dig to find that stuff.

Mark Evans 5:49
There's not a lot. And what's really weird and interesting is they've essentially given the market to a company called shield, oh, which offers LinkedIn analytics. And for the last, I don't know, two, three years, shield has built a very vibrant business on the back of LinkedIn. Yeah, it's interesting, yeah. So it's, it's, it's, if you want analytics for LinkedIn, you you will go there. I'll give you another example of a company that's sort of like the like the mouse on the back of the elephant is a company called authored up. So rather than using the LinkedIn content creation tool, okay, you can use authored up, which is a plugin to LinkedIn, and it gives you all kinds of different options, a much better UX, literally

Qasim Virjee 6:34
posting on for posting,

Mark Evans 6:36
and they have an analytics platform too. So why? I didn't even

Qasim Virjee 6:40
know the LinkedIn API shares that information with their babies. Do.

Mark Evans 6:44
It's a very it's almost like they have a love hate relationship. They love some companies for some reason, and they hate a lot of other companies for other reasons, like LinkedIn pods, where people gather together, sort of behind the scenes and and support each other. HOST LinkedIn hates those, right? But for other companies like authored up and shield, LinkedIn allows them to exist and allows them to build a thriving business, and LinkedIn doesn't even offer those features. You would think at the very least they would compete against them, but they're not. But, I mean, maybe I'm being a bit too critical, because LinkedIn has been very good to me over the years and but I will say the game changer for me is not the connections with the conversations, right? So if you are a business leader and you want to leverage LinkedIn, you ask for conversations with people. You reach out to people and say, Hey, love what you're doing, love your content. It would be great to jump on a call and compare notes? Yeah, 99% of people out there will say yes, if it's relevant, if you look like you're legitimate person to talk to, right? And that's the beauty of LinkedIn, is that you have this community that is ready to engage, wants to engage and and very few people are are taking the stance, well, I'm only here to create content. I'm only here to read content. A lot of people want conversations. That's how business happens, even though we're not meeting in in person these days as much as we used to. So that's the beauty of LinkedIn, the magic of LinkedIn,

Qasim Virjee 8:10
yeah, because I think this is another thing that, like the river of news, has let people down with over the years on any social network, since perhaps we first saw it on I don't know, was it Facebook? Was it Friendster or some other thing, but like that idea of what's new is relevant, or what's hot is relevant, and everything else gets buried and to dig for it, this is an interesting thing as LinkedIn grows up, pulls on its big, big boy pants and says, I'm a social network whereby people can, yes, find entertainment or education. You know, it needs to own that responsibility of being a destination for communication. It's about a place to meet people, to then have communication, but also a place to host communication. I think they that these, like soft touch experiments, like the, what do they call it, where you can, kind of like, like audio conference with people by clubhouse, yeah, yeah, right. So clubhouse kind of hit, and they were like, Yeah, we could do that pretty easily. Let's build that out, you know. And their their video stuff's getting better, I think, and going live on LinkedIn, I think, is interesting, because the network's there, but you're right, it doesn't feel like LinkedIn is really kind of owning that being the destination place for communication yet. But how much of this do you think the expectation on LinkedIn to evolve is precipitated by the pandemic and the screen time that people had looking for a professional network because word of mouth was broken and they weren't going down into the downtown core.

Mark Evans 9:43
I think that LinkedIn was a huge beneficiary of covid. People needed to connect. They wanted to connect. They wanted to communicate. But at the same time, I think some there were evangelists out there who recognized pre pandemic, that LinkedIn was a great platform. Communicate and get your eyes out there. So a great example is Chris Walker. He's a marketer based in he was based in Boston, and he was pounding out content and driving a huge amounts of leads well before covid. And I think he was a trailblazer in terms of the power of LinkedIn and how it could allow you to use a global business platform to reach customers around the world and and LinkedIn. The power of LinkedIn is really the fact that it has, from a content perspective, that stayed pretty true to its mandate, is, if you go on LinkedIn, you're going to read content that's relevant to you and your business interests, whatever they may be, and it hasn't fallen too far into the personal bucket where you're posting selfies of yourself and your kids and, you know, this is what I'm eating today, or this is where I'm traveling. A lot of people have sort of maintained their discipline, whereas, you know, Facebook completely fell off the deep end in terms of that people who were posting everything and anything and a lot of stuff that wasn't relevant or interesting. In fact, yeah, so I think there's a lot of good things about LinkedIn. I you know the problem right now or not the problem. But the reality is, it's a, it's an it's a part of the Microsoft Empire, and his job is to make money. And it well, it may want to help creators make money. It's not interested in how creators make money. It's interested in how it makes money. And so it's a bit of a, I think it's, there's some, you know, a lot of sort of strategic antagonism, I would say, within LinkedIn. But no one knows, because LinkedIn isn't very transparent in terms of how the platform is moving forward. In fact, how the platform actually works, right? What?

Qasim Virjee 11:44
Okay, so let's, let's break down a definition, your definition for what a creator is, because you've used the word quite a bit, and I don't know if people on LinkedIn are in that like, you know, speaking the kind of YouTube vernacular. And so is it the same meaning that would be on YouTube, that you carry forward into LinkedIn, or is it just about being active? Is a creator someone who's active, who communicates on the platform, is posting stuff all the time? Interesting

Mark Evans 12:09
question, I'll take, I'll take a little bit of a sidestep here, and talk about a word that people use, or a phrase that people use all the time as the creator economy. And there is no such thing as a creator economy, yeah, it's, I think it's this very sexy turmoil. There are our creators who are trying to make money. Yeah, whether you're writing on LinkedIn or on Tiktok or YouTube or anywhere where you can post, you can audio, visual, you know, video, you know, copy, if your job, if we're all creators in one way or another, personally, professionally, but if you're trying to make money by creating content, either directly from the content itself or from indirectly, from people who read your content and like what you do and they buy your services, then you're a creator. So and the fact of the matter is, they're the tools. There's more tools than ever. They're easier to use than ever. And so the barriers to entry to becoming a creator are so low right now that if you have the time and the energy, nothing stopping you from becoming a content creation machine, right? And that's my definition. I'm a creator, okay? Content

Qasim Virjee 13:16
Creator. And I think it's interesting, because I Okay, let's rewind even further, and let's talk about you, because I want to, I want to frame some of your perspective around your experience as well, career wise. So you were a journalist?

Mark Evans 13:33
Yes, I was a journalist. There's a question. I was a journalist with the with the Globe and Mail, with the National Post and Bloomberg News, yeah. So I did that for about 15 years.

