Goldfish #3. Aaron Ross. Sales guru.


Hi Aaron, It’s a great pleasure to have you on Goldfish, how is it going?

Hey Gregory, it’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invitation!

Cool. My pleasure again.

As I said, I am really glad to have you on Goldfish, we are a french podcast dedicated to content marketing and we will talk today about content for sure, because its our matter, but we will try to mix it with growth and scale because we know you are this scale guru or king. It was a very good opportunity for us to have your point on this and how content can help your company grow. As you might know, our attention span gets lower and lower, so before we start, I wanted you to introduce yourself in 8 seconds maximum.

8 seconds ?


I am the author of a best selling book call “Predictable Revenue”, a sales bible in Silicon Valley and a father of 9 children, going on 10 children.

Great you nailed it, actually you did it in 8 seconds.

Yeah, which is good, yes congrats.


If i’d be giving you more time, I would have said you are a world renowned writer specialised in growth and that two of your books, “Predictable Revenue” and “From Impossible to Inevitable” helped YouLoveWords, my company, enter last year in the ranking of the fastest growing companies in France, so thank you for that. That, as you said, you are a father of nine, actually we can call that a dynasty, you can tell us more about that, I have seen some videos about it, and I think you deal with it pretty well. That you are live in Edinburg answering my questions from your kitchen or your living room, I don’t know exactly where you are but...

We just moved to Edinburgh, I came in from Los Angeles about one month ago. Just getting used to it. The city, we love it, unless with the weather it’s fine, love the city, but a lot closer to you than I used to be.


We are getting closer and closer. Cool, so, are you ready to start the interview? So I’d like to start with a general question linked with your last book. Can you sum up in a few minutes the purpose of “Impossible to Inevitable”, through your method and observations, what was impossible actually for brands that became inevitable thanks to what you did?

Sure, well, last year, an updated version of a book came out, this is the sequel to “predictable revenue”, and the book is called “from impossible to inevitable”, and I co-wrote it with a guy named Jason Lemkin, that founded Saastr. Saastr is doing a big annual event in Paris now, so our goal, and Jason founded a company called EchoSign he sold to Adobe and he grew that from zero to more than a hundred millions revenue. I worked at When Salesforce was already about 25 millions and helped add a 100 millions with sales system to and some other companies, so we both talked like to many companies and helped them and advised in different ways and our goal was to write the growth bible for companies, outlining the same reasons that some companies struggle and what to do about it. Cause, there is so much with Growth which is personal to that company but so much that is just a template that you can learn from other people what works and what doesn't and be more insightful about how you grow your company in predictable ways, and avoid problems, so writing a growth bible is really our goal and the book is actually being ranked at 8 best start-up book.


I know! I can understand why! Fantastic.

It’s not just for start-ups, it’s what it takes to grow a business.


Cool. I get it. You speak a lot, in this book, about growth but you really start with everything that has to do with brand positioning and how you need to be focused on what you do when you are a brand before trying to be like a unicorn whatsoever. So you write actually that customers don't buy what they need but they actually buy what they want, so that makes a big difference. I would like to have your word on this because it’s really important for people listening to the podcast today to understand your thoughts about that.

So you are right, this is the first part of the book called nailing a niche, about being focused on the right kind of customer and the right kind of problems. The world we are in is this world of overwhelm, this world of too much information, so much content, so many options that people get paralyzed. To counter that overwhelm, there is sharper focus. So in this case you mention I made a comparison which is a lot of consumers buy what they want, not what they need. As a person, I might spend money on a Porsche or on broccoli, a lot of people buy the things they want, like I want a fancy car, a nice cloth, will I spend money versus on being like vegetables. It’s a bit of a silly example but to compare and to make that contrast to business buyers, typically business buyers tend to buy what they need, not what they want, because there are more steps in the process, so there is less impulse buying from businesses. Unless assume we are talking about businesses with at least several people to thousands, they are many business virtually one person, and they still make impulsive decision, so what that means is, for business to business companies, really focusing on not trying to market an sell to all the customers who could use you or should use you, but really stepping back and analyzing for all the companies and customers who purchase from us and have been successful. How are they different from the companies that thought about purchasing us, but did not, why were we in need to have to some and versus when we are a nice to have to others. And to build better focus on who you target with your messaging, your spend, your budgeting, and your content marketing.


