Corey Haines: Developing a diverse community of marketers

April 16, 2021 · 41 minutes reading time

Transcript of episode 13

Corey's photo

Matthias: Hey, everyone, this is Matthias from Get the Audience again, with The Audience Explorer podcast. And today I’m so happy to have a guest again. It’s Corey Haines. Corey is a marketer, a maker and a pug owner.

Corey: That’s me.

Matthias: So nice to have you here. Hi.

Corey: Yeah, thanks for having me. Super stoked to be here in the chat!

Matthias: Cool. Corey, you have been the head of growth at Baremetrics and several other occasions that you had in your in your lifetime. What are you doing today?

What Corey is doing

Corey: Yeah, today I split my time between consulting. I do marketing for early stage B2B SaaS companies. I also do a little bit of like advisory work and sort of mentoring/coaching. It’s kind of like a fuzzy; I’m not sure exactly what to call it. But it’s basically just advisory work for companies.

And then I also work on Swipe Files, which is my membership site; community for marketers. And so, it doesn’t always work out to be 50:50, but those are the two main things right now where I spend my time.

Matthias: Ah, yeah.

Matthias: So, what is Swipe Files all about; a community, you say?

The Swipe Files community

Corey: Yeah.

So, Swipe Files is basically – It started out as just like a library of tear-downs of many pages of ads and emails. And I started it. It was a kind of a pandemic business. I started working on that in March of 2020 and launched it. And basically, I was writing like these weekly tear-downs of just good marketing samples that I would see around the web, because it was something that I personally kind of felt the need for.

I also had a separate idea, like in my log of ideas, for a marketing community, because I could never really find one that I felt a part of, either because they were too kind of noisy and spammy or because they were too like high-ticket and exclusive. And so, I had that idea in mind.

And then when I went full-time on my own, I left Baremetrics, I decided to sort of bolt that on and sort of add that as one of the main parts of Swipe Files and to build a marketing community, a private marketing community, a paid one also, because that way it would drastically reduce the amount of spam and sort of shady characters that are in there. And maybe people would feel more inclined to be engaged to share openly.

And so today, Swipe Files is basically a membership site. The main part of it now is the community for sure. I have it tested once in a while, but there’s still that library back there.

There’s also a curated Swipe File that I offer. And then I have this podcast and newsletter which are my marketing efforts, but still open to members as well, and kind of all under this Swipe File brand.

Matthias: Cool, that’s a lot of stuff! Really, a lot of stuff. Amazing!

Corey: Yeah. It’s a juggling act.

Matthias: Yeah. Right.

So, what can people typically find in Swipe Files? I’m a member, so I know it, but I want to hear it from you in your voice.

What Corey’s audience can find in Swipe Files

Corey: Yeah. I mean, when you in the community it’s very asynchronous. And so, it’s funny actually, I try to strike a balance between like not making it too busy, so the people won’t feel like overwhelmed. And I think eventually, it’ll probably get there just as the community grows. But like, just trying to keep things fairly calm and like high quality.

But you come in and there’s posts like we do “Work in public round up” on Mondays where we all talk about what we’re working on. We do like “When’s Wednesday?” or “Think Tank Thursday” where we feature a business and we try to crowdsource ideas. There’s random posts in between and of like things we’re learning or noteworthy marketing samples that other people find, questions, feedback people try to get answered.

So, when you come in, I mean, what I hope people see when they come in is a bunch of smiley faces and welcome from other members. But it really just depends on the week. You know, that’s the fun part about a community as well is it’s so diverse and varied and just every week is different.

Matthias: Yeah, I really enjoy that.

When I heard about it, I thought, “Oh, what’s this?” I read your home page and I found it really interesting and I joined. And really, the people are so friendly and giving feedback to each other. So, it’s a really amazing service!

Corey: I’m glad to have you as well!

Matthias: Thank you.

How did this all started? How did you get the idea for Swipe Files?

Corey: Yeah.

The origin of Swipe Files

So, I had, at the time I was the Head of Growth at Baremetrics, and I think it’s in about like November, December-ish. I was spending up the affiliate program for Baremetrics, which is the B2B SaaS company. And I thought, “Okay, we have to kind of like technically setup now”; like we use a tool called Reward Flow, which is really good, but now we need to actually set up a page and have like a launch strategy to recruit affiliates.

I was like, “What the hell goes on a landing page to recruit affiliate partners? I have no idea. Like, I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what the best practices are or what makes a good affiliate page? Like what’s interesting? You know, what should really be included there?”