Qasim Virjee 13:42
And what was, what took you away from that? Why did you leave journalism? I

Mark Evans 13:48
was introduced by a startup during boom, yeah. And the idea that I was going to make a lot of money, have a lot of fun, that was the beginning of the end of my career. Okay, did that for a few years. The startup was wildly unsuccessful. Went back to journalism, yeah, and then got poached by another startup of Microsoft, back startup, who was that it's called blanketware. Oh, sorry, it was that was called, what was that planet? I and we were trying to build a travel startup in a very competitive space, and that was wildly unsuccessful, and then I sort of stumbled into entrepreneurship and started my own consulting business in 2008 and essentially never looked back, right, right? But you know, all through my career what I've been throughout my career as a reporter and a and a startup marketer and an entrepreneur as a storyteller, yeah, and a content creator, right? And for me, I'm just creating content all the time, whether it's for myself or whether it's for clients, and that and that has underpinned my career. And I think when I look at creators right now, I'm it's I have a different perspective, because I've always been. Creator and but I was, I was professional creator before I became what doing, what I'm doing, right, exactly. So a lot, a lot of us got paid us to be professional creators. And unfortunately, there's fewer professional creators around, right, as they used to, right?

Qasim Virjee 15:15
Yeah, and it's interesting. So okay, wait, marketing, I also like looking at this right? The move from journalism is kind of like unbiased perspective on a story to then getting into marketing and playing that role of storytelling for perhaps a function. Where do you see the difference between them? And let's, let's dig in a kind of marketing a little bit and kind of where you started feeling your footing as a career marketer. A

Mark Evans 15:47
couple angles here. One is that when you're a reporter, yeah, when you're looking at stories, you're looking at it through two lenses. One is from an editorial perspective, is this a good story, right? Is there something that that I could write about that would be interesting. And the other angle is, is there an audience for this story? Will people read it? Because as a journalist, you write for the paper, but you also compete against other reporters. Yeah, everybody wants to be on the front page. So you're looking for the best story, but the best story gets read, right, gets consumed. So the the correlation between journalism is and marketing is you're looking for eyeballs. You're looking to engage the the audience that you want. And as marketers, it's about the right marketing at the right in the right place, focus on the right audience. Same thing works for journalism, right? You could also look at it from a storytelling perspective, and the idea that when you create stories, you take a lot of information from a lot of different sources, and you boil it down, and you come up with something that's really accessible and user friendly, that people can consume easily, or they can consume period. So for journalism, it's you're talking different sources, you're doing research, and then you package it all up into an article, right? And for marketing is you take a bunch of different different ideas of different sources, you package it all up into a video or an infographic or a blog post, and then you distribute it to your target audiences. So it's the same job in many respects, we our deliverables are, are different, right? But you're, you're essentially, at the end of the day, you're trying to create content for the right audience and make sure that that's relevant and interesting to them. So they do something like, yeah, buy a product, read an ad, that kind of

Qasim Virjee 17:35
thing. In the time that you've been doing marketing, a lot's changed about marketing. Perhaps this is a big debate right the media landscape in terms of what people can buy as advertising has changed. The Internet has gone from, you know, text heavy to media heavy, and Google seems to be caught, you know, in between to try and figure out what is most relevant information for the people looking for content and all these like updates to Google search, and last little while for, you know, helpful content and other things in the last, like, 12 months, last, yeah, I guess actually, it's been, it's been a little longer, perhaps, that they've been, like, leaning into this stuff, but like giving people the information that they actually want renders the bulk of the internet, you know, lost from eyes. No one goes past the first page kind of thing in their search results. But that's content that's there.

Mark Evans 18:32
Well, one of the things that I think that the reality is it's easy to create content. Yeah, there are no lack of tools to shoot videos. You know, take pictures. The problem for a lot of marketers these days, B to B, Mark B to B marketers, is getting people to actually find your content and consume it absolutely. There's people like Ross Simmons who lean into the idea, create it once and distribute forever. And that's true, but it also under it doesn't really tell you what's really the amount of works involved to actually distribute content on the internet. So we're all pumping out content, we're all writing blog posts, we're all shooting videos, but no one's watching this stuff unless you've got a brand, unless you've got a big enough brand where people look at what you're doing and saying, that's a go to resource. That's content that I need to read because it matters, or it's good or it's interesting, but for a lot of companies, it's content is a really hard game these days, and I think a lot of companies have looked at AI not to go off on a bit of a tangent here. Let's go there, but they've looked at AI as being a way to shrink their costs and still go through the motions, and I don't that's not the right approach to content and but we're we are in a stage right now where we're sort of in a content conundrum, where everyone's creating content, and the barriers to entry are are as low as ever, but it's so hard to attract the spotlight, impossible to attract the spotlight. So what do you do? And is content still relevant in this, in this sort of fast moving world, we

Qasim Virjee 20:05
deal with this a lot, right? This question of you brought it up of audience and audience development, and the question of kind of, I would say it's a tough one to describe or put into words, but you know, like, if we're defining a brand, firstly, what's your definition of a brand?

Mark Evans 20:20
A brand would be a company that people, that is distinct, that's memorable, that has a you understand what it does and what it means, like just it's kind of ethereal in a sense, right? It is,

Qasim Virjee 20:37
sure, and that's the thing. I think, I think why it is is perhaps because the way I look at it, a brand is fundamentally the relationship that's implicit and defined, perhaps emotionally, in a sense of how a consumer or anyone else perceives your company. That's the brand, that's the core of the brand, right? So you think about, let's throw my brand out there. Start Well, right? Think of the company. Start well, and hopefully it puts a smile on your face, and you feel comfortable, and you feel relaxed and happy. If you think about coming here as a place, you know, it's a place, you know, when you when you hear the company name and the place sounds nice and a place like you'd like to be at. So it's really interesting when you tie, you know, this kind of question of, like audience development into brand and then, you know, see a strong audience, perhaps as a manifestation of brand equity. And what I'm seeing is so much money being spent, of course, in the content engine by CPG spray and pray, kind of big companies, Logos of those companies to almost try and kind of like, cast a net and catch the brand. It's like they don't know what the brand is, because they feel like the customer profile is changing as it gets younger, or those young people are making their own decisions quicker, or whatever the facet is of this, you know, cohort evolution, but there's that. And then with the spend, and this is something that a lot of people don't talk about, so I'm very intrigued to hear your take on it. But like with this massive spend and the increasing budgets going into all of these digital advertising tools and platforms, perhaps changing the way those platforms offer access to audience. It has an effect on SMBs. It has an effect on different types of companies that have more targeted, more niche, more specific needs from advertising platforms to reach audience, right? And I'm calling, of course, I'm saying advertising platform, but I mean social network and search engine, and every bloody interface on the internet today is, for the most part, ad supported and their ad publishing platforms that we're getting content through. So even if you're a content creator, you're advertising yourself through your content, by putting stuff onto this place that's competing with, literally with commercially paid content, right? And I think that that obscures a lot, and I'd love to hear your your take on on that aspect of things, whether it's about big budget, kind of like competing with authentic creators, or what even the brand relevance of these spaces becomes. You know, how can you develop a brand in a clouded, commercialized, crazy digital space?

