It was a pleasure to chat to Travis Ketchum all about email marketing and what small businesses can do to build, and then automate, an email list that actually grows their business. Travis started off with one problem he wanted to solve: how to build a big email list, quickly. His frustration with the clumsy nature of existing marketing automation and email marketing platforms led him down the rabbit hole to build his own solutions. Today, he’s the Founder & CEO of Campaign Refinery, a “next-generation email marketing platform”, and Contest Domination.

Contest Domination changed the way people think about viral lead-generating campaigns. Over 29 million contest entries down the line, I chatted to Travis all about email marketing, lead generation, entrepreneurship and how to delight your audience without going insane or being held back by tech. Say hello to small business automation.

Hope you enjoy the episode. Remember you can get all the show notes at

Show Notes

  • How frustration with “jack of all trades master of none” tools led to a business [02:49]
  • Why the focus in email optimisation isn’t to get 2% more clicks, it’s much bigger [05:23]
  • What segmenting is and why its so powerful [10:30]
  • What Travis thinks businesses just starting out should focus on [16:23]
  • Why most businesses fail to experiment [20:41]
  • Why you shouldn’t automate or use virtual assistants [VAs] right away [23:30]
  • Social media is rented space, email is owned [33:02]
  • You have more support around you than you think [39:50]

Stuff We Mentioned

Introduction [00:00:02] Welcome to the All About Digital Marketing podcast. The show all about digital marketing. Brought to you by Social INK, a digital marketing agency specialising in social media and content marketing for brave brands and forward-thinking SMEs. I’m your host Chris Bruno, and as always we’re here to bring you the most actionable tips, tricks, tools, and insights to help you achieve more when it comes to your digital marketing. Subscribe to the show and be sure to share with a friend if you found something useful or interesting. You can find all the show notes and more information on

Chris Bruno [00:00:54] Travis! Hi, thank you for joining me.

Travis Ketchum [00:00:56] Great to be here. It’s been a while.

Chris Bruno [00:00:58] It has it has. I remember actually I think it was about three years ago. I started recording some interviews with an idea to create a podcast. And I think we actually recorded one. I remember your comment being, “Dude, sort out your audio.” So I’m happy to say I’ve got a new microphone now.

Travis Ketchum [00:01:14] I’m glad my peer pressure worked.

Chris Bruno [00:01:17] Travis, for those who don’t know you. Can you tell them a little bit about yourself and more importantly about Contest Domination and Campaign Refinery.

Travis Ketchum [00:01:26] Sure. So you know I’ve been sort of a recovering entrepreneur forever. You know like most people, started real early, started my first business at the end of high school. Ended up paying for a good chunk of my college. Took some time off from entrepreneurship during school. Got a job out of school. Realised I hated the cubicle life. That only lasts about nine months. Went back to work for myself doing some advertising and affiliate marketing stuff for some best selling authors and speakers. And then ultimately ended up launching my own software company which has developed into the two products that you mentioned. Which is Contest Domination, which is a viral list building tool using contests to build an email list as quickly as possible. Which was born out of my own need to build a list as quickly as possible.

Travis Ketchum [00:02:11] And then Campaign Refinery, which is a marketing automation platform. Because I got sick and tired of platforms like InfusionSoft of just not being able to do what they claimed they could do. And so we built a new tool and it’s been pretty popular so far. So that’s sort of the short version on how we got to where we are today and that’s what I do.

Chris Bruno [00:02:31] Okay. So for any of the businesses that are listening to this, or small businesses or entrepreneurs. When we talk about campaign automation I will start off on this side of the businesses. But when we talk about campaign automation, what are the sort of things that you wanted to see in other products that you couldn’t see and the things that you then built?

Travis Ketchum [00:02:49] Yes. So one of the big problems that I realised after really getting into it with Infusion Soft and trying Ontraport and HubSpot a lot of the all-in-one solutions, was that I found that – at least at the time and it’s still mostly true – they were sort of a jack of all trades and master of none. And so what you found is that some of… Like Infusion Soft, you know they had marketing automation but like they weren’t good at deliverability. And they had a shopping cart. But it was really painful to make it look good. Didn’t do upsells very well. Didn’t do membership sites very well. And so what I wanted to do is I wanted to extract the automation and deliverability component and focus on building that as best as it could possibly be. And then integrate with the best in class shopping carts and the best in class membership tools.

Travis Ketchum [00:03:38] Because every business has so many different needs. An info product company might be really heavy towards a certain kind of shopping cart. Like maybe a ThriveCart, PayKickstart, SamCart that kind of thing. Whereas e-commerce I mean that’s pretty much Shopify or bust. Right. And those needs are very different but their automation deliverability needs in this are very similar. But their shopping cart things were different. Their membership needs were different. And this allows people to mix and match the best components on the marketplace for roughly the same price or even less and get, you know, class-leading results. And so that’s really what I wanted to focus on was the automation and deliverability of email side of things.

