The bizarre combination that makes Louis Grenier the unforgettable thought leader in marketing

If you don't know him already, you might be surprised to learn that the guy below with his middle finger up is a genuine thought leader.
An expert raising his middle finger
He's working a 3.5-day week, making $200,000 per year.

He’s got a newsletter list of 16,000 adoring subscribers.

Plus, a book on the horizon that’ll take him to the top tier of thought leaders alongside people like Blair Enns and Tamsen Webster.

He’d have you believe this is all because he’s Standing The F*ck Out.

It’s not.

The image of the guy above in orange, dropping the F-bomb here, there and everywhere… that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The real brain behind the brand intentionally contrasts with first impressions.

In this case study, I’ll be sharing exactly what Louis did to become a thought leader who can speak freely in public, just as he would amongst friends, AND simultaneously maintain an aura of deep expertise.

But before I reveal the underlying ingredients behind Louis’ success, we need to look a little closer at his early failures…
They were painful
Let’s skip past the bit where he moves to Ireland as an intern for a car manufacturer.

We’ll also skim over where he left that job for a two-year marketing stint at a mobile startup.

It’s 2015, he’s 25 years old, and it’s time to scratch the entrepreneurial itch. After playing with the idea of developing his own SaaS (investing and losing €20,000 of savings in the process) he pivots and launches Slices Consulting, a Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) agency.

At its peak, his company had a team of four people and worked with big clients like Dropbox and Phorest.
But despite that client roster, he’s failing
He had no existing audience, podcast, credibility, or real deep expertise. In his own words, CRO was a trend, an opportunity he jumped on. But he’s a little early to the trend, so clients aren’t actively looking for what he has to sell.

That’s always a slow and challenging sales process.
The challenge of persuading someone that their interpretation of a problem is the wrong one
He’s working hard on business development to get things moving: networking at the local Chamber of Commerce, paying to speak at conferences, etc. And he picks up clients in the process, but it’s an uphill battle. They’re struggling to cover bills, never mind make a profit.

But during this struggle…
Louis discovers something about himself that’ll transform his career
Because during this business development phase, he organised a couple of bootstrapping events in Dublin, interviewing two founders at each, attracting 30+ attendees.

He loved being on stage, asking questions that cut through the usual Q&A bullshit, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too. Several people made a point of telling him.
So he did some more
But this time via Skype instead of on stage.

After a few recordings, he shifted from founders to marketers (who he found more interesting), and it turned out that back in 2017, it wasn’t that hard to land interviews with high-profile experts. People like DHH (co-founder of) Basecamp and Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz).

Louis recorded ten before he’d even published or named his podcast.

It helped, too, that he had an interesting angle…
Marketing bullshit
Louis was frustrated by his earlier experiences at the startup, working on anything and everything under the sun to win clients. Things like auto-following and unfollowing people on Twitter and Black Hat SEO. It didn’t match Louis’ idea of what marketing should be - helping people solve their problems with products that were actually good.

In the trenches, he thought he was alone. A purist amongst hacks. Maybe that’s what marketing was in the real world. Maybe he’d just fallen in love with all these high-level ideas from marketing books that didn’t work in reality.

But he wasn’t alone:
“I realised people liked my interview style, they liked my honest approach… yeah I could do something with that… the joy I felt when I interview those people whom I admired, who basically told me what I was thinking [bullshit marketing] … that was so liberating. That’s when I understood, yeah it’s not only me.”

- Louis Grenier
He didn’t just pluck this idea of marketing bullshit from thin air. He picked it up through listener and audience feedback in emails and on Twitter, saying, “I like your no-bullshit approach.” Louis was paying attention, and after hearing it back several times, he started using it to label his own approach.

That label was helpful…
Because it captured an enemy
The enemy created a simple frame for Louis to position his content, and for good or bad, division of us versus them is so much more powerful than demographical segmentation ever could be:
“I was really quite shocked watching the 2020 election campaign... I could suddenly see, because I was in Belfast at that point, that it felt like the USA was where Northern Ireland was in the 1970s where one group’s identity was defined by the existence of somebody else, by the existence of a perceived enemy.”

- Oliver Jeffers, Writer and Artist
Rather than find the nuance of describing who he was, he outlined what he wasn’t.

That meant launching and naming the podcast Everyone Hates Marketers.

It meant doing the opposite of what every other marketing podcast did:
  • Remove intro fluff
  • Remove ads and sponsorships
  • Make a point of being anti-hacks
  • No soft ball questions
  • A focus on first principles so that listeners can takeaway actionable insight
With this direction and a newly discovered talent for interviewing, Louis gets early traction with the podcast. People are tuning in.