Mark Evans 23:35
So you can make a good argument that the economics of the Internet are broken, and they've always been broken Originally, the Internet was supposed to be kind of a pay as you go enterprise, where you would buy content in little micro pieces here and there. And then the advertising model took over. The Internet stopped being free, advertised. Everything was sponsored. Everything was, you know, banner ads plastered everywhere, and then you saw the pendulum swing, especially in journalism. As as me, the media tried to make money into walled gardens, which were paywalls kind of thing. There's a movement out there. It's very quiet right now about micro payments, and I predict over the next two to five years that micro payments will make a massive emergence fueled by platforms that can do a couple of things. One is eliminate link those transaction fees between you, the creator, and the and the audience. So it'll be seamless. It'll be you can and the ability to buy an article for 25 cents or $1 or $2 that those micro payments will will be a massive game changer. It'll make advertising less, especially for SMBs and creators, less matter less, yeah, and it'll fuel this huge economic growth, because I think it's a lot of people who want to pay for content, but they don't want to buy a subscription, right? And they don't like advertising, right? And so they need it. They want an alternative. I think there's an appetite for that there. That's my optimistic view of the Creator economy. But it's interesting,

Qasim Virjee 25:07
because I see this like two forces at play that are kind of at odds here, right? We like to assume, as anyone who creates content and has a creative mindset and wants to communicate and tell stories as well, there's a want to speak to an audience, and I want to believe in that audience being possible. There's a possibility that the audience can actually find the content and be engaged. And what's interesting to me is this interplay between the role of the curator, whether it's owned by an algorithm or otherwise, right sussing through all the information to feed the right stuff to the right person, the curator role versus this kind of advertiser side of things you know is, are the advertising, I guess, is The mechanism of advertising, an effective curator of information. And the question is, how I guess this is where I'm going in my brain here is like competing with algos is going to become increasingly difficult. And so if the purpose of all these content distribution platforms is to monetize the user as best it can, I guess is where I was going with my other thing, buying out of the model will become increasingly expensive. So here's an example, right? A today. Example, YouTube, I always forget that I'm a YouTube premium customer, and I don't know why anyone wouldn't be if they can afford to pay 10 bucks a month or whatever I pay, because I don't like seeing ads. If I can get the ads off my screen, I'll have a much more pleasurable experience with the content. I want to actually engage with content, not ads, and they're not relevant, like, see, this is interesting, but like, the more people I talk to about this that would be willing, they really feel like they've made the conscious decision not to upgrade to premium because they don't mind the 10% of watch time that's advertising. But then there's a synonymity in terms of what they end up watching. It's a lot more commercial content. It's content that's easy to advertise against, right? Because that's a function of the algo. That's just a YouTube example. Well, advertising

Mark Evans 27:33
is an interesting piece because people don't like advertising, which is why they buy YouTube premium, and the number of ad blockers on browsers is like, it's ubiquitous. I mean, everybody has an ad blocker these days. So what is the future of advertising, and how do you where do you advertise? How do you advertise? I think going a little bit talking about your algorithm. Reality is, and tying that back into LinkedIn, where we started a conversation, is the LinkedIn algorithm is not designed to encourage creators and promote creators, even the ones who are really good at the LinkedIn algorithm is encouraged to get new users hooked on LinkedIn. So if you're a creator, and you start on LinkedIn and and you see immediate results and immediate engagement. What's going to happen? You're hooked, like, it's like, it's like giving it being given a taste of of cocaine. Once you taste it, and once it has the desired effect, you keep going back and back and back. So LinkedIn is real estate and content creators are just feeding the machine, right? So it's really hard to, I would say, for most people, to build a business on the back of LinkedIn, because LinkedIn is not interested in your business, right, right? It's interested in its business, and then, so how do creators make a living. How do creators if they're not on LinkedIn, if they're not on YouTube or Tiktok, which are ad generated, how do they make a living? And I think it ties back into this micro economy where you make it as easy as possible with as less friction as possible for creators to sell their content in lots of different ways. You can buy a subscription, you can buy a one off, you can buy a series of of content. So I just think the economics of the Internet are, are are in some ways changing in some ways not. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 29:35
right. The economics of the Internet are totally messed up. And you know what's so funny that, like in the last couple of decades, we've gone full tilt as a human society globally, into this like assumptive perspective that the internet's a necessary tool for our state of the economy, like everyone needs to transact on the internet, and increasingly so in as diverse ways as. Possible, and that's implicit, like it's, it must be the internet. I find it so fascinating because it wasn't long ago when, when you know the naysayers for even banks transacting online, wasn't long ago at all where that those voices were louder than than the the opposite and already were kind of in this like saturation point of digital media that now one of the top stories across North American media is about, you know, oh, the young generation's mental illness crisis. You know, they're on the screw too, on screen time and take the screens out of the schools and all this stuff and and this happened quickly, but I think I do parallel this with this economic reality, the internet is so expensive. Like, I don't think people, the end users on these advertising platforms, understand how expensive it is to run the infrastructure, even today, now that there's like, hard costs have been born, right 20 years ago, or whatever, it's very expensive. Like, I haven't seen, I don't know if you've seen, have you seen any economic breakdown of the costs of open AI's infrastructure? It's massive. I don't even understand how they how an account on chat GPT could be 2025, bucks a month. Like, I don't understand how that that's not financially feasible.

Mark Evans 31:22
Well, it's financial feasible if you've got, you know, 2030, 40 million people paying 20 bucks a month. But even

Qasim Virjee 31:29
then, I mean, like, what's the compute power on generating an AI, and then look at, like, the video stuff that they're working on that's going to release sometime next year, perhaps it's the compute power is ridiculous. It wasn't long ago I was working at IBM, right? Or before that, in, you know, better memory, uh, soft layer, where we were looking at the infrastructure of cloud, right? Because that's where a cloud infrastructure company, like building that stuff and then maintaining it. And you look at like, the cost of, like, hard drive failure, even with SSDs and all this, like solid state equipment goes down and it costs money, and silicon awareness shortage around the world like,

Mark Evans 32:05
Well, I think one of the real and the interesting I find, what the interesting about the internet. It's the underbelly of the internet, as we're talking about, that we don't talk about, and this is a bit of a tangential story, but there was an article that I read on Wired recently about the ships that fix the underwater cables around the world, and how if, and they get spliced all the time, fishermen, storms, earthquakes, and how, when those go down, you could have, like, the entire banking system go down, right? The economic trading system go down. And I think, to your point, and I think we're probably a little off topic that's okay, is that, you know, the internet is an essential part of our lives these days. Some of it, obviously is less essential than others, watching Tiktok videos for hours or spending all your time on LinkedIn, maybe not so important, but the way that we run our lives, it is a utility, and we we're so dependent on these days, but I think the economics are, I don't I just think that there's so much going on right now. There's this massive change going on. The advertising model is under attack. You know sponsorships are and subscriptions, you know you get are. People are trying desperately to make them work for them, for them, like everyone wants to be New York Times when it comes to subscriptions. But you know, you need a brand to make that happen, right? And you need, you need people to have faith in the fact that you can deliver so, yeah,

