With over 12 years of digital marketing experience, Nicholas runs a conversion-focused growth marketing agency specializing in landing page optimization and marketing automation. He’s also the host of a top-rated podcast called Growth Marketing Toolbox and he writes a weekly marketing newsletter read by over 4,200 subscribers.
In this episode we talked about how Nicholas manages his content marketing for two brands, the core differences between webpages and landing pages, how businesses can leverage a newsletter to grow community, the best certifications to get as a budding marketer, how businesses can vet Martech tools before purchasing them, and more!
Full Episode Transcript:
Kenny Soto 0:02
We are now recording and 5432 Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto. And as always, today’s guest is a special one. His name is Nicholas Scalise. And he is a growth marketer. I mean, there’s definitely other ways to describe what he does, but I’m gonna let him describe what he does in his line of work. Nick, my first question for all my guests usually is kind of the same. I kind of asked them what got them into digital marketing, and then they tell their backstory. But after being a subscriber, to your newsletter, I want to start there. So my first question to you is, why did you start a newsletter?
Nicholas Scalice 0:57
Yeah, well, first, thank you for having me on the podcast, looking forward to this. And I listened to a few of your episodes, and I think you’re doing an amazing job with the podcast. So yeah, why did I start a pot a newsletter? Well, it’s actually because I started a podcast back in 2015.
And I was building up this really nice audience, the the show got up to about 10,000 downloads a month. And I realized that there were some other ways that we could connect with our audience through some community aspects of having a Facebook group, but also newsletters, because there’s different ways to repurpose content, different ways to reach your audience.
And when you have all of it working together, which I’m sure you know, as, as you’re a content marketer, you can take a single idea, and then you can repurpose it in many different formats. So we’ll talk about something on one of my podcasts, then maybe that’ll go into the newsletter, and then maybe we’ll talk about it in our community. Maybe they’ll create a blog post about it. And so it’s this idea of sharing a single idea in a variety of different formats, that seems to be working, and our audience really likes it.
Kenny Soto 2:05
When someone asks you what you do for a living, do you say you’re a digital marketer, a growth marketer? What’s your answer?
Nicholas Scalice 2:15
Yeah, I’m still trying to figure that one out. But my day job is I run a small agency called earn worthy, and we specialize in conversion optimization, which is a really technical term, that usually I don’t Well, I won’t say that unless I’m speaking to a marketer.
But, you know, typically, what we’re doing is we’re building landing pages, and we’re optimizing landing pages. And we’re helping people improve their landing pages. So we do a lot of work with a product called Unbounce. Were Unbounce agency partners. And I’d say the majority of our work is related to building testing or optimizing Unbounce landing pages for clients.
So I’ve been doing that since 2015, we have a small team, we’re really, really good at what we do, because we just do a very small number of things. We also do some marketing automation work, as well. So that’s like my day job. And then the fun stuff that I really like to do is all this content creation. So the podcasting, the newsletter, blogging, and all of that is done under the growth marketer brand.
So I tried to separate out these two brands, so that I have the service line on one side with earn worthy, and then I have growth marketer Dotco, which is my opportunity to help teach people and who want to learn who maybe they want to do it themselves. They don’t want to hire an agency to do it for them. So that’s where I try to educate as much as possible through growth marketer.
Kenny Soto 3:35
I aspire to produce the same level of content as you do on a daily and weekly basis. So my next question is not only for the audience’s benefit, but also for my own. How did you start your content marketing machine? Did you do it by yourself? When did you hire a team? If you have a team? How did you go about that process?
Nicholas Scalice 4:00
Yeah, so I started little by little, and I never tried to do more than one thing that was like the focus. And then I would always have these other things around the periphery. So for instance, when I really took it seriously, actually, when I first started, I was only doing blogging, which I think that’s where most people start, because it’s easy, you can pretty much do it yourself.
As long as you’re a good writer, you don’t really need to outsource it that much. But of course, because everyone’s a blogger, it’s very hard to stand out. And so it wasn’t until I discovered podcasting in 2015, that things really started to take off. And early on. I was doing almost everything myself, my wife was helping me with the editing, because that takes a lot of time. Because you know, this episode, for instance, like we might record 40 minutes, right.
But as you know, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the back end with the editing and the setup and the uploading and the promotion. So there’s a lot of work when it comes to a podcast that’s outside of the actual content. And so I quickly realized that without a team I He’s not going to be able to do that. So at this point, now I have an audio engineer who does all the editing.