But that doesn't just change the fact that…
The agency is still failing
At this point, he’s 18 months in and totally burned out. He’s lost all his savings, struggling to meet monthly payroll and trying and failing to sell himself as a serious consultant.

But that’s about to change.

In those early episodes, Louis interviewed the CEO of a SaaS Startup, Hotjar, who told him there were opportunities to work in the marketing team. So, after informing his team of what was coming, Louis wound down the agency and started a new role in-house.

That’s a tough decision to make, transitioning from business owner to employee. It feels like a very public failure. Proudly wearing the label of ‘entrepreneur’ only to give it up a few years later.

But it’s a decision that leads to 3.5 years at Hotjar and two transformative outcomes.

Let’s start with the first…
He gains subject matter expertise
The kind of expertise he didn’t have when he launched his CRO agency. He helped in the reposition of Hotjar from an early-stage startup to a major tech company, figuring out the early stages of a process and methodology that’d form the spine of his future consulting offer.

And the second transformation…
He published Everyone Hates Marketers every single week for 3.5 years
With a full-time job to pay the bills, Louis could ship the podcast each week, knowing he didn’t need to generate revenue through bad-fit sponsors. He could simply focus on making something good.

And as a result…
The podcast blows up
That starts early on.I remember discovering Louis around the summer of 2017.

He lands an interview with Seth Godin in episode #19.

At the time, I was frequently Googling for new podcasts with Seth (he didn’t have his own at the time). I stumbled upon this one with Louis, and it blew my mind, as it did for many other people.

Today, the YouTube video has 333k views, and the comments speak to what people thought:
The YouTube comments show how much people loved this Seth Godin interview in particular with Louis Grenier
He was pulling insight from Seth like no other interviewer. Seth said as much himself:
The best opening podcast question Seth Godin had ever received
There’s also luck involved. Seth agreed to do the interview, when to many he may say no. He's a busy guy. Perhaps Louis got him at the right time.

But, considering Seth wrote the book “All Marketers are Liars,” I’m guessing Louis’ position helped, too.

And this approach of interviewing the most famous marketers around was critical for a budding creator with no fame or audience.

It’s a shortcut.
“If you associate yourself with people who have authority and influence, a bit of influence will drip on you. This is why interview style podcasts are so f*cking popular… using quotes and summarising books and making sense of things around you, even if it’s not you came up with it. Just genuinely trying to help people with that is a good way to earn trust.”

- Louis Grenier
The podcast grew to more than 1.5 million downloads.

No growth hacks. No short-term tactics.

Great positioning was a launch pad. But I believe there’s a more important factor at play here…
The craft
“What made me keep going was [that] I was enjoying those interviews … [talking with] people felt very easy and even though people were starting to give me feedback saying, ‘you’re very good at interviewing’, I was like, it’s just literally me coming out with shit, top of my head, literally without much preparation. But clearly, I was good at it. But then the craft of shipping something and getting out of your own head, that’s art right? That’s the true meaning of creating art. And we’re in the world of AI at the minute, art will always be created by humans.”

- Louis Grenier
He obsessed over an audience AND a craft. We’ll cover the first part later, but right now let’s talk about that last point, because it’s often missed.

First though, let's start with some insight from Louis’ former Hotjar colleague, Phill Agnew, who also hosts one of the biggest marketing podcasts in the UK:
“The most popular podcasts aren’t uniquely different, they’re just best in craft. They’re just doing the same thing that everyone else is doing but at a much higher level. I think that’s the same as newsletters, I think that’s the same thing as everything else…. you don’t need to be completely different, you just need to be good at what you’re doing. Do some research, see what perfection looks like in your field, and then aim for it.”

- Phill Agnew
Thought leadership isn’t all about the thought. If people are going to follow what you have to say, you’ll need to entertain them. That’s the craft of sharing your ideas.

That’s what Louis does through his interviews.
The overlap of craft and expertise in doing is what makes a thought leader
When you start out, it’s unlikely you’ll be good at your craft, but every thought artist, from Mr Beast through to Growth Design, started somewhere, and that somewhere looked nothing like the content they produce now.
Einstein says doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, but what about the reps?
We need to make stuff, often.