Qasim Virjee 33:29
pulling it back like I think so it's kind of interesting, because I think this perspective might be valuable to some of our audience who comes from that creator economy. Question of saying, How can I make my livelihood out of creating content, and How sustainable is it? And where do I need to keep my eyes open to judge, you know, platforms to be aware of in the next few years as things change in the publishing landscape. But on that note, so I'll say that like it's so expensive to run all this stuff, so the people that are pushing new tech are going to have to subsidize the utilization of that tech to build long tail or medium tail customer bases, right? And they do that long enough that they could sustain that cost. So and the sustainance comes from, of course, for the most part, like access to debt, post IPO. And what's very interesting is looking at the Global appetite for IPOs right now, and definitely in Canada, it's very low. In fact, I think this year so far has been the most active year of public sector buybacks by private equity in Canada in the history of Canada. And then we're only like a quarter end of the year, I read, I forget where I read that sat recently. And it's interesting that, like, private equities buying public companies, at least the ones that they they can see a business model where it's saving which, of course, means there's a lot of like, you know, Ghost Ship companies on the public market, and a lot of dead IPOs from last few years and SPACs and stuff sitting there. But. Right? If going public doesn't win a cash flow that can buy time to build Shopify again, you know what I'm thinking is that there will be less new opportunities immediately for developing value on a platform, layer on the internet. So these old, you know, big companies like Microsoft that are going to continue to subsidize its investments as it needs to to hold on to market share, at least in terms of attention span of the audience, are things to double down on if you're a creator right right now, LinkedIn might feel like it's not as good as it should be, and that it's frustrating, but it has relationships circumventuously With open AI and even Apple, as of today, right is reported as talking about integrating open AI into iOS. So it's interesting. You're looking I'm seeing this like on the macro level, a doubling down happening at the enterprise level of, you know, technologies and platforms and infrastructure that has already been built and that has been invested in to kind of hold on audience, which means that, you know, these are things that creators might want to stay aware of. You could jump onto the new platform, if it's, like, sexy and cool, but it might go away quick, and it's, it's, you know, like develop, I guess is where I'm driving. The kind of interesting narrative here is that, like, if you're going to build an audience today, whether you're a company, or whether you're a personal person, personal person, you're an individual, right, who wants to transact, who wants to make money and do business off of their brand, their own personal brand. You want to build that audience out of an audience. Building an audience from scratch is difficult, right? So you want to try and find people that you can communicate with in on a platform that's going to be there tomorrow and at the same time on one that will get better and better and allow you to do more things. So

Mark Evans 37:06
if you're an entrepreneur, you have two choices right now. We have multiple choices, but there's two paths. One is that you build an advertising based business, yeah. And the whole idea is that you build an audience as quickly as you can, as large as you can, and then you leverage the power of your audience to generate value from advertisers who want access to the audience or and that's been a that's been a model supported by venture capitalists for the last, you know, 20 years. Some of it has worked and a lot of it hasn't worked. Yeah, and the other side of you build a business, yeah, you build a product that people want to buy, and at the very least you offer a free trial or a freemium product. But you're not in the business of subsidizing your users. You're in the business of getting people to pay for a product that matters. The only challenge is, is that as you're building that business, you have to build your brand, you have to you have to get the audience in place, and that's both of them are really, really hard for different reasons. But I think in some respects, this, this massive flow of venture capital into the internet over the last 25 has been amazing for innovation, and it's allowed a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of VCs to make a lot of money, but it's also financed a lot of companies that should have never been financed in the first place, the majority and they were ideas that a VC got excited about, or a successful entrepreneur was able to sell to a VC because they had a track record of success. And they were they were pipe dreams. They weren't economically feasible. But when you've got VCs with huge amounts of money that they have to deploy because they can't sit on it, yeah, then you've got opportunities where lots of investments don't work out. So, yeah, I mean, I look at the B to B SaaS landscape right now, and it's extremely challenging, and a lot of companies are going to go over the cliff because they'll run out of money, right? But in some respects, I think it's going to be healthy. It's, it's what happened after the boom, when all those, all those companies disappeared, is that it cleared the playing field for real companies to step up, sure, and I think we're going to see that again. But there's so much competition these days that it's, it's as an entrepreneur, it's unless you catch fire, unless you've got something that's really amazing and you can position it. Position it as being different or new, then it's an uphill battle. It's a really uphill battle. The entrepreneurs, like everyone, looks at entrepreneurship as being really sexy.

Qasim Virjee 39:30
It's like eating glass, right every day of your life. Oh, it's,

Mark Evans 39:33
it's terrifying, it's exciting, but it's terrifying at the same time. And it's, and it's not, it's, it's not the sexy thing that people like to envision it to be. It's hard,

Qasim Virjee 39:42
yeah, and, you know, I mean, these are realities that I think we're generally known across society, up until a couple decades ago. Like, I feel like this kind of like modern tech field, entrepreneurship and the kind of celebrization of massive, massively funded. Company founders has skewed things, of course, in the favor of this fake dream, this like, get rich quick, buy a yacht, YouTube influencer bullshit, right? And it's funny, because people have, yeah, they've bought into it on masses the capital's been available. But as it dries up, the realities of business are that you know you have to survive somehow. And how do you do that? You got to roll up your sleeves, and if you don't have the sweat, then you don't have the equity,

Mark Evans 40:26
yeah, but it's funny. You know, the biggest growth industry these days is, is entrepreneurs on LinkedIn and YouTube trying to sell products to help other that tell entrepreneurs how to be successful? Yeah? That's because everybody wants to live the dream. Everybody believes that if they had the right tools or the right ideas or the right hacks, that they could find this recipe for entrepreneurial success. And that's why you get these creators who basically create content and then immediately realize that trying to attract an audience is hard. So they create, they start selling their content and packaging up and doing really slick marketing, yeah, to build demand for their for their content and, well, I

Qasim Virjee 41:07
think there's this, because this is great misnomer, right? Like, I don't know why. I don't know. I really, I don't have the answer to this, which is interesting and feels rare to me. But there is this disconnect between committing to a vision for a product or service that you want to, you know, develop, and then spending the time and the effort and the energy and the enjoyment to see that thing come to fruition and keep on innovating in that narrative, right, building a company. There's a lot of people. It's not just get rich quick. But it's almost this kind of like, what do you call it? Like catharsis? Like people are stuck in catharsis before they're stuck in action, and they just love the catharsis of knowing that they're good enough to make it happen. And if they get the keys to the Ferrari, they know they'll be able to drive it. They don't want to drive that Ferrari. They don't want to own it. They don't want to change the oil. They don't want to drive it to drive it to Oakville to take it to the guy to fix it. They just want to know that it's possible that they can have that Ferrari.

