Every day, marketers are discovering new and innovative ways to bake Facebook advertising into their omni-channel strategies. The platform’s consistent roll-out of new features and ad types gives way to pockets of relatively untouched marketplaces ripe with opportunity. Enter the mold-breaking Oliver Billson, who’s found a way to attract thousands of viewers to his webinars and turn them into promising leads using Facebook Lead Ads — and that’s just the beginning. On this episode of MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR, host Landon chats with the mastermind on his lead acquisition technique that can be replicated by any entrepreneur with a Facebook account, a website, and a CRM.
OB: It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
LR: Yeah, great. So let's start out, and just tell me a little bit about what it is you actually do day to day right now.
OB: Well, as you so kindly introduced me, we've got a number of different businesses but, predominantly, most of my time is in our agency in the UK. What's quite interesting is most of our clients are actually in the U.S. and Canada, about 80% of our clients are.
LR: We like your accent.
OB: I know. It must just work for me, right? So most of our clients are over here, and so I'm playing the CEO role in the agency and growing our team and serving our clients, of course. Yeah.
LR: Great. What do you feel is your unique skill set?
OB: Sure. Well, I think it's a really good question. I'll just put some context of why I think it's a good question, actually, because a lot of people, as entrepreneurs, spend a lot of time trying to do lots and lots of different things, and actually they don't really focus in on their unique ability, right? I guess to me, behind every good business is a solid, well-thought-through strategy. For me, I've always been quite good at distilling down complex things and making them simple, but then with that simplicity, getting quite complicated, especially when it comes to marketing automation and thinking about how we can fully leverage that to get the best results.
LR: What is working for you right now to grow your own business?
OB: As well as speaking and having engagements, I speak over in the U.S. quite a lot … I was probably here ten times last year, so almost on the verge of moving here, probably, now. I think for us … there's some cliché to this that you might find from other agencies … is you can be guilty of not always practicing what you preach, or what you're implementing for clients, right? Fortunately for us, with the sorts of businesses we work with, high-level business owners, entrepreneurs, they're often in certain circles, and often they'll refer us to other people with results that we're getting, obviously, and we're lucky enough to work within some pretty impressive businesses and act as a function of their marketing department.
LR: Right. So it's pretty traditional for you. It's speaking and doing a good job getting referrals.
OB: One of the absolute key things that we've completely committed to is as an agency, we don't really distill down our processes and what we do as information products or courses or membership sites or anything like that. What we do is we spend a good deal of time putting out great quality content that's ungated. When people come and sign up for different things on our website, often they'll be nurtured and they'll engage with really high-quality content that is often “what's working now.” Taking what's working from our clients and really just laying out every … really pulling back the curtain and showing behind the scenes of the inner workings, and having that content out there. That's the same thing for things like podcasts. I run a podcast with Tom Breese, who's widely known to be a good YouTube person, probably the most well-known YouTube expert. He focuses on traffic and we focus on conversion, and as running two different agencies, we find that instead of trying to sell everything that we know, just get it out there and let people know what's working for them. Sometimes there's a return path there, too. “I want you guys to do it for me.”
LR: So what is working for your clients right now? What's the thing you're most excited about
OB: Sure. This … I'm just going to simplify the complex, the unique thing, right? Automated webinars, for a long time now, have helped us grow our business and our clients, and it's still very prevalent in a lot of marketing strategies. What we've started to see is that people's attention is certainly getting pulled in all different directions. I mean, I think we all know that, right? So we'd started to see, with automated webinars, drop-off rates increase and also show-up rates decrease as well. What we did was we figured out a way to take what would be a typical 60-minute, 90-minute webinar presentation and distill that down into a 20-minute highlight, demo presentation with a fairly soft call to action. But how do we get people, that's quite interesting. We use Facebook lead ads. Most people probably are familiar with that. The real benefit to it is that Facebook does a great job of pre-populating the user's information into a form, very simple, from the ad. We promote the video on the ad and they are opting in, through the lead ad, to receive it. What's different is that we don't deliver the value piece, the video, via email. We actually deliver it through text message. What's quite interesting is only a few taps on the mobile device allows us to get their information that we need, and most importantly, their phone number, to text them a link to see the video. We then track the consumption of the video and then we use the text-based platform again to ask them, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you in what we're offering here?” Based on that interaction with the text messaging, then that gets passed over to schedule core and then gets closed by a sales team. What we find is the key, underpinning thing that makes it work so well is the congruence between the response mechanism, aka the lead ad on a mobile device, and the delivery mechanism being that we're delivering back through SMS. So we see a huge, huge click-through rate from the text messages, rather than it going back into somebody's inbox and getting lost.
