What's Working In Marketing™: The Secret to Unlocking Creativity That Powers Outstanding Marketing with Corey Haines, Founder of Swipe Files
What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.
On this episode, we spoke with Corey Haines who is the Founder of Swipe Files, a membership site that provides community, courses, and content to help professionals master marketing. We discuss with Corey the value of inspiration, his framework for creating swipe files, his favourite marketing best practices, the importance of looking outside your industry for inspiration, what's exciting him in marketing today, and much more.
Here's a full transcript of our conversation with Corey:
Charlie Grinnell: On this episode, I'm joined by Corey Haines, founder of Swipe Files. Thanks for joining me today, Corey.
Corey Haines: Yeah, thanks for having me. It's an honor.
Charlie Grinnell: I've wanted to talk to you for a long time. You and I were just chatting before we started recording, I've always been a fan of your work when you were at Baremetrics, and I've watched from afar how your career has progressed.
Charlie Grinnell: Usually with this show, what we try and do is start by taking it back to the beginning and providing some of that background context. So, could you just give me a quick high-level overview of where you got started and how it's led you to what you're working on today?
Corey Haines: Yeah, I'll do my best to give you the quick two-minute overview of my background. It's not terribly interesting, but definitely important to the context on how I think today.
Corey Haines: Basically, coming out of high school, I thought I wanted to do financial planning or accounting or something like that, actually with the end goal of maybe I wanted to be a CEO one day or an entrepreneur. I sort of read, oh, finances, the language of business. Every great CEO has a finance background, so that's just what I defaulted into.
Corey Haines: And then ironically, it's kind of a silly story it feels embarrassing to even talk about, but I had my eyes set on one college to transfer to. I went to community college for two years, in the meantime making websites for friends, listening to podcasts, reading books; just really digging in and immersing myself into the whole world of business and startups and a lot of stuff that I would get into and finally break into later. And then I had my eyes set on this one college to transfer to, decided to go to another. And then when I got there, they're like, "What do you want to major in?" I was an accounting degree before that, and that's what I thought I wanted to do. They're like, "What do you want to major in? Marketing or global business?" I was like, "You don't have an accounting?" They're like, "No." I'm like, "Oh. Okay, well I guess that changes things."
Corey Haines: And so, I chose marketing rather than global business. And then turns out, that was basically I everything I was already interested anyways. I was like, "Why am I going for this like finance thing?" I really like being in business, growing businesses. I really like the web design part of it as well.
Corey Haines: And then it came time to propose to my girlfriend. Her parents told me, while I was asking for permission, that I needed to have a job lined up for when I graduated, so I hit Google. I looked at the best places to work in San Diego, I managed to land an interview at a startup here in San Diego called Cordial that was hiring for a junior marketing intern. On a Thursday, I went in for an interview, got hired on the spot. On Saturday, I proposed, and then later got hired on as the full-time first marketer, and they had just raised a Series A.
Corey Haines: So, I was with them. I call it like my crash course in marketing because I did everything and anything that the business needed, marketing and sales related. I learned how it works and what marketing looks like, I got to spend thousands in LinkedIn ads that went nowhere, I got to sponsor events and conferences and plan cocktail parties and everything in between. Until I made it to Baremetrics where, at that point, I felt like I really understood what I liked doing, what I was good at. I had built some chops.
Corey Haines: And so there, I was the head of growth for almost two years at Baremetrics and also worked with a lot of our customers in sort of a consultative capacity, helping them understand marketing and growth.
Corey Haines: And then I finally left then I had Swipe Files, and we can get into all that stuff, but that's the background on how where I got to who I am today.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, fascinating. First of all, the accounting thing is interesting to me. I remember when I actually was taking business classes in high school, we had accounting and marketing, and those were classes that I got good grades in even though I'm awful at math. It's interesting to hear how accounting morphed into marketing.
Charlie Grinnell: And then the other thing that stuck out to me was, man, no pressure situation, like, "Hey, can I marry your daughter?" "Yeah, go get a job before this happens," and you're just like, "Yup, no problem. Here we go." That's hilarious.
Corey Haines: Just make it happen, yeah. I mean, you got to want it, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: I'm really glad. And it's actually funny because at that point I think I knew that I wanted to do marketing, sort of the angle I could best do. I'm sort of interested in sales too, but I think marketing is what I had landed on. At that point, I read a few Seth Godin books and I was listening to marketing podcasts. And so, that's where I landed on a little bit.
Corey Haines: It's funny because while I was in that search, I interviewed for this place that was like an Amazon marketing agency, the help brands that sell on Amazon that get up and running with Amazon SEO essentially and also Amazon ad spend. It's for an account manager position. I got all the way to a second interview, in which case he asked, "Hey, so when would you be able to start?" I said, "Well, I'm still in college," and he said, "Oh, never mind," basically.
Corey Haines: And then I went to this other ... I could have gotten a completely different path in marketing as well, but I eventually made it to the tech startup and B2B SaaS. That's now where I am today and what I specialize in.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, interesting. It's funny how so close from going a completely different direction. It's the small kind of things, near misses or something. I don't the word that you would call that, but yeah, fascinating.
