Mark is the CEO for Fanatics Media, a Full Service Digital Marketing Agency with a focus on B2B and B2C Influencer marketing. He has been named a 2016 Top 20 influencer of CMOs by Forbes Magazine, a Top 25 Social Media Keynote Speaker by Inc Magazine, and a Huffington Post Top 50 Most Social CEO.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:07] – Mark spent the last 20 years in marketing and sales
- [01:12] – He failed writing in college
- [01:27] – He has coached 2 football teams and a basketball team
- [02:01] – Mark’s area of expertise is in influencer marketing
- [02:37] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: You need to know who the influencers are in your industry and build strong relationships with them
- [03:35] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Mark has always been involved in sports – he believes in competing in sports. Through a series of coincidences, Mark had several accounts changed to CMOs and half of their revenue disappeared within weeks. Mark was stubborn, so he didn’t cut costs. The huge mistake was that they were too busy building the referral business that they ended up neglecting to build a marketing machine internally
- [05:18] – When things are going well, people often don’t think about doing a different play
- [06:34] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Mark learned about influencer marketing way before it was called that. 6 years ago, Mark’s team created a survey for the open source community. They asked, “Who are the most influential people in the open source community?” They published the results on their blog. The next day, they had 600K views. There was no other post about top influencers in any industry besides on Forbes and Fortune
- [08:00] – A few years later, Mark started a business on the concept of influencer marketing
- [08:45] – Look for things in your business that are doing really well to see if they can become bigger business opportunities
- [09:47] – Turn your focus to things that work
- [10:18] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “We’re doing web video series with influencers… with millions of subscribers”
- [11:05] – “Take your influencers and get married to them”
- [12:47] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Fear of failing”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “There are only 2 functions in business that matter: marketing and innovation. Everything else is BS”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Relentless networking and helping others with marketing problems”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – TubeBuddy
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Essential Drucker – “his advice is timeless; this is a must-read for any entrepreneur”
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no-one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars. What would you do in the next 7 days? – “I, for sure, will build a business on Amazon”
- [16:13] – Pass off all the work that you don’t like or you’re not good at to competent co-workers
- [16:28] – Connect with Mark on Twitter and on Fanatics Media
Mark: I am on the runway and I’m ready to take off with you, John.
John: Yes. Mark is a CEO for Fanatics Media, a full-service digital marketing agency with a focus on B to B, and B to C influencer marketing as well. He’s been named a 2016 Top 20 influencer of CMOs by Forbes Magazine, a Top 25 social media keynote speaker by Ink Magazine, and a Huffington Post Top 50 most social CEO.
Mark, take a minute and fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse into your personal life.
Mark: Yeah, so I’ve spent the last 20 years in marketing and sales primarily because of one reason, and that is I failed writing in college. And now I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to turn it around, and everything else around that. It was a big embarrassment to fail at writing in college. I had to take remedial writing.
I’ve coached two football teams and a basketball team, currently doing that, and just recently stumbled upon this thing we call “influencer marketing” six years ago in one blog post, which we’ll expound on later.
John: Oh, cool. Now, is this like D3 level, high school, where these sports at?
Mark: Naw, they’re, I’m just following my son up from 6 years old, to now he’s 11 years old, but it’s a pretty competitive –
John: Oh, so maybe it’ll be D1 someday then.
Mark: Yeah, right. We’ll see about that.
John: So, Mark, let’s talk about your area of expertise. Break it down for Fire Nation. What are you an expert in?
Mark: For me, it’s been influencer marketing where we’re matching brands with influencers to really drive awareness in revenue. So, from perspective of like a Kylie Jenner, we don’t work with those types of influencers. We work with influencers in your industry that could really move the needle both in awareness and revenue, by building this trust with your brand and their audience, essentially how you could break it down.
John: Mark, what’s something that we don’t know about your area of expertise, and as entrepreneurs it would probably be pretty helpful to?