And so, I didn’t really want to start from scratch and just guess. So, I went around and I tried to find other SaaS companies with affiliate programs and see what their landing pages were like. I reached out to people who had started affiliate programs. And that’s what their input was, their feedback was, kind of get their ideas of what worked and what didn’t work.

And then after a couple of weeks, I finally felt like I had enough information gathered around; okay, these are the good examples, these are the bad examples, do this, don’t do that. And I figured, “Man, that was a lot of work and there’s a lot of other things that I don’t have a ton of experience with directly. I wish there was just some sort of library of examples that I could pull from and draw from. So, I don’t have to start from scratch. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m just trying to guess my way through it.”

Matthias: Okay. Oh, I see. Yeah.

Corey: And so, that was the original impetus for the idea for the Swipe Files.

Matthias: I’m a second language English speaker. What exactly does “to swipe” mean in this context?

What “swipe file” means in marketing speak

Corey: Right. Right. Yeah.

So, Swipe File, even for a lot of English speakers, for people who are not marketers, mainly (even a lot of marketers don’t know). It’s sort of like this funny, jargony word that people made up.

But basically, you have this idea of like, you know, designers have mood boards and authors and people who are really into like personal knowledge management have a Zettelkasten or some sort of sophisticated note-taking system. And marketers have swipe files.

Basically, if I keep a folder of really good tag-lines and ads and emails and landing pages and just swipe them, right? To swipe it to kind of steal or to take.

Matthias: Okay, I see.

Corey: Yeah. Basically, just to grab it. Then I’m going to have some sort of inspiration for the future that I can draw from; something to reference, something to skim through and see how other people are doing this. And when I need some copywriting inspiration, some design inspiration, something to pull from that I’ve personally curated.

Matthias: So, it’s similar to the to the writers problem when they sit in front of a blank page and ask themselves, “How on earth do I get started with this?”

Corey: Exactly. Yeah.

Borrowing, stealing, remixing

I think all of us, to a certain degree, face that same problem. Like you said, artists face a blank canvas, authors face a blank blinking screen Google Doc, marketers face a blank blinking landing page, possibly, or ad or email or whatever it is.

And all of them actually, I think everyone fundamentally solves this problem in the same way, which is we all really do start from some sort of inspiration. I think it was, you know, there’s some sort of paraphrased version and it’s a little bit bastardized at this point, but it’s, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

And it’s basically the thought that it’s not actually stealing, but it’s sampling. Actually, you are going and you’re taking ideas and you’re remixing them for yourself. You’re saying, “I really like that. I think that I’m going to take what this person does really, really well and spin this for myself.”

Everything is a remix in life and there’s nothing new under the sun. We’re all sort of kind of remixing other ideas and mixing and matching and in trying to put our own kind of spin or color on it. And so, yeah, it’s a very universal problem. So, Swipe File is the way that marketers solve this problem.

Matthias: Okay, I see. Swipe Files. A propos “marketers”.

Could you describe your audience of these marketers a little bit? Is there a thing like a typical marketer or are they all very diverse people?

Corey: For Swipe Files?

Matthias: Yeah. Your audience for Swipe Files in particular.

Corey: Yeah.

Diversity in marketing

You know, it’s interesting. It’s accidentally and on purpose a bit very, very diverse. Part of my core kind of beliefs and values and like thesis for Swipe Files is that given the nature of Swipe Files, like the best inspiration comes actually from really like disparate and kind of like very vastly just different ideas and industries and spaces.

So, for example, like the best ideas; we really want to be like innovative in marketing. If I’m a B2B SaaS marketer, don’t look at what other B2B SaaS companies are doing, because we’re all doing the same thing.

  • Look at what e-commerce companies are doing.
  • Look at what info marketers are doing.
  • Look at SEO people are doing and affiliate marketers are doing.

You have to look outside of – you have to get outside the box, so to speak.

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: Right.

And so, part of my kind of core thesis is that you have to get a really diverse set of ideas and sort of inspiration.

And so, for the community, I also wanted a really diverse group of people, because I think they can all bring something unique to the table. And the actually, the more different we all are, the better off we’re all going to be because we’re going to all have some unique kind of perspective to bring and some sort of unique experience to draw from.

And so, my audience skews a little bit towards B2B SaaS, but there’s all sorts of different types of markers, in-house freelance agencies that definitely spans between SaaS. We have some ecommerce, we have podcasters, we have a lot of info marketers and sort of affiliate marketers. And I’m working to build that even more.