This is something that caught my attention when I read the book because this is really something we see with all of our clients today and you say, to buy your products, you say that customers need to believe, we, as a company, can deliver what we said we can deliver. They need to believe it will work for them as well. So I was pretty interested to have your point on this and maybe you can share with us the content that you think works best when we need to show that we can deliver and then can believe in what we are saying to them.

Let me focus a bit on business to business software or saas, most of where I come from, although these principles apply to lots of situations. So first. anyone can make claims on the internet. Everyone says “use our product to increase revenue or “cut cost” or “be happier”, right whatever you want them to promess, so consumers actually individuals and it’s true in business to business as well, are getting used to everyone claiming their products can be successful, so just turning to be more skeptical but first I have to believe what you are saying, you’re saying you can double my revenue, do I believe you or not, ok ? Then, I say I do believe that you have done this for other people, do I believe that I can do it for myself. Do I believe that I can buy your software like you sales software and it’s going to work for me that same way. Better example might be, weight loss, so for example there might be, hey, , a better example could be you see a fake add on facebook or linkedin or some ad that says, lose 20 pounds in a month, right, and there is so many version of this ok, yeah yeah yeah, that won't work for me. I don't want to believe it, but ok, so then I see a lot of examples on how the system works for other people. OK bob lost 20 pounds, Sarah did, or Dimitri, but could I do that. None of that works for me. So it’s the belief in whether this in Business to business consumers and consumers are a little more emotional driven, but the principle is do I trust your claim and then do I trust myself that I can actually fall through and do that.


You need to show that what you have already done with other clients, what you are suggesting to do with this one with Testimonials or things like that, and then you need to make so that your client understands he has the strength or tool enough to do it for himself too, yes pretty interesting. You need to Empower your client, you need to make your client understand that yeah he can deal with it, he can do it.

The best type typically of marketing in this case are case studies. Consumers case studies. We are not talking about soft drinks, although that’s always emotion based. It’s kind of like that but more in an explanatory way which would be in business to business, there is this company and they have this problem and then they decide to start with our service or software and here is the results I got. And adding enough details, where case studies often go wrong or are too vague, they don’t have enough concrete details about the problem or the solution. So not quite as believable unless you actually add enough story, enough detail to people. It can be hard to get a good case study because you have to have a customer who has had great results, they have to be willing to publically share that, and have to be willing and able to share details. So it can be tricky but that is usually the best type of content marketing, as a foundation.


When you have a good mix of elements as you exposed them, it can be are really be a very good thing to do that.
I love the way you were comparing radio stations with brands, maybe you can have a word on that ?

I think a lot of companies and people, I get this because we have all done this, which is “well I can do lot of things really well”, the great thing about smart people in companies is that they can do many things well, the problem is they can do many things well... and when you are telling people about too many things you can do well, you just end up confusing them, it's like a radio station, that says “it’s 101.5 we do jazz, hip hop, country, rock and soul, and classical, and opera… What do you want to listen to, we can do it”. It’s being confusing to people versus “we are the rock station” and you send a much more clear signal that catches the noise out there, same things with brands, when you can really find, and it’s not easy, but when you can focus on that right kind customer and that message and can broadcast a clear signal it makes a lot easier for the market to tune into you.


Thank you about that, I really love it.
Another very interesting thing you write is that lead, actually, don't think consciously, but they react with the dinosaur brain we have, and actually you listed some things that make so that our brain reacts or not. Can you tell us more about that ?

Well, so lot of my background is in outbound selling, so we call that sales prospecting, prospecting, cold calling, cold emailing, this is the team and system I created at and it helped a lot of other companies break the system, recently I helped a company in Paris, called Dataiku, great company,


They raised a lot of money recently yes.