Mark: I always tell the clients that we work with, you need to know who the influencers are in your industry, and build strong relationships with them. So, the analogy I use is, be a Bachelor, and start dating all of them.
Mark: But only give roses to the influencers that love your product or your service. Then marry them all, and become a polygamist business partner. You know, you’ve gotta work with all of them. You have to be in bed with all of them. It’s not great marriage advice, John, but it’s excellent business advice.
John: Well, I love the analogies. It makes it a lot easier to understand and comprehend, and I’m glad for that little disclaimer at the end there, Mark, and I’m sure Kate will be glad to hear that as well when she listens to this episode.
But let’s move on to your journey as an entrepreneur, because you’ve had the ups and the downs, Mark. We’re gonna talk about the ups in a little bit but right now, I don’t want to just talk about the downs. I wanna talk about the lowest of the low, your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. So, Mark, break it down for us, brother. Tell us that story.
Mark: John, there’s so many, but there’s one that really hits home with me. And a little bit of a backdrop. I’ve always been involved in sports, even today as a coach, and involved in fitness. Now, I believe in competing in sports, really any sport, so I believe in taking risks and achieving success, but sometimes that works against you.
And I’d say just recently through a series of coincidences, we had several accounts change CMOs or direction, and half our revenue disappeared within weeks. And we’re not talking about a $10,000 a month agency here. We’re talking about many times greater than that. But imagine have of it disappearing within weeks, and this happened a year ago.
But I’m stubborn and I thought we’d bulldoze through it, so I didn’t cut costs and I didn’t do anything that was expense-related, so I haven’t taken, or I didn’t take a paycheck for about six months. And honestly, it’s taken a year to get back on track because, although we build marketing and sales machines for our clients, we didn’t set that up for ourselves so we were basically just taking referral business and that was enough, and growing our agency that way.
And we were just simply too busy with that referral business to build a marketing machine internally, and it was a huge mistake. I’m still shaking now because of it. It still gives me nightmares. I mean, I looked at my Fitbit, and it tells you how long you sleep. I probably slept four hours a night on average –
John: Ah, brutal
Mark: – those four or five months. I mean, it was nuts. I was a wreck.
John: Let’s talk about lessons learned, though. So, you know, you went through that. You had the struggles, the obstacles, the challenges. What are the lessons learned, and kinda finish up where you were going with that and then make sure you let us know how we can potentially avoid what you experienced.
Mark: Well, the lessons learned for me, I was too fat and happy, and I go back to my sports career. When things are going well, you don’t think about, you know, doing different exercises or different plays, if you’re using a football analogy. And I just thought it would always come. So, we didn’t have machine built. We should have had a machine built for ourselves, and that didn’t happen until recently and now, thank God, everything has turned around.
John: So, Mark, you just shared with us that struggle, that obstacle, that challenge that you had to overcome, and one of the worst moments you’ve experienced. I mean, it doesn’t add up really well when you’re getting four hours of sleep over a significant of time. Fire Nation, that’s why you take care of yourself. You need to put that oxygen mask on you first before you take care of other people, so that you can best serve. So, make sure you’re always kinda checking in. I like that you have those trackers, Mark, so you know that.
In my views, many of the years, there’s even some really good apps, like one’s called Beddit, so you can kinda track not just sleep but quality of sleep, etc., so some really cool stuff out there.
But Mark, I want you to kind of break in another story with us right now, and that’s one’s gonna be one of the greatest ideas that you’ve had to date. So, you’ve had a lot over the years, but what’s one of those AH-HA moments that you think will resonate with Fire Nation? And really walk us through, not just that moment in time that you had that idea, but how you turned it into success?
Mark: Yeah, so my favorite one that I like to mention is I stumbled upon influencer marketing before it was called influence marketing. So, if you look at six years ago, my team and I created a survey for the open source community, and this is while I was working for an organization, not with my current agency. And we asked a simple question: Who are the most influential people in the open source community?