Chris Bruno [00:04:21] OK so let’s talk about. Let’s imagine a small business that’s out there, so obviously you know I’m in the UK and so somebody’s here based in London, they’re just setting up. And so they’re in the process they’re trying to set up their newsletter list. They’re trying to get more subscribers in what are some of the sort of simple automations and simple ways that you, that you see or that you feel are opportunities for people to re-engage with an audience and to be able to use these kinds of automations to try and help their business.

Travis Ketchum [00:04:50] You know one thing I think a lot of businesses struggle with is the ability to run multiple campaigns a year that makes them money from email. Maybe you get an idea for a launch or a specific product idea and you do that and it’s like OK you either have to beat the list with the same offer over and over and over. Or you’ve got to find new offers. And one way I think that small businesses especially can really benefit to find new ways of promoting the same offer to a list. And trying to get different portions of the list to engage.

Travis Ketchum [00:05:23] Because when you look at a launch even. Right, let’s say, I email my entire prospect list. Only a percentage of them are going to open and only a percentage of those are going to click. And it’s a fairly small percentage in the grand scheme of things. The money isn’t necessarily how to get 2 percent more clicks it’s how to figure out how to engage that other 90 percent of the list that didn’t engage in the first place. Right. That’s where the lower hanging fruit is. And so one of the features that we built because to address this is the idea of evergreen flash sales. And it’s this ability to create an evergreen offer that has a real expiring time that actually adapts to the journey of that prospect. And when you can do that. What that means is that over a calendar year instead of constantly hitting the same front end offer all the time to the big list, what you can then do is actually just promote relevant content that is value driven. That’s related to your main offer and then you can run that for that three day flash sale or some kind of promotion just to those who have clicked content. So it gives you an ability to send different content over the year and then run your offer just to those who have engaged. So it puts your focus instead on, instead of being on, how do I create an offer. It puts your focus on, how can I give valuable content and then show an offer to those who engage based on the content I sent.

Chris Bruno [00:06:47] So I’m a massive fan of content. You know that. And you’ve probably seen some of the crazy things that Social INK has done over the course of 2019 so far. One of them being start and launch a podcast in the space of a month which we’re happy to say we’re still here and we’re still going strong. And what for you would be the biggest opportunity in terms of, for a small business when it comes to that content. Because like you mentioned, for me I believe that the value that you give the content, the quality of the content that you deliver is 10x more important than the offer itself. I think that’s what really gets people to engage. It’s what creates that relationship, it’s what helps to nurture that relationship, it’s what builds the trust to take somebody from just being a prospect to becoming a customer. So what would you say are the biggest opportunities at the moment and that you see in terms of content based that can help people not just with offers not just with the evergreen sort of flash sales but also just with everything that they’re doing in the backend in general.

Travis Ketchum [00:07:45] You know when you look at content. [00:07:48]Creating content is simultaneously both a commodity and difficult. It’s a commodity because so many people are doing it. But it’s difficult because it’s really hard to get yourself to stick to a schedule. [10.4s] So I think one of the biggest opportunities is actually not necessarily creating a ridiculous amount of content yourself. Of course you want some first party content. I think one of the biggest opportunities. Is to basically steward your audience towards high value content. It doesn’t. Which means it doesn’t have to be your blog post it doesn’t have to be your video. You need to just help steer them towards high quality stuff because that actually infers authority to you as a trusted resource. And by if you can correctly tag the audience based on what they’re clicking you can get a lot of the upside as if you wrote the content yourself. By segmenting your audience, providing that value over time and not having to be original first party content all the time. I think you’re just just pointing people in the right direction actually has a lot of intrinsic value of the content in the first place is just getting them to the value and letting them see it and then segmenting your audience so that you can then leverage that for offers down the road even if you didn’t create the original content.

Chris Bruno [00:09:05] OK so that’s interesting. So for people out there listening that potentially aren’t quite as familiar with the terms that you’re using now. When we talk about segmenting audiences. When we talk about this we, a very very basic version of this is obviously something like MailChimp. Being able to tell you where somebody signed up, or on what page they signed up maybe, or even tags that you can create yourself on the back end. Travis when it comes to you, when it comes to Campaign Refinery this is part well this is a big part of the automation. It’s how you manage to auto tag these people and take them through a journey based on those tags based on how they came into to that particular list for example. Can you explain a little bit about how that system works.

Travis Ketchum [00:09:49] Yeah. So you know one of the components that we liked about a lot of the platforms or a number of the platforms. I shouldn’t say a lot because a lot of systems are list based. Right? So the the old school concept was you had a list, maybe it was here’s my prospect list, and this is my customer list. That’s the most rudimentary form of segmentation. The more advanced systems use tags as you mentioned and so we are a tag based system which allows you to create tags, that you can then do search results. So that instead of a couple really broad stroke segments, you can niche it out even more. Or you can keep it broad but the whole point is that you have one list of contacts and on a contact you can have multiple tags.

