Why Chris Smith and Jimmy Mackin are ending their hit show #WaterCooler
The #WaterCooler quickly grew from a scrappy, guerrilla-style podcast to a must-see show for marketers and salespeople around the country, featuring big name guests (like Gary Vaynerchuk) within the first few episodes.
Before raising a glass to toast the end of #WaterCooler, take a look back at the show's origins.
Offstage Conversations > Onstage Speeches
It was January 2013 when Curaytor co-founders Chris Smith and Jimmy Mackin were driving through Florida on a speaking tour when the idea for #WaterCooler came to them.
Veterans of the real estate conference circuit, they had an epiphany: the gold real estate conferences spin shows up not so often onstage but in the lobby bars and hallways, where business-changing ideas begin taking shape amongst peers, often over cocktails.
Smith and Mackin knew they wanted to produce content that harnessed and shared the unfiltered, real moments of processing and then acting on ideas, so often witnessed offstage at live events.
#WaterCooler's most-watched show, “Advanced Facebook Marketing” has over 134,000 views on YouTube
They kicked off the live YouTube show in late January 2013. Designing the show, which aired Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern (the time, day and name of the show were decided by polling the fans), as authentic to them: unbuttoned, unvarnished, and real -- curse words and alcohol included.
The decision to drink and curse, during a live show focused on business, originally caused the hosts (mostly Smith) to catch heat for being "unprofessional." But they stuck to their guns, knowing that those in their community who were offended could change the "channel." By remaining authentic and informal, they didn't just create a loyal viewership, they created a community of people, some of whom say, "I fucking LOVE the #WaterCooler." Appealing to everyone or convincing their audience that an R-rated show was appropriate was never their focus -- instead, they focused on reaching the right people.
"We felt like the industry was ready for more than just 'three-piece suit coaches' who are often completely unrelatable," Smith said.
Final #WaterCooler Stats
No. of shows
Average view duration
Designed to explore proven business practices from lead-generation to SEO to email marketing to customer service to hiring with real estate’s top practitioners such as real estate coach Tom Ferry and agent content masters Marguerite Giguere and Anne Jones, the show also featured business luminaries like social media legend Gary Vaynerchuk and marketing gurus Jay Baer, Chris Brogan and Scott Stratten.
The show was an unbridled success: it reached thousands of people each week and produced results for both Curaytor and its viewers.
But after four years, 115 episodes and over 8.5 million minutes watched, Smith and Mackin are walking away from #WaterCooler for something bigger and better, which they’ll introduce on the last #WaterCooler episode ever on February 1, 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern time (happy hour, of course) LIVE on Curaytor’s YouTube channel and Facebook Page.
The farewell show will include appearances from some big names including:
Scott Stratten, founder of popular marketing think tank UnMarketing
Brad Inman, publisher of real estate’s preeminent media site, Inman News.
Ben Kinney, real estate brokerage, team and technology pioneer
Tom Ferry, popular real estate coach
Katie Lance, real estate social media expert
Leigh Brown, successful broker and real estate coach
Steve Pacinelli, chief marketing officer of video-marketing startup BombBomb
Melanie Piche, successful Toronto agent team leader
The New England Patriots remain one of the NFL’s best teams every year because they trade top players before they begin to decline, said Mackin, a Boston native. It’s the same with #WaterCooler, he said. He and Smith are making room for a sustained run of excellence by evolving the show into something different.
It was not an easy decision to sunset #WaterCooler, Smith and Mackin say. They will funnel that time and energy into two exciting new endeavors they will announce during the last show on February 1.
“I need them to trust us and to be excited, not disappointed,” Smith said of #WaterCooler fans. “Something special is taking its place."
As time marched on, the show, Mackin, Smith, and Curaytor evolved. What started with backdrops of home offices and late-night drinks became water-filled, day-time affairs in Curaytor’s new offices (in Orlando and Boston) which opened in 2016. For the final season of the show Curaytor's sales manager, Sarah Mailoux, also joined the guys to monitor the social stream and bring the fans ideas into the mix. Their next projects will follow this same trajectory, from scrappy upstart to scrappy established firm.
To understand the true ROI of the #WaterCooler is to understand content marketing at the highest level.
Clearly authentic to Smith and Mackin, the show provided valuable business insights, demonstrated passion and expertise, and, by doing so, cultivated thousands of raving fans. Most importantly, it got bottom-line results: in addition to keeping existing Curaytor clients happy, the show brought in about one third of Curaytor’s total business (approximately $3.3 million of the firm’s annual recurring revenue of $10 million came from people who started as fans of the show). This made the decision to end the show even more difficult.
A lot of the show’s success came from Smith and Mackin’s bantering (or bickering depending on the episode), evidenced by the average time viewers watched #WaterCooler episodes on YouTube: 13 minutes, 7 seconds. The average internet consumer has an 8-second attention span.
Smith + Mackin’s Favorite #WaterCooler Episodes
Guest Gary Vaynerchuk, May 22, 2013. “We were starstruck,” Mackin said, but he and Smith settled in quickly. “We went from fanboys to peers pretty quick.” Addressing the tendency of many to want to engineer skill, Vaynerchuk simply said “talent matters,” something that struck a chord with Mackin.
A show featuring a debate from two sides of realtor.com’s then controversial agent-matching site AgentMatch, Dec. 4, 2013. “We took the written back and forth in Facebook Groups and brought it to life,” Smith said.
Advanced Facebook marketing, #WaterCooler’s most popular show, by a mile, with 134,000+ views originally aired on May 25th, 2015. “This was Chris and I in our element,” Mackin said.
#WaterCooler live from Paris starring the Louvre, Oct. 29, 2014 . Enough said.
Various live events including one with marketing guru Scott Stratten and at conferences including Inman Connect and RETSO.
A long-time fan of Smith and Mackin, Melanie Piche, agent team leader of Toronto-based The BREL Team, was on to #WaterCooler early, which she credits for her team’s head-turning results.
The BREL Team’s annual transaction side count jumped 5X from 2013 to 2016, from 49 to 251, with 80 percent of the team’s business coming from its website. Piche attributes a lot of that growth, and her site’s business-generating power, to the strategies Smith and Mackin explored on #WaterCooler.
“#WaterCooler was real strategy to get results,” Piche said. With little time for distractions, she appreciated the business strategies the show presented in an approachable format from real people.