So I have been creating these outbound teams and optimising them, so just learning a lot about, when people don't know you. It's called a cold prospect. And the principle(s) applies whether you are doing outbound selling or outbound marketing, but to someone that doesn’t know you, the study shows that they only give you about the equivalent kind of mental effort of a third grade level. The grades vary but in the States, that would be a nine year old IQ level to kind of figure out what you're saying. But what happens is our brain reacts much more quickly to elements like concrete details, contrast, emotion. And so this can be whether it’s in visual form, like I remember at some point on facebook, I feel like a lot of banner ads, would get kind of like you see this trends on online ads, suddenly they have like faces, cause faces we register quickly, or they all had movement, they kinda of all follow each other, you can also see it with cold emailing or sending messages to linkedin, which could be concrete details, versus say “hey we can help you increase revenue?” which is very generic, everyone is saying it, a concrete detail might be “we can you help increase your online shopping card conversion rates by 23% per month”. The goal is to minimise the amount of work that person’s brain needs to kind of click into what you are doing and if it is relevant or not. The more translation the brain needs to do, the less likely the lead will get engaged. Rather than saying numbers like amounts, are better than percentages, let’s say we helped a company grow by 40 percent last year, but the your brain is typically what does that mean, I have to kind of think about that versus you say we help the company grow from 2 millions in euros per year to 2,8 millions, you have kind of done the work for the brain it’s easier for the brain to register and more likely to absorb it, because if that prospects brain, if it takes too much work for them to engage, they will just move on.


This is why you say that you helped Salesforce grow from 10 to hundreds million dollars revenue with you. You give a figure and people don't have to think about analyzing it, you just give the figure.

My system helps Salesforce to increase the revenue by 100 millions, versus saying their growth rate increased by 37%. What does that mean ? They almost double their growth rate...


Great, thank you. You also differentiate early adopters vs mainstream buyers and suggest that companies should adapt their message. We don't speak the same way too early adopters vs to mainstream buyers.

I have seen this really in the start-up world, earlier stage companies, but it can be true for a new product of an established company. I think this is more in the tech world. You'd launch a product, this could be an almond milk maker of kickstarter, could be a software product, let’s just say it’s a software application and you get your first 10 to 40 customers, usually it's through word of mouth in some way, like your friends, maybe if you have investors and customers that like and tell their friends, mostly these customers have come through from some form of relationship based, networking, which means that a lot of the value of the recent people that come to look a it, and perhaps even use it or buy is that because someone they know is using it or buy it, so this is early adopters.

Now, there are few people in this group that would see it, if you are an expert in the human resources space, and so see a type of new human resource technology. If you are an early adopters you'll get it, I don't care who else is using it, I just know that's gonna work for me, that’s actually pretty rare, most people, these we call mainstream buyers, as you start to grow and you kinda grow past those early word of mouth referrals, and you go past those early adopters, this is the people that get it and find you, and you have to talk to more people, who a little more conservative, a little more risk averse, they may not be naturally interested in what you do, so a lot of people in the human resources space may not really like, they don’t have a passion for human resources, it’s just what they do, most of these would be from mainstream buyers, a little more conservative, they need a lot more justification, they need case studies, who else like me use this, how do they do it, give me all the details.

I need to analyse to make sure I am doing the right thing and not making a wrong decision, so mainstream buyers need lot more justification and lot more proof, different than the early adopters who just instantly get it, and they don’t need a lot of examples nearly as much, the trick is, most of the market are these mainstream buyers so in order to grow you need a lot more materials and justifications and details and things to get the mainstream buyers engage and give them enough proof, enough material for them to get through the decision making process.

That's why, if anyone has been in sales and you felt like you had to repeat the same thing over and over to the buyer, that’s the mainstream buyer, cause they just don't have a real passion so you have to repeat it over and over again they keep having to ask for the same thing, show me more proof, more case studies, any more details, …


They are more difficult to tap but when you get them, it really shows that you can scale actually.

You can’t scale with early adopters, there are just not enough of them; 15% of the market is early adopters and maybe even less than that, the basic buyers will be that mainstream buyers that really will buy once they see other people like them buy, they are really followers.


Actually, this is really where we are right now as a company we have had our early adopters, we are trying to go into mainstream buyers that really directly come to us, that hear about us, as you say they ask us a lot of things, we need to give details about what we do but once you succeed in doing this you really see that you are accelerating.

You basically also need to come back and be able to show how you are going help them make money. Making extra money, saving money or some others really tangible benefits.


When you are not like a genius copywriter and you are trying to tap these new adopters, new buyers actually new buyers, what advice would you give, sometimes we think of overpromising, are trying to be super ambitious about what we are doing, what are the two or three tips as a company, without having a lot of genius copywriters in it, in the way we write these first content, like emails, outbound materials ?

