Jeff Bullas, Founder at Jeffbullas.com joins Hammad Akbar in this episode of Launch Legends Podcast
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Hey Jeff, thank you for being on the show. So I don't think I need to introduce you too much. Let me just revise that anyway. So, among the top 20 influencers from Forbes, top 10 influencer, number one global digital marketing influencer 2016, and the list goes on. So, we would talk about how you guys got there but before that I read something about your winning team, when you first started you used to wake up at 4 30 in the morning, and used to work from five o'clock in the morning till nine o'clock, where you were just researching and making content.
And that's something I'm trying to do myself. I have a morning routine where as soon as I wake up in the morning, I spend a couple of hours just researching and coming up with great ideas before I speak to my team and actually get going with the day to day. So let's talk about that. How did that go and how did that actually start?
Yeah. Well when I started the blog in 2009 which is 11 years ago, now it seems like just yesterday but also it seems like a long time ago and that was when social media was just starting out. Really. Facebook only had 50 million users. So the idea came out of a book The New Rules Of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.
And he talked about a new concept, which is creating online content to actually start or grow a business. So I decided to test that insight about the power of content in a digital world. And so in March 2009, observing people's obsession with social media, I started writing about social media, my observations about it.
So yeah. Just before I started, I actually wasn't working. So, when I started a day job and that started at nine to five or six. And, the only time I had to crack content was to get up early. So for four years when I was working for that company, I got up at 4:30 AM, and was at my desk by 5 15.
And just started creating content. So I research, read, write, craft and then promote, send out the emails, send them out on social media, send it out on Twitter. So in those four years I created a lot of content and that's when Google was more organic, Facebook was organic. I got that time was great. Because back then the algorithms were working for the content creators, you know, without paying for it.
Whereas today that's changed quite a lot as the big platform starts to charge you to reach your audience. So, the routine was very much one of getting content and being consistent in the crash. And so essentially I was getting out five blog posts a week for four years. And did it work?
Absolutely. So I learned a lot and by reading and writing about the whole confusion of what was happening in social media. Writing for me was a great way to still that noise and information overload into something simple like 600, 700 words every day, because when you're writing, you try to put it into a structure to make sense to many people as possible because you gotta put yourself in the reader’s shoes going kind of write something, get a message across.
Will it be interesting? Will it be clear? Will it have clarity? Will it have simplicity? Will it have structure? So that's what the routine was. And then it was the day job. So the routine is a bit different now because I've got myself slowly fired by that job, because I was ended up speaking overseas and, I started to actually take leave without pay from the company that sort of said to me, well, you are not really that interested in selling our stuff because I was selling, you know, websites and e-commerce stores and running workshops for them.
And I went, we're going to cut you down to three days a week, Jeff and I said, Oh really? So then they cut me down to two and then, eventually they basically put me on as a contractor running workshops a couple of few hours a week. So I sort of got side busy and distracted with my own passion project, which was Jeffbullas.com, I got myself slowly fired.
So, when I finished up, it was ready as a business. Already had revenue. So it was a side hustle and I think it's the lowest risk business I've ever started. And here we are still today. So yeah.
So let's go back. So how long were you in that routine before?
Well, yes, yes.
Four years. So, I was on a mission. I'm sort of trying to tap. It was almost like tapping into an energy source. I don't know where it came from, but I was on a mission. And as I said in the blues brothers movie on mission from God, but a mission was just to, I suppose, I saw the power of social media to get your voice out to the world. And I saw how that could be done and learnt along the way. And, and it worked. And, and yeah, I liked the attention too. I started getting invited to speak all around the world and people pay me to speak and it was just amazing.
If you'd told me 11 years ago, that that would have happened. I would have it. The actuality went way beyond my wildest dreams in terms of what, what happened. So it was a burning, passionate purpose. And, it came out of my reading and then came out of the writing and then came out of the experimentation.
So, Jeff let's go back. When you said you were doing that thing for four years, you were writing five blogs a week. How long before during those four years you started this thing that you see real traction.
I suppose six to nine months in social media examiner sort of put me on the list, I was a finalist for one of the top social media influencers, creators, blogs on the planet.
And then we were actually put on the list by a social media examiner a year later. So about six to nine months in, we started to get traction and, it was about a year in that I got invited to go to New Zealand and do my first paid speaking gig, ran a workshop for Johnny Hendrickson and it's basically a golf resort just outside Christchurch.