And then we also have entrepreneurs and founders like yourself, people who are not marketers, maybe even developers, but have some sort of thing on the side or even full time that they’re working on. But they are forced to wear the “marketing hat”.

So, yeah. I mean, it’s a really diverse group. But I would say the main two segments are marketers and founders and largely skews a bit SaaS and like info marketing, like courses, blogs and communities.

Tooting your own horn

Matthias: And these founders, like myself, I have a little hate and love at the same time for marketing, because sometimes, if you’re deep into building stuff and you run into a problem, sometimes it’s really good to step out a little bit and do something totally different. And so, marketing is always a nice thing to do in that case.

On the other hand, I’m not the typical person who toots his own horn; who like to toot into the world and say, “Hey, my SaaS is the best thing since sliced bread or something.”

So, how are the other the founders doing? Do you have any feedback from them?

Corey: Yeah.

I mean, I think everyone faces that same dilemma of feeling self-promotional, or like a sellout, or just uncomfortable to promote yourself and what you’re working on. It’s just uncomfortable in general saying, “Hey, here’s something that I made” and showcasing it for the world, for everyone to see and question and critique and give feedback on. It’s a judgment of, you know, we like to put our self-worth and our value and our intelligence into our work. And so, when our work gets judged then we feel judged, right?

So, it can be really uncomfortable, one, to just put it out there, but two, to promote it. Like you said, like it’s something great and like (laughs…) it’s “the next best thing since sliced bread”.

Marketing as a true service to other people

But I think actually, one of the real kind of breakthroughs comes when you see marketing not so much as self-promotion, but more as a service. Seth Godin says that.

Matthias: Okay, tell me more about that; marketing as a service.

Corey: So, Seth Godin says that marketing is “the act of bringing your work into the world in a way that the world can receive it”.

And basically, what he means is if you see marketing as bringing your product to market and putting it in a place where people can get it in it. If your product is something that is valuable, useful, helpful, that helps people make more money, save time, save money is enjoyable, entertaining, adds value to someone’s life, then it would be a disservice to that person to keep your products from them, if it actually can help them and add something to them.

Matthias: Right.

Corey: So, actually, if it helps them, and your product, bringing it to market and marketing is a service to that person. When you say, “Hey, I have this thing that can solve your problem. I have this thing that can help you achieve your goals. I have this thing that will add value to your life.”

Where marketers get mixed up

I think where people get mixed up, and I think is why there’s probably such a negative taste in people’s mouth about marketing, is because there’s a lot of noise, because there’s a lot of things that people are trying to push on people that don’t add value to their life; where it’s irrelevant, right?

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: It’s like, you know, I live in in San Diego, California, and I get ads for, I don’t know, something in another language. I’m like, “What is that? Why would they sell me that?”

Or maybe I’m a surfer and I’m getting ads for snowboarding. I don’t want ads or snowboarding. I want ads for surfing. Right?

Matthias: Right.

Corey: So, it’s only when you’re being presented with something that’s irrelevant where marketing isn’t a service. But if you’re reaching the right people, then marketing is a service.

And the unfortunate part is that it’s very hard to reach the right people 100 percent of the time. You have to spread your net a bit wide. You don’t know if people are interested or not interested. So, you have to at least go up and ask,

  • “Hey, is this something interesting to you?”
  • “No.”
  • “OK, that’s fine. I’ll move on to the next person.”

But you have to bug them at least that first time.

Stick to help people receive your product!

So, anyways, getting back to that theme of service. Marketing, really; you want to bring your work into the world in the way the world can receive it. And that’s really in a way that the world can perceive it is that second part of the equation, because how do people want to be marketed to? For some people, it’s door to door; for some people, it’s a Facebook ad; for some people, it’s through Google; for some people, it’s social media; for some people, it’s word of mouth.

Matthias: That’s right.

Corey: I think for a lot of developers especially, in my experience, they don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to, but they’re being marketed to you in one way or another. It’s usually through other avenues, like a conference, or word of mouth through someone else, or a referral program. There’s some sort of mechanism that’s getting your product spread, that’s getting your product into other people’s hands. And maybe it just doesn’t look like the traditional advertising, content marketing, things that other people do.

Matthias: Yeah.

The marketers in your audience – how did you find the first, let’s say, one three, five or ten people for Swipe Files? How did this get started?

Corey: Yeah.

Getting the initial audience for Swipe Files on Twitter

I mean, really, the answer is, is sort of anticlimactic in a way, but Twitter! So, I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years, building an audience on Twitter. And so, when I first announced what I was working on, what Swipe Files, I automatically got a decent amount of subscribers, the newsletter and interest in what I was doing.