And yes, we need consistency, but consistency doing what?
  • Consistently exploring the world - be curious, read, watch, and listen to thinkers that interest you (in and around your subject).
  • Consistently connecting dots - make your own sense of what’s going on and how that feeds into the job that you help your audience solve.
  • Consistently shipping - make stuff, ship, hone your craft.
Louis ticks each of those boxes, which led him to develop a real skill for podcast interviewing, which led to 1.5m downloaded downloads.

But I’ve derailed slightly from Louis’ story.

Remember, he joined Hotjar and worked with them for 3.5 years whilst podcasting each week.

He leaves Hotjar in October 2020 to try his hand once more at full-time entrepreneurship.
That starts with a cohort
“The difference between the first time I launched a business and this time was that I told myself never again will I launch something without credibility and an audience who cares, and I don’t have a massive audience…”

- Louis Grenier
This time around, he has that credibility + audience.

But he didn’t have some grand plan. He knew he’d be helping businesses nail their positioning (just like he did with Hotjar).

Up to this point, he used the podcast to shine a light on marketing experts, who in turn shine a light on Louis’ podcast.

He has an audience, but his personal brand is that of an interviewer.

And now, with the view of building his own business again, he wants to build a brand around the subject expertise he developed at Hotjar.


That starts in September 2020 with a beta, $500 per seat, to his Stand The F*ck Out 8-week program. He made $7,000 from a 1,898 email list. Not a particularly large audience, but an engaged one.

During this time, he changed the podcast format. Now, he’s delivering 30-minute(ish) episodes (previously approx. 60). He goes back through his archive of interviews, divides up positioning topics, then spends hours of research on each to pull every one of his findings from 4 years of weekly podcast material.

Things like:
He’s also started guesting on other podcasts and webinars. We’re now seeing Louis in a different light as THE expert.

He doubled down on the cohort program, running a second in September 2021. This time the email list was at 2,562, and sales reach $35,100.

Then a third in December 2021, making $60,000 in sales from a 5,689 email list.

Like with podcasting, Louis spotted the cohort trend and got on board early. This is all during lockdowns when cohorts are hot.

And now he’s thinking, let’s run this every six months. The positioning was: helping business owners stand out in crowded market places. Not a tight niche, but it’s selling…
And then momentum stalled
Louis took a break. He became a dad and paused the podcast.

He also started writing a book (due out in 2024). He wanted to work on his methodology because he wasn’t entirely happy with what he had. He still had plenty of unanswered questions, so he spent six months, Monday to Thursday every week, ripping it up and putting it back together.

It was a two-year plan: do this, pre-launch the next cohort, and make $120,000 on one cohort. He’d launch one every year, then chill through the year where he creates content, works 4-day weeks, doesn’t work weekends, and spends plenty of time with his family.
But things didn’t work out that way
Louis launched the updated cohort course in 2022, and it sells for $60,000. Good money, but remember, that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to get one year’s income from one cohort, and this wasn’t it.

That’s when he realised. He was putting all his eggs in one basket…
Louis had no plan for if the next cohort didn't deliver the results he required
So he pivots
He takes a step back, and the first thing he realises is that his positioning could be improved.

It's not the first time a positioning expert struggled with their own positioning.

95% of his best customers in each cohort were marketers. Either they had their own agency, or they were freelancing, or they were consultants, or they were in-house marketers. They understood positioning, but quote David C. Baker, they couldn't see the label from inside the jar.
These were Louis’ people, and since he’d figured out his own problems of standing out as a marketer, he’d sell that solution to his peers. 

He also realised that this label for the cohort, Stand The F*ck Out - it was sticking. People were referring to it online and repeating it back to him in conversation - “I want to Stand The F*ck Out!”

So, he shifted his entire brand around it. Everyone Hates Marketers would remain for the podcast, but from here on, the business label would be Stand The F*ck Out, and instead of limiting his methodology to the cohort, he sliced it, diversifying the methodology through a range of products and coaching.
Louis' product range
He’s also selling sponsorship in his newsletter.

It was a wonderful switch.

But even though I’ve gone through this article talking about Louis’ Stand The F*ck Out principles, I’ve not yet shared..
How did HE actually stand out?
Louis takes risks.

The podcast name, Everyone Hates Marketers, that was risky. It won’t resonate with every potential listener or guest. I’ve met some who are put off.

Then there’s the language.

Louis swears… a lot. On his podcast, in his emails, on social.

And his profile pics, they look like this:
The many faces of Louis and Roger
He’s not at all what you’d expect from a consultant…

And that’s exactly why people notice him.
“Usually when I hear, How do we stand out and remain professional? I hear, How do we stand out and not take any risks and do like everyone else.