Charlie Grinnell: I want to chat a bit about Swipe Files. So, there is the term swipe file, I think, in business. But I want to hear more about what is Swipe Files, what is your vision for it? And then I want to talk about the value of what a Swipe File is and how marketers use them.
Corey Haines: Totally. Yeah, so Swipe File is this jargony word that marketers made up to actually describe something that's pretty applicable across a lot of other disciplines and practices in the industries. Designers have a mood board, a lot of like writers and previous authors have a Zettelkasten, which is this really complex note taking system where you're stealing ideas from other books and other authors and other things that you read and come across. There's all sorts of other interesting parallels.
Corey Haines: Basically, a swipe file for a marketer is a central repository or place where you store inspiration for marketing. So, headlines, ads, landing pages, emails. Anything you can think of that would help you in your job. You swipe it into your file, that way you can reference it later.
Corey Haines: I think at the core, what the value is, it's interesting because a lot of those guys like Tiago Forte who talked about building a second brain, and it's all about sort of this digital Zettelkasten kind of thing. Designers are really big on how do you build a portfolio and how do you build a body of work, but no one really talks about what that same process is for a marketer.
Corey Haines: Ultimately, I think that how we learn as human beings is first through imitation. It's monkey see, monkey do. It's let me see who do this first and then I can try to imitate the way that you do that thing. So, you learn through osmosis. You learn through watching other people and seeing examples of this is good and that's bad; do this, don't do that.
Corey Haines: And so, that's really what I think the central purpose is of a swipe file, is to train your brain to recognize good marketing and then to also, because we're not perfect creatures, we're not robots, we don't have amazing perfect recall where we can just perfectly find all the patterns of everything and understand the best practices. Where then, we can go and reference to swipe file and say, "Hey, okay ..."
Corey Haines: How I actually started Swipe Files, transitioning into a little bit, is I was building out the affiliate program to launch for Baremetrics. It came time to build out a landing page to recruit affiliate partners and I was like, "What the heck goes on a landing page for affiliate partners?" I don't know what a landing page should look like. What's the design? What's the headline? What are the best practices? How do you get people to understand this? What should be communicated?
Corey Haines: And so, instead of just guessing or starting from scratch, I went out and started to build a swipe file around affiliate landing pages. So, I went to ConvertKit and I went to PartnerStack and I went to other software that I was already an affiliate for and just went and found the original landing page that I signed up from. And then I talked to some marketers about how they launched affiliate programs, how they design the page and what they thought worked. And then after about two weeks I figured, okay, I know now what to go put on this landing page. I know the best practices; I've talked about what works, what doesn't work. I'm not imitating blindly. I know what not to do and what to do.
Corey Haines: I wish that this existed for everything else that I did in marketing, because that way I can just have this really quick shortcut to the best practices, do this, don't do that, and here are great examples of how you can create your own.
Corey Haines: And so, that was the original impetus for Swipe Files and that's the value of what a swipe file is and how you use it day to day.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. I want to dig into that a little further because there's a lot of similarities with what we do at RightMetric with data back swipe files, essentially. One of the things that I have noticed when talking to marketers ... When I was a marketer, when I sat on the brand side of things, I was like you. I was always looking for that inspiration because it's really, really hard to stare at a black page and go, "What are we doing with this?" I was always looking.
Charlie Grinnell: We have these two categories that we look at. How can we look outside of our four walls for information, whether that be benchmarking type of information or the other side of it is inspiration, right? Who is someone that we just look at a brand, that we just look at where they're like, "Ah, they just do such a good job."
Charlie Grinnell: And so, one of the things that I've noticed is what would you say to marketers who maybe are scared of stealing or imitating, that kind that want to be original. Because I've spent a lot of time researching that core concept in business.
Charlie Grinnell: There's actually been a book that I read that's called Will and Vision. It's an old book. I bought a used copy on Amazon that has someone's notes on the inside of it. But basically, the whole thesis of the book is this whole thread of good artists copy, great artists steal. They looked at 60 different companies or a bunch of different industries like pre-tech, 90s to early 2000s. Yeah, it was talking about like the gangster business strategy is like corporate espionage, essentially, or looking outside for information and inspiration and using that to be like a second mover, maybe. What's your take on all that? Have you ever run into that? Yeah, how do you think about that?
Corey Haines: Yeah. I mean, on a very historical level in the Bible, which is not usually referenced on a marketing podcast, but in Ecclesiastes there's a verse and it's there's nothing new under the sun. There's nothing original, basically. It's like everything has been said or done before, or someone else has done it or done something like it.
Corey Haines: So, one, there is no originality. There is no real true pure authenticity. You just have to accept that and be like, okay, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel, or I'm not going to be the first one.
Corey Haines: So, what you might as well do is remix things really well. Obviously, you don't want to copy and paste, you don't want to steal, you don't want to just rip something off. Because actually that wouldn't even work. If you just straight copy and pasted something, it's not going to work because it's either going to be for a different audience, or different purpose, or different price point, or different industry, different best practices. What you're reaping off might not even be the best optimal version of whatever that thing should be. So, you don't want to blindly do it.