And then when I officially launched, basically I had this mechanism where when it was just the tear-downs, I would release the latest teardown down for free. But then all other previous tear-downs would then sort of be locked behind the gateway for the members only.

And so, basically, I just said, “Hey, if you want this teardown now, like the next one’s coming out, and if you want to have a whole library of tear-downs, you have to buy the membership.” And there was these ways that are going to get people back to those tear-downs.

But it was all through Twitter. I’m not on any other social media platform. I never ran any ads. There really wasn’t any other marketing mechanism or cross promotional thing that I did to get it in front of those people besides Twitter.

And Twitter has been the answer for a lot of things for me between like career opportunities, new businesses, subscribers; like Twitter is kind of like at the intersection, at the middle, at the core of like all these different things.

But yeah, to answer your question, I mean, even the first 10 subscribers, the first 10 members, the first 10 visitors; all from Twitter.

Matthias: Twitter is kind of special. Twitter is also my home network. What do you think is so special? How does Twitter enable all this stuff to happen?

Corey: Yeah, yeah.

Why Corey likes Twitter

I really like Twitter because I think it has all the best elements of a lot of the different social networks. If you look at it from like how it works functionally, like the mechanics, I like actually kind of like the fleeting nature of like tweets. There’s just like this constant stream of thoughts.

Because actually what that does is it allows you to create more freely. If I know that not everyone sees my tweets and there’s a lot of other things and it’s normal to tweet a lot, I’m going to be prolific. I’m going to tweet a lot. I want to get a lot of thoughts out there. And building that muscle actually helps you build a writing habit, helps you flesh out ideas, get feedback.

David Prowse says that writing is thinking. And so, even just the act of getting things into Twitter, as a tweet, helps me myself sort of formulate my thoughts and my ideas and my opinions and sort of surface my expertise as well.

So, I love that; the sort of mechanism. I love the follow mechanism. I think that the algorithm is pretty well curated. I love the mechanisms of retweets and comments and just like the way the things are exposed.

The differences to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

But really, I think that the people on Twitter are also interesting, because what Twitter lends itself to is you look at other social networks like Facebook – And Facebook is basically like an archive. It’s like this is where I store my family pictures and like this is like who I am for, like, my really close network.

And then they have Instagram, which is like a highlight reel. And it’s all image based, right?

Matthias: Oh, yeah.

Corey: So, it’s like very highly curated; like it’s not really someone’s real life.

Then they have LinkedIn. And LinkedIn is a highlight reel of sort of career aspirations and achievements and accolades and things that people are saying that you’re good at.

But Twitter, there aren’t like a lot of these vanity sort of parts of it. It very much appeals to intellectual thought. And the best thought wins, the best that gets spread the most, gets the best reception. And so, the best thinkers are all on Twitter. The smartest people I know are on Twitter. And it’s really like this information feed, rather than this sort of vanity feed of images and accolades and things that are more highly curated.

So, personally, I like Twitter because I feel like you get the real side of someone, but it’s also the most useful information. And then with the mechanics of it, that useful information get spread really well. So, if you’re a creator, it’s a great distribution kind of method, and if you’re a consumer, it’s a great way to receive good information.

Matthias: Yeah, the spread rate, the organic reach is amazing, isn’t it?

Corey: Yeah.

Matthias: Compared to Facebook, for example. Facebook in the early days also had a big reach, but after a while, you will know that you could only reach people by ads. So, the organic reach went down dramatically.

Corey: Right.

Twitter enables the spread of good ideas

Twitter is really the only platform where what you create has like a natural ability to just kind of spread, organically, beyond your own followers and sort of like sphere of influence.

Facebook is like just completely locked down. Like don’t expect even your friends directly to see what you post. If you have a page, it’s like even lower. Facebook groups are actually pretty good; like that’s like the main way I advise people to use Facebook these days.

Instagram, really only if people are following you, they’re going to see your stuff. Then the only other discovery mechanism is the Explorer page, which is really, really hard. It’s like kind of just like happenstance, if you get featured there or if people even see you there; like hashtags. I don’t really know. I mean, like how do you really get discovered on Instagram? You have to do like collaborations with other handles and other pages.

Same thing with LinkedIn. LinkedIn, I think has the second best, but it’s still a lot about like your followers getting some sort of like you really need a lot of engagement for it to be shown to people who are not your followers or your direct connections.

But Twitter, every single tweet has the opportunity to spread very organically, very virally. And even all the time, even with comments that I make, comments will be seen by other people. Then bring me back to my profile and back to my other tweets.

