Master Class:
How to Build a business you love
(And have a life too)
Taught by Chuck Blakeman of Crankset Group

Master Class: Build a business you love

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Master Class:
How to Grow your membership

Taught by Robbie Baxter of “The Membership Economy”

Master Class: Grow Your Membership




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Andrew: This session is about how to grow your membership business and it’s led by Robbie Kellman Baxter. She is the founder of Peninsula Strategies which advises subscription and membership based businesses on growth strategies. What we’re talking about here today is based and comes out of her book, “The Membership Economy.” Let me see, can you see that up on the screen? Yeah. Find your super users, master the forever transaction and build recurring revenue. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where proven founders teach. Thanks for being here.Robbie:Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here, Andrew.

Andrew: I run a membership based business. More and mores SaaS based companies are subscription, membership based businesses. You are right, this is becoming more and more a membership economy, but we want to get it right. In the early days of this tech revolution, people got it wrong. In fact, here’s an example of a company many of us loved. I don’t know if anyone will recognize this, but I’ve got to bring this blast from the past up on the screen. This is what Napster used to look like on a PC. Napster got tons of users. Where did they get it wrong, and what can we learn from their mistake?

Robbie: Yeah, so the place where they got it wrong is also what initially led to so much grief which is they gave it away for free. They didn’t worry that much about who had the rights to that content and when they needed to implement a payment model, they had already trained their users to expect online music to be free. So they actually did a lot of damage to the music world for online because of creating that expectation, because they were so successful with building word of mouth and building traction.

Andrew: They did eventually start charging and because of the expectations that they set they had a hard time doing it. Is the big lesson for us that if we are going to start building a membership based business or growing ours, we need to communicate to our potential costumers. This is a business we’re going to be charging and set all the expectations up right from the start, is that our big take away?

Robbie: Absolutely, and the other big take away I think, Andrew, is that it is very hard in a membership business to raise your prices. It’s not impossible but it’s a lot easier to do it if you’re adding additional value and layering on additional tiers as supposed to charging more for the same experience.

Andrew: Okay, meanwhile a new economy business that actually was able to make that transition and do it especially well, here let me bring up my browser, RelayRides. What is RelayRides and what are they doing right that we can learn from?

Robbie: Yeah, so RelayRides is really interesting business model. What they do is they allow people to share their cars, so let’s say that your car sits in the driveway between nine and six, Monday through Friday because you take the bus to work. Well, maybe somebody else could use your car while you’re not using it, so they allow you to share the car and they use geo tracking and remote unlocking capabilities and all kinds of other technology to make it really easy for peer to peer sharing of cars.

Andrew: Okay, kind of like Airbnb. What is it that they’re doing right that we can learn from?

Robbie: They’re doing a lot of things right but one thing that they did right from the very beginning is they built their market up customer by customer. If you think about it all the technology stuff that they did was easy compared to getting people to trust a stranger to borrow their car. And so what they did is they brought on people one by one with a lot of human hand holding. So they blended online with physical relationships, and they did it market by market to let word of mouth help grow their business. So I think the big learning is that early on in a highly trust driven membership relationship, you really need to build it from the ground up by building across a network that already exist in the offline world.

Andrew: Okay, all right and as a result they’re getting people to trust each other with their car, strangers which is … I don’t trust my close friends with things as personal as a car, but strangely if it’s done right we do trust strangers with it. Let’s talk about how the person who’s listening to us can get those kind of results for their business and do it right. I’ve got a collection of points here up on the big board, you know what? Even though I’m the one who put this together, I’d like to skip over to the second point first and then go back and pick up the first point, is that okay?

Robbie: Sure.

Andrew: All right, so second point is to get the experience right before you get awareness. Now Jenny Craig is a company I’ve known about for years, I think before I even aware of the internet because they used to have a location not too far from my house and I just happened to see the meetings and the number of people that would go in there. Why couldn’t they just go online and just say, “Hey, guess what everyone, we’re online. You can now sign up and do everything that you did offline, online and life is good.” Why did they need to get it right first?