Now, we didn’t plan this, but we took the results of that question and we published it on our blog. This was six years ago, remember, before influence marketing – and this is back even before anyone had 100,000 followers on Twitter. So, as soon as we compiled and published that list on our website, the next day, John, we had over 600,000 views and it crashed the site.
Mark: Why? Because no one had ever published a top influencer list for the, any industry besides, you know, Forbes and Fortune, which they were doing for the wealthiest people, but nobody had done it for an industry. So, 600,000 views and it crashed the site.
So, what was even better was what happened the next day when everyone on that list called to thank us and ask if there was anything they could do for us. So, we took advantage of those requests and we quickly became known as the best company in the industry because think about it. The most influential people in our industry – this is the open source industry – were talking about, and sending traffic to our website because we had done a big favor for them. And I thought to myself, there’s got to be a business model here. I don’t know what yet. You know, I can’t just continue to publish lists.
But so, a few years later, I started a business on the concept of influencer marketing, and having learned a lot through trial and error, and how not only get awareness for our clients but to bring profitable ROI through a process we’ve developed over the last three years.
And by the way, we could do a whole episode on that topic alone.
Mark: There are a lot of failures there. I would just encourage people to watch videos on our YouTube channel to learn more about it. So, that process started us down a road where we turned this into a business model and it’s led us to where we are today.
John: Just like we did with the worst moment, kinda take us to where you think that we could apply some lessons that you learned during the success, and really maybe apply it to our lives, to our business here in 2017.
Mark: Yeah, I speak about this a lot, John. I look for things in our business that’s working really well, and I say is there a bigger business opportunity here, or is this just kind of a flash in the pan? So, if you’re finding that something that you’ve done in your business is working extremely well, even though your business is focused on something else, it’s maybe mediocre or it’s not taking off, you might wanna consider moving to that new process, that new product that you’re selling. You might consider shifting all your resources over to that particular product or service because it might be your ticket of mediocrity.
John: Fire Nation, I’m a big believer in knowing what’s working and knowing your strengths, and amplifying those things. Amplify what’s working. Amplify your strengths. Like, know what those few things are that you’re doing really well and that you’re really great at, and pour the igniter fluid on that. Then all the other crap that’s not working and that you’re not that good at anyways, either forget about it or hire people to get you by in those areas, and again, turn your focus into those things that are working. Follow that one course until success.
I love in my business, following the path of least resistance when it makes sense, and when it’s easy and you’re actually being pulled towards something, not necessarily pushed. You can definitely see a lot more success because of that. It’s naturally aligning with your strengths. It’s naturally working right now. Keep dumping that igniter fluid on that.
Now, Mark, you have a lot of things going on right now, but what would you say is the one thing you’re most fired up about today?
Mark: Well, we’re doing video web series with influencers, and you did one, of course, with Joel Comm just recently. But we’re doing them with influencers with millions of subscribers, and one things we’ve learned is that it’s better for brands to get married to their best influencers and not settle for one-night stands. You know, typically most companies are having one-night stands with influencers, doing one thing and then moving on. What we recommend that you do is you get married to them.
So, we discovered that if you set up ten or more videos or posts with the same influencer, not only does that content resonate with the brand’s target customer more, but the relationship between influencer and brand is seen as more legitimate and thus more trustworthy. And the results have proven that out. We’re seeing about 50 percent greater lift than if our brand continues to have a series of one-night stands with influencers.
So, for your listeners, take your influencers and get married to them. Do episodic content, not just one-night stands, and you’ll see your uplift in sales and awareness go up dramatically.
John: Mark, you’re speaking my language, brother. I mean, I have people that come to me all the time and say, “John,” like, “we love your podcast. We would love to just test one episode to see if it’s gonna work.” And I just tell them, I’m like, sponsoring one episode of EO Fire’s not gonna work. I do 30 episodes a month. I have 60 sponsorship spots per month because I have two sponsors per episode. So, you want to just sponsor one of those 60 spots and you think that you’re gonna connect, and you think that Fire Nation’s gonna really hear me just talk about you one time in one circumstance, and is gonna jump on what you do? No. It’s those companies that commit.
