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[Podcast] Strategic Automation: Accurately Scale the Right Things in Your Business (Chris Davis)

By Bob Sparkins  |  Published Dec 16, 2022  |  Updated Feb 08, 2024
Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A marketer with 17 years of experience, Bob has taught over 1,000 webinars and spoken at over 50 events.

The Lead Generation Podcast Episode 45: Chris Davis

Chris Davis (an alumnus of the early days of Leadpages) is the founder of Automation Bridge, a training, consulting, and certification community for automation service professionals and entrepreneurs who are ready to put marketing automation to work the right way. He's also the host of the All Systems Go podcast.

In this episode, we dive into his journey from electrical engineer and startup employee, to a successful entrepreneur. We also get his take on marketing automation strategies, tactics, and tools that you can put to use right away.

Key Takeaways

  • Pain propels people into their purpose. Uncomfortable situations help you get clear about what you really want from your life.
  • On your path to creating what you want, you might first need to deliver what people want from you. Taking risks is easier when you’re on stronger financial footing.
  • Coaching clients and listening to your audience leads to better programs. As you continue your path, truly listen to what your best clients are asking of you.
  • Consider creating a premium level of a podcast. Alongside free episodes, a paid podcast level can give you revenue and a closer connection to your audience.
  • Marketing automation is an emulation of your skills. Know how to market to humans manually before you scale something ignorantly.
  • Automation amplifies objectively. It doesn’t care whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing—it will multiply your tactics for better or worse.
  • Slow down to grow faster. Be patient as you move from manual marketing to automated marketing, and your results will increase rapidly.
  • Create qualifying content for your lead magnets. Automate the delivery of “slices of bread” from your larger programs as lead magnets or recorded webinars to filter visitors and leads before consultations.
  • Get to know your leads better. Ask for more information within your forms, so you get better data for marketing the right things to the right people.

Resources Mentioned

Podcast Block Blog@2x

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Who is Chris L. Davis?

Bob: Chris Davis, so good to have you on this episode of The Lead Generation, sir.

Chris: Bob, always. And when I say always, I don't mean that as just kind of a word that's thrown around, it is always good to be back with you, man. Always. Thank you for having me.

Bob: You bet. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together on the All Systems Go podcast, which you host, and I enjoy listening to those episodes all the time. I want to start today's episode with a question I like, which is, how do you transform the lives of the clients and customers that you're working with these days?

Chris: Yeah, the one word that comes to mind that I do now intentionally, that I was doing prior and just didn't realize it, is clarity. Clarity is everything, and especially when you come into the tech space. You can do a whole lot in a foggy situation. Not being able to see things and know what you're doing, you could build yourself into a world of trouble, truly, and not realize it until much later. So clarity and understanding not just the process, but all that's entailed with it or encompassed with it seems to be the gift that just keeps on giving, and people are appreciative of it, and I enjoy doing it, so it's a sweet spot.

Bob: Yeah, you're quite good at it. You're one of the best educators I've ever run across as a colleague and as a fellow marketer.

Chris: Thank you.

From Animation to Automation

Bob: Now, you weren't always in the marketing space, of course, especially not marketing automation. So I'd love for you to share the kind of Reader's Digest version of your journey from professional engineering-type over into the marketing space, and then I'll ask you a little bit more about how you went from inside to outside of corporate land.

Chris: Yeah. I wasn't given this title, it was actually my mentor. My mentor who actually is my spiritual father. He gave me this title of my life and I said, "Man, that sums it up." He said, "From animation to automation," and the reason why that's important is because before I even went to school and went to become an engineer, I loved art, and I wanted to have my own animated cartoons. So I was drawing and all of this, and I thought I was going to go to school into fine arts and something with video games and all of that, and here I am now in automation. So when you say I'm from animation to automation, it does encompass my entire career, and the Reader's Digest version is just that. I wanted to be an artist, man. And I think, Bob, there were signs of it when I was at Leadpages, like the flow charts and everything.

I think that was literally the artist in me trying to come out, trying to say, "Hey, I'm still alive." And then the process of building landing pages, always enjoyed it, always cringed at ugly ones, so that kind of stayed with me. I went to school to do engineering. I held onto art half of the time there, but the important part about engineering, I will say, is this, college, do I use what I learned? I use a lot of what I learned, Bob, I do, and it's because I'm an analytical and logical person, but the best thing that college taught me how to do was how to learn. It taught me how to work through a problem until you truly figured it out. And I did not realize how powerful that skill would be as an entrepreneur and just as a person working in different capacities later. So yeah, going to school for engineering, electrical engineering, digital electronics is what I specialized in, graduated, went to the corporate world, and I know we'll get into the rest of it. Corporate, startup, entrepreneur, and here we are, man.

Bob: Yeah, it's been quite a journey, and I know you've had a great support system with your wife along the way. We could probably talk a lot about what importance that is as well.

Chris: Yeah, man. Yep.

Turning Career Pain into a New Purpose

Bob: I'd love to chat first on, you obviously went from a corporate gig to startup land with Leadpages. You eventually went to other software companies like ActiveCampaign, then you decided, and I think along the way you had a bit of a side hustle, so how did you decide to, first of all, start up a side hustle, and then how did you have the confidence to go ahead and hang your own shingle and leave startup land in corporate world for your own business?