Robbie: Yeah, well so in that model where they’re transitioning from an offline to an online experience, you need to really think about how you’re going to provide the same value without defaulting to providing the same process.

Andrew: Okay.

Robbie: What a lot of organizations in a membership business, your promise to your customer is that they are going to get some kind of value. But the way you deliver that value has to evolve over time and it’s a big evolution to go from offline to online. So before you start moving people to what you think might work, you’re better off testing it and understanding how people react before you do a big reveal.

Andrew: So what were they able to learn when they decided to go online, that wasn’t immediately obvious to a company that had been doing it for years in serving so many customers before.

Robbie: Well, so I don’t know the Jenny Craig story that well but I do know the Weight Watchers story.

Andrew: Oh. Did I just say Jenny Craig? I meant to say Weight Watchers, you know what? It’s so interesting that I combined the two in my head and I’ve been looking up on their website and saying “Wait, this isn’t what I wanted to show.” The screenshot I had was completely different, you’re right. Yes, Weight Watchers is the company that I meant to talk about.

Robbie: Yeah, so Weight Watchers a really, really interesting company. I think most people are familiar with them. They’re probably maybe the most successful membership based offline business that we have. And when they about 10 years ago wanted to go online there was a lot of pressure, first of all, to give it away for free, and there was a lot of assumptions that they should offer the exact same experience but offered online. So online meetings with an online moderator, online recipes and so on. But what they did when David Kirchhoff who eventually became CEO of all of Weight Watchers that was brought in to run a Weight Watchers online did is first, he realized that they needed to charge. There were still real value being provided if you are actually going to be effective at helping people lose weight and that people would be willing to do that in whatever the form was.

So they avoided what I would call the Napster problem of giving it away and removing the perceived value from the service. Then the second thing that he did was he tested and tested, and iterated and iterated on the experience until he got to something that was engaging to users and that actually worked to help them lose weight. And Weight Watchers online is dramatically different than the Weight Watchers experience that you get if you go to a members meeting in real life. And the fact that he was really disciplined about figuring out how to provide the same value that is predictable, easy weight loss without defaulting to offering the same product.

Andrew: I see, and where Weight Watchers offline is largely about keeping track of points, as they call it, and also having those meetings online. Are there meetings at all?

Robbie: There aren’t meetings. They are now toying with and testing the idea of having coaches online. So that you can actually talk to an expert in real time if you need to which is actually somewhat of the KURBO model that is currently getting a lot of traction with kids. But their model was much more anonymous because one of the things that they realized was it wasn’t just that people were appreciating the online version of what Weight Watchers because it was easier and online more convenient. But also because some people don’t want that level of being known, they want privacy.

Andrew: I got that. All right, and so if they hadn’t spend some time and first built out their experience and gotten it right, they might have just said, “We’ve got something that works offline and it’s been working for a long time, let’s just put it online and create these communities for people to get together with just like we have them offline we’ll do it on the internet.” And if they’ve done that and they would’ve missed one of the big reasons why people are now today signing up online and that is that personal surveys, do it privately in your own home. This is the screenshot I wanted to show that for some reason I … This is what it looks like an explanation of their process and as result of what they’ve done, now I’m looking here at my notes from your book, they’re now doing 1.5 billion each year.

Robbie: Yeah.

Andrew: They’re three times larger than their primary competitors, NutriSystem and Jenny Craig. Maybe that’s where Jenny Craig got stuck in my head, and they have eight million website visitors a month, 1.72 million paid online subscribers. That’s huge, 1.72 million people are signing up and using the Weight Watchers system online. All right, all because they got it right before they got awareness. It’s such a hard thing to do. I wonder if bigger companies have that kind of a challenge too because when we’re getting started we feel like unless a lot of people love it it’s a failure. I’d better it in front of a lot of people and have them all join up because otherwise I’m a failure and you’re telling us something that’s counterintuitive. Forget about a lot of people, get it right with a few people and then expand it to more.