So six to nine months I was relentless. I essentially was writing a lot, promoting a lot, building my Twitter following, and also quite often in business. One of the major factors, the major factor in business for success is timing. So I ended up with the start of social media and also the rise of the democratization of the smartphone, the iPhone.
So this was a perfect storm. And also it was a time when you could get organic reach and build authority quickly across social media and on Google. And as we know today, there's so much more noise and it's really, really hard to cut through noise. So we're moving from organic into the world of getting paid digital advertising to get attention. Organic is hard to do unless you're a celebrity.
Right. So let's go back to the first six months. There's a blueprint for building a profile online. A lot of people have done it but back then it was not that big. Not many people were doing it. What kept you going for the first six months?
How did you know that it was going to work or you were just passionate.
It was just passion. And, I saw my website numbers start to increase or so my Twitter followers started to increase and what I loved about social media was that it was the wild West where you actually were like meeting your tribe from all around the world.
People that were as passionate, as interested in social media as you were. And I remember I was writing at night for a while until I switched to the early morning routine, and I could see America wake up as Twitter became busier and busier. And when I started on Twitter, there's only 5 million people on Twitter, about 330 million today.
So literally it was just I started getting feedback, reinforcing what I was doing was working. I've got some more attention. And as humans, we all have a little narcissistic streak, some have more than others, and I won't mention names, but, you know, a little bit of narcissism is good, as long as it's healthy in terms of, you know, a little bit of attention.
So I was getting some attention. It was working. So I kept going. So it was the feedback loop. And what's great about social media, especially back then was you could put information out. And you could feel people would respond. So, and then that gives you feedback and comments. So you are making your own small change to the world.
And then the people actually coming back and feeding back to you and they were changing you. So it was almost like this virtuous loop of evolution and watching what worked and what didn't as you fed content into the world on social media on blog and I could see it working.
So I was encouraged and I doubled down. I said, God, I really want this to go somewhere and I said, I can really make something out of this and that's what happened.
So I'm going back to the days, like you said, wild West, when things were quite wide open, where you can build something very quickly.
And the feedback was very quick as well. Now there's lots of noise. There's a lot going on. If you were to start doing the same thing all over again, how would you do it?
The way I do it today would be to start a blog. I would still create content, but then I think you'd have to really work double down on getting that content out through influencers.
You'd have to get good at doing Facebook targeted advertising, maybe using Facebook video ads. Then you would need to repurpose content as well. And that's part of what I've doubled down on recently was I launched the Jeff Bullas Show podcast, just in March and recording the video and audio as well.
And then after that, you can turn that into a podcast transcript using rev.com. So you can end up repurposing, creating a lot of content quickly. And also the competition. So the competition in podcasting isn't as strong because podcasting is, well, it was 10 years old, whereas there are 1 billion bloggers on the planet. So podcasting for me would be a place I'd recommend for people to get involved with. The challenge with podcasting is that it's not as easy to do as just writing a blog post because there's a lot of moving parts, the sound quality, video quality you've got to have editing done and then you've got to repurpose all the content.
Put off in the podcast for three or four years, what would I do?
You gotta create content. You gotta work out a media format that I think you're comfortable with, and that can be video. It could be audio, it'd be relentless. And then you've got to be really good at distributing. So it's really just two things. Number one is creating the content. Number two is content distribution and a lot of the models early on were, start creating giveaway a lot of content for free, build an audience and then work out how to make money out of it.
So, and essentially it hasn't changed. It's just more difficult to, you just, and as we all know, we're now battling the algorithms of Facebook and Twitter, that will just remove your visibility because they want you to pay. Yeah. That's their model. So you can't fight city hall. You've really got to double down and get smarter at paid, digital marketing and advertising.
Great. Okay. So my question there is that okay, fine. Starting a podcast is a great thing. I'm doing the same thing as well. It's hard you actually have to get those people to actually come and talk to you as well. That's okay, too. But even then there's so much content being created at this point where it's very hard to compete on noise.
Is there any other way maybe targeting different audiences or untap audiences?
I think that too, you've got to experiment with a whole range of things, yeah, people like Neil Patel, basically he got the resources to actually get a lot of his blogs translated into different languages, but everyone has not got those resources.