Corey Haines: It's actually a really cool, I think it's a YouTube video or ... It's called Everything is a Remix, and it's all about-
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I was just thinking about the same thing.
Corey Haines: ... the history of movies, and storytelling and how everything has a similar arc and how there's a lot of things that have been remixed in history that you can see. So, that's the way that I see it.
Corey Haines: I actually read in college Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. That was a really big eye opener. I'm like, yeah, this is good. It's not only okay, but this is what you should be doing. You're not any cooler, better, better at your job just because you can come up with "original" things. This is what the people at the top of their game do. They study other people; they remix things, they take concepts and apply them to their own industry, business, brand, personality, whatever it is. It's definitely like a switch that you have to make mentally; but ultimately, as long as you're not literally copy pasting, stealing, plagiarizing, ripping something off, you should be re-mixing, imitating, learning, modeling off of other people. That is the best practice.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of best practices, do you have a framework or a list of characteristics of what is a good swipeable thing? When you're like, "oh, I'm going to swipe this," is there a framework that you use in your mind to be like, "Oh, yeah, I'm going to take that," or is there something that someone listening to this could use as a filter, so to speak?
Corey Haines: Yeah. Well, I'll attack that in a couple different levels. I think very intuitively, you can swipe things that grab your attention. Because not everything grabs your attention. If you're scrolling through your Facebook feed and you stopped at an ad, recognize that you stopped at the ad and think, "Why did I stop at this ad? Let me take a screenshot. Let me look at this later," or just know that, hey, even if this got my attention to stop scrolling, this is probably an above-average, above par ad., Right? There's something to be taken away from here.
Corey Haines: And so, just looking at and recognizing what do I think is good marketing; what just intuitively personally is attractive to me? Your brain will kind of ... There's all sorts of stuff, neurons, that are firing in there about this is new, this is novel, this is interesting, it's colors, it's font, what's being communicated, the words on there.
Corey Haines: And so, even if you don't know consciously why that thing is interesting, if you know that it's interesting, you can go and tease out the interesting parts a little bit later. But just get in the practice of recognizing when something does catch your attention, it's a good rule of thumb or heuristic for swipeable content for marketing.
Corey Haines: I think another one is if you already have something that you're looking for. For example, I was talking about the affiliate landing page. If I'm going through and I'm looking for affiliate landing pages and I'm starting to, one after another, swipe it, swipe it, swipe it, I might start to see patterns and connections. And so, either you're pattern matching where you're saying, okay, this thing I think is good. I'm finding more like this or different iterations or versions of this, so I'm going to capture all the different flavors that are in front of me. Or, you're sort of pattern opposing where you're looking at all these different landing pages in front of you and then, one, there's something really unique and different and they're like, "Oh, okay, that's interesting. I'm going to swipe this part of this page." I'm going to swipe it because of this reason, just because it's going against the flow. It's the purple cow. It's the fish swimming upstream, right?
Corey Haines: And then, I think from a more ... So, you first look at, okay, what's intuitively interesting for me? Two, what's matching my pattern from looking for, or what's really going against it? And then three, once you have a good understanding of what a good landing page ad, email is that checks the boxes for you just because you have taste, you have the sight for it, then you're really doing a lot more curation at that point, where you're looking for, okay, I need to fill the box on social proof, on quotes, on images.
Corey Haines: Now, when I look at things, I swipe things less and less because I already have a good foundation to build on top of.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting.
Corey Haines: The other day, I did a landing page teardown for someone. I noticed that they had this really high fidelity GIF. There was like a product walkthrough, but it wasn't a video, and it was really succinctly done with a lot of animations. I was just like, "Whoa, that is amazing." I love this on so many levels because I've never seen anything like that. So now, I need to add this because this is a completely new kind of shiny object that I've never seen before.
Corey Haines: I guess to summarize, at first you're just swiping anything and everything that catches your attention intuitively; second, you're looking for patterns in your building patterns; and then three, you're looking for things that are completely new and novel and unique.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, interesting. And so, would you say that ... It sounds like you started on that affiliate landing page thing and then as you started to pull the thread, this can be applied to any area of marketing.
Corey Haines: Oh yeah, 100%. I mean, for a while I was reading teardowns for swipe files where I was basically screen by screen, line by line, text by text, word by word breaking down landing pages, emails and ads. That was an amazing exercise, one, for me to learn as a marketer. But, two, I was starting to fill it out. Okay, here's SaaS competitor comparison pages, SaaS affiliate marketing landing pages, SaaS feature overview pages. And then I was going to eCommerce. Okay, eCommerce welcome emails, eCommerce sale emails, eCommerce reactivation emails, Eommerce Black Friday emails. You can start to really build out this library and really build out and flush out the swipe file.
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. I think you probably had that aha moment kind of similar to me when I was able to start to look at things through that lens and be like it's okay to do this; or, hey, this is a great example. We can just take these elements and recreate this in our own way, remix it. I think once you start applying that to different areas of marketing, whether it's social search, paid content, blog, email or whatever, it's just endless.