Robbie: Yeah, and tinkering is sort of the hallmark of great membership organizations. You know, I always caution people against what I call the big reveal, the, you know, ta-da!

Andrew: Yeah.

Robbie: A new offering for you, I hope you love it. Oh, wait you don’t love it you hate it because not only do you have a failed new offering which is the case in a regular business, but you also disappoint your members.

Andrew: Yeah.

Robbie: And that’s the big problem is that when you do a big reveal and you change what’s been offered it can be very upsetting to your members and it can also give them a reason to reevaluate the relationship.

Andrew: All right, let’s go back to the big board here. The next big point is the one that I initially had as the first one on the list which is to put your customers at the center of your business. Now Caesars has been known for doing that. This is a company that started in Vegas years ago, that decided that they were going to go huge to give you huge experience, huge connection to the company. And they decided that they were going to grow their membership business, total rewards.

Robbie: Yeah, so what’s totally interesting about them right now is they’re going through this very bitter bankruptcy feud and you would think that their most valuable asset would be their gorgeous huge resort that’s in the sweet spot on the Las Vegas strip. But actually their most valuable asset which is valued at over a billion dollars is the data from their member rewards program.

Andrew: Wow!

Robbie: Yeah, and the reason is that they’re one of the few companies that I can think off that is really gotten loyalty programs right. They segmented their market, they don’t just look at loyalty as a program on the side that encourages people to return more frequently and spend more money. They actually look at it as a way to build data, get to know their members better and then to take that learning and apply it to product development and service development. Which most companies don’t really do, they sort of just put loyalty off to the side and say, great. You know, if you do this then you get that but we’re not actually going to learn from it or do anything on a broader level.

Andrew: What do you mean? So I know, for example, having read “The Membership Economy” that one of the things that they do is … it’s so cool to actually have a physical book. I’m usually so digital but I’ve got your book and I’ve had it here for weeks on my desk. They will see if I as one of their customers and now I guess close enough or valuable enough for them to give me perks like a company a drink or make an exception to a rule. That’s basic stuff. What are they doing that allows them to build a better product because of the data that they have about their users?

Robbie: Well, so, for example, they’ve realized that this sounds so basic but most companies really don’t do this that people that are local that live in Las Vegas use the facilities a lot differently than people that are coming in from out of town. And if there are some people who come to Las Vegas to gamble but that there are a lot of people who’s spend a lot of money on restaurants, shows, other kinds of experiences that have nothing to do with gambling.

So they’re starting to segment out offerings for those groups, you know, different kinds of benefits that they can get, different kind of experiences that can be enjoyed. I mean, one thing when I talked about them that they’d talk about is that some of their best members what they really want is access to meet famous people. So I think they’d said that, I’m trying to remember now it was Elton John that was in-house and they arranged for some of their best members to meet Elton John just as he was getting set up for his show. And that had nothing to do with the gambling places, it had to do with somebody who really enjoys seeing the shows, enjoying all the facilities and the hospitality resources. So you know, thinking about what to offer people, it isn’t always what you’d think of first which is discounts. That’s always the default, discounts and free stuff. But sometimes it’s just an experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get access to it. It comes down to being treated like you’re special and having somebody recognize what it is that you would really value.

Andrew: Okay, and at Caesars company with a long history, huge size even their data alone is worth a billion dollars but in your book you also talk about startups who are doing similar things. One of them is a company called Punch Card which does local shopping with a rewards program, and one of things that they do here reading from the book is they allow you to take a picture of your receipt as a way of kind of punching a card and saying that you’ve been to this restaurant. And the reason I’m bringing up Punch Card is to show that what Caesar is doing on this massive scale startups are able to incorporate into their companies too. All right.

Robbie: Yeah, absolutely. I was just going to agree with you that startups should be building loyalty into their model from the very beginning and not just … I mean, Punch Card is great and loyalty programs are great but what’s really important is building loyalty and ongoing relationships into the fabric of your business and into your core culture, which is way harder to do when you’re a big organization trying to do that after the fact.