So, a lot of it starts, especially with outbound, really focusing on where do you have the strongest proof, where do you have the best results, and then so it is kind of nailing a niche, who has been in all the types of customers you have had. In this case if you are and agency type of business, you might have had all kinds of customers, with many kinds of projects, so it might be the type of customers, like financial services customers, but it also might be the kind of project, what you are looking for is a place where you have been able to proof your strongest case, the best proof of the results you created and you can then have a case study some kind written, think about like a blog post format or maybe a short video, just 2 or 3 minutes but video, or a 500 to a 1.000 words blog post format, not a pdf, not some long thing, so that would be your main content for an outbound campaign.

And then in an email, an outbound email, we call that the classic version, cause there are many types you can write. A cold email, and when you say cold email, a lot of people send email, even with gdpr today, this could be over linkedin as well, a message to someone they don't know “would you be interested in taking an appointment”, “have a referral”, for the cold email a message would basically have three parts.

One is what i call the bridge, which is kind of why you are writing, “Hey Gregory, I saw you have a podcast on growth, on brands, I listened to it and loved it” that’s the reason you are writing.

The second part is some kind of value, one or two short sentences about the case study, or something else you do that would be an interest for that person.

And the third step is the call to action, which is what you are asking them to do, are you asking them to read the case study, are you asking them to take an appointment are you asking them for a referral, there are many kinds of call to actions but those are the three components of a cold email, a cold message.


Fantastic, so be strong on what you know you can do well and then be concise and short to be sure that people read it. I did not know about your three steps rule. I am sure I read about it but I don't remember.

That's what we call the classic. Another classic version is a referral email, “Hey Gregory, who in your company handles accounting” and maybe that would not even be the all email.

Think about going back to the effort involved. Your messages will get a better answer if they are easy to understand and simple to act on, so a referral is a lot easier to answer cause you just give us a name, then if someone is asking for an appointment. If you Send me cold email and ask for an appointment, it's a big ask, to take an appointment with someone, so I may not respond, if you are asking for a referral it's really easy for me to do that and pass along.


We might speak about that in a few minutes again, and now we will speak about data and figures, this is what we call the golden number ! Can you share to us or with us one specific figure that shows the power of your own content marketing strategy, you Aaron Ross, is there a specific figure that you could share with us and we could analyze in two or three minutes.



Something you are following, data you are focusing on, that helps you be better.

Let’s see. The number of books I sold, but I don't know what you are asking for...


I have an idea in mind, for example let’s speak about it. When I got your first email, when you contacted me, I was wondering if it was really you behind the screen because you are doing for yourself what you are suggesting us to do. So maybe it was your inbound marketing assistant that did it, so what I wanted to, feel free to answer what you can answer for sure, but do you follow this conversion rate this example , what is your conversion rate, when you try to engage conversation with people like me and this time. That could be this figure for example, this conversion rate and analyse how you made it grow.

Hmm, that's a good question. My business are business called we build outbound sales teams. We use outbound ourselves to get customers but we also use outbound get to get marketing opportunities like this. This is was Gregory mentioned. We reached out to you. I actually haven't analysed yet, my team might know some metrics on our outbound marketing. But typically let's say we have a customer client, a software company, trying to reach out using cold emailing, using cold prospecting to customers. Ultimately the main, and no matter whether you are doing prospecting or marketing opportunities or for customers, there's always not only one key metrics, you really need to look the funnel, outbound funnel, top, middle, bottom, but conversion rates again…. there is so many, they could be very misleading. I tempt to avoid those.

You do want to watch email response rate, especially positive responses rate. That is a key metric.

Overall response rate can be from low single digits, 1 percent, 2, percent, 3 percent, to 5 there is a wild range based on really a niche.

Linkedin, is kind of similar, everyone who is doing outbound, really the key metric, the number of sales accepted leads or sales qualified leads. That's truly the primary metric. It means an appointment happens, and was qualified, something that would be entering the pipeline. That’s the main metric.


Ok. I wanted to know, and this the oh wow moment, which content you prefer in your own strategy, and maybe the content you like in the market right now. Which one you think really helps most a company scale. We spoke a lot about outbound emails and case studies, is there something maybe fancy, something you use that you are proud of and works pretty well for you.