Mark Evans 42:09
But is that is that lazy entrepreneurship, or is that entrepreneurs looking for shortcuts? Because traditionally, growing a business, you have an idea, you grow it, maybe your dream has been I'm going to create a small business that can sustain a lifestyle that that I want, and then, if you're successful, then you expand your business, you open a second store. The mentality today with this, get rich quick, VC funded, IPO environment, is that success should happen almost overnight. Everybody wants to, instance ratification as an entrepreneur, so a lot of the people don't want to do the grunt work, yeah, or, you know, they all, they, all they read about is people who are overnight success stories, and they think that's the reality. They get into it, and they recognize it's hard, and then they look for shortcuts to make it happen. So, you know, it's, we've done a great job over the last 20 years of making entrepreneurship extremely sexy and apparently easy. Yeah. But you know, as an entrepreneur, you're, you're hacking away every single day, 24/7, yeah,

Qasim Virjee 43:15
yeah. And at the same time, I think entrepreneurship is different than the snake oil salesman, snake oil salesman. Salesman is not necessarily an entrepreneur, if, if purely what they're selling is snake oil, they're a thief, you know, slick

Mark Evans 43:33
slick operators, right? But lots of them out there. But I

Qasim Virjee 43:36
think that that, that the riding the knife's edge on that fine line is is really interesting because people don't want to believe it exists. Like I don't think people want to buy into there being a difference between the guy who says, I've got the formula, it worked for me, and I'm altruistically offering you this course for 2599 right? Or I'm giving you this thing for free because I got this other thing you're going to want in six months, because this thing for free is going to work. It's snake oil. It's this all it is. And I feel like people really, en masse, want to believe in a path. You know, here it is. If entrepreneurship, and I think this is maybe it, in last couple decades, has been pinned in the kind of like meta narrative, right of in North America particularly. And of course, the skews to the States more than Canada. But we're seeing it here. If entrepreneurship is being pinned as the kind of counterbalance to toil, right? And not just toil, but toil in a dead end path to career. This is the, this is the like, I'm not like my dad. He's a baby boomer. He saved, yes, he bought the house that will make me rich because of capital appreciation, yes, but man, fuck my dad, because he just hated his job and his boss was an asshole to him. And you know, he my mom? Was never happy. Like, if the counterbalance to like interpreting that lived reality is escape from lock in through the massive possibilities of entrepreneurship, and the possibilities are iconographed or iconified, iconically represented in the meta narrative as desirable purchases. That's what people will simply accept as reality is that, like, okay, entrepreneurship equals freedom to make and buy money, buy things with money. And so what's the quickest path? The quickest path is going to be that of the snake oil salesman. There's a lot of them out there and in technology, let's just call like the pyramid scheme wins, right? Like the pyramid scheme of venture capital. And I'm not saying every deal is a bad deal and every VC is corrupt, but the idea that there's multiple levels of financing required to grow a company to such a point that everyone's investment is worth having been made. That's a pyramid scheme. They're all waiting for the next level to happen. And the team that's going up the pyramid, the operating team, the founder and whoever the staff are, they have to play that game, because if at any point you say, You know what, okay, I'm happy with this, you won't get any more money. You'll be bloated, and it'll be tough to downscale to a point to make it into what they call a lifestyle business.

Mark Evans 46:30
But that's the the ugly side of the dirty side of venture capital, is that once you get on the venture capital bandwagon, right, you can't stop it. And in fact, you know everybody, a lot of entrepreneurs look at venture capital as as a as a victory, a sign that they've made it. It's very self gratification that I've built something that other people want to invest in, but it's it's the end of the game for them. They lose control of their companies right then and there, and they've essentially signed over the keys. I am a big believer in entrepreneurship. Don't get me wrong. I do believe that people the the hunger to build something, something real, and take an idea and turn it into reality is very powerful, right? But entrepreneurship is not for everybody, and that's something that that a lot of people have to understand. We're seeing a lot of in my world, we're seeing a lot of marketers, senior marketing leaders, being let go, or deciding to leave the rat race because, you know, for whatever reason, they don't want to, they've done their time, and they're calling themselves fractional these days. And we're seeing the rise of the fractional leader marketing, marketing leader sales, revenue, HR, culture. And I think that's partly driven by the allure of entrepreneurship. Everybody wants to be their boss these days. Everybody wants to eat their cake and have it too. So you want to make a lot of money, you want to create your own hours, you want to set your own agenda, but you also want to do the things that you've always done, but not within the structure of an organization, right? So that, in and of itself, is an off shoot of the entrepreneurial kool aid that we're all drinking. And I get approached by a lot of people who want to be fractional executives, and the first question that I say to them is, can you sell? If you have a product, can you not just do the job? Because a lot of these people can do the job, but can you sell this product? Can you get out there and create content and build awareness and attract an audience to the point where some of those people will say, Yes, I want to do business with you, and that's hard, and a lot of them jump into fractional or consulting, and then six months later, or a year later, they're back, looking, pining for a full time job. Because I recognize that, that it's, it's a grind, you know, but I think that

Qasim Virjee 48:58
there's also Okay, I'm gonna ask something about this, because particularly with this idea of marketing and the fractionalization of marketing, there's also an opportunity here, right? So there's the like the job is tough enough without the support of the organization, for sure, but at the same time, with the right type of client supporting that consultant, it could also give them the objectivity they need to be outside of the organization, to use the organization and help innovate that team that they're not immediately part of, to do great things and to think outside the box and so on. And a lot of that, this is something I've had a lens on recently with some of our media clients. Is a lot of this conventionally would have been provided for by agencies, creative agencies, marketing agencies, and what I've seen is all sorts of craziness in the last couple decades, where, at least in Canada, it looks like the majority of of agencies have gone through consolidation. Nation, in the sense that there's been an asset amalgamation, private equity or otherwise, has come in and started buying up agencies and creating these massive houses that just passed clients back and forth between each other and de risk the investment for the owner. And then the indie agencies have been picking up, you know, mid to large scale companies, but they're all banking. The whole agency sector is banking on having as few tentpole clients as possible on as long of a retainer as possible, so they're not threatened by losing them. And then they do everything under the sun to satisfy those that customer, which means they're not that great at particular things and and then the SMBs, and definitely the startups are being left out of this whole picture, because unless you're spending the top tier dollars, you're less relevant than McDonald's, you know, right, as a target, another thing very interesting, agencies typically don't do outbound. And I find this fascinating, if agencies were supposed to solve marketing problems for companies can't sell anything little like their own services. They don't go to market for those services. They just want to win awards. That's all they care about, because the awards bring in big tentpole clients that bounce back between agencies every few years. How can you trust that they'll do that for you? And now the small to medium sized companies need to trust you know, whoever's providing marketing function with a path to success, because revenues are relevant, right? But if you're McDonald's or if you're National Bank or RBC or Sun Life Insurance Company, your ad doesn't need eyeballs to be that wide versus that wide. I mean,

Mark Evans 51:51
I mean, the reality for a lot of SMBs when they've dealt with agencies over the years is that if an agency is small, they get a lot of love, because every customer counts right? As agencies get bigger, as they get, you know, more more awards is that an SMB will the reality is that they get the junior executive that opposed the person who sold them the business, right, and so they get the dregs, right? They get, they get the person who's not very experienced, doesn't have, you know, a lot of built up expertise. And I think that's lent itself to these solo entrepreneurs, these fractionals, these these consultants who can, they, they, they're hungry for every piece of business they can get, and ideally they, they deliver really amazing service. And I think that's what's really fueled the the fractional world these days is that you've got people with tons of expertise and experience who don't need a lot of clients to be successful. They just need to serve those clients really, really well, right? Yeah, and in theory, that's why fractional works. The one thing I will say about consulting and the value that consultants bring is that it's about perspective and bringing new ideas and processes and workflows into an organization that because when you work for a company, you're, you drink the proverbial Kool Aid, do you? Yeah?