Chris: Great question. Pain, man. I think pain propels people into their purpose a lot of times. And then we've got the three P's there, but I wasn't planning that. It probably just came out. But seriously, when you're comfortable... Let me speak for me. When I was comfortable, I just didn't have the fire. I had the desire, I didn't have the fire. It was like, "One day I want to do this. One day I want to do that." So when I look at it, the genesis of me starting a business and really as a side hustle was when I was an engineer, that was all. That was everything. Literally every fabric of my future was in this job. And it was because everybody told me, Oh, engineers don't get laid off. You'll be an engineer forever. You've made it." they didn't realize the shifts that would take place that had never been seen before in the US.

So once I lost my job, man, that was... I mean, it rocked my reality. It really slapped me in the face and forced me to say, "Okay, this is the picture everybody painted, but this is what you're living." And one of the decisions that I promised to myself, Bob, it's crazy because I recorded a video to myself the day I got fired, and I watched that video time... A young Chris. Although I was trying to encourage the future me, I was so distraught, man. It was just raw hopelessness on my face, but the promise that I made to myself is that I would never be one-dimensional again when it comes to my streams of revenue.

So even when I started working at Leadpages, I had already started moving in the direction of Automation Bridge, and I just told myself, "I'm not going to do anything offensive." At the time, Clay had some pretty strict rules and he wanted to make sure that there was no ethics or competition with the company and all of that. So I wanted to respect that and honor that, but still not throw my business out. So the source of my business as a side hustle, yeah, it came from the pain, man, of being fired and realizing that I can never be caught without some means of making money.

A Real World MBA with Clay Collins

Bob: Yeah, that had to be scary. And I think we've been seeing in the last couple months in this technology world how many people are having the layoffs happen. It wasn't too long ago that over 11,000 people were laid off from Meta, not to mention all the other companies who we feel are solid companies, but there's a shift that happens, so good on you for getting some more foundational work. So how did you decide then that when you left your last job, that it was your last job?

Chris: I didn't, man. I thought it was. Here's the funny part. I'm at Lockheed Martin, that's where I was working as an engineer, and I'm watching the Pat Flynns and the Brendon Burchards and Jeff Walkers. I mean, they were big-time. Jeff Johnson, I believe. These were big internet marketers. Derek Halpern. Most of them were using Leadpages. So I'm following them, and I'm just like, "Man, there's a way to make money, and I don't have to work at this stinking job." So in my head I'm like, "Job, you're just in my way. And the minute you're out of here, I'm out of here. I would leave if I could right now." And the job was like, "Hey, hey Chris, goodbye." And it was like, "Hold on, time out. I know I said I didn't need you, but come back just for a little bit."

That first time, I thought that was it. I said, "I'm never going back to the corporate," which I never did, but "I'm never working a job," this, this, and that. But I started doing web development. And Bob, let me tell you, I had all the raw skills and talent, man. I can build a website. I can figure out code. I'm an engineer. I could do all of it, and I enjoyed it. The problem was I wasn't making any money, man. I was making no money.

This is literally what led me to Leadpages because I talked to a friend, he actually was a pastor at the church I was going to, and he said, "Chris, you can't keep going at this rate. You're going to have to find some way to make money that doesn't bring you back into the corporate work," he's like, "if you're going to keep going at this rate. So I said, "All right, how do I do this? I can work for some entity, but it won't be a corporation."

So I did some contracting work and that lasted about two to three months because there was a startup function that I met Clay at, and that's actually where I got the opportunity to come on board with Leadpages. And I remember talking to Clay, we were talking on Skype. It was a Skype interview, man. And mind you, Bob, I am like... You look at my bank account, I'm like, "Man, I got two more dollars. How do I make this thing stretch?" So it was a very, very hard time for me when I was starting at Leadpages because a contracting gig started putting money back in my pocket. And then two months later, right when I was starting to get comfortable, there's that comfort thing, they're like, "Hey, look, we want you full-time." And I'm like, "No, I'm not going to do full-time." They're like, "Well, all right then. If we can't have you full-time, we don't want you."

So I'm facing the reality of going right back to having nothing, man. This is around the time I met Clay. He gives me the invitation to come. We're on a Skype interview, man, and he makes the job offer. Bob, I don't know what to do. I never used Skype before Leadpages, by the way. And then I'm like, "Oh, do I say yes?" I wish he was recording and we could see my face. So I said, "Clay, give me a minute." I run upstairs and I talk to my wife, I said, "Look, I've got this offer. It's like this small company. I don't think they're a corporation." I didn't know what a startup was, Bob. I was trying to explain it without saying startup because I didn't know what it was. And she agreed. She was like, "I think this is a great opportunity. Go for it," so that's what brought me to Leadpages (in May, 2014).

And let me tell you, man, those years at Leadpages, I call it my marketing bootcamp because when I was freelancing as a web developer, the issue was not my skills, the issue was my knowledge in marketing. I just did not know how to market yet. So thus, I didn't have leads, I couldn't convert leads. So I really joined Leadpages team to learn how to market, and it solved all of that, man. That's why I say today my education on marketing came from Professor Clay (Collins). I've told him that many times. In the times that we had, these were the funnest times of my professional career to date, Bob. To date. From St. Paul to moving in to the new offices in Minneapolis and everything in between, the experience with everybody that I work with, but more so just learning marketing at hyper speed. I mean super hyper speed. So I didn't know it until ActiveCampaign. And that one, that exit hurt enough to say, "You know what? I'm done with the startup space too. Done with the corporate space. Now, I'm on my own."

