Paxton Gray: Take Your Content Strategy and SEO to the Next Level

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We all want our businesses to be successful, so the importance of effective content strategy and an eye towards SEO are decidedly important. As 97th Floor’s Executive Vice President of Operations, Paxton Gray knows a thing or two about both. In this interview, Paxton shares some great tips on optimizing your content strategy and how and when to focus on SEO. 

Should SEO Be Your Main Goal?

Paxton explains that link-building is still an important and effective part of SEO. Links are important to outreach. He goes on to explain that there is an abundance of data that shows that pages rank well when they have good links pointing back to them. 

However, a couple years ago, he and his team learned that the particulars of SEO may not necessarily be the most important thing to focus on. It’s far more important to focus on quality content. His team was using a bunch of data to determine what they should write about in order to give their pages a good ranking. Makes sense, right? And it did work. The pages ranked. However, because they were so focused on SEO, there wasn’t nearly enough focus on developing quality content.

While getting your pages to rank will attract people, showing them quality content will incite action. In fact, as long as you’ve got well-formatted title tags and good user experience, it is much better to focus on the content than on SEO.

Developing Great Content

One great way to come up with some great content is to care about the user. Focus on what it is the user is looking for and expecting to see when they visit your page.

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.

Carefully consider how you provide them with what it is they’re looking for. Content for the sake of content isn’t going to be helpful. Make sure your content is helpful and relevant. The last thing you want is for a potential customer or client to have their intelligence insulted by content that’s nothing more than fluff. Think about who your typical user is and good content will follow. Especially if you’re a solopreneur who is just starting out, focus on what you can give your clients to make their lives better. Building a fan base this way is a much better investment of your time than figuring out SEO.

Hire Some Help

For additional guidance, as you grow, consider hiring a consultant you trust to do a quick once-over for you. Then, when you’re in the market for an agency, compare what they say to what your consultant said. 

Marketing Automation: An Effective Tool

If you’re a medium-sized business and you have at least one or two people on your marketing team, Paxton suggests you get into marketing automation. Marketing automation is taking the “one-to-many” approach of advertising and making it feel like the “one-to-one” approach of sales — tools such as chat bots and emails.

If you don’t, you’re probably not making as much money as you could. But make sure you’re doing it right. Marketing automation done wrong is a quick way to make your business look really bad. Effective marketing automation is a lot more like computer programming than content marketing. 

Lastly, good content is really all about telling a great story. Focus on telling an interesting and captivating story when promoting your brand and building your fan base. 

As long as you can tell a good story, you will be successful in marketing and in business.

We also recommend: 

 

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam force. And if you missed last week’s episode, it’s with Heather Dominick. Can we talk about how to scale your business as a highly sensitive entrepreneur? Really great conversation. So check that out when you get a chance. And today we’re gonna be talking with Paxton Gray. He’s the Executive Vice President of Operations at 97th Floor. And he covers all kinds of work that the agency produces for clients like Discover, ESPN, Salesforce, you name it. He’s full of incredible insights when it comes to marketing and digital work like content strategies, SEO and all that good stuff. So you guys are going to learn a lot. And we’re going to have a really fun conversation with Paxton today, which we’re going to jump into right now. Keeping this intro short and sweet today.

Announcer 0:58
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 1:03
Hey, Paxton, welcome to the change, greater podcast show how you doing today?

Paxton Gray 1:07
I’m doing great. How are you?

Adam Force 1:08
I’m doing awesome, man. You know, another day, another dollar living life. You know, you have so much cool experience. And I just I actually I really liked the name 97th Floor as well. So why don’t you just tell us what you are doing today? Not today, specifically, but like what’s going on in your world at this time? And where you’re at?

Paxton Gray 1:32
Yeah, yeah. So I I’ve been here at 97th Floor for six years. We’ve been around as an agency for 14. And, you know, we focused primarily on on digital marketing. And so that’s, that’s where my head is thinking, you know, how do we leverage all the different platforms and, and tools within the digital space to get results? So yeah, that’s that’s kind of where I’m living what I’m working on trying to help grow 97th Floor to be even bigger than it is.

Adam Force 2:00
Awesome. Awesome. I am curious, you know — actually, that triggers a number of questions. But before we get into it, you know, what got you into the marketing space, what led you to 97th Floor, just a little background would be helpful and know where you’re coming from?

Paxton Gray 2:14
Yeah, so I studied advertising, actually, at a university here in Utah. And my plan was always to go work at the big sexy New York advertising agency. You know, that’s kind of where I wanted to end up at Ogilvy or shy day. I mean, those aren’t in New York, but yeah, you know what I’m saying. So that’s kind of my plan. And I started looking around for internships in New York and Chicago. And then I, you know, I also got engaged around that same time to a girl that hates the idea of living in a big city. Like, her ideal is to like, go have a bunch of horses and live on a giant ranch. So I stopped looking for internships in New York and Chicago, because she didn’t want to go there. And instead, I looked for places around here in Utah. And I found this company called 97th Floor. And I was like, that sounds like the big sexy New York agency I wanted to work at, you know, so I applied and it, anyway, so I start working at 97th Floor and back then it wasn’t even close to being you know, that big, sexy giant agency. It was a very small shop at the time. I think I was like employee number 12. And I realized, however, that if I could — like, this agency has potential, like, really cool services, the market is growing really well, awesome talent. And if I stuck it out, and I worked my butt off, I could maybe turn it into the big sexy agency that I always wanted to work at. And, you know, I don’t think we’re 100% there. You know, we’re still growing. But you know, we have an office out in San Francisco, hopefully in a couple years will be out in New York as well. So we’re getting in there.