Qasim Virjee 53:16
Whether that's a conscious decision or not, it's because you're within context all the time, and

Mark Evans 53:21
you do things that you've always done because you've always done them, there's no reason to change. Change is really hard. Doing something different, adopting a different way of doing things, or a different tool, is really hard. And no one likes change, because change is the risk of failure. When you have a consultant comes in and they say, Hey, here's a completely different tool that you should use, or a completely different approach, and they're not afraid of, you know, bringing something

Qasim Virjee 53:45
new, the politics don't quite affect the perspective. And then so somebody can say, well,

Mark Evans 53:49
that's a really good idea. Maybe we should try that. And somebody champions that idea. And they champion it because the consultant told them, because you can fire the consultant, it doesn't work. Yeah, so, but, but I always say, from my perspective, was that that's actually playing words here, but perspective matters, yeah, and that's what I bring to a lot of my engagements, is is new ideas, a new way of thinking, questioning the status quo, asking what I see as obvious questions, but there's questions that an organization doesn't ask itself because they're they're So heads down during their thing, right? So I think if you're an SMB and you're looking towards a fractional or a consultant, that's what you want, right? Because the tactical work is, there's tons of stuff people who can do the tactical work. That's in terms of programmatic, getting stuff done, whether it's advertising or creating content, you know, or, you know, doing your finances. There's, there's an army of people who can do that stuff, and they're really, really good at it, but the strategy, the thinking, the critical thinking, Yeah, that's the hard stuff, because you can't, sometimes you just don't have it inherent in your organization. You can't go out and just buy it, yeah, you know, you have to. You have to find it and rally around it.

Qasim Virjee 54:57
And this is the thing, this came up also in. Other conversation I recently had, which was talking about how typically startups, whether they're venture backed or otherwise, are on a mission from day one, right? And their mission, typically, is about growth, and it's about product development as well. So there's so much fire under their asses to kind of run in a particular direction that often cases, until you're 50 employees Plus, you're not really figuring out what your brand is. You know, you might not even be in market, and yet, you're a company with a product and service, right? So it's very interesting that these sorts of things often are not they're not necessarily calculated as OPEX or even capex, but they're critical, and they're definitely critical for any scale company that needs to reach a large international audience. You know you have to address things that, again, are best suited, perhaps, to someone outside of the of the problem set that you're dealing with.

Mark Evans 56:03
But like in my world in BDB, SaaS, the path is, founder has idea, yeah, creates product because they're an engineer, or they know a lot of engineers, product is developed. Engineer, sales comes into well, then founder is the salesperson, pushes the story out, get some traction, immediately, hires a sales team, and you've got this whole idea of product led growth, or sales led growth, and they do their thing. And then at some point in time, a lot of organizations go, huh? If we want to scale, we need to do something different. And they go, you know, we should do, should you start doing some marketing, right? And we should. And then they then, what happens? It's, it's brute force. We should buy advertising on Tiktok and Facebook and LinkedIn, and that's how we'll attract an audience, and then they spend all their money on that and focus on conversion optimization and how they can do little things to make more clicks happen. But along the way, they forget about brand and the value of brand and how brand is a slow burn, and as we said earlier in the conversation, it's something that's etched into the into the minds of of prospects, customers and people who will never become a prospect or customer, but it gives you, it gives you presence in the marketplace, makes you memorable and distinct and and what I'm seeing is that we're move there's a pendulum is swinging back from being, you know, data focused, and the dashboard is going to tell me everything about what I need to do, about marketing and sales, and I'm going to spend all my money on advertising, because that's the way it's going back to brand. And I think what's happened is a lot of entrepreneurs have recognized that in any given marketplace, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies do exactly what you do. They use the exact same marketing, teeks, they the same prices and everything. But what separates them from the pack brand? Yep, you know, think about how many running shoe companies there are out there, and why Nike rules the roost, or

Qasim Virjee 57:56
that kind of things. Yeah, these used to how on running rules, yeah, on writing

Mark Evans 58:01
rules of risk these days. But, you know, brand is really powerful, but it's not. It's something that doesn't generate instant gratification, overnight success. So as a as a CEO, as an entrepreneur,

Qasim Virjee 58:11
it's a back burner thing. Yeah, I don't need to deal with this, right? You can't go to your market and

Mark Evans 58:15
go, how's our branding working? What's our ROI or branding? And you're going, I don't know. It's like we're doing it, where people are talking about us, you know, we're, you know, maybe we're seeing a bit of, a bit of conversation on social media, but, yeah, but the economics, the economic sort of signals, aren't there.

Qasim Virjee 58:30
And that's not to say that it sits outside of marketing, or sits outside of sales. No, like, I think it was a Saul Colt was here the other day, you know, Saul? Yeah, of course. And he was talking about, it's like a pyramid, right, where the base layer is brand, and then you can build marketing and sales on top of that. But what I find really, really interesting, we're helping a lot of clients with this, right? Is a few years ago. No, not. Well, geez, not even a few months ago. Few months ago, we implemented a kind of infrastructure stack that is for broadcast and for capturing film, much like in this podcast, the same tech that's here that we prototyped here, we extrapolated into all of our event spaces, right? So we've got three different spaces at starwald that that are like large rooms that have this stuff, but it's built into the walls and the ceiling. So when you're a guest at an event in that space, you're not really thinking that they're recording anything, because there's no wires on the floor, there's tripods, there's no like cameramen. It's all like hidden but it's top tier and cinematic and really nice and tied into the AV and everything. So we did that with the aim of enabling the companies that are there presenting content on stage to capture content, but on the meta, it's like, wow. Now you've got turnkey studios that you can create content, professional content, with, but also engage audiences in room or virtual so what do you have? You have a marketing content engine, because it could be and also sales engine because you could. Have like leads in the room, then treat it like a honeypot, right? It's that whole webinar approach, like everyone turned into webinars in for SaaS in the B to B SAS in the pandemic, because they were like, We need to find leads. What's the best way to do that? Let's offer them some insight into whatever their business is, and we'll do a webinar about the thing that they need to know. But of course, we're hosting it, and we could talk about how our software works in with this a little, right? And then you get the lead list, and the sales guys call those dudes up. So whether it's that full cycle or otherwise, you know, brand and marketing and sales would all be interrelated. I think

Mark Evans 1:00:36
what gets lost sometimes is the idea that we're very folk channel focused? Yeah, I'm gonna do advertising. I'm gonna be great content, but or I'm gonna do in person events. And what we forget is that marketing is really about a marketing mix. Yeah, and the idea that some marketing is quantifiable and some is not, right? Advertising is completely quantifiable. You can tell if there's a correlation between how much money I spend and how many leads I get, how many people click on my ads, how many people convert into customers. Building a brand and building brand awareness is not it doesn't mean it's any less valuable. It just means that they support each other, they mesh together to create that business, to create that presence, to create demand for your products, but we tend to look at marketing in isolation. Is this channel working? Is this channel working? And then that's how we make decisions. That's it's the dashboard mentality. You know what channel is working the best? Well, we'll just look at the dashboard marketing is all kinds of things that are that are mashed together, and that's what makes marketing increasingly difficult right now, because that attribution, that direct attribution between if I do A, B is going to happen or I can measure B isn't happening anymore. Yeah, because people are consuming content there, there's this thing called Zero click, where you consume content on LinkedIn, for example, but you never visit the website, right? So Oh, I love this company. I love startwell. I love what they're doing. I love their culture.

