Chasing Profits Instead of Vanity Numbers

(Episode 1 of 2 with Matt Bailey)

Chasing Profits Instead of Vanity Numbers

Matt Bailey is a best-selling author. He’s written several books such as Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day, Wired to be Wowed, and Teach New Dogs Old Tricks. He’s also the host of the Endless Coffee Cup podcast. 

Matt is a marketing expert, trainer, and speaker on digital marketing strategy. Matt is a digital marketing instructor for the Direct Marketing Association and an instructor for LinkedIn Learning. His training content and curriculum can also be found at Rutgers University, Duke University, Purdue, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and many other places. ‘

In today’s episode, Matt Bailey will share some of his strategies for chasing real profit and not meaningless vanity numbers. He will share strategies about asking the right questions and listening.  We’ll also discuss diversifying our revenue streams, learning from our failures, and the tectonic shift that’s happening with Google and third-party cookies.

Asking the Right Questions

Matt is very passionate about digital and media literacy, or the ability to understand the tools we’re using and to understand bias in information. This was something Matt learned during his journey.

Matt started off studying journalism, but he knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do, so he went into real estate. He realized there was a way to promote large commercial properties, websites. Two years later, his websites were getting about 200 leads a month.

He learned coding, SEO, link building, and PR doing all these things for himself. He started learning analytics, which led him to ask why his leads from searches weren’t turning into sales. “That changed my whole perspective about what I was doing, how I was doing it, and following the profit rather than following the big numbers because if I had to just ask what’s generating the most leads, I would have answered that question, but it was the wrong question,” Matt said. 

Matt was getting more than 80% of his leads through search rankings, but none of them turned into sales. He poured through his data spreadsheets, trying to figure out where his leads were going wrong and where his sales were coming from. He found that his sales were coming from articles he had published on real estate sites where there were links back to his site. People were reading those articles, clicking the links, and registering on his website. Those people accounted for only 4% of his traffic but 80% of his sales.

If Matt hadn’t asked the right questions, he never would have discovered the right group of people to focus on. He would have wasted time and money trying to turn the other 96% of his traffic into sales instead of growing that 4% that already made up 80% of his sales. Questions that drive us to understand our data can help us understand our business and how to make it more profitable.

Ask, Listen, Understand

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Matt said some of the best people he has worked with have been able to do this: asking greeting questions and then connecting them to business acumen. Asking the right questions leads to understanding how a business makes money, what the expenses are, what takes away from profitability, what’s the business model, how does it functions, etc.

A key part of this process is listening. I feel like the more listening I do, the smarter I am. Listening is one of the most powerful ways to monetize because we can then position our product to sell, we can understand what the needs are, we can customize and personalize based upon it, and we can address true concerns.

Matt shared a survey he had heard about that was run during COVID-19 about virtual selling and B2B sellers. When interviewed, salespeople were saying, “I have a hard time connecting with customers. They’re not as attentive, and it’s a more difficult sell because of COVID-19.” However, when they interviewed buyers or people in the lead sales funnel, their response was, “I’m not being listened to. They don’t really understand what I need.”

In Matt’s early days of sales, they used to play a game when they went to sales meetings: whoever talked the most lost. “If you talk the most, that means you dominated the meeting, and the customer did not talk and express what they needed. You were trying to sell the whole time and you didn’t listen,” Matt said. 

We should be listening to what our customers need. We should also be listening to our partners, those on our team, and our employees because they often have great ideas that we may not have thought of.

Diversifying and Creating Multiple Income Streams

Matt also learned the value of making money in different ways. When he was in real estate, other agents started contacting him, asking him to put their properties on his site because it was getting a lot of traffic. 

“That taught me very early [that] I can make money through many other ways,” Matt said. “Putting up a website and [having] other people pay you to put their stuff on it, that takes very little work at all. . . . One of those things I learned is that with the internet, with all these things, there are many different ways to develop multiple income streams.”

Are there different ways we could be diversifying our revenue streams? Sometimes we put ourselves in boxes, saying, “This is the way it’s always been done, so that’s the way I have to do it.” But that’s not true. Experimenting and thinking outside that box may lead us to more success.

We can ask our customers what other needs they have or what other products or services they would be interested in. For example, a business that sells food may find out from their customers that they’re interested in recipes they can use to cook their food. 

We can also ask ourselves what our competitors have done to expand their revenue streams, and we can look to businesses outside our industry as well to see how they have brought in revenue in different ways, and then apply those lessons to our industry and business.

Learning from Failures

Whenever we fail or make mistakes, it can damage us and our confidence, but Matt likes to look at his past failures as learning experiences.

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He was let go three times from three different jobs because of financial cutbacks. It was hard because those organizations were telling him they didn’t need him. “It’s funny because I look back on that now as the best thing that ever could have happened,” Matt said. 

From that experience, he realized he is more secure now working for himself on something he built and has control over than working for a Fortune 500 company. He said, “It’s really a lot of things that you learn from that just really turn you into who you are.”

When we’re looking back at our past mistakes, instead of being ashamed we can ask questions like, “What did I do wrong?” and “What can I do differently next time?” to help us learn from our mistakes. 

Tectonic Shift: Google and Third-Party Cookies

When I asked Matt what the biggest tectonic shift he’s seeing is, he said it is the shift Google is making with third-party cookies. Google is eliminating third-party cookies, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because these third-party cookies have been responsible for billions of dollars of ad fraud.

Google is consolidating the total ad revenue being spent online. Matt said, “If you want to reach a certain audience, you’ve got to go through Google. And the way Google’s doing it is they’re making themselves the owner of all first-party data of anyone who has a Google account.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Matt for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. We should be asking great questions that will give us actionable answers to grow our business. 

2. By asking, listening, and understanding our customers we will understand our business better, know what our customers truly need, and be able to make much better, informed decisions. 

3. There are many ways to create diversified revenue streams. Being open to new ideas and thinking outside the box can help us grow our revenue, and give our business more stability.

4. We should see our failures as opportunities to learn and grow. They are necessary steps along our path to success. 

Connect with Matt

If you want to learn more about Matt or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn or check out to learn more. 

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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