Adam Force 4:00
Excellent. Excellent. And so my question would be, are you actually on the 97th Floor?

Paxton Gray 4:07
No, we’re not. The tallest building in Utah, I think, is 36 floors. So it’s not on the 97th floor.

Adam Force 4:18
Cool, cool. Cool. Yeah. So do you know where the name came from?

Paxton Gray 4:23
Yeah. So when our founder — so, we started 14 years ago, this September, and back then it was just our founder, you know, he was kind of running a one man show. And he wanted to give it like an LA and New York type vibe. And I believe he was planning on calling it the 100th Floor. And his wife said, yeah, that doesn’t sound very good. Like, doesn’t roll off the tongue 97 rolls off the tongue way better than 100.

Adam Force 4:48
Yeah.

Paxton Gray 4:49
And so he’s like, all right, check for the domain name. It was available, and boom, that was it.

Adam Force 4:54
Awesome. That’s cool.

That’s cool. So when you got there, I mean, what what was going on at the time? Like, can you describe for us the environment there? And what you guys were working on?

Paxton Gray 5:06
Yeah. So it was very much and still is about results. You know, we’re always focused on how do we get results for clients, not just how do we make a ton of money? Or how do we just get hours to bill. All of our contracts are based off of results. And so that leads into like a very scrappy, innovative testing type culture. And that’s kind of what I walked into, kind of anything went as long as it works. So there was no bad ideas, or just experiment trying new things. And so there are some areas, we were a little rough around the edges. But by and large, you know, we just, we were really good at getting the job done. And that’s kind of been our focus always is just getting the job done.

And so that’s kind of what I walked into. There was a time — in fact, it’s kind of a funny story — it was my third week there. We were using a couple different tools sets. And I won’t bother you with particulars. But I found this weird loophole and how to use a couple of tools with each other to get some really cool results. And it was working really well. But it ended up getting — like, I didn’t realize that we were being billed for all this — these API calls that we were making on this one tool. And we got a bill from this tool for, I guess, $6500. So with my third week there, I was like, boom, I was a huge liability.

Adam Force 6:27
You’re welcome!

Paxton Gray 6:29
Yeah. But our CEO, I mean, to his credit, it’s like, Hey, man, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about testing and trying things. And I love that you’re experimenting. So that to me cemented in the idea of nothing’s, you know, nothing’s not worth trying.

Adam Force 6:42
Yeah. Now, that’s pretty cool. So yeah, so it was just some kind of like marketing stuff you were trying to pull off? or What was it?

Paxton Gray 6:51
Yeah. So back then, we did a lot of link building, which if you’re familiar with SEO, you know, links are important for ranking. And I was doing some outreach. And I discovered, well, we had one tool that allowed us to find the email addresses for editors and publishers.

Adam Force 7:11
Yeah.

Paxton Gray 7:11
And then we had another tool that allowed us to scrape all the backlinks of our competitors. And so I figured out that I could scrape all the backlinks of our competitors, get get thousands and thousands of URLs, and then stuff all those URLs into this other tool that was basically an email scraper. So I could walk away with, you know, 20,000 email addresses of publishers, and editors, and then I could just hit them up just all day. And what I didn’t realize is that the email scraper charged per scrape. And so when I stuffed 20,000 URLs into it, we got a giant bill, but it worked out that way. We got it. I got good results. And…

Adam Force 7:50
Right, so you got the return on it.

Paxton Gray 7:51
Yeah, we got the return. Just a little unexpected costs there.

Adam Force 7:56
Yeah, but that’s pretty cool. So like, what was your role when you started there?

Paxton Gray 8:01
So my role when I started was SEO marketer. So I basically got doing the link building, doing optimizations, kind of doing all the legwork for SEO.

Adam Force 8:12
And how have you been seeing now the evolution of the marketing space? You know, we’re talking, we got a lot of entrepreneurs listening here. And obviously, marketing is a very important part of any business. And I’m just curious from your experience, you know, we’ll just tap into the SEO conversation for a minute. Just how you see things changing, like, do you still focus on, you know, link building? Or how is the dynamic changed in your mind over the years?

Paxton Gray 8:40
Yeah, so link building is still an important part of SEO, we have oodles and oodles of data that show that pages that have good links pointing back to them do rank well, so it’s still a big part of the algorithm. It’s gotten a lot more complex than it was back when I started 11 years ago, for sure. Like back then we were keyword stuffing and putting words and meta keyword tags and all that good stuff.