Matthias: That’s right. Yeah.

Corey: So, there’s just way, way better discoverability between tweets, retweets and comments and replies. It’s just unmatched.

From an audience to a personal brand

Matthias: I’m also on LinkedIn, but with my previous ego. I’m a software engineer and a consultant for software engineering methods. So, I have a big community in the B2B world. And I find it a little difficult on LinkedIn, when I unfollow someone, that doesn’t mean that these people unfollow me. So, when I change my personality, for example, when I move into another space; that happens every two or three years, that these days, still the old audience is also following me and they are suddenly surprised by what I’m writing.

On Twitter, I solved this with a second account. I created a new account, Matthias from Get the Audience. At first, I thought, “Should I use Get the Audience as a product name and tweet in the name of the product?” I did that first, but after a while, it felt so artificial. I wasn’t a person anymore.

Corey: Right.

Matthias: And then I thought, “No, I won’t create a second Matthias either, but “Matthias from” sounded good. so, I called it “Matthias from Get the Audience.” So, it’s a mixture between the person and the product now.

Corey: Yeah. Yeah.

And I think in general too, just a quick comment on that, is that personal brands are way, way, way more powerful and effective than company, sort of corporate brands and personas. People want to hear from people. People want to know who’s behind the brands.

Matthias: Yeah, right.

Corey: And I think that you can do it. Like there’s a couple of corporate accounts that I think are pretty good, like The Hustle, Morning Brew, Marketing examples.

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: There’s a few that actually do a good job of it. But I think they actually could have been more effective if it was just like a single person or like the person behind that account.

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: But just in general, like, you put a face on it and you put it like a real name on it, and automatically your social media success is going to be – or it’s going to be more successful on social media.

Developing an audience further, enabling trust

Matthias: Speaking about audience development, what do you think are the secrets of successfully building an audience and having a really human connection to the audience? And especially over a longer period of time, what are you doing typically to develop your audience further, to stay connected?

Corey: Yeah.

Yeah, let me frame it in a couple of different ways and I’ll probably bounce around a little bit. But the overall kind of like theme and what I’ve been really trying to hone in on is this phrase:

Earning trust at scale.

Like everything that I do, that’s my goal, is to earn trust at scale.

So, you break that down into two bits. You have “Earning Trust” and then you have, “At scale.” So, trust is really interesting. Trust, I feel personally is the crux of marketing, because when you’re earning trust with someone, if I trust you, then I trust that you can help me in some sort of way. There’s some sort of mutual connection where I believe that you have something valuable for me. And that I can be vulnerable with you for some sort of exchange or I can just believe in what you’re offering; whether it’s information or a product or service, is valuable. That it could be applicable to me.

But the hard part about that is that you have to earn it. It can’t be bought. You don’t just like buy trust over time.

Matthias: That’s right.

Trust is the currency of marketing

Corey: It has to be earned. It’s really hard won. It’s also easily lost. So, it’s really a delicate thing, but it’s really like that’s the currency of marketing is trust. How much trust you have? Who do you have it with? And that’s where it goes to this “At Scale” bit where – Sorry, I can to earn trust of people and I could just hop on a call like this with you one by one, but that’s going to take a long time. It’s not very efficient. And that’s not really what it means to do it at scale.

So, if I want to really build an audience, I have to figure out ways to leverage kind of the age of the Internet. And that’s like one-to-many mechanism on places like Twitter or newsletters or other platforms where I can reach more people.

Owned, rented, and borrowed audiences

And this is where another idea I’ll introduce in is sort of my next kind of big framework that I’m working on is called the Orb Framework, where every platform, every audience building activity can be broke down into your owned platforms, your rented platforms and your borrowed platforms.

So, your owned platforms are all the things that you have a direct relationship with your audience where no one can tell no and you have a direct line of communication. So, that’s things like email. So, your newsletter, your website and blog, a private community, a text message list, even a podcast, because the RSS feeds are sort of like an open web protocol and it just goes directly into someone’s feed in their podcast player.

So, those are all really like foundational ways you can connect with your audience; the most intimate ways that you can earn trust with an audience. And ultimately, that’s where you want to bring everyone to, is even off of places like Twitter onto an email list, into a community or some sort of other way to engage with you, because that way you don’t have to rely on the algorithm to surface your content again, right?

Matthias: That’s right.

Corey: And you just press the email or you just press “Post” in the community or you send the text message, for example; you hit “Publish” on the podcasts.