LR: Got it. So really avoid the inbox is where you're going. Does Facebook deliver their mobile numbers from the lead ad click?
OB: It does. It pre-populates it.
LR: I don't think Facebook has my phone number.
OB: If you have your phone number on Facebook, it'll pre-populate it. What we find is a lot of people, when they set the Facebook accounts, they have a recovery number or something like that
LR: Oh. Maybe they do have my email, my phone number, and I don't even remember.
OB: And it may pre-populate it but you can change it on the ad, and that gives you permission. We ask a question on the lead ad, there's a drop down, “Are you okay with us sending this via text message?” I think that's really important to clarify that. So we're gaining that permission to communicate through that modality, just like you would with an email. They're opting in for something [inaudible 00:08:37]. Mixing up that modality has a great impact on the engagement and, ultimately, the response of the whole [inaudible 00:08:48].
LR: Really interesting. Very interesting stuff. I'm already thinking about how we might do something similar. That's an interesting strategy. Tell me what you're learning now. What is the cutting edge, the next thing that you're struggling with, working on, that you're excited about?
OB: Sure. There's a few things recently that I've been quite impressed with, that I think everybody can take something from, what I'm going to talk about here is … We often get very caught up in the tactics and the strategy and kind of in the weeds over all the things that you could do. As we all know, there's only so many things that you should probably be doing and focusing on, but really pulling back on all the things that you could do. Like this little tactic we spoke about a few moments ago with the Facebook lead ads, it’s great, but messaging is a really, really, really big thing for me. We've always been an advocate of really segmenting up people, profiling people and talking very directly to them to align the message to market match as closely as possible, which we can do with marketing automation so easily, of course, right? Beyond that, it's more about the communication that you're putting out in everything that you do — collateral, PDFs, your webinar, your emails — the way you structure them. We've been following what Donald Miller's been doing at StoryBrand and looking at using that kind of framework to articulate a concise message to the people that we want to try and serve, or our clients, who they're trying to serve, to really get a connection that's a lot deeper rooted, however they're coming towards them, especially if they're doing some kind of content strategy where they're doing a lot of content and people coming back to their blog. Whatever they're engaging with beyond the actual content on the blog, it's really important that they know that there's a logical path for them to take to further engage with them as a business in one way, shape or form.
LR: Right, and that comes in the form of setting up your blog in a way that makes it clear what the next step is? Or about tagging them based on that behavior and then following up via messaging in a relevant way?
OB: Yeah. I think we all kind of get caught up with thinking and selling ourselves and selling our businesses on what we think is important to us. I think even if you're a great copywriter and you're good at UR/UAX stuff, I think underneath it all, you want to be so dialed in to what it is that you do, but more importantly, how it's going to have an impact on somebody. Whatever messaging that you're putting out there, there needs to be a congruence back to how you serve people. That's really important for people to just get clarity with what it is that you can help them with. That's the reason why we've been following that so closely. I could talk a little bit about … One of the things that's close to our heart at the moment is … We all know, as business owners, about the E-myth, and systematization, and working on your business not in your business, and so on and so forth. Part of that process is documenting what you know. I think a lot of business owners struggle with that. They're either doing everything themselves, they feel like they can't let go sometimes, and so we've found recently a really nice process and a little bit of software that we've been using to document some of our intellectual property to the way we do things, the way we set things up. That's really helped be able to upscale our own team, also helped with our own onboarding. So we've been using that little piece of software called StepShot, and that allows us to record a screen like a video, but for every click, it takes a snapshot of the process that somebody's doing, and just halves the time of any SOP that you're ever created. If ever you think, “I just haven't got time to record a video of me doing this to give to someone else,” this really takes the pain away from it.
