In this episode, I talk to Chris Marr, founder of Content Marketing Academy; the membership-based business which help other to grow by using the power of content, but also looks at other essential areas such as leadership, sales, email marketing, social media, etc.
Full disclaimer; I am a member of the Content Marketing Academy community so it was a no-brainer for me to invite Chris onto the show as we discuss all things content, business, personal development and of course, WordPress.
Some of the things we talk about include:
- the importance of creating content in order to exist online
- you don’t need to be an expert at everything in order to provide value to your audience
- how going basic and on a low budget can make a big difference for your website and online presence
- the importance of focusing on your strength and outsourcing everything else to help grow your business
- what you start off with, might pivot into something better
“If you feel like you’re in a position, like you don’t think you know enough, all you need is to know a little bit more than everybody else” – Chris Marr
- The Content Marketing Academy
- Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
- Catch Me If You Can
- Chris Marr on Twitter
Ahmed Khalifa: Here we go! This is IgniteRock podcast, where in one week, I interview those who are doing awesome stuff with WordPress, and the other week I share some tips and advice on making the most out of your online business and career.
Thank you for tuning in. Now, let’s get straight on to the show.
And here we go everyone, this is going to be a really exciting one today because this is someone that I’m getting to know more and more every day, Chris Marr is on the line. I really, really appreciate your time Chris, really can’t thank you enough for using your time and effort to be here. So, I guess, what I always like to do, and start off with, when I talk to anybody is, tell me about yourself, who you are, where you’re from and how did you get to where you are today?
Chris Marr: Cool, it’s great to be here. Thanks very much for inviting me on Ahmed, I really appreciate it. It’s good and I’m really looking forward to talking about this topic, it’s nothing something I get to talk about a lot. Well, I talk about myself a lot but not talk about WordPress so much.
So, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in about that. But, yeah, I’m based… it’s a sunny day, I’m looking out my office window here on the east coast of Scotland. My office is based in Kirkcaldy and I’ve been here for… well, I grew up in Fife, I went to school here, I went to college here, I even went to university in Fife, how many people can say that? I’ve lived my whole life here. My parents still live here too and I built my business here.
I’ve been a business person, I would say, for about five or six years, I’ve been involved in enterprise type projects. But, the business I’m running at the moment, Content Marketing Academy, has been a business for just over four years, we’re into our fourth year, fifth year now… we’re into our fourth year, yeah, we just had our fourth year anniversary.
What keeps me busy every day is just working with our members, teaching, curating, live events, organisation, marketing, sales, all that good stuff. Communication, podcast content, love all of that kind of stuff.
So, it keeps me really, really…confused, as an agency, but we’re not an agency. The Content Marketing Academy is a membership organisation. We teach the principles of content marketing, and also other things like leadership, communication, sales, marketing, that sort of thing. We have to cover a whole other host of stuff, for example, this morning we had a webinar about productivity.
We are really, long story short, a business growth membership organisation. That’s what we like to think we are, and the kind of things that we teach. I spend a lot of my time working with our members and creating content for them, and helping them, inspiring them, motivating them, giving them new ideas to grow their business.
That’s the Content Marketing Academy. It’s really built around me. We’ve got a tiny little team, and it’s a great business.
We love it, and we switched from being an agency, private client business, to a membership organisation just last year, so it’s been an interesting transition. It’s been brilliant. It’s different, but it’s also better. I enjoy it more, so I’m really loving business just now, and hoping that will continue.
Ahmed Khalifa: Definitely. I guess I should put a disclaimer, is that I’m also a member of the Content Marketing Academy, and there is nothing wrong with that, because I’ve admired what Chris done for many years. I’ve known him, what he’s been doing through his Podcast. When you have content, you got podcast out there, I listen to it.
I got to know Chris without him knowing me. I got to know what he does and I just got curious. I liked the idea, and I joined. I’ve been a membership, as of right now, three or four months now, and I’m already seeing the benefit, so it’s really, really awesome community to be part
One thing that I’ve noticed Chris, is that we both have a similar kind of start to the business world, in that we both worked in full time jobs. We both worked for many, many years, and really, if it wasn’t for that … if it wasn’t for being in full time jobs all the time, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing right now.
