Social media is one of the most cost-effective distribution channels for content marketing, which has the potential to significantly grow your audience.
Good Audience is a marketplace of social media marketing professionals who will handcraft your content, increase your social media reach and manage your ad campaigns. They've grown communities into the millions and they can do it for you as well!
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Adam: Welcome to episode 66 of The Crowd. I’m talking to Sherman Lee, co-founder and CEO of Good Audience, a marketplace of social media marketing professionals who will handcraft your content, increase your social media reach and manage your ad campaigns. They have grown communities into the millions.
Welcome to Near Me’s podcast, The Crowd, bringing you interviews from thought leaders in the collaborative economy who’ll be sharing their knowledge, diverse real world experiences and stuff you need to know to help build a successful marketplace. I’m your host Adam Broadway. Thanks for joining us.
Today’s guest, Sherman Lee, is an entrepreneur who has built a service that came out of a necessity to solve a problem for his wife’s retail T-shirt business to increase sales. Sherman shares some raw lessons on the early pain and fears with failed fundraising and other things that he got over but getting over it fast to build a fundamentally sound business and going on from strength to strength.
Hello everybody. I have the pleasure of talking with Sherman Lee who is the co-founder and CEO of goodaudience.com. Good Audience is all about providing marketing professionals that have grown communities into the millions. They handle all the crafting of your content, social media sharing and ad campaign management. So welcome to The Crowd, Sherman.
Sherman: Hey, Adam. Thank you so much for having me.
Adam: Well, it’s our pleasure. And before we drill into some details about Good Audience and in particular getting some of your thoughts around a good content marketing strategy, knowledge that you can share with our listeners, how did you get started in business?
Sherman: Well, it was completely by accident actually. I was helping my wife with her T-shirt design business. Basically, she would design these T-shirts around Justin Bieber and all these trending topics at the time. And she needed help driving the sales to it. And how I got into business is I went on social media, followed 50,000 teenagers and we ended up selling $14,000 worth of merchandise.
Adam: Wow! That’s fantastic. I love this story. So the husband and wife team, dynamic duo and from there it’s formed what you’re doing now with Good Audience.
Sherman: Yeah, exactly. So we were in this world of other apparel owners because we were running our own brand and we shared the knowledge back and forth on different growth hacks that you can use to grow your audience. And at the end of the day, it drives the sales for your merchandise. And we started expanding outside of just these independent designers, people who were selling on Etsy, Society6, Zazzle and things like that to people who actually had store fronts and ran a little bit larger businesses and had employees. And it organically and slowly grew into what it is today at Good Audience.
Adam: That’s a great story. I love it. It came out of necessity from another business and here you are now. How did you choose your co-founders? And how did that process come about? Because I know with a lot of entrepreneurs and startups that listen to us here at The Crowd there’s always that question. Co-founders are vital particularly trustworthy ones that you know you can do business with in the long-term. How has that process been for you?
Sherman: So I have the experience where I had a not so great co-founder to having a really good co-founder that I work well with today. And the process to that was first working with that person and seeing what it actually is like over an amount of time. And then how my current co-founder Carl, how I found him and decided to work with him is because we were friends since high school. So we’ve known each other for a while. We went to college together. We studied Computer Science. We had classes together. So it wasn’t just someone randomly that I’ve met and said hey, let’s start a business. It’s someone I actually knew.
Adam: Well, that’s really cool. They say that the best way to lose a friend is to go into business with them but it sounds like you’re breaking the norm on that one. And that’s fantastic. I think it is vital that you do know somebody over a long period of time first before getting into a serious relationship as a co-founder. So that’s awesome. What’s been the toughest challenge that you have both taken on together and overcome?
Sherman: I mean, there’s not just one tough challenge and I would think that’s true in any business. But one that kind of strikes in the back of my head is that we sort of had this failed fundraising round coming out of Techstars in London. We had commitments from a VC who’s going to put in like $600,000 into a C round for us to continue building the company that obviously did not go through. And when closing day came, they basically let us know that this was not a right fit for them for whatever reason. So we got terribly kind of upset for a day or two and you’re scared, these things that you go through, these emotions that you go through as a business. You feel really down. But then we realized really quickly that what we needed to do was generate a much more bigger revenue so that we can sustain. That was going to be the best option. So we did that.
Adam: Wow! That’s awesome. My own opinion of that is that it wasn’t a failure. That’s actually a blessing in disguise. So many people get wrapped up in the fundraising side that they forget about their own products that people actually want to buy. And there’s this whole mentality of other people’s money. Whether our product succeeds or fails, well, that was other people’s money. But you just hit the nail on the head. How do you focus on generating revenue? Which is obviously what you’ve done. And well, the rest is history as they say. So a failure I would say is maybe that silver lining, a blessing in disguise that you have mastered your destiny and you’ve got your own equity. You keep it.