Elevating the Side Hustle to Full-Time Entrepreneur

Bob: Yeah. Awesome. And Automation Bridge has obviously been around since prior, as you mentioned. What kind of challenges did you see when you decided that the last gig was the last gig and you're going to do Automation Bridge full-time?

Chris: Oh, man. So the greatest thing I will say, the greatest thing I'll say is that since I never let it die, I was always laying bricks. By the time the ax swung my way at ActiveCampaign, I had a nice client. I had one client that was already paying me a nice retainer, so I had some buffer, so I thought I was good. Bob, oh my goodness, I did not realize how much healthcare costs when you have three kids and all of those other things that these corporations were taking care of you. That retainer that I was living good off of because it was supplementary to my main income, which was my job, it was getting eaten up like that, man. I'm looking up, I'm like, "Where is my money going?" So again, it is one of those scary times, but, Bob, I tell you what, man, I feel like I'm the type of person that has always responded well in dire situations.

If my back's against the wall, it just feels like I just find a way and figure it out and that's what it took, man. It just took the constant meeting the market at where they're at with what I have versus what I want the market to get from me and pay me to do. I think a lot of people mix that up. They're like, "This is what I want to do. This is what I want to be known for," and it's like, "Well, eventually you probably will. However, what is the market asking of you right now?" So at that time, Bob, I wanted to launch a course, a program. I already had a mentorship program going, but I wanted to take this program and make it into actually what it is today, but that's what I wanted my day-to-day to be. Bob, I hadn't built up the momentum for that.

And if I stuck to that, I was going to be broke again, which I remember that pain, and I remember that struggle. So I was like, "No, I'm not going back to that," so I just stopped. Sometimes we have to stop talking to people and just listen to them. I stopped, I read through the emails, what are people responding to? I looked at the blog posts people were most frequently visiting, looked at the questions I was getting via the webinar. Some people think you have to literally talk to somebody. No, people have been talking to you all along. They just talk differently by visiting pages and filling out forms and asking questions. And when I went through it, I said, "People really are looking for consulting," so that's what... Coaching. I'm sorry, not consulting, coaching. So I started doing coaching, and that is what helped me bring in the revenue that I needed in the early stages of my business 'til I could build out the program to start to carry me more consistently.

Coaching Clients Begets Better Courses

Bob: And I imagine if you're like a lot of folks that go the coaching route before courses, you have better courses and programs because you had that one-on-one time.

Chris: Yes, Bob. Man, 1,000%. And if you're a true coach at heart, like you said, I love educating people and I love encouraging people, that works really well with coaching. I'm like the coach that's not just calling plays on the sideline, I want to get in there. Like, "Hold on, let me just... Hold on, what are you... I want to sweat with you," so I'm not recommending technology that I'm not using. If they say, "Hey, I'm using this," I'll test it out myself. "Oh wait, well this is why I wouldn't recommend it. All right." So it helped me learn so much, not just about more software and technology and how to use it effectively to grow a business, but it helped me understand the struggles, so I can truly speak to where businesses are at. And now, I mean, it was instrumental.

Now granted, I was also paying attention when I was at Leadpages to all the questions and struggles we used to get on our office hours. And then when we used to call the customers, they would come in, and we would do workshops and all of that. And at ActiveCampaign, I was always attentive to the needs. So over a seven-year, eight-year span, I've been attentively listening to people's problems. So now I stand where I can essentially tell my audience what their pain is better than they can describe it themselves. Coaching was a huge aid to that because it really let me know directly from their mouths what they're struggling with and the opportunities that the marketplace was lacking.

Developing Multiple Streams of Revenue

Bob: Yeah. I love that you decided that your future self couldn't be your current self yet, and you started the path of coaching. But fast forward a couple years now since you started that pathway, you have built out a little bit more of a portfolio of services and revenue streams for Automation Bridge. Give us a picture of what that's like. What kind of proportion of your time and revenue is in coaching versus courses versus a certification program that I'd love to chat with you about here in a moment too?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I love it, man. I'm not quite where I want to be. I think if you ask anybody, they could be in a perfect situation. Someone else is like, "I'm not quite there yet," but I want to acknowledge it's good. An average day for me, I wake up at 5: 30 AM, I get my devotion and meditation and prayer time in, start working before anybody is sending emails, before anybody's doing anything. So by 9: 00, my kids are out of the house. I've got a bulk of my work done. And let me be specific. By work, it's the “need to do” and “get to do.” The need to do is just empowering my team, making sure that I'm not the bottleneck essentially. Once I've done that, because they're going to wake up soon and they'll have everything that they need to get going, then I work on what I get to do.

And this is usually me playing around with automation. Just today, no lie, on one of my screens. I have an auto-login form for premium content on my website that I'm trying to figure out how can I create that auto login experience where I don't have to send somebody to a login form. I want the page to refresh and blah blah. Technical stuff. But that's my playground. I got to play with that this morning, Bob, because I got my work done. And then right around 10:00 is when I usually have a meeting, whether it's a group coaching call for my students that are going through my program or a podcast like this or just a regular meeting, and then the rest of my day is free. So if I have to be on a podcast like this, I can. If I want to meet with the team, I can. So my day is pretty flexible and I love it, man.

