Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, where I do interviews with entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. There’s something a little different about the way I started this interview, which is why I’m recording a special intro for it.
The way I started this interview is just by asking the guest a few questions, the kind of questions I would ask to warm him up to get to know him and to start things off in the right path, which is the path where my guest is ready to be fully open. Usually what I do is I go through stuff like this before the interview official starts and if I record it, I ask Joe, our editor to cut it out, but this time, I did something that I’ve been experimenting with lately.
I said let’s just leave in the pre-interview conversation, the part where I’m just kind of riffing with the guest and let the audience see what goes into those conversations before we start. So, that’s’ what you’re going to get. You’re going to see a conversation that kind of feels a little bit chatty, feels a little bit off-topic but will give you insight into what I say with my guests, how we get comfortable with each other before the interview starts.
There’s a lot of pressure in doing Mixergy interviews. The guest does a full hour-long pre-interview with our producer. The guest has his bio researched to death by my team as much as we possibly can. By the time they’re here, I want to get them a little comfortable, but at the same time, I want them to know that this is Mixergy. You’ve got to be on your toes a little bit.
Anyway, you’re going to get to see some of that because we kept it in. Joe is not editing it out. Here it comes in three, two, one . . .
Nick: How are you doing?
Nick: Is my sound okay?
Andrew: Yeah, for some reason it’s getting cut off at times, but I think we can work it out.
Nick: Let me know if it acts a little funny. My Logitech, I just got a husky and I left the cord dangling a little bit and I left the room and then all of a sudden I see all these little rubber piece all over the place it’s like, “Oh no . . .”
Andrew: The husky bit it, oh . . .
Nick: Yeah, the husky destroyed the Logitech. So I’m stuck with the Bose headphones.
Andrew: Those are good headphones, though.
Nick: Yeah. If you’re going to pay $300 for headphones . . .
Andrew: Is that what they cost?
Nick: Yeah. They’re these noise cancelling ones.
Andrew: Gotcha. Yeah.
Nick: For me, travelling on a plane, I can’t stand even 50 seats up if there’s a crying baby.
Andrew: I always bring my phone for that reason. Then I download my music onto the phone. Usually I just listen to stuff in the cloud, but if I can download three albums, then I’m covered for the whole flight. You can scream. I’m good.
Nick: There’s oftentimes that I love these headphones just for the fact that I have like ADD when it comes to sound when I’m working. If I hear something, I’m like, “What’s going on?” So this kind of like centers me and it keeps me focused.
Andrew: The other thing is with those noise cancelling headphones is someone can be sitting right behind you and you won’t notice that they’re there or they could be calling you and you won’t notice they’re doing it.
Nick: My fiancée, I’ll be doing like an all-nighter or something like that. She’ll be yelling for me and I literally won’t hear a thing. She liked spooked up on me one night. She’s like, “I told you to get me water.” I was like, “I didn’t even know.”
Andrew: Olivia has got to text me. I use regular earphones and that’s good for me to tune stuff out, but Olivia can’t get my attention if I’ve got my earphones on around the house, so she’s got to text me. One of the good uses of the Apple watch is that I can look up and see, “Oh, it’s Olivia in the other room calling me to say that something is going on.”
Nick: How is that? I was thinking about getting one.
Andrew: Don’t get this one. If you haven’t gotten it yet, just wait for the next one. It’s so freaking slow.
Nick: Is it?
Andrew: There’s nothing that it does exceptionally well. It doesn’t tell time exceptionally well. I can’t glance down and subtly see if I’m running late. I have to really make a big show of flipping my wrist over. The running app doesn’t work as well as a standalone running device. Nothing especially works well, but it’s a good indication of what’s to come.
Nick: Yeah. I think it was a good test of the product market fit. There are definitely a lot of uses that can be applied to it.
Nick: I’m glad I didn’t jump in too early now.
Andrew: You really should be. Even right now on the home screen, which is pretty useful considering how small things are, I don’t know if you can tell–first of all, it shuts off.
Nick: I can’t even see it.
Andrew: It’s off.
Nick: There you go.
Andrew: The icons don’t even come in sometimes. It’s so buggy. They’ll figure it you, but you know.
Nick: That’s some pretty big fingers. I can imagine those little circles can be a little bit of a pain in the butt.
Andrew: There are very few times when I actually will hit one of the buttons, largely because it will take too long. I might as well get my phone out. There’s my two-minute review of the Apple Watch. It’s a good indication of what’s going to come in the future. It’s not really good execution for today.
Nick: Gotcha. So, if you had Apple for a sponsor for your episode, this probably wouldn’t be the best.
Andrew: I wonder, actually, if I had a sponsor who I wasn’t especially happy with how would I handle that. I think we just don’t have them on. But what happens if the guest has a better company or a company they prefer. I don’t know. I think I’d just let it go, let the sponsors be pissed.
Nick: Yeah. But hey, thank you so much for having me on the show. I really do appreciate it.
Andrew: Cool. Thanks for doing it. I had a couple of questions before we start. I see the revenue numbers here–and we’ll get into it in the interview–when I look up SecondFlightAcademy.com in SimilarWeb, I’m seeing you’re like doing no traffic at all, frankly. We’re talking about dozens, not even hundreds of hits coming over to the site. What am I missing here?
Nick: So, all the traffic that we generate has been going to our landing page for the webinar. So, all of it’s all focused around a webinar and we also have been doing a lot of speaking engagements and building not traffic but sales through direct sales through meeting with people and doing also, of course, podcasts.
Andrew: So, someone will come at the event and pay you at the event without ever going to your website. Wouldn’t they at least go and see your site just to see if you’re legit, to see if there’s something there, just to spy on you to see if it’s for them or not? Wouldn’t they just type in SecondFlightAcademy.com?
Nick: I haven’t really run into that. The site is really fairly new. We just went through the entire thing because we were piloting it for a while under Second Flight Consultancy, which is an agency, and we were funneling people who weren’t a fit and couldn’t afford the agency rates to say, “We’re working right now on building an academy where we’ll teach everything we will do for eight weeks and then frame it out from there. Then we started seeing that a lot of people were really enjoying it.
Then we were like, “Hey, let’s build a webinar and promote the webinar through it.” We started seeing a lot of success from it. It’s a premium service offering that we’re doing. We don’t need to have massive volume to achieve great numbers. We typically like to keep our class sizes anywhere from 6 to maybe 10 to 12 students a month that we enroll into the program.
Andrew: What do you charge for that?
Nick: We charge anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 for the eight week program.
Andrew: Okay. And what do they get for that?
Nick: We custom create an eight-week strategy around what their needs or goals are for their marketing strategies, and we literally will teach them exactly how we would do it, how we would build an entire program around outsourcing and the strategy around how to management that and what the digital marketing strategy itself would be.
Andrew: How to outsource the marketing they would do?
Nick: Let’s say they want to develop content, strategic content creation like infographics, blogs. Normally people would hire us out to do it, but we would tell them how we would set it up if we wanted to pretty much build the agency in house. So instead of them hiring us to build out, let’s say, an infographic, which me charge for $1,200 . . .
Andrew: At SecondFlightConsultancy.com, you would create the infographic and charge how much?
Nick: We would charge anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 for the infographic, the blog around it and the pre and post-outreach.
Andrew: That’s the consultancy. At Second Flight Academy, what would they be taught to do for themselves?
Nick: We would teach them what is going to be the best infographic content that would be most applicable to business, how to identify a great designer and craft the content for the designer to deliver a great infographic and then well discuss like reverse engineering methods of finding other websites or people who like to share this program to do a strong pre-outreach around it and what software would be used.
Andrew: You teach them how to do it for themselves and for that, you get $6,000 a month per student for fewer than a dozen students per month who are coming in.
Andrew: The way students come in is through webinars that you advertise for and sometimes they see you at an event and they sign up right there at the event and they pay you at the event?
Nick: We like to do like complimentary growth hacking sessions where we would identify, like really learn about their business and then from there, start articulating–
Andrew: At the event you’ll do that?
Nick: Offline at the event. So, at the event, we’ll pique their interest, schedule a time–because events can be kind of crazy. We will then take it over and say, “Hey, let’s schedule a time where we can sit down on the phone or through Skype and really learn about your business,” and then they’ll explain what their struggles are, what they’re trying to achieve.
Andrew: And then you sell them on either the consultancy or more likely the academy?
