Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I’m actually recording this interview live. It is part of my day of interviews with YEC members. I’ve been fascinated by that organization since the beginning. I think I joined, everyone says day one, it seems like, I think I joined week one, maybe not day one, but I’ve been with them. I’ve known them for a long time. I admired them much more so as the years have gone on, than I even did realize their significance when they got started. And so, I wanted to interview some entrepreneurs who are part of that organization.
Joining me is someone whose brother was on here already. He was the co-founder of Trainual. And I was fascinated by how the business started as a service company that helped businesses that had chaos organize themselves. And I remember how chaotic my interview program was. We weren’t following up with guests properly. We weren’t booking guests properly. We weren’t doing anything in an organized way. It was always just like, “I know how to do this. I’ll figure it out.” And then sometimes, we just dropped the ball, like, not follow through with a guest who we recorded an interview on because there was no process.
Anyway, I was fascinated that Chris Ronzio, today’s guest’s brother and co-founder, created an agency that actually did that for companies. And I wish I’d known about it when I was in chaos. But from a business point of view, the more interesting thing that he did was he said, “You know, I’m actually going to create a software company with my brother that will manage the chaos for people.”
And so, I’ve never met Chris in person, but I did meet Jonathan Ronzio in person in Bali. We went for a run together. We then threw our shirts and shoes off, and we jumped into the water together, which was fantastic. And I’ve gotten to know him and I invited him here to find out how he is building and how he co-founded Trainual.
Trainual is a company and software that helps growing businesses organize the chaos of onboard and training. We can do this thanks to two phenomenal companies that we have both used. The first, if you’re sending out email, you’ve got to find out about ActiveCampaign. And the second, if you’re doing any kind of leads, collection sales online, ClickFunnels will change your life. Well, it’s obviously called ClickFunnels. I said it. Jonathan, good to have you here.
Jonathan: Good to be here, Andrew. Good to see you again.
Andrew: Same here. Where’s the revenue now? How much revenue are you guys producing with your software company?
Jonathan: Yeah. So, I think when you chatted with Chris, back in, at the end of May, maybe early June, we’d just been approaching the two million ARR mark. So, we’ve grown about 27% since then. We’re around 2.6 now.
Andrew: Two point six million in sales?
Andrew: I’m looking at the producer notes. The first time our producer talked to him, he said it was at a million in sales. What are you guys doing? It’s grown so much.
Jonathan: We’re growing crazy fast. It’s been amazing. A lot . . .
Andrew: Is it all those, like, Instagram videos, things that you guys are shooting? And my goal for this interview is to find out how you came into the picture. I also want to find out a little bit more about your adventure athlete experience, your marketing experience before, and then find out what you’re doing to grow the business. Is it these videos that you guys are doing, those ads that are growing?
Jonathan: Backbone of our growth. For sure. You know, 70% plus of our audience acquisition is through our advertising on social media.
Andrew: And what does it look like? What’s in the ads that are running right now?
Jonathan: All sorts of things. It depends on if we’re talking about, like, a cold audience or a remarketing audience. But I mean, it’s a span of whether . . . It might be a 15-second Instagram story of just my brother and I walking down the street talking about like, do you need to clone your people or your processes? Because, like, my brother actually used to always, before we were working together, he would give me, like, personality tests to take so that he could figure out, like, how I worked and try to hire people like me, because we worked so well together, while I was growing up in the video production company. And then I went off and did my adventure thing. And he did the consulting thing. And he kept trying to pull me into it and Trainual was the way that we ended up getting back together.
But we joked about how he was always trying to clone me. And so, we realized what the, you know, utility of Trainual really did was, like, allow you to, not clone people, but clone how people work and the process around that. And so, you know, there’s a 15-second Insta story of us talking about that. And, you know, we get customers off of that on a swipe up.
Andrew: And then what is it? It’s swipe up if you want this and then people fill in a form. And do they buy it right away?
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, more than 90% of our acquisition is touchless sales. We don’t have an outbound team.
Andrew: There’s no set of emails that goes out before people buy?
Jonathan: No. There’s an onboarding sequence when people start a trial and we have a mailing list and there’s . . .
Andrew: Is there a credit card based trial?
Jonathan: Yeah. You can give a credit card upfront.
Andrew: I could have sworn . . . So, I actually saw your ad on Instagram one time. I bookmarked it. And now, I don’t even know where the bookmarks are and I should go back and see it. But it was like that. I was shocked. I thought maybe because you guys tagged me somehow, I was taken directly into the credit card trial. No.
Jonathan: No. I mean, that’s just what it is.
Andrew: And this is what’s working for you guys right now? The majority of your customers are coming from that?
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, that’s just one form of an ad. There’s a lot of stuff that’s, like, a lot of social proof, in terms of customer testimonials. And we have stuff for remarketing, who may have renewed our website and not jumped into to start a plan, that they start seeing more of the value prop around the time and cost savings that you could save as a business owner around onboarding, and training, and seeing product specs, and things like that, app screenshots. But, you know . . .
Andrew: All that comes in the same social media apps that you use to get cold traffic. So, I might on Instagram, see a set of ads that say, “Here are the features of Trainual”?
Jonathan: Less so on Instagram. Instagram, it’s more just a person, you know, real person content. And Facebook is more of that. And we do a little bit on LinkedIn. And then we have our Google branded search terms. But, yeah, I mean, Facebook and Instagram are main acquisition channels.
Andrew: Does it suck that you guys bought ads with me and I failed you, the ads didn’t work?
Jonathan: No, that’s fine.
Andrew: It sucks for me. I’m so bothered by that.
Jonathan: I learned just as much from the ads that don’t work as the ads that work. Right?
Andrew: What do you learn from that? The fact that you bought an ad with me, it didn’t work, what can you possibly take from that? Podcasting doesn’t work, not even.
Jonathan: What? Podcasting doesn’t work? What are you talking about?
Andrew: No, I mean, like, I was trying to come up with a lesson from that? What could you learn from an ad that doesn’t work like that?
Jonathan: I mean, “Why didn’t you buy? But let’s talk through this.”
Andrew: Oh, you mean, you . . . ? Not me. I mean, you check with the audience who go through to understand why they didn’t buy?
Jonathan: No, I just kind of ask you and poke into it. But if I’m looking at the analytics around that . . . Like, I mean, if an ad’s not working, that’s okay. It might be the context or the copy. It might be the creative. It might be that people are tired of seeing my brother and I’s face and they want to see, you know, some of our customers say things. It might be that, you know, the audience optimization got stale. We do a lot of retargeting or we do a lot of optimization around our, like, look-alikes of existing customers. So, there’s all sorts of signals that I can pull from the actual analytics dashboard of our ads.
Andrew: I see. By the way, I put a credit card into the site, that’s why I was surprised that you’re asking me specifically. But you mean in general, you just check in to see why didn’t people buy? What didn’t they do when they were going through the process?
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean . . .
Andrew: It’s you doing it. You’re super into it from what I can tell. We were running and I said, “I don’t know how to buy ads for a podcast. It seems really tough.” And you said, “Well, here are some of the things that I tried.” And it seemed like you are the one who was masterminding the ad buys. Are you?
Andrew: You are.
Jonathan: I have been behind all that since the beginning.
Andrew: And where are you learning how to do it?
Jonathan: It’s experimentation. I didn’t take a Facebook ads class. I didn’t, you know, sign up for a course. Nobody taught me. It was just more or less just always having that kind of, I guess, aptitude to just dig in and figure it out.
Andrew: You know, I’m trying to understand where in your background, you would even have that passion for it. And I guess that you did some online marketing. But you were the athlete in the family, right?
Jonathan: Growing up, no.
Jonathan: It’s funny. I am now. And my brother has gotten back into it, actually. He’s training for a Half Ironman at the end of October, I think. And I just actually did my first ultramarathon this past Sunday. So, I’m glad I’m sitting right now. My legs are still a little sore. How long was it? Fifty K, so 31 miles. A trail up in New Hampshire is about 4,800 elevation.
Andrew: Wow. And for people who don’t know, a regular marathon is 26 miles. So, you went beyond that, five extra miles. Right?