And then just the day-to-day, most of my time is spent with my students. They're split up into ones that are certified and ones that are not, but all of them are digital marketers that said, "Hey look, I want to go a level deeper and do automated digital marketing," which we call marketing automation, so sharing tips, tools. "Hey, what are you guys working on?" Solving their problems. I have my own community outside of Facebook, and then I do weekly office hours for them. And then I have a biweekly coaching call for everybody that's going through the program. So it's a program and then it's like a community after the program. So it's the best thing, man, because one of the best decisions I made, Bob, was to make sure that I vetted firmly everybody that comes in.

So I don't have a community of thousands of people where some people don't log in for months. We're in there daily, Bob. I learn so much from them. They learn from me. It's literally what I've envisioned my business being. So once you've been in that for a while, you can raise your hand and say, "Hey, I want to be certified," and then they go through another strenuous process.

Given that I've been through Infusionsoft's process (now Keap). I've been through Ontraport’s. Leadpages, I was there when we developed our certification, same with ActiveCampaign. I knew how to put it together. And it is, it's a great challenge that I've been told, but I wanted to make sure if they have that badge that they can truly be trusted. So I run that quarterly. So between running that quarterly and just the day-to-day engaging with my community, outside of that, in my free time I will do some selective consulting for e-commerce companies because that's been a space... Kind of like automation just kind of chose me, I'm just naturally… I didn't realize it, but I'm naturally good at segmentation and coming up with the data and analytics to help those customers that bought once buy again and again and again for very large databases.

Weird, Bob. Like databases from 500,000 or five million that are using Klaviyo or ActiveCampaign, I'm one of the only people that know how to maintain that size of a database over time and get money out of it. I'm like, "Is this a niche? Is this a thing?" So yeah, that's my day-to-day, man, so my level of satisfaction right now is a strong eight, man, a strong eight.

Adding a Premium Podcast to the Mix

Bob: That sounds fantastic. I want to talk about some marketing automation tips and tricks and strategies and misconceptions here in just a moment. But before we do, you mentioned part of your role is building up this community in podcasting. For your All Systems Go, you've recently shifted gears a little bit and you've added a premium layer to your podcast. So I'm sure we could probably talk for a whole nother episode just about that, but can you give us the rundown of why you decided to do that and how is that different from your free version that you're releasing to the wider public?

Chris: Yeah, it came out of frustration again. I just wasn't satisfied. I don't think any marketer is, honestly. I think any podcaster, at some level, you just submit and bow to the reality that you're not going to have the metrics that you're used to in all of your other marketing. Any other area of marketing, I can get the metrics, analytics that I need except podcasts, and it was driving me crazy, man. It was driving me crazy, Bob. I'm the type, I can be an extremist at times, I was going to wipe the whole podcast out. I was just like, "Forget it. I can't tell who's listening, how effective it is." Although everybody that enrolls in my program, "I was binging the podcast. Chris, keep up the good work." So anecdotally and maybe qualitatively more than quantitatively, I've been able to measure some impact, but I can't draw a direct line, Bob. That bothers me, man.

I would lose sleep over that. So with the emergence and evolution of technology, one of my students, I'm going to give her a shout out, Kronda (Adair), was like, "Hey Chris, you should check out this platform. They're doing private podcasting." And I was like, "Well why would I do private podcasts, and what's that?"

Bob, there's some things you can't unsee, and there's some things that you need to make sure I see. So this was both of those. She pulls it up and shows me the back end and how this thing can integrate with ActiveCampaign per episode, per number of episodes. All I saw was automation capabilities mixed with analytics, and I couldn't unsee it, Bob. I tried to continue down the path that I knew everybody else was doing. And I'm looking, Bob. I'm like, "There's not a lot of private podcasting happening. There's not a lot of people doing premium podcasts."

You got some Patreon folks, but I'm like... So I'm a little nervous, knees knocking a bit because I'm like, "There's some people who have been podcasting twice as long as me, five times as long as me, and they're not doing it. Chris, are you about to do something crazy and then you regret it?" And I'm just like, look, "If anybody should do it, it should be me. And if for any reason for more automation and for more automation that provides analytics."

So I did it, Bob, and I wanted to do it in a way that didn't cannibalize the efforts that I already have in place, so I strategized with my team. And what we came up with is as of now, whenever this podcast comes out and in the future, I've been able to segment the public. The free version of the podcast is going to be dedicated to guests.

Anytime I have a guest on, I'm not ever going to gate that or charge in any way. Guests are free. And as I continue to grow that guest list, we'll just keep pushing out those episodes. But for those of you who that have been following the podcast, there are times where I would get on and record the podcast, and there's no way that I can get in front of a microphone and hold everything back. So sometimes, because it was animus, Bob, these podcasts are just going out to the world, I'd be wanting to say certain things and then I'll stop. I'm like, "No, not that."

But now that I can track and I have better insight, the premium version is me being more unfiltered. I give away way more strategies. Right now at the time I am recording this, I'm going through some of the top tools in my tech stack. You can't find this anywhere else. It's me, what I'm using, and why I'm using it.