Nick: More likely the academy. A lot of the people who fit for our consultancy, they’re used to spending $10,000 plus on just their advertising. The smaller businesses–startups, solopreneurs, the people who are just getting into digital marketing, those people usually fit best with our academy.
Andrew: How much money are you making with the academy?
Nick: The academy? We have been averaging from $50,000 to $70,000 a month right now.
Andrew: $50,000 to $70,000 a month.
Nick: Yeah, we usually bring in–our average student, if they pay in full, they can pay for $8,000 or they can break it up into payments of anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 a month in two installments or three installments. The total amount that we’re right now focusing on pricing is total amount of $10,000, which they can break into two to three monthly installments or up front.
Andrew: That’s a lot of money for somebody to pay to learn how to do marketing.
Nick: People pay it. One of the things that kind of brought my attention to it was there was this one guy. His name is Russ Ruffino. He sells his webinar training. I was really close to investing the $10,000 for his webinar training, but one of the things I realized was the stuff that he’s teaching, I could learn myself. The way he’s structuring it was group training and video modules. He’s really good at what he does. He’s a great seller for it. But for group training and video modules, people were paying for it. He’s like making a killing doing it.
I was like realistically I know for myself and the people I want to help in this world, they’re going to need really handheld processes that apply to what their core business is and what makes them unique and how they have to find a buyer’s persona and know how to market to them. You can’t create an effective video module or put five people or ten people in a room and talk about a topic–
Andrew: So, if you’re not talking to them, you’re not showing the modules, you’re talking to them in a group setting on like GoToWebinar or something?
Nick: No. My students are all individual.
Andrew: One on one.
Nick: Yeah, one on one.
Andrew: So, essentially they’re getting coaching. How many times a week?
Nick: Once or twice.
Andrew: Once or twice. I’ll tell you what–how about if we leave this–it’s been about 10, 11 minutes that you and I have been chatting–how about if we include all of that in the interview?
Nick: Yeah. Let’s do it.
Andrew: You’re good with that?
Nick: I’m cool with that.
Andrew: The only thing I would have suggested if I knew we were official starting is if you tilt your camera up so we can see more of your head. There we go.
Nick: Usually I shave my head.
Andrew: I think it’s a really nice buzz. You should leave it at this length. Why would you shave any more than that?
Nick: You know why? I actually go bald.
Nick: The reason being is I used to get my haircut twice a week just to get it to this level pretty much. So, I’ll spend $20 a week getting my head shaved pretty much to the level of me shaving my head bald. Plus I’m a big Michael Jordan fan ever since I was a kid, so I get to kind of live that.
Andrew: Can’t you just get to that level by yourself using a set of clippers?
Nick: It gets kind of Chia pet-y. It gets this fuzzy kind of feeling. I’m not a big fan, but I’ve been busy. I was actually wanting to shave it, but I knew this was a video interview, so I didn’t want that glare hitting your face.
Andrew: I think that’s a good move. I went this morning, I ran and then I showered and then I went and got a haircut and then I thought, “I have a few minutes before my interview. I can go and shower again at the gym.” I went back and I thought, “This is such a pain.” I’m so glad now that I don’t shave my beard because it’s such a time save every morning.
I do it about once or twice a week. I buzz down to roughly where your hair is and then I let it grow out. Today, it’s a little longer than I would have wanted. If I knew for sure that I would get a haircut, I probably would have buzzed, but I didn’t have the time.
Nick: I’m turning 26 in a week and a half. So, probably when this episode airs, I’ll be officially 26. I’m still struggling with just the chin hair. So, I don’t have to struggle too much.
Andrew: It’s an ethnic thing, believe me. I had this when I was in third grade and if you look back at my old high school or elementary school photos, it looks like this weird mustache that I should have shaved, but it’s weird for a kid to shave it. It’s just an ethnic thing.
Here’s what I didn’t do and I should do at this point is say that I have two sponsors for this interview. The first is a company called HostGator. It will host your website. The second is a company called Toptal. They will help you find developers. I think what I’ll do is in a few minutes start my first sponsorship message. But why don’t we continue here?
Oh, wait, I should also introduce you. Nick Kullin is the founder of Second Flight Academy. Did I pronounce your name right?
Nick: Yeah. You hit it right on the spot.
Andrew: That’s another thing that I do before we officially start. I check in with people on the camera. I check in on the pronunciation. Let’s continue then. I just want to get a little background of why you got here or how you got here and then I want to understand why do this one on one? You’re essentially selling coaching. But before you were doing marketing, what were you doing before you were doing this?
Just to give you some guidance about what I’m getting at, you were at the Guinn Consultancy. What were you doing at the Guinn Consultancy?
Nick: So, the Guinn Consultancy Group was actually a strategic business development consultancy firm. I actually met the founder, Alan Guinn, through a few startup ventures like years back, I’m talking like six years back. I met with him and he’s been like a coach and mentor with myself. I was like maybe 18 years old at the time.
He just was a great mentor. Eventually I started getting my chops up. I was like, “Hey, let me get involved with some of the projects you have.” I had some pretty unique digital marketing ideas and strategies and we were doing some work together. Even before that, I was with a financial firm company. My last, I would say, day job was with Conway Wealth Group. It was under a hub of Summit Financial Resources, which was this big financial advisory kind of conglomerate.
I was handling the business development operations and the online marketing operations with that company and I met a lot of great business owners and I met a lot of great successful entrepreneurs. I didn’t have a Series 7, so I couldn’t talk about finance and stocks and strategy, so I talked about what I knew and what I was passionate about, which was online marketing and figuring out really unique ways to go against conformity or how everyone else markets.
Andrew: Why would you talk to these people who came to your firm for financial advice and guidance? Why would you talk to them about online marketing? Why would they care?
Nick: Well, at that time I was 22. So, I was in a room full of all these guys who I was like their sons’ age. I had to talk about something I knew I was confident in. I think one of the biggest things when you’re at a networking event or a meeting with clients, especially guys who are already successful, they can kind of sniff out who are the players and who aren’t the players.
I knew the thing that I was most confident in was talking about their business and starting to pick their brain around what they’re doing and sharing my chops around it so that it kind of gains that trust and level of rapport. So, if I wanted to go in with, “What are you guys doing personally for your financials?” That kind of segued because I built the relationship and trust that way.
Andrew: That makes sense. I had an internship in college at a Wall Street firm, where I didn’t realize how much of the work you do is just chatting people up. I thought it was all, “Let’s talk about the finances. Let’s talk about what’s going on in the stock market.” And then I’d go to breakfast or lunch with people or dinners and you were just supposed to hang out and chat with them about whatever, anything from their kids to how their business is going.
I didn’t know how to do it and I can see how you found a topic that you were especially passionate about, you were good at and was relevant to their business and you wouldn’t come across like a monkey just talking about finances like you knew what you’re were talking about. That was my challenge. I came across not like a monkey. I came across like–what’s an animal that doesn’t talk?
Nick: A sloth.
Andrew: A monkey’s ass. I was sitting just like I didn’t know what to do. That is the reason why I went out and I got Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I said, “I have to actually learn this stuff.” I didn’t respect conversation and now I have to take it really seriously.
You were good at it. I can see now you’re talking about it. You told our producer though that your boss said, “Why are you doing all this marketing stuff for our clients? Why aren’t you doing marketing stuff for us?”
Nick: Yeah. It became a little bit of a touchy subject because I guess one of the things that I realized was I really was good at selling what I knew and people trusted me and they wanted to kind of pick my brain and have them speak with their marketing person to talk a little bit more about the philosophies. At that time it was all completely innocent.
I was literally–in my perception, I was adding value to not only their clients by saying, “Hey, let me talk about something that can add value to them so that way they like the firm and the value we can add as a firm,” or the prospects to try getting in for the pitch of introducing to the financial advisor to talk about things that maybe they don’t really care about too much. But everyone wants to learn how they can shave marketing dollars or increase their conversions or what not.
I guess being through the FINRA compliance and how tightly knit their communications are, they were seeing emails about people asking about marketing strategies where they started putting some red flags, where they thought, “Hey, is Nick operating his own business?”
Andrew: They were reading your email?
Nick: Yeah. They were reading their–I guess it was the culture of the organization where that was coming through. I think something sparked it out where a client was saying something like, “Hey, Nick really helped us out with our marketing strategy. I really can’t thank you enough. They’re like, “Why is he doing that?”