I’ve always said, if it wasn’t for my job, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do right now. You yourself, you’ve worked in, not only a variety of industry, but you didn’t really set out to be an entrepreneur, or a business person, or a business owner at all.
Chris Marr: That’s right. It’s an interesting point. Your story, is your story, so I worked in a larger organisation. It’s who I am, it’s part of me. There’s things that I regret about that, but there’s also a lot of things that I’m here today as a result of.
I think it’s easy to look back and say, I wish I’d done something earlier. It’s easy for me to look back and say I wish I’d started my business when I was 21, and not 31, for example.
But, actually, working in the larger organisation, afforded me a training budget. I was learning a new thing every single year, going on different training courses, certificates. I had a team management, leadership … I was facilitating workshops from when I was 19 years old.
You don’t appreciate that until you go in to the business world as a consultant, or a speaker, that you’ve actually had training for 15 years in public speaking essentially.
I think that … you’re right, it’s easy to look back and dismiss it, but it’s actually been great learning experience. It wasn’t even a marketing role. It was management and leadership that I was in. Customer service, it was a service industry that I was in from a very young age, and it teaches you a lot of things, about how to work with customers, how to deal with complaints, how to deal with team members, discipline, human resources, leadership, training.
All of that kind of stuff. That’s been a big part of my background, and I think that it’s really led me to have the main skill set that I have today. Really, my job today is about connecting people, and curating talent. Those are the two main things that I build my business on.
I think you’re right. It’s good to recognise where you came from, but, interestingly enough, marketing really started to take a hold of me when I was in to more middle management. I was getting a bit more senior in management, and having a bit more responsibility about how we communicated with our customers.
This was about 2007, roughly, and things like Google Docs, Google Forms, Twitter, Facebook, all that kind of stuff, was starting to cause a bit of a stir. I’ve always been interested in computers, from a very young age, so I always wanted to make it easier for us to communicate with our customers, but also operate as a team.
We started to use things like Facebook groups, and polls, and Google Forms to do lots of customer communication. I started reading books about social media marketing. Gary Vaynerchuk was one of the people that was there from the start when the social media started to cause a big scene.
I was heavily influenced by all of that, and I started to study on my own, in my own time about marketing and social media, and content. That seed was planted for me back in 2007, 2008 as I started to do different things in the business. That’s where my marketing story starts, and that’s where I started looking at things like blogging, and content.
My interests changed, and I started to get really excited about marketing.
Ahmed Khalifa: The one thing that you’ve mentioned about Gary Vaynerchuk, because I was going to ask you. The next question is that I know you got inspired by his book “Crush it” and that changed everything for you in terms of how you to think about world of social media, marketing, linking yourself between personal branding and being on line.
What was it about that book that really changed it for you?
Chris Marr: Good question. “Crush it”, as you just brought up, I talked about it a lot. When you look back, there’s always defining moments in your life, like transitions. That was for me. It was … whatever. You might read the book and think its rubbish, but I read it at the time, and it was just the right time for me to hear that message, whatever that was.
I remember one passage in there was about the CV, or the resume, being dead. In the future, it’s just not going to be a thing anymore. I thought, that seems right to me.
I said to myself, I’m never going to write another CV ever again, and I’m going to start this blog, and we can talk about that as we talk about the platforms, but I started this blog, thinking to myself … What I’m going to do, is I’m going to put my ideas in to the world, and instead of me sending out 50 CVs to different employers, what I’m going to do is, I’m going to write on one platform, and hopefully what will happen is, they’ll come to me.
Now, at the time, I didn’t think that was me trying to be a business person, or entrepreneur, but that’s exactly what was happening, and that’s exactly what did happen. I got my first five figure contract off the back of that original platform. The blog that I was writing, and it’s just about customer service, and leadership, and communication.
Gary Vaynerchuk was the … that book was the thing that inspired me from not creating content, to creating content. Writing down 50 ideas, starting a blog, writing and getting it out there, and even people at the time, I remember …
This was …2010 was when I wrote my first blog article. That’s still, in some ways, quite late on in the blogging world. There’s people that have been blogging for a lot longer than that. There was people at the time saying, “I wish I’d done that”, “I wish I’d done the same thing.”