In fact, I released the episode that went the total opposite way that I thought. Usually when someone says, "Hey, these are the tools that I'm using," then talk about how much I love them, this tool, I talked about how much I hated it. And I was just like, "But I can't leave it. I have to stay because all of my data is there," but it was a great episode to just show that you're not going to love all the technology that you use. There's going to be sometimes where you're just going to have to tolerate and endure. And if you're looking for the perfect software all the time, you're never going to have a system in place to actually produce results. So the premium is just me. I just feel a little freer too. Just putting that word premium on it feels like I can give more, Bob. I'm naturally a giver. But, yeah, so that's how I differentiated the two.

And so far, Bob, so good. I have not missed a beat. And the great thing is listeners get scores. I send those scores over to ActiveCampaign. And now when people take other actions, I can look at the score and see if the podcast in any way has impacted.

Bob: I know for someone like you, myself as well, that kind of information, it just lights me up. It gets you fired up for making new decisions and making new campaigns.

Chris: Yep, it does, man. It does.

Bob: Would you mind sharing the tool that you're using to do your premium?

Chris: Yeah. Absolutely. And I hope more tools follow suit, but it's called Hello Audio. So HelloAudio.fm I believe is the website.

I think that this technology is early, Bob, and the reason being is because there's another WordPress plugin, not to get too techy, but Castos. I use that for my main podcast because it plugs into WordPress. So my VA that knows how to publish on WordPress doesn't have to use a separate software. She published it on WordPress and it pushes it out everywhere else. They added a private feature too, but the problem is they only integrated with ConvertKit, but I don't use ConvertKit, so I can't do much with it. So Hello Audio is the one that I'm using now, but I truly believe that this space is going to heat up. The private podcasting space is going to heat up. It's going to start to open up and make it a little... I think it's a little expensive right now in comparison to some of the other platforms, but for what you get out of it, I'll gladly pay the premium price.

Bob: Awesome.

What People Get Wrong about Marketing Automation

Bob: Let's switch gears now to your zone of genius, which is the marketing automation world. And people who come across your materials get a wealth of education in any of the versions that you have, whether it's the podcast, your blog, webinars, you name it. So the first thing is, is that if we're talking to the person who's listening who has some simple automation in place, maybe they have set up a very basic CRM or something like that, what are some misconceptions that they may have as they're at that foundational level of what marketing automation should be for them right now versus what it will be eventually?

Chris: Yeah. I think what happens is, especially early on, it's you get a hit, it's like a drug, you get a hit of what marketing automation can do. And rightfully so, you want to automate more. You're like, "This is working. What else? Where else can we use this tool?" And I get it. I have to catch myself as well.

What I have to tell people is this, automation is always an emulation. Emulation of what? Your marketing acumen and strategy. So if without the technology you can't do it, the technology is not going to enable you to do it. You know what I'm saying? So if I don't know how to market and talk to people in a way that gets them to say yes, I'm not going to be able to just put up a landing page and expect people to say yes. I don't know the language. I don't know how to truly market.

So what I have to tell people is get that foundation in place, but then get right back to manually getting in front of people, talking to people, understanding what the need is, and making sure you're documenting the processes that work because that's going to be what your future automation is applied to.

So oftentimes, Bob, this is the trajectory. Someone starts out, they start getting some, even if they've done it, most people don't, but they get the right foundation in place with some automation. Nothing fancy, Bob. Like you said, basic CRM software in place, integrated with some lead generation, some followup, emails and bonus if they have a checkout page that integrates with that CRM software too. I call it a profit pathway. Some people call it a sales funnel. Whatever. It's the basic elements. I can capture leads, followup, and close. And they're using the minimal tech, Bob.

So you start out. Wow, great job. You figured this out. Somewhere along the lines, they overcomplicate it. Somewhere, Bob. And most of the time, it's because they're patting themselves on the back, saying, "Good job. Let's do more." Trust me, I get it. But once you go beyond the basics, you have to... You can do the basic setup with pretty much standard software. Once you go beyond that, Bob, your software selection has to be correlated to your marketing strategy. Otherwise, you will find yourself on AppSumo every day purchasing everything for lifetime. You'll find yourself being targeted with all these Facebook ads. And since your money's going low, you're going to enroll in somebody's course hoping that it's the silver bullet for you. And you feel empowered because you have all these tools, and you'll get on a call. This happens to me all the time, and I'll talk to people, and they're broke, or their businesses is in a broken state, and they'll list off, "But I've got this, I've got this," and it's just a list full of AppSumo software.

It's just like, "I can't use any of that. Good on you that you have lifetime, but what is Lifetime when it's useless?" so I have to literally walk through strategy. And it's to the point now, Bob, that actually at Automation Bridge, we've stopped doing strategy, and we're partnering with other companies that do strategy because the input to automation is a defined process. That's when it starts. So if you don't have a defined process, we really don't have a conversation. So a lot of it is prepping people to say, "Good job on the foundation. What are the processes that are working right now?" and that's where they get stuck. They need to get with somebody, do some process mapping, and understanding. And then once we see some processes that are working, I don't care about the ones that are not working, Bob, I want the ones that are working. Now, I can come up with, what happens if we apply automation here, here, and here?