And then they kind of like dug in and they were like, “We saw a lot of communication where it seems like you’re with prospects and clients that you’re soliciting business from them.” I’m like, “Guys, I haven’t received a dime from this. I’m honestly trying to do this so I can warm them up…”
Andrew: For eventual sale of some financial services. And then you did something really clever that our producer said, “Andrew, you’ve got to talk to him about.” You wanted to help bands on YouTube get hits.
Andrew: So, what did you do.
Nick: That was my first venture.
Andrew: Tell me about this.
Nick: I was 13 years old.
Andrew: This is at 13?
Nick: This is at 13.
Andrew: All right, so before, even more impressive. What did you do?
Nick: This is where my entrepreneurial itch kind of happened.
Andrew: Before you were old enough to get into bars.
Nick: Yeah, before I was old enough to get into bars.
Andrew: So, what did you do?
Nick: My first passion of where I wanted to be in life was actually be in the music industry. I start drums at four years old and then I picked up every instrument after that. It wasn’t so much about playing the instruments, but I loved the idea of pulling talented people together and identifying their strengths and making music out of it and figuring out a unique way to market it. At that time, that was when Myspace and YouTube was reaching its prime of how people could be discovered on it.
I was living up in Northern New Jersey in the sticks, so the only cool thing to do was like see a band play. But you had to drive like 25 minutes to get there. I was noticing these bands, they had to get like 50 people to come in to even cover their cover charges and it just didn’t seem like it made sense. There were some really talented bands out there and musicians out there.
I was like, “There’s a way to do this more efficiently. There’s a way to get these musicians seen more efficiently.” I figured out a really unique way of identifying the musicians how have audiences that are already seen by other popular musicians and taking that traffic and migrating them over to their band page.
So, I simply kind of reverse-engineered what the nature of what people do on YouTube. Let’s say there was an R&B artist and Usher was big at the time or Justin Bieber was really kind of–that was when he first got his start. So, if I had an artist who sounded or sang like Justin Bieber, I’d notice that when people would go onto his music video, YouTube at the time had–it still does, but it’s not as robust like it used to be for this strategy–was when they wrote a comment, it said how many seconds that comment was there. I understood that people on YouTube were on YouTube for maybe around two to four minutes.
Nick: So, if you saw that someone made a comment on a video, you know they’re probably still on YouTube. No one really inbox messaged each other on YouTube.
Andrew: I see.
Nick: So, when you did get an inbox message, it like was this big bright flashy one on the top right corner of your page, so you can’t help but to click on it. So, I used to literally–I developed a little bit of a script that automated this process, where it would review a video. It would pull the username and then plug into the compose message. From the compose message, you’re able to put 20 people into that message.
The topic of the message, the subject line would be, “I read your comment on Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ song.” The body you’re able to plug in a video. I would say, “Hey, I saw your comment that you made on Justin Bieber’s video. I’m a big fan of that video too and song and our music and this song in particular is a really similar version of that style. I’d love for you to check it out, comment, share and like if you thought it was good. Either way, I love your taste in music,” something simple like that and it would just run continuously.
Andrew: You scripted it. You didn’t even have to do it yourself?
Andrew: So, as soon as somebody wrote a comment, your script would fire off a message to them and 19 other people with a link to your client’s video and ask them to both watch it and like it and also comment and all that other stuff. Impressive. Okay. Now you had to get some bands to do this for. How did you get bands?
Nick: Simple. My local music shop, you’ll always say the band that’s playing now or if you go–being under 21, you’re still able to eat at bars. So, I had a buddy that was able to drive and I was like, “Hey, can you drive me to this place that’s popular?” I would literally pull the flyers from the wall.
At the time, there were other websites that were directories for bands. You also had Myspace, so finding local musicians around that. I kind of just worked the local community, but I didn’t want to show my face. I kind of wanted to be that Wizard of Oz because I was this 13-year old kid with even more of a baby face than he has at 26 trying to talk about this.
But I essentially looked at it like a band was an average of four people. I was like alright, each one of these four people have a job but they love music and they want to get themselves seen more. At the time, getting 100 views for some local bands was like getting a million views in their eyes. This strategy was creating 5,000-10,000 views almost a day. On top of that, it was creating engaging active users because you’re identifying the engaging active users.
Andrew: What did you charge for this?
Nick: I charged literally only $200.
Andrew: How well did you do with it?
Nick: At a certain point, I had 20 bands under my belt. It was pretty freaking cool.
Andrew: It is really cool. I want to come back and then find out how you evolved from that into the entrepreneur that you are today, but quickly I’ve got to tell people about a company called HostGator. Do you know HostGator?
Nick: I’ve heard of it. Yeah.
Andrew: HostGator is a company that lets use host your website. If you have any website–we’re talking about a shopping site, a company site just listing what your company does, a WordPress blog, whatever it is, they will host it for you. If you want to manage it yourself, they’ve got easy one-click install of software like WordPress.
If you don’t, they even have WordPress managed hosting, which means that they’re going to make sure that everything is backed up, that your malware is not going to be a problem for you because they have virus protection, all that stuff is taken care of for you and the plugins that you shouldn’t be installing are there for you. Whatever you want, they’ve got it because they’ve been doing this hosting thing for years. They are massive as a company.
Let me ask you this. If you were to start again today as a 13-year old kid with nothing but access to a HostGator website–like I always say, I’m a guy with a beard. I’m a little bit older–that’s a little creepy–I would say, “I’m Andrew from Mixergy. I want to see your 13-year old dreams come true. I’m going to give you a WordPress or any kind of website on HostGator,” what would you want to do if you were 13 and had nothing but that?
Nick: If I was 13 and all I had was a hosting platform that I could build anything on…
Andrew: Anything on.
Nick: I would probably build an–if I knew this when I was 13–an ecommerce shop where I found a really cool unique product from like Alibaba and white labeled and sold through there.
Andrew: That’s a good idea. You know what I’m seeing, actually, speaking of kids is they are selling sneakers on Instagram.
Nick: I see that too.
Andrew: It’s incredible. Now all you need is a website to collect money. Boom. Put it up on HostGator. Have an easy shopping cart on there and that’s it. All the sales happen on Instagram, but the cash exchanges hands on your own website. If anyone wants to check out to make sure you’re legit, you’ve got a website that looks beautiful, that’s easy to manage because it’s run on the HostGator servers.
Anyone out there who hasn’t started a website and wants to start should go check out HostGator.com/Mixergy. When you do that, you’re going to get 30% off. If you hate your hosting company, you do not have to live with them. You can switch to HostGator. Again, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. If you have WordPress, they’ll even migrate you for free. They’ll do the work for you.
Nick: That saves a lot of time.
Andrew: I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. All right. I want to know then how you got into the whole thing of being a marketing consultant. Apparently, you spoke at a university and you asked customers to do something. Tell me about that as the beginning of this whole marketing business that we’re now talking about today.
Nick: Yeah. So, the academy started off–first, I identified there were people who weren’t able to afford my retainer for the agency side.
Andrew: You first had the agency. Were you initially thinking you were going to have nothing but the agency?
Nick: Yeah, at first.
Andrew: You had the agency. How did you get the agency clients? Let’s talk about that before we go to the academy.
Nick: So, those agency clients actually came and manifested through when I was with the financial firm, actually. After they kind of sat me down and gave me the ultimatum. I think they’re trying to draw the line in the sand. They had a 23-year old kid that was making a six-figure salary and doing well for himself. They probably thought I was going to be like everyone who’s 23 and lives the corporate lifestyle to be like, “All right, I’m sorry. I won’t talk about it ever again.” Instead I was like, “I think I’m going to start my own business now. Thank you for the opportunity.”
Andrew: So, this thing that they were worried about actually came true for them.
Nick: Essentially because the way they handled the situation wasn’t something that I wanted in my own culture of my workplace.
Andrew: Okay. So, you took some of the people who you got to meet while you were working with them. You turned them into consulting clients. You were charging them how much to do what?
Nick: I was developing entire digital marketing plans and I first started out charging $3,000. Bless you.
Andrew: Thank you. I hit the sneeze button. A lot of people don’t acknowledge that I sneezed. They see that I hit the mute button.
Nick: At first I was like, “Wow, that looked like a powerful sneeze and I didn’t hear it.”