What I think, it’s interesting, even for the impossible book, we interviewed a guy called John Miller, instrumental in the creation of the inbound animation movement. What he said was about 10 years ago, he founded Marketo, sold for some more than billion dollars to Adobe. He could write a blog post and in a day be ranked for certain keywords on google, first page, and today he has been trying for four years to be on the front page for his new business called engagio, account based marketing he cannot get on the first page of google, after years of trying. So in this world, so much content, so much Good content, I do think the type of content definitely matters, I tend to be really focused on distribution. Creating content, but how do you get it out there, how do you get it out to your audience, posting on your blog is not enough, so for us, really focused on doing partner marketing, like this or webinars with other companies that have audiences, and ideally with companies where you can build a relationship and do things over time. This summer, this company called bluebird, based out of Barcelona. We have done some things with them. We are gonna do two events where I will go to, one in London and one in Berlin. They will get the event together. I am a speaker, so partner marketing so far, is one of my favourite ways to get content out. I am still a book person, so I think what I like about books, is there is a beginning and an end. With content out there, there is so much good content, that you can feel you can endlessly learn where do you start , where do you stop ? There is always something helse, it can feel overwhelming. With a good book, you can feel here is the bible, for me I think “would this go into a book and how does this feet”. Every person in a company has different strengths and style, if you are great at video do that. I am a book person, I do that, and partnering, if you are a blogger, whatever ways of creating, triple down on your best way that you like to create and don't try to overdo, doing everything under the sun around marketing.


The content you like the most are the ones where you take the more pleasure in doing it, the ones you feel you are the best side of you.

It’s hard. Even when you get great at it. Things are always changing, you can't relax. It’s hard. I don’t know how long it takes this days. If you start content marketing, does it take
6 months to get some traction or 12. You might know better than me, how long it takes not just to create great content, but get some traction with it ? I am sure longer than people want.


Exactly, always twice as much time as we think it would. As you said 6 to 12 months. Sometimes as an entrepreneur you are, things don't go the way we thought it would.

Do they ever ?


This is what we call the “game over” moment. Can you share with us a content you thought would be decisive in your outbound or inbound strategy, and maye how do you fix that, do you cancel it. The more I speak with entrepreneurs, and people working in content, the more I discover that we try a lot of things, a lot of them fail actually and some of them work. Is there something that comes in your mind, or things you have maybe tried with your team. Maybe some Outbound techniques you tried one day and did not work later on ?

We always try all kinds of things. I am trying to think Bookwise. You know, even with our new book “from impossible to inevitable” book, ten years ago predictable revenue was published and it has grown a lot through word of mouth…

I am not sure how many copies are sold, More than a 100.000, but word of mouth really just drives it and with the impossible from inevitable book, there is still a lot of word but not as much as predictable revenue, I think because everything is so busy.

People just love it, it changed their lives, it still needs so much encouragement to get the word out. For anyone it is easy to underestimate, how much focus, momentum, you need to put behind an idea or a thing in order to launch it and get some momentum behind it. I think that’s gonna continue, because there is going to be more content, more channels, more business as the world goes on, that’s not going away.

You just continue, more focused, more investment behind the right thing and more patience too.


So maybe more than a failure, what you are saying is that even though your books worked pretty well, you always have to be behind it, it takes some time to make so that people hear about it, and read it. It’s not something that's that easy actually.

I think a lot of people get caught in this hope or dream of overnight success, we are just gonna launch this thing and it will take off, like dropbox, instagram, we are just kinda put up a blog, a viral video… And we all underestimate, especially entrepreneurs and newer ones, how long it takes to not only get something out but keep pushing it, investing in it, keep telling people about it. whether it is an application or a book , a video channel, they keep encouraging it to grow and it can take. Like in a book launch, lot of people want to do a big book launch, a big book launch is the key to success, the book launch is really hopefully sell lots of books from day one, but then what happens if it goes aways, with this book we consciously chose, we did not want to deal with a big book launch, which is a huge spike in effort.

We are gonna sit in how to really build ongoing healthy habits around promoting it and talking about it and kind of ignore the launch, really, that's where we put our energy, if you wanna get healthy do you do a one day marathon and you are kind of done or do you practice on how every morning you can have some else for breakfast. Those daily habits with marketing or whatever you are doing to be able to continue to talk about and grow where is important, more important in some big “swing it to fence”. Trying to hit a home run from step one, lot and lot.