Jonathan: Yep. So, again, growing up, I was not the athlete. I mean, Chris was on all the traveling sports, all-star teams. He was basketball, football, baseball. He was, like, starting point guard on the varsity basketball team. And I was like the kid who played guitar and skateboarded.
Andrew: And then, at some point, you got into it. Was it after you two started shooting video of other athletes, of cheerleaders?
Jonathan: No. It didn’t coincide with the video company. It was really that I studied abroad in New Zealand. And when I was there, I got addicted to, like, all things adventure, adrenaline sports. And then when I came back, the whole trajectory of my life changed. And I just looked through everything through the lens of how much, you know, life could be an adventure and just started pursuing more of that and getting really into climbing and, you know, mountaineering, and it just kept progressing. And I actually had moved out to Aspen, Colorado after that. And really started leaning into snowboard mountaineering, and rock climbing, and ice climbing, and just kept setting bigger and bigger goals. But it was the mountains that, like, turned me into an athlete.
Andrew: For me, it was getting away from work. I did nothing but work. And then when I found when I went running, there was no way for me to work. You can’t really pull out a phone and start working while you’re running. And then it cleared my mind. And it made me feel really optimistic in a way that’s just chemical-based. And then I felt, “All right, if I could run three miles and I never could even run a mile before, then I could do anything at work.” Let’s just go back in and just get back into what I wanted to do without the sense of failure, which I was going through when I discovered running.
Andrew: You and your brother got into business together, was it in that video company?
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, if we’re going way back, he was like 14 and then he started going down to the cable access studio, and taking out cameras, and went to the high school, and just asked them if he could, like, film the upcoming cheerleading competition, and try to sell videos from that.
Andrew: To the parents of the cheerleaders?
Jonathan: Yeah, to the parents and coaches. It was, like, a state cheerleading competition and Franklin, Mass. And, you know, me at that time, he’s three years older, so I was 11 years old. So, I wasn’t, like, a mastermind co-founder of the video business at all. You know, I was just a kid that wanted to do everything my brother was doing. And he would go and get the footage, and then bring it back. And then I would just be sitting in the basement with him, kind of learning about editing, learning about production.
When the film was ready, like, I’d be sitting there helping, like, duplicate VHS tapes and then package them up, and go down to the post office. And so, like, just kind of learning the ins and outs of the operation for a few years. And then when I was old enough to, like, actually be on-site and not look like he was going to get fined for, like, breaking labor laws, I would go and start . . . Like, with my passion and background in music production, I knew a lot of just, like, how to run cables and how to set up the audio and how to, you know, do the backend technical side of audio-video production.
And so, then I started getting really into basically being on-site production manager and then editing the videos. It’s like an expanded from . . . So, always just event video but, you know, amateur sporting events, whether cheer, or dance, or ice skating. And U.S. Figure Skating was one of our biggest clients. And that’s actually how both of us met our current wives, they’re figure skaters.
But, you know, that’s how things progressed. Like, you know, from our basement copying VHS tapes to doing more and more cheer dance, skating stuff around the country and all through, you know, high school and college. And then basically, it was like 2011, and smartphones were becoming a thing, and people were filming more in the stands, and not buying the videos. And we were seeing a profitability decline. And my brother had already moved to Arizona, at that point. And I was graduating college and we were both kind of tired of it. And so, at that point, basically, you know, sold the company and I went and moved to the mountains, and he started consulting.
Andrew: What did you guys sell the company for?
Jonathan: He basically liquidated a lot of the assets that we had with three . . .
Andrew: The cameras, stuff like that?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, cameras and we had three offices around the country, Beverly Hills, and Dublin, Ohio and Beverly, Massachusetts. And then sold some of our major accounts to competitors that continued to this day.
Andrew: So, got it. He had such a great interview with me and I’m fascinated by systemizing because I see how much it helped our company, that I asked him, “Could you come back and just teach how to systemize?” And he did a whole masterclass for us. People can go watch it at mixergy.com/more. One of the things that stood out for me was how you guys failed because there was no order at one point in this company. And he decided, “We’re going to have to systemize right here right now, otherwise, this company doesn’t grow.” And so, he got into systemizing. I guess, was it your thing too? Were you somebody who saw that religion at that point?
Jonathan: I wouldn’t call it a religion, for me. You know, I was involved in that, of course. Like, right after college, before I moved to Colorado, I went out and just did a summer in LA. And during that time, we were kind of pivoting out and closing down the Beverly Hills Office. But during that summer is when I really started, like, what does it look like to be a production manager for our company, no matter what event you’re at? Like, what does it look like to be a [inaudible 00:13:44] or somebody who’s sitting at the desk taking orders?
And that’s when I built out these production kits that had, like . . . Literally, we’d send them to every single event and we had, you know, freelance contractors in all these different states where the events would happen. And I had just Pelican kits with, like . . . There’d be a printed checklist and a Pelican case. And then you’d open the case and you’d have, like, your mixer, and your camera, and your power and, like, you know, three different polos with different sizes, and lanyards.
And so, really, like, that I spearheaded the systemization of the brand look as the experience felt on site. So, I’ve been involved in it, of course. But I mean, my brother is really, like, the passionate systems and process guy. I’m more of the, I guess, impulsive, creative guy. Like, process is not my first nature. But that’s been an interesting side of building Trainual too is that he is the person that is, like, totally systemized standard operating procedures, policies, and processes . . .
Andrew: For everything?
Jonathan: He’s just really into building that out. He gets excited to dive in and kind of write all that content. Whereas, for me, it was a struggle to, like, that’s not my natural state. You know, you were talking to Ben before I jumped on here. And he was mentioning, like, when he’s kind of, like, a one-person team and doesn’t know when to, like, scale beyond himself. And for me, that’s how it was for a long time with the adventure that I did and the content I was creating, and the freelance stuff I was doing between the video company and Trainual. And so, process was not my second nature to learn how and what to delegate. And having that perspective and building this product has allowed us to make something that’s accessible to both the systems obsessed entrepreneur and somebody who can just, like, you know, record on us on a built-in screen recorder and just talk through, like, “Here’s how to do, like, this,” and just record what’s happening.
Andrew: Yeah. You’re saying that’s how Trainual works, that even somebody who’s not super into writing down systems can go in and have this system documented.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s how it works for me. I can jump on a video and talk through anything. I so much prefer having a conversation like this or, like, getting a phone call than actually replying to email. And that’s the same way with, like, you know, training my team. I way prefer to just do a screen recording or a video chat, and just record it, and embed it into our system instead of actually sitting there and documenting every single step. Like, that’s just not my nature.
Andrew: For me, I learned about systems in college. It was one of the few college classes that actually stuck with me. An entrepreneurship class where I was told that I needed to read Michael Gerber’s book, “The E-Myth Revisited.” And it all made sense. And then I started doing it in my company. And to this day, I remember there was a . . . Business travel always caused me anxiety, I was worried I’d leave something behind. It was too much time to pack. And then someone who I worked with said, “I’m going to create your first checklist for your travel.” And I’ve edited that checklist over the years, but the original checklist, through all those edits, still survives with me. I have no sweat now traveling, and picking up, and making sure that everything’s with me.
And I keep thinking about that. It helps me personally, even when I’m not working with someone else. It’s lived for years, even though it keeps changing. And I want that for my company, for everything. I want us all to be systemized like that. Kind of bothers me that for this event, even though we have a full system and a checklist, and all that, we left out asking the guests for their phone number. So, now I’m going to go back in and make sure that that is hardcoded into the way that we work. I wouldn’t know your phone number if you didn’t show up. I hate that.
Jonathan: I know. I mean, just doing it. Like, you learn as you go. You iterate as you go. You had your packing process and, like, you know, you didn’t have it totally dialed in, you change and optimize as you go. I guess, I’m kind of in the middle there of, like, needing a checklist or wanting to have a checklist, but also, like, I just am of the mentality all the time. It’s how I approach Facebook ads that we talked about. It’s just like jump in and figure it out.
Andrew: And just keep iterating. For me, it’s jump and figure it out, write it down, and then see if I can show it to somebody else, and get some insight, and adjust, and then eventually, give that whole checklist to someone else so that I can try something different. So, you were working on exploreinspired.com. Is that when you got started with it?