Andrew: I’ve been sneezing a lot today. It has been a very powerful sneezing morning. So, give me an example of one client and what you did for them.
Nick: Yeah. So, one of my first clients was a contract furniture company. And they just pretty much sold office furniture to businesses. But they were going through a branding problem and they needed to figure out a way to differentiate themselves from being a commodity to a value-based business. It was revolving around a rebrand. It was revolving around digital marketing strategy. It was pretty much redoing a full facelift to a business. We were talking for a while and then I was like, “Hey, let’s figure out how we can do business together.”
That company was originally called Business Environments. There were five other Business Environments that did the same exact thing around the world. And I was like, “We’ve got to figure out what the essence of your business is.” So, with that client, we really developed a whole new message, a whole new scheme of how we got to go to market. What was identified was that 80% of the business that came from 20% of the business was startups and emerging companies, guys that grew from office sizes of ten people to 200 people within a year and a half’s time.
What they really cared about was their company culture and their workplace environment. That was really important to them. They understood the value of it was more than just a desk or it was more than just a chair. The desk and the chair and the quality and the way you lay out the office really helps determine how people want to work there, their efficiency and all the nine yards. So, I rebranded a company to be more focused around–they provided office furniture but they applied the art of furniture and design into an amplifying company culture.
Andrew: That’s the way that you did it.
Nick: Yeah. So, from there, we rebranded the company, made it really friendly towards startups and emerging companies. Then I built a podcast strategy actually that we leveraged CrunchBase and I built a little bit of an automation script that scraped CrunchBase of all the people who just got funding because those are the clients they wanted to get.
None of these people would take their time of day if they were like, “Hey, we saw you raised money. You’re going to be building your office team and your office space. Buy furniture from us.” That would never work and I knew that would never work. But I knew what would work is building relationships, very similar to how we were talking. It’s more about the chit-chat than the actual talking of the topic.
What I said to him, I was like, “Let’s build a podcast that talks about company culture. Let’s spearhead that, be the lead thought leader in company culture and workplace environment. Let’s take all these people who just received funding to talk about their success stories but keep the focus on what their culture is and how they plan on scaling their culture with their new funding and what their plans are with growth and how many team members they’re going to be getting.
Andrew: Once you scraped their email addresses, what do you email them?
Nick: It would be simply a congratulations kind of email.
Andrew: Congratulations on the funding.
Nick: Congratulations on the funding. We’d love to know more about what your big plans are. We have a successful podcast called BE Culture Radio that would love to have you on and talk about what your plans are.
Andrew: I see. So, the podcast was a way of getting to know the person that would eventually be the customer.
Andrew: I think this is a brilliant strategy. I don’t know why more people don’t do it. If you’re going to reach out to a customer, it’s so much easier to say, “Can I interview with you for my podcast?” than, “Can I spend an hour finding out about you so I can pitch you something?”
Andrew: You might as well say forget who’s listening to the podcast. Who cares? There are a lot of people like the ones you’re talking about who aren’t that concerned with the number of listeners. They care more about the fact that they’re being listened to by anybody. So, you ask them to do a podcast. You record the podcast. You hand it to them.
You befriend them a little bit before the podcast, a little bit after and then you come back and say, “By the way, we have furniture,” or, “By the way, we have this marketing work that we do,” or, “We also have something else.” I think that’s a brilliant strategy, completely under-utilized. If you’re going to spend an hour anyway, you might as well just make it into a podcast.
Nick: Completely. And every question that he answered or asked, the answers he got back were exactly what he would want to get from a needs analysis, essentially.
Nick: So, he was able to do exactly how he wanted to start up the relationship, but through a portal which makes it feel like you’re already adding value by not doing anything, really, except giving your time and their time and amplifying your story, which in turn, what other competitor is spending that much time to help them out before asking for the sale?
Andrew: I don’t know why more people don’t do this.
Nick: I don’t get it either. But it’s a simple growth hacking technique for B2B businesses or even B2C businesses just to get themselves out there.
Andrew: Frankly, maybe it’s not even a podcast, make it into a blog that you post on your site, “Congratulations on the funding. Can I interview you for my site?” People will love it. I’m actually sitting on this question that I meant to ask you as a first question that if we officially started the interview properly, this is what I would ask you.
Nick: Let’s hear it.
Andrew: I’m such a maniac when it comes to doing proper research and I know I can never get it 100%, which drives me crazy, but I like to do as good a job as possible with everything I do. So I keep notes on people. And somehow, at one point, I was looking you up with someone else on the phone and we noticed this old photo of you–it might have even been like we were looking at EO, Entrepreneur Organization, to see who was a member of it. I saw a photo of you at an EO event with a sponsor thing and you had the badge around your neck. The name on the badge was Nick Bulwin.
Nick: I just recently changed my last name. I’m actually getting married on the 24th of this month, March, and my fiancée and I decided to merge our last names. So her last name is Kullick. My last name is Bulwin. If you alternate the letters, it spells out Kullin.
Andrew: Why do that?
Nick: So, a little bit of a story around my family background, but also one of the biggest things is her and I went through a lot. I’ve been with her since high school, actually, since I was 16 years old. The biggest thing that I found with our relationship is I wanted to start a new chapter in my life.
I was starting to get myself more involved in business, but as a personal area, I wanted to symbolize kind of like the love that we had for each other and start a new tradition and family lineage around all the things that we’ve been through together and build our own kind of family tree from it from the foundation of our love and relationship and grow from that.
So, to some people, it’s taboo, like, “Why would you change your last name?” and all that stuff. For me, what we’ve been through together, it’s one of the most symbolic things that probably ever happened in my life.
Andrew: What do you mean? What did you go through together that’s so dramatic?
Nick: Well, when I was 17 years old and throughout my teenage years, I had a pretty tough time with my family situation. I was actually forced to live on my own around that time. Her family took me in and helped me get through it.
Andrew: So, because they didn’t want you to be with this girlfriend that you’re going to marry now?
Nick: I would say that’s probably what started the stem of it.
Andrew: Why? You know. What is it?
Nick: I still ask myself that.
Andrew: You don’t know what it is about her that they don’t like?
Nick: They say it’s not about her. The thing is when I was younger, my dad was a Patterson police officer, which actually was a pretty rough neighborhood, probably one of the roughest neighborhoods. He was born and raised there. When you’re in an environment where there’s a lot of crime and a lot of things going on, you’re probably going to be very protective on your kids because you don’t want the things that you see happen.
I was brought up in a very sheltered kind of environment where I wasn’t able to really do things. When I became a teenager and when I started having a girlfriend, you wanted your freedom. There was this problem with control and freedom and being a teenager and trying to explore your own life that caused a lot of conflict.
Andrew: So, you would go out and do stuff that they didn’t agree with and they said it’s the girlfriend that’s doing it?
Nick: That’s if I was able to go out and do stuff. I was really kind of held home all the time. When I wanted to spend time outside of home, it became a problem.
Andrew: To do what? When you went and spent time outside of home, where were you? What were you doing?
Nick: Let’s say at her house.
Andrew: And that was a problem for you.
Nick: You would think, “This kid probably just wanted to go out and party.”
Andrew: And you didn’t.
Nick: I didn’t.
Andrew: Did you do drugs?
Nick: No. I was like a 3.5 GPA kid. I played every sport because that was the only way for me to like hang out with friends.
Andrew: I see. And is changing your last name partially you saying, “I’m done with the old family. I’ve got to make my new way on my own?”
Nick: Yeah, 100%.
Andrew: Will your parents be at the wedding?
Nick: I haven’t spoken to them for almost 10 years.
Andrew: Ten years? But you want to?
Nick: I tried to.
Andrew: They will not take your call?
Nick: It’s a matter of they’re never understanding what happened, why it happened and where my thoughts and feelings are around the subject. Just recently–it’s funny you mention this–my fiancé was always telling me, “You should really try. We’re getting married soon. We’re going to have kids. I know things happened and things were said on both sides. You’ve grown. You became so successful.”
I didn’t go to college either. I had all these really awesome things happen in my life that they weren’t able to be a part of. I’m not going to lie, when you see all these great things you dreamed of and you think about the people that you had in your life when you started, you wanted to say, “Hey, I want you to be proud of me.”
Andrew: I know what you mean, but I want that too.
Nick: And I haven’t been able to do that. It hurts.
Andrew: So, what happened when you reached out?