Andrew: What size companies do you work with?

Robbie: I work with a range of companies. I’ve worked with public companies like Netflix, like Yahoo!, eBay, Oracle but the majority of my bread and butter clients are somewhere between … they have a good business and they’re public. So venture backed, fast growing private companies and, you know, they’re big enough to have a real business model but it’s not too late to really instill some discipline and rigor around building community and ongoing relationships.

Andrew: Okay, and so the clients that you work with if they were going to add a rewards program or something that kept track of how loyal their members were, they would probably build it in-house. Do you know of any outside software that companies can integrate in if they don’t want to develop it themselves? I know for WordPress there are multiple plugins that do it but how about on the higher end?

Robbie: Yeah, so for loyalty programs one company that’s really interesting is called Stellar Loyalty and I mean, it’s really interesting because they’re totally rethinking what it means to have a loyalty program and allowing organizations to do some really cool things like …

Andrew: I’m pulling up the browser.

Robbie: Yeah, tracking at .. they allow you to provide surprise benefits which people love rather than just always getting … Now like if you fly United you know when I hit 25,000 miles I get something, I hit 50,000 I get something, my status changes here. But to surprise and delight members or when you come into a restaurant having them know that you’re already a loyal member and maybe even asking you oh, so do you want to get the burger with avocado like you gotten the last three times that you’ve been there and maybe even start the order for them before they’ve sat down.

Andrew: Okay.

Robbie: So that’s a really interesting company that’s really pushing the envelope on what it means to have a loyalty program. But I also work with … a lot of companies don’t have loyalty programs, they’re just subscription models or have a community and they’ve really integrated it into the fabric of the business model itself.

Andrew: All right, let’s go on to the big board. The next big idea to talk about is to provide your members with immediate value after on boarding. Now I think you are talking a moment ago about a company called Kurbo. Kurbo is there to help develop proper … Wait, that is zoomed way too far, here we go. There’s their app, their goal is to help out adolescents with their weight loss, right?

Robbie: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: And the challenge there is if you’re talking about providing immediate value, how do you let some one lose enough value immediately that they think great? This Kurbo thing really is helpful. I’m going to stick with it.

Robbie: Yeah, so that is a problem with a lot of businesses that the actual benefit that the product is designed to provide takes some time and actually takes some engagement for the result. So if you’ve ever tried to lose weight which I have, you know it takes, at least, a couple weeks before you lose weight and it takes about a month before anyone even you’re going to notice any difference. So what Kurbo does with kids who tend to have shorter attentions spans is they’ve gamified the onboarding. Which basically means they’re rewarding the kids for eliciting the desired behaviors through artificial means, as kind of a stop gap between now and the time when the weight loss becomes the rewarding it self. So, for example, if kids they have a red, yellow, green model for food, so, for example, candy would be red light but vegetables would be a green light and something like chicken would be a yellow light. So green lights, you eat as much as you want, red lights you should stop and think before you have any, and yellow lights you should eat but with caution not with abandon. And they reward you when through a game that you play they have evidence that you have understand that principle.

They reward you when you exercise, they reward you when you track your food intake. So these are all the kinds of behaviors that are going to lead up to success in weight loss. In fact, 80% of losing weight is tracking your food, I mean it’s just that simple. So if they can get kids to track their food everyday, the kids are going to lose weight, they’re going to eat healthier, true for adult too.

Andrew: And so we want to give them that value immediately so people feel that it’s worth continuing and being a part of the program but it doesn’t have to be the main goal that they came in for.

Robbie: Absolutely.

Andrew: Okay, all right, let’s go on to the big board. The next big idea is to start with a single service and leave room to expand. Now I’m looking at the big guys.

Robbie: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: Here is American Express, a company you’ve written about.

Robbie: Yeah.

Andrew: Look at the number of cards that they have, In fact, it’s even more than this. I see green, I see gold, I see, I guess, that’s platinum and black and they have other cards also.