Corey Haines: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think in general too, what a lot of this has taught me is that learning follows a very similar path in general no matter what you're trying to study or get better at. And the first step is always immersion. You just have to put yourself in the deep end, just jump in, start swimming around even if there's a good analogy of you need to go in a dark room to figure everything out. You know, if it's dark, you can't see; you just have to start feeling your way out.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: So, you're feeling your way out in the internet and marketing. You're just like looking at different ads, looking at different emails, but you need that raw exposure where you just drink from the fire hose in order to start having taste, in order to really accelerate your learning cycle.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that makes sense. You just mentioned that high fidelity GIF that you stumbled upon and you're like, "Whoa, I haven't seen this." Are there any others? Not to put you on the spot, but are there any others that you've stumbled across where you're like, oh, my gosh, this is something that's like a tip or trick, like I'm all over?
Corey Haines: Yeah, there's a couple of best practices. One, I think one of the things that's missing from a lot of B2B SaaS landing pages in particular is a really quick comparison section. It can follow a couple different formats, but like an us versus them. It can be like you versus competitors in general, and just what are the things that you uniquely do. Because hidden in a lot of the minutiae of a landing page for a SaaS company, which can be like very long or very detailed is what are the bullet point summary points? What do people need to take away from this? It's a great excuse to just throw those in there in a quick table; just like check marks for the things you did great, X's for the things that your competitor suck at.
Corey Haines: You could also, if you don't have direct competitors or if it's a little bit more abstract, you can do a really quick new versus old way comparison where it's side by side. It's those illustrations and really quick words that you're communicating that are so powerful, that just really make it click for people.
Corey Haines: Another thing I've noticed across the board, this is what a lot of eCommerce does really well is they'll use user-generated content and social proof but specifically with a lot of faces and imagery and videos. That's missing from a lot of digital products, that's missing from a lot of SaaS companies. eCommerce has a really good job of making things feel human and personal and relatable so that if you're a visitor, you're trying to imagine yourself using this thing, and then there's examples all over the place of other people using that thing.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: What's sad sometimes, they can get very utilitarian where it's like, look at this screenshot over here. Like, here's the technical analysis of how this API works. I just want to know what it's like to use this. Are people happy? Are people sad? Who is using it? How are they using it? Same thing with digital products. What's in the course? Who's in the community? Just getting very literal with it all.
Corey Haines: So, those are a couple that come to mind, but I can probably spin up a few more if you're interested.
Charlie Grinnell: No. That brings something to mind. This is a bit off topic, but I just bought ... I'm a bit of a sleep nerd. I wear an aura ring and I'm very bullish on trying to get a good night's sleep. I actually just bought a mattress topper from this company called Eat Sleep, and I've slept on it for four nights now. I'm obsessed and I'm hooked. It's not cheap; it was a couple thousand bucks. It goes around your existing mattress. There was a ton of testimonials on Twitter, people yelling about it on Twitter.
Charlie Grinnell: And then you go to their site and they did a really good job of bringing testimonials and faces and that sort of thing. It was to the point where I was like there is so much overwhelming support for this, where I'm like it must be good. But I was also still kind of skeptical, right? My bullshit meter was pretty high, being like, "Yeah, but is it?" I'm hooked. It's been four nights and I cannot believe I didn't sleep without this. I don't have an affiliate code or anything. I wish I did.
Charlie Grinnell: But that's an example where those faces and humanizing that thing, where I was like, "Who are all these people?" It just brought that up in my mind because I was on it recently when I was explaining it to a friend. I was like, "Hey, the hype is real." They're like, "Really? You spent two grand on this thing? What are you doing?" I'm like, "No, no, trust me. I've seen now why all these people are yelling about it." So, it's funny that you bring that up.
Corey Haines: Yeah. I'll give you another really tangible example. This is literally how I use my phone and why it's important is, like you said before, eCommerce does this really well. They're really great at user generated content and around showing faces and videos and product imagery. Like you said before, SaaS does not do that very well.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: One of the things I noticed ... I do consulting for SavvyCal, which is like a Calendly competitor, the book and schedule meetings and stuff like that. I was putting together the main landing page and some of the other competitor comparison pages, and then I was keeping this log of quotes, testimonials, things people said on Twitter about SavvyCal just to use that for my own copywriting but then also I wanted to make sure that I also include a lot of social proof on the page.
Corey Haines: And then I found myself just copying and pasting the text over to the page. I was like, why don't I just embed the tweet, or why don't I just take a screenshot of the email, or why don't I just capture a video of someone walking through their own SavvyCal account?
Corey Haines: We haven't gotten that far, but what I found actually was that tweet testimonials embedded directly on the page is way, way better than even you copying and pasting that same content, making it more aesthetically-
Charlie Grinnell: Polished.
Corey Haines: ... pleasing and polished in design. Because it feels and seems more authentic. People know, okay, if someone out of their way tweet about this, it has a higher level of credibility than if someone asked them for a testimonial and then just copy and paste the text and then maybe embellish it a little bit. That's how you take, like, okay eCommerce UGC, and then you take it to SaaS and it comes in the form of Twitter testimonials.