Travis Ketchum [00:10:30] A segment is an audience that matches the search result for having a particular set of tags. So what we do is when we send out content maybe we’re sending out for instance maybe we found a great post on Social INK about Facebook advertising. We think it’s really valuable to our audience. Where we may send out a broadcast pointing them to your blog post but then we create a rule that says, hey anyone who clicks this blog post, add the tag Facebook ad interest. So then either automatically using the flash sale stuff or at a later date if we’re running an offer that makes sense for people that are interested in Facebook ads, I can go to our list and say Hey what are all the contacts we have that have the Facebook ad interest tag. That’s my segment of a customer base and audience. Whether they’re a prospect customer or otherwise, that are interested in Facebook ads. This is the most relevant audience for me to run this offer to now.

Chris Bruno [00:11:22] So a question for the less technical minded, and I might end up actually falling in that bracket. How does the automated tagging work. So is this literally you’ve, you’ve got a way to basically tag these people, tag these email addresses, by them simply having looked at the content on a web site?

Travis Ketchum [00:11:40] So currently we don’t have the onsite script part for visit .but we can automatically tag when they click a link in our email. Which is pretty straightforward and that can actually automatically fire an action or it can just simply be for segmentation purposes. So let’s say, let’s say I even have a blog post with multiple links right, one link goes to your Facebook ad post and maybe another link goes to someone else’s blog post about YouTube ads, when I’m creating that broadcast. I can see everywhere that I have links to Facebook ads and I can then just type in facebook ad interest and it will apply the tag to any user that clicks the Facebook blog post and then on the YouTube one I can create the tag YouTube interest and anyone who clicks the youtube link. So as soon as they click it the tag is applied and then I can at a later date go and look at the entire audience or I can set up an automated rule that says anyone who clicks this, add the Facebook interest tag. Anyone who gets a Facebook interest tag automatically set them up for a three day sale next week about my Facebook ads course. So it can be all streamlined and systematized to deliver an offer just in time to the right audience.

Chris Bruno [00:12:56] That’s awesome. So this is the part when people often talk to us about the issue of you know what do I send? So everyone knows they need to build an audience. And then like you said it becomes a war of attrition as they bang out content as much as they can. Then they keep trying to come up with something and then eventually they realize that slowly but surely they lose a couple of people. Less and less people are opening up because it’s constantly just emails of offers or emails of kind of sales techniques as it were. And so this kind of makes sense to me in and on the basis of you know creating that automation. That means that somebody automatically get something. So you’re not required to do that. But also I’m guessing that that would run and work automatically going forward as well. So once you’ve got that in place. Say you run this as a campaign over 3-6 months, but it means that if somebody takes on that link today they’ll get that offer next week. But if they clicked on it next week they get the offer the week after. It would always be sort of an automated rolling, rolling effect is that right?

Travis Ketchum [00:13:56] Exactly. Yeah, you nailed it. And so that’s what the real value is of not having to create your own front end content and just linking to it. Because it basically allows you to sort of laser target by sending out all this different content for all these different categories. And you can basically constantly sort of peel off those who are interested. And so when you’re, when you’re thinking about your offer follow up. You’re not nagging your whole list with the offer. You’re only sending more content to those who engaged. So it reduces your total e-mail volume. It reduces the amount of e-mail that’s not getting opened and clicked. Because percentage-wise it’s by your already engaged list. You get more people that are actually engaging with each and every email for a percentage standpoint which helps you deliverability over time. It helps your relevancy over time. And if it furthers that relationship right. Cos cold emailing right kind of sucks. Because you don’t want to keep banging the drum of a sales process. If you think like a normal salesperson you follow up with your interested leads and it’s effectively just doing that on autopilot.

Chris Bruno [00:14:58] Yes. I wanted to ask you about this as well. So we talked to a lot of small businesses we talked to a lot of solopreneurs for lack of a better word that are just starting out. And one of the things that we find loads of people get stuck in and I’m wondering if you think this as well. They get stuck in the tools. So we’ve had businesses that have barely started and they haven’t made any revenue yet. They’ve got the idea they’ve got the concept. They’re trying to push out, this can be service or product based. And they’re straight into something like the HubSpots or the InfusionSofts trying to set up these magical fantastic “they’ll run themselves” kind of systems that are going to make them millions of pounds. And what we actually end up seeing is invariably these things can be overly complicated and also very very time consuming. I know a couple of people that literally make a lot of money every year by purely setting up the flows for things like HubSpot or InfusionSoft. But my question really is if the focus on the tools and these cool features kind of thing. When people are at the early stages of the business, what would the two most important things that you would say they need to be doing. Would it be for example list building and then some form of segmentation to try and get that kind of better version of the emails going out? Or what would be the two things that you would say would be the most important to start with.

