Andrew: Hey there Freedom Fighters, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It is home of the ambitious upstart. That means that if you’re listening to this program instead of all these other programs, you really want to get into the weeds with me and understand how an entrepreneur built his business, with details, and frankly as forcefully as possible, because I do tend to be a bit of a forceful jerk, sometimes.
But it’s all in the name of understanding how a business is really built so that we can learn something that we can actually use, because we don’t care about our guests. We like them, but we mostly care about ourselves, right? And we want to learn from them as much as possible so we can use it ourselves.
Well, get this, today’s guest runs a marketing company. There’s tons of those, dime a dozen it feels like these days. Anyone can call themselves a marketing company, all you need is a computer, frankly, or a phone. But he’s got a twist. He’s focused. He’s really specialized. He’s specializing on helping people who have crowd funded projects get more people to fund their projects. So you would only go to him and work with this company if you had, say, a Kickstarter campaign that you needed to get more people to fund. That’s his business.
His name is Zach Smith, he is the founder of Funded Today. I invited him here to talk about how he found that little niche, how he gets his customers, and frankly what he does to help them get so many new funders that they’re willing to give them a percentage of their sales. That’s how he works.
And this interview is sponsored by, I’ve got a brand new sponsor. I love this company, I love the founder of it. It’s called ConvertKit. If you want to use email to convert, to get more people to buy from you, this is such a powerful automation tool that’s so easy to use. I can’t wait to tell you about ConvertKit. You can check them out at ConvertKit.com/Mixergy. I’ll tell you more about them later.
And if you need a developer, by now you should know what so many people in the Mixergy audience know, you got to go to Toptal, Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’ll tell you more about them about them later, first I’ve got to pry into this guy’s life. Zach, welcome.
Zach: Glad to be on, Andrew.
Andrew: I like that every time I say, even in private, it’s like, “I’m going to pry into your life, I’m going to push you for answers, I’m going to ask you all this revenue stuff,” you smile, you’re good.
Zach: Yeah, it’s exciting. This is my life, so business and life are kind of intertwined into one.
Andrew: You know what? When we first found you, my producers, in our internal notes, said that your revenues were 7 million. When you did the pre-interview, you told the producer, and this was a little bit after we first found you, that you were set to do 10 million for 2015. Bottom line, we’re at the end of the year, how close are you now? And we’re recording this for an audience that’s going to be watching it next year. How close are you now to hitting that 10 million number?
Zach: We’re really close, I think as long as everything plays well out for the last, what have we got? Nineteen days left to the year. We should actually surpass that number.
Andrew: That means that you got in the bank more than 8 million so far this year?
Andrew: And that means that it’s a share of the overall revenue that’s raised for the Kickstarter campaigns. You’re not taking all of the Kickstarter campaigns that you’ve held out and saying, “Well, this one earned a million, that one earned 5, that one earned 3, so I combine it all and say that I’ve earned 9 million.” No, you’re smiling at that, that’s not it.
Zach: No, that’s not it. We’ve raised close to $50 million now in terms of how much money has been raised, but actual gross revenues for my company, Funded Today, is approaching that $10 million mark now.
Andrew: What’s the one technique that you use to get them more funders that they’re willing to give you a share of their revenue?
Zach: We’re probably the best in the world, not probably, we are, as evidenced by our numbers when it comes to paid media, paid media meaning Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook. We’re really, really good at being able to raise a significant amount of money, and by doing that we’re able to create consistency within the crowdfunding that they’re doing, meaning [inaudible 00:03:49].
Andrew: Sorry, the number one thing you do is you buy ads? Sorry, I interrupted you.
Zach: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Andrew: And when you get paid for those ad buys . . . actually, who pays for the ad buys? Does it come out of your share, or out of the Kickstarter?
Zach: Everything that we take in our percentage based funding model comes from us. So if we take 35% of the campaign, or 25% of the campaign, or whatever number we take, that number is included in our ad spend, and we’re fronting about half a million dollars a month now in terms of how much we’re paying Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook for all the media that we’re spending for our clients.
Andrew: Kind of like a bank, then. You’re becoming . . .
Andrew: And you’re doing the ad buying decisions. So net of ad buys, what are your revenues?
Zach: Our net revenue is pretty good, to be honest. How good? It’s varied, we’ve obviously expanded our team now. We have 31 people, and so that net revenue’s come down just a little bit. And it’s getting more expensive . . .
Andrew: Not just net, I guess it would be gross revenues. Just take overall revenues that you bring in, subtract out your ad buys.
Andrew: What do you think that would be? Ball park it.
Zach: I should have my QuickBooks open here, and I could tell you the exact number, but I’d say we’re probably 60%.
Andrew: Sixty percent, you keep.
Zach: I’m looking at one campaign right now that I have on my screen. It’s for an Italian watch that we’re running on Kickstarter, and we’re getting a 12 to 1 return right now. So for every $1 we’re spending, we’re generating $12 in revenue. Granted we’re not making the $12 because we only get a percentage of that, but for that particular campaign, that’s what out ratio is. And we like to see 1 to 10, if we see a 1 to 10 ratio, we know we’re doing pretty well.
Andrew: And this whole thing came to you when you were working with someone who had a Kickstarter campaign, and what was your relationship with them?
Zach: I got into crowdfunding in an obscure way. I started out in a software company. We were selling software as a service, and it wasn’t necessarily my passion, but it was really successful. We’d raised a couple million dollars in that business. And I sold the company to my partner, and I took what I learned from that partner and began to be a small business consultant specifically focused on things like email marketing, Infusionsoft, I became really expert at those sorts of things.
And one of my clients who I’d had on for about a year said, “Hey, have you heard of this thing called crowdfunding? We don’t like to pay you money,” because I billed hourly or on retainer like an attorney or an accountant. They said, “We don’t like to really pay you like that. So how about we do this thing called crowdfunding on this platform called Kickstarter, and we give you a percentage of all the money that you raise for us.”
And I was already doing pretty well financially at that point, and I said, “Okay, well let’s try it out and see.” Ten days into their campaign we raised them about $50,000, then I brought out my business partner, Thomas Alvord, and for the remaining 25 days of their campaign, he integrated what he knows about paid media because he works for political clients, Senator Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, among others, and he took what he learned, and together we raised another $15,000 for this client.
And at that point it was almost history. “Okay, we have something here, it’s exciting and a percentage-based model where you charge nothing upfront, act as a mini lender, works really, really well and it makes everybody happy because now we’re only paid if we do well for you. And if we don’t do well, nobody gets paid, so we’re wasting our time and our money.”
Andrew: Meanwhile you told our producer you didn’t jump into it right away, even though you saw that it worked. What kept you from saying, “This is it. Let’s change everything and just focus on that.”
Zach: It’s the same thing that happened when I started the company. The reason I reached out to Thomas Alvord, my partner, I said to him . . . a company had approached me about doing paid media and they said, “Hey,” it was $200. So “Hey, for $200, we’ll run some marketing for your campaign and we’ll get you a spike in pledges.” And I asked Thomas, because he and I had been chatting for a couple of years, we were just acquaintances and we’d networked back and forth.
He said, “Why would you spend $200? If it raises $10,000, then you’d want to spend $1 million on this campaign.” He said, “That’s the stupidest thing ever. Let me try to run your marketing for you, and we’ll see what happens.” I said, “Okay.” And so he did, and sure enough he spent $1,000 and he raised 115,000 extra for the campaign. However, he and I had our own businesses, and we thought, “Oh, okay, it’s a one-off thing.” I don’t know why we didn’t get as excited about it at the time.
And so this client adds a lot of people and say, “How did you raise so much money for this crazy little product?” Because it wasn’t necessarily the most amazing thing ever. It’s a good invention, but it wasn’t life-changing or revolutionary. And so a lot of people started approaching them. One group of people were a panel of ear, nose and throat doctors out of Orlando, Florida, called FreeWavz, F-R-E-E-W-A-V-Z, and they said, “We really want to hire you, we really want to hire you.”
But Kickstarter has something called all-or-nothing funding. And they had a funding goal such that they still had not hit it yet. And if you don’t hit your funding goal, even if you’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you’ve set your goal, let’s say their goal was $200,000, and let’s say they only raised $100,000, well, they still needed to raise $100,000 and they only had 100 hours left. And so I was like, “This is risky.”