Sherman: That’s a really good way to look at it. And getting the revenue was going to be – that was inevitable anyway. We just had to now speed it up because we didn’t have the venture capital to kind of grow much quicker.
Adam: Yeah. Now, look, definitely they make sense when it makes sense. And it’s not just for the sake of saying well, I’ve raised X amount of dollars. It’s really about okay, how does it move the needle for us? And it sounds like even without it you’ve done that. That’s awesome. So what’s the driving force behind you? It sounds like you’ve got a fantastic relationship there with your wife and you’re able to not only stay married and being married but have a business together in the past, the T-shirt business that moved you on to Good Audience. What’s the secret behind that? What’s that driving force?
Sherman: I just have a genuine curiosity of business. I love learning a lot and seeing the actual result of those kinds of learning because you get to implement these things that you’ve learned. A lot of time, it’s learning from mistakes for example and experimenting and trying different things or speaking with different mentors. But the exciting part is when you actually implement something that you’ve learned and see the actual results of it. So let’s say you learned how to do a Twitter lead gen card and now you started collecting 30 to 40, 50, 60 leads a day. By taking five minutes to learn how to do that, you now have this very I would say – like on Twitter, a lead generation channel where you’ve done absolutely nothing to have it coming in. Those kinds of learning are what really just interest me on a daily basis.
Adam: That’s brilliant because it’s those learnings and that knowledge that obviously you’re using to help others succeed in their own marketing efforts. So that takes me to a question about how did you build supply of marketing pros that are behind Good Audience and specifically those that have the right skillset that you’re looking for?
Sherman: Yeah. So it turns out the supply side is pretty easy because there’s a lot of freelance marketers out there in the world and especially because we’re a fully remote company and things like that and the clients that we work with all there. Those kinds of employees are kind of remotely. So there’s actually a huge set of these people ready to work. So the problem actually I would say is showing them what they can work with. Most likely, it’s going to be a yes, I will be interested in working in some capacity. But like what type of clients will I be working with? Are they high quality clients like homeaway.com or Kettle brand chips? Or is it the mom and pop type clients where I’m going to be working with one person? And that’s going to be different for every single marketer out there. But if you can provide the right matching, it’s not too hard to find people.
Adam: Good. And then of course, you’re probably drinking your own champagne when it comes to your own marketing to increase the demand side. With the competition out there, how is that working for you?
Sherman: Social media is essentially the front door for every single business now. So just by being active and as I mentioned like just setting up a Twitter lead generation card, just having it there so people can quickly give you their email address in one tap, doing things like that has proved to be really effective.
Adam: Well, that’s a good point. If somebody was just to take away one gem from listening to you talk specifically around that lead gen side, what would be the steps in doing that?
Sherman: Yeah. It’s quite simple. You just log in to your Twitter Ads Manager. You go under the Creative section and then click New Lead Generation Card. And then you upload literally just like a picture, it’s like 120 characters in text that you want and that’s it. You set it as a pin tweet. And then every new person that sees your Twitter profile now can quickly give you their email address that’s already saved in Twitter.
Adam: Excellent. So if you haven’t done that and you’re listening, you better get on to that advice Sherman had just shared right there. So what other types of social media services are you using regularly?
Sherman: Oh man, I’m on them all. So I spend all day on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, MusicAlly and –
Adam: MusicAlly. I’m going to have to check that channel and see what you can do.
Sherman: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s interesting because it’s all music based and you can either film a video or upload any video from your phone and just tick play. It’s fun.
Adam: I’m always surprised because I’m one of the old people who – I got five kids and I see what they’re doing with Snapchat and then obviously Facebook. How do you keep up? And how do you know where the right audience for your products or services might be? Is that where Good Audience comes in and helps to identify? Hey, you’re not on Snapchat. You got to be there. That’s where we find high quality clients for your products or services. What do you do to identify the best social media outlets for your clients?
Sherman: Yeah. Well, first, I would not recommend everyone to try to be on every single channel because you’ll just spread yourself thin really quick. You just want to find like two or three channels that really will work well specifically for your business. And then you work backwards from who that audience is into what channel you should be on. Let’s say like you’re a consumer brand for example like, I don’t know, any type of beer Company. Your first place online will probably be something like Instagram because you can tell a really great story about you going outside and hiking and having the beer that just stuffed in your rucksack. You hike to the top of Half Dome and now you’re just drinking this beer and you’re taking photos of it in this gorgeous nature. Or while you’re working on your do-it-yourself bench or crafts or whatever it is that you’re working on, some outdoor, nature-y type thing, you can tell a really compelling story specifically for that outdoor do-it-yourself audience on Instagram which by the way is very abundant. So yes, it’s pretty simple. You figure out who your audience is and work backwards into like what channels do you think they’ll be on? Will they be on LinkedIn? Probably not too active for this type of thing, right? So you kind of intuitively dive in once you understand the audience.