And then I also have a social media manager on our team who handles all of the promotion, the repurposing of the content, specifically for the podcast, growth marketing toolbox. So you know, but of course, you don’t need to do that. To start, you can definitely try to do as much as you can on your own. That’s what I did early on. But when you can outsource, that certainly helps. But I think the point I was getting at is, you know, try to focus on one distribution channel at a time, that’s like your main thing.
So for a couple of years, like podcasting was it. And then, like, maybe a year and a half ago, I said, Hey, let’s look at newsletters, and I went all in on newsletters, and I was still doing the podcast. But I would say, you know, 80% of my effort was now on building the newsletter, and 20% was on the podcast. And I’ve done the same thing with other experiments.
Like right now, I’m trying to figure out tic toc and that type of content. And so I’m putting a lot of effort there. So I see a lot of marketers get spread too thin, because they tried to give 100% effort on all these different channels. But you know, I’m not saying drop everything to focus on one thing, but have one thing sort of be your Northstar at any given time.
Kenny Soto 6:17
You mentioned this earlier, you work with landing pages for the marketer who wants to dive into this topic even more. My next question is, what is the difference between a landing page and a web page?
Nicholas Scalice 6:33
Yeah, this is a question that comes up all the time. So the main difference is that a web page or like a homepage, when we think of a homepage, is providing the visitor with a whole bunch of different things to do, I can check out your blog, I can contact you, I can buy your product, I can do 100 different things, right, there’s all these different links.
And it has to be like that with a homepage, because you don’t know what the visitor wants to do. You don’t know if I just want to come to the site and, and immediately get in contact with you or if I’m still researching, right. So it’s very diverse in terms of the calls to action on a typical homepage or a website, page.
With a landing page. It’s sort of the opposite of that. It’s very focused, it’s specific to one campaign, it’s talking to a specific target audience. And usually, there’s just one call to action. And so the best use case for a landing page would be a paid media campaign.
Because if you think about a Google search campaign, for instance, if I’m searching for red shoes, and I’m advertising on Google, let’s say, and someone clicks on my, my link to go to my landing page, I can have that page, be completely about red shoes and talk about the features and the benefits, and have a button that says buy red shoes. And so it’s very focused.
And because you’re creating this more personalized experience, you’re usually going to get a higher conversion rate, because it’s like the page is speaking to that person and speaking to the need that they’re interested in, which in that case, would be to check it out and hopefully buy some red shoes.
Kenny Soto 8:04
In regards to some other tactics that a marketer may want to leverage, do news letters work for all kinds of businesses? And how can a marketer, I guess, present the idea of a newsletter to their superiors, so that it can actually get launched?
Nicholas Scalice 8:28
Yeah, newsletters, I think, are a hidden gem of an opportunity right now, like back in 2015, I would say podcasting was the hidden gem opportunity, there’s always something that’s, that is a great opportunity. And in the sense that not everyone is doing it, there’s a little bit of a higher barrier to entry.
That’s a good thing, because there’s not gonna be as much competition, yet there’s an interest for it. And there’s a demand. And I think right now we’re actually seeing it not only with newsletters, but we’re seeing it with tick tock, for instance, with the with the meteoric rise of content on that platform.
But for newsletters specifically, absolutely. There’s a huge opportunity, but you have to do it, right. And the mistake I see a lot of businesses do is they do a newsletter for the wrong purpose. They do it to create another channel to push out their messaging about their product or their company. And it’s just this advertisement. It’s like a billboard every single week or every single month and it’s boring.
And there’s no differentiation. It’s just the same old, same old and like, I’m sure you’ve probably seen on a lot of websites, it’ll say things like, get updates or subscribe to stay in touch and very generic why. Yeah, what do you need updates for? Do we really need more updates now? So if you are going to do a newsletter or if you’re going to pitch a newsletter to your leadership team or to your boss, go into it with lead with the value what’s the value the newsletter is going to provide?
Like what I tried to do with growth marketer weekly, my weekly news As I try to make the reader the smartest marketer in the room, right, I want to equip my readers with everything they need to know about growth, marketing, everything has happened in the previous week in terms of news, tools, insights, I want to give them tools that they can explore want to highlight articles that they may have missed that talk about really important topics so that when they’re in that meeting, or they’re speaking to a client, they can look back on and say, Oh, yes, I already know about that update, or I know about that news story or that acquisition.
And so that’s the value. And so whatever you end up doing whatever niche you’re going into, try to figure out that value first, because that’s going to direct the entire strategy. And that’s going to make it a lot easier to sell the idea, I think, to your team as well.