But these days, you know, I think as long as you have your bases covered, and your you got your title tags, great, and they’re formatted well, and you’ve got good user experience, I think it’s much better to focus on the content, necessarily, than the particulars of SEO. Now, something that we learned a couple of years ago, there’s a system called TFIDF, the term frequency inverse document frequency analysis, where essentially, you are using a bunch of data to figure out what you should write the page about to give it the best shot of ranking as possible.

And it was working. Like, we could get these pages to rank. However, we were so focused on the content being formatted to rank well, and not focused enough on the content actually being good.

Adam Force 9:54
Exactly. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 9:56
So we’ve made a pretty big pivot over the past couple years into, hey, that’s still good to know. But primarily, what we want is great content that is going to actually incite action once a user visits and reads, rather than just merely attracting eyeballs. Because you attract eyeballs, and it’s not good content, that’s not good for your brand. That’s not that’s that’s a waste, right? So, yeah, so I’d say, from an SEO perspective, like still know what you’re doing, still, I would say consult a professional, get people involved, because you can make some pretty serious mistakes that will cost you a lot of money. But then beyond that, I think it’s really important to focus on the content, the message and the user experience once they actually come down.

Adam Force 10:38
Yeah, you know, we, my co founder is really into the SEO stuff and knows it well. Thank God, because I have no idea. And it’s not where my brain goes, right? You know, we think about our titles and stuff, but it is really thinking, like you said, it’s like, Who is this for? And what purpose does it really serve? And, you know, like, what are they getting out of it. So as long as it really speaks to them, and then she’s always like, at least have a good title in there. That can help rank and get get noticed. Because you want to, you know, you want to get picked up by by Google. And we do get like a pretty good high value on the worth of our our content. So it does make a difference. And interestingly enough, like we were running a Facebook campaign to sell one of our programs. And as people came in, on the early days, I would reach out and say, hey, how did you find us and talk to them. And I was hoping it was our Facebook strategy. And it was always the content marketing that was bringing people in. So content wins, man.

Paxton Gray 11:40
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there’s so many articles out there that will tell you that the market is just over saturated. And it’s not worth the investment to do content marketing, because you have to do so much to stand out. And I, you know, all the data that they pulled it say, hey, the internet is growing by 15 million pages a day, the vast majority of those pages are just computer generated pages that will never be seen by anybody. And the other half are just a bunch of crap articles that were written by people who don’t care about the user. I don’t think it’s, I mean, I think it’s definitely worth the investment to have some good content. Like, I got an iPad recently, and I was like searching for some cool creative things to do with an iPad. And so I searched for that on Google. And I can’t tell you, like, the vast majority of them said things like buy a screen protector, get get a cover for your iPad, it’s like, Dude, are you serious? Like you don’t think I’ve just thought about that already. Like, you clearly don’t care about me. You’re just trying to get my views so that your ads, you can get some ad revenue.

Adam Force 12:38
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I saw it all the time, too. Yep. Agree. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 12:43
Yeah. So just caring about the user. And, you know, keyword research is something that is used by SEO and PPC, very heavily, for obvious reasons. But it’s not used enough by content marketing. And Google is that special tool in our lives that we ask questions from Google that we don’t ask anybody else.

And so that query data that you can get from Google is so important from a content perspective, because if you see people are asking this question over and over and over again, let’s give this some great content to answer that question, let’s help make their lives better. And that will attract an audience and develop really good brand relationship. And hopefully, people will get into the funnel and convert, you know, rather than just saying, like, hey, let’s use this keyword research to so they can rank like, pick some keywords, the high volume keywords to rank for.

Adam Force 13:32
Yeah, exactly.

Paxton Gray 13:33
Which has its place it has its merits, but using it, like looking at that data from a content marketing perspective, I think is is really valuable.

Adam Force 13:41
Okay, and are there any tools you would recommend that people may want to check out to help support, you know, their efforts in in that journey?

Paxton Gray 13:50
Yeah. So there’s lots of lots of cool tools around. Ahrefs has some really great data on keywords. My favorite is Spyfu. And the reason I love spyfu because it’s actually built for PPC kind of intelligence, but they have this organic part of the site. And the data is just so fast. And Spyfu is so cheap. So if you’re, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re trying to decrease the cost of your marketing stacks Spyfu is a great way to do it. It’s only I think it’s like 30 bucks a month. And they have really great data really fast and gives you everything you need.

Adam Force 14:27
Cool.Yeah, isn’t it because Ahrefs is we use Ahrefs, but it’s pretty expensive, isn’t it? I don’t remember how much it is every month.

Paxton Gray 14:33
Yeah, it is. I mean, it they have different levels, but it’s definitely more and more expensive than Spyfu.

Adam Force 14:39
Yeah, yeah.

Paxton Gray 14:40
And then beyond that, I actually have a template that is built for use with Spyfu to where you can kind of run some data, export it and then shove all that data into a template. And it will sort through all of it for you and find the best keyword opportunities. Because it kind of allows you to sort through, you know, 40,000 rows of data in 10 minutes, as opposed to one by one. So it’s a really cool template that I can share with your users. I have a URL I can give you afterwards.