Now, that's a very specific skill set and you've seen the raw version of me really defining and perfecting that. But I've done it so often over the years now, once somebody shows me their processes and I can understand their business model, I can tell them, "Okay, if we're going to apply automation here, this is what it'll look like. This is what it would look like and here are the results that we should expect." And guess what, Bob? All of the results are not monetary, which it shouldn't be. If automation saves you five minutes today, take it. But if we can say that though, "Automating this task, I'm using Zapier to do it. Now, Zapier's going over to Google Drive, creating the folders, and moving a file over for me." Here's the sleeper, Bob. That five minutes just looks like five minutes on paper. Here's what it really is to the founder who's busy, "Okay, I'm busy, I'm running. Oh, I have to do this task, it's just five minutes." Just five minutes. Well, what happens, Bob-

Bob: Probably the worst phrase in entrepreneurial life is, "Just five minutes."

Chris: Right. So we think to ourselves, "I'll get to. It'll just take five minutes," and then two, three weeks later, that just five minutes, it's still sitting there undone. But here's the problem, that five minutes has now created a bottleneck. So now if you were to do what would have once took you five minutes, it may take you 50 now. It may take you five hours. So when I can save time or money, I go for both. So I'm not the type of person that's like, "Hey look, if you use automation, you'll be a millionaire." No, you might be a millionaire in time. I might save you a million hours this year. You have to value it and understand that time saved is money saved as well.

Avoid Scaling Broken Marketing

Bob: Yeah, that's really good. Now, I remember when we taught a class once upon a time together for Leadpages, you said something to me that I think is important to share, which is, "If you automate a broken system or a broken process, you're just going to scale up the broken process." And I think you spoke to that already, but anything to add color to that for those that feel like they're ready to automate, and we just want to slow the roll a little bit and, as you said, let's make sure the process is good before we scale it up.

Chris: Yes. Remember this everybody. Automation, of course it's emulation, it's also objective and absolute, which means it doesn't care about all the things that you have going on, it just wants to be used. And when you use it, it's absolutely going to do what it's supposed to do. Automation is not to be filtered. What it is, is truly amplification. It wants to amplify everything that you do. It's not going to check with you and say, "Hey, wait a minute, do you want me to amplify this or this?" It's just like, "Hey look, is that what you want everybody to see? I'm automation. I'll let everybody see it." So it's a word of caution to people that if you truly... The good thing is without automation and you don't know what you're doing, nobody knows. Just you and your little pocket of people over here. And Bob, let me take some of our listeners off the hook because they're looking at gurus like, "Oh, I'll never be there because I sent an email with a broken link, and this, this, and that.

I have found that the "gurus" automate broken processes more than anybody. I mean, buttons that don't work, opt-in forms that you can't submit, broken links, unsubscribing, and they still send you email. I see that more often than anything. And the thing to think about is, do I want to move at a pace that gives me the feeling of rapid progression and growth, or am I okay slowing down and making sure I get this thing done? I lean to slowing down and making sure I get to get things done right. You've seen me. I've worked in environments where we are moving fast, so what I've had to do is learn how to do the right thing fast. Again, Bob, that's a special skill set. And I don't say that arrogantly, I say that humbly because I used to just think that everybody could do that, just do the right thing technically fast.

And I would have this expectation and I would keep getting disappointed and I had to take a step back and say, "Okay Chris, wait a minute. Maybe it's me, not them. What I have learned is not just commonly known or commonly acted upon." So yeah, yeah, definitely take your time. I get we're in a rush, rush society, but I promise you the time it takes to slow down and just get it done right, you will get paid back exponentially on the back end. I'm a big proponent of protecting the back end. I want it all on the back end, Bob.

Bob: Your own version of CYA is the backend.

Chris: Right, right. Absolutely, man. Yes.

Automation Examples for Coaches

Bob: I love it. So you mentioned that automation begins really with a process and the strategy, and I think it would be helpful if maybe we picked a specific type of business model and dug into that a little bit further. So a lot of the listeners of The Lead Generation span all kinds of industries, but a good portion are in the coaching space. So you talked about that for your own sake. Let's say we have a coach who is working with a little bit of one-on-one clients, maybe some group programs. What are some of the opportunities that you usually find are super helpful for that type of a business owner where automation can play a role that they might not just think about on their own?

Chris: Yeah. Man, I've lived this one so I've got unlimited, but one of the things that I don't think you can ever minimize is the power of a webinar. Especially if you're a coach, being able to capture your genius on video and put that in front of people time and time again, it truly is one of the tools that I learned at Leadpages and have always used. You will never catch Chris without a webinar, by the way, everyone. There's always going to be some webinar.

Now, I'm running them live quarterly, but I always have access to an on-demand webinar. Always, Bob. So that's the first thing because that's going to allow you to speed up the like, know, and trust factor. They're going to get to see your personality, they'll see your expertise, they get to ask questions. And if you're really good, you'll pay attention to their names, call them out by their names, and build a relationship on the webinar. So that would be a form of a lead generator.

I'll take one step back to, "Okay, well what about a lead magnet?” Because usually my lead magnet will lead to a webinar. So the lead magnet that I used to have is of course extracted. This is the sliced bread approach. "Bob, you're in my program. Man, you're in the program. I have the recording of you and I talking about the sliced bread approach as one of the videos in there, man. So I like to start with my product and derive a piece of it that I'll give for free. So me as a coach, I was teaching people how to automate. So I've got two things, well three things really, that I would give them. I would either give them a sample automation, which I called the single double, or I would give a small video series that walks through how to get started with email marketing because I knew that's what you wanted to get started in, and then I've got a five-point automation checklist to help those who want to build automations, build automations the right way, all aligned with my product, Bob.