Kenny Soto 10:47
I’m always looking for the next and best certification, I can get to basically not only showcase that I got a new skill, but more importantly, get the skill itself. So for the marketer, who is just starting out, what certifications do you recommend they get?
Nicholas Scalice 11:04
So when it comes to free certifications, I think Google is the starting point for every growth marketer or every, you know, marketer who when I think of marketing, I think it’s important to make the distinction between the creative side, and then the demand generation side or whatever want to call it the performance side, right, which I think growth marketing fits into.
So you know, I’ve really specialized in that performance side, I don’t do a lot of branding or creative work. So I’m not sure what exists in that side of the marketing equation. And I remember, you know, making that decision early on of, hey, what side of the fence do I want to be on as a marketer and for my career, and I chose the performance driven side of marketing, that’s numbers and results and that type of thing versus just the creative side.
And I’m not knocking the creative side, there’s, that’s a huge opportunity of its own. But I think it’s a different path with different certifications. But specifically on the demand sent demand gen side or the performance side, I think the starting point is Google, they have a lot of really good free certification.
So I would probably start with Google Analytics, because no matter what you’re doing, if you’re working in performance, marketing, or growth marketing, there’s a really good chance, you’re going to interact at some level with Google Analytics, because it is the de facto source of truth for so many websites. And that’s where data is manipulated and reviewed.
And it’s just such a great skill to learn. And whenever I see someone who has strong proficiency in Google Analytics on the resume, that’s like, that’s great, because it is hard to learn. But Google has some amazing certifications there, I think they have one called the Google Analytics, Individual Qualification, that would be a good starting point. And then I would also look into Google ads. There’s a lot of certifications there.
And then once you get done with the Google stuff, I would go over and look at HubSpot, because I think they’re doing a really good job with their inbound certification, their content marketing certification, so it’s a little bit more of the broader content related skills. I think that’s, that’s going to be a good one.
And then as you graduate into maybe some paid certifications, one that I think is really lucrative right now is Facebook blueprint, because it’s extremely difficult to get, it does have a cost associated to it, I forget exactly how much but I think it’s like a couple $100 or so to take the test. But like, whenever I see someone who has a Facebook blueprint certification, that’s like, next level, because it just shows how much work they put into it. So even if you’re not planning on being like a Facebook media buyer, I think you’re gonna learn a lot from that certification as well.
Kenny Soto 13:42
And I would like to add to what you just said that you don’t necessarily need to, specifically the Facebook blueprint, you don’t necessarily need to get the certification right away, I would recommend just taking every single one of their prep courses because you’ll still learn how to use business manager and ads manager.
And then if you want to, once you get hired for job, you can ask them if they can comp, the actual position of the of the certification, or maybe any certification really, if you take like the prep courses and then ask your your boss Hey, I’ve been working on this and I wanted to know if this could be something we can discuss as far as being comped even if it’s like 50% of the cost. I think that’s something to definitely consider.
Nicholas Scalice 14:28
Yeah, and it’ll pay for itself. I guarantee you if you get that certification, put it on your resume. It’s going to stand out to employers and to clients. Everyone wants to work with a with a Facebook blueprint certified agency or partners. So it’ll definitely pay for itself one way or the other.
Kenny Soto 14:45
You work with a large list of marketing tools, and I discovered this based off of your LinkedIn bio. So my next question is, how do you vet and evaluate a martec tool prior to recommending it to others or using it for yourself?
Nicholas Scalice 15:00
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And just to give a little bit of context of why I usually mentioned the tools that I work with is, and this is good advice for anyone who’s looking to start your own consulting business or start your own agency, it to me, it’s actually a marketing strategy that a lot of people don’t utilize. And it’s referred to as partner, or partnership marketing.
And the idea is partner with the tools that you are already familiar with, that are in your industry, and sort of get embedded into their ecosystem, and make yourself the expert, the go to expert for that tool. Because then when someone’s looking for that tool, they’re going to check it out. And if they don’t want to just do it on their own, they’re going to start looking for that tool expert.
So the one that’s worked, the best for us is Unbounce, the landing page builder that I mentioned, like the whole reason why we do so much unannounced work is because early on back in 2015, when I was starting and trying to differentiate our agency from from others, I said, Hey, this is an amazing tool. But there’s not a lot of people who are Unbounce experts, and we want to become that. And so they have partner programs. And they had they had an expert’s program at the time.