But we ran some tests, and we were all about statistical significance, confidence intervals. And so we trusted what the numbers said, and it looked like we could get them funded, even though there was only a hundred hours left.
And Thomas, being the more risk taker, dare devil kind of guy, said, “I’m going to do this.” And it took a lot of credit at the time. I only had like 20, $30,000 limits on credit cards, and I could keep paying them off, I guess, because I had enough cash in the bank to do that. But the risk was kind of great. Thomas took his dad’s credit card and maxed it out, and I said, “Just give me a referral fee for doing this and you go with it,” and he said, “All right.” And he does, and sure enough, $325,000 later in a hundred hours, and the rest is history.
And I said, “Okay, let’s start a company.” That’s two companies in a row that we’ve done really well for. It makes a lot of sense, and the numbers don’t lie. Literally we trust statistical significance and confidence intervals, and things like that. And so we can test things out very, very quickly and validate concepts faster than anybody in the entire world, and then if it does work, we can scale rapidly. If it doesn’t work, we can pivot or teach them how to adjust, or change things up, and then launch again.
Andrew: What do you do to test? FreeWavz, by the way, is, I’m looking at their Kickstarter campaign, they do earphones that are wireless and also help you figure out how well your . . . and also do some fitness modeling, like heartbeat. What’s your process for figuring out that you can actually get FreeWavz to 300,000, if that’s what you promised?
Zach: Without digging into too much of our secret formula, basically what we like to do is we like to look at audiences, demographics, and because of my consulting practice, we had a lot of info on runners and fitness people because I had a lot of clients in that niche, and so we had a lot of demographics and detail to pull from. And so we knew we were targeting the right group of people right off the bat. That’s the most important thing, know who your audience is, know who you’re targeting.
We knew we were targeting the right people for this market. And we knew the size of that market. And so by targeting a small statistically significant sample size, we could see what the conversion rate was there, and then extrapolate, or project, going forward, what the conversion rate might be across that whole audience. And sure enough the numbers proved exactly like our numbers showed. And now we’ve been able to apply that formula across the board to over 300 campaigns now.
Andrew: All right, so that was your first real, I guess, your first two campaigns, FreeWavz being the second. How did you get the next ones?
Zach: Because of that, it literally became, I would say, probably a global sensation. We suddenly had a hundred people a day wanting to work with us.
Andrew: How did they know about you?
Zach: We would put a badge on the website. So it just said, “In partnership with,” at the time it just said, “Agile, and Thomas, and Zack,” but after that we became Funded Today. But it would just say, “We did this for them, you should talk to us.” And then they’d click a link and it would send them to an email, and then they would just email us.
But eventually we had so many people doing that, we created a web page, a simple landing page, didn’t even have the video at the time, and then talked about those two success stories. There’s a website called Kicktraq.com, K-I-C-K-T-R-A-Q, and on that website, you can type in “FreeWavz” and you can see where Funded Today came on. Pretty much almost every campaign we work with, you can see what we call the “Funded Today Spike.” It’s where we jump on and you can see an exponential growth that generally lasts throughout the whole campaign.
And so that was very persuasive to a lot of people because the good part about our business is it’s very transparent. It’s very much easy to see. Oh, you go on FreeWavz, you see they’ve raised $325,000. You go on to Baubax travel jackets, you see they’ve raised $9.2 million. We can’t fake that. And people see that exponential growth when Funded Today jumps on, because we don’t always work with campaigns right from the beginning.
Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we work with the campaign that’s dead in the water. Sometimes we work with a campaign that’s doing really well but they want to add Funded Today in. And so we can work with you at any stage in your campaign.
Andrew: And that link is on their website, not on the Kickstarter campaign, as far as I can see, right?
Zach: It’s on the Kickstarter page. If you scroll, usually we put it right above what’s called the Risk and Challenges section. And now it’s a badge. So if you went to Baubax Travel Jackets . . .
Andrew: I see it.
Zach: Oh, okay. And so if you click that it goes right to the page. Now we have that on 300 campaigns, and so you can imagine the amount of traffic that comes from that little badge.
Andrew: That’s not even a tiny thing, it’s big.
Zach: Yeah, we make it pretty prominent. We’re the main reason these people raise money. Without us, FreeWavz never happens. They literally would not have even become a product were it not for Funded Today. The same thing with almost everybody we work with.
Andrew: So you’re taking on . . . by the way, the reason I didn’t notice it is because I just assumed it would be a tiny little logo on the bottom of the page. No, it’s part of the content. Yes, it’s at the bottom of the content, but it’s above all the stuff that people stop reading.
Zach: Yeah. And our badges have changed over time, too. The ones you see there are a little bit more big, crazy. Now they’re a bit profession and clean. If you look on Evolution Bra, or Baubax, B-A-U-B-A-X Travel Jacket, you’ll see our badges are a little bit different now, because we work a little bit more closely with Kickstarter themselves. So they kind of told us different things they like and don’t like, and so we’ve cleaned up things according to what they like to see happen, too, as we continue to work with them.
Andrew: So you are taking a big risk on these guys. How much do you invest in them to test to see if you should be taking a risk on them?
Zach: Good question. The short answer is, as much as possible, or as little as possible to achieve statistical significance. The long answer is, we test as many audiences as possible that we think, “Now that we’ve worked with lots of campaigns,” like, if you invented a bra, like Evo Bra, we know we’d be targeting people that are interested in bras because we have those audiences.
If you invented something like headphones, like FreeWavz, and we’ve raised millions of dollars for different headphones campaigns, we know we’d be targeting the right people because we have all these different audiences that have interest in those sorts of things.
So that’s how we know who to target, then we simply try to achieve statistical significance. And if we achieve statistical significance on 10 bucks, or 100 bucks, or 1,000 bucks, or 10,000 bucks, whatever it is, then we know where we’re at and we scale accordingly to how much time’s left on the campaign and the profitability of our company, so long as we’re not losing money, we’re trying to raise money.
Kickstarter is kind of like a rocket ship where you’ll spend a lot of fuel right off the bat, but then you can coast, because Kickstarter, if you’re a good product, you can get into their Popular and Magic categories. And we can sustain that Popular and Magic category growth, which creates all kinds of organic pledges, through our paid media. And if a project’s good, it will stay in there.
Andrew: I see the logo. It’s not that small, it’s smarter. But it’s small. It’s still pretty big, and it’s over the Risks and Challenges, like you mentioned before. And now underneath it says, “The world’s most successful crowdfunding marketing agency.” And it’s clearly what you guys do.
Zach: Yeah, we added that in there, as well, where we are. Again, we used to say it thinking we were, but now we know we are. For the last six months, we’ve been responsible for generally the first and second most popular Kickstarter campaign, every single time. Literally there was an inside joke at my company that if you see it on Kickstarter and it’s raising money, chances are Funded Today is the one doing it. We’ve really being that good recently.
Andrew: Well, why didn’t you . . . did you expand beyond this, beyond Kickstarter?
Zach: Yeah, we actually post-Kickstarter marketing now, as well, because of our success. A lot of our clients are like, “Ah, you’ve raised us so much money, now what do we do? It’s straight up now, it stopped.”
And so we’ve partnered up with Indiegogo to do something we call InDemand, which is pretty exciting, where we can transition everything that we were doing on Kickstarter to Indiegogo’s InDemand, while they continue to build out their prototypes and build out their shipping and fulfillment for their products that they raise on Kickstarter. And that’s been pretty exciting. We actually [inaudible 00:16:31] . . .
Andrew: What’s InDemand? I don’t know that?
Zach: Indiegogo has something called InDemand where, once you’ve raised money, generally it’s just on Indiegogo, and you transition right over. But as soon as your campaign ends, so 30 days, 60 days, it’s over on Kickstarter. You can transition all the traffic and all those eyeballs that are still going to that site, and have them come over to Indiegogo, and Indiegogo will continue to take pre-orders for your product. And you generally charge a little bit more because people didn’t get in as quick as possible.
Andrew: And if they are on Kickstarter, can you do it?
Zach: Yes. Evolution Bra is a good example. Meater is a good example, M-E-A-T-E-R. Baubax Travel Jacket that’s raised over a million dollars now, I think it might even be 1.5 million. So in addition to his 9.2 that he raised on Kickstarter, he’s done 1.5 on Indiegogo. Evolution Bra, over the last couple of days, we’ve raised them $100,000. So we have a lot of our clients.