And then you have rented platforms. So, hard part about the owned platforms is that it’s kind of like this false start where it’s chicken and egg. Like I could just be publishing into the void, if no one is there. So, how do I get people there in order to speak to them? We have to meet them where they’re already at, which is on these rented platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Matthias: Yeah, right.

Corey: Even other external publications. Maybe like if you write a byline for Forbes or if you’re featured somewhere else, if you collaborate with someone in some other way on their rented platform, maybe even like Tik-Tok or you’re listed on somewhere else, like maybe a Shopify App Store or Google Chrome …

Matthias: A professional directory. Yeah.

Corey: Exactly. Directory, you got it!

And that’s usually a great medium to sort of bridge the gap between, “Okay, I’m meeting my audience where they’re at and now, I’m going to bring them to where I want them to be, which is on my owned platform.”

And then but even then, with then rented platforms, it’s you spin up a new Twitter account and you start tweeting and you’re still kind of publishing into the void. And so, you have to do some work in order to get people to your rental platform.

Matthias: That’s correct. Yeah.

Corey: How you do that is through borrowed platforms. And this is really where collaborations come into play, where you’re actually quite literally borrowing someone else’s platform and saying,

  • “Hey, can I go on your podcast?”
  • “Hey, can I write a newsletter for you?”
  • “Hey, can I write a guest post for you?”
  • “Hey, can I run a workshop for your community?”

Even very tactically, like commenting on big accounts and just like making connections over social media. It could even just be doing some sort of giveaway or even sponsoring.

So, this is where ads and sponsorships come into play, because when you are putting money into Facebook, you’re borrowing their audience. You’re borrowing their reach. Similarly, if you’re sponsoring a newsletter, you are borrowing their audience as well.

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: And those are the ways that you build both your rented and owned platforms.

So, anyways, those are the main two, kind of like mental models and frameworks that I used to think about building my audience.

Matthias: Interesting, interesting.

Audience building is quite some work, isn’t it? It’s not for let’s say I do it on Mondays and then forget about it the rest of the week. So, you really have to show up and be approachable, right?

Corey: Yeah.

Optimizing the efficiency of audience development

I mean, I think it can be done pretty efficiently if you have the right tools and processes and if you really focus. Like one of the things I’ve been noticing in talking to a lot of people – I’ve been trying to do some consulting and mentoring and coaching. And so, at one point I was working with like 12 different companies, but now it’s about five. But every single one that I’ve talked to, everyone feels guilty about how little marketing they do; like they feel bad that they don’t have a Tik-Tok strategy, and that they should be more active on Twitter, and that they’ve been meaning to spin up a newsletter or write this post forever, but they just haven’t.

Now, I always tell people like, “Look, you only need one to three, like major kind of plays, playbooks, strategies, channels to really invest in.” And that will get you as far as you really need to go, if you do those things really well. It’s better to do two things really, really well than to do 10 things pretty poorly, right?

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: So, on Monday, like for me personally, I only do podcasting, Twitter and my newsletter. And I go on other people’s podcasts and I run workshops and stuff, because we’re honest here. So, maybe it’s four. But those are the only things I do. I don’t run any ads. I really don’t have any other type of strategy or social media strategy or growth strategy.

Matthias: Yeah.

Corey: That’s it. And it’s working well for me. It’s not working amazingly well; I can’t say I’ve gone viral or that I’ve had crazy growth, but it’s working well enough. It’s definitely promising. And I think that I’ve seen that translate across to a lot of other people and a lot of other companies. It’s good to be precise in your marketing.

Matthias: I’m also not doing so many things. I have a lot, nevertheless. I write my blog posts. I write my tweets. I record podcasts. In the beginning, I transcribed them myself, which is a lot of work. After a while, I discovered Descript, for example; the transcription app…

Corey: Now, doesn’t that feel like a service, right? Aren’t you glad that they’re marketed to you?

Matthias: Yeah, absolutely.

And by the way, they had a fantastic video. Do you remember the homepage video of Descript? They’re so good.

Corey: Yeah, that’s in my Swipe File.

Matthias: That’s so great.

And after a while, I found out that even using Descript costs me a lot of time. Now, I am using the help of some freelancers for that. So, transcribing, thank God, is now not so much a subject.

And what else do I do? I put headlines into the transcript so that people can easily skim the transcript by those headlines. And after a while, let’s say one or two weeks later, I transform those headlines into “take-away tweets”. I make a longer Twitter thread with all those takeaways directly below each other and a nice picture at the beginning and a link back to the original podcast and original blogpost at the end. So, this kind of content repurposing thing.