So we got all in on that. And now, you know, we get a good number of leads from Unbounce. And from those types of inquiries. So that’s the reason why I like to sort of connect myself and what we do with specific tools. So little career advice there. But to answer your question, like, how would I evaluate a tool, there’s so many different things you can look at when it comes to a tool. First of all, you have to get over the mindset of I don’t want to pay for marketing software, because the best tools are all paid tools.
And I get this question all the time where people are like, well, I don’t want to pay for a landing page builder or, you know, what’s the best free tool for social media. And unfortunately, you get what you pay for, you have to look at it as an investment. And so outside of price, I would say the three things that I usually look for when vetting a tool is integrations, the community behind it, and then like the support that they provide, and the documentation they provide.
So like integrations, I’m usually going to look and see does this connect with other tools I’m using. And so the number one thing I’ll look for is like Zapier, which is a very popular integration tool. And most good software tools these days have a Zapier integration, because that tells me okay, I can connect this tool to my other tools in my marketing stack. The second thing would be community, does this tool, have a community around it, have people using it, talking about it, sharing it asking questions, because that’s going to show that there’s interest in this tool.
And that’s another thing I really liked about Unbounce. They have a very active community around it. And they have some very loyal followers. And then that third one is support and documentation. And so like, you know, go check out the support section of the tools website or check out the documentation.
And if there’s not much there, that’s a red flag to me, because it tells me that maybe their support team doesn’t invest a lot into that. Or maybe people are not asking the right questions, or it’s not being utilized enough. But I find that usually, the support portals or the documentation sections, for some of the best tools out there in the marketing space are, are really robust. And they’ve thought of all these questions in advance. So those are the three things I would really look at when evaluating a tool.
Kenny Soto 18:25
I’ve used LeadPages and Click Funnels in the past, but I’ve never used Unbounce what makes Unbounce so special?
Nicholas Scalice 18:33
Yeah, I mean, click funnels and LeadPages are great products, I’m not gonna knock them, I think they focus on a few different things. So the way I see it is LeadPages, back in the day was very comparable to Unbounce. They were like the two early landing page builders, I remember working at an agency, and we were evaluating different tools. I think this was like 2013.
And we were comparing Unbounce to LeadPages. But I think what happened since then is that LeadPages has broadened the scope of what they do. And they’re not just about conversion focused landing pages anymore. Now it’s more of like an all in one platform, they can help you build your website, there’s an E commerce component to it, there’s they have the integration with drip their email marketing tool.
So it’s a very broad product now. So if you’re looking specifically for conversion focused landing page builders that help you do a B testing and split testing and that type of thing. I still think you know that’s where Unbounce shines. And then the same with Click Funnels. Click Funnels is a very broad tool where you’re getting a lot more than just the landing page component of it, you’re getting the payment processing you’re getting the if you want you know the email marketing component of it, but you’re gonna pay more for that because it’s an all in one package.
So it really just depends if you’re looking for that all in one tool. But for us because we are a conversion focused growth marketing agency that focuses on landing pages Unbounce has been a really good fit for us because that’s what’s gonna give us the most flexibility and the most features specifically for that type of project.
Kenny Soto 20:09
What is a swipe file? And why should digital marketers have one,
Nicholas Scalice 20:14
swipe files are amazing. So this concept has been around since the early days of copywriting where a swipe file would literally be a printed out folder or file that copywriters would see an advertisement or they they see an idea, they write it down, or they copy it or swipe it from a magazine, and they’d save it for inspiration. And so since then, these days, swipe files are now pretty much all digital.
And the basic idea is it’s a repository for you to save ideas, and save things that have inspired us so that when you have a marketing campaign that you that you need to work on, whether it be just for the copywriting or for the design for the offer, whatever it is you’re working on, you can reference it and come back with some inspiration and come back with some ideas. So you can set up a swipe file very easily.
Probably some of the most popular tools for doing so is Google Drive, Evernote notion, pretty much any tool that lets you clip things from the web save images, I use a tool called my mind.com, which is not frequently well known, but it’s very, very easy to have a Chrome extension, and you can like save everything. And then it uses machine learning to try to organize it for you. So it’s sort of effortless. But there’s a whole bunch of different tools. But I definitely encourage every marketer out there to create a swipe file and start getting all this inspirational material that you come in contact with, whether it be a Facebook ad or an email, get it into your swipe file so that you can reference it when needed.
Kenny Soto 21:51
What is a T shaped marketer?