Nick: My dad actually texted me and he was like, “Hey, I want to get things back together. It’s been so long. I miss you,” kind of thing. I was like, “I want to, but I don’t want to…” even every therapist says if there’s really troubling issues, you don’t want to just sweep it under the rug. You’ve got to address it. You’ve got to explain what’s happening, why you felt this way so that way it’s out on the table and it’s done with and you can actually fully move forward.
I simply just stated like, “Hey, I want to really go over everything that happened, why I maybe said what I said and also get your perspective and apologize for certain things.” I’m also, of course, expecting an apology on their end. And then we could actually move forward.
We were starting to kind of get there and then I guess he realized about my last name and then we were actually supposed to meet that day. I sent him a friend request on Facebook and he was like, “Nick Kullin, did you change your last name?” I was like, “Yeah, I changed my last name.”
Of course, the bitter side of me on the years that he extremely hurt and me and my family extremely hurt me, I would have totally said something really mean, but the real reason why I want to do this is because I really want to have something that symbolically demonstrates the love that myself and my fiancé have for each other and we want to develop our own family from it.
I’m not a very traditional guy either. So, if my son came up to me and was like, “Hey, I really love this girl and I’m going to get married and I would love to demonstrate our love. We merged our last name to show our commitment to each other.” I would have been like, “That’s awesome. At the end of the day, you’re my son. You’re my blood and a last name is not going to be something that I’m like you’re no longer my son for.”
Unfortunately, that’s the route that my dad decided to take. It was hurtful because it seemed like he wanted more the presence of saying, “That guy has my last name so he’s my son,” rather than, “This is the person that I’m with. I don’t need a last name to prove it. He’s my blood.”
Andrew: You can’t just gloss over it and say, “Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have done it,” and just keep going, just appease? You can’t go for that.
Andrew: All right. By the way–
Nick: Go ahead.
Andrew: Nick Kullin, you did an interview with someone, The20SomethingEntrepreneur.com. They spelled your name with an E. They even created a nice design image.
Nick: I know. I told them that. I was like, “Guys, it’s -in.” But I’ve been trying to have them fix it. He’s a cool kid, though. He’s a good guy.
Andrew: You’re going to piss off your dad one more time.
Nick: By the way, here’s this version of it.
Andrew: I see. That explains why the name change.
Nick: Some people when you hear the story are like, “You did it for malicious reasons.” It isn’t for that. If we had a good relationship, I would have still taken them same route. This is just my core values and belief set. Kristen, my fiancé, she’s everything to me.
Andrew: You want to know something? I think you might be better off just not addressing all these issues. Maybe all these therapists are wrong. You should get that stuff out and talk about it with your fiancé, with your therapist, with me, with your friends. And then with your dad, maybe just let it go. It’s really tough to let stuff go.
Nick: It is. I honestly did, but the thing at the same time is when I was going through a lot of hardship when I was going through that and dealing with everything on my own, I learned the value of the type of people you surround yourself with.
Andrew: Yeah. These are not them. Your dad is not going to be that guy.
Nick: It was very toxic. It was very toxic and I realized when I tried during the years, that’s when I felt the most miserable and it affected me, it affected my relationships, it affected my work because it was just this toxicity. When it wasn’t in my life, that’s when I felt alive, in a sense. I didn’t have those burdens.
I forgot what book I read, but it was talking about the type of people you want to surround yourself with and how there are toxic people and how there are people who help influence success and virtue in your life. There are certain people that you’ve got to have and certain people you don’t have to have. Unfortunately, as much as it stinks, they don’t fit into the cards of that area.
It’s been literally ten years. I made efforts. It just never is reciprocated. Nothing is worse than being a kid and you’re trying to show you want love from your parents and they’re not really about it, especially if you’re not a drug addict and you’re doing some awesome things in your life but it feels like they just don’t care. It’s almost like I feel like me wanting to be more successful and more successful is almost like a cry of like, “Speak to me. You see me everywhere. I want you to know that I’m doing well.”
Andrew: I see, that if you do well enough, maybe they’ll finally say, “We were wrong about this guy. Yeah, he might have been out late, but it wasn’t such a big deal. Look at how responsible he is. He had a high grade point average. He’s doing well in business. He’s built a reputation for himself and he loved someone so passionately that he’s willing to split a name with her and combine their names. Right. I get it.
Andrew: I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs have something like that and they’re not in touch with it. They have some inner need that makes them battle through the difficulties of entrepreneurship and they just won’t admit it to themselves and they can’t admit it to the world. I wish that they would be a little more aware of it. Frankly, if they were more aware of it, they make for better interviewees and also they can then know what to do to trigger it and to keep it from sometimes screwing things up.
Andrew: I would know if I had to really fight in a meeting or if I had to really come in strong in a meeting, here’s what I’d tap into. My dad needs to see how big I’m going to get. I’m going to walk in there thinking about it. If I make this meeting happen, if I close this deal, my dad is going to have to see how big I am and is going to be really proud and then use it as a trigger.
And on the other hand, if someone who I liked wasn’t proud of me, by being aware that what I’m really looking for is my dad’s congratulations, I can see that I may be a little harsh with a mentor because I’m thinking that I want his congratulations the way I want my dad’s and that’s too much to put on.
Self-knowledge, I think, is very effective and very helpful. You know what else is helpful? Reading my sponsorship messages because they actually pay for this and I’m running late with it. Let me do a quick sponsorship message and then come back into the interview.
Andrew: My second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Have you heard of Toptal?
Nick: No, what are they?
Andrew: You’ve got to know about Toptal. Here’s the deal with Toptal–relatively new company. They realize that one of the hardest things an entrepreneur is going to have to do is hire a developer, I mean a really good developer or a team of developers. So, they said what if we create a shortcut? What if what we do is instead of doing this matchmaking service that everyone else does where you find a business that’s looking for a developer and then go out there and hunt them down, like headhunter, the classic model or place ads, another classic model.
“What if,” Toptal said to themselves, “We put together a list of the best developers we can find, just put them in our network. Before we have a client come in and ask for them, we just grill our guys?” You know how I grilled you a little bit before we started?
Andrew: That, but imagine 97 times harsher. They go through it and they reject 97 out of 100 people and the top three percent who are vetted by their peers, who are proven, who are qualified to be good developers, they stay in their network. So, when someone who’s listening to me right now, they go to Toptal and Toptal says, “Just pick someone out of our network, someone who’s really good. That will be the person we connect.”
So, whoever is listening to me can get connected with a developer. The first thing you’ll do is you’ll talk to a Toptal representative, someone who knows their stuff, someone who can help advise you about what your business is going through, what kind of developer you need, they’ll understand your platform, they’ll understand your thinking and they’ll help you think through your decision a little bit. If it’s a match for you to use Toptal, they’ll find the right person and introduce you to them.
If you want, you can get started with that developer within a couple of days. If not, no problem. You can always go hire from someone else or let them pick a second person for you or third. Once you hire them, you can work with them full time, part time, projects. Whatever it is that you want, you can do it through Toptal and get expert developers. All you have to do is go to Toptal.com.
If you want a secret link, Nick–and this is the thing that most people don’t know because it’s only available for Mixergy–if you go to Toptal.com/Mixergy, they’re going to give you 80 free developer hours when you pay for 80 in addition to a two-week promise that you’re going to love your relationship with Toptal or else you don’t have to pay, but they will stay pay the developer. I want you to go check out the details on Toptal.com/Mixergy.
All right. Let’s get back to this academy.
Nick: Yeah. Totally.
Andrew: So now, you have a consulting business. People are paying you. You’re creating a marketing strategy for them and you’re implementing that strategy and you say, “I want to see that I can sell the knowledge to people.” So, you make the transition from consulting company to a teacher, to the academy. How did you get your first academy student?
Nick: The first academy student was actually someone I was trying to get as a client.
Nick: During that time, the company was actually called WeView. They created a company culture software that helps monitor and gauge like what’s happening inside the office and they could use that real time action for marketing purposes to attract new talent and stuff like that. So, it’s a really cool company.
At the time, they were a startup, they amount of money with content creation, PPC management and all that good stuff, what it costs them a minimum of at least $3,000. And he was like, “Hey, Nick, I really can’t afford $3,000 for a 12-month span. It just doesn’t work. If I did do it, I would be having resentment for you because I know I’m going to need the money for other resources. That’s not even accounting, like ad spend dollars and things like that.”