Robbie: Yeah, they have blue and they’re coming out with the debit cards as well for people that are in a lower income bracket. They actually have a pretty broad range of products. They also have products for small businesses and they have a enterprise business card systems as well. And they’ve continue to evolve, they’re very, very clear about what their mission is. You know, when I spoke to them they said, “We’ve got our customers back” and that’s different than the positioning or the promise of other credit cards. So it’s not just about extending the credit, but it’s also about when you have a problem with the thing that you’ve gotten on credit using your credit card. American Express is willing to step in and “Do whatever it takes to help you.”

Andrew: So that feels overwhelming, that feels like well if they are already establishing all these different cards, all these different services maybe when we start we should not be starting with one offer with one kind of membership, with one option. Maybe we should also be offering multiple. What do you think? I say I know what you think, I know it because it’s important.

Robbie: I love that kind it was like …

Andrew: Wait, that’s a little too obvious. I’m supposed to tee it out for the guests so that the guest can express the point that I’ve read about and we discussed but that’s a little too obvious. I figured I’d call myself out on it. Why do you still say that we should start smaller with one?

Robbie: I think we should start with focus, do one thing really well that has a perfect match with your buyer. So people talk about product market fit and I talk about service member fit. You really want to get that right and it’s so tempting to just throw everything in in the kitchen sink and bundle the whole bunch of … I always say bundling a whole bunch of staff and calling it a membership. But really most people are willing to pay actually a higher price for one thing to be solved really, really well for that one audience and then you can always extend it. But what happens is people throw in other stuff or they try to reach another market or they say we’re for everybody and they end up pleasing nobody. You know, or they’re kind of interesting to everybody but not interesting enough to buy for anybody.

Andrew: Do you have an example of a smaller company that maybe could have had multiple different offerings when they started but they decided to have just one offering?

Robbie: Yeah, so they’re not a small company now but they were when I worked with them and that’s Netflix.

Andrew: Okay, and so, oh I see Netflix could have done video games and movies and other things and you’re saying …

Robbie: Yeah, so people ask them all the time, you know, they were getting all kinds of increase like let’s do videos or we have this really cool hardware that maybe you could sell because your audience really loves movies or maybe you can sell movie tickets because …

Andrew: Why would that have hurt their business if they said we’re Netflix we’ll send DVDs to you one at a time to your house and so on. We’ll talk about them in a moment more but why would it have been any worse if they would have said we do all that and if you want movie tickets and go watch a local movie you can buy tickets from us too. And we’ll even rent you a great DVD player that you can take on trips with you because you might sometimes want to be on the go. Why would they’ve hurt their ability to do the DVD business?

Robbie: It’s distracting, it’s too many things at once. So if you think about a restaurant and you think about a restaurant that makes one thing really well, you can kind of imagine that in your head. If you try to make 10 things at the same time in that kitchen, first of all one person can’t do it, so you need to hire more people. The manager needs to understand all of those different offerings and it can be really distracting. And the temptation is to take your eye off the ball and each one of those offerings is no longer quite perfect. The other issue from a brand perspective is that if you offer too many things, it’s very, very expensive to build brand awareness to have people understand that the more complicated your offering is the more complicated your messages.

Andrew: I see. I kind of have that problem now with Evernote where I used to be able to say to people on our team, you need to sign up for Evernote because Evernote is going to be our software for sharing notes. And then they’d installed it and now they see that Evernote also does chat and Evernote also does sale of socks and all kinds of other stuff, and it’s hard for me to even convince my own people, people I pay that they should be on Evernote because now they go in there and they get too confused by all the different features. Now Evernote is a little more mature than most companies, but I can imagine when you’re just getting started and trying to get anyone to understand what you’re about it becomes so confusing that they just walk away.

Robbie: Yeah.

Andrew: All right, let’s go back to the big board here. Wait, we talked about that one. So we’re going to go on to this next one which is to optimize the onboarding process with simple pricing. T-Mobile is a company that is now calling itself the uncarrier, they don’t want to be like all those other carriers. What are they doing about pricing that you like?