What was actually happening Ahmed, was, I was exploring. I knew the career that I had there had a ceiling. There was only so far I could go. The qualifications I had were limiting as well. That’s another part of my story.
I went to university, and got my business degree, because I wanted to have options and advance my career. One of those things was to maybe become a consultant in a larger organisation, but what ended up happening was I started my own business.
It was a very exploratory time for me back then, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but what I really was doing, was trying to create my own opportunities. I said to myself, I’ll never write another CV again. I’ve stood by that. I’ve only ever been asked for a CV once, since then, and I told them, that I don’t have one, and I’m not sending you one.
We’re not in traditional employment, that’s not how it works. I hope that gives a little bit of an insight, but that’s what happened then. There was a fork in the road. I think it’s happened two or three ties over those few years. There were forks in the road, and I had to make a decision on which way I was going, and what I was going to do, and I’m glad that happened.
Ahmed Khalifa: Yeah. I think we’ve all been there. When you’re in university, or you finish … even before that, in high school, and you’re sending out dozens and dozens of CVs and just hoping to see anything come back from that. It’s such a pain.
You’re right, that it’s only the past year, where I thought, I don’t want to send any more CVs right now. I’m going to create my own opportunity, create my own destiny, and give it a shot. By doing that, you have to be online. One of my favourite quotes is the one you have mentioned many, many times, is … “if you are not creating content, you don’t exist online.”
It’s something that I’ve used to tell people that you need to do something online, because you haven’t done anything. It’s such a great thing, and if we’re going to move on to the whole concept of content, you’ve created it consistently.
We all get it now. You love it, you’re a podcaster, you’re a blogger, you create video, you train, you teach, you speak at events sometimes. You always talk about helping other people, and giving them an idea of what you can do for them, but why do you do it? What do you get out of creating all this content for you?
Chris Marr: Really interesting question.
It just makes a lot of sense. If you just understand the world, and see what’s happening. Look at your own behaviour. You read a couple of books, some blogs … you just see that there is no other way to build a brand effectively today.
There’s other ways to do it. Content is the most effective. The other part of it … the reason I do it, is, it leans directly in to my own philosophy as a business person. I didn’t know who I was going to be. I amn’t a traditional sales person for example. I’ve never been in sales, ever.
You could argue that leadership is an element of sales having to get people to do things they might not want to do, etc., and winning people over etc. There is certainly an amount of transferable skills there, but I’ve never been a traditional sales person.
When it came to content marketing, and social media, that just aligned directly with me already. It wasn’t difficult for me. A lot of people say things like, they hover over the publish button, worried about it. I don’t worry about that sort of stuff. It just made sense to me Ahmed.
I don’t know what to say. I guess in the early days, there was an element of being naïve, I think, and just expecting things to work for me, and it did, but I think the other part of it was, it just felt natural to me.
It just feels natural to me to turn up, create content. If you just look at anything you want to do well in the world … If you want to be successful at anything, or if you want to be good at anything … There’s a lot of things in my life, like playing guitar. I’ve played guitar for 20 years. I know that if I want to get good at guitar, I’m going to have to practise every day. I also know that the people that I look up to that have sold 200 million albums in their whole career, they still play guitar every single day.
They don’t stop. You have to keep practising . You have to keep improving. There is always room for improvement. Dancers, singers, fitness instructors, runners. Any sport. Training a dog. Consistency is the key to success. It’s honing that craft, and for me that was content, teaching, sharing, understanding … being a better writer, being a better communicator, generally speaking.
Podcasts, videos … all of that stuff is me honing a craft of becoming a world class communicator, and I think that’s why I do it at a very high level. For personal reasons is so that I can be a better communicator. Whatever I do in the future, whatever business I run, whatever projects I get involved in, all of the stuff I’m doing is practise. It’s just setting me up for success in whatever I do.