Nicholas Scalice 21:55
T shaped marketer? Yeah, this I think the original term came up from an article that Brian Solis wrote many, many years ago. And the idea is, and this is this is really important for anyone who’s trying to improve their career as a marketer. So the idea is, instead of being a specialist, where you just do one thing, like all I do is landing pages, you want to be a little bit more broad in your skill set.
But you don’t want to be so broad that you’re just a generalist. And you just know a little bit about everything. So the idea is, you want to sort of meet in the middle, where imagine you have one deep proficiency, whether it be landing page optimization, Facebook ads, SEO, content, marketing, whatever it is, you have that one expertise thing that you really, really know deeply, but at the same time, you also have a broad proficiency in other areas.
So you can talk the lingo. Like for me, obviously, it’s conversion optimization. That’s my specialty. That’s what I focus on. But I can easily talk about SEO and email marketing and web development and design and branding and strategy, and video marketing, and podcasting. I’m not an expert in any of those. But I know enough about them where I can sort of glue it all together. But what is the defining characteristic of my marketing career, I would say, is that conversion optimization skill set.
So if you can imagine a tee, the top part would be that broad. It’s not expertise, but that broad knowledge across a wide range of different types of topics. And then the T the up and down part would be that deep proficiency in whatever you want to specialize in.
Kenny Soto 23:31
Two more questions, what core skills and these could be hard skills or soft skills have you leveraged throughout your career?
Nicholas Scalice 23:40
I would say copywriting is probably something that has helped me the most. Because no matter what you’re doing, as a marketer, I think it’s going to benefit you if you can be a good writer. And sometimes, it’s only so that you can come up with better ideas.
Like, even if you’re not, if your copy is not going to be presented in that form. It can help you like if you can think like a copywriter is going to help you in everything you do because copywriters have a very specific way of thinking, where they’re thinking about how can I hook the reader into this idea? How can I present what I’m offering from a point of value so that the reader actually sees the value? So I would say copywriting is really important.
Obviously, I think conversion optimization is a is a fantastic skill. But tied to that, I think, is the idea of psychology. And a lot of times I see marketers who don’t really take an interest in psychology, which is so unfortunate because there’s so much opportunity to learn about psychology and learn about what influences people.
There’s a really good book out there from the 1980s called Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini and it’s not even a marketing book, but it’s a really good book on understanding the what makes someone take action like the behavioral psychology of buyers and if you can understand then that can help you in everything you do, because it’s going to help you create better ads, create better content, create better landing pages, because you’re going to be doing so from a point at which you can influence people to take action. So yeah, I think copywriting and psychology are probably two skills that I would really focus on.
Kenny Soto 25:17
My last question is hypothetical. If you had access to a time machine, I can go back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career?
Nicholas Scalice 25:29
Oh, wow, I probably would have went to school for this, believe it or not, I, I wanted to be a police officer in college. So my college degree is in criminal justice and I went to grad school for public administration, probably the most boring topic on Earth.
And so this is all sort of been my my backup plan in life. And in a sense, I think it’s helped me because I’ve had to learn from the ground up. And I didn’t have the same opportunities of getting out of college and being able to work at a big agency. So I sort of had to just start from the very bottom at a small agency, and work my way up. So but I think that, you know, I think there’s definitely an advantage to going to school for this.
Or if you’re not going to school, for marketing, at least having like a minor in psychology, that would help or some type of business degree, I think that would have been helpful, because now that I’m running an agency, like there’s all these business challenges that I had to figure out.
And, you know, I didn’t really go to school. But yeah, I would say that was helpful. And then I would say the other thing that would have been helpful was to create content earlier, like, I didn’t really start taking off with my content marketing, until about 2014 2015, even though I had been working as a marketer as far back as 2009. And I had blogs here and there, but I never took it seriously.
But like, you know, consistency is key. Like when I started my podcast, it took like two years before we really started getting traction from doing a weekly episode. So you know, don’t give up, be consistent. And start early, start creating that content early, because that’s gonna create this repository that people will notice after a while.
Kenny Soto 27:12
Amazing. And, Nick, if anyone wanted to find you online, where can they say hi?
Nicholas Scalice 27:18
The best place is just growth marketer.co. You can check out my newsletter there, there’s links to the podcast, and in the footer, you’ll find links to all my social channels, and I’m most active on Twitter and believe it or not, TikTok trying to navigate that one. It’s been a fun little adventure for the last couple of months. But yeah, growth marketer.co
Kenny Soto 27:43
Amazing. Thank you for your time today. And thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of the people of digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto. And as always, I hope you have a great week. Bye.