If you consume any of those three, it's going to make sense to go into the program. So now, when you register for the webinar, I can give away that lead magnet, and I can give away the lead magnet on its own. I've got multipurpose. So if somebody comes to my website, they don't have time for the webinar, they just opt into the five point automation checklist. Or "Hey, when you register, we're going to send you a five-point automation checklist, X, Y, Z." Now, our good friend, Tai Goodwin, specializes in quizzes. Quizzes are huge. They're great for lead generation if you want to put them on the front end, especially as a coach. If you want to put them on the front end as your lead magnet or you could put them on the back end.

I've used quizzes after the webinar, that is I drive somebody to a page, and if I see two days that they haven't purchased, but the information that I capture tells me they're a good fit, I'll say, "Hey, use this to help you decide what the next step is." And it's essentially me saying, "Maybe this quiz can tell you that you need to enroll better than I can." And they go through, hit the buttons, and it pops up, "Hey, you'd be great for the program," so very strategic. I guess you could see that I'm a multi-purposer. I like to use one thing in many ways, but for a coach... And so we've got a couple strategies with the webinar and then the lead magnet that drive to the webinar and the webinar that drives to their scheduler if they're taking on one-on-one or group coaching, something like that, or maybe you just want to drive directly to a checkout.

Expanding What You Know about Your Leads

Chris: I haven't traditionally driven to a checkout. Usually, because my stuff is a little more high ticket, I'm usually setting up a phone call. But I have to say this, Bob, I have to say this. This is not just limited to coaches, but if you are a coach, you've got to get a good lead gen form in place. Name and email is no longer enough, Bob. It's no longer enough. You have to ask the questions that will better help you decide how you can help that lead. Don't be afraid to ask more than two to three questions. You don't want to overwhelm them. This is where quizzes come in because you could ask like 10, 20 questions, and it'd be really interactive and people don't even realize, "I filled out a whole application."

But if you put that on the application, they'll be like, "Oh, I'm leaving here," so capture the information. Okay, we're getting into it Bob. So what I like to do is I use software called Airtable. It's a database software that kind of functions like... It looks like a spreadsheet, but I'll store that data in my CRM because it needs to be actionable. I need to take action on it. But CRM software is usually terrible to see data collected across all contacts, especially if it's in a custom field. It's terrible for it, man. It's one of my main gripes with CRM software.

Let me say, it was never meant to be used like that, so I get it. I'll run redundancy, put it in my CRM software, and I also put it in Airtable as my database software. Bob, in Airtable, I can filter responses by certain keywords. I can easily identify trends. If I've got like, let's say 20 submissions, I can fit them all on the screen and then I can hide custom fields and everything and just look at, if I ask the question, since you said yes... Watch this, Bob, watch this.

Have you had coaching before? Yes or no? They say yes. I just want to look at the responses of everybody that said yes, not one by one, I'm talking about I want to read them back to back to see if I can see a theme. I could easily do that in Airtable, and I could do it by month, by time. I can do all kind of filtering. Oh, my goodness. Most coaches are not going to have over 5,000 or 10,000 active leads in their database. So if you want to get the most out of a small database like that, that changes the game, but you have to collect the information, then you’ve got to know how to get into it. But once it's there, Bob, it's a field day, man. Every Friday, it's like popcorn. Everybody's going to the movies. I'm like, "Hold on, let me look at my data real quick." And you're just looking for trends. You're really trying to understand your customer avatar. That's really who you're trying to understand, so you can inform your copy, inform your marketing, and be sharper, be faster, be more efficient.

Bob: That's awesome. Like I said, we could dive into this for entire episodes, entire courses. This is just a taste of all the things that are in your brain, so I appreciate you sharing this particular model.

Chris: Absolutely.

Bob: And I love the ideas of you can use something like Leadpages to collect that initial email address, name. On the thank you page, you give them like a type form, ask more questions, other quiz software-

Chris: There you go.

Bob: ... and you zap everything over to Airtable. I haven't done that part yet, but that's a pretty cool next-level step.

Tools of the Automation Trade

Bob: Are there other tools that you're finding these days? We've already talked about Hello Audio. We've talked about Airtable. Obviously, Leadpages is something you've used. ActiveCampaign is something you've used. Any other kind of cool thing that maybe isn't on everybody's radar yet?

Chris: Yeah. Airtable is probably the newest tool that has grown extremely sticky with me. I love form software, man. It's become my new thing, Bob, because so many people struggle with capturing real good information. There's a strategy in building a form that converts. I didn't realize it. My thing is, you never want to ask somebody the same thing.

If I know your name, Bob, and I say, "Hey, Bob, what's your name?" I immediately eliminated any progress I made into making you feel like we are connected. So I like to do that on forms. So I love messing with form software that allows me to prepopulate fields from the URL, hide fields when they're prepopulated. So some of the software that I've been playing around with lately that does that. Thrive Themes, I'm a big fan of their suite and how they're moving around right now, but Jotform.