- Louis Grenier
Plenty of people told Louis that Everyone Hates Marketers was a bad idea as a podcast title. If he’d listened to them, he would have diluted the idea, losing the very essence before he even began of what attracted the early guests and listeners (gaining him that initial traction).

He stood out.

And Louis has a really interesting approach to finding that point of difference in your own business. Start by taking a list of the competitors in your space. Go narrow.

Write down:
  • What do they say?
  • Where are they?
  • How does their website look?
  • What colour do they use?
  • What vocabulary do they use?
Pick a selection of the above, then go ahead and do the exact opposite.

For Louis, that looks like:
  • Poking holes in marketing bullshit eulogised by other consultants
  • Using a bold orange
  • Using what I’d describe as the anti-consultant in a grey suit and tie
  • Standing the F**k Out
Louis poking holes at marketing bullshit
“You need to be irrational in one dimension. It needs to be something that is too absurd, too illogical, too costly, too inefficient, too difficult, too aggressive, too something, too cheesy…”

- Louis Grenier
This is how you create a clear and obvious point of contrast with you and the market.

And it’s entirely relevant for human-driven brands like yours.

If you’re selling a product, you can pivot to new features, new subcategories, new niches.

And sure, you can find a subcategory as a consultant, like SEO for dentists. But if you pick a good one, at some point, other firms follow you.

You're a human. What you do is important, but perhaps even more important is how you do it, and the how is connected to the who (as in you and your personality).

Louis captures the concept perfectly through his own marketing.
He leads with radical differentiation. He Stands the F**k out.

But really, this is the surface level stuff…
His success comes from substance
Louis doesn’t have a CV featuring dozens of famous startups and blue chips.

He’s failed in public multiple times.

He shares pictures of looking how I feel (knackered) on multiple occasions.
Louis looks how I often feel
That’s why I love this guy. He’s real.

Many of us have weird CVs and black spots we’d love to cover over. Louis is living proof that you don’t need to. He wears them as a badge of honour.

In doing so, he’s built a $200k+ revenue business working four-day weeks, finding a perfect balance of family life and doing work he’s proud of.

And really, that captures Louis’ brand more than the Stand the F**k out stuff.

The anti-establishment, sweary Frenchman gets attention.

But it’s everything else that keeps them there.

Craft, thoughtfulness, and the pursuit to create work with true value for the people he seeks to serve…
P.S. I’ve got a little bonus here. If you want more, keep reading…
I spent around 25+ hours on research for this piece. Listening through podcasts and webinars, reading the past seven years of Louis’ LinkedIn, going through his articles, his newsletter…

I also had a call with Louis to explore a few gaps I had in the story.

We ended that call on this note:
“It's always interesting to have other people looking at your stuff from the outside because perception is reality … I'm actually interested in picking up things, particularly what you would improve or, from the outside, what you see as potential opportunities.”

- Louis Grenier
So, Louis, here’s what I’ve got…

You’ve been head down, writing your book for the past three years. It’s consumed a large portion of your creative energy, and it’s almost ready.

Business is good. You’re on track to do $200,000 in revenue this year…
But how do you go to $500,000?
Not that you asked, but let’s assume that’s a goal.

Here’s the first thing I’d look at... Pick your Battles:
“What’s that one platform that you’re gonna do consistently. Maybe it’s your podcast, maybe it’s my newsletter, whatever the case is. So every week I’m showing up. That’s my Home base. And then, what’s the relationships you’re going to build on the outside that’s talking about content where you’re getting people to know and learn about what you do.”

- Joe Pullizi
That was the recommendation Joe Pullizi gave you on Everyone Hates Marketers, and I thought it was brilliant.

One home base where you put your best work, one place outside that home where you spread the word (and send people back to your home).

Think back to 2021.

You went from an email list of 1,898 to 5,689 in just over 12 months, making $100,000 in the process. I know that’s less than where you are now, but the trajectory is important here. It was huge, starting from what I assume was relatively close to zero.
Louis' newsletter subscriber growth in 2022 was sharp
Let’s acknowledge upfront that this hockey stick (of subscriber growth) was built on four previous years of podcasting, but there is a little more to this…
So, what was happening in this period?
Two things.

First, you pivoted the podcast. This period of growth (audience and revenue) happened when you switched from interviews to ‘mini essays’ on different sections of positioning - delivered from your point of expertise.

You were writing the weekly newsletter too, but this essentially mirrored the material from the podcast.

One home base.