Adam Force 15:13
I mean, is it like, do you have to be some kind of super user to figure it out?

Paxton Gray 15:18
No, I actually, within that template, I also have, there’s a link to a YouTube video where I can walk everybody through how to use it. So yeah, so I teach a course actually, university around here. And it’s intro to SEO and analytics, and I teach them that exact same process for keyword research. And so I’ve taught a lot. So it’s very, very easy. Anybody can do it.

Adam Force 15:42
So you know, one question I, you know, as we think about being entrepreneurs, and building up our marketing and stuff, you know, you got to pick and choose where you’re spending your time. And I mean, would you recommend like, Hey, you should have some basic understanding of these thing and these tools. You might be a small team. So you guys are like you wear multiple hats. But do you I have noticed to like it can be really tough when you try to bring on somebody, there’s a lot of like swindlers in the SEO space. And yeah, any advice on like, Is it worth hiring people? Or should you kind of get basic knowledge yourself?

Paxton Gray 16:17
I think it depends on what stage you’re at. So if you’re the solopreneur kind of stage, you’re just doing it by yourself, I think it’s far more valuable to just focus on your audience and focus on what do they need? And what kind of what can I give them to make their lives better. And in that way, build a good audience and build a fan base, that’s going to be way better investment of your time thanfiguring out the ins and outs of SEO. And then, you know, once you’ve gone past that stage, and you have some more time on your hands to focus towards marketing, I think it would be a good idea to learn, learn the basics, but just enough so you don’t get swindled, you know, and I think a really great way to dip your toe into it is to hire a consultant that you trust, to just come in and do a real quick once over, just say what are the big things I should focus on? And then when you go out to shops, shops, some agencies compare what they say against what that consultant you said that you trust what they said, Yeah, I think that’s a really great way to save yourself some time and avoid people who are just in it for a quick buck.

Adam Force 17:19
Absolutely, yeah. When I, when I built up stuff on my own, and I didn’t know anything, I had all these articles and all this stuff going on. And then Amy came in. And she was like, man, we gotta fix this, you know, so you can end up creating more work or hurt your your site, your website’s, you know, effectiveness, if you don’t always take a little bit of time just to get a basic understanding. So I think your your flow of like where you are and what you should do, it makes a lot of good sense. That’s helpful. Yeah. Yes. So you know, as you now are you obviously you’re still doing a lot of that, is that still a big focus for you at 97th Floor at this point?

Paxton Gray 18:00
In terms of SEO?

Adam Force 18:01
Yeah. I mean, you’re right now you’re Executive Vice President, right?

Paxton Gray 18:06
Yes.

Adam Force 18:06
So you’re focused on operations. So I guess you’ve expanded far beyond just the SEO focus?

Paxton Gray 18:11
Yeah, yeah, I’m not I’m not involved too much in the day to day of SEO. But I do I mean, I do, I’m very aware of kind of what’s going on in the industry. I kind of view my job rather than the execution, my job is to keep us on the cutting edge of marketing strategies in SEO, PPC, marketing, automation and content marketing. And so I’m, you know, I’m constantly consuming media to, to kind of help spark those ideas and to test out new things. And so, yeah, I’m very aware of what’s going on the industry. But yeah, I’m not from a day to day perspective involved much.

Adam Force 18:52
Interesting. And so, you know, as far as like, so you’ve gone through a process of like, building an effective team. And I guess, you know, I like what you just mentioned, which is that, you know, you’re you’re leading into the understanding what’s cutting edge for content marketing, but also automation. So I guess I like to talk a little bit about the content, marketing automation, and what you’re seeing is going on today. And if there’s anything that we can, you know, get from your insights there, that would be cool. And then I’d like to talk about well, as we’re starting to build our teams, like, what should we be looking for around these things?

Paxton Gray 19:30
Yeah, yeah, with marketing automation. So much opportunity out there right now. And that barrier to entry is, is getting so much lower than it has ever been in the past, to where, you know, if you’re, if you’re a medium sized business, you know, if you’ve got, if you have at least one or two people in your marketing team, you should be getting into marketing automation, because if you don’t, you’re leaving a lot of a lot of money on the table.

Adam Force 19:55
Okay.

Paxton Gray 19:56
It’s also a way to quickly make your business look really bad. If you don’t do a good job with marketing animation. In a sense, you know, I used to have a much more simplistic view of marketing animation, you know, the idea of, yeah, someone comes to this page, they download an E book, they get an automated email for me, Bing, bang, boom, they become a customer. Pretty simple.

And I’ve been very corrected in terms of how simple it actually is. I mean, it can be very simple, depending on your, your sales cycle and your objectives. But marketing animation is much more akin to computer programming than it is content marketing, in my opinion. Because you have to get that logic correct. Because if you if your logic is off in terms of the flow and the automation and the triggers, then you’re going to make your business look really stupid. Even if your content is great. If you don’t, the wrong message is the wrong time. Because your logic is off. Yeah, the potential for downfall is high.