It’s the same for everybody else, whether you see it or not, that’s at the core of content marketing, for me. Just being able to practise, and hone that craft. But then, if you get to a deeper level, there’s just having …
You know I was thinking about this, this morning, this is a very off the cuff thought Ahmed, I want to share with people. I’m reading a book just now called “The Daily Stoic”. It’s single page every day for every single day of the year. You read it.
In this one it said something like, there is always room to do your work. It talked about Theodore Roosevelt, who was confined to a wheelchair, and his repose was, it’s fine, I can still do my work, or I’ll do my work anyway. Nothing will stop me.
It got me thinking about Jon Morrow. Jon Morrow has got a motor neuron disease. He’s refined to a wheelchair, but he’s a massively successful blogger and entrepreneur. He was able to do his work anyway. It just makes me think, talking to you about this today, it makes me think that, it’s almost like, if you’re not creating content, it’s not that you don’t exist, but you actually are renegading on your responsibility to share today.
You’ve got the only reason … the only barrier between me and an audience, and building an audience, and having a positive impact on the world, is my ability to jump on to the internet, and that’s available … if you’re listening to this right now, that’s available to you too.
The keyboard, writing, sharing, I actually believe wholly that if you’re a business owner, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re in the third sector, charities, social enterprise, if you’re interested in something, or you’re an expert in something, fashion, whatever … you’ve actually got a responsibility to share and educate, and teach. I think that’s more important to recognise. That’s the reasons I do it, but it’s also the reasons, potentially that other people should be doing it too.
Ahmed Khalifa: I agree. I think people underestimate how much they know, and they always think, I don’t know enough, or I don’t know as much as the next person, or I don’t think I have anything to share, but I always disagree.
One is that, you are bound to know more than a lot of people, whatever you do. The other thing is that your way of communicating, your way of passing on that message and sharing, it will probably resonate more to a specific tribe.
I heard your vibe is your tribe, or something like that. It just makes sense, because your way of communicating that message will attract the right kind of people. You don’t have to attract everyone, it’s just your people.
I agree with you. I quite like a lot of what you said. I definitely resonate with that.
Chris Marr: There’s a movie, I can’t remember the movie. It’s Leonardo DiCaprio … he pretends to be a teacher in the movie. He’s a … it might come to me. Anyway, the story is still the same.
Leonardo DiCaprio pretends to be a teacher in a psychology class I think it is. He manages to teach the class for a whole semester, knowing nothing about the subject. He gets caught. The person that catches him says, how did you manage to do this, every single week for a whole semester?
Teach this class, knowing nothing about it … and he said, I just needed to be one chapter ahead of the class.
So, back to your point, Ahmed. If you feel you’re in a position where, I don’t know enough, all you need is, to know a little bit more than everybody else. A little bit more than your audience. So never feel, just because you don’t know everything, that’s not a good enough reason not to share.
Ahmed Khalifa: Definitely. I don’t know what movie is that, but I feel like I have to watch it. That’s brilliant. I don’t know it. I’m going to have to look in to it right now and find out.
Chris Marr: I’ll look in to it while we’re talking. It will come to me. I just can’t remember what it’s called.
Ahmed Khalifa: It’s a classic case of imposter syndrome. People are afraid of being fake, and looking fake, but you’re not looking fake. At the end of the day, you’re right. If you’re one chapter ahead of everyone else, if you have that little bit extra knowledge than everyone else, then you have something to share, and something that no one else will know, and no one else will have heard of, so, yeah. I agree with you with everything that you have said.
Chris Marr: The movie is “Catch Me If You Can.”
Ahmed Khalifa: “Catch Me If You Can”. I haven’t seen that. I’ll definitely put that in the show notes, because it’s a good point that you mentioned.
So then, obviously, with all this content, they all have to go somewhere, and yes, there’s a lot of offline based content in terms of speaking and teaching, but there’s a lot of online content, and this is where we talk about WordPress, and how you use it.
I’m very keen to know, what is your first experience with WordPress. How did you come across it, and also, why did you choose WordPress it the first place.
Chris Marr: Well, I didn’t actually. I’ll share that story with you.
This is really quite frightening, going back to the space in my head. I knew nothing, not a single thing about WordPress when I first started with WordPress. Nothing. Nothing. I have to really emphasise this. Not a thing.