Jonathan: Explore Inspired. Yeah. So, when my brother started the consulting company and I was, you know, just got out of college and kind of the video company was no more, I was thinking what’s next. I came up with an idea to do a documentary film project to lean into like, okay, I have this background in, like, video production, a passion for adventure travel, and climbing, and I studied marketing in school. And I kind of feel, like, intuitively good at that.
And so, I just combined those things into a project called “Between The Peaks.” And it was a concept to go down to South America and climb the tallest mountain in South America, and then travel north up the Pan American, and volunteer in every country until we got to Denali to climb the tallest mountain in North America. And it was between the peaks.
And so, actually, I was in Colorado for a little over a year, just training and kind of building logistically what this project looked like, how we were going to pull it off. It was me and two friends, and starting to build connections with some sponsors that would get behind us and give us some free gear promotion. Nobody really backed it financially. But then after a year in Aspen, as a bartender and snowboard instructor, building this, like, idea on the side, left on a one-way ticket for Chile, just after New Year’s 2013, and spent four-and-a-half months on the road actually shooting “Between The Peaks” and . . .
Andrew: Because you were documenting it. You’re going to create a documentary about how you did all this?
Jonathan: Yeah. So, made the film and actually came back, like, bearded, broke, and dirty. And, like, mid-2013, had maxed out all my credit cards and, you know, I didn’t have a job, and had 50 hours’ worth of footage to create. And actually, we hadn’t made it all the way to Denali. We ran out of money and got stuck and, like, all sorts of crap happened along the way.
But I came back with something, a story to tell. And then, you know, I got a job at an agency, just doing marketing around Boston and then transitioned out of that, made them actually a client of mine fairly soon after to just, like, you know, dial down. Like, “Here are the main things that I was running for you. Like, I can’t deal with this life in a cubicle. It’s not for me.” Like, it was a band-aid for the time. But actually, they were amazing client for many years after that. And I continued to get other clients in the marketing space to fund what I was doing and eventually put the film out almost two years later.
Andrew: Did you put the film out?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, “Between The Peaks,” I mean, it’s live free on YouTube now. I think it’s still on Amazon Prime. It was distributed internationally. Like, we won some awards at a film festival. It was an amazing experience. When I was putting it out, there was, again, no company that was, like, financially backing the film or, like, presenting as a presenting sponsor, right? So, I just was like, “Well, something’s got . . . ” Like, I just came up with Explore Inspired as like, “Well, I’m going to back it. This is my company now.”
And so, I put “Explore Inspired presents.” And then, to backtrack from there, I was like, “Well, if somebody sees Explore Inspired presents this film, and the Google Explore Inspired, then what are they going to see. And so, then I built a website and wrote, like, 10 blog blogs and, you know, backdated them. So, it looked like there was content already there. And the first blog that they got too was like the behind the scenes of the “Between The Peaks” adventure. And then I put, like, a Services tab for doing, like, advertising, and brand media, and film work. And that was, like, the start of Explore Inspired, started with, like, building off the back of the credibility and the reach that “Between The Peaks” got.
Andrew: And eventually, you became a guy who was running a digital media company, a digital media agency?
Jonathan: Yeah. Basically, I mean, I did the digital nomad life for a little while, just like traveling, and climbing, and making films, and working with brands, and doing content, and photography, and blogging, and all that.
Andrew: What about the documentary you didn’t finish? What was that going to be about?
Jonathan: So, I mean, “Between The Peaks” as it is, the part that’s out, it ends with myself and two of our friends in Guatemala just out of money, couldn’t continue on, so we had to call the trip. And so, we didn’t complete it. And that was hard. But you know what? There was a lot of different moments of that trip that were really hard that forced me into, you know . . . Like, I didn’t even make the first mountain. We went to climb these two mountains and my two friends got to the top, and I had to turn around 1,200 feet short. I fell on my knees with symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema. I was like, you know, really in a bad situation and had to turn around. So, a lot didn’t work out. But there was still a really emotional story to be told and a lot to learn from.
So, I put that part of the film out. I just wanted to get it into the world. But Denali went unfinished. And so, for years, you know, life got in the way and these two guys, one was in New York working in engineering and one went to Colorado, was working in sales. And it’s hard to convince your friends to quit their jobs to go climb mountains with you, I’ve found. And we did though. In 2017, we went back to Denali and, you know, a few years later, we attempted it. We put it all back together and we got there, and this time around, again, it just didn’t go to plan. It didn’t work out due to team factors, due to weather, high on the mountain, being way too gnarly.
Andrew: So, how do you feel about that? You and I when we were running, you told me about how your dad had on this screensaver growing up. What was the phrase?
Jonathan: I can’t believe you remembered that. Yeah, it was, “Do it now and finish.”
Andrew: I think about that all the time.
Jonathan: Me too.
Andrew: I think we need to have a phrase like that for the family, that it’s just impregnated in their brains. So, as someone who has that, do it now and finish mentality, how was it to not be able to complete it?
Jonathan: It’s hard. But, you know, I don’t know. I think, like, the do it now side of things, my brother and I both have that, in that, we have this obsessive-compulsive need to act on an idea. And I think that’s why we’re able to move fast in whatever we do and be agile in our marketing, or advertising, or just, like, our ideas. And I can’t tell you how many, like, logos and domains I have spin up from would-be business ideas just because, like, soon as you get the idea, you act on it, right, and then put it out and tell it to the world. And I’m just always of that mindset.
As far as the finished side of things, yeah, it’s tough. Like, I dedicated two years of planning, before even going to Argentina, and then didn’t make the first mountain, and then didn’t complete the trip. And then dedicated . . . You know, and then that film in itself, like, the first part of it was really almost four years of work. And then another three years of trying to make the second part of it happen, to then get there after, like, a really intensive training, like, to lead an expedition, a splitboard expedition up Denali. And get there and be two weeks on the mountain, and not succeed again. And come back and like . . .
So, I think the conversation you and I had was like, I was and still am struggling with, like, “You know, this trip was now two years ago, do I put this out as, like, its own thing to, like, talk about, you know, our trip to Denali and, like, continue the story of “Between The Peaks,” even though we didn’t get to the top?” Or do I sit on it and try to go back in another few years and do a more comprehensive human story of like, “Here’s this journey of these kids from 22 years old to 33 or whatever,” and, like, everything that’s changed in their lives and hopefully get the summit, at that point. Like, I still struggle with how to tell this story, but it’s such an incredible . . . such important part of my life.
Andrew: Because you don’t have the [medium 00:25:46] from it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I had no answer for you. And then I realized something for myself, that I also like to finish things and to, like, have the win at the end. I’ve been doing this now for 10 years because I’m really good at being consistent. And I thought, before I started my seven marathon quest for this year, there was a big part of me that said, “What if I fail at it, if I don’t do it? And I wasn’t going to do it. And then when I decided, “I have to do it,” I said, “I’m not going to talk about it because if I fail to finish, then I’m going to look like a chump. And it’s one more thing that I did not finish.”
And then that kind of took me back to one of my big pains growing up was that I didn’t have the guts to talk to girls growing up. So, I wouldn’t go in and do it. And the reason I didn’t have the guts to do it is not because I didn’t know how to talk to them, it was because I was afraid of what if someone saw that I couldn’t, like, have a good conversation, that I couldn’t ask them out, that they weren’t interested in me. What if someone saw that I failed? It was literally the word failed.
And I realized that because of that, I didn’t even try. And I don’t think of myself as someone who’s too much of a wuss to try, but I was. And I realized that there are times in my life where I don’t recognize that I’m too much of a wuss to try. And it always goes back to I’m afraid of not completing. And I’ve realized for myself, I have to be okay with not completing. And that I have to be okay saying, “I did this and I didn’t complete.”
Now, this has nothing to do with you. But I had to recognize myself in your story. And recognize that that is something that I have to be okay with. And otherwise, I’m not going to try it. I tried to be student body president at Brooklyn Tech growing up, I completely failed. I came in fourth. But I always felt proud because I stood up and said I want to do it. And then I stood up and told people to vote for me. And it’s one of the best proudest times of my childhood that I did it, even though I completely failed.