In fact, I’d say 90% of our clients that we do well for on Kickstarter, we’re now transitioning them to Indiegogo InDemand, and we really like the partnership that we have with them.
Andrew: You know what? Then I went to your site, to Funded.today, and I clicked on the Store, and it looked like you might be having some issues with the store, it’s not working.
Zach: Yeah, we don’t have a store, we haven’t actually set up our store yet, it’s an idea that we have in place because of all of our campaigns. But it’s something coming in 2016.
Andrew: The link is up, and it’s linking me to . . .
Zach: Yeah, we should have it say, “Coming Soon,” but again it’s been at the very back of our priorities. And so what we’re building right now is actually an affiliate network. It took the place of the store. We found a lot of success in terms of some of the different cash-back and affiliate incentives that we’ve seen through our Kickstarter crowdfunding efforts, and so we’re building out that network.
Our store is an idea that we have that’s coming, again, in 2016, where all the projects that we fund, we’re going to have a little store of them showcasing everything that Funded Today has brought to life.
Andrew: I figured that’s what it was.
Zach: Yeah, but we haven’t done it because honestly, we have so many other things going on.
Andrew: So you start buying ads, what places did you start buying ads when you were just getting going? Was it on just Facebook?
Zach: It just depended. Again it’s wherever we can make money. We’ve made money on Pinterest before, we ran a watch campaign called Luno Wear that did really, really well on Pinterest. People loved the design and it resonated well with the female [inaudible 00:18:41] . . . .
Andrew: How do you do it? Do you start buying ads on multiple networks, or do you guess?
Zach: It’s all about tests. Again, statistical significance is the simplest answer there. We like to just see where it’s going to work. We kind of know which ones are going to work for a certain campaign, so if we were target a . . . if we were to run something that was female-centric, like a female watch that might look good on a woman, we might start with Pinterest, because we’ve seen it be successful in the past. If we’re running something techie, we might want to look at Reddit to start. Kicktraq is actually a good place to buy advertising.
It’s literally looking at the product on a case-by-case basis, and then determining from there, what is the best possible means to do paid media? But we usually always start with paid media, because paid media, you are able to achieve statistical significance a lot quicker, you’re able to get consistent results that then you can create projections, because all of our audience, all of our customers are like, “How much are you going to raise me? I want to know how much you’re going to raise me. I want a Baubax. Raise me 9.2 million. I want an Evo Bra. I want a couple million. Do me a Meater. Make me the most funder of this or that.”
And we never can really promise them anything because, as much as I’d like to go, “Oh, we’re going to kill it for you,” we don’t like to do that because I don’t know if something is . . . in fact, the Baubax travel jacket, it’s surprising how good he did. Before he hired us, he actually spent $60,000 on Facebook. And guess how much he raised, $65,000. So literally the guy was losing 30, $40,000 when you factor in what he had to pay Kickstarter, what he was paying in the ads and the cost to actually ship and create the product.
And so, for us, we thought, “Oh, this isn’t going to work,” because he had done pretty terrible on his own. Granted we do things way better than any of our project creators, but still, he had done absolutely terrible. And so we came into the campaign, and he actually didn’t qualify for our marketing services.
As good as he was, he had to pay an upfront fee, what we call a due diligence fee, which is what we charge to people that are desperate to hire us, but don’t meet the requirements that we like to see for a campaign we think we can do really well with. Needless to say, he had being in a really, really successful campaign, and we wrong in our assessment there, and we were able to be very profitable for ourselves and for his company.
Andrew: Let me take a sponsorship break and then I’m going to come back and talk about something that you told one of our producers that I didn’t believe, and I didn’t trust your research on it, and I did my own, and I’ll come back and ask you, “How the hell do you do that?” But the sponsor is my new sponsor, who is ConvertKit. Here’s the deal with ConvertKit. It comes from . . . I’ll tell you a story about a guy named Pat Flynn. You know Pat, right? Have you heard of Pat Flynn, Zach, or did we just lose . . .
Zach: Yeah, sorry. Pat Flynn. He has a really great podcast.
Andrew: Yeah, he’s got a good podcast, great blog. When he started, he had this test prep site. He said everyone told him about email marketing but he didn’t get into it. He finally got into it. He got 200 people on his mailing list, sent them a coupon for his training, for what was, I think, a $25 training. Boom. Even though he had only 200 people on the list, he got 1,300 in sales. Fantastic, he was now a convert, email marketing works.
And he started to build up his list, but the problem he had is the problem that all of us have when we use a generic email system or do one of the standard ones that we see advertised in the mainstream. Mainstream doesn’t know jack. Problem is somebody would buy from him, and when he wanted to market, he didn’t want to market to the person he bought. He wanted to market just to people on the list who didn’t buy. And most email systems don’t let you do that.
And if they do, you have to work all kinds of crazy gimmicks or systems to make it work, like create a separate list of your buyers, and then when you market to your main list, saying market to everyone except people who are on a separate list. Meanwhile, email systems charge you twice because now you have two different lists, so big complicated mess. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Andrew: So he finally said, “I’m going to switch to . . .” you mentioned Infusionsoft, so I’ll mention Infusionsoft. I wasn’t going to mention a competitor in this ConvertKit ad. But he switched to them, like a lot of people do, because Infusionsoft lets you do marketing automation. If somebody buys, you can say, “Don’t market to them anymore.” If somebody clicks a link and expresses interest, you can say, “Let’s tell them more about what they’re expressing interest.” And we tell the main list because these people want to hear more, and we don’t want to bore everyone else.
So he signed up for them. The problem with Infusionsoft is you need somebody like Zach in order to run it, someone who’s an expert in Infusionsoft because you can freaking do anything in it, but it’s too easy to make mistakes and have the automation just go out and screw you up. Do you have issues like that when you’re working with them?
Zach: Oh, yeah. I still do. As good as I am in Infusionsoft, it changes so much and I have so many other things that I’m doing. I’ve had to hire out outside help to manage our Infusionsoft.
Andrew: Yeah. And so in comes ConvertKit. And so Pat switched to ConvertKit because ConvertKit is so easy to use, and still it gives you the power of all this automation. If somebody clicks a link, if somebody buys, if somebody takes some kind of action, you want to treat them differently and start marketing to them differently. And when someone joins your mailing list, or takes some kind of action like buying or clicking a link, you don’t just want to send them random emails.
You want to send them a specific drip campaign where you’ve thought it through, where you’ve said, “They just said they want to buy, or they’re interested in something I’m selling,” first email maybe tells them a little more about it. The second maybe tells a story of someone who’ve used it. The third one maybe offers them an opportunity to buy, and maybe by the seventh you’re giving them a discount. Anyway, ConvertKit makes it super easy to do it.
So Pat switched to ConvertKit. He had an easier life. He was actually able to do the things he wanted with automation simply without spending time and money hiring guys like Zach. And it worked, and then he saw a bonus.
The problem with a lot of email systems is you can’t get your email delivered. Pat suddenly got emails from people saying, “Hey, it’s so good that you’re finally emailing us again. What happened? Where did you go?” And Pat realized, it wasn’t that he wasn’t emailing them, but he was emailing these people, they weren’t getting the emails because many systems, including Infusionsoft, have really bad deliverability. And so all the messages that he was sending out just were disappearing into the internet. You have that problem, too?
Zach: Yeah, we hear about all the time. It’s the scary part about email marketing. You have all these people that opt into your list, and you want to send them messages, and then you worry if they’re getting them. And it’s a cost to hassle to try to ensure that deliverabilities land into their inbox, with the new Gmail change and the three separate inboxes they have, and all that. There’s a lot of stuff to factor into and make sure that you’re delivering to the people that actually want to receive your stuff and double opted in.
Andrew: Right. So you want deliverability, you want automation, you want a system that works, you don’t want it to cost a tremendous amount of money, you want it to make sense. And so in walks Nathan Barry, a guy who I interviewed, who is a content creator, who created this thing for himself, and just keeps adding more and more features in a smart way, and he created ConvertKit.
Pat signed up. He found that what happened was he got increased deliverability, he got smart automation that actually works, and you don’t need to hire tons of developers to make it work for you, you can just do it yourself. And he signed up, and I’m urging anyone who’s listening to me, who’s interested in email marketing, to check out ConvertKit and sign up. I am sure you will love it.