This is going back to … I mentioned my first blog already, which is quite a nice open look to bring in … I wrote my first blog on Blogger, which is the Google platform … it is terrible when you’re wanting to go even a little bit deeper, or become a little bit better with blogs. You want more design, or you want an actual website, essentially, which was what we were trying to build out of it, but Blogger sucked.
I think I wrote my first few blog articles on Blogger, and there was lots of HTML, and me trying to figure out how to align images, and all of that stuff. It was painful. And then I had a meet up with a group of people, and I just so happened to sit next to someone who knew a little bit more than WordPress than I did.
I knew that I needed to get on to WordPress, but I didn’t know how to. She helped me to just, in my head, make a decision to go and figure it all out for myself.
The key thing here is that I’m not any smarter than the next person. You just have to figure this stuff out for yourself, so that’s what I did. I watched a couple of tutorials. Thinking back, Michael Hyatt was important for me.
I’m pretty sure I watched a video of his at the time, or something. Someone had a tutorial on how to set up a WordPress website. It’s a lot easier today than it has been, but back then, I went from basically, writing my first blog on Blogger, and then I quickly moved over to WordPress.
The reason for that was it’s just a much more flexible platform, and I wanted to have my own domain name, and I wanted to start building a website essentially, and in order to do that, I needed to have my own, self hosted WordPress.
Ahmed Khalifa: And did you … it could be about your blog website, or it could be about your business right now, but what was the process for you to get it off the ground? Did you do it yourself, or did you get someone to do it for you? How did it work?
Chris Marr: I did it all myself. Everything was done by me. I think, at some points over my whole career … In the start, I used a couple of freelancers, but only to do small jobs, like maybe change a header, or do … it was definitely not to design or develop a website for me. I did it all myself.
It was terrible though, Ahmed, it was terrible. Really bad. It’s just the worst. I’m not kidding, it still got me business. Its scary, but it did work, it did get me business. Even just having a blog was enough for people to see that I was doing something different, regardless of how terrible it looked.
There was a lot of trial and error in that early days. Things being a lot easier today, and barrier to entry lower, costs lower as well. Themes have come on a lot since then, as well. I feel like, if I was to start again, but start again today, I think I’d have a much better shot at bat with the tools that are available to us now, in terms of what was happening back then. It just wasn’t the same back in 2010. We’ve come a long way in the last seven years.
Ahmed Khalifa: Definitely. You made a good point there, that you did it yourself, and you can start off yourself, and it doesn’t have to be perfect in the beginning. A lot of people, they think that, on a website, or even the content or anything, It has to be perfect before they publish it, or make it go live.
By your own admission, you have said that it was terrible website, but it worked at that time, it got you business, it got you out there, and that’s the whole point isn’t it. People always worry about, am I capable of starting a website, I don’t know how to design, I don’t know how to code, or whatever, but you don’t need to. You don’t need to.
You get a very basic site and build it from there. Grow from there, and you’re right, WordPress makes it so easy to start off from scratch, and just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay like that for ever. It’s a starting point.
Chris Marr: Exactly. I think the point there is your website is never perfect, ever. It’s a falsety. I don’t think that’s even a word. It’s a thing that doesn’t exist. To even think that one day your website will be perfect, is insane. It’s just never going to be that way. You need to release yourself from that as even a thought, and then just start.
Just to give you another bit of insight. There’s been a bit or turmoil in my WordPress journey, I think, but even, fast forward the clock 2 years. So we’re in to 2012, or 2013, I can’t remember. My business today, the website, if you go to cmauk.co.uk and you go to that website, that used to be a website associated with what the business used to be called, which was learningeveryday.co.uk.
Basically, the Content Marketing Academy started off as a live event. I’ll try and not make this too complicated. We had two websites. One was for the Content Marketing Academy, which was our live conference, and learning every day was our consultancy agency.
What we did was, we changed the name of the business, and we put both of those websites together, and called it the Content Marketing Academy. We had tonnes of legacy stuff in there, plug ins and blogs, and different themes, and short codes. It was an absolute nightmare. If I was to do that again I would start from scratch with a nice new fresh WordPress instal.