Charlie Grinnell: That's bang on. It's so funny you mentioned that. The thing that Eat Sleep did, they had their tweets and they were embedded. What did I do? I clicked through the people's profile to be like, who is this person? Are they real? That's, I guess, maybe the stalker in all of us. I was like, if this person-
Corey Haines: Oh, 100%.
Charlie Grinnell: ... say it's good, I want to see it. I'm like, is the tweets okay? It's a live tweet, they didn’t write something and delete it or whatever. It's like, okay. Also, what I would do is I would see the tweet that Eat Sleep had pulled in, but then there was also all the responses to it and that person doing the community management, being like, "no, no, this is the real deal."
Charlie Grinnell: I was able to go down those different rabbit holes. A lot of questions or uncertainties or fears in my mind were pretty much alleviated, not even by the company; by a random Twitter person that I just would have never even seen.
Corey Haines: Right. And here's the thing, it sucks that we have to talk about this because it's such a small little thing that we're just always looking for the next tiny little advantage we can get to stand out and be a little bit different, and improve the conversion rate by 0.1%.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: But it's because the truth is that the bar for marketing today is so high. Ten years ago, 20 years ago you could write anything, it could look like anything and people would be like, "Cool, here's my money." Like, hand this over. There's no other competitors, no other alternatives. It's believable, it feels safe. Today, there are so many competitors. There's so much marketing, there's so much content that you have to find every little thing like this that could be just that tiny bit more advantage so that you can improve your marketing and do more.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think of the sports analogy especially in football, it's a game of inches; and with marketing, it is. If everything is so saturated and there's so much coming at the average person every single day, and there's really only so many pipes, digitally speaking. It's like everyone is trying to fight for real estate in those pipes, and the bar is just continuing to raise because there's only so much that can fit through there.
Charlie Grinnell: The same thing with human attention. There's only so many hours in the day and we only have so much attention. So yeah, that ties back to why having a swipe file is even more important. Because it's like how are you able to just understand what's out there, but also use the information and inspiration from those swipe files to tweak the dial, so to speak.
Corey Haines: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, 100%. I mean, you just have to be so on your game. You have to be looking at how can we improve things? How can we do better? How can we be new and novel?
Corey Haines: And even look outside of our own industry. Like I said, I never would have really thought about that or see that unless I had been thinking about and writing about eCommerce. Because that's the other thing, is sometimes you just get so stuck in your echo chamber of whatever industry that you're in, whether it's SaaS; whether it's eCommerce; whether it's retail, digital products, services, agencies. Whatever it is, you find the playbooks and then you look at what all your competitors or colleagues are doing, and then you model after them.
Corey Haines: But in reality, when everyone's zigging, you should be zagging. And so, you always have to be looking outside of that as well, and trying to find novelty.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's funny you bring that up. That was the thesis behind our products going into a library was we were delivering stuff to, for the sake of example, the financial services industry, the automotive industry. We're delivering insights in the form of data backed research, kind of like a swipe file.
Charlie Grinnell: I remember we did a client call. They were really, really focused on retention, like what can we learn about retention. We had actually, just on a bunch of other work and research on retention in a completely different industry. It was in banking. The case study or the piece of research that we did was actually on the streaming giants. So, it was looking what a Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, what are they doing with retention and using emails to drive viewership and retention on their platforms.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, this was going to, I think it was like a credit union or something that was looking to market a new credit card or retain people for something like that. When we were able to share that research with them to go, "Hey, these are some ideas about how they're segmenting, how they're using different dynamic subject lines, how they're creative." When we looked at all that stuff and we were able to quantify it and then serve it up in front of them, they're probably sitting there going ... At first, they we're like why are you showing me how Netflix keeps you watching Netflix.
Corey Haines: Right.
Charlie Grinnell: But then, seeing the principles and when you talk through it like that, they are like, "Oh, wow. We actually haven't tried that specific tactic." This is how that tactic could come to life in our industry or our business, and they can then take that and run with that.
Charlie Grinnell: I think there's a quote that as a company we're really bullish on, it's from this woman named Marisa Thalberg. I think she is currently the CMO or the chief brand officer at Lowe's. She talks about when you're doing insight and strategy work, you need to look within your category or your industry for information and outside of your industry for inspiration, and you need both of those things, right? You have to have both of those things.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, that's what Swipe Files is. That's what we're trying to build. And so, yeah, that's something that was definitely top of mind. There's a lot of coaching, though, that has to go into marketers because I feel like with marketers being so busy, there's only so many hours in the day, they're being pulled in a lot of directions to be like, this can actually be helpful. But I found sometimes in the past they're like, "Well, this isn't my industry." It's like, I know and that's the point.
Corey Haines: Yeah. Right, right, right. Yeah, let me give you one more example. It's pretty tangible with SavvyCal. It was very early stage. We had just launched. We were sort of lgearing up to a product launch and trying to actually .... You know, I felt like we nailed the positioning and the landing page and we were really gearing up to do more actual marketing things.
Corey Haines: And so, just planning, okay, after Product Hunt, how do we make the most of all this attention that hopefully we're going to capture, which we did. We ended up being number two product of the day and I think the number one product of the month, actually, eventually.