All you have to do is go to ConvertKit.com/Mixergy. If you do that and sign up for their low $50 a month plan, they will even migrate you from whatever cockamamie email system you happen to be on, to their world of sanity. It’s really good. It’s trusted by a lot of peoples. I have been on that site as one of those big quotes with my face for a long time, long before they paid me, just because I thought what Nathan was doing was just so sane, and so effective, and so good at converting people from email subscribers to buyers. And now signed up as a sponsor, go figure.
ConvertKit.com/Mixergy. I’m really glad to have them on here, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys do with it. Please email me if you use them, ConvertKit.com/Mixergy.
Did you, by the way, right them down? I thought I saw you taking a note on.
Zach: I was, yeah. You made me interested. Surprisingly, I have never heard of them. So I’m going to go have a look.
Andrew: I think you’ll be happy with what he’s built, really smart guy. So here’s the thing that you told our producer. You said that you’re responsible for what percent of traffic for Kickstarter?
Zach: Yeah, if you go to Alexa, you’ll see, and this number varies occasionally, but we’re responsible for about 5% of all the traffic that Kickstarter receives. So Alexa [inaudible 00:26:47] . . .
Andrew: I don’t know why I don’t trust Alexa, maybe it’s because it’s free, maybe it’s because they don’t give me enough depth. So then I went to SimilarWeb. SimilarWeb gives me a lot of detailed information. The numbers are higher on SimilarWeb.
Zach: Oh is it?
Andrew: The weird thing is at first I said, “Aha. I got him. Can’t wait to bring this up.”
Zach: I was scared for a sec.
Andrew: And then, I saw, no, you’re the number one, according to SimilarWeb, the number one source of organic traffic. We’re not talking about search or ad buys. And it’s coming from fnd.to and subdomains underneath it like 13.fnd.to, 14.fnd.to. These are your short URLs, what’s the deal with all these numbers, first of all?
Zach: We’ve built out an entire backend that’s more sophisticated than most anything out there, partly because Kickstarter used to not be very good at tracking. Now they’ve added Google Analytics and different things, but we’re the only company in the world they can track down to every single segment. So we’re literally . . . every one of those numbers mean something, and now it’s even more sophisticated.
We can keep track of a mobile advertisement in the right hand column on Facebook, a mobile advertisement on Instagram, a mobile advertisement on Pinterest. And every one of those numbers, every one of the letters, every one of the different things mean something, and they track to us and let us know our conversion, our clicks, our CPM, our CPC, [inaudible 00:28:12] . . .
Andrew: What is your system? You create a subdomain for each sponsor?
Zach: Yeah, we have essentially our own Bitly. That’s what those short links are. They create a redirect and they allow us to track things on Kickstarter. And then we have an entire backend that communicates with Kickstarter and all of our different paid media ad platforms, and creates a beautiful-looking dashboard for all of our paid media analysts to look at so that we can constantly monitor things and tweaking them to make sure that we’re break even or ROI positive throughout the entire Kickstarter campaign. It’s beautiful.
Andrew: Where did you learn how to do this? I’m looking at your background. Yes, you were at Agile, which is the company you founded in 2011, which is a marketing company, what was it that allowed you to create software for this new marketing company?
Zach: It’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people. And Thomas Alvord, who is my business partner at Funded Today, he’s really, really good at seeing things in his head, and then being able to describe those things, and being very efficient and very fast to taking action. And so together we form a pretty good team.
I facilitate all the communication and all the sales, and all the marketing, and what needs to happen, and really that’s Thomas. And then Thomas builds out the software as a service, and the backend, and the analytics, and the tracking to make our system complete.
Andrew: It’s Thomas Alvert, right?
Zach: Alvord, A-L-V-O-R-D.
Andrew: What’s his background? I don’t know him.
Zach: Thomas Alvord is an attorney with the U.S. bar. He’s never practiced actually because he’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and his family pressured him and pressured him and pressured him, “You’ve got a law degree.” In fact he also has a Master’s of Public Administration. He’s very well educated. He had a bachelor’s degree from BYU, and then he also went to BYU for his Master’s in Public Administration, and his law degree.
Andrew: So then where does he get all this coding experience?
Zach: It’s kind of like a lot of today’s entrepreneurs where basically these people just need to get something done and then they go figure it out. YouTube videos, tutorials, Udemy, Udacity, different websites, Thomas has been a go-getter his entire life.
Andrew: Self-taught and just kept going on and figuring this stuff out.
Andrew: And one of your super powers is that you’re just really into systems. Am I right?
Zach: Yeah, that’s what . . . everything that we focus on is all about systems. I’m all about, if you can . . . I subscribe very strongly to, I subscribe very much to the book by Michael Gerber, The E-Myth, where he talks a lot about, if you can do something more than once, then systematize it, templatize it. And I had a lot of business experience before Funded Today, and so, at Funded Today, that’s exactly what we try to do. I’m able to . . .
Andrew: Give me an example of what you systemize.
Zach: For example, our PR, because we’re also a PR firm. I figured out exactly how to land PR. And I read things like Tim Ferriss’s blog post where he talked about the entire processes that he’s done, and “Trust Me I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday. And I applied all that in real life, and I would try to get a journalist to write about us.
And once I figured out how to make it work, again, trying to come up with statistical significance, so once I figured out, “Oh, this message works X percent of the time. This is what we need to say,” I built that into a system. And then I taught that person who would then take my job with video tutorials where I said, “Here is what you do. You research . . .”
Andrew: What’s one piece of PR that you systemized that? And the reason I ask specifically about PR is because it feels like it’s much more of a relationship thing, that you need to have the relationship ahead of time, you can’t just be given a YouTube video, and you need to know how to have some nuance in the way you explain things to people so that you’re saying it to them, I saw you blink as I said that in a way that it was like, just telling, this guy doesn’t get it.
Zach: No, it’s not that. I absolutely agree with the relationship side of things. So now we have relationships with hundreds of journalists that we didn’t originally have, which also made it easier to systematize because now Zach’s talked to these people, Zach’s communicated with them. We have different PR people that had relationships that we’ve brought on.
And once you have a relationship with a reporter, as long as you continue to provide them good things to write about and make their jobs easier for them, they are more likely to want to write about you. And so that’s exactly what I did. I tried to learn a little bit about them. And that’s part of the system. The system, as systematized as it is, still requires a lot of finesse. Go on Twitter, see what they’re tweeting about every day for a while, comment on some of their articles, like, retweet some of what they’re doing.
Andrew: And that is part of your process?
Zach: Exactly, yeah.
Andrew: This process is housed on what, specifically? Is it a Google Doc, is it some other software? Is it a suite process?
Zach: Everything that we do is coordinated through Google Docs, and . . . sorry, I just got distracted.
Andrew: What happened? Who came in?
Zach: My secretary put a check on my desk.
Andrew: For what?
Zach: It’s just from a client.
Zach: I don’t know if we want to look at it or not, but we could, I guess.
Andrew: Yeah, let’s look at it. Come on.
Zach: All right.
Andrew: Hold it up. I’m going to zoom in. Check for $138,000.
Zach: Yeah, it was distracting, sorry.
Zach: But there’s always a lot of money outstanding in our company. And so you’ll probably see me all stressed out all the time. It’s always . . . we’re floating a couple of million bucks every month in terms of how much money we’re spending and how much money is owed to us, so it’s always nice when you see a client pay.
Andrew: How do you know that they’re going to pay? How do you make sure that they do?
Zach: We have a really good contract. I mean, I’m talking about really, really die hard, really good, really strong contracts that protect us pretty well should we have issues with them paying. In all honesty, we’ve only ever not been paid one time, and we won that in arbitration.
Andrew: I was surprised that you said your secretary walked in, because before we started, I’ll let people in on it. I said, “Can we turn on video?” And you said, “Oh, then I got to put on a shirt.” So I thought you were just at home sitting shirtless.
Zach: Well, I did have shirt on, but it was like a soccer shirt for Real Salt Lake. I love soccer, so it wasn’t necessarily like if we’re going to . . . I’m not the best looking guy, but might as well brag about Funded Today, “Find your crowd, fund your company.” So I just put on a little company shirt.
Andrew: Okay, that’s not bad.
Zach: I wasn’t walking around my house naked.
Andrew: Guy’s in a bathrobe, I never heard of this company before.
Zach: Yeah, we do have complete freedom in terms of how we work, when we work, the remote style of it, my entire company’s all remote. And it’s very efficient, too. We manage everything through Skype, just like we’re doing this interview. I love our whole process. It always feels like everything just flows really smooth.