So I would say, if you’re going to dip your toe into marketing automation, and you’re going to do it yourself, keep it as simple as possible, I would recommend using HubSpot. They’re very, in terms of complexity, they’re pretty simple. They build their business off of working with this small and medium level businesses. So there’s a lot of support a lot of great content out there. But keep it really simple.

And the best thing to do, and this is true for all marketing, this is actually probably true for business and product development. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. And what what do they expect to see when they click that button? And how can you give them what they expect to see? Right?

If that’s off, then then you got to make some changes. So I think start simple and make sure that that’s true, whatever their customer expects to see. Give them that. And as long as you can keep that true, as you add more more and more complexity, then you’re gonna be good.

Adam Force 22:03
Yeah, that makes sense. And can you just define for people, when you say automation, I have a number of things, it could be a chatbot experience, it could be an email sales sequence with behavioral marketing. How were you looking at it.

Paxton Gray 22:19
Yeah, loosely defined marketing automation is, you know, the difference between sales and marketing is sales is one to one. And marketing is one to many. Or I should say like advertising is one to many. Marketing automation, is trying to take that one to many approach and make it feel like it’s one to one, so that the person is getting spoken to in a way that is very customized in it and makes sense for their particular stage of interaction with your business.

So that can be through chat bots, that can be through email. Some something that people don’t do often that is actually something that’s great is calls to action on content should change dynamically, depending on what has happened before. So for example, if you have an article talking about, it doesn’t matter was talking about but it has a call to action download this this white paper. Yeah, or this ebook.

If you use marketing automation, you can have smart CTA, where if they if it knows that that person has already downloaded that ebook, then instead it says, sign up for a demo, or download this other ebook that we know you haven’t downloaded. So having smart calls to action is really simple execution and saves a lot of waste of time, you know, from asking people to do something they’ve already done, or that doesn’t make sense for their particular situation.

Adam Force 23:37
Yeah, I like that. So the personalization is definitely, you know, something that we focus on too. It’s a great point and actually the smart CTA, I haven’t actually seen that before. We use Active Campaign for, you know, our email sequencing and automations, and it’s pretty cool with their behavioral marketing. And you mentioned HubSpot. What about HubSpot do you find compelling like what are they they can you do the smart CTA with their software? What’s the difference there?

Paxton Gray 24:06
Yeah, you can if if you’ve built a CTA, through HubSpot, or the landing page through HubSpot, then you can use smart CTAs that will change…

Adam Force 24:13
Ah, ok.

Paxton Gray 24:14
Yeah. I like HubSpot a lot. It’s not something we use. We use more complex platforms typically for larger level businesses like Lexmark Animation Cycle. But for the majority of businesses, HubSpot is a great, great suite of tools.

Adam Force 24:35
Okay, that’s pretty cool. And so 97th Floor, like who’s your typical client these days? Like I actually, I’m curious to know how that’s evolved. Like, who was your client when you started? And who’s your clients now? Like, is it changed? Or you guys have the same focus?

Paxton Gray 24:50
Yeah, so our focus is primarily on more enterprise level businesses, a lot of b2b tech, and then b2c lifestyle fashion. We have a lot in that space as well. And that’s what we’ve been pretty much since I started at 97th Floor. Our background really is, in the early days, there’s a company called Omniture, not sure if you remember.

Adam Force 25:20
Yeah.

Paxton Gray 25:21
So you know, our CEO kind of was talking with Omniture and convinced them to let us do a test on one of their keywords. And back then we were doing primarily just SEO. And the test went really well, we got the keyword to I think spot one or two. And so based on that test, they hired us to do work for Omniture. And then when Omniture was acquired by Adobe, Adobe did the review of their agency and the work that we had done for Omniture and then fired their agency and hired us.

So then we started working for Adobe, and Adobe is one of those companies that people come to work for, so they can get on their resume, and they go somewhere else. So we did such good work for Adobe that as people came and went, they brought us with them. And so we kind of spread over to the companies that their marketing team went to after they left Adobe. And so largely, the growth of 97th Floor has been organic and based off based on the work that we do, not based off of really great marketing of our own brands, you know, our sales team is really small.

And especially in comparison to our fulfillment, I think on fulfillment, fulfillment, we have probably 80 people and our sales team is three people. So we rely pretty heavily on word of mouth. Like our clients, you know, we used to do SEO for our own brand. And that’s just like, the people that we’re trying to talk to they don’t go to Google when they’re searching for their agency.

Adam Force 26:44
Right.

Paxton Gray 26:46
They ask their connections, you know, what’s an agency I should use? And so we work on trying to be that agency that people recommend.

Adam Force 26:53
Okay. Yeah. And so when you I guess I’m curious, because I always see people trying to start their own, you know, agencies and stuff like that. And I think you know, it is that immediate Rolodex that can really get you off the ground, but like, sooner or later, the Rolodex runs dry, and you’ve kind of gone through it, and you got to start picking up cold leads.