Charlie Grinnell: Wow.
Corey Haines: And so, right after that, we had a couple of campaigns planned and one of them was a campaign to buy out someone's annual Calendly contract. Because we're thinking, one, we heard ... Like I said, everything is based on either information or inspiration. So, I'll give you the information part was that we are looking inside of our industry and even within ourselves. A lot of people who are interest were telling us, "Oh, I want to switch over but I already bought an annual Calendly subscription," or "I just renewed," or "You caught me at the wrong time. Just a week ago I was just looking at Calendly and we decided to pull the trigger."
Corey Haines: So we thought, "Dang it, how do we get these people back?" So now, the inspiration part, I was thinking about how do we switch from incumbent. So, I started doing research and then I realized, I was like, "Oh, wait a second. Phone companies are the best at this. They will scrape and claw and they will pay any amount to get you on their on plan because they know that the lifetime value is so high.
Charlie Grinnell: Yes.
Corey Haines: And so, I thought about ... T-Mobile, I think, was the pioneer with this. They're the sort of the uncarrier. To kick off and sort of pick a fight with Verizon and AT&T and Sprint, and all those guys, they offered to buy out the contract of each one of them. They even had crazy deals around free phone for you, and free phone for you and extra data and all this kind of stuff.
Corey Haines: And so, I thought, wait, we got it. Why don't we ... I remember the slack conversation. We were like, "This is going to sound crazy, but why don't we buyout the contract of our competitor Calendly?" And it worked great. People went bonkers. They were like, "This is the coolest thing ever." All these people before who had these hesitations now we're actually moving over. They appreciate-
Charlie Grinnell: Crazy.
Corey Haines: ... the inspiration. That's probably one of the best examples.
Charlie Grinnell: I mean, that's such a great example. As soon as you said phone company, I was like, duh. But making that connection, kudos. That is gangster. That is so smart.
Corey Haines: Yeah, that's fun.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that's awesome. Okay, I want to step back. We've been talking about Swipe Files, and I feel like you and I are probably biased to this stuff because we live and breathe it and we love it. If you were going to zoom out just on marketing and digital today, what's the most exciting thing? Is there a trend? Is it a platform? Is it a way of thinking? What comes to mind when you're most excited about marketing brands today?
Corey Haines: As far as trends and technology and strategies that are going on?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: I think that there is ... I mean, the elephant in the room is obviously this big change with Apple around tracking, attribution, and data. That's a ginormous groundswell. And I actually think that it's really good because what's happened is that we really overemphasized and overoptimized for data collection and attribution, and being very data driven.
Corey Haines: Even just a couple years ago when I started in marketing, the whole thing was data driven. You need to have dashboards and analytics, everything that we can look at and point to as proof and evidence. That makes for a really boring, stale, robotic marketing. Really inhumane marketing. And then now, we're seeing this groundswell of people pushing back against that. But even then, I don't think that it's really going to negatively affect a lot of people because the way things have been moving is ... Actually, there's so much data, and there's so many channels, and there's so much to track that attribution becomes impossible anyways.
Corey Haines: At Baremetrics, we are trying to track down what are the major growth channels. That was really, really difficult because we saw a lot of top level or sort of top of funnel traffic, but then we saw the things that are actually getting people to sign up for trials or something different. And then, we knew that this thing over here, people loved, based on what they said. But then, we couldn't really track that back to business.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: But when you're supposed to track everything perfectly and attribute, you end up cutting stuff that's actually really fun, that's really good and that people like.
Corey Haines: And so, I think that the pendulum is swinging to the other end now, where everyone's going to be focused on brand and everyone's going to be focused on content. Everyone's going to be focused on doing things that are inherently valuable in marketing. They're not just like an ad, or like a trick, or like a scheme. It's video series. It's podcasts, and these really unique podcast series where we break down.
Corey Haines: My friend, Jaya Kunzo runs three clips where he breaks down podcasts and podcasts episodes, hyper analyzes and dissects why they're good and certain segments of it. It's really the actual creative marketing that people enjoy and that they like.
Corey Haines: And so, that was me excited just to like ... I've never been a data-driven kind of person. I've always been like, here's a crazy idea, here's a fun idea, here's something that would be cool to do, crazy campaigns.
Corey Haines: I was writing a newsletter on Guerilla marketing tactics and ended up meeting up with a guy here in San Diego who was a part of GoFundMe. They partnered with WePay. WePay was like the David to the Goliath of PayPal back in the day. PayPal had this big conference, so they made this ginormous ice block filled with money, I think $20,000, just in cash in this giant ice block, and then they put it right at the steps at the front of the Conference Center for everyone to come in on the first day of registration, and then it say, "We pay. We don't lock your money up like PayPal." Back then, you had to do stuff like that to get people's attention.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: I'm excited for that kind of stuff to happen again, because people will be forced to. Because we have to really earn people's attention rather than just being able to work the data and do hacks and tricks and stuff like that.
Charlie Grinnell: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head. That word pendulum is a word that I've used on this show previously. We've had a couple episodes talking about the balance of art and science and marketing, and that pendulum between brand and performance. I feel like every couple of years, depending on what's happening in the world or the markets or a specific thing in industry, that pendulum just continues to swing, and how important it is to try and strike a balance.