And again, it didn’t just happen like that, instantly. We’ve had a lot of time to massage things out, but I feel like, in terms of how we do everything on the internet, we have no physical office space. Everything that we do is communicated through Skype and email, and our website. I feel like we’re really, really efficient compared to massive marketing firms that are trying to do similar things to what we’re doing most likely.
Andrew: Again, I love systems. I thought it in the beginning of Mixergy. I thought, “This is not the place for systems. I have to really just roll with things, and be in a conversation, be at one with my guests.” And then it was just a nightmare to organize things, a nightmare to schedule guests, nightmare to book them. You had an easy time booking an interview with me. Easy time, so simple, and it’s all because of what I learned from my interviews.
I actually urge anyone who’s into systems to just go to Mixergy, click on that Collections tab, and just get started with this systems collection of interviews and courses that we did. They’re just fantastic, that’s what helped me organize Mixergy.
But coming back to your system for PR, can you give me a taste of one little piece that you systemized that maybe someone who is listening to us could use and apply in their business, too?
Zach: I find templates work really well, and so I have a template that I use to reach out to journalists that might not have heard of us before, where it’s probably like a five-step process. So “Hi First Name, I read a couple of articles that you wrote recently.” Link to article, link to article number two. “Here’s a couple of things I learned about your article. I also think that this is something that you might be interested writing about. I happened to work closely with people. What do you think about this? Is this something that you might be interested in hearing a little bit more about?”
See how you can tweak that to fit anything. You’re showing that you learned about them, and you actually should. You shouldn’t just fake it. Read about them, see if you like them, see if it resonates. We find that you can go get a big article on CNN, or you can get an article on a site like Mixergy, and you’re probably going to get way better take rate and response rate on Mixergy than you would on CNN, simply because the type of audience that’s interested in that is going to be way more interested than the type of audience that might be on CNN.
Andrew: I was just looking at the email that we originally got about you, and I think that’s pretty much what you guys said.
Zach: Oh, shoot. You’ve figured out all of our systems.
Andrew: Is Suzanne Campbell someone who works with you?
Zach: Suzanne Campbell is one of our PR specialists. So it works, huh?
Andrew: Apparently it does. It’s one of the fastest interviews that we’ve put on the site, too.
Zach: Wow. That’s good to hear, I guess.
Andrew: So you started systemizing. Give me another taste of the systems that you’ve put. I remember actually, Brad Martineau is I guy who I interviewed, and I got to know him in, I think it was in Arizona. And I just started chatting with him over drinks, me, beer, him, water, because he’s Mormon. And we just talked about what he systemized. And he showed me this system on his phone.
I said, “What is that?” He goes, “That’s the system that gets my kids ready in the morning. This is what they do,” complete with prayers and a fist bump to dad. I went, “How does your wife feel about it?” And she said, “At first, she wasn’t too hard on it, but now the fact that the kids are organized and ready to go in the morning, it’s exciting her, and she’s willing to put up with anything for that.”
Do you have something like that, like little detail that maybe the rest of the world would think it’s too nerdy, but for us here we can geek out on?
Zach: First off I love that Brad is doing that. Everybody gets weirded out about, “Oh, you can’t systemize things. Relationships are human, you have to have an interpersonal touch.” And you absolutely do. But it’s not say you have to be a robot when you do it. A fist bump is a natural thing, if you’re just that kind of thing. But if you do it natural and organic, it’s that sort of thing, just remembering or reminding yourself to do that.
I do systems with everything. I have a system to remind myself to follow up with somebody, and if they don’t follow up, it reminds me again and again. I have a system to remember to pay my quarterly taxes, and it reminds me. EFTPS, all these different things, all kinds of random stuff that’s just automatically reminding me. I have a system to exercise every day. I have a system to remind myself to eat every three to four hours, because I do a terrible job of that.
Andrew: What’s your system for following up with people?
Zach: I really like FollowUp.cc.
Andrew: Me, too. I love.
Zach: I think it’s great.
Andrew: I’ve tried to get the founder on here. He did the pre-interview. There’s something about Chris. He’s too shy or he’s . . . maybe I asked him too many prime questions in person.
Zach: Yeah, I don’t know. I can talk to him and see if I would get him for you.
Andrew: You should. Just sooth them, say, “It was okay. Andrew had some prime questions, but I did it fine.” What about your system for exercising?
Zach: I’ve gotten a lot better at that. You can’t really see if I’m bigger yet, but I’m getting pretty cut. I’ve almost got my six-pack, finally. I play a lot of soccer, a lot of basketball. And I also had to end up splurging. I spoke with Daymond John in Orlando at a conference called Import Summit, and I met a guy there who, he calls himself Skinny Fat, but he’s gotten really cut, really big.
And I’m not fat really, but I’m skinny, never really been that big. And I just hit it off with this guy really well, his name is Oscar [inaudible 00:39:27] and he owns a website, forgot what it’s called. But I hired him as my personal trainer, even though he lives in Sweden now. He was . . .
Andrew: In [inaudible 00:39:34] system that you hired a personal trainer?
Zach: No, and this has just barely started. This is going to be for 2016, because I feel like I’ve done what I need to do on my own, and now I just need some more . . . I need an accountability partner. I found, at least with me, I’ve met one person in my entire life, he’s my cousin. The guy is just die-hard. He goes to the gym every day. He’s on his own, he puts on his music, blasts it out, works out for two hours, kills himself. I can’t even keep up with him.
I said, “How do you do it?” No one else I’ve ever meet, though, can sustain that. You have to have somebody who is like, “Hey, get it done. Get it done. Get it done,” at least for me, because I get so busy, I get stuck on my computer, I get stuck with conversations, I got a million things I can do every day, and I just don’t do it, even with eating. My system with eating, it reminds me every three to four hours, “Hey, eat something, eat something, eat something,” as far as . . .
Andrew: The alert goes off on your computer or your phone?
Zach: Exactly, yes. Computer, phone, everything.
Andrew: What app do you use for that?
Zach: This is just Google Calendar reminders. And I have it set for five times to remind me, so I have to X it out on every single one of those to make sure I stay doing them. And generally that’s how . . .
Andrew: Fascinating, I would love to just be on the other side of this computer, looking at your computer and seeing the whole system you’ve got.
Zach: But what I found, at least for the workout, weightlifting side of things is, now that I have somebody who is making me measure myself every couple of weeks, looking at different things, making sure that I’m meeting him, really getting him pissed off at me when I’m not doing what I’m doing. It really helps.
I did the same thing with voice lessons. I’ve been wanting to learn to sing my whole life. I’m more of an athletic, sporty kind of guy, but I’ve always wanted to sing, and I found that this voice feature that I’ve hired has been really good at just being persistent and not treating me like something special, even though I’m paying him good money to train me. So I love that. I think you need somebody that says, “You’re not living up to this, what’s going on?”
Andrew: What’s one . . . I get that, by the way. One of the things that people kept asking me when they were cancelling Mixergy. I would talk to them and say, “Why did you cancel?” They say, “I was hoping you’d have some kind of community.” I say, “Why do you need a community? You’ve got to work. You don’t need people to hang out with.” They said, “I don’t want to hang out. I need somebody who’s going to hold me accountable, somebody who I can talk to when I’m not actually living up to what I want, someone who could help me out there.”
And so I created the Dojo. Anyone who is a member of Mixergy should just go check out Mixergy.com/dojo, and you’ll see that you can get an accountability partner or somebody who will help you out.
Zach: You really should do that, for everything in life. I have accountability . . . that’s why it’s good to have a partner in your business. Thomas and I really keep each other balanced. Thomas is like Steve Jobs, dreamer. I’m pessimistic, negative, “Look at the numbers, let’s analyze things, let’s see how things are going. Let’s make sure we’re not over-promising. Let’s under-deliver, over-promise,” all those sorts of things.
And Thomas is just like, “Here’s where we’re going to go.” It’s a nice balance to have something like that, that you can shoot ideas off of them. We really trend to balance each other out very nice.
Andrew: What are you hoping to get out this interview? What’s your goal here? You’re not just doing it to hang out.
Zach: I just like telling the story now. What I love so much about Funded Today is not that it’s made me independently wealthy, even though that’s been amazing. It’s helped me do all kinds of things I never would have been able to do. What I like most about what we do at Funded Today is we’re literally bringing ideas to life from people that do not have rich uncles, or rich cousins, or venture capitalist, or angel investors.