Jonathan: Right. But you know what? It has everything to do with me and it has everything to do with anybody else. And that’s what I’ve learned is that, the do it now, you can do that. You can take immediate action. The finished side of things is an aspirational mindset. That is, it’s an amazing quality to chase, to be trying to finish whatever you start. But what I’ve learned is that failure is human. And actually, there’s strength. There’s incredible strength in failure. And that really humanizes your story more than any success. Right?
Like, if I go and speak to any company about, like, you know, mountaineering and I talk about what happened on Aconcagua and, how you know, I did not make the summit there, and, you know, could have honestly died. And how that was one of the hardest moments of my life to turn around after spearheading this whole trip to get down there and planning everything, and now my two friends got the top and I didn’t, and I felt like such a failure at the time. But that is really the cornerstone of why people emotionally connect with me and my story when I share it. And that goes the same for anybody. Like, I so connect with what you talked about there. I tried to win class president my freshman year in high school and I did not. I lost to a good buddy of mine, Leo.
Andrew: Did you feel good about it, too?
Jonathan: I did not feel good about it at the time, but it’s fine now. Like, failure or learning experiences and you iterate, and you move on. But, like, again, I think most people fail more than they succeed. And that’s true in business. That’s true in climbing. Like, I’ve stood on less summits than I’ve attempted, for sure, by far.
Andrew: The other thing I noticed is that people who don’t do it are the ones who criticize and then people who do are the ones who empathize, usually. So, I’ve done over 100-mile bike rides. This is going to get back to work in a moment. I want to find out how you started Trainual, but I think it relates. I’ve done over 100-mile bike ride. I’ve done several hundred mile bike rides. I did this one where I was trying to get to 200 miles on a bike. And I think at mile 187, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was actually riding on the side of the PCH, trying to ride into the sand because, in my mind, I thought it was fluffy clouds that I can go and land in. And my bike was breaking down and my mind was breaking down, and I just said, “I have to just call it over here because it’s not right. I’m on the edge of the cliff here and literally, and also figuratively.
And it’s only the people who’ve never ridden who said, “I would have definitely gone another 13 miles. I would have done it no matter what,” right? And they never even ridden 10 miles, but they’re the ones who are giving you advice. I was going for a run in Austin. It was this guy who was super heavyset, who was criticizing my running. Because you know what it was? I had a GoPro in my hand, he goes, “You’re going to go run around with a GoPro, huh?” It’s like, “Don’t start putting it down. The GoPro has a spot. I know where it’s going to go and I’m going to run, and I actually am going to enjoy having the GoPro with me. I’m testing it in preparation for running on a Antarctica.
Same thing for work. It’s people who’ve never started companies who are the biggest critics of companies. Kevin Rose, when he sold his company, Milk, I think it was, he went on Twitter and goes, “Now, all these people who’ve never started companies are criticizing me for closing Milk.” Before I guess it was supposed to . . . I don’t know what they expected it, but it sticks with me.
All right, let me talk about my first sponsor and then we’ll get into how you started Trainual, that conversation that you had on the seawall with your brother that allowed you guys to get going. My first sponsor is going to be . . . Who did we talk about first? ClickFunnels. How about ClickFunnels first?
Andrew: What do you guys do with ClickFunnels?
Jonathan: We don’t use ClickFunnels but I have . . .
Andrew: I thought you have. Tell me what did you use them for?
Jonathan: I’ve used both of your sponsors before. And honestly, I love ClickFunnels content. I love their product. I love, you know, everything Russell Brunson does. I’ve read a bunch of his books.
Andrew: The founder of ClickFunnels. Yes. What did you use them for?
Jonathan: Basically building, you know, landing pages. We, you know, offer a . . .
Andrew: For your clients?
Jonathan: Yeah. If we’re offering an ebook or any kind of, like, content to try to get somebody into the system, whether they’re going to watch a video or download a free guide, or you know, just enter your email to learn more. It’s a landing page system to get somebody into your funnel to then try to sell to, right? So, yeah, I experienced them . . .
Andrew: I used to think of them, I was going to just say, “This is a way of getting an email address.” And that’s the way that I started with them, email address, no problem, it’s a great way. They got a bunch of templates, you pick one that works and customize it, and send your email address to whatever email software you’re using.
What I discovered only through working with other people is yes, it increased my conversion rate on that. But as soon as you do that, they kind of push you to say, “Look, why don’t you just collect the sale right here?” And so, we have the person’s email address, why don’t we do an upsell? So, we started doing that, a simple upsell and people would buy.
And then they’re so good at ClickFunnels about saying, “Why don’t you try this other thing over here?” They had an order bump. “Someone’s giving your credit card information, why don’t you just put a checkbox underneath it, that anyone who checks the box can get whatever the offer is.” And so, we started looking around, what do we have that’s an order bump that we could test? We found something, people bought it because they put a credit card in. They were paying what, 25 bucks, give you their email address on the first page. Second page, you see an offer for 25 bucks. They enter their credit card information. The next page, I think we did, like, a $5 order. And people bought it.
And you wouldn’t think $5 is that much. But you’re increasing your sale by now 20%. So, now increasing your sale by 20% means you have more money to buy ads, which means you have more money to bring people into your system. And I never would have thought of any of that. And if I would have, I would have thought, “That’s for online marketers, it’s not for me.” Hitting ClickFunnels up and then knowing that I could just drag these features onto the page and it’s like, “What the hell? Let’s just go add a fee.”
I don’t even think that ClickFunnels people would like that I said what the hell in their ad. Like, they never curse. I’ve never seen a ClickFunnels person curse. And so, that’s what did it. Me using their software and adding all these features. I have a funnel that’s done over a million dollars in sales. I will give people that whole funnel, all they have to do is go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy and get it. If you’re listening to me live, that URL is not working right now. It will be once we’re once we publish. We are recording this ad for the day that we publish, click funnels.com/mixergy. In the meantime, just go to ClickFunnels. I’m telling you they’re so good.
Jonathan: It is. And honestly, we’d probably still use ClickFunnels if we didn’t just build it in house. We ended up taking it into our internal system. But, like, ClickFunnels is an education, as much as it as a tool. That’s what I like about it. Like, you learn about how to build a value ladder.
Andrew: They do have this whole philosophy.
Jonathan: Yeah, expansionary revenue.
Andrew: So, we created this whole stuff ourselves. The problem that we had was somebody said, “Hey, Andrew, you’re promoting this whole mixergy.com, whatever, for premium. The pages make no sense to me.” And we realized, “Oh, yeah. So, Michael, can you create the page and change it, the premium page?” He goes, “Yes, I could. But you know what? It’s going to take me a day or we just do it on ClickFunnels and then it’s going to take Rebecca two hours.” I go, “All right, Rebecca is not a developer, a day of developer time is scarcer than two hours of Rebecca’s time. Let’s give it to Rebecca.” And so, now, it’s on there.
In fact, if anyone goes to mixergy.com/more to see all these masterclass we created, that’s all ClickFunnels now. And so, we could create it. I used to say we could create a better but it’s faster on ClickFunnels. Now, it’s actually better on ClickFunnels. So, that’s why we use them. I’m telling you, these guys, I wish I had invested in that company. Let’s talk about . . .
Jonathan: Lots of hindsight wishes.
Andrew: You know what I’ve discovered? Anytime that I use software, even if it’s crappy, anytime I need software, especially if it’s crappy and it’s getting started, I want to invest in it. If I’m using it since . . . I discovered it with Zapier. I needed Zapier. I used them when they were absolute garbage. I know I was their very first paid customer. I should have said, “Guys, yes, I’ll introduce you to an investor,” which I did. I introduced them to the Y Combinator people and they invested. I should have also said, “And I’ll invest too.” If I’m using it, it means I’m doing so much research on it and I know what it does, I should just invest.
But regardless, let’s come back to Trainual. What was that conversation on the seawall with your family that your brother had that led you to co-found the business with him?
Jonathan: Yeah, so, I mean, this was a probably mid-summer 2017 and it was in my in-law’s backyard in Duxbury, Massachusetts on the south shore. And he and his wife and kids were visiting. And I remember standing there talking about just what was going on. I was, like, fresh off Denali, actually, just came back from that expedition, and was looking at the future of what I was doing as an adventure content creator and kind of feeling like for so long, I had always had a trip on the horizon and, like, been very adamant about having something booked or sold or whatever, before I even returned from the other thing. Because I have this kind of just restless everything syndrome and always needed to feel like I wasn’t, like, trapped. Like, there was something else, you know, coming up to look forward to.