He’s like, “But here’s the thing–I would love to pick your brain for two months so you can teach me how to do it and I’ll be more than happy to pay what you would normally charge for two months for that kind of offering.” He kind of sold the farm to me. “Teach me how to do it, my interns how to do it, maybe my other marketing person how to do it so that way we all know and have a strategy around how to do this ourselves.”
Andrew: And he was willing to pay you to teach all of them at once how much money?
Nick: He was willing to pay me $6,000.
Andrew: $6,000, for how long?
Nick: For two months.
Andrew: Okay. And how many calls do you go through with them?
Nick: We went through two calls a week.
Andrew: Two calls a week. Okay. Did you give them anything in between the calls?
Nick: So, if we went into a strategy around reverse engineering blog content or how to identify great blog content, we would talk about it, review how to do it and then from that, we’ll create a quick ScreenFlow of how to actually identify it so that way it’s like a recap video and also all our Skype interviews and stuff like that are recorded so they also get that too, but we’ll also get like a customized video tutorial on what we just went about for the week’s project so that way they can also recap it on it as well.
Nick: So, that’s kind of how it flowed out. After his little period was done, I was like, “How was your experience with it?” He was like, “Honestly, it’s great. I’m now able to create blog content. I don’t have to pay a company like you. I can identify how to get great copywriters for $20, $30, $40 and how to find my designers to help develop everything for an infographic, I can get a full infographic for maybe $80 to $100. I know how to use platforms like BuzzSumo to help amplify my content and finding people who like the similar content, exploring the shares and using the software to export from Twitter profiles all their email addresses.”
Andrew: How organized was what you were going to teach him? Did you have an outline of what it was? By the way, while you answer that, I’m just going to go off camera for a second because I think I need to sneeze again. Keep going.
Nick: The way we organized it, it was actually through Basecamp. We actually structured everything through Basecamp as the collaboration portal where we organized each one of the to-dos as to what each week we’ll be going through and then itemized from there like each individual thing that we’re going to be covering and talking about so that way we can have individual threads and discussion boards on each one of those topic points and also we can monitor what areas need to be done and also when are we able to go into the next phase of the campaigns.
So, we used Basecamp and we still, to this day, use Basecamp as the structure and the format of what’s happening each week and what areas we’re going to accomplish and it opens up for great open thread discussion boards and easily manageable tasks that need to be completed. I can’t hear you.
Andrew: And you give them tasks in Basecamp.
Andrew: All right. I actually also had to blow my nose. I don’t know what’s going on with me. But someone in the audience heard that I have a constant runny, stuffy nose. He said his mom is Chinese and he had a similar issue and his mom recommended some kind of herbs and I never take any herbs of any kind. I’ve been taking it and so far it’s not curing it yet.
Nick: You know, I am a big fan of Wellness Formula. Have you ever heard of it?
Andrew: Wellness Formula? I’m going to take anything I need, anything anyone recommends.
Nick: Wellness Formula–I don’t take any over the counter Procter & Gamble kind of stuff. Wellness Formula is the thing that keeps me in check. If I start feeling a cold coming along, I take a few of those.
Andrew: I see it. Is this for colds?
Nick: This is for general wellness or if you have nasal congestion or anything that’s happening or runny noses. For some reason, it’s just like this super vitamin that helps your immunity and clears up anything funky.
Andrew: All right. I might get this next. It doesn’t seem like it’s a direct result on my issue but I’m so desperate I’ll try anything. I appreciate you saying that. Let’s continue then. I like the format that you’re doing here. You get your first customer. You start to figure out how you’re going to teach this stuff. You see some results. You then go on to your next set of customers, right? How did you get the next group of people?
Nick: So, the next group of people was a mix between–I was already getting asked to do a lot of speaking engagements. So, I was talking about the subject and then I was saying to the crowd, “If you want to learn to do this, I am starting an academy. If you want to get in on some early access, we’re doing some pilots and we’re only accepting three students into this.”
I started seeing an overwhelming response of people wanting to get involved with this. The approach I kind of took was a little bit deconstructing the industry a little bit of agencies out there. I was getting really annoyed with the social media agencies that were like, “We’ll charge you $2,000–$3,000 a month,” and all they’re going to do is post things on your social media site. It wasn’t adding any kind of value, but people were buying into it.
I also was getting frustrated with the whole mindset business owners were having with this whole rat race mentality of like hiring and firing and hiring and firing until they found an agency that gets it. That method just doesn’t work. There was this educational gap of how to effectively do digital marketing.
Personally for me, I believe that for a company to have a successful marketing campaign, especially if they’re going to outsource it to an agency, they have to have an understanding of what works best for them. Even the best agency or myself, if I was introduced to a new project for a client, there’s that learning curve of me really understanding what that business is about and what makes it work and what makes our customers click. I’m trying to like crash course myself in understanding that.
Andrew: But the client already knows that. What kind of speaking gigs do you give where you can actually sell from the stage something that costs over $5,000? Give me an example of one of the speaking gigs.
Nick: So, a lot of it is revolving around buyers’ persona and how to identify buyers’ persona.
Andrew: So, you get up in front of an audience and you teach them about buyer persona and at the end you say, If you’re interested, I actually have an academy where I teach this and show you how to use buyer persona to start creating content that bring people over to your site and I’ve been proven. Where are you speaking to do this where the audience has that much money and the organization that’s inviting you in is willing to let you sell from the stage? What’s one place?
Nick: So, of course, there are simple meetup groups. So, there are pretty dynamic meetup groups, especially around the New York City area.
Andrew: So, you’d go to a meetup group. Actually, you’d go to the meetup group organizer. You’d send them the kind of email you sent me. You say, “Can I come in and teach about buyer persona?”
Andrew: And at the end, what’s the meetup group that you would go and speak to?
Nick: Like the name of it?
Andrew: Yeah, I want to get a sense of the audience.
Nick: There was one, there’s a Montclair meetup group within the organization of their incubator. It’s like Entrepreneur New Jersey or Montclair Entrepreneurship, New Jersey.
Andrew: I see it.
Nick: It’s a pretty big organization that’s been growing.
Andrew: It’s Meetup.com/Montclair-Entrepreneurs. So, you went and spoke to them. It looks like they have 3,000 people who are part of that meetup. You give your talk and then at the end you sell and if someone is interested, you say let’s take this offline or online and let’s book a call and I see that you have a booking software so that they can pick from your calendar whenever they want to talk to you.
Andrew: That’s a pretty involved way to sell, to get on a call with someone. You’re giving them advice. As part of the advice, you’re also saying, “If you want more, I have this academy,” right?
Andrew: You’re not just calling about whether they’re a good fit for this program and whether they should pay or not.
Andrew: It’s not a sales call.
Andrew: How many people are you closing? It’s so much time for you to spend on the phone with them.
Nick: My closing rate is pretty high. I would say on average with the webinars, we usually get around 20 to 30 talking engagements for the month. So, that’s people inquiring and wanting to do a group session.
Andrew: Including the webinars that you personally give and the live events that you go to, you do 20 to 30 top of the funnel events where you’ll speak to a meetup, where you’ll speak to a webinar audience, right?
Andrew: Out of those, how many one on one, let’s call them consulting to sales calls do you have?
Nick: That’s what I’m saying, around 20 to 30.
Andrew: 20 to 30 calls from all those different events you would do. So, 20 to 30 hours, is that how long it would take you?
Nick: Typically, yes, 30 minutes to an hour of talking with them, identifying what they’re all about and going right into the close. Out of those people, we usually get around five to seven of them closing within the week’s period.
Andrew: Five to seven out of thirty.
Nick: Yeah. And the others, probably easily like 10 that aren’t a fit. They can’t afford it or they’re just not a good fit. The other batch, they kind of trickle in within the 60 day period.
Nick: So, it kind of flows and funnels like that. It’s a really hot market. People are coming to me because they have a pressing problem or need and they’re looking for a solution.
Andrew: What’s the pressing problem that they have?
Nick: They can’t figure out what works for them or they hired an agency and it didn’t work and they invested all this money. They don’t want to go that route again or they hired a marketing person but the marketing person doesn’t understand how to do digital marketing and they need help or they have a team of interns who they just use Facebook and Twitter but they don’t know how to use it for business and they wanted them to learn how to do it.