Robbie: It’s simple, their pricing is easy and then they say if you transfer to us we’ll pay for it.

Andrew: Pay for the contract, so you don’t even have to think about all the other expenses that other people are inflicting on you.

Robbie: Yeah, so they are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to get a subscription and for you to buy it. And in some cases the challenge with pricing subscription is that not every subscriber is going to require the company don’t occur the same cost, right? Some people make more phone calls than others, some people used more data than others. It’s hard to know it’s kind of the same problem that you have at the all you can eat buffet, right? One person’s going to go straight for the oysters and caviar, and someone else is going to have a half of sandwich and be done and the two people are paying the same price. The temptation is you want to price each person on what they do which is number one, it takes away from the subscription value.

And number two, it can be so confusing to somebody that they don’t understand what they’re paying for and the result of when you don’t understand something is you have a sinking feeling like you’re being tricked. And so the more complex your pricing is the less transparent you seem even if you make it all perfectly, say, here’s our complex algorithm and you too can understand why we charge you $42.78. The feeling is that you’re being tricked.

Andrew: I see and so by keeping it simple you’re keeping people from feeling that they’re tricked and you’re getting them to understand what you are even offering.

Robbie: Yeah, and then on the company side managing two, three, four pricing models is a lot easier than having a different price for every customer. I mean, that is just a nightmare to track and when people cancel or they want to upgrade, I mean, you have to like look through. I mean, it takes hours to even understand what you sold them in the first place.

Andrew: All right, let’s go back to the big board. The penultimate point is pick one key benefit and deliver it to a focused audience. We spoke about Netflix earlier. What were some of the benefits that Netflix could have promoted when they were getting started?

Robbie: So many, so when Netflix started they could have said we have more Bollywood movies than any other company in the United States.

Andrew: True.

Robbie: They could have said we deliver movies right to your home so that you don’t have to put on your shoes to get a movie. They could have said we keep a queue of the movies you want to see, so that you don’t have to remember what it is that your friend told you was really great and you’d love.

Andrew: We’ll help you find the right movies so you don’t have to walk into your local video store and try to figure out which movies you should watch based on what you liked before. Right now I’m thinking of all the different benefits, you’re right.

Robbie: Yeah, and they kept it really simple. Well, the reason they could keep it simple is because they did so much research to understand what people really cared about and I’m just going to say I know a lot of your listeners are in technology. The temptation in technology is to not invest in marketing and not invest in market research, and to think that you know best about the product because it’s a new space or a new technology. And Netflix invested in understanding their market and they really understood why people were signing up and staying with them and it’s all about the late fees.

Andrew: The late fees, why were people so upset about late fees?

Robbie: Because they felt cheated by it because it didn’t fit with the value preposition and they would forget to return the movie and then the late fees, they actually cost more than … at one point I think Blockbuster’s making more money on late fees than they were making on rental fees. And any time that a business, I mean, forget membership models. Any time that a business is making more money from their customers misusing their product and being penalized, than from actually providing value you have a big problem.

Andrew: I see and so people who are customers of Blockbuster, another local video rental chain, were so upset about late fees that when they saw here. These are the early promotions for Netflix. We found them online. Here is one where you can see how does this work? Here’s how it works. You receive what you want by mail, you watch it and then you exchange it as often as you want and right there in the center no late fees. If we’re to look at one of the early ads, I love that I can Google back in time and see what things used to looked like.

Robbie: It’s so cool. I love all these images you have. It’s really fun, it’s great.

Andrew: Yeah, you know what? I forgot that this is the way they used to promote themselves. That’s one of their early button ads and it says no late fees right in the center and as easy as that, they didn’t have to communicate the whole value proposition behind Netflix. They just picked the one thing that you really cared about and that’s what they emphasized. You said you have done work with Netflix, right? because I looked at the back of your book. Didn’t I see it on the back of the book?

Robbie: Yeah, it might be. I did do work with Netflix, they were actually my very first subscription client.