Have you guys. And I know you mentioned referrals now, and you guys are obviously well established. But there must have been a time where you had to get new clients that were cold. And I’m curious if there was, if anything stands out to you on how you guys approach that?

Paxton Gray 27:29
Yeah, referrals still represents the majority of the leads that come through today. Okay. But other things that we’ve tried, we’ve, we’ve run some ads on LinkedIn. Not a lot of success there. Just the cost is pretty high and hard to get down. We’ve run some ads on Facebook and Instagram, surprisingly, with a lot of success. Yeah, we actually just did a survey of a lot of clients and the vast majority are pretty active on Instagram, which isn’t something I would have guessed.

Adam Force 28:03
That’s interesting. Especially clients that you go after, like the enterprise clients. Yeah,

Paxton Gray 28:08
Yeah, you kind of think they’d be a little bit more maybe boring or more business focused. But everyone loves Instagram, everybody loves those pictures so I guess yeah, so it’s been Instagram has been pretty successful for us. So that’s what I would recommend trying out if you want to run some ads.

Adam Force 28:22
Yeah, we’re big fans of Facebook and Instagram and obviously they tie together there and really powerful marketing tool like just just really smart and the depth you can take it for, you know, really getting niche is and retargeting and all that stuff is pretty cool.

Paxton Gray 28:41
Yeah, yeah. Lookalike Audience is awesome, too.

Adam Force 28:44
Ah, yeah. And you know, like we and I love that they let you you know, retarget so you could do like a video sequence where, you know, did they watch, you know, 75% or 95% of that last video? I’m going to retarget those people.

Paxton Gray 28:56
Yeah, yeah. There’s other agency that I I saw, I watched one of their videos, and now I just get their videos all the time. Like, I’m definitely in their cycle of videos.

Adam Force 29:07
Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s funny, I watched. I don’t know, if you saw this documentary, you probably find it fascinating. It was The Great Hack on Netflix.

Paxton Gray 29:16
I saw it as my things to watch, but I haven’t watched it.

Adam Force 29:23
My god, it’s been one of these things that I’ve been talking about recently, because I just saw it. So I’m bringing it up here. A little off topic. But it’s interesting, to say the least. And you know that my wife and I sometimes we’ll be talking about something. And then next, you know, she’ll be looking at like Facebook, 20 minutes later, she’s like, swear to god, these microphones. They’re listening to us through these microphones, because I didn’t go to this website. But now I see the ad.

And I’m like, that is interesting. Because I know, the Facebook machine. And I know someone so I was watching this movie. And you know, these companies that Cambridge Analytica, they’re like, here’s what the said like, have you ever had the experience where, you know, you think your microphone is listening to you? And next thing, you know, you see this ad and I was like, holy shit, this is what we were just talking about.

And like, well, that’s not actually what’s happening. What’s happening is we have so much personality data about you that they can predict like, what you like want to talk what you’re going to be talking about and what you’re thinking about. And so all of a sudden, you’re getting served these things that are just predictive ads.

Paxton Gray 30:27
That’s creepy, man. That’s trippy. Yeah, I think we’re getting to a point where technology is just outpacing the capacity of the human brain to think, frankly.

Adam Force 30:38
Oh, yeah.

Paxton Gray 30:40
This kind of stuff is going to happen more and more. And, you know, in aggregate, we’re pretty predictable beings. And as long as you have enough data, and it’s the right data, you can kind of guess what we’re going to be doing next.

Adam Force 30:52
And that is scary, that is creepy because you know what, with what the whole point of this documentary was, they were showing, like so much data is being used without your consent to do things that we will never understand. Like, they basically Cambridge Analytica came out and they’re like, yeah, we made Brexit happen. We made Donald Trump happen, and they explained how it worked and what they did. And when you see it, you’re just like, Whoa, did not even have a clue about that.

Paxton Gray 31:20
That’s crazy, man. Yeah, I gotta check that out. I gotta check that out.

Adam Force 31:24
Oh, yeah, it’s definitely worth it. I think you would really be fascinated by it. And now it’s just like, so what is real anymore? What is being mass manipulated? And what’s actually real?

Paxton Gray 31:35
Yeah, I mean, I, there’s so many times when I’m on even LinkedIn, like on LinkedIn. Oh, man, this is going to get into a weird story. But it’s like sometimes I’ll see this debate that’s raging on LinkedIn. And I’ll follow someone down the rabbit hole and be like, I’m pretty sure this is a fake account. Like they’re not endorsed by anybody. They don’t have any experience or anything that seems like this is a real profile. They’re just like stirring stuff up.

Adam Force 32:02
Yeah.

Paxton Gray 32:03
Yeah, pretty crazy. We actually at 97th Floor we have a day called Black Hat day that we do every Halloween. But it’s the week before Halloween. And basically everyone brings their like dirtiest sneakiest online trick that they can figure out, you know, not with the idea that we’re never going to actually do it at 97th Floor. But I think it keeps people sharp and kind of aware of like what is possible out there when you have the right sets of data.

Adam Force 32:29
Oh, yeah.