Jotform, it's my go to software, man. I have a podcast, the premium podcast. I have a whole list of Jotform, oh how I love thee, let me count the ways. And the main reason, Bob, is this. I can't remember when they did this, Bob, I can't remember, but they essentially emulated Zapier inside the platform. So right in Jotform, I can integrate with Airtable, ActiveCampaign. I can do all that without leaving, and I can integrate with multiple platforms in one form. Super powerful stuff, man. And then for my techy nerds out there, if you don't know this, you absolutely should know this and should be knowing this. No shame though. Guess what, Bob? I just started using it this year. All right, so you guys are off the hook. If you're like, "How can I not know?" But Make, previously Integromat, it's a must-have in your arsenal.

If you are doing automated marketing in any way, you cannot, I repeat, nothing against Zapier, you cannot rely on just Zapier. There are certain applications that Zapier just is not the best for, and you're going to need a secondary third-party broker tool to get the information over. And I know people are like, "I've got Zapier, so can I do it?" 90% maybe of the time you can do it in Zapier, but they're just... You automate enough, man, and you come across a use case that seems so simple, Bob, it's like, "Oh yeah, we'll just use Zapier. Wait a minute, I can't use Zapier."

So then it's like, "Oh client, it can't be done." Yes it can. Yes, it can be done. Look at Make and look at what they can do there.

So those are the main ones that I would say if anybody were to just pick a tool up that I mentioned and it will probably fit in their existing stack, those are the ones. Yep. Absolutely.

“Be Slow to Judgment, Be Slow to Label”

Bob: Very cool. As we wrap up today, Chris, I like to have people share, one, how can we learn more from you, but also is there a mantra, a saying, a thought, a quote that you like to tell yourself whenever you might run up into a roadblock that gets you through to the other side as an entrepreneur?

Chris: Oh, yeah. So I'm a critical thinker. I'm a judge personality, which means I'm always assessing, my mind is always going. And the thing that I have to tell myself, Bob... Man, this is a great question because I literally have to tell myself this daily, not just professionally, personally, in my marriage, just everywhere, Bob, and that is, "Be slow to judgment, be slow to label."

And this is why it is important to what you're saying. There are times where an event in business will take place, and the first thing we do is label it good or bad. The second you do that, you have assigned a narrative to what has happened and that narrative more than likely is not true. And now, you're operating on a false pretense, which really usually just adds to the negative and low feeling that you have. So what you have to do is suspend judgment, say, "Hold on, wait a minute, let me objectively receive this event that has taken place in my business."

Only when you do that, where you start hearing the Tony Robbins and all of these other motivational speakers that say, "Find opportunity. The bug is a feature," you can't do that if you're prematurely assigning a narrative that's usually negative to an event that takes place. So I've learned to take things objectively.

If right now, Bob, if I had a client that was paying me $25,000 a month, now it'd be easy to eat easy on a $25,000 a month client, and I just lowered my guard and said, "You know what? Don't need to run my program anymore. I've got a client that's doing it," and as we're recording, I get an email, "Hey Chris, we have to cancel. I know there's a cancellation fee. We're going to pay that. We no longer need your services." It will be so easy to label that as bad. "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?"

But I've just learned, "Let me be slower to judgment. Let me accept this objectively. Okay, what happened? Person was here, person is no longer here. Why did they do it? What's the opportunity? What do I have to look out for, and what do I do next?" Before I even say good or bad because usually, especially when someone loses their job, it's not until five, six years later they're like, "And it was the best thing that ever happened to me," because they immediately put that judgment on it. If anything, Bob, I tell myself that probably multiple times a day, every day, man,

Bob: I love it, and I love that your clarification of that is not to ignore it. Whatever it is, it's not like you're sticking your head in the sand and saying, "I'm not going to look at that." It's, "Let's get the magnifying glass out, let's observe it, don't take it personally, and let's go from there." That's all really great stuff.

Chris: Yes. Yes, Bob. Yes.

Bob: Awesome. So Automation Bridge is where we can find Chris L. Davis. Thank you so much, sir, for joining me today and educating The Lead Generation. Really appreciate it.

Chris: Yeah, I'll tell everybody, I've got a URL for you if you want to use it. What's going to happen is I'll be able to track that you came from this podcast, and I get to say a special hello to you. So if you want to see that automation, you can just go to automationbridge.com/leadgeneration, and you'll be able to get that. On that page, you'll get the five-point automation checklist. But the actual bonus automation too, that is just me saying hi. You'll be like, "Hey, he did what he said he was going to do." Just little cool stuff, right Bob, that we could set up that I like to show people.

Bob: Awesome. Well thanks again. We'll have that in the show notes along with some other goodies for you. If you're an active listener of The Lead Generation, you know that we always do you well over at leadpages.com/podcast. Thanks again, Chris, for joining me and look forward to future opportunities to chat.

Chris: Absolutely. Thanks, Bob.

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Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A former high school history teacher turned entrepreneur and marketer, Bob has educated business owners worldwide on how to leverage lead generation to grow their brands for over 18 years. Bob is a conversion expert, specifically when it comes to landing pages. Hosting over 1,000 webinars, he has walked thousands of business owners through advanced strategies to help them optimize their pages and maximize their leads and sales. Bob works with Leadpages affiliates and users to ensure they have all the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to build high-converting landing pages that grow their businesses.

The Lead Generation Podcast Episode 45: Chris Davis
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