And for the first time after the mental toll that that trip to Denali in Alaska took, I was, like, “I’m not putting anything on the books. Literally, for the rest of the year, I’m dialing it back and reassessing, like, what I want to be working on, and how I’m scheduling and managing my life.”
And at the same time, my brother, you know, he was building a really successful in-demand consulting company. But at the helm, you know, the services that were scaling were 100% tied to his time, which is not sustainable to scale. And he was feeling fairly burned out. And, like, he was spending way too much time in work mode and not enough time with the kids and his wife, and just trying to figure out, you know, what’s the next step for that company, which is called Organized Chaos.
And, so, he had actually, through that company . . . You know, their specialty was going in and he’d interview a bunch of business owners and their employees, and figure out what systems and processes needed to be more efficient, and recommend tools and services, and all that to actually build better processes, and make things run more efficiently. And along the way, Trainual became a prototype of a beta app that he had. And the companies that were using it were loving it. So, in the background, he just knew that there was this thing. What was that?
Andrew: This is him, he was buying it from students, from these students who made it. And then he was using it as a beta product for his own clients. And at that point, he said,” I can’t keep trading my time for money, especially if I’ve got a family. I’m going to go.” Was he going all-in on Trainual, at that point or was it more of his time going into Trainual, seeing if there was a transition possible?
Jonathan: There was a transition.
Andrew: He knew. So, he was going, “This is my time to make the transition.” And you said, “I don’t have anything on the horizon, how about we work together?”
Jonathan: Yeah. So, he needed, you know, and was looking for my help, I guess with the brand and the marketing expertise, and the content creation. And we knew that we had always worked well together, honestly. Like, at that time, I didn’t really even care what the product was or what the service was. Like, I just knew that it’d be fun to build something again with my brother. And so, we just kind of said, “All right, I’m going to . . . ”
You know, my wife who I mentioned is a professional figure skater. She was on Team USA and just retired from the competition scene at that time. And so, we were, like, you know what? We’re flexible right now as we’ll ever be, and we put our place in Boston on Airbnb, and built a bed in the back of the Jeep, and packed up the dogs, and headed across the country.
Andrew: Wow. And the two of you slept in the car on the way over?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. We did a whole road trip and slept in, like . . . You know, that was definitely out of my wife’s comfort zone and right in my wheelhouse. And I loved showing her that side of just intrepid adventure travel.
Andrew: Which part didn’t she like? Sleeping in the back of a car, the fear of someone breaking in?
Jonathan: She was fine with that. What she didn’t like was, like, not having a set place that we were, like, knew we were going to sleep. She’s very much, like, needs an itinerary. And I’m kind of, like, “Well, we’ll be fine. We’ll figure it out.” And so, she didn’t like when we would just be driving randomly and without, like, a destination and just, like, park on the side of a canyon. And would love it when we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and an amazing view, but there was just an uncomfortable, you know, part of that experience for her.
But it was an amazing trip. And that’s how we came out to Arizona and we were here for a few months, just basically. Trainual the beta version was rebuilt. Totally, like, it’s entirely different code from what it was as a prototype. Over the course of a couple of months, was rescanned, rebuilt. And then, I spearheaded all the marketing and the brand, and did a ton of content with Chris. And then, we launched late January publicly. Just put it out there the launch party in Scottsdale and tapped his entire professional network. And still a lot of the organic traction at the start was through the business owners that he knew around here.
Andrew: Who were doing what for you guys?
Jonathan: Who was what?
Andrew: What were they doing for you guys?
Andrew: Oh, they were actually buying? So, you reached out to his friends and you said, “You should buy.” So, Russell, from Design Pickle, I know that he was, I guess an owner in the business. He became a customer of yours because you guys hit him up?
Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. So, he was one of the first users of Trainual. And Design Pickle has scaled immensely off the back of putting all their training for all their designers across the world inside of Trainual.
Andrew: But in the beginning, it was you guys making one-on-one sales to all of his friends?
Jonathan: I mean, yeah, it was reaching out to our LinkedIn contacts, it was reaching out to his professional network, all the businesses that he had ever consulted for, all the businesses that were current clients through Organized Chaos, through the launch party here, put out, you know, a bunch of content, reached out to some podcasts, got on some interviews, like, started to build organic traction that way. And, you know, started an affiliate program. That’s how things really kind of started over the first couple of months. And so, you know, a few months in, we started testing, advertising and putting some real dollars around, you know, Facebook and Google.
Andrew: How did the content go over for you guys? I’m checking you out on Ahrefs. I guess it’s pronounced Ahrefs, but there’s an A in the URLs? Do you use them at all ?
Jonathan: Ahrefs, I check it out from time to time, but it’s not . . .
Andrew: So, it’s not A-H-refs, it’s H-refs?
Jonathan: I’ve heard both. I would just say H-refs.
Andrew: That’s the way that they say it in their YouTube videos. And dude, get the A out of it. It’s too confusing. I love it because I get to see, like, what are you guys up to. I don’t see your content marketing. I don’t understand what content you created that’s bringing people in. I do see all the content on other sites that you guys are a part of. Like, anytime there’s a list of onboarding and this or that or systemizing this or that, you guys seem like you’re in it. So, if I’m going into Ahrefs to see who’s linking back to you, Neil Patel for his onboarding tools page is linking back to you. There’s “Work the System” written by, I forget the guy’s name . . .
Jonathan: Sam Carpenter?
Andrew: Sam Carpenter.
Andrew: He also did a master class with us on systemizing. I freaking love it. You’re on his site as a tool that he recommends. So, I’m seeing all that.
Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, early on the strategy was like, why would I, I don’t know, try to build something from scratch? Like, now, we do a ton more content on our own site, on our YouTube channels. Like, we’re really leaning heavy into that now. But early on, it was like, let’s just go where the people are already looking. Let’s go . . .
Andrew: So, you were writing posts on other people’s sites, in the beginning?
Jonathan: We were contributing stuff. Yeah . . .
Andrew: And that was your part, Jonathan, right? You were the one doing that?
Jonathan: Yeah, I did a lot of the writing. I mean, Chris has written a healthy amount as well. Both of us really did a ton of content at the start.
Andrew: What’s one of the early articles that did well for you, when you were just getting going?
Jonathan: One of the earlier pieces actually, that is still I think our top-performing post on our own site is the Five Systems and Tools that every Business Owner Needs. And that continues to perform really well to this day.
Andrew: Got it. Oh, I see it here. Ahrefs values that page as a $350 value. I don’t know what that actually means. And it’s top keyword for small business systems. It’s ranking for that number one solution.
Jonathan: I never put too much stock into SEO. I more went after . . . Like, I don’t know, where are people spending their time? Where’s their behavior? They’re, like, consuming content from you, right? They’re listening to your podcast . . .
Andrew: So, you’d rather come and do a podcast here than write another blog post for you or another podcast with, who was it? “Work the System,” I guess you were on their podcast, right?
Andrew: So, that’s the way you think about it. Where are people right now? I’m not going to compete with “Mixergy.” Why don’t I just get on “Mixergy” and five others like him?
Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, and we’re doing a mix of it. Now, again, I mean, we launched a podcast through Trainual called “Process Makes Perfect,” a couple months . . . No, just earlier this month, actually. And then I have a podcast called . . . that I produce every week . . . And that’s just . . .
Andrew: It’s called?
Jonathan: “The Stokecast.”
Andrew: I saw that.
Jonathan: And that’s a blend of adventure and business. It’s kind of, you know, using my two worlds together. Co-host that with a friend mine, Emily. But yeah, for us. I mean, it really is, it’s 25% to, like, what content are we producing internally that we own and then 75%, like, just building the right strategic partnerships with let’s say, the authors or the experts, or the podcast hosts, or wherever people’s attention already is. And then, you know, advertising where people’s behavior and attention is, and that’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube.
Andrew: All right, let’s talk about my second sponsor. Email marketing done right, ActiveCampaign. Why did you sign up for ActiveCampaign? What’d you like about it when you signed up with them?