Then there's basically guest writing for other influences or people that are authorities in your space. I think it's really important to pick a niche that is actually in growth. I think that's really important. There's less competition and I think Mark Greenwich is actually really important as well.
So yes, there's incredible noise. It is difficult to do but you have to be relentless and you really need to be multichannel in your distribution and also in your media content creation. So you've just got to experiment the whole range of distribution channels. And also when you find ones that work has doubled down on those.
Yeah. I think the main thing is just keep going. That's probably the best advice you can give to someone. Just keep doing it. Eventually. It’s gonna work. It might be harder.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's harder, but that's the reality. Persistence is very, very important and you speak to any entrepreneur and you'd been through the journey of what you've told me about, you know, the startups you've been through. it's just relentless persistence and picking yourself up when you hit a roadblock. And, essentially you just gotta keep going and keep testing, throw a lot of stuff against the wall. See what works, what sticks.
And so it's not all going to work. In fact, a lot of it won't. I think what's also important is to be passionate about the area you're in, because to keep going you need that energy to get you out of bed to keep you going each day. So, I think a passionate purpose is really, really important.
So If someone is listening to this and then they're going to build an audience as well. Just by the way, how much traffic do you get on your website?
We get around about 5 million visitors a year.
How many Twitter followers?
We've got about 650K, something like that.
So it might have been someone who's listening to this and it's like, okay, I want to get to that level in a year's time. And, He starts doing what you were saying that you should be consistent with the content, keep producing original content and just trying out different distribution channels, but then he’s thinking, okay, how do I make money off a little bit?
How did you start to make money?
I started to get paid for speaking, so that was the first revenue stream. Then, I experimented doing consulting and I realized I don't really enjoy this. Also the problem with consulting is it's hard to scale. So, the next step after that was as we have identified as being an influencer in my industry and digital marketing and social media marketing and digital entrepreneurship in that way.
We did campaigns, especially for a lot of software as a service type companies globally, to reach the small to medium business owners, because that's our audience. And then we'd boost that with paid Facebook video ads that we've discovered well over the years, also using social media distribution channels, our email list, Facebook messenger. So then the other thing we're doubling down now is on the Jeff Bullas show podcast is to actually have some more fun.
And I think the other important thing I love about the podcast is the relationships you have after sitting down with them for a while, you know, 40 minute chat, whatever 30 minutes, an hour chat and just enjoying the relationships that are being built out of that. And as we all know, happiness comes out of good relationships and also relationships are basically where business success rises from as well. And so happiness comes from human relationships after you had a certain amount of money, then you won't be happy because you had more money you're happy because you got better relationships.
You're right. I mean, starting the podcast is probably one of the first best things I've done in my career. The kind of people I've been able to talk to, it's just amazing. And you just learn so much just by talking to them and then you're right. You build a relationship and then you just keep talking to them off after the podcast as well.
It's great for building relationships. Great for creating content. Initially, it's win-win. So for you as a podcast host, It's a win for the guests where, you know, as the podcast host, you promote them and then it's a win for the audience.
So I don't see anything that's better than this when it comes to creating content. So that's good.
So for us, it's a term that's used for podcasts, especially doing guest interviews is actually called the Oprah effect is where you shine a light on someone else. It's all about the guest. And then we actually then boost the attention. So we created a YouTube channel, which we record and video as well.
And we boost that and we're getting most of our videos now since we started the channel and boosting it, 5,000 plus views. So guests are really happy because we give them attention. We're shining a light on them and then building a relationship as well. It's very cool.
I'm having a ball doing the Jeff Bullas show, we're learning a lot still. But the agony of putting together initially all the moving parts is now a process. And as we know, Whether you're a startup or you are just solid business, processes and procedures and systems become absolutely core and key.
So one last question. You gave some great advice. What's one advice you would give to someone who's just starting out or who is struggling in the beginning?
Number one, work out why you want to do what you want to do and your passionate purpose is going to be the intersection of both your experience, your expertise and innate ability.
I think you've got to start with that. if you're going to head out and just to make money, I think that's a tough gig and I've started businesses just to make money, and I'll pick the trends. Right. But for me, make sure we've got a passionate purpose.
Number two, business is always a team game and you will have to do most of the stuff yourself early, but after that, then you need to put in place systems and persist. and yeah, I work on the business not just in it.
All right, Jeff, Thank you very much. Thank you for being on the show and I hope to see you again.
Thank you. It's been an absolute pleasure.