So, it revolves around a whole mixed bag of what the pressing issues are, but what’s great about the academy and what we do, it’s not hardwired to a specific curriculum service. It really is revolving around what the situation is and how we can really growth hack it around the problem.
So, if someone comes to us and they’re like, “We need to figure out how to get us more known on Amazon and build their SEO ranking and figure out a unique way to build their reviews and sales,” we’ll build an eight-week program that’s revolving around Amazon.
Andrew: For them.
Nick: For them.
Andrew: And you’ll build it out specifically. How do you learn enough about Amazon that you can now teach it authoritatively and get results for somebody?
Nick: So, we do have a pretty good team of people that revolve around it. Plus a lot of the work that we take on was previous work that we did from our agency side.
Andrew: At the agency, did you do Amazon promotion too?
Andrew: You did. I see.
Nick: For a lot of my clients, Amazon is a great portal for someone who has a product, sell it on Amazon. That’s a buyer’s market, essentially. If someone is searching on Google compared to Amazon, they’re on Amazon to buy a product rather than if you look at Google, someone who’s searching on Google, they’re still maybe in between that research and buying mode. That’s why a lot of our clients who have products, we encourage them and build an Amazon page and promote them almost more aggressively on Amazon than doing regular PPC around a product because it’s cheaper and it’s a higher conversion rate.
Andrew: Let’s go through the sales process a little more in depth. Do you have a little extra time? I know we’ve gone over time here.
Nick: No, I’m good.
Andrew: Okay. Good. So, the first thing you do is you go and find an audience. It’s either you speaking somewhere else–and I imagine when you’re speaking somewhere else, you’re sending out the kind of email you sent to me, right? Actually let’s read that email.
Nick: Yeah. Let’s do it.
Andrew: “Hey, Andrew, I’m a big fan of Mixergy and I have to say your episode with Mary Lynn Schroeder was awesome and one of my favorites. After listening to your show more and more, I thought to myself I may be able to provide some value to your listeners. I started my first company because I got fired from being too entrepreneurial and went from having a six-figure job with no college degree to zero bucks a month. Then I decided to start my own business and within less than a year was making over triple what I was.”
This is you giving me your background. You also saying, “I developed a growth hacking academy called Second Flight Academy and during the eight-week program we completely dissect students’ buyer persona, etc.” I don’t think in this email you said what your revenues were, but someone on my team fired back an email and got a couple of more pieces of information including your revenue and then we invited you to do this interview.
You are not a huge Mixergy fan, right? It’s fair to say.
Nick: Yeah. I’ve listened to several episodes.
Andrew: Oh, you have? I imagine that this was research. That you said, “I think we should be on Mixergy because it’s targeting entrepreneurs who have businesses. Let me go and look up a couple of things.” You looked up Mary Lynn Schroeder, right? That’s pretty clever stuff.
Nick: So, one of the things that we teach in the growth hacking academy are ways, again, from learning when I was an early teenager, the beauty of artificial intelligence and building automation scripts to help amplify your strategies. I actually custom created a script that could pull based around certain keywords and pull data from people’s podcast sites.
Andrew: So, did you pull data from my site that told you that Mary Lynn Schroeder is the one to talk about?
Andrew: What data would you go for? Frankly, it was kind of random for you to go to Mary Lynn Schroeder. She made leather journals.
Nick: So, at that time, one of the things I wanted to do–if you look at the time of that email and that time the episode launched, that was your most recent episode.
Andrew: I see. So, you were looking at what the most recent was. Is it fair to say that you didn’t listen to that one? It’s okay.
Nick: I’ll be honest. Yeah. It was all the marketing system that I created that if there were 200 business podcasts and they all identified as one I wanted to be on, I setup my program that I was like okay, it’s going to target each one of these, the most recent episode, highlight on certain areas where it gives it enough substance where someone like yourself, you’re like, “He did some homework. It’s not a complete canned email.” It opens up the door of discussion.
To give you a little insight, on that campaign, when I launched it, within a week’s period, I got, I think 100 podcasts that we just tested it out. Within that 30-day window, we actually got booked for 30 podcasts, one of which is actually some other big ones such as Entrepreneur on Fire, The Eventual Millionaire.
So, for what we wanted to do with how it’s setup, like if we went through the VA route, a VA with the hours, it would have cost us between all the data research and writing the emails maybe like $100. But this was literally all free and we could just keep replicating it.
Andrew: What’s the software you use to scrape?
Nick: I actually custom-created a script.
Andrew: You wrote it yourself.
Andrew: In what?
Andrew: Into what?
Nick: Did you ever hear of iMacros?
Andrew: It’s just a Mac macro thing, right?
Nick: It runs though Firefox.
Andrew: I’m not that deep into it. It sounds familiar, iMacros.
Nick: Yeah. So, it would run through iMacros and then we pulled from a podcast directory and grabbed all the information from there.
Andrew: And then once someone responds like we did asking a question, then it’s you or someone on your team who replies back.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. So, now you get on here or on other people’s podcasts or into a meetup and I imagine you have something similar at the end of it. What’s your goal? What’s the ask?
Nick: The ask for a podcast is, again, sharing the thought leadership I have on a subject and just simply bringing them to either a webinar or doing something inviting their potential audience to explore doing a growth hacking session.
Andrew: A one on one growth hacking session?
Andrew: You would say, “If anyone in the audience wants to do a growth hacking session, they can go to my site and they can book a time with me.” You make it pretty easy on your site for people to book time with you.
Andrew: Okay. Then on the call, what’s the outline that you go through?
Nick: The outline is 80% explaining every little thing about their business. I ask a lot of questions. I really want to learn more about them, their entrepreneurial journey.
Andrew: What are the questions?
Nick: A lot of the questions would be revolving around who is your buyer’s persona or what is your buyer’s persona. Then we start from there. Honestly, every single person that we speak with, they don’t really know the emotional needs.
They don’t know what really keeps their customer up at night. They don’t know what the core values of the customer are. They just know, “When we do our digital marketing, we base it around age and gender and maybe a few interests. But we really don’t build a funnel system of a tier of age, interest, interest and then maybe a buying habit and then funnel it down to only those people.”
They don’t look at it like that. They just take it very service level. Then we really educate and say, “We need to identify who this person is.” From there, when you build that DNA and foundation, you’re able to identify–go ahead.
Andrew: On the call, you ask them about that. What else do you do? You tell them, “Here’s what you need. You need to go deeper. You need to get more data.” Okay. That’s the teach but also the sell. Teach but also heighten their awareness of the problem they have so they want to buy from you. What else do you do on that call?
Nick: From there, we identify and kind of run through a little bit of an audit of what they’re currently doing. If that matches what we’ve discovered, does that match what your buyer’s persona will actually do.
Nick: So, a lot of times they would be like, “We tried focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest.” Then when we look back into buyers persona, it would be like looking back who your real audience is, which platform do you actually think they’ll be on the most considering the type of personality they are. They’ll be like, “They’ll probably only be on Instagram because they’re more visual-type of people.” Then we’re like, “Okay, based around your buyer’s persona, who are the influencers in this niche that we could leverage.”
Andrew: I see. And now through this, what I’m noticing is that you’re teaching them your process, but at some point, this call that started out as a free coaching call has to turn into a sales call. How do you spin it in to a sale?
Nick: So, the way we kind of start spinning it, it’s kind of interesting. It almost naturally spins because we’re getting so much information. We’re not talking about how to implement it yet. We’re just opening and broadening the horizon of what they’re doing and starting to see, “Here’s my solution. Then it turns into, “How can I start taking advantage of this. What do I need to do?”
When that kind of question comes back at us, that’s where we’re like, “Okay, there are two options you can do. You can try learning this yourself or you can hire an agency. If you decide to do that, you’re going to run into what we experience. You’re going to run into a lot of hours and trials and tribulation. If you hire an agency but you still don’t know exactly what works for you, you’re relying on them to understand it for you when they don’t have that same passion and industry experience.”
Andrew: So, you just taught them this. You’ve gone through this process. You helped them understand what they need. You taught them a little bit about it. At the end you say, “My big advice for you is you can either do this on your own or you can hire an agency or you can learn from one of these course where it’s nothing but videos or you can come to this program we have and we only let a few people in and I can talk with you one on one and we can go through this.” I see. That’s the sell. If they’re interested, they buy right away?
Nick: Yeah. They buy right away.