Qasim Virjee 1:02:06
I love their maybe it's like at the back of your mind, like, I'll use it when I need it, but, but as a marketing what was that again, when you needed it? Yeah, what was the name of that company? Like, ah, and so, and then there's lots

Mark Evans 1:02:16
of conversation. There's the, you know, the dark web, and there's dark social and people are having all these side conversations that you're marketing, you're building the brand over here. Yeah, people love you and they're building buzz, but you'll never see it on your dashboard.

Qasim Virjee 1:02:29
Well. And this is the other tricky thing, and I think that it's come out again with the Google like, helpful content updates and all this stuff is that SEOs are pulling their hair out because they're realizing that, oh, shit, programmatic, whether it's advertising or search engine optimizing so sem or SEO, the algos aren't necessarily working consistently. No one has any depth of insight into the algo right and so, and we saw this going into the pandemic, through the pandemic after the pandemic, cost of user acquisition, more granular, cost of click, cost per click, CPCs all over the place for every type of keyword, and massive buyers in market will actually affect the market for those clicks. And if they're bringing all those clicks over to some shitty website that's crap that no one cares about, then there's going to be click fatigue, yeah. And this is happening in like, every second. There's only waves of click fatigue. And then there's like, okay, of course, with the deeper content, there's also like, you know, general digital fatigue. Like, people don't want to look at their screen all day long, right? Or if they look at their screen, they're used to sometimes looking at their screen as tick tock, and they want that six second hit. And if you try and give them a six second hit on a format that's not built for that six second hit, you know, how do you push people? How are you constantly having to, like, encourage FOMO and encourage action and encourage immediate satisfaction, whilst also providing depth? And there's another thing here, which is, I think it's coming around full circle. I think Google's trying to solve this problem. So I hope, I'm hopeful, but with things like helpful content updates and people trying to game them, there's this like, generified content that's supposed to be uber human, and yet it becomes very formulaic, which is easy to create an AI. So it's like, you know, the snake eating is tail or whatever, and it's caught in a loop, or dog eating is still where. Like, it's tough to create content that can or, I should say, it's tough to position content in a way that's readable to the search the web crawler and the search algorithms, as well as being relevant and readable and human to the humans, that's informative but also valuable and not structured. Such a way that it feels inauthentic. And this is where, personally, this is where I think video wins, like video can really help humanize content. Yeah, and it's like the last bastion right now. It feels like it

Mark Evans 1:05:13
is, yeah. I mean, if you look at, if you look at, especially from an SEO perspective, you look at the amount of traffic that is going to perplexity and Claude and chat GPT and Genie people essentially just abandoning search engines for the content, because they can get what they need right away. They don't have to scroll at all.

Qasim Virjee 1:05:33
All that like they're not looking for results on web pages. They're looking at it from their chat bot, yeah, from

Mark Evans 1:05:37
their chat bot. So it's specific questions or frameworks or structures. So they're getting the copy all that for now, for now, they're getting their copy needs, information needs from chat bots. The video side of it is that's, as you say, it's the last bastion, because that's personalized. It's unique. It's the idea that you could attend an event or give a presentation, and you could capture content there and then chop it up into all kinds of great, little insightful bits and personalize your brand and your people. And you can't do that on chatgpt Right now, right? I mean, you can create videos, but, you know, we know that they're crappy right now. Yeah, but yeah. So if I were, if I were a small business right now, my advice to you would be to keep creating content, but make video a core part of of what you do. So you can take a video and you can turn it into a blog post or an infographic or LinkedIn post, but video should be at the core of of what you're doing, like just like if you sat down for a day in a studio like this and you recorded like eight hours of video, you could have 12 months of content, yeah, and, and that's, that's the magic of of, you know, really being creative, like looking at your at this raw content and looking at, how can we repurpose it, repackage it, you know, reimagine it. This

Qasim Virjee 1:07:00
comes back to this role of the curator, right? Yeah, and it's like you're curating content capture opportunities, but then also digging deeper as an editor to find the nuggets, and then, of course, pairing them as you can through semantic, you know, tagging and the tools will help with this stuff. I think the AI tools, but tagging the content in a way that makes it, you know, more easy to find, if nothing else. And it's

Mark Evans 1:07:22
taking, it's taking content, taking a content asset, whether it's a presentation or whatever, what have you, and then repackaging it for the different channels, yeah, like specifically repacking it for the different channels. So this is, this is for LinkedIn, this is for YouTube, this is for Tiktok. This is for our webinar. This is for our blog, but it's basically, you know, Ross Simmons says, Create once, distribute everywhere or distribute forever, right? But if you're trying to, if you're trying to create kind of as one offs Okay, I'm gonna write this blog post, then I'm gonna over here, I'm gonna write, I'm gonna do a video, and then over here I'm gonna do something for Tiktok. It's so it's so inefficient, yeah, and that's why a lot of companies struggle with content because they don't look at editorial pillars. They look at things in isolation. And they're always chasing something. They're chasing in different like, it's all but it's a volume business, mass volume of ideas, as opposed to one really, really good idea, and then slicing and dicing that, that idea into all kinds of great content. And

Qasim Virjee 1:08:16
there's conflicting again, there's conflicting narratives that are, you know, trying to direct people spend and attention as well in the, like, agency world and stuff, right? You've got your, like, Gary V kind of, like, record everything, spray and pray it, kind of thing. Yeah, there's strategy. If you need strategy, you should be strategic. And know what? Yeah, people in each place are but otherwise, just get it everywhere. Get it everywhere, go, go, go. And people are kind of, like, really frazzled by that. Like, how do we do we do that? And then there's also this, like, you know, that narrative plays on this FOMO aspect for the company, which is, like, people are out there talking about you, and they're talking about you, and each and every one of these social media doors that you open, but one, you got to find them. Two, they're going to talk about you without you, so you got to jump into that conversation. And three, if you're really good at doing that, you got to drive that conversation, you know? And that's just so exhausting to people thinking about it,