But besides that, I really try to keep building my stuff. So, marketing, yeah, it does take about 50 percent of the time, I think.

Corey: Mm hmm.

Marketing consistently has a compounding effect

Yeah, it takes time. And I think, you know, marketing is one of those things where you really need that sort of compounding effect to take effect; like you need to just sort of put in at the time and just keep making progress, like one percent better, one percent increase in reach or one percent increase in your followers. But over time then, with all the compounding, then you sort of wake up one day, you’re like, “Oh, interesting. I have like a decent sized audience. And like, things are working. And like, all the things that I’ve been doing are finally paying off.” But you need that time. And you also need to just keep putting in the work every day.

Even with marketing in general, I think it’s The Marketing Rule of Seven. It’s basically like the average amount of time that people need to be exposed to a product or service in order to in order to actually express interest in that thing.

Matthias: Mm hmm. Really think about it.

Corey: So, you might see an ad seven times on average before people actually click on it and make a purchase. Or people might see your face on Twitter seven times before they decide to follow you. People might visit your landing page seven times before deciding to finally subscribe to the newsletter or sign up for the product.

So, you have to show up over and over and over again just to sort of satisfy that average rule of seven in order to have success. Because if you just show up once, even I think a lot of people see this, even when they go viral; is they go viral, but it’s not enough to really gain a lot of followers. You have to go viral a few times for people to actually, “Oh, this guy made another viral post; like another really good thing? Okay, now I’ll follow him.”

So, you need that time and the consistency in your favor.

Matthias: On the other hand, it has a big advantage. For example, on Twitter I like the possibility to ask questions to my audience and they will respond and say, “Yeah, this is a good idea.” “Nah, this is a bad idea or so, so idea.” It’s nice to have some people to talk to and really find out whether something will help them or not.

Yeah. I think an audience is a fascinating circle of people where you can really profit from. Yeah.

Corey: Yeah.

I mean once you have those people who trust you, then it’s sort of like you have their trust. It’s no longer a grind to get them to click on things, to engage with things, to reply to your post, to buy your products, because you have it. It’s just a matter of earning their trust in the first place and earning enough trust at scale, so that the economics make sense.

But once you have that, I mean, that’s why people with influence, celebrities, influencers, people with large Twitter accounts – Like, distribution is such a huge advantage, because then once you have it, you can kind of – you can’t sell people anything, but it no longer becomes a problem. Whereas the opposite problem is I have this thing that no one knows about. I need to get it in people’s hands.

When you have the audience, you can say, “What do these people need and what do I think that they’ll buy? Oh, let’s go build that thing and I’m just going to go give it to them.” And now, like, automatic success, right? It’s why influencers and celebrities are so successful with business ventures because they have this distribution built-in already.

Matthias: That’s right.

Keeping your ideas organised – the “Zettelkasten”

How do you keep all your ideas in a consistent and organized way? You said Swipe Files or Zettelkasten or something. Do you have a special system for that?

Corey: Yeah, I can split things between two tools, mainly. One is Roam Research. That’s where I do a lot of my like ideation, note-taking, writing, just like general project management and organization kind of stuff as well.

And then I use another tool called My Mind. And My Mind is a Chrome extension that basically allows you to save anything and everything that you find around the web, both on your computer and on your phone. And I could go to any page and click like, “Add to My Mind” and then it’ll like pop up say, “Okay, cool. It’s saved. You can add a couple of tags.”

And then later, I can reference that, and it makes it really easy to find it. So, they have a great search engine. You can search through tags that you add. Tags are also automatically applied to a lot of things based on color or what type of thing it is that you saved, whether it was like a quote or a picture or a PDF or a page that has been downloaded.

Matthias: Where does it store these things? Is it stored on the local machine, or is it stored on the web somewhere?

Corey: Yeah, on the web within sort of your mind. “Your My Mind”.

Matthias: Your My Mind,

Corey: It’s basically, you know, access My Mind or something like that.

Matthias: Okay.

Corey: And then I just have everything. And if I click on it right now, I can search for something like Twitter and now like tweets are going to pop up, articles about Twitter are going to pop up, is going to pop up, things, images about Twitter are going to pop up. And so, now I have this, you know, I can search like Twitter and I can search for something like marketing. Now, here all my marketing-related Twitter items that I’ve saved into My Mind.

So, those are the main two things; like that’s where my Swipe Files lives personally. It’s also where I just like curate and do a lot of my personal knowledge management, my Zettelkasten, if you will. And then I use a lot of that to sort of transfer into a Roam when I’m actually doing some creation.