But the point I was wanting to make there was even, getting in to starting … My original blog was literally a blog. I wasn’t starting a business, I was starting a blog, but I got business from it. When I even started my business blog, it literally was a single page blog website on learningeveryday.co.uk, which doesn’t exist anymore.
It was about … I can’t remember exactly what time it was, but it was about six, or eight months before I started trading as a limited company, and I just started a blog. I was just, I’m going to start writing blog articles about marketing, because that’s where I’m going. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know anything yet, but all I needed to know was that I need to build up this content.
My business today, the one that we’re talking about, the Content Marketing Academy, literally started off as a single WordPress blog.
Ahmed Khalifa: Wow. And that tell you everything. It’s a journey isn’t it. It’s a journey, and then an extension.
Chris Marr: Yeah.
Ahmed Khalifa: And you’re right. The day that you think your website is complete, you’re fooling yourself. You really are fooling yourself. There’s no way that’s ever going to happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one man band, or you are Amazon, it’s never complete.
Chris Marr: That’s right. It’s always growing. You are always growing. That blog that I started writing, we just added an about page, a contact page, a home page, services pages. It was very organic. I guess the point here is for example, right now, we’re investing a lot of money in a couple of other websites, and they’re getting built in the background and they’re going to launch.
That’s me four years in to business now, and making a little bit of money. Enough money to invest in our brand, but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the other stuff that I’ve done well and/or badly, and it’s a bit of a … what’s the word I’m looking for?
It’s a little bit of a romantic notion, that you need to spend 5 grand on a website when you start your business. That’s not true. You could, but that money could be probably better spent on something else at the beginning. I think it’s important to have an online presence. I think you can build a website that’s good enough for the start of your business, probably on your own, or by getting help from freelancers, and having a smaller budget.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, it is entirely possibly to start organically, and build up to something where you are starting to invest more in your website platforms. The key message is that you’re improving all the time, or you’re trying to better yourself all the time, and I think that comes back in to my own philosophy of just constantly improving, always learning.
Ahmed Khalifa: Always be learning. I’m a big believer of that. I agree with you.
You talk about all these plugins, I’m wondering, do you have a favourite plugin, and if you don’t how does it help you?
Chris Marr: A favourite plugin?
Ahmed Khalifa: Don’t worry you have over 51,000 to choose from, so … to make it easier for you.
Chris Marr: No pressure.
I’m trying to think. Recently, I would say within the last year, I really tried to reduce the amount of … what I’ve found with plugins, the more you use, the more I seem to spend on my website time wise and effort, trying to make things work.
When I did a refresh of our website last year or 18 months ago, I really reduced a lot of things for example, we took away or sidebar, and as soon as I did that, there was three or four plugins that I just didn’t need anymore, because they were to do with the sidebar.
Then we picked a theme for example, that had a lot of it already coded in. Blog footer, call to actions, header, call to actions, already coded in to the website theme, so that we didn’t have to really use any plug ins. We tried to reduce that as much as possible. Can you tell I’m avoiding the question?
I guess one of the plugins that I always instal on our websites is Disqus, the comments platform, and just make sure they’ve got a good comment experience for people on our website. I’m trying to think … we use MemberPress, which is a premium plug in, and I can’t even think, Ahmed.
You know what, the plug ins that we use are typically ones that we feel are absolutely … and the reason I’m struggling to think of one is because they’re so important. You wouldn’t run a website without them, for example. Yoast. I’ve used it for years, and it’s just one thing, if you were putting a WordPress install, it’d be one of the first plugins that certainly I would put in there. It’s just a bit of a no brainer. So Yoast is in there.
I think this is where you get to the point, that I get in to my head that, as soon as it gets in to something that’s a little bit more technical, I just don’t do it anymore. I used to, to be honest, but if it gets in to the technical space, I’m oft to getting someone else to help me with that, like Stripe plugins, and email plugins, ConvertKit.
We’ve got all of that working on our website, but I would say, favourite plug in that helps us to run our website, it’s probably something like a Yoast. It’s a fairly important plug in, and when it comes to having other people in your team using your website and creating content for you, and publishing content for you, I think having something like Yoast in there, helps other people to get things mostly right.