Charlie Grinnell: I'm curious, digging into that iOS 14.5 thing a little bit deeper, one of the things that we've been asked a lot with our research, and I just love to get your take on this, and I'll share what I think. I'm definitely still trying to form this thesis in my mind is that, okay, a lot of this tracking stuff is going away. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I share that opinion with you. I think what's so interesting to me is just because there's this change in iOS, the analogy that I use is fishing. The fish are still in the same ponds, but all the fisher people are freaking out because they're like, oh, well, we can't use these types of rods or these types of lures anymore. I'm like, yeah, but you're still going to be able to catch fish in the pond. It's just going to change, you just weren't able to ...
Charlie Grinnell: I think up here in Canada, at least, you're not allowed to use the triple hook, the three different hooks. Whereas you have to use one maybe. And so, it's kind of like that. It's like, yeah, you used to use that. You can't use that now, but that doesn't mean that you can't go fish and still be a good fisher person who catches stuff.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, what do you think about that? Is that how you're thinking about it?
Corey Haines: Yeah. I mean, 100%, I think just because the attribution isn't there doesn't mean that the marketing ROI isn't there. In fact, the pendulum, like I said, it's going to swing to really smart marketers who are really going to earn the trust and attention of their audience rather than just try to ... I mean, it's like permission marketing all over again. What Seth Godin was talking about, hey you used to be able to buy an intteruption to everyone, and then people got desensitized to that and they revolted against it. And then the pendulum switched to permission marketing where it's more like inbound marketing. It's search-based marketing. It's earning that trust.
Corey Haines: The people who are going to do marketing really well and have more success in it are going to be loser in their ability to directly attribute. They're going to have to have more conviction around the things that they're doing, and they're going to have to do a much better work. It's the whole idea of constraints breed creativity, I think it is?
Charlie Grinnell: Yes.
Corey Haines: And so, the constraint of the tracking and the attribution is going to force marketers to think outside the box and do more creative work, which ultimately will probably be more effective at the end of the day. Unless you're still the guy trying to tape on two extra hooks to your lure and trying to do this attribution to do your same old tricks that aren't going to work anymore.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: At SavvyCal, we've gone through this whole conversation around tracking attribution, around should we do something in the gray area? Should we set up this and that? Ultimately, we were like, look, it's not going to change it. We don't want to do that type of marketing anymore. We're just going to have a little questionnaire when someone signs up that says how did you hear about us. And then we're going look at the traffic. We're going to make connections. We're going to do our best to sort of read into what we think is working, and then we're just not going to worry about it. We're just going to do our best work and create really good stuff and let the rest kind of work itself out.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, fascinating. I think, yeah, obviously, the iOS 14.5 thing has been so top of mind. Whether it's marketers or I've had some investment analysts at a high-level phone me and say, "What is your take on this? What do you think about this?" I'm like ... I don't know. I always go back to that fishing analogy where I'm like they're still in the pond. Yeah, you might not be able to catch them as well as you could, but people are still going to get served that stuff.
Corey Haines: Yeah. Well, like you said, everything old becomes new again. I think that, like I said, the little form questionnaire about how did you hear about is going to become more prevalent like it used to be. I think coupons, the coupon codes, are going to be a lot more prevalent because they can ... For example, for SavvyCal, we've run ads on certain podcasts and certain newsletters and we generate a unique coupon for each one of those. So, everyone that comes in that use that coupon, we know it came from that channel in particular.
Corey Haines: When we're relying on affiliates, we set up a new landing page for every one of our major affiliate partners. That way, nothing bleeds together and we can actually see how much traffic is driving particularly to that page, sending with direct mail just like coupon codes and special pages. We're going to have to go back to old school marketing a little bit out of necessity, but I don't think it's a bad thing.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, well said. I agree. I want to switch gears here a little bit as we wind down the episode. I have a couple more questions for you. Kind of like a rapid fire, but feel free to go in detail if you want. I'm a big proponent of reading. I dropped out of university, and I feel like the way that I learned marketing was reading; whether it was being on Twitter or books or listening to podcasts or just consuming information, and to your point earlier, immersing myself into it. How do you stay up to date on business and marketing? Who are you following? What are you reading? What are you listening to?
Corey Haines: I have a couple of tools that make my life a little bit easier. One is my Kindle. I do all my reading on my Kindle. I'm an avid book reader, usually reading literally 15 or 20 books at a time. I just read a chapter, whatever I think is interesting at the moment. I do a lot of reading right before I go to sleep, and I'll do reading on the weekends. I just sort of flip through. I'm like, maybe something's more ... I want to do just some time learning. If something's really applicable at that moment, I'll just really dive in and read a few chapters and knock it out. A lot of business books, a lot of marketing books. I'm reading a sales book right now called Founding Sales.
Corey Haines: The Kindle makes it really easy because I can highlight it and export it into note taking tools like Roam, which is what I use as well so I can look through the highlights and then actually make use then. I actually do use that quite often for a lot of the writing that I do.