I could not agree with you more, Mark. I mean, I’ve had companies like ZipRecruiter, LegalZoom, design companies like DesignCrowd that have been with me for years and years and years because they committed early on. They married EO Fire and they’ve been seeing growing ROI ever since. And so those people that just dip their toe in for, like, one episode, you know, one sponsored post, whatever that might be, and they’re like, “Oop, that didn’t work.” Well, of course it didn’t work, because you’re not getting the actual experience of having me talk about your product, your service, whatever that is, over the course of episodes and months and weeks and years even.
I mean, that’s where we’re at right now with some of these companies. So, Fire Nation, think about that when you’re working with sponsors, or you’re looking to sponsor somebody because it goes both ways. You have to commit to it or just don’t do it at all, but you have to get married to those influencers.
And Mark, we’re gonna be dropping some value bombs, brother, in the lightning round when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Mark, are you ready to rock the lightning rounds?
Mark: I am, John. Bring it on.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Mark: Well, for me it’s fear of failing, you know, wondering if my cashflow’s gonna hold out, and losing big. I have such a big ego sometimes and this is a problem. I recognize that, that if I were to lose, I would take it personally and it would just crush myself for years.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Mark: There are only two functions in business that matter, marketing and innovation. Everything else is bullshit. I think he actually said cost – this is the person that gave me this advice, but I change it to bullshit. Focus on marketing and innovation and everything else will follow.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Mark: Relentless networking and helping others with marketing problems.
John: Can you share an internet resource like an Evernotes with Fire Nation?
Mark: If you’re on YouTube, you’ve got to download TubeBuddy for Chrome. This is an absolute must-have tool if you’re doing anything on YouTube. I get all our influencers to do it, anybody that’s working with us, TubeBuddy makes it super easy to make your videos more findable and easy to promote.
John: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Mark: In 2001, Peter Drucker released a book called, “The Essential Drucker.” If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve gotta get it. He’s timeless. His advice is timeless. This is a must-read for any entrepreneur.
John: Now, I’m actually gonna loop back to the internet resource, because I am a little curious about that. So, how exactly does TubeBuddy work, and is it just like that, T-u-b-e space Buddy?
John: How does that work?
Mark: So, TubeBuddy works as an add on to Chrome and what it does is as you’re editing your video, or as you’re promoting your video, it acts as kind of this artificial intelligent assistant that says, hey, you should add these tags. You should say this in your description. If you wanna throw it on Facebook, we’ll do that automatically for you.
Mark: If you wanna check out your competition, we’ll compile all your competition on YouTube and show you how your relating to them. So, it’s an overlay tool that gives you a lot more intelligence about how to do better and perform better on YouTube.
John: So, Mark, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand-new world, identical to Earth but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Mark: I for sure would build a business on Amazon by adding value to a product that I found online. That’s just a start, and I’ve seen a lot of my clients do this and I’m, like, shocked by how well it works. So, they’ll find something on Alibaba, get the manufacturer, tweak it a little bit to differentiate it and they sell it on Amazon and they kill it. And I’m just dumbfounded by it, but that’s what I would do if I were starting over and I didn’t know anybody.
John: Mark, let’s end it today on fire, with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Mark: For me, the best advice I can give people in my situation is when you get past a few million in revenue, push off all the work that you don’t like or not good at to competent co-workers. Don’t hold on. You will be miserable like I was, and I kinda shared with you some of the things that went bad because I held onto too many things.
How you can get a hold of me? @markfidelman on Twitter or go to fanaticmedia.com. We also have a seven step influencer checklist if you don’t wanna work with somebody like us, you wanna do it yourself. It’s got hundreds of mini-steps. You can download that, that walks you through step-by-step how to do influencer marketing right.
John: Love it. Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people who you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with MF and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type Mark in the search bar. His show notes page will pop up with everything literally that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, with time stamps, with links, with transcripts.
Mark, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, brother.
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