Jonathan: Yeah. ActiveCampaign, I used two years ago or maybe a year-and-a-half ago. But I’ve tested tons of these different platforms, whether it was, you know, MailChimp, or ConvertKit, or ActiveCampaign, or HubSpot . . .
Andrew: Did you use Infusionsoft?
Jonathan: Infusionsoft? Yeah. I’ve tested a lot of them. And at the time, I was moving from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign because MailChimp just didn’t have, like, the complex enough features as . . .
Andrew: Like what? What’s a feature that you were looking to implement?
Jonathan: I mean, we were really looking to build out more of, like, a sales CRM within our marketing automation.
Andrew: Because you wanted to know the names of the people who are close to purchasing?
Jonathan: Yeah, we wanted to have just a better understanding of who our, you know, not consumers, but who is our audience? How would they . . . ?
Andrew: What do you mean? So, if somebody would fill in their email address to get something from you, what would you want afterwards?
Jonathan: I mean, the ability to track how they interacted with any content, there on after. Right?
Andrew: An ActiveCampaign because you’re tagging your site, you can see they’re reading these blog posts, not just the email. Got it. You know, and I never thought of that. Right. I want to know who is reading a bunch of my email, but I never thought, well, also, who’s reading a bunch of my site, my blog post? And then when you knew that, what would you do with that?
Jonathan: Yeah. So, I mean, after you have a more holistic picture of how people are interacting, I mean, that informs what you can do with your content strategy going forward or also how you can segment your list and start to say, “Okay. Like, you know, I’m tagging all the people that are opening these newsletters and they’re reading this type of content on our site. Let’s put them into this bucket and offer more personalized contextual content for what they care about.”
Andrew: Because tell me if I . . . So, you’re really good at marketing and you’ve got, like, a simple touch. You’re not over complicating it to the point where it feels like, yeah, I guess this guy has written some kind of crazy machine that no one else will understand. You’ve got a really good way of explaining things, even on a run, frankly, I was able to get a lot from you.
Jonathan: Good. I’m glad.
Andrew: So, I think I’m understanding. I love it. I feel like, all I want to do is hear marketing techniques from you because they’re simple. They make sense. And I feel happy to do them instead of feeling like, “Oh, what am I getting into?” So, what you’re saying you’re doing I imagine is, you see who’s buying, and then you go back and you see what blog posts and email did they interact with, you look for a pattern, and then you try to find other people who are close to doing all that, you segment them, and then you say, “We will give you more hands-on sales. Like, we’ll talk to you or something like that.” So, if you find something . . . You do?
Jonathan: I mean, and you mentioned you can see who’s buying too, right? So, that was a big thing why we used ActiveCampaign at the start. It was attribution tracking. And it’ll show you actually, like, all the sort of, like, they came in from the . . .
Andrew: What did they do before they bought?
Jonathan: Yeah, what did they do even before they came into your ecosystem? So, having that attribution to track all the UTM parameters for, like, understanding what content in the general either, they were interacting with from our ads, and then how they came in, and then how they signed up for the newsletter, or what blogs they read, or, you know, how long it took them to then sign up? And after signing up, did they change what content they engaged with or did they stop engaging with our content now that they’re just in the platform and using our tool? Or were they looking for more and more and more to learn how to make the most of it? So, it just gave us more of a complete view of our users and prospects, and how to better communicate with them.
Andrew: All right, I should say, boy, we’ve gotten over time with ActiveCampaign. If anyone out there wants to try ActiveCampaign, one of the things that I like about them is they have all these features and they keep it so simple, that you can use it. And if you use this URL that I’m about to give you, they will even give you two free consultation calls to help make sure that you use all these features.
It is activecampaign.com/mixergy. When you go to that URL, you get to try it for free. If you decide to buy after that free trial, your second month will be free. They will do those two free one-on-one sessions, as I said. And if you’re with a different email provider, they will migrate you for free, activecampaign.com/mixergy. Let’s continue with the story. And then Van, I do see your question. I like it. We’ll come back to that in a moment. Well, I guess early on, you started buying ads, right?
Andrew: What didn’t work for you in the beginning? What did you try that you thought would work? And then we know what did work for you.
Jonathan: Traditional inbound marketing.
Andrew: What does that mean?
Jonathan: So, like, even to this day, it does not work as well for us to try and put out, like, an ebook, or a guide, or drive people to a webinar. Like, that kind of traditional inbound funnel has not been what’s scaled Trainual. What scaled Trainual is direct response advertising to an optimized audience and understanding how to speak to a pain point that resonates, and then provide social proof to give them the confidence to try.
Andrew: Basically doing the whole thing on social.
Andrew: That’s unusual. And it seems like what you’re doing is a sin. Well, no, you trying to close a sale earlier than most marketers would do. But essentially, what you’re doing on social is what we might have done with email, where we’re getting an email address, following up, showing some social proof and showing the product, closing the sale. Am I right or am I oversimplifying it?
Jonathan: I mean, people see a video, if it resonates with them, they click a button. They learn a little bit more on the website and then they start a trial.
Andrew: That’s the thing that’s worked?
Andrew: What else have you tried that did not work?
Jonathan: I guess, I mean, we tried to put a lot of money behind promoting content. Again, even if it was free just to offer free educational content, we’d put, you know, ads behind promoting certain posts and trying to push content that we thought was really educational and valuable. And, you know, if people discover that, they love it, but we’ve just found that, like, we convert less people off of the back of promoting content, or lead gen, or even nurturing a mailing list than we do from just, like, you know, they see it, they get it, they buy it, they do it.
Andrew: One of the things that I learned from talking to Scott, the founder of YEC, was that he gets people’s problem. When they sign up, he checks in with them throughout to see if they get a solution to their problem with him, so that he talks to them or his people do before they churn. And then when they do churn, he finds out where they missed the mark. Do you do any of that? I don’t do that.
Jonathan: Yeah. Our product team has just been doing the last three months calling, like, nearly every customer that cancels. And just talking through like, “What didn’t work? You know, why didn’t that work out for you?” And understanding . . . You know, really, the number one reason that people might churn is not enough time to really, like, dig in and get it done. Like, it’s documenting all your systems and processes is an aspirational thing. And it takes the right person, with the right mindset, with the right time, often to really dig in and be like, “You know what? I’m going to bust this out over the weekend, or like me and my team are just going to crowdsource all this knowledge. We’re going to copy it all from our email, or Google Docs, or whatever and build it in.” And so, most people, you know, if they cancel, they’re like, “Yeah, I’ll be back. I love it. But I just don’t have time to really build all this out.”
Andrew: That’s the hardest thing. To sit and document, it took me forever to do some of our processes. It’s really hard. I feel like someone should create a service for it. I’m looking in your site, I think again on Ahrefs, I guess, how to record your screen via Loom. I feel like there’s a solution in that. That a lot of us are trying to just screen record the way that you do. And then I’d love to pass it on to someone else and say, “Now you turn it into a documented process.” Because I know as I’m trying to do the thing, I’m not super clear about it. I’m making mistakes as I do it because I naturally will click here, then I click there. And then I realized, “Oh, yeah, I should have clicked the best other place.” And that’s too annoying for a new person to watch. I feel like there should be a service that takes my Loom, video screen sharing, and turns it into a process.
Jonathan: Yeah. So, I mean, we are experimenting with that a little bit. Like, our customer success team is doing a lot more onboarding and set up for people, you know, that are in a trial and needing a little extra hand-holding to get started. Because we know that, like, once somebody gets their stuff in the system, it’s incredibly sticky. They love it. And it’s just like, “Now, this is my business wiki. It’s where my team goes for operational knowledge. It’s where I can train and track, and see how everybody is, you know, up to speed and knows what they need to know.” Right?
So, we know that getting somebody in is incredibly valuable. So, we are experimenting more with that with actually helping ourselves. And we have a certified consultant program. So, business owners, like, basically consultants that are systems and processes, and SOP experts around the world, they’ve gone through some training with Trainual to get certified. And now, if somebody needs really extra, you know, implementation help, then we can connect them with one of our consultants.
Andrew: Got it. So, I hire them. They document my process with me and my team, then we have a start. And now, it’s easier to improve than it is to get started.
Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, basically you can connect with one of our certified consultants and they can fly out and just meet with every member of your team, and interview every single thing. And it’s basically taking what originally Chris did in Organized Chaos Consulting. And just now, we have a network of people that are operating like that to extract that knowledge and get it into Trainual to help you make the most of your tool.
Andrew: I feel like services now are becoming a much bigger part of software than we ever wanted when we got started with software, right? Like, you just heard me talk about in the ActiveCampaign add that they have a service that will migrate you for free. Those are human beings doing the migration. I had ConvertKit on as a sponsor a while back, didn’t work unfortunately for ConvertKit. But they were making a really big point of saying, “We will move you over,” because they know that it’s so hard to get started. “Andrew, tell your people, we will actively move them over.” How much of your business is done with these service providers?
Jonathan: Not a ton. And I assume it’s going to expand more going forward because there’s absolutely a market of people that would be amazing users but don’t have the process know-how, or the time, or the initiative to make it happen. So, I’d imagine that is like on our, you know, in the future agenda, that is something that’s going to demand more time, and effort, and resources. But today, it’s very, very hands-off from our marketing to people offering their own content in the system. Essentially it’s a DIY process.
Andrew: Where they have to go and figure it out, do it themselves. If they have Google Docs, if they have something, it’s much easier to migrate it over, right?
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, it is incredibly easy to get started. It just takes . . . Like, anything really, like, if you got to put in the time to make the time. Once you actually put in the time to do it, then you free up it on the backend with, like, not having to spend as much time getting every new hire up to speed on all the basics and repeating yourself over and over. So, it’s a trade-off.
I mean, we’re doing a lot right now to make it even easier, even more accessible. We’re actually launching a template marketplace that has, you know, currently over 30 templates of, like, every how-to for all the, like, need to know, for all the most popular apps and every small business ecosystem. You know, the tools that you use every day, the onboarding and PTO policies, and etc. Like, we’re launching templates and exemplars inside the app, so that it helps people just get started by adding that. We’re launching an app in October, a native iOS app. So, there’s a lot going on to just make it, you know, more accessible.
Andrew: I feel like one of the things that I wish I’d learned when I was documenting was just start with the worst thing, just even if it’s absolutely not the way to do things, because then whoever sees it, as long as they could edit it, as long as you could edit it, as soon as you see it, it bothers you so much, you have to go in and change it. So, it should have even been onboard people, send them this link so that they could get paid, send them this link so that they could sign a contract. And that’s it. And then as soon as they hit the link to sign a contract, and they see there’s no contract, they go, “Damn, I got to get a contract now.” And then, you know.
Jonathan: I mean, starting with that or starting with, like, what’s the thing you don’t want to do, right? Like, look back in your, like, sent mail and your calendar and see like, “All right, in the last month, these are all the things that demanded my attention. And what did I like the least? And let me start with that, so that I can figure out how to document and delegate that.”
And then sometimes, it’s not even that it has to be you. Like, I remember when I came back from that trip, South and Central America, and I got that job at that agency in Boston, onboarding sucked. Like, that experience. I’m sitting at a desk and I just had, like, files and folders, and videos to pour through. And I mean, at that point, it’s not like I was doing anything really productive in the business. So, oftentimes, it might be, like, your new hire, who has to go through all that scattered crap anyway, that can actually . . .
Like, if they had brought me on and been like, “Hey, here’s a system that we want to use. And here’s all this stuff, like, from the last five years that, like, we want you to get to know about the company and your team.
Andrew: You go do it.
Jonathan: Like, as you go through it, start to organize it and build it in.” That can be like a perfect task for a first hire.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. One of the things that Rachel Carson, who I hired to help me organize my company and lead sales, she said, “You’re having a problem because you’re trying to document it all. What you should do is say, ‘Documentation is part of every deliverable.'” So, when someone finishes something, they have to document what they did, just so they think it through for the next person, that helped too.
So, when you’re calling people, especially after they cancel, how do you get them on the phone? I feel like every time I interview someone, they say, “Talk to people who cancel.” But then, if I try to call people who canceled, no one picks up the phone anymore. And after they’ve canceled, they don’t want to talk to you anymore. What do you do?
Jonathan: A small percentage of them absolutely will. They will . . .
Andrew: All you have to do is get that small percentage.
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same whether you’re calling canceled customers, or whether you’re trying to get your first sale, or you’re trying to pitch sponsors for a movie, right? Like, if you reach out enough, you’ll get somebody.
Andrew: I feel like we need a better, more clever solution. I feel like one of the things that worked for me was when someone canceled to have occasionally my team say, “Andrew feels bad that you canceled and you didn’t get what you were looking for, he wants to do free coaching call with you to help you at least get the thing that you signed up for.” Now, free coaching call, people are more likely to sign up.
Imagine if instead of you canceled, I’m going to call you up to find out why you canceled and hope that a percentage responds, what if it’s, “I know you want a documentation? You signed up for us, let me help you migrate to whatever new service you’re using or let’s get on a call and I’ll migrate you to Google Docs.” Whatever it is, that would be pretty interesting. Or let me give you some basics on documentation help because you signed up or help you find your next product. Something that’s like . . .
Jonathan: Something that offers value. Right.
Andrew: Yeah. And then . . .
Jonathan: If you make it personal, that’s what works. People don’t trust case studies. People don’t trust traditional sales and marketing. That’s why, like, the ads that have just, they’re not polished, they’re just like iPhone videos Chris and I walking . . .
Andrew: That’s what your ads were like.
Jonathan: Like, early on, that is why they worked because, like, when you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you don’t want to see, like, some highly overproduced thing that you know they’re just trying to sell to you. Like, if you’re clicking through and you just see somebody that looks like maybe they’re another person that you forget that you followed, or like a friend, you might listen to what they’re saying. And then it might resonate. That’s the thing that I’m most passionate about with any of our marketing, any of our customer outreach, any of our conversations is just like raw authenticity.
Andrew: So, that’s why . . . I think the other thing I’d like to try is, sending them a text message directly before I call, just doing it from my phone, “I saw that you canceled, no problem. Can I ask you a question about what my team did?” So, it’s not about why you canceled, it’s just, “What did my team do? How do we go . . . ?” Like a text before our call I feel would work. I actually was scrolling through my Instagram feed. And I saw this service that, it’s software that will automatically text before you call, so that you’re texting them out. And I realized, “I actually don’t need that at this point. I should just try texting them before I call them.”
Jonathan: Yeah, and there isn’t a natural inclination for us to always look for the easy way.
Andrew: Right, to find a software to do it.
Jonathan: What’s a software? What’s the automation. Like, right? Sometimes you just got to do it first yourself, figure it out, and then go figure out how you can make it a little simpler.
Andrew: I think I’ve talked to someone on the sumo.com team. And what they do is they just tell their, what’s it called? Sales development reps. The ones who are supposed to get their salespeople on calls. It’s like, just text the person. And it’s not even text from our number, text from your number, I think is the way that they approached it. Just let’s not overthink it. If it’s coming from you from your number, it’s going to feel more real. Just send it out.
Jonathan: Have you heard of Bonjoro?
Andrew: No, what’s that?
Jonathan: It’s a cool tool. I forget where they’re based, but startup company. It’s really interesting actually. Like, you can hook it up to your lead list. And so, you know, whether it is through ActiveCampaign or wherever else, like, somebody drops in an email, and then it goes to Bonjoro and you get a notification on your phone and says like, “This person just became a customer or this person just joined your mailing list.” And then, you can actually, like, hold and record and just, like, record legitimately a video on the spot. And just say like,” Hey, thank you so much for signing up. Like, it’s great to have you. This is, you know, what to expect. And I can’t wait to engage in the conversation,” right?
So, you can send a video straight to their inbox and it goes right to their email, and it’s just a video of your face with a play button and you hit it. And it’s just a really amazing way to do personalized outreach. Whether you’re trying to build your first thousand subscribers on your mailing list and you want to, like, just create a really personal environment or you’re thanking everybody that just bought your SaaS products. It’s a cool tool to get real personal.
Andrew: You know what? I’m looking at it right now? Bonjoro.com. And the tool that I was looking at was about avochato.com. I never used them before. I just happen to see them in my Instagram feed. What else are you using that’s working?
Jonathan: As far as our tools?