And then, you were spreading the word.
“[My LinkedIn posts] were shit, because I started and everything is shit at the start, like quantity, right? Social writing is a different beast than long form writing and any type of other writing.”

- Louis Grenier
During this 2021 period, that’s when you got good. Because, as you say, writing for social requires practice. You got good at it. You grew rapidly:
Louis doubled down on one channel, LinkedIn, and it paid off
That led to big newsletter gains.

Plus, you were speaking on various podcasts as a guest, and as Phill Agnew says:
“If you want people to find your podcast, you need to be present or reach people who are already listening to podcasts. The easiest way to reach people who are already listening to podcasts is to reach them whilst they’re listening to podcasts.”

- Phill Agnew
You were nailing Joe Pullizi’s model of home base + outside base…
But you’re not doing that any more
“At first my daily [LinkedIn] posts were shit, and then they get better, now they’re shit again so I need to learn how to make them better.”

- Louis Grenier
You paused everything in 2022 to focus on family and the book.

When you came back in 2023, you did three things:
  • You reverted back to the interview style podcast
  • You switched from a weekly newsletter to a daily (a la Seth Godin and Jonathan Stark)
  • You repurposed the daily newsletter to LinkedIn (no longer ‘writing’ for the channel)
The daily newsletter is an unquestionable success. You’re close to 16,000 subscribers, it’s high quality, you feed real fans with short snippets of regular insight, and you love making it.

Plus, you get a daily shot at promoting your services, which naturally increases conversion numbers, AND you maximise sponsorship and revenue potential.

As you shared with me, the $200,000 revenue is a healthy split:
Louis 200k revenue split
Arguably, the additional $90,000 you make now compared to 2021 comes from the decision to create a daily newsletter.

But here’s the problem…
It’s skewed the Joe Pullizi Platform model
We’ve got the daily newsletter home base, but you swapped it out for LinkedIn. That’s why it’s ‘shit’ again [it’s not, but those were your words]. You’re not writing for LinkedIn any more. You're republishing the newsletter.

And your LinkedIn growth is directly tied to your scalable revenue because it pulls in large newsletter numbers, and the more subscribers, the larger your sponsorship fee.

But the daily newsletter is working, so the question here is…
What is the podcast for?
It used to be your home base, but where does Everyone Hates Marketers fit now?

At present, you have two home bases and no outside bases. The balance is out.

Everyone Hates Marketers got you to where you are, but does it get you to where you want to go?

After all, every episode focuses on the guest’s expertise, and that expertise may not be directly connected to the brand you’re building (standing out / positioning). Sure, they’re sharing the episode with their audience, but at this stage, is that helping you grow beyond your own audience?

Remember you told me:

“I learned a long time ago that figuring out what to stop doing is as important or even more as what I should be doing.”

Incremental listener growth has stalled. You’ve not put a plan in place to attract podcast sponsors. Both those challenges run through your mind, renting out cognitive capacity in the daily subconscious.

What happens if it’s no longer a problem you have to solve? What if you either:
  • Pause the podcast, or;
  • Turn it into a limited series show with 10 to 12 episodes per season, one season per year. Down the line, you create different alternating series (like Netflix would) to keep the format fresh.
“Excellence in any extreme always implies a tradeoff… in running back and forth between different opportunities, you will miss out on the time that is actually important, the thing that is actually important.”

- Louis Grenier
With that time freed up, you could…
Follow the April Dunford Book Launch Strategy
The book is coming. Right now, you could swap your Everyone Hates Marketers time with guesting on other podcasts, sharing your Stand The F*ck Out principles, plugging the newsletter and book (more on April's book launch strategy here).
You build momentum and a waitlist for the book. You discover a new growth channel for the newsletter. Or, you simply put the time back into creating unique content for LinkedIn, generating follower momentum again.

And you’ve got a different vibe as a podcast guest vs podcast host.

Don’t get me wrong - you’re great as a host: funny, confrontational, bold, and to the point. But those qualities could be a little off-putting for delicate marketers.

And it’s only one side of you because when you act as a guest, your vibe is more: compassionate, expert, thoughtful - all the things that the same delicate marketer wants from a consultant.

And honestly, having reviewed some top tier thought leaders, in my mind, you’re already there.

The book cements that. The launch determines the volume of people you reach and the $500,000 target (that I fictionally set).

Go get ‘em, Louis!

(P.P.S - Subscribe to Louis’ Newsletter for great daily insight on Standing The F*ck Out AND for updates on the book release)