LR: Cool. So how long you been in business? Oh, 15. Oh, my goodness. If you could go back and talk to that 15-year-old and give him a piece of your current mind, what would you tell him?
OB: Pick your opportunities wisely. I think that … At some point, there's always a lot of opportunities that present themselves, and I probably … I didn't necessarily have a litmus test, I suppose, to how valuable those opportunities may prevail to be. I did get into that probably … I probably wouldn't have done now. I think that's quite important because it keeps you focused and keeps you on your mission, really, to where you're trying to get to. I think there's a second part of that, of picking your opportunities wisely, is that once you do have an opportunity you're going into … We're just starting an agency underneath our agency at the moment, and one of the first things that we did was go through a proper strategic planning process of really understanding what we stand for as a business, what are our values, why are we doing what we're doing, looking at the priorities of the business and distilling those down to tactical priorities, and that then down into projects. We've kind of got this roadmap that everybody feels that they're included on. I think what I would say to my earlier self would be sometimes you can run really quickly and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm kind of a quick start, as a Kolbe profile, but sometimes you can go a bit too quickly and you can leave people behind. You want to make sure that everybody's on the same page.
LR: If you could deliver that 15-year-old guy a litmus test for which opportunities to take and which to pass on, what would that look like?
OB: I think that there has to be some economic understanding of the value that you're bringing to yourself, but it shouldn't just be based on how much money you're gonna make from an opportunity or a new business venture or a partnership with somebody. I think it really needs to come down to what's the problem that we're really trying to solve, and is that problem a big enough opportunity? I think that if you're not … If you are of a self-serving mentality, that will only get you so far, regardless of how good a marketer you may be. You've got to solve a problem, but I think you've got to approach it through the lens of your ideal prospect client, patient, whoever it may be.
LR: Great. Thinking about mission and why we're here, it's important, when we look back, from imagining ourselves at the end of our careers … What do you imagine you'd like your legacy to be?
OB: I actually had a really interesting conversation recently. I was speaking over in Spain, a conference to do with marketing automation, and somebody in the audience was being asked the question, “Why?” Which is kind of related to what we're talking about here. “Why do you do what you do?” He initially gave all of the surface level answers to why he's doing … “Well, last year wasn't a very good year. We want to grow more this year. We want to get to this revenue. We want this much profit. We want this, we want this.” But really, that's not really the reason why. He quickly got down to the fact that he wanted to leave a legacy for his son who also works within the business, and of course it goes even deeper than that. Why would you want to leave a legacy for your son? He said, “Well, I struggled a lot when I was growing up, and I don't want him to have to struggle like I did.” I think for me, we're passionate about empowering entrepreneurs to be the best that they can be, and providing them the team to do so. I think the impact that we can have, as a result of that, will allow businesses to achieve their full potential. I guess the systems, the processes, the team and the teams that we're currently putting together will allow businesses to be able to do that, and equally, in a very similar way to my friend at that conference, be able to pass my family the opportunity and pass the baton to continue that.
LR: Beautiful. What do you think it means to be a modern entrepreneur? How have things changed in the last little bit here?
OB: I think that there's a lot of opportunities to leverage marketing automation. Our agency is predicated on marketing automation and proven, direct response marketing tactics. Right? Those two married together provides a fantastic result. However, with technology and automation comes a certain responsibility, because sometimes we can get away from the personal touch, the personal conversation, the conversation starter, as it were. I think it's really important to understand that as good as we can be at profiling people and talking to them in a certain way and having flexible content, all the clever, really cool stuff that we all know is cool things to do, we've got to understand that we've got to connect with people, and that's not always means that we leverage this kind of technology to be able to sell something robotic.
LR: Yeah, without everyone talking to somebody.
OB: Just encourage the conversation to continue. Not everybody is ready to buy when you want them to, and you want to be top of mind. I think there's a lot of opportunities with technology to do lots of clever things, and I think as a modern entrepreneur, you need to connect with people in the best way that you can, but in a humanized way, to get the best results.
LR: Yeah. Great. Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you taking the time.
LR: Will you sign our wall?
OB: Yeah, of course.