We call it the triple win because we’re winning because we’re making money, they’re winning because they’re getting their ideas brought to life, and clients, our customers, and backers, is what they’re called on Kickstarter, are winning because great ideas are being brought to life.
I’m sitting at my desk and I’ve got a BetterBack. This is an idea by Katherine Krug that, it was brought to life because of something we did. I’ve got sunglasses, wallets, watches, it’s so fun to see the product actually be delivered to the door and look just like something you see out of big-box retail chain or something, and we’re like, “I remember that one. That was on a napkin.”
Andrew: Let me do this, I want to talk about Toptal, and while I do, could you think of a few techniques that have worked for you for getting more backers into a Kickstarter campaign, that someone who is listening to us could use?
Zach: Yeah, for sure.
Andrew: Because I want people who are listening to us to not just be in awe view, but also know how they can do it themselves too. And even if they are not in Kickstarter, I’m sure they’re going to be able to get some of the ideas from you and apply to their business.
The sponsor is Toptal. Here’s the situation that we were in. We kept hearing from people that they wanted a new forum, so we created a new place to connect with guests, connect with other premium members, but we also had an issue where people were telling us that they couldn’t find the interviews and the courses that they wanted on Mixergy. It was just becoming a mess.
Michael, our head developer, tried to work on it, but there were too many issues that kept coming up day to day, like our membership software needed to be updated, or we’re on WordPress, our WordPress needed to be updated, and all the plugins needed to be updated, and we needed to create forum software, so he did that. So all these things, and he kept getting back burner, this thing that I knew was an issue for our users.
So I said, “Let’s try Toptal.” I went to Toptal, I filled out their form, and I got in a call with one of their people, and I said, “Here’s what we’re doing. We’re working on WordPress.” I was a little sheepish about it because I thought WordPress is kind of a small platform for these guys, but they didn’t have an issue with it. They said, “We work with WordPress all the time,” they work with lots of programming languages. This is probably the simplest platform to build on, but they work with lots of different people using . . . anyway, they work with WordPress, they work with whatever you’ve got, chances are, if you’re listening to me.
And I told them the way we work. I told them, I can’t talk to the person, not because I’m a jerk, but because I’m in nonstop interviews. And I said, “Here’s the way Michael works, he has odd hours, here’s how we communicate.” They took the whole thing and they said, “Great, we’ll find you someone.” And they found me someone, and Michael worked with that person, and said, “Here’s what we need.” The person developed it for us faster than we expected.
And once it was up and ready to go, we loved it so much we hated our design around it. So we said, “Let’s just come up with brand new design that makes this guy’s new search feature make sense.” And we did. And now the site is up, and it’s huge, and it’s a big success. And we never would have been able to do it if we couldn’t just hand the project over to somebody who knew our language, who got the way we did business and was able to work on his own.
And that’s what you get with Toptal. They are a network of top developers proven to be among the top 3% by their peers. And the reason that they have that is because they do tests, they do peer review, they do a lot of rigorous background and prep checks to make sure the person is a good fit for you.
If you want to sign up with Toptal the way we did, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. And the reason you want to throw that slash-Mixergy at the end is because when you come in from Mixergy, they’re going to give you 80 free developer hours when you pay for 80. In addition to that, you got a two-week 100% satisfaction guarantee trial period. If you’re not happy, you will not be billed, but Toptal will still pay the developer.
Huge companies are using them, like Airbnb. Smaller companies are using them, like people who I’ve interviewed, or people who are in the Mixergy audience. If you need a developer, you should go check out Toptal.com/Mixergy. For nothing else, just do it because of the great photo that they have up on their webpage. Well done, guys. It looks like you went to that URL, too.
Zach: I just always kind of follow along.
Andrew: Did you hear of Toptal before this?
Zach: I hadn’t heard of that one, either. Two things I hadn’t heard of, yeah.
Andrew: It feels like Toptal is huge in their world, the funded world, and Andreessen Horowitz backed them, so the tech startups here in San Francisco know them because they envy how fast they grew and the backing that they have. Feels like ConvertKit is known really well in the blog or email marketing system, but not in the rest of the world. So I guess that’s why they’re coming to me. They want to help me introduce their stuff to other people.
Zach: Makes sense.
Andrew: So I admire what you’ve done, but I would be better off if my audience did some of this stuff, because then they would thank me, then they would love that I had you on. Do you have a few marketing techniques that have worked for you, that you can share with my audience?
Zach: Yeah, I’m going to give you a link about a blog post that I wrote a while ago, it’s called the “Crowd Funding Success Matrix”.” It’s just Funded.today/blog. Just search for crowd funding success matrix and you’ll find it. But before I talk about good marketing, good tactics, and things, I believe that you’ve got to have a super nova. So how do you get to a super nova? Well, that’s a good product with good marketing.
All the others are interesting, you have a bad product and bad marketing, that’s outer darkness. You have a bad product and good marketing, that’s a black hole, or you’re spending money but you’ve got a bad product, and so it’s just wasted. And then you have what I love the most, are shooting stars, or meteor showers, depending on the amount of success they have, and that’s a good product with bad marketing.
Or you’ll see it fleeting, and they’ll fly through the sky and they’ll do well for a little bit. That’s most of Funded Today’s clients. They’ll start out pretty well, but then they’ll die. They’ll trough, they’ll valley.
Andrew: Fair enough, then what do you do turn it around?
Zach: Think about this formula, ubiquity plus techie or cool, plus an awesome product, plus a compelling, what I say, chill factor story, equals huge chance for success. So starting from the top, ubiquity. Is it everywhere? And I don’t mean something just so ubiquitous that it’s everybody can buy it.
But let’s look at the travel jacket, the Baubax travel jacket. It’s a jacket, everybody wears jackets, but it’s a travel jacket. It has a built in neck pillow that can be blown up when you’re sitting on a plane, among 15 other amazing features. See how they’ve added a techie element to that? Techie not necessarily meaning Apple product techie, that sort of thing, but just techie in the sense that, “Oh, that’s different for a jacket. That’s unique, that’s weird.” And then they came up with a really good story. They honestly gave you chills when you listen to it.
Andrew: Let me take that first part. You’re saying you have to add a techie element to what you’re selling for people to care about it, or a cool element?
Zach: Yeah, techie or cool. And I don’t necessarily mean that you have to. I’m just saying when you combine all of these elements, as we analyzed all the products, these are the parameters that seem to always ensure success.
Andrew: So would you do better if you had both techie and cool?
Zach: Absolutely, yeah. When you’re techie and . . .
Andrew: I see that the travel jacket, not only do they have the techie in that you can put your earphones through it, but they also have the cool because they’ve got sunglasses on their models.
Zach: Yeah, it just looks nice. The other question you can always ask yourself, “Do I want one of these?” I remember when Katherine Krug came to me and talked about the BetterBack, literally, it’s so simple, and her video, if you watch it, everybody puts it on, they’re like, “Oh, my gosh. It’s so amazing.”
And it doesn’t feel like your late night commercial, fake, amazing. I sit with her 15 minutes every day at my desk, and you wrap it around your legs, you put it on your back, and it makes you have that perfect posture. Look how crappy my posture is when I’m sitting. Normally it’s terrible, right?
Andrew: So this [inaudible 00:50:03]?
Andrew: You said, cool or techie, add both you do even better. What else?
Zach: Ubiquity. Ubiquity is the sense that everybody wants it. If we look at the travel jacket, everybody travels. Everybody wears jackets. So now you have a big audience that you can target. But it’s focused enough that it’s not just completely ubiquitous, does that make sense?
Andrew: No, because it seems like your saying [inaudible 00:50:24].
Zach: Let’s look at the Pebble Time watch. Everybody wears watches, but it’s a very techie watch. So you’ve got a watch, but then it’s the techie element, similar to the Apple Watch. There’s another project on Kickstarter that ran a while ago, it’s an airplane, a paper airplane, but it can be remote controlled. Everybody throws paper airplanes, it’s ubiquitous. Everybody knows what they are, it’s something that most everybody’s done in their life. But now there’s a techie element to it, and it’s pretty cool.
Andrew: And the reason you want the “everybody” part is so that you and your agency can start marketing to a broader segment of people.
Zach: Exactly, the more niche, the more specific it is. Everybody teaches you to be niche, and I absolutely agree with that. However, the broader you can be to start, the better, because you can focus on those niche segments, but then you can expand, expand, expand, and get broader and broader, and raise more money. All the products on Kickstarter have been done well.