Corey Haines: Another one for my information diet consumption which really helps is called Mailbrew. I use that to subscribe to all my newsletters so I have a save function where you can type in articles or things you want to save for later and then it gets added to your daily or weekly digest that you want to make it through. Usually once a week I'll go through that and just skim through what's interesting. I might catch up on newsletters, but there's lots of great newsletters out there between James Clear's 3-2-1. There's a few like Elaine Zelby and Cody Sanchez. There's lots of newsletters out there that are really great.
Corey Haines: I'm a huge podcast listener as well. I listen to a lot of the founder story bootstrapper podcast where there's chronicling weekly updates, Art of Product, Build Your SaaS, MegaMaker, a bunch like that. Also, just startup stories. My First Million is a favorite for podcast as well.
Corey Haines: And in Twitter. I mean, I'm on Twitter all day long basically. It's an excusable addiction because it's part of my work as a marketer and as someone who's very-
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's work.
Corey Haines: Yeah, personality driven and has digital products, and so I can justify it.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Corey Haines: Yeah, I mean a lot of who I follow, people that I learned from is from Twitter. My favorite follows are David Burrell, a lot of investors, people from all sorts of different industries, [Nat Eliason 00:42:33] for crypto, Nick Huber for real estate. Really spans the gamut.
Corey Haines: But I would say books through the Kindle, podcasts, Mailbrew for newsletters and then Twitter for everything else.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. What's so it was so fascinating that you just said is it's such a wide breadth of topics and people. I think that probably speaks to where you're at being a marketer, entrepreneur, podcaster, investor; doing all that different stuff. But one of the things that I just noticed with the things that you mentioned is there was a heavy product focus in there. It was that kind of something ... You know, I find, as a marketer, I've actually forced myself to try and learn more about product management philosophy and product led growth and marketing, and weaving that in there. Is that something that you've noticed in your journey so far?
Corey Haines: Yeah, I think a little bit. I wouldn't consider self myself like a product person, but I think that I've always had a pretty good taste for products and user experience and the value that people get out of products.
Corey Haines: You know, I've always also been able to have ... You can ask me my wife, I'm terrible at remembering lyrics to songs and anything that's really repetitive. But random facts, any software that I've ever used I can remember it and remember finite details about it. I've always had a little bit of like product sewer. I just really like new tech, new tools, new products. I've always been a big fan of D2C companies and what they're working on.
Corey Haines: Yeah, and that helps with the marketing side of things too because with a bit of interest and fascination in products. If you do a little bit of introspection, you start to reverse engineer, what is it I like about the product and how would I think about marketing it? That's also helped with my ability to do consulting, give advice to people, brainstorm and stuff like that because my brain is always firing.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. One last question here. You've touched a lot of things and you're involved in so many things. What is one piece of advice that you have for people working in marketing today that they should keep top in mind whether that is related to their career, or them building strategy or something like that? Is there something that sticks top of mind? A piece of advice that you heard that applies to that?
Corey Haines: Yeah. Market something that you built or that you own because you'll never really fully understand marketing. It won't be as real to you and tangible until you have skin in the game and until you have a personal vested interest in whatever it is that you're trying to market and bring to market. That could be in the form of content for your personal blog, and that's how you get chops on SEO and share ability and social media strategies; that could be a podcast and your ability to interview people and learn from them and retain an audience; that could be eCommerce store drop shipping random stuff from Alibaba and just learning the mechanics of Facebook ads; it could be a software project or something that you hack on, or no code project even that you're trying to understand how to get users for this thing.
Corey Haines: Really, your brain will start firing. How do I use everything that I've been reading and learning and actually apply it? Because when you're in a job, one, like a regular job, your experience and what you work on is fairly limited to whatever the scope is for what you're responsible of. But also, you just don't have as much skin in the game and so you don't think about it as deeply or as much. You don't care as much.
Corey Haines: To really learn, your ability to learn is pretty much proportional to your ability to care about that thing. And so, if you really care about making your podcast successful, your eCommerce store successful, your No-Code, your Airbnb knock-offsuccessful, then you really have to do it yourself. That's where a lot of the marketing learning will come from. That's what I always tell people, start personal sites, start a podcast, start a side project and then your learning will just go through the roof.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, very great advice. I've heard that before as well and we encourage our employees to do that. It's music to my ears that you said the same thing. What's the best place for people to find you online? How can they get a hold of you?
Corey Haines: Twitter @coreyhinesco. That's where I do most of my talking and blabbering, and probably the best place to actually follow me online. I also have a personal site, it's coreyhaines.co. That's where my Twitter handle came from. That has links to all my projects, more random information about me, what I've worked on, what I've done in the past, how to connect with me. And then Swipe Files as well. In fact, you can use the RightMetric to get half off any one of the memberships. So, it's swipefiles.com or swipefiles.com/membership If you want to go straight to the sign-up flow.
Charlie Grinnell: Nice. That is awesome. Well, Corey, thank you so much for taking the time. I learned so much from you. I've been wanting to talk to you for a long time, and I'm sure everybody listening did as well, so I really, really appreciate it.
Corey Haines: Yeah, you got it. Thanks for having me.
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