Adam: That’s awesome advice. What are some of the marketplaces out there that had inspired your business so far?
Sherman: Upwork is obviously a really, really good resource just like in terms of the – if you need to kind of get work done, any type of work and hire a person hourly, it’s absolutely wonderful for that.
Adam: Are there some specific business learnings that you’ve seen or read about that you’ve begun to apply to Good Audience that you’ve seen results from? Like you read a book or somebody mentored you on a particular thing that you really should do and you did that and there was a great outcome.
Sherman: Yeah, for sure. In June, I hitchhiked to Europe basically and I stopped by my friend Nick Yap in Rotterdam. Well, he picked me up in Rotterdam but he lives in Gouda in the Netherlands. He took me out and helped me get some cheese and all that good stuff. And what I learned from him as we had this nice wine and cheese was that business development is probably a really important thing to kind of think about and work on and specifically because partnerships with larger corporations especially in trying to start working with them in any type of pilot requires building a real relationship. And that takes a lot of time. But most startups tend to think kind of short-term and trying to close these deals in two weeks. If that’s not going to happen with this person, they kind of give up. It’s kind of short sighted. So what I’ve learned from Nick is to really think about the long-term view of things and think about who are these different people and companies that you actually want to do business with based on values and then trying to figure out how to kind of meet them, not trying to sell them but just meet them and learn from each other in a really beneficial way.
Adam: Yeah. That’s great advice. The “overnight successes” take about three to six years before they become an overnight success. It’s been the case for all the big major marketplaces out there. Wow, Airbnb! That was an overnight success. No, they weren’t. They worked hard and they had a long-term plan that they executed on and they didn’t give up. They maintained their persistence and their courage through the ups and downs and had that long-term thinking. I think that’s fantastic advice. And then also it sounds like a fantastic adventure that you had with wine and cheese as you hitchhiked around Europe.
Sherman: That’s the joy of building and running a fully remote company.
Adam: Brilliant. It sounds like the dream that everybody has but as you’ve already noted it does take hard work. So wherever you’re at and no matter what time of day or any part of the world you happen to be, you’re always switched on, you’re always thinking about business. Would you say that’s true for you too?
Sherman: It never fully can turn off. It’s the kind of thing where the work is at least – I wouldn’t even consider it work but the amount of learnings that you can take from running a business is kind of endless. So you want to always have more and more feedback. So you think of different ways to grow and you want to test it. So yeah, you can’t stop ever – you never stop thinking of it.
Adam: That is so true. I’m the same. So what do you think is next for Good Audience?
Sherman: Well, as any company who is in the early stages, we always just want to work with better and bigger clients in terms of – it’s kind of about getting those reference accounts where you can use. Like for example, we were working with San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank right now and that really gives us a lot of credibility into a lot of other FinTech companies because they have to go through compliance and these legal things. So I think continuing like in the short-term, continuing to work with really great companies across these different verticals and building the case studies so that we can go out and share our learnings with other players in like the larger industry, I think we can do a lot of damage.
Adam: Yeah, that’s awesome. I think you’re definitely on the right track. I got one last question for you. What is one piece of advice that you have been given in your entire life that resonates with you even now? This doesn’t have to be specifically about business but just one piece of advice that you were given that in times distress you think about and it gets you through.
Sherman: I mean, I think this is pretty kind of a common knowledge but every kind of seasoned entrepreneur shares this with me. It’s staying alive. They describe this as do anything that you possibly can to continue staying alive because there’s going to – there’s no doubt that you’re going to absolutely reach a point in business where it looks like you’re going to fail or even internally you want to give up or whatever it is. You have to have the mindset that this is going to happen and you’re just going to continue staying in the ring and fighting and staying alive.
Adam: Yeah, that’s great advice. I love it. Well, it’s been fantastic to talk to you, Sherman. And where can people find you online, website, Twitter?
Sherman: Yeah. I’m twitter.com/sherm8n.
Adam: Excellent. Well, we will also be transcribing our interview so people will be able to click through on the link on the blogpost and check you out and take a look at Good Audience. It’s been wonderful to hear a little bit of your journey. And I look forward to circling back in six months, 12 months and learning more about how things have been going. And certainly, everybody, please go and check out goodaudience.com. And Sherman Lee, co-founder and CEO, I very much appreciate your time.
Sherman: Thank you so much for having me, Adam. I really appreciate it.
Adam: Thanks for joining us for the Crowd, the podcast that keeps you connected. Join us next episode for more knowledge sharing and insights on the marketplace economy.
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