Ahmed Khalifa: You’ve mentioned several very popular ones. You discussed MemberPress and Yoast. For a lot of people, they are essential for them, and I guess, in your case, [inaudible 00:33:21], you’ve got the website, you want people to engage with the content. You’ve got Disqus, and of course you’re a membership website and MemberPress makes sense to you.
All that makes sense to me as well. Everyone has their own specific need. Just because I’m asking you your favourite plugin, doesn’t mean that you, the listener should instal all three of them because you need it.
Chris Marr: That’s true.
Ahmed Khalifa: No, it’s just specific to your website need. You don’t need MemberPress if you don’t have a membership website for example.
Chris Marr: True. I think the key thing for me is, as I’ve grown as a business, I think … I went from being very much solopreneur, I will do everything myself, to understanding that my time was better spent on other things.
When I’m working, if I ever do anything on our website, and I get to the point where I have to do some coding, I stop immediately, because that’s someone else’s job now, and I have to outsource that, or get somebody else to help me with it.
Massively, focused on making sure that my website makes me money. In the early days, it wasn’t that. It was, let’s play with this stuff, let’s have fun, let’s play with the plug in, what does this fancy thing do?
And now I’m like, is it going to get us sales? Is it going to actually drive more traffic? Is it go to make more money? Because if it isn’t going to do those things, I’m going to really question why we’re even paying attention to it. I think you just change your focus over time, and you start to realise what’s worth your time, and what’s not. What’s your job, and what’s not, as well.
Ahmed Khalifa: There’s no shame in outsourcing. Just because you have to outsource doesn’t mean that you are admitting defeat. I’d rather pay someone to fix something that takes them half an hour, than I spend five hours to do it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you learn to do that over time.
Chris Marr: I think it’s absolute that you do, do it. I think there’s strength in it. It comes back to having a really good idea of what your job is, and what your job isn’t. And knowing that there are people out there, like you Ahmed, that can do things better, and faster, and actually, more affordably than I can.
If you can do a project for me, I can be focusing on something else. That’s a great thing. And not just focusing on something else, but focusing on the thing that only I can do, as opposed to something that someone else can be doing for me, better, faster, or cheaper than me.
I think there’s massive strength in finding that over time, that you start to use people for the skills that they have. You’re doing yourself a disservice, and you’re doing them a disservice as well. Use people with the skills, use them.
Ahmed Khalifa: Definitely.
This bring me to my next question, which is, you’re talking about using strength. My question to us is, what is your biggest strength?
Chris Marr: What’s my biggest strength?
I’ve been asked this before. What’s your biggest strength. There’s two main things that really go hand in hand. I honestly never knew this four of five years ago, and it’s only been really clear in the last 12 months, what I really should be focusing on as my strengths. It’s connecting people, and curating talent. Those are the two things.
There’s lot of sub things that go with that, but those are the two higher level strengths that are required for me to build my business.
I can give you one or two examples of that. Curating talent. What I mean by that is finding speakers for our live event for example. Finding people to do webinars. Curating talent could also mean finding great pieces of content out there that are to be great for our members.
Connecting people is just about network growth and my business, the Content Marketing Academy is a community, a network of people. If I wasn’t very good at connecting people, and finding great people, then I wouldn’t have a business, so those are the two core strengths.
Back to our earlier point. If I can find someone to do anything other than those two things, or anything that will help me to do those two things better, then that would be a good use of my money, and outsourcing, or insourcing something else, to alow me to spend more time on those things, is very much in my best interest.
Ahmed Khalifa: Yeah. Very good. I like that. Two very good points, and two things that a lot of people can benefit from, and learn how to do it well. I like that you shared these two strengths.
In contrast, then, what is your biggest weakness, and how do you overcome it?
Chris Marr: Biggest weakness is probably … that’s a really good question. It’s a hard one for a business person to answer typically, because they think they can do everything.
My biggest weakness is … probably a mix of things. Mainly, probably stems from organisational skills, so … I think my biggest weakness is being able to say, for example, … something comes up and there’s a lot of tasks associated with it. I might write them down, but then, not actually communicate them to anybody else.