Let’s look at . . . everybody knows this one, the Coolest Cooler. Ryan Grepper. Everybody knows that one, right? Everybody has a cooler. Everybody likes to go to the beach, or to the park, or have a picnic. But now what has he done? He’s added Bluetooth speakers, he’s added a place to charge your phone. He’s added fancy wheels, he’s added a strap to carry your gear and gadgets. He’s added a place to make the water and ice cream better. So really, really cool.
Andrew: Okay, so now we have cool, techie, and ubiquity. What else?
Zach: And then the chill factor story. The chill factor story, “Why did you come up with this?” One of my favorite campaigns, we raised them about $300,000. Not a lot, but good for these people. They wanted to raise 10 grand. It’s the Luno Wear watches, L-U-N-O W-E-A-R watches. Just a couple of kids actually out of college, and they wanted to pass on the legacy of watch making.
So our headline was, “72-Year Old Grandfather Watch Maker Passes on Legacy of Watch Making to Grandchildren”. And then we had just very compelling-looking images and ad copy that showed that. So now . . .
Andrew: How can you come up with a chill story, a chill factor story? What about for your company, for Funded Today, do you have a chill factor story?
Zach: We have a cool story. It’s a story I think a lot of people like to see in here. I was pretty successful before Funded Today, so it’s not rags to riches, necessarily. But it’s a pretty cool story. In many ways, we were prepared. What do they say about luck? It’s where opportunity meets hard work and preparation, something like that. I think that’s what Funded Today is all about. We were doing all the right things in different industries and different audiences, and then it all came together.
Andrew: How would you tell it in a way that would get my, as you said earlier, hairs on my arm standing on edge? Can you do it?
Zach: That’s a good question, Andrew.
Andrew: And I’m just forcing you to do it right on the spot.
Zach: Yeah, I always like to use my “72-year-old watch maker” one, that’s my favorite story to tell.
Andrew: That’s is a really good one. All right, I won’t put you on the spot. Actually, wait. Hang on, let me see if I could find one here. Did you come close to death at one point? Did you consider committing suicide because you couldn’t make your second business as good as the first one?
Zach: I’ve never had that happen to me. You know what I should do? Let’s just talk about Thomas, and we probably should have him here. Thomas is the perfect example. This is a guy who had everything. His wife is independently wealthy. His family has all kinds of successful business people, he has a company right now from one of his brothers that’s in talks to get acquired for several million dollars.
But Thomas is kind of like the black sheep in his family. Lots of education, lots of success in terms of schooling, but he doesn’t go be a lawyer. “Thomas, get a job. You’re a freaking lawyer. You’re a good lawyer. Go get a job, do it.” “I just don’t feel like it’s right. I don’t want to do it. I know I’m on to something here.” “Thomas, we’re living in a one-bedroom apartment. Come on.”
Andrew: Wait, his very well-off wife was living in a one-bedroom apartment with him, just because he didn’t want . . . ?
Zach: Literally it was the funniest thing ever. And I don’t know how much of this you want me to tell.
Andrew: Go ahead.
Zach: All right. Basically he has millions of dollars in a trust fund, but he’s like, “Why can’t we just have access to some of this money?” He’s like, “Why are we living like?” He’d even say that to his wife. And now he’s obviously grateful in hindsight, how he was able to do it on his own and make things happen, but at the time, this guy was straight up trying to make money in any way possible.
He would sell student discount cards for meal plans, and things. He was scrounging for money in every single way. The guy is a hustler in terms of working hard, and never giving up, and really believing in himself when he had absolutely everybody against him.
I had the same thing happen as an entrepreneur. But that was in my earlier business endeavors, with my first companies, and things. I had to fight through that, go to school, become a lawyer, because I was valedictorian at my college. I had a lot of pressure to go on to graduate school and do more with education, and, “What are you doing? Why would you drop out of all this?”
I barely graduated in the end because of all my businesses and things I was trying. And I wasn’t necessarily the serial entrepreneur type like Thomas was, I just happened to be doing entrepreneur things my whole life, and I was like, “Wow. This is actually what I love. Why didn’t I realize this was a career opportunity?”
Andrew: At eight years old, you had a snow cone business, what was that?
Zach: Yeah, I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, not only selling snow cones, like people set up a lemonade snack, or something, in front of their house, we’d go door to door in red flyer wagons and try to sell to neighbors. We’d go to soccer tournaments where there’s hundreds of people, and it actually proved to be a pretty lucrative business for an eight-year-old kid and his brother. But I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life.
Andrew: And you got to keep the money yourself, right?
Zach: Exactly, yeah.
Andrew: I’m seeing lemonade stands, say, let me get on my soapbox here. I’m seeing lemonade stands now run by kids, the money is all going to charity, and I know that it seems like it’s a nice thing to do, but what they’re telling their kids when they do that is, “Look, business is bad. I know you should learn a little business skill here, and the way we’re going to teach it to you is in a sanitized way, and show you that you’re going to give back the money to a nonprofit, the money that you earned in this disgusting way of starting a business like a lemonade stand.” That’s awful.
What they should be saying is, “You get to keep all the money.” Think about that. The more you work up the guts to tell a stranger that you’ve got lemonade, the more money you’re going to have later on to buy the stuff that you like.
Zach: Oh, yeah. I absolutely hate, and not to say that I hadn’t thought of this lemonade example, because I’d seen a lot of those, as well, especially in my area. But entrepreneurship and learning how to sell yourself and understand who you are, and being confident in what you’re selling, and believing in your product, and believing in yourself, those are the things that you can’t learn in school, and you can’t learn from really anybody but yourself. And for kids to just, now I can give to charity because I want to, because I have money to do it, and I do.
I don’t do it because, oh, I’ve got to . . . it’s bad business, it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s what runs everything. If you look into every single thing . . . my ex-wife used to always complain about business, and she worked out a business, and I said, “You would not have your job if it were not for the business. I know you’re performing a service, it’s great. But it’s the business guy who’s created all these jobs for you guys to have the jobs that you have.” She was always frustrated with that.
Andrew: Is that why you’re not married anymore?
Zach: I don’t . . .
Andrew: “I need somebody to be empathic. He’s hit me with all these Michael Gerber rules.”
Zach: I definitely had a lot to learn back then for sure, and I’m sure that’s probably why that went . . .
Andrew: Actually, for relationships, I’ve got a good system. Here is just very basic you could use if you’re sleeping around, you could use it if you’re married. First thing in the morning, you’re too groggy to really think, but you want to show some concern. Here’s what you say, “How did you sleep?” Big one, right?
Zach: That’s great.
Andrew: Whoever you were with, could have had a dream, could have woken up in the middle of the night, those things you want to talk about. If you slept really well, people want to talk about them. I need just a little bit more. We’re running out of time here, but now you’ve showed me how to create a good product that’s capable of being marketed. But what about the actual marketing? Beyond PR, what other advice could you give someone who’s marketing?
Zach: If you don’t have any money and you don’t want to hire Funded Today, and you’ve got something that you want to try to make it successful on your own, if I were you, here’s probably what I would do. I would . . . and again, this is coming back to what they teach realtors or insurance salesmen, friends, families, fools. I call it “Triple F.” Get yourself 200 people. All of us have 500 or more friends on Facebook nowadays.
Contact every single one of those people and say, “Look, I’ve got this idea. I’ve got this invention. It’s ubiquitous. It’s techie, or cool. It’s an awesome product. I’ve got this amazing story about it. I plan on launching it on Kickstarter here in three months. It’s going to cost $100. Can I count on you to give me $100 for this campaign? You’ve been my friend on Facebook forever. This is going to change my life, and it’s going to change your life too. I know it, because I invented this because it solves this problem that I know you deal with. Can I count on you to give me a hundred bucks?”
And then get that from 200 people. Now you’ve got yourself $2,000 right there. Is that right? No, $20,000. My math is so terrible. And I’ve got my degree in accounting, believe it or not. So $20,000 right there.
So that matches your goal, because you might want to set your goal on Kickstarter of 10,000 or 20,000. Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding platforms, they are a paradoxical vehicle in the sense that you put your project on there hoping that the world’s going to love it and want to fund it. But until they see some traction, and until they see that it’s funded, you don’t necessarily get that tremendous virality that you’re hoping for.