We have 5 minutes, so I’d like to share with you some funny ones, let’s take some times to share for example If you were an Emoji, which one would you be, would you be like a father with 9 kids, would you be the rocket that is scaling, if you were like the emoji you share sometimes maybe on slack or something like that

Hmm, I mean I default to family pictures, cause that’s what most important to me, my mariage. I think I was, in the impossible book, in both books I shared some personal stories, in the predictable revenue book I talk about a business that fail, at the end i’d go home, I basically drink vodka, drink to forget the pain and play video game, cause it was so painful, in the impossible book, I talk about of how having kids forced me to make more money, in my income did take off, and my business to take off , our businesses more than its sixty people, passed by 7 millionS dollars this year, so for me even if there is a rocketship it’s powered by my family, so family first.


And a glass of vodka.

Sometimes you know, you need it.

As a parent entrepreneur, whatever you version ,playing video game, wine, vodka, We need that kind of mix.
You need some sun too


Do you prefer the weather in LA or in Edinburg ?

Actually If I could blend it too. In LA sometimes it was just too hot, Edinburg so far it’s beautiful, sometimes cold, you know you can't have everything, all the time.


This city is lovely actually

I love it, it’s amazing, it’s not too big and not too small, I am going to do a lot of speaking in Europe this year. Close, more than ever. Spending a couple days in Lithuania to keynote the sales, I am taking my 8 years old daughter, so it's fun for us to go, gonna be a fun trip, unlike some trips, where I am in a client’s office all day, but this one will be a fun trip.


You need to come to France !

Yeah, I will !


You will be our guest :)

Sounds like an invitation.


It is actually :)

I will be there tomorrow.

You bring the Wine and cheese, I will bring the book. Cool let’s do that.


Maybe one or two last questions.
What's the next book you are working on, or maybe the next content, I don't know.

So I am working on a book, still in the baby step stage. I have a title right now, it’s not a final title it’s called “forcing functions and baby steps” how to accomplish tremendous results, one little step at a time, for me how I have grown my income, eleven times and went from 0 to 9 kids and grown a business to millions of dollars, it’s like I am just a regular person, I’m great at some things, not at some other things, but I feel I have learned a lot, in terms of how to be a successful entrepreneur and be a good a better parent.


It’s amazing, I don’t know how you do that. Being a good entrepreneur is always something that’s so tough, you seem to do it pretty well, so congrats for that.

You never see all the challenges outside, everyone's got his own challenges, I mean everybody does, so let’s be honest about that, no one’s gotta figure it out.. In fact that's one the section of the ‘impossible to inevitable” book.

I was proud with Jason, we have a section about the journey and how things take years longer than you want, entrepreneurs depression, ABHT, anxiety, this human factor of being an entrepreneur is very challenging, it’s not for everybody.

But, I think primary, I am a parent and father and an entrepreneur... but that's secondary, to that, I have to make a lot of money to support the family so I do enjoy my work, but they are both important to me, and even my wife. Work is important to people, for a lot of reasons, sometimes it’s money, creation, being away from you kids, you need some space...



it’s how do you blend both of these worlds, be a master of entrepreneurship, be entrepreneurial in your life, as well of being a master parent, well a better parent, great parents, juggling both, the book is not about parenting, it’s about being what you accomplish more you think you can, using your time better, making more money while being a better parent.


I as a small surprise for you, as you are speaking a lot about family and so son, wait a second and I am showing you something .

Here is the team : “We love you Aaron…“


So this is the team, this my family, I don't have 9 Kids but I have like 20 to 30 , I have more than 9 kids, we love you a lot.

Come soon in Paris right?

Yeah, I’m down.


All right , thank you Aaron.

Thank you guys.


That's hilarious, never have that happen before.

If you're ok, this is going to be the last word, that was great listening to all your stories.
Wait a second, they make a lot of noise, I don’t know about your kids, but mine do :)

Dogs and kids yeah.

Again thanks a lot I think we learned of things, I will put a lot of links to be sure people get all your point. the literature, and the books we spoke about.

Pick a day and we will do a predictable revenue meetup in Paris.

Thank you Aaron.

I really enjoyed it !