Matthias: Hmm. I use a tool called Zettlr. It’s a German tool. I’m using the Zettelkasten method. I really like it linked. It links items and search engine on top and a git repository below, so that I can check in and compare to previous versions if I want to. Normally I don’t do that. And yeah, it helps. It really helps to me to organize.

Also, last week I discovered that I was making too much of a difference between building and marketing. I automatically kept those two separate. And this was always stressful. When I was building, I thought, “Hey, I need to do more marketing.” When I was marketing, I thought, “Hey, your existing customers are expecting new features. So, you should be more building.”

And after a while I thought, “Why do I make this big difference?”

And my current understanding is: I build a little and then talk about what I’ve built. Then I build again and I talk about what I’ve built. Well, sometimes I talk about what I’m going to build. So, building and marketing is not that much separate anymore.

And the Zettelkasten then helps me to keep my ideas focused and organized.

Corey: Yeah.

Matthias: What I really found interesting about this Zettelkasten method is that it doesn’t work with categories, but with tags and a search engine. Even in the 1950s or when was it – Oh, when I forgot his name – the inventor of the Zettelkasten method.

Corey: Err.

Matthias: Niklas Luhmann. Yeah.

Corey: Yeah.

Matthias: Niklas Luhmann. Even he worked with thousands of these “Zettel”, as he called them, the index cards. I think he had 50 thousand at the end of his life or 60 thousand.

And he said: The meaning that you carry in your brain doesn’t have categories. It’s like a big, large surface of meaning. And I found that impressive. Before, I created folders and folders and folders, and I didn’t find anything anymore. I’m thinking, lot of folders.

Corey: Right. Right.

Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly why I use Roam and My Mind, because they’re both like graph-based sort of databases. And I guess like the way that you discover them is not through folders; it is through graphs and connections between ideas and searches for sort of bits and pieces of these things, so you can sort of grasp onto them.

And so, yeah, I think it’s huge! I mean, I’m that exact same way. Even, for example, when I was first curating a lot of the original Swipe Files material for the teardowns, you know, I’d go and grab screenshots, then I’d break the screenshots up. And then, you know, at first, I categorized them by emails and ads and landing pages. And that works fairly well, but then I would now have like 20 different categories of like emails ads, landing pages. And then it’s like, “Okay, well what type of ad and then like what type of email, what type of landing page?”

Matthias: Ah, okay.

Corey: And then like soon you’d get like this an immense amount of complexity. And then within each one of those, there’s even like subcategories, right?

Matthias: Right.

Corey: And so, if I wanted to find one thing, I have to like follow this deep rabbit hole, trying to follow my own train of thought. Whereas I could just search “competitor comparison page” and then I would just go directly to it.

So, I really like the graphical-based kind of decentralized approach to knowledge management.

Matthias: That’s right. I like that, too.

When you think about your future, what do you think? One year, two years from now, what do you want to achieve in 2021, for example?

Corey: Yeah, great question.

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was 19 and then I finally sort of started taking some of the steps of that about a year and a half ago. And went full time sort of “for myself” in September of 2020.

And Swipe Files was kind of like this first big bet of mine where I think that by the end of the year, I had this public “1000 true fans” kind of experiment where I’m trying to get a thousand true fans, a thousand paid members, for Swipe Files, and that would fully sustain me. And it’s like my kind of like goal to also just test Kevin Kelly’s original idea of a thousand true fans that anyone can make a living with a thousand true fans.

Matthias: Yeah, awesome.

Corey: And from there, that would really unlock my time and sort of finances to be able to work on, anything and everything I wanted to. It could be software and SaaS businesses, it could be more additional things for Swipe Files, it could be things completely unrelated, a YouTube channel; I have no idea. But definitely, my first big step is the 1000 true fans for Swipe Files. And so, that’s like the main thing on top of mind.

Matthias: Wow. I wish you very, very much success with it.

Corey: All right, thank you.

Matthias: I hope you will become so independent as you think. You’re an independent thinker. And so, yeah, it should all be independent as well.

Corey: Yeah.

The scary part is sharing it openly. So, I have And I have the count of the members and also my MRR (monthly recurring revenue). I might add some other ones in there additionally later, but everyone can go and follow along if they want to and see the progress.

Matthias: Very cool.

Cory, it has been a really good session today. I was so happy to have you here. And as I said, I wish you much success and maybe we’ll see each other again in the community.

Corey: Absolutely. Yeah.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s fun for me. Appreciate you offering. And glad to chat and hopefully it was helpful!


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