And so by getting your friends and family and fools involved, you’re going to see that traction, should your product actually be ubiquitous, techie, cool, awesome, compelling. At the same time, reach out to press. If you have prototypes, reach out to press and say, “Look, I’ve got something that I think you’re going to love. I’d even want to send you a couple of prototypes.”
And if they’re expensive, tell them to send them back to you. We do this all the time. We literally ship products around to all the different agencies, as they write about us, and they pass it from one [inaudible 00:59:57] to the other.
Andrew: They pass it to the next person?
Zach: I have them pass it around, believe it or not. It sucks.
Andrew: I was going to do that with laptops and microphones for my interviewees, it’s a logistics nightmare.
Zach: It truly is. Again, you get covered in USA Today, or you get on Good Morning America, or some of these places where we’ve been covered, it’s worth the logistic nightmare to get that sort of exposure and credibility for something that early on. So there’s two. Number three, why not cost collaborate with people that are on Kickstarter and Indiegogo?
“Hey, you have 5,000 backers for your campaign. I have 200 that are going to be jumping on as soon as we go, and I guarantee I’m going to have 5,000 later on as my campaign gets tractions, and stuff. If you tell all your 5,000 people about my campaign as soon as I launch, I promise I’m going to show you all kinds of love when I get back to where you’re at, too.” It’s a community. It’s a collaborative effort.
Andrew: And it’s an email that goes out?
Zach: On Kickstarter, they can do project updates, and they have the emails of all their people, all the people that . . . like, for example, with Baubax travel jacket, he has 50,000 people that he can email whenever he wants, that we helped him get, because those are backers, those are his backers. It’s like 49,000 something, let’s just call it 50,000 to make the math easy.
If he emails 50,000 people, now all you guys are going to go out and contact Hiral. He’s going to hate me. Fifty thousand people, we’re seeing conversion rates of 12% when this happens. Let’s just call it 10. So 5,000 people potentially decide to go back your campaign at 100 bucks each. Well, there’s yourself a half a million bucks, potentially, right? It’s got to be relevant, but again, a Kickstarter backer is a Kickstarter backer, is a Kickstarter backer.
Andrew: Give me another one of those. So far these have been killing.
Zach: Like I said, a Kickstarter backer is a Kickstarter backer, is a Kickstarter backer. So even if they back some art project or a book, and you have a product, chances are they might back your project a lot higher than any other audience you decide to reach out to. Oh, here’s an easy one. Once you have all of your backers, upsell them. It’s so powerful. We made half a million dollars for Hiral by asking his 50,000 people to simply double their pledge, because this is the only time they’re ever going to get the same thing again, at the same price.
Andrew: When did you do that? This is after?
Zach: Did it about 72 hours left in the campaign. So we had all these backers, and we said, “Look, you guys are killing it for us. We’ve done all these things, we’ve got all these new amazing pledges and incentives and rewards. Now, this is going to cost you 200 bucks more after this thing’s over. But you, as a backer, qualify for this special update right now where you can simply pay 100 bucks more, and you get double of everything you ordered.” That was the pitch, something like that.
And then we had hundreds, thousands of people take that, which amounted to half a million dollars or more in total gross pledge increase, simply from people that already loved the product and wanted to give a little more, and they took advantage of the urgency, and the scarcity, and the opportunity that existed right there. And that’s part of our system that we do.
We have software that we’ve built out that sends out automated messages through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, that says, “Hi, Andrew,” “Hi, Zach,” “Hi, John,” and sends a personalized message based upon their pledge level, what they pledged for, what they did, how they did it, what color. And it’s pretty awesome. And we see conversion rates just sky rocket by doing something like that.
Andrew: What about selling . . . I got to go, final question. What about selling after the campaign’s over?
Zach: After the campaign’s over, one of the best things you can do is to Indiegogo InDemand. By switching your campaign links, Kickstarter now lets you update your campaign page, you can be, “Look, Miss Kickstarter, go here.” They click the link, send them over to Indiegogo, and now you’re raising money on a crowdfunding platform that has the scarcity, has the urgency, has a social proof, and you’ll still see similar conversion rates to what you saw while you were running your [inaudible 01:03:33].
Andrew: I’ve backed a few campaigns, and one of the things I’m finding is that they have a process, like Eric Ries’s book, “The Leader . . . ”
Zach: Yeah, we tried so hard to work with him. If you have the connections with him, ask him why he didn’t hire Funded Today.
Andrew: Oh, I’m going to his house in a couple of days.
Andrew: I will ask him actually that.
Zach: We could have actually killed it for him. He was working with Agency 2.0, or something, I believe.
Andrew: And he’s really proud of how well he did, but you think you could have done even more?
Zach: Tell him I could have raised him double.
Andrew: All right, I will tell him that. But after I bought, I got an email saying, “Did you know you could also . . . ?” Actually, “Give me your address.” And when I give the address, they said, “Don’t you want to buy five more books?” You do anything like that?
Zach: You cut off right there at the end.
Andrew: Oh, sorry. After I gave the site my address, I was told, “Don’t you want to buy five more books? Here’s an opportunity to buy five more books.” So they were upselling me as I was giving them the address.
Zach: I like that, so that was in the survey. Yeah, that’s a great idea. We aren’t . . . at that point, we’re usually not working with our clients as much. Granted, we’re starting to do more post-campaign, more post-Kickstarter stuff. But that’s not something that we do. One thing that we do do with a company called Basics Wallet, and Basics Notebook. They put a coupon code in every single product they ship, and BetterBack did the same thing, and it gives them 10%, 20%, 50% off. And we see all kind of takers of that. That’s a genius idea.
Andrew: Coupon within the product that you’re sending out?
Zach: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: Did you just become one of my favorite interviewees? I love this. I could talk to you for another hour. In fact, I’d love to have you back on. Any time you want to come back on, I’d love to have you back on. I have tons of topics to talk to you about. I won’t even say them because I know other interviewers listen to this, and then they do a weak version of what I’m going to say. So I’ll hold back.
Zach: I love to talk about actual application. I spent so much of my life reading people who just, and not about naming names or anything, but I spent so much of my learning career just listening to people theorize and, “Wait, yeah. That’s cool and happy. We’ll all sing Kumbaya, and psychology, and believing in yourself, and all that.” That’s great, but in the end, “How can I make money? What are some things that I can do? What are some strategies that will actually work, that I can suddenly see my dollar meaning something?”
Andrew: Right, and then it worked for you. If you’re talking about it, and telling me that it’s worked for you. And you’ve given us ideas that you actually have used. I believe one of the reasons this interview has been so good is because I am a bit of a jerk. I’m not going to sit back and just have somebody tell their story. And I think the harsh tone that I have before the interview starts and at the beginning, I think sets the stage that this is serious business.
And the other reason is that you just have a really good story here with good actionable information that you’ve used yourself, and I love that. Zach, anyone who wants to go check you out is probably going to go to the wrong URL, so I’m going to tell them the right one, because they’re going to add a “.com” at the end. But the website is Funded.today, no “.com,” no nothing, right?
Zach: That’s right, and get your project funded today.
Andrew: And one of the things that I noticed about you is I say something, or you hear something new and you take notes, very much like Richard Branson. He had a whole chapter in one of his books about how you should take notes. And at first I laughed at it, then I started taking notes, like he said, it made sense. It is kind of a kindergarteny thing to do, but I need you to remember that. And so, you took notes as I talked.
I think anyone who’s listening to us, even if they don’t want to go to it right now, should take a note. Go check out Funded.today. In fact, one of the cool things about having an iPhone, and many people do, is you can hold this little button right here, and when it beeps, say, “Siri, take a note. Funded.today.”
And while you’re at it, also remember, go check out my two sponsors. The first is for email marketing, these guys are a killer. Really smart software that’s going to help you grow your sales through email. It’s called ConvertKit. And if you go to ConvertKit.com/Mixergy, they’ll take really good care of you, including make it easier for you to transition.
And the second sponsor is Toptal. If you need a developer, you’ve got to go to Toptal.com/Mixergy.
And finally, of course, I told you guys, if you’re into systems, you should go check out Mixergy’s collection on systems. Right at the top of Mixergy, you’ll see a link to collections. All those interviews and courses help me systemize, and that’s one of the reasons we’re able to get Zach on here, and I’m able to be so prepared.
Anyway, thank you, Zach, for doing this, thank you, all, for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.