Andrew: If not, what’s your follow up?
Nick: If they don’t, if they’re like, “Hey, I want to think about it or, I want to consider it,” of course being a natural sales person, I ask three rebuttal kind of questions to gauge what the root of the problem is. A lot of times it’s maybe just they want to think about it a little bit more. I leverage my students almost to act as the real sales people, where I want to get to the point where I don’t want to feel like a high-pressured person.
Andrew: How does a student come in and make the sale?
Nick: So, the way the student comes in and makes the sale is if I can’t get them on the hook, I ask them, “Hey, listen, there’s a student that has the same exact story that you have that I’d love to introduce you to and I think it will help gauge your confidence and how this can be a benefit to you. Would you mind if I connect you two together?”
Nick: They’re always down for a real life actual speaking testimonial. So, I’ll introduce it to the student and the student will pretty much completely sell the actual program, will actually talk about, “You should do it. I learned this. I learned that.”
Andrew: How do you know that the student is going to know what to say?
Nick: When the academy ends, I ask them, “How was your experience?” And kind of do like a–what’s it called? There’s a specific word for this–a Net Promoter Score. There you go. I’ll do like a Net Promoter Score with them, like, “How was your experience?” If they didn’t get everything they got out of it, then I’ll be like, “All right. Let’s spend another few more weeks, complimentary if you feel like you need to cover these areas.” So, I always want to make sure–
Andrew: I see. And then if they have it and they feel appreciative, then you ask them to talk to future students.
Andrew: You also said–I want to go back to the top of this funnel–you told Brian Benson, the producer who worked with you, that one of the things you do is you target influencers and meetup groups. You also go to LinkedIn groups. What are you doing for LinkedIn groups?
Nick: LinkedIn groups actually was one of the, I would say, catapults to our growth which offered no money as far as ad spend and I identified that there are some groups out there with thousands of people that follow it. The organizer of the group is like the almighty key holder. They have the ability to blast all the high quality people. They can do a lot of cool stuff.
Often times these group owners, they got their growth just by pure luck or they just had the right key words and certain people started following it and they had some good contributors, they added good content and it just kind of took its own route.
A lot of times I noticed that LinkedIn group guys, especially niches, let’s say chiropractors or anything outside of marketing because most marketers are savvy enough to really identify how to make money of their audiences. But I identified with them pretty much simply saying, “You have this audience here. What are you doing to make money off what you’ve built?” Often times, they don’t have a way to monetize the group.
Andrew: I see. So, you do a webinar for their people with them and they get a commission.
Nick: Yeah. So, they’ll get a commission from it. I’ll simply give them my credentials, invite them to a webinar, maybe even do a complimentary session with them to talk about how they can monetize their LinkedIn group.
Andrew: This is a lot of time, how many hours a week are you spending?
Nick: From the beginning, it was like nonstop. It was completely nonstop. Now that we have our whole cycle of onboarding students for the next enrollment period, it gives that cushion of like, “I don’t need to be completely under the gun or I don’t need to be at my wedding and not thinking about handling this stuff.”
Andrew: Let me ask you about one another topic. Sorry. We’re really going over here. But it’s important. Brian in the pre-interview asked you about what you would teach entrepreneurs and you gave him a couple of different things, including buyer’s persona. You also said you’d teach how to find your customers’ pain. What’s your process for finding your customers’ pain?
Nick: Two areas. One is the most obvious which most people forget to do–simply by asking them. For instance, if someone is buying, let’s say you have a service based business. Maybe you’re a therapist. A therapist is easy but let’s say a personal trainer or you offer a product based around skincare. If you have a product that offers things around moisturizers or skincare, there’s something maybe happening in that person’s life that maybe they’re looking at your product to be like, “Hey, I need this because there’s this blemish on my face and I feel embarrassed to walk outside the house.”
That’s the kind of stuff you want to extract. You don’t want to be like, “People buy my moisturizer because they like it.” You want to find out, “People buy my moisturizer because maybe it helps them feel more confident because they don’t feel too confident right now.”
Andrew: Why don’t we talk in specifics? How do you find your customers’ pain?
Nick: I ask them.
Andrew: You just say, “What’s your biggest pain?”
Nick: Sometimes they’re not as open, but when you start identifying, “What are your current marketing objectives? How has that been? If you had to scale from one to ten how satisfied you are, give a number and why isn’t it a ten? What’s holding you back? What’s your biggest fear if you spend $5,000 on a marketing plan and it doesn’t work, how does that make you feel? Your current plan hasn’t been doing well, what kind of strain has that put to you personally and your business?”
Often times, especially when it comes to marketing, it’s kind of like doing your own little business. You can think you have the greatest idea and then you do it and then the results aren’t really good and that can put a major hit to someone’s ego and personal feelings on their own strengths on themselves as a business owner if they thought and idea they thought would work doesn’t turn out that well. I know a lot of times the business owners that we worked with that wanted to get into digital advertising, they’ll say, “I did Google ads. I spend $5,000 and I didn’t get anything.”
Andrew: How does knowing that pain help you, that they spent $5,000 and didn’t get anything?
Nick: Well, knowing that pain helps me by identifying they are willing to spend a certain dollar amount on things that didn’t work. If we can identify how to make it work, then they’ll pay that two-fold.
Andrew: I see.
Nick: Then the other area is identifying what really is the thing that–for instance, if their pain wasn’t a pain, they would continue doing it and doing it very, very well. So, it’s almost like whatever their pain is, it’s something they want to achieve. Me understanding what’s your pain, “I spend 20 hours a week writing blogs but I don’t get anyone to look at it. It makes me feel like I’m wasting time and it’s not even worth my time, but I really want to spread this message out.”
So, the pain is the neglect they feel that they’re not receiving all the time and attention on all the hard work they’re putting in. If can identify like, “All right, that’s their pain. Let’s figure out a way to not only alleviate their pain, but show how we can make it work,” then in their head and mentally, they’re like, “This is everything I wanted because ultimately I wanted to do this but I wasn’t able to.”
Andrew: Okay. And now you know what they want so badly that they would be willing to work with you to get.
Andrew: All right. I want to tell people–by the way, earlier the reason it took me longer to get back on camera after that sneeze, it took me longer than expected because this package came in and I thought, “Why don’t I open it up with you here on camera?” I was thinking about doing it earlier, but let’s do it real quick here.
Nick: Let’s see it, a live unboxing.
Andrew: I know who this is from. Saxx Underwear sent to me–Saxx is one of the early Mixergy interviewees, this guy in college decided he wanted to make new underwear and he started making it himself or he teamed up with someone who was going to sew it up. At first, it was just a big mess. Anyway, it’s not from him.
It’s from Noah Kagan. I had dinner with him and somehow it came up that he sent me underwear after a past interview and I said thank you. And he said, “There’s this better pair and it’s Saxx.” I said, “All right. Interesting.” He said, “I’ll send you a pair.” Noah Kagan, thank you. Thanks for sending me underwear. That was one of the most interesting things. It’s a good thing I opened this up myself.
Nick: Reading Noah, who I’m a big fan of, I don’t expect any other type of gift. That’s completely a Noah gift.
Andrew: Who else would send underwear over? Thank you for doing this interview. Let me close it out by telling people where to go if they want to follow up with you. The website I’m imagining that you want them to go check out is SecondFlightAcademy.com, right?
Nick: Totally. Please check it out.
Andrew: Cool. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. If you got anything of value, please come back, let me know. If you didn’t, frankly also come back and let me know. I’m going to thank my two sponsors. If you need a developer, go check out Toptal.com/Mixergy and of course if you need to host a website, whether it’s one you already have or a new one, you should go check out and sign up for HostGator.com/Mixergy.
Finally, if you haven’t yet joined the podcast, please subscribe to the podcast, you’ll get every single episode directly delivered to your phone or mobile device. If you already have subscribed, please, take you friend’s phone and subscribe them. They will thank you because now they’re going to be both entertained and they’re going to be informed and they’re going to learn how to build businesses and they’re going to thank you for introducing them to Mixergy.
Grab their phone. They don’t know how to sign up for podcast, chances are. Say, “Let me blow your mind,” and sign them up to Mixergy and maybe a couple of others you think they’d like, but recommend Mixergy. I appreciate you for doing that.
Thank you so much for being on here, Nick.
Nick: No problem, man, thank you.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.