Paxton Gray 32:30
My hack last year was to create a fake LinkedIn profile. And made her a recruiter at Ogilvy. And so she’s connected with CEOs all over the United States. And yeah, it’s crazy. And it’s just like a total fake account. I pulled two images, and I combine them to make a profile image. And then I just pulled pieces of other people’s experience and made this fake profile. It looks super legit. And because she’s a recruiter, like people hit her up and connect with her, like all every day, I get like 10 to 20 LinkedIn requests for profiles bigger than my profile. Yeah, it’s nuts. I was I was just playing around like, I wasn’t, I don’t do anything with it. It just exists.

Adam Force 33:09
Sure, sure!

Paxton Gray 33:12
As for to do something like that was easy. It was easy to build that up.

Adam Force 33:17
Wow. That’s crazy. I did want to — we’ll wrap up here in a minute. I want to be respectful of your time.

Paxton Gray 33:24
No, I love this. This is awesome!

Adam Force 33:25
Okay. Yeah, well, one of the things they mentioned is like, you know, when they have this, like when they have a campaign of any kind of something going on, they will have like a whole warehouse of people who create those types of accounts. And like an instance that they were referencing here, they’re like, there was literally like a million and a half like 1.5 million budget, going at the monthly 1.5 million a month being pumped in to trolling accounts to shift and combat, like things that were going on with misinformation.

Paxton Gray 34:00
I believe it.

Adam Force 34:00
All these fake accounts are made and all these fake websites. And all this stuff is put together as a complete manipulation machine, which is — and they know like what happened, like Cambridge Analytic is like, well, we have 5000 data points on every American. And we isolated everyone that we we called “the persuadables, and they have this huge bucket of persuadables. And then they would run these crazy campaigns that would just constantly push people to believe certain things so that they would vote their way. It’s like, Oh, my God.

And yeah, like one other quick example. And I don’t want to spoil too much, but like, they would this is what really impressed me. They were in like another area for an election. And there was two different populations. And they knew one population of — and they were going after kids. And they’re like, so we can’t talk about politics because kids don’t care. But they do like to get behind movements, and they react to things. So they came up with this thing called the do this campaign.

They would make it this thing about like, oh, like, I’m not going to vote, I’m going against the man and blah, blah, blah. And so they knew that one population of kids, they would stick to it, and they wouldn’t vote and they wanted that to happen. But the other population, which was like another race, like just to be clear, they said, Well, we know that they listen to their parents, and their parents are going to tell them you better vote and they know who they’re going to vote for. So now they got the one side to not vote, and then they got the other side to vote.

Paxton Gray 35:31
Wow, wow, that’s sophisticated.

Adam Force 35:34
That’s sophisticated marketing on a very mass scale, and you don’t even know it’s happening.

Paxton Gray 35:38
I would love to see somebody start a social platform that requires like, some kind of identification. I mean, like Coinbase can do it like. Get something where it’s like, only you can have that profile and you are verified, who you say you are, and then not let anyone else in. And I think that’d be so much healthier,

Adam Force 36:01
It probably would be and I’m surprised we don’t see things like that. I’m wondering if naturally these types of things will start surfacing just because of the environmental circumstances of what’s going on.

Paxton Gray 36:11
It does seem like the market’s right for something like that.

Adam Force 36:13
Why don’t you get on that?

Paxton Gray 36:15
Yeah, we should. Yeah. It’s my next business idea.

Adam Force 36:20
You know, everybody complains about the changes, you know, Instagram makes about the way they’re running the feeds, and you know, the organic traffic on Facebook, all these things. And I’m always wondering like, well, if you want things like, where you see every post, like chronologically, right? Well, why don’t you create a platform and test that out and see, like, maybe you’ll get all those people that would much prefer to have that and no one’s doing it though.

Paxton Gray 36:43
Yeah, I think people are just scared of that. Like, I think we’re often fed that message of, you know, you want to enter a market where no one else is where you’re gonna have no competition. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the wisest thing. You know, so many people are just tired of their current selection of social media. I think there’s still room for other platforms.

Adam Force 37:04
You know what, and that’s that I think you’re 100%, right. Because at the end of the day, you always feel like it’s too saturated, too whatever but I think that when you see it over and over again, like there’s, you can someone else will start something sooner or later, and then you’ll go Oh, I guess there is I guess you can start acting out there’s always like a niche you can carve out.

Paxton Gray 37:23
Oh, yeah. Well, I’m plus as humans, like, we’re so attracted to new and something that’s novel.

Adam Force 37:29
Yeah.

Paxton Gray 37:30
And how old is Facebook? I mean, freak. I started Facebook, back when only college students were allowed to be on Facebook, you know, like, yeah, that’s old. That’s like, I’m ready. I’m ready to get off. I would love to get off. In fact, if I didn’t have to be on for like, other reasons, but yeah.

Adam Force 37:47
Yeah. I mean, I don’t — Are there things you don’t like about Facebook at this point?