Travis Ketchum [00:16:23] Yeah I I definitely believe that building your audience is one of the best revenue-generating activities you can do. Because it doesn’t matter if you have the best whiz-bang follow up tools content pitch etc in the world if nobody sees it. So building an audience is definitely the number one thing. You know the one thing that came to mind we talked about people who make a lot of money setting up the automation tools. It reminded me of you know during the gold rush people who consistently made the most money were the people selling the shovels not the people that were actually prospecting for gold. So that’s definitely worthwhile to keep in mind. But figuring out how to build up. I mean you know you need to test offers. Right. People always are quick to try to automate everything. You I realise it’s kind of funny and rich coming from a guy who has an automation tool. But in the early stages if you’re trying to automate everything, you know. What the hell are you doing? Because you don’t even know what your audience wants yet, what they respond to yet, what they convert on yet. And so building up an audience and testing offers it’s going to take more work on the front end but you need to run offers individually. And see what kind of products, services, price points, language, angles, work for the audience that you’re attracting. And then once you figure out a campaign that works well, that produces great revenue per click, your APCs [Acquisition/Production Costs], then you can set up an automated system.

Travis Ketchum [00:17:50] And then you can focus all of your time and attention on backfilling that pipeline with your audience and siphoning off those who are engaged. But you need to know what kind of campaign is going to work in the first place before that makes any sense right. You don’t want to automate something for an offer that’s a total belly flop. Right. Then you’re wasting all your time, money, and resources because you’re, you’re just basically throwing your business up against a brick wall because it’s an offer that doesn’t work. You need to know what works. Know what they respond to and really sort of find your voice too. I think a lot of early businesses just sort of put content down but if they don’t really find their voice in a way that strikes a nerve. They don’t speak in a way that makes their prospect identify with them, empathise with them, and all those kind of things that they really make a successful business sing.

Chris Bruno [00:18:40] So you and I have had many a conversation over the last six years. And invariably one of the thing that frustrates me the most is pretty much exactly what you’ve said. People go out there. They put it all set up in their heads. They know exactly what they want to do and they completely forget that all the tools available to everybody today for free. Things like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever it might be, gives you a huge opportunity for two-way conversation. And that two-way conversation gives you a feedback loop that is unprecedented. It’s super fast it’s super honest. Yes it can be a little bit brutal but there’s no reason not to use that to be able to figure out exactly what you just said there. Going out and doing all this work and you know people create their brochures and they make their web site perfect and they do all of these things that takes months, resources, time, money everything that they’ve got basically. And then like you mentioned a belly flop it doesn’t work. Because actually it’s not what the audience is looking for. It’s not what people are thinking about. It’s not what people are actually looking for in any way shape or form. And it’s a huge disaster for them because what ends up happening or at least what I’ve seen. Not sure if you agree. Basically people go, Well I tried that and it didn’t work. I tried having a web site and you know I never got a single contact request through my web site. I tried blogging. I wrote three articles. No one ever commented or shared it or anything else. And like you mentioned people forget that there’s a whole trial and error. There’s the feedback loop. Which again go out there and ask your audience. Ask the people that are connected. Ask the couple of first clients. Find out what you’re doing well. Find out what you’re not doing well. Find out what they like. Find out what they don’t like. And the final one that kills me is you know, social media being used as a bullhorn rather than remembering you know the clues in the title. It’s meant to be social. So why wouldn’t you ask questions, why wouldn’t you see what the audience thinks. Why wouldn’t you ask them for their input. Because ultimately everything you’re doing is for them not for you.

Travis Ketchum [00:20:41] [00:20:41]You have the beautiful and brutal thing at the same time is that the marketplace will always humble you. You know if you think about it like it was for me personally anytime you’ve created an ad campaign or whatever like whatever I think is going to work is never the one that actually works, you know. No matter how many years I’ve been in the business no matter how many campaigns I’ve done. The market will always surprise you in you know which one the data tells you is the winner. [26.7s] And it’s also a great way of how we do product development. A lot of times with rare occasions sometimes you’ve got to build the thing before people know what they want. But 90 percent of the time you know the audience needs to tell you what they want. So for some of our trainings and stuff it’s not uncommon for us to actually pre sell it before we build the actual course. What we end up doing as we spend 20 percent of the total effort building the sales page. In writing what we think people want. And doing it as a pre-order running our audience to it, see if it works or not because worst case scenario refund everyone. You just have to eat the transaction fees. And best case scenario you get a bunch of money that are people raising their hand say yep this is exactly what I want. Or hey this is what I want but does it, if you get a bunch of people saying, does it cover X and you didn’t think of X. Well there’s a new module. You know exactly what you need to cover to satisfy the need of the marketplace and it helps you refine your offer without having to put a bunch of work into it ahead of time. There’s been courses that I thought were gonna be great. Totally sink. Courses I thought would be mediocre and total you know ended up being total home runs. And the marketplace will always tell you and so you have to respect that. And be willing to iterate and understand that you don’t have all the answers in fact you don’t even probably have many of the answers, let alone all of them.