The organisational skill that is really required for that, is for me to be able to delegate quickly, and trust other people to do the work that I need them to do. So letting go, I guess, and delegating quickly, and clearly. So communication and organisational skills together, I feel are one of the areas that … so it’s a weakness. It’s also one of the areas I see as being the place that I’m spending a lot of time working on.
As we’re bringing in help … We’ve got a business manager that helps us, and she works virtually, so I need to be able to communicate with her very regularly, and put tasks in to some sort of organisational system that will help her to do her job better.
That’s my biggest weakness, just staying, and disciplining myself to be organised, and more and more organised all the time. I find it challenging, especially when I’ve been used to just doing whatever I want, when I want. Over time, I’ve had to become more organised, much more planned, into the future.
Yeah, I’d say that was my biggest weakness, but also the thing that I’m spending the most time working on.
Ahmed Khalifa: It’s interesting because you say you spend a lot of time on that, and it’s something that you develop over time. You’re right, I think I’m in the same shoes as you in terms of you want to do everything by yourself. Sometimes you struggle to delegate, or outsource, or anything related to that, but then you have to realise that one, you might need to do it eventually, if you want to grow, and two, you have to learn to let go.
For anyone who’s started up their own baby, if you like, it’s kind of difficult to let go of your precious, precious thing that you’ve worked so hard in the long term.
It makes sense. I think a lot of entrepreneurs, business owners will definitely resonate with that. Very, very cool.
If we’re going to round everything up, and finish it all off, and we got all sentimental about it. What are you most proud about with your business?
Chris Marr: I am proud about the fact hat I was able to start something from absolutely nothing, and I’m proud that I got through all of the challenges that we’ve had along the way, and will still be more to come … and that I’m still here.
Being able to run a business, and talk to you. The fact that I’m still able to do this, is something I’m massively proud of. The fact that we’ve got a little bit of money, and the business is growing, and that we’re on a good path, I’m just proud that we’ve been able to achieve it against what seemed like a lot of odds against us.
I’m proud that I’ve managed to build something on my own.
Ahmed Khalifa: You should be.
Chris Marr: I think it’s a massive achievement for anybody that’s been in business for three plus years, that you’ve managed to get that far, and still be able to grow. I’m really happy that I’m able to … looking back over the last six or seven years, being able to say that that fist blog I wrote on Blogger has morphed in to this, is pretty cool I think.
Ahmed Khalifa: And that’s exactly … I was just going to mention that. People should be aware of that. What you started off with a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago … it won’t necessarily stay like that forever. You will pivot, you will adjust along the way, and you have something completely different to what you had many, many years ago. There’s nothing wrong with that.
It goes back to what we said about, in the beginning, just because it’s not perfect, that’s not a bad thing. You will grow to something that suits you along the way.
You are a definite example of that Chris. You’ve done that. You started on a supposedly awful Blogger platform, … I’ve never used it … but to get to where you are today, it just shows that you started off from nothing, to creating a mini empire of yourself.
Chris Marr: Zig Ziglar said it best. One of my favourite quotes has stuck with me for a long time, is that “You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” That’s really what we’re talking about.
Ahmed Khalifa: I agree, and I think that’s the perfect way to finish things off. Chris, I really appreciate your time again, and sharing so much wisdom and insight. I guess before we finish off, what would be the best place for people who want to connect and find you?
Chris Marr: Sure, if anyone’s got any thoughts, or ideas, or questions they want to ask me, or pick my brain about anything we’ve covered today, then the best place to find me is on Twitter @ChrisMarr101, and you can get me there. Look forward to connecting.
Ahmed Khalifa: Perfect. I will make sure to include these links in the show notes. Chris, thanks again for being online. Thank you.
Chris Marr: Awesome, it’s been great fun. Thanks.
Ahmed Khalifa: Thank you for listening to the IgniteRock Podcast. I hope you have enjoyed the show, and if you want show notes, all you have to do is visit IgniteRock.com/podcast.
And don’t forget also, to leave a review on iTunes if you have enjoyed the show. It would make me a very happy guy and I would really, really appreciate it.
In the meantime, let’s rock with WordPress.
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