Jonathan: I mean, we do most of our marketing communication through HubSpot now.
Andrew: What does HubSpot do for you guys?
Jonathan: It’s our sales CRM. It’s our marketing database. It’s where we do all of our newsletters. It’s where we host some of our landing pages, where we have a lot of forums. It’s, like, hooked up through Stripe and Intercom so that we have all of our data across the board, understand, like, the complete customer picture.
Andrew: So, because you get a CRM and so . . . Well, actually, it’s everything, right? They’ve actually put everything that’s marketing-related into their tool. And if they haven’t, they’re going to buy out a company that adds that.
Jonathan: I’m sure they’re going to keep expanding it.
Andrew: Right? That’s the thing. And does it feel like something that you can manage on your own or is it as overwhelming as it used to be?
Jonathan: I’m somebody who likes to just dig in and figure out a tool. And this was a little harder than, like, you know, getting started with something like ConvertKit that you mentioned, or a MailChimp, or Bonjoro. It’s more complex, for sure. And it took a bit of time, but it’s a really powerful tool, for sure. And it’s not like we have somebody that’s specifically doing, like, our HubSpot management. We didn’t hire anybody for that. I’m in the mix a lot. We’ve got our SDRs that are in a lot. And we’re just kind of all, you know, pocking around in there. And then we have a contractor we tap from time to time up in Toronto. She’s great, Andrea. And she’s, you know, a HubSpot expert if we need some help building out some lead workflows and some . . . But it’s not like, it took a little bit of time, but it’s not too intensive.
Andrew: I think a lot of this software does require, like, a consultant who does it. And I’ve learned to just hire them. It helps so much, instead of me figuring it out and not getting it exactly right. Let’s take a couple of questions from people who are listening live and then we’ll close it out, and tell people how they can sign up for Trainual. Ben earlier, Ben’s also the guy who came on live chat with you, while I was getting my tea to get started. He says, “Does Jonathan map out their marketing process for their content?” Do you do that? How much you do that?
Jonathan: I do, generally, after the fact. For me, it’s like, once we have something figured out, whether it’s how we host a partner webinar or, you know, newsletter process, or how a blog post on our site is written, or our general, like, you know, philosophy behind our Facebook ads, like, I’ll document that after we have it dialed in. But, again, it’s not my nature to think process first.
Andrew: Do you even think about, like, a content calendar?
Andrew: You do? And that’s something that does feel right to you? Planning out what kind of content you’re going to write when?
Jonathan: Absolutely. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of an editorial calendar. I mean, you can use just a Trello Board, if you want to just map something out simple, right? But we absolutely are thinking through, like, what’s posting on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, third? Like, we have a weekly content calendar as far as content types that post every day, and the cadence that they go out and then also a monthly content calendar, and a 90-day content calendar, just as far as like monthly is more, what are the blog topics? And what are the webinars that we’re doing? And 90-days is more like, what are the themes that we’re tackling?
Andrew: And so, you can think . . . See, that’s my problem with content. I couldn’t think about what’s the theme that I’m going to care about 6 months from now? You guys do that.
Jonathan: Not six months, three months.
Andrew: Three months? That’s it.
Jonathan: I can think in quarters. Yeah, I think in 90-day targets.
Andrew: What we ended up doing was reluctantly putting together a content calendar in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a kind of new look, every couple of weeks, I want you to take the best interview or one of the top interviews and summarize it and start to send that out. And then, from there, we had a beginning and then I could start adding stuff. And what I liked was not feeling locked into it. So, if I happen to run a marathon in Estonia without much like planning for it, I could just say we need this to go out and it’ll go out.
Jonathan: Yeah. That is what . . .
Andrew: Michelle is saying . . .
Jonathan: Sorry, I was just going to say that is why I did have to, like, get a bit out of my comfort zone and learn more into getting processed and systemized with using our own tool. Because of the things that I was doing before we got into Trainual and just this passion of mine to just get off and climb a mountain, and go run a marathon or whatever it is, right? But I still needed to keep that into . . . Like, that’s still a part of my life. And, you know, a month ago, I took off and went down to climb a volcano in Mexico. And I still do these things. So, I needed to figure out like, yeah, a lot of it is just impulsive and kind of on the fly, we figure things out, but I needed to dial in the process that my team could get things running when I’m out running.
Andrew: “I used to think, how are these friends of mine actually going on vacation soon after they started a company?” And I thought it was all irresponsible. And then I realized there’s a big benefit from it. They were forcing the people who work with them to figure things out when they weren’t there. When they were completely like in Cuba, they’re not accessible, they can’t respond. The team has to handle it and the team has to get used to them not being there versus other entrepreneurs who are you just getting started, who are there all the time. And people start to depend on them for all the little things because they’re just there. All right, Michelle asked, “Can a new business hire a certified Trainual professional to create the SOPs and to help get their businesses started? Where do they find that, if yes?”
Jonathan: Absolutely. Yeah, just go to trainual.com and you can go I think it’s trainual.com/consultants. And any of them, you can hire right from the start. And they can help you do all of that and build it into the tool. You know, you can go whatever way you want.
Andrew: I can’t recommend that enough. It feels so easy, Jonathan. I’ve got to tell you though, at times when you talk to people about what they should systemize, they can’t even figure out what it is. I remember Noah Kagan from Sumo had to actually walk me through it via text messages saying, “Andrew, what do you spending the most time?” I said,” I don’t know.” He said, “I have to have you put a Google Doc up on your screen or a notepad or whatever, write down every single thing you do for the next two days and send it over to me.” And then I was aware of all the things that I did, and it helped, right? But I needed him to do that for me to realize this is stuff I shouldn’t be doing, but I could systemize that.
Jonathan: I mean, that’s an amazing habit to be in just for a week, literally, every day. You know, maybe you work off a checklist and you’re checking things off as you go, but on the flip side, just turn that sheet over and write down everything that you are doing that wasn’t even on your list. Just, like, figure out, what does your typical weekly look like? What are your responsibilities?
Andrew: Be sensitized to the things that just take up a lot of time, but you don’t think about because they’re not on a checklist, they’re not on your calendar. They just happen. All right. Trainual, people should go check them out. It’s like train and manual mashed together. And the baby is a name called Trainual. Check them out at trainual.com. I think it’s a great company. I freaking love it. I wish I would have invested in them. But you guys don’t even need any investment, right? It’s all, like, self-funded?
Jonathan: Chris, my brother just walked in. He’s probably going to pop his head in.
Andrew: All right. Hey, Chris.
Jonathan: We might go down that path.
Chris: Hey, what’s up man?
Jonathan: Here’s Chris, my brother.
Andrew: Good to see you, Chris. I freaking love your company. I had such a good time running with your brother in Bali.
Chris: Oh, sorry, I wasn’t there. We’ll have to do a run when I’m near you.
Andrew: If I have a shirtless video of 360-degree video of the two of us swimming, I’ll send it over to you
Andrew: It’d be like you’re there, 360.
Jonathan: I can’t wait.
Chris: Very cool. Good to see you.
Andrew: Good to see you. And I want to thank the two sponsors who make this interview happen. First, if you need email marketing done right, it will do things like see what people are doing on your website, what they’re clicking on in your email, and allow you to customize the follow-up based on what’s working. You got to check out ActiveCampaign, activecampaign.com/mixergy. And if you want landing pages that help you convert, go check out clickfunnels.com/mixergy and I’m really grateful to them for sponsoring. Cool. Jonathan, you were going to say something as I was running through the ad. Sorry, what was it?
Jonathan: You know what? I don’t even know.
Andrew: All right.
Jonathan: I totally forgot. I’m good.
Andrew: Cool. And, of course, you’ve got a new podcast. People should just type in Ronzio into their podcast app and see whatever you guys are doing.
Jonathan: Yeah, definitely. I mean, “Process Makes Perfect.” Chris is the host of that and he chats with just some of the likes, you know, Josh Fonger from “Work the System,” and Sam Carpenter, and Michael Gerber from “The E-Myth.” And all these systems process gurus, and authors, and experts, he’s chatting with them on “Processor Makes Perfect.” And then if you’re into more of the outdoor adventure entrepreneurial journey, join me on “The Stokecast.”
Andrew: “Stokecast.” Cool. Thanks a lot.