Paxton Gray 37:52
I’m not a fan of all the all the breaches, all the data security, like,

Adam Force 37:56
Yeah, yeah, that was I mean, they got they got hacked, man. And that was, yeah, that was a big, that was a big to do for sure. I’m, and I’m surprised because obviously, they have they should have pretty tough firewalls and all that stuff. But and they did step it up. Now they got all this, like two step authorization and all these other things going on, which was a real pain in the ass, by the way.

Paxton Gray 38:18
Yeah, yeah. No, I’d love to see, I’d love to see someone marry the idea of Facebook and Instagram and YouTube, in the sense of, you know, like, with Facebook, we’re selling, there are data like we’re the product right? At least on YouTube, the creators get some cut of what’s going on. Why isn’t that true on Facebook? Like, why don’t Instagram influencers or creators get a cut of the ad revenue that Instagram gets from them producing content? I think, you know, that’s that, I think is an opportunity there.

Adam Force 38:50
That’s a good question. And the platforms are — well, Facebook at least is getting more and more complicated. And I have noticed that when new platforms like this come up that like, hey, only the cool kids know about it. They — the simplicity of it is something that people tend to really like. So if you have something that’s simple, and just like it has like a very singular focus, people tend to like that.

Paxton Gray 39:14
Yeah. Well, I hope one of your listeners is a developer and does something awesome.

Adam Force 39:20
I know, I wish I you know, I always tried to get into learning development. And I’m just I’m far more of a front end like designer and creator. But as far as the coding and stuff, I just have a hard time wrapping my head around that all.

Paxton Gray 39:32
I’ve always said, like our kids, when we get old, our kids are going to tell stories to their kids about us and say like, my grandpa did this. And he didn’t even know how to code! Similar to how we say something about like people way in the past, like this guy didn’t even know how to read and he did this like Isn’t that crazy?

Adam Force 39:49
Yeah. Well, I don’t know, when you were born. I was born in 79. So I’m sharing my age here. But I always say to people, I’m like, Listen to my friends. I’m like, we’re probably the last generation that will ever know what it is to drive with a hard copy map or not have had the internet.

Paxton Gray 40:10
Yeah, Yeah, no kidding.

Adam Force 40:11
Right?

Paxton Gray 40:13
I mean, we’re getting close to the end of combustion engine cars.

Adam Force 40:17
Yeah. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 40:19
Not a long time, like our kids are gonna look back and say I remember when you guys had a gasoline car. Isn’t that crazy?

Adam Force 40:25
Yeah, I can’t believe you are burning gas every day.

Paxton Gray 40:29
Sounds so prehistoric and caveman-like.

Adam Force 40:32
You know, there’s a lot of talk about those Tesla cars. So it’s, you know, talk about a great marketer and a great entrepreneur. This is a guy who just has this. He’s a great storyteller. He has a story that everybody wants to be part of. And he’s really good at leaning into it and kind of like — he doesn’t care. Like, he’s gone bankrupt multiple times. And I forget what book I was reading about him. And he’s like, yeah, you know, I went bankrupt. And I wasn’t worried. So I started PayPal with some people and made my money back so I can fund my next idea.

Paxton Gray 41:03
Yeah, I like him a lot. He’s, he’s a cool guy. And I think that that idea of storytelling, you know, that’s what marketing is at its core. And that will never change. What works with SEO now won’t work in the future. PPC will different, it will be different, some sometime in the future, Facebook will be gone and all that changes from day to day.

But what will never change is that humans love stories. And as long as you can tell a good story, you will be successful in marketing and in business. That’s the art form, that’s the golden standard is being able to tell a story and incite action from telling a story and he is just so good at that.

Adam Force 41:44
100% agree. I think that’s a great a great note that we can wrap up on because it was perfect. And I always say that to him, like the tactics change. And there are certain things that change all the time. But there’s other marketing principles and fundamentals that are just so deeply rooted in our human you know, wiring and behavior that stuff like storytelling — it’s a skill that you want to master because it can make or break your business.

Paxton Gray 42:11
Yeah, for sure.

Adam Force 42:13
Well, Paxton, I really appreciate it man. That was a fun conversation. And let’s give a shout out you know, people I mean, you know, I know you work with enterprises. But guys you want to check out Paxton what they’re doing over at 97th Floor. It’s 97thfloor.com. You can see what they’re up to. And there’s a cool video of facts in on there. And Paxton, yeah, maybe we can get that link to that template. And we’ll share that in our show notes and put it up on the site for people.

Paxton Gray 42:41
Yeah, yeah, I’ll send it over. You can watch the video and download that template.

Adam Force 42:44
And you’re okay with us, including that there. I just want to make sure you’re cool with that.

Paxton Gray 42:47
Yep. Yeah, for sure.

Adam Force 42:49
Okay, awesome, man. All right. Well, listen, appreciate your time and good luck with everything sounds like you’re doing some really exciting stuff. And listen, if you’re in Miami, open for a cup of coffee if you’re around.

Paxton Gray 43:00
Awesome. Sounds great.

Adam Force 43:02
Alright, man, take care. Appreciate it.

Announcer 43:03
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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