Chris Bruno [00:22:28] I think it was – I don’t know if I’m gonna attribute this quote right, I think it was Thomas Edison said, Opportunity is often missed because it’s disguised as hard work. And I’m paraphrasing there but the main thing is that I know so many people so many businesses that try to create sales page and it never worked. And you go well how many did you create? And literally sort of they go, Well I tried once. It didn’t work and you go right okay… And I think this will give people a really good impression. If I asked you since I think it’s about 2012 that you started with Contest Domination. Yeah we met in 2013. So since 2012. How many sales pages do you think you’ve created in six years?

Travis Ketchum [00:23:16] Who. Well first of all I don’t know the number but it’s a lot.

Chris Bruno [00:23:24] Hundreds?

Travis Ketchum [00:23:25] Oh easily easily hundreds. Yeah.

Chris Bruno [00:23:28] Possibly into the thousands?

Travis Ketchum [00:23:30] It’s it’s quite likely it’s a thousand plus. It is if you count. You know where I’ve built in an iteration and then I’m like I don’t like it and throw it away and I start over. That’s that’s not uncommon because I guess it also depends on your definition of sales pages. Because I consider squeeze pages to really be a sales page what you’re selling for the opt in. As opposed to the sale. Done so many outcome pages and webinar landing pages and actual sales pages and upsell pages and down sell pages and it’s pretty ridiculous. But you know if you think about it right so like you know my first sales page for Contest Domination. I had to hire someone else to build it. And it was frustrating and was expensive. And over time the tools have gotten better, my skills have gotten better and now you know I even if it’s not necessarily the best use of my time it gets me a hundred percent but that covers every pixel on a sales page that you see in know and millions of dollars in sales on those pages now. And I’m not saying that to brag just like you can go from no skill to you know no one’s really ever truly master because it’s always a moving target. But you can go from no skill to strong confidence and competence in being able to create sales pages that work. But it takes practice. It’s always kind of cracks me up when people are just getting going and they’re like oh I want to get a VA to do this and someone else to do that and someone else to do that. It’s like well how are you going to know you want to ask him to do if you don’t understand fundamentally what it is you’re trying to accomplish? And you haven’t been in the trenches to take the bruises and take a few L’s in the learning process so you can focus their time and their effort and their expertise in the right way and get everyone rowing in the same direction. Just kind of cracks me up.

Chris Bruno [00:25:26] Yeah I think that’s that’s a huge thing. The VA. I’m a big fan of the VAs once you know exactly what it is that you’re asking somebody to do and once you know what it is that you can do that makes it work. And I think what a lot of people mistakenly do is they go out and they start farming out everything. Again as the guy who sells farming out services like web design, like social media management, etc. It’s probably a bit cheeky to be saying that but I think what’s a good sort of way of looking at it is that guys that are in my core team are better than me at every one of their tasks. But there isn’t anything that they do that I can’t do. And I think that’s something that’s super important for people especially when they’re starting. It’s really easy to stop pumping stuff out left right centre. And the quality of freelancers as we both know, we both experienced over the years, freelancers, developers, graphic designers, writers, blog writers. Doesn’t matter what you’re looking for but the quality varies astronomically. So it can happen very quickly that you try a VA. It doesn’t really work out. You didn’t really know exactly what you were looking for. It wasn’t really broken down in that way well enough or detailed enough to give them a brief of what you were expecting to come back from it. And therefore as a result it’s a failure. So further down the line it goes into the pile of that doesn’t work. VAs don’t work. And I’m proud to say you know 2017 we started working with a VA. Today she is our Head of Social Media, Anna Simmonds and she’s absolutely fantastic. I met her by happenstance through this and this Time Etc platform here in the UK. But actually because we worked so closely together, because we understood exactly what we were looking for, because we could work together and help each other all the way through that process, and because I understood what it was that we were actually trying to do in the first place.