Mark Evans 1:09:09
I think, from a content perspective, I think you have to be strategically agile, yeah. And what that means is that you have to, like, plan the work and work the plan. But it also means that you have to be opportunistic. You have to be able to to turn on a dime, to to capitalize on things that people are talking about, whether it's about your brand or your industry or your products, right? And that, yes, there's ways that you can structure content, ways that you can repurpose your content and get extract as much value out of it, but at the idea that it the landscape is always shifting, it is and that you really need to jump on ideas and jump hard on them, but be do it from a being purposeful and focused, as opposed to scatter all over the place. We're gonna we're gonna write about this, we're gonna cover this, we're gonna do this. You know, marketing still needs to be planned, right? Strategy still matters. Even though a lot of companies, perhaps it

Qasim Virjee 1:10:01
matters more than ever. It's just more difficult to do. I think, well, right? And, and that's not to say that everyone needs to be omni channel. You don't, you don't have to be omni channel. You could, like, you know, bring it back to the LinkedIn thing. There's a lot of B to B companies that could win amazing clients just through personal introductions on LinkedIn that they would never be able to reach out there in the open market.

Mark Evans 1:10:24
Well, I always say to clients like my clients are need to be SaaS, companies that are $5 million or less, and I save them from American perspective. I don't mean to be negative, but less is more. Walk before your run. The idea is that if you find two or three channels that work really, really well from you, webinars, LinkedIn, YouTube, that's all you need to do. If it drives the leads that you need, connects you with the right customers, that's all you need to do. There's a tendency, especially for small companies, as they they try to be all things to all people everywhere. They water down their their marketing. None of it is very good or very effective, and then they wondered why it doesn't work, as opposed to slow down, focus on your on your customers, find out where they like to consume content, and then know the customers, and then lean hard into those those channels, so that you're serving them really, really, really well, to the point where they See you as a trusted and go to resource because you're in the place where they want to be, and you're creating content that is better. And

Qasim Virjee 1:11:29
I think this is interesting because, like, con, like, people want to buy trust, because it feels like a hack. You know, maybe we just change the color. Maybe if we change that typeface, and we put that, we'll figure out the color and typeface mix and put it on every billboard and every radio station and every television station, and just blow this budget, and you're right. Go wide with it. We'll cast the net, and then out of that some goodness will come in. At least people know our name. They might know your name, but they're not going to trust in fact, they might mistrust it, yeah, especially if that Billboard's not there in q3 because you didn't pay for it. Again,

Mark Evans 1:12:06
marketing is about showing up every day. Yeah, it's consistency matters and that it's a it's a marathon as opposed to a sprint. Everyone looks for instant gratification. Thinks that marketing can generate overnight success stories. Everyone loves overnight success stories, but it really is building that brand every single day. Every single piece of marketing that you do is building towards that brand awareness, affinity, trust. So you know, if you look at any company, take HubSpot, for example, that spent years and years and years creating content right on the back of a really good, you could argue a really good CRM, yeah, not initially, and then, and then got to the point where, you know, it just had this ubiquity as that people thought of CRM, they thought of HubSpot. And a lot of that was both on the fact that their content was really good, and it was so good that people who were never going to be HubSpot customers started talking about HubSpot, yeah, which built that kind of virality

Qasim Virjee 1:13:02
that, like all this content so good, they trust what's coming where it's coming from. Trust.

Mark Evans 1:13:06
Trust takes time. Yeah, you know, trust takes effort. Trust takes time. You really have to slowly build that audience, somebody, some some artists, some companies. You know, can they get a they just produce something that's so good that it just sets the wheels in motion, but 99% of the of the companies and creators out there are just showing up every day. They're pounding away on LinkedIn every single day. And eventually people look them, Oh, that guy, he's or that girl, she's so good, but all they're doing is just showing up every single day, offering value, offering value, offering value. And I think there's

Qasim Virjee 1:13:39
something to call out here at the end is the, you know, the Totems of the pyramid scheme may seem like they've done that in whatever unique way, but they may just, most likely, I think, more often than not, the right place right time. And the people who are Right Place Right Time don't know the right place right time, where they're not humble enough to recognize it, and so they think they got the secret sauce. And sometimes they retrofit their right place right time to come up with systems to sell. As you know, the secret sauce, and it's snake oil. One

Mark Evans 1:14:15
thing, the last thing I will say about entrepreneurship is that a lot of entrepreneurship is being at the right place at the right time with the right product and having a healthy heavy dose of luck, yeah, this just everything comes together. Like, you can have a great product at the right time and you'll miss it right, right. And you can have a the wrong product at the right time and you miss it. But if you have the right product at the right time, and things come together, yeah, then it's amazing. But you got to have that. It's just there. Every, every, everybody looks an entrepreneur and goes, oh my god, they're super smart. You know how? You know they're just so brilliant and innovative and everything, but they just hit it right, like everything sort of came together for them. And I'm not not downplaying their how smart. They are.

Qasim Virjee 1:15:00
I think the point is, yeah, there, there. You need to be able to as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to be resilient enough to appreciate that the timing may not be right until it is. Yeah, you don't wait for that right moment. You work towards success in whatever way you need to and can and and

Mark Evans 1:15:22
I think entrepreneurship is also a combination of cockiness and being humble. Is being confident, being optimistic, like taking that that can do, attitude, I'm going to conquer the world, attitude, but also not believing that you're the best things in sliced bread, not sort of, you know, over hyping yourself or trying to position yourself as somebody who's super human and super smart, because at the end of the day, you can't connect with the people that matter to you. You lose your authenticity if you come across as being, you know, outrageous in terms of the way that you do business. So it's

Qasim Virjee 1:15:56
and then you buy your company back from Softbank with winnings that they paid you?

Mark Evans 1:16:04
Yeah? Well, we could talk about Adam, Adam Newman, and, you know, and we worked for the cows boom was it class example of an entrepreneur who suddenly who thought he was a demigod, and the world crumbled on him. But anyway, lots of, lots to talk about. Thanks

Qasim Virjee 1:16:16
for coming on the podcast. Thank

Mark Evans 1:16:18
you for having me. It's been a pleasure being here in person talking about all things. I mean, I know we had a ramply conversation, but it was

Qasim Virjee 1:16:24
good. We spoke about some great stuff. I hope the audience connects, and I'm sure they they will. Is there anything you want to add in terms of shout outs or things that, like, you know, for audience that may be wanting to connect with you about anything? Well, obviously,

Mark Evans 1:16:38
if you we talked about LinkedIn. So if you want to find me on LinkedIn, it's pretty easy. Pretty easy to do these days to create a lot of content for the LinkedIn machine. So just search for Mark Evans, rational CMO. And if you want to know what I do, which is basically provide fractional cmo and strategic advisory servers for BDB, SaaS, companies, you can visit,

Qasim Virjee 1:16:59
right. Check me out there. Cool, yeah, thanks

Mark Evans 1:17:01
for having me. Yeah, man, it

Qasim Virjee 1:17:03
was a pleasure. You.

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