Episode 11: Lee Odden

Lee Odden is an icon in my native Minnesota, both because of his agency TopRank, but also because he has built an international audience over the past 15+ years in online marketing. His contribution to the industry has not only elevated his profile, but also the profile for other Minnesotans as well.

Whenever I would tell someone I am from Minnesota, they would say “do you know Lee Odden?” It was always comforting to not have to explain to someone what Minnesota was and/or hear some joke about the cold. Thanks for being a pioneer, Lee!

You could say that I have been following Lee’s path throughout my entire career in online marketing. As I was getting started out in the industry, I first turned to local resources for getting started. Lee was one of the few examples that I had available to follow locally.

It was nice to hear Lee’s story. Of course, I had my idea of how things developed for Lee, but I also wanted to get a direct understanding of how things came to be along the way.

It is an honor to be able to talk with Lee to hear how he made the journey into a noted author, agency owner and keynote speaker. It wasn’t at all what I expected.

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Things we learned from Lee’s interview

One of my favorite things that Lee talked about was our maturity as marketers. We have different levels of maturity that we go through along our path. Maturity is how we build a business around our passion for marketing.

Before the turn of the century, Lee got to develop online marketing for a traditional agency and grew it to 50% of revenue. He was fueled by passion for online marketing, and helped grow a business significantly.

His passion was sparked from “truly thinking about long form trends and coming up with original ideas.”
Original ideas are not as common these days, because there is a commoditization of ideas because of connectedness.

There is a commoditization of ideas because of connectedness Click to Tweet

Lee was fortunate to have gotten started early in the industry, and refine his ideas when there weren’t many others competing in the same space. No PR firm was talking about SEO in a proposal in 2001. So he helped start TopRank as a product of the PR agency.

On the role of clients in generating new ideas:

Working with challenging clients accelerates the knowledge of what Marketing needs

On experimentation:

I get to do a lot of experimentation and some of what I do translates to agency services

On marrying passion with business:

With passion you innovate, and with structure you make it into a business

On the value of search, in 2015:

Search is important as a discovery channel. There is clear intent through language to pursue an answer. Click to Tweet
On having a complete marketing strategy:

Customers find solutions in more ways than just search.

On the role of search in marketing strategy:

You used to be able to rely only on search as a strategy. You can't do that anymore. Click to Tweet
Search can be the byproduct of a great marketing strategy Click to Tweet

On the role of content in generating new clients:

Creating content had a great effect in our pipeline Click to Tweet

On how you can find success in this industry

When you pay attention to consumer trends, that is what leads innovation Click to Tweet

On having long lasting relationships with clients:

Long term insights are absolutely freakin priceless! Click to Tweet

On approaching content development:

Take a modular approach to content into a content plan where you can be the best answer

On the SEO mindset:

SEO people have an optimized state of mind Click to Tweet

On delivering value as a marketing service provider:

Make clients and sponsors people look good Click to Tweet

On the value of writing a book:

Books differentiate, opens up speaking opportunities. Anyone who has invested in the book becomes a very qualified lead.

My favorite quote from Lee:

Curiosity, imagination, thoughtfulness and data Click to Tweet
Lee’s advice to marketers:

Help customers and use your intellect to create something of value Click to Tweet

Links related to this week’s episode

Past episodes on SoundCloud

About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.