Chris Bruno [00:27:17] We ended up with a great symbiotic relationship that made sense for both of us to continue working together. But I think the VA a conversation goes down the same sort of path which is people are willing to keep trying. So you know quick wins trying to do a sales page or a squeeze page or a sign up sale or a down sell whatever it might be. Anything like that that you try and do once, twice, three times and then quit because it doesn’t work means that actually you’re not willing to actually put in the effort to make it work. Because these things do take time. These things take testing these things. You know everyone’s heard of A B testing. And I can remember actually meeting with a startup that just got their second round of funding in the UK. This was back in 2016 and they called me in for a consultation. And I was paid it was great. I’m happy to talk to people for money and literally we’re having the conversation. They were like that right. Well you know we’re not getting enough sign ups. So I said, Well the first thing is you know can you show me some of the data and show me what’s going on. So we had a look and then I just said a really simple question. I said okay so A B testing what are you, what’s going on, like in terms of the sales page, at squeeze pages, the sign up pages, the app download pages. [00:28:25]And they said look everyone knows about A B testing. We didn’t bring a consultant in to talk to us about A B testing. And I said Okay great. So what have you A B tested. And the whole room went deathly quiet. [10.7s]

Travis Ketchum [00:28:39] It’s funny how that works.

Chris Bruno [00:28:41] But it’s moments like that you realise people aren’t actually willing to put in the effort. And they might have heard of something but they’re not actually willing to give it a try. And try and actually take it forward. So I think that’s quite interesting for a lot of people and I think it’s for all aspects of what we call digital marketing. You know somebody did a video once and it didn’t go viral therefore they stopped making video content. And it’s crazy to see that. And I don’t, I don’t know how to get more people through it. But we keep trying anyway.

Travis Ketchum [00:29:09] I have one more thing I want to touch on, because I do believe in VAs and I do believe in hiring good talent because I could not have been able to do what we’ve done without hiring great people. But one of the last roles that I think the founders and business owners should give up – they should eventually give it up but the last one to give up in my eyes is actually support. And I and I say that even as monotonous as it can feel because support is your immediate feedback loop right. It’s people that are having issues, have questions, presale questions, all the things you need to be thinking about, and you’re answering or solving at a different stage of your marketing cycle. And so you know being in there being in the trenches and understanding the exact pain points, the feedback, and problems is huge. And you know I feel like I don’t want to support. I get it. Trust me, I get it. Support can really suck. But you need to be in there to get that immediate feedback. And that is so insanely valuable. It’s like a lot people if they’re unhappy they just bounce or they just leave, you never hear about it. And so you can have broken components in areas that you never knew about or if you have someone else handling support they may be trying to ease the customer pain, refund, coupons, bonuses, whatever without addressing the core problem. Either they’re treating symptoms not the problem and that that’s a huge feedback point that I think all founders, early people in a business should be paying attention to and getting their own eyes on is definitely support and then be one last thing you actually give up and hand over.

Chris Bruno [00:30:44] Yeah I agree completely and it’s again this idea that it’s a feedback loop that’s so rapid. Like you mentioned that you know people presale and conversations that’s going to give you a superb indication of potentially needs to go into a new version of your sales page or a squeeze page. People asking particular questions, you start to see those questions come up more often, or multiple times. You know that that’s an important point to address in support like you mentioned for broken components. But even for actually, how your team’s doing, how your company’s doing, how your product is. We had this conversation with somebody the other day and we said you know it was actually about social media marketing but we were talking about social proof. And we said ok so do you have any kind of content at all that your clients have given you about yourself. And they said no what you mean. I was like that Well do you ever ask your clients: How we doing? Are we doing a good job? Can you give me a review? Can you give me some honest feedback from how did you find x? How did you find Y, was the process good. Was the process bad. Are you happy with who’s dealing with your account whatever it might be.

Chris Bruno [00:31:45] And funnily enough actually I’d say 90 percent of businesses almost ignore that until it becomes a pain point i.e. a customer shouting at them on the phone.

Travis Ketchum [00:31:54] Yeah. Yeah. And you’ll find ways to reduce those pain points over time too. We were able to reduce our support ticket load by over 90 percent by systematically just saying what is the, you know, the most frequent questions in the sales process. What are the most frequent problems in the app. Are people getting stuck, where do they have questions, what are most common presale questions. And by weaving content into the front end marketing, right into the sales pages of the webinar content etc. we can alleviate those presale questions before they even had it. Because if one person asks you there’s probably 100 people that have the same question. And on the product and delivery side of things, people are getting stuck somewhere. We just created a bunch of little two to five minute long tutorial videos and stuck them at the exact location that people were getting stuck. And it was just like turning off the faucets of flow into the problem bucket. And so even though we’ve had over twenty thousand people use our Contest software as an example, our support load is actually extremely manageable. It’s very small. It’s not even a part time person that has to handle all that it is just an added role that gets passed around the team because we so were ruthlessly systematic about addressing those questions as they came in. Stack ranking them and doing that until we just got down to almost completely zero.

Chris Bruno [00:33:17] Yep I agree completely. And again use those feedback loops. Anyone who’s listening. Ask people what they think. Don’t be scared to ask of clients. Nobody’s going to hate you for it or give you a bad bad reference or a bad testimonial just because you asked. And even if they do take that as being the biggest thing that you can actually change within your business and give you some insight as to what’s actually happening. Okay cool right. So I talk a lot about the opportunities or I’d like to ask a lot about the opportunities of what we see as being potential for people out there especially the small to mid-sized businesses. From your point of view we’ve talked about the automation, we’ve talked about contests as a way to list build. What do you think of social media for small to mid-sized businesses right now. What’s your opinion?

Travis Ketchum [00:34:06] I mean it’s a great place to get that feedback loop as you mentioned earlier. I think it’s kind of a poor place to really firmly build your audience though. I mean it’s it’s a helpful component but the struggle is that you’re working on rented property. So you know building up a Facebook audience, a Twitter following and Instagram. They’re all helpful and meaningful. But as we’ve seen over and over and over again anytime that you completely rely on your audience being on a third party platform like Facebook the rules can change without notice and drastically change know the lead flow, the engagement rates. However, whatever metric you get that’s working for you. It’s easy for that to shift on you quickly. I don’t think you should rely on it as your only place to build your audience. Obviously you can probably tell my opinion on where, on just based on the tools that I’ve built and our history. But we’ve found consistently that an email address or something that you actually own with your relationship with your audience is huge. But social media is a big contributing factor on how to build that, how to build awareness, perception, customer support, all those things are fantastic at the social level. I would just caution people to totally rely on it, right. Because we saw with Search Engine Optimization right. Everything’s like, Oh Google screwed up my, you know, where I rank and now your business is dead. And they look for the next free traffic source. You know early in the early days of Facebook fan pages engagement and reach was great. And then Facebook realized hey we promoted this too much. We did dial that back down because our audiences naturally liked that. It had a big fat following on their fan page. So we saw their engagement rates dip way way way down, that’s continued to occur. So they are important aspects but I would just highly caution people to make that their only communication channel.

Chris Bruno [00:36:01] Awesome. In terms of that I think again what’s interesting is the idea of list building being owned property. In fact we were talking about property before but, owned property as opposed to renting property. So we believe honestly that social media gives small to mid-sized businesses a huge opportunity to get stuff out there and in a way that’s cost effective obviously. But you can tell by what we do for a living. But at the same time it’s all about driving that process. It’s a channel to get people to your website, to your offers, to your sign up pages, to whatever it might be and it’s something that again I’m still shocked when I talk to businesses that are substantial sizes but yet don’t for example even still have a newsletter sign up or don’t really push that idea of kind of engaging and creating that audience that they own.

Chris Bruno [00:36:54] And I think that’s really important for everybody listening. If you don’t have a sign up to our newsletter, if your clients don’t have the option when they’re checking out to become part of your mail list and find out more, or get the latest info news whatever it might be for your business or your services. I think that’s really a missed a missed trick. And over here in the UK even with GDPR all which is the four letters that really annoys every marketer I think in the entire European sector.

Travis Ketchum [00:37:23] But it’s not just Europe brother because it applies to anyone might have a European audience even when they’re not in Europe.

Chris Bruno [00:37:29] So yeah you guys have stuff too.

Travis Ketchum [00:37:33] It’s not great.

Chris Bruno [00:37:35] But to be fair though again it is annoying it has meant that things are more difficult. But so many platforms now have that included as a you know you need this which is this need to be GDPR compliant, you tick a box and yes, it’s a pain. Yes they need to confirm yes they need to take that box or whatever it might be you can’t just auto scrape their emails from whatever it was that they were doing on your website. But it still doesn’t mean you can’t build a list. And I think that’s the important thing to take away. And again not. Not forgetting that it’s not because you tried one thing once. That doesn’t actually work. The same way as you were talking about earlier you know segmenting that audience based on the content that they’re interested in and stuff like that. But again you know Facebook allows you to retarget ads to. People that have seen specific content that you that on your website or whatever it might be thanks to Pixel. And again I think that’s really important as a way to actually develop your advertising a little bit more than just carpet bombing 5 million or 20 million people in the UK for example. And that’s something that again you know put some time and effort in and actually do the work.

Travis Ketchum [00:38:40] Yeah I totally agree. Right. Every channel has its place but know your website that sits on your own, your own hosting with your own domain and your email list are essentially the only two assets that you actually own. And so finding other channels and avenues to keep people back to those is really key. And you know you mentioned big businesses that don’t focus on email and it again comes back to the, Oh we tried it and doesn’t work. You guys sign up for our newsletter is great and all but it is not the 90s anymore and that’s not enough. Usually. Usually you need a lead magnet and send out a coupon, something, some reason as to why people should give you their information. No one gets excited at the idea of getting more email unless there’s a clear and obvious benefit.

Chris Bruno [00:39:26] Yep I agree. Okay cool. I think we’ve probably gone through enough about the automation and email lists and social media. Travis you’ve done two companies now, two start-ups. You own these companies yourself and you’ve worked redonkulously hard for the last six years since I’ve known you.

Chris Bruno [00:39:50] What’s the one biggest piece of advice. It can be about digital marketing but it doesn’t need to be. For anyone out there that’s starting regardless of what they’re starting whether it’s a platform, a system or if they’re just creating a small business to start selling products or services. What’s the biggest piece of advice?

Travis Ketchum [00:40:07] You know this may seem a little weird but I think the biggest thing people need to realize is that you. You actually have more of a support system in place usually than you think. I think that being an entrepreneur can feel like a pretty lonely and difficult path because at times it kind of is that way. But when you are able to take a step back and you realize the people that are in your life and who you’ve decided to keep in your life. That you probably have a lot more support in your corner than is you know. It’s not necessarily clearly written on the wall.

Travis Ketchum [00:40:46] Especially with Campion Refinery this is far and away the most ambitious thing that I’ve ever tried to build. And I’ve had some difficult stretches in businesses in the past. But it’s a wildly complex, insanely expensive. You know my hosting bill is more than my mortgage payment. I live in an expensive area of the world to live. And it’s you know it’s feels like, did I bite off too much am I doing too much? But then when you when you really are able to talk to the people that are in your close circle about you know just, hey you know I may be crushing in this area, but I’m really shrugging this other. You may find that there’s a lot more support in terms of resources, connections, maybe friends and family loans, maybe that’s sage advice and someone’s been through something before that. There’s a lot more opportunity and support for you than maybe you would feel out of the gate. So you know keep fighting the good fight. Don’t give up too easily. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Travis Ketchum [00:41:51] And I think you might be surprised at the amount of support that you get. And also understand that if someone isn’t supportive of you it may not mean that they don’t care about you. It may mean they didn’t understand it. Don’t burn bridges over it but I think you have a lot more. Most entrepreneurs have a lot more people willing to back them in their corner than they might realize when it feels kind of lonely, when you’re working those long hours, and working the weekends and missing events sometimes that you would otherwise .care to go to. It’s a, it’s worthwhile to know that you have more people fighting for you than you think.

Chris Bruno [00:42:24] Yeah I think that’s that’s a huge piece of advice. And I think there’s a slight air of glamorization of the entrepreneur lifestyle that’s happened over the last few years and the likes of Gary V. I like some of the stuff he says. I don’t like some of the other stuff you know working 24 hours a day nine days a week or whatever it is that he recommends for everybody to do. But I do think that there is an element of you know be careful not to burn yourself out but also don’t be afraid to turn around and help and ask for help sorry.

Chris Bruno [00:42:56] And again you’d be surprised where I come from. I’ve had people connect with me and reach out to me through LinkedIn on their career advice section of LinkedIn. To ask for help with what they’re doing. I’ve spoken to people that are placed in bigger companies much bigger companies than my own and had conversations and I even keep in touch with a couple of competitors in inverted commas who also actually are in the same boat. And we have conversations every now and again and you know Travis even you and I occasionally get a chance to catch up and sort of go through things. So I think that’s really important. And don’t be afraid to look for other people that are in the same boat as you and ask for help. Nothing wrong with that. And again we’re always there as well to have a conversation or we’d be happy to have a conversation as well.

Chris Bruno [00:43:39] Travis where can everybody find you.

Travis Ketchum [00:43:42] You know they can find me on the usual social media channels Twitter Facebook Instagram Travis Ketchum happy to engage with anyone answering questions on either of those. And then of course if you just want to e-mail me you can just e-mail I really try to be diligent about getting through my inbox. So e-mail me you will get a response assuming it’s not like you know time you to go jump off a cliff or something. But yeah assuming it’s constructive I’m always happy to reply. Give us some thoughtful answers to as many people as possible.

Chris Bruno [00:44:20] Quick tip for anyone. Just before they run out and email Travis at campaign refinery dot com. The really important thing to do is actually structure an email and put some context in it and make it clear what you’re actually asking for help with or what are you actually asking for.

Chris Bruno [00:44:39] You’d be amazed how many people pick out an e-mail and it has no real context and didn’t really ask any questions. And then people are surprised they didn’t get a response. So just have a think about that.

Chris Bruno [00:44:49] Travis thank you so much for agreeing to jump on today and really appreciate it and looking forward to see what you, what you do next.

Travis Ketchum [00:44:57] Thanks man it’s been a pleasure.

[00:45:02] Hope you enjoyed the episode. Remember to subscribe and leave us a review to let us know what you think. You can find all the show notes on If you’re looking for more help me your digital marketing. I’m excited to tell you that the team at Social INK has launched a brand new education platform focussed on helping all brands and businesses with their social media marketing. If you’d like to find out more simply visit You’ll find all our latest training courses, coaching, and resources available to you. Simply sign up today.

[00:45:39] Till next time. Thanks everybody.

Music by Hani Koi from Fugue