Andrew: I see.

Robbie: Eleven years ago or 12 years ago now I did a consulting project for them Up until then I’d been a generalist strategy consultant that worked at all kinds of companies and after I worked with Netflix, I really fell in love with this business model around membership. I could see how valuable it was. And so I’ve really moved my whole consulting practice to companies like Netflix.

Andrew: I see, all right, I know where it is. I think it was on your website, isn’t it on your website?

Robbie: It’s probably on the website.

Andrew: Yeah, I saw a quote from someone from Netflix on the site.

Robbie: Yeah.

Andrew: And that’s where I saw that they are one of your early clients. All right, final point on the big board. Continue innovating even after you achieve success, I went back into the internet archives and I found this screenshot of SurveyMonkey from their early, early, early days. Look at how that page looks, today it looks so much cleaner than that. Let’s see that is from 2003. If we’re to look at their site today SurveyMonkey, SurveyMonkey, there we go, it looks so much more polished.

Robbie: Yeah.

Andrew: Beyond the polish, what have they done to continue innovating after they became so successful?

Robbie: Yeah, so first of all the first picture that you showed that SurveyMonkey when all they did was basically they had a consumer product. They had one price, kept it super simple just like we’ve been talking about and it was really designed for either an individual like you or me to do a quick survey of friends and family or potentially for a professional researcher to do some quick and dirty research without having to engage their whole corporate marketing department or their agency. And what they realized was there’s actually more value there, there’s more they could be doing. So, for example, they realized that bigger organizations especially about the rise of online research happened, they realized that they needed a product for the enterprise, they needed dashboards and if you have multiple researchers within the same company that they were using the right logos and the right layout, and that all of those questions could be shared across departments.

So SurveyMonkey added and evolved their offerings and came up with models that appeal to larger organizations and even to the enterprise customer. They also introduced panels. Sometimes you have a question and you want to ask your customers. Sometimes you have a question, and you want to ask people who aren’t your customers to see if you should evolve your model in a certain way. They can actually now provide you with the kind of people who fit that target.

Andrew: So how do you know when it’s time to go from that single, very focused offering to innovating by adding another one that’s not completely different but it is different enough for you not to have included it in the first place.

Robbie: Yeah, so I would say there’s a couple of things. One of them is you want to stay focused on your mission. So if you look at Netflix they went from the DVDs that you showed in the pictures to now they stream most of their content, totally different but it’s the same value which is great video content. With SurveyMonkey I forget exactly what their mission statement is but they’re still helping people understand their customers and so they’re just evolving how they do that. And practically the way that they do that is by observing the behavior of their members through the data that they’re collecting.

Andrew: I see.

Robbie: And seeing where are people bumping up against the limits of what the product can do and how can they continue to meet their customers’ needs. So in the case of SurveyMonkey they knew that a lot of people were saying I can’t do my survey because I don’t have people to ask or I don’t know how to find those people. Or with Netflix they said, you know, we realized that people are curious about all these trends in downloading, streaming, other ways of getting your content digitally that don’t require the DVD packaging. And so, like I said, they’re always thinking about how to improve things for their members, they’re always focused on the same mission and then they tinker.

So they don’t just do a big ta-da! They roll things out slowly, get feedback, adjust and there might be a moment when they announce it to the press but most of these organizations do very slow gradual roll outs and often will just add one feature at a time and we didn’t even talk about that but I mean, if you look at SurveyMonkey everyday or Facebook, or Pinterest they’re changing it every single day. Making little incremental improvements, testing things, taking them out when they don’t work, adding something else because they don’t want their members to ever reach a point when they look up and say. “Wow! They haven’t changed this product in years, I bet there’s something better out there.” That’s what they’re trying to avoid.

Andrew: All right, they define their mission, the mission statement’s right in their back page it says, “We want to help you make better decisions.” That’s it, that’s all, that’s what drives us.

Robbie: Yep.

Andrew: And so, anything that allows them to do that, anything that their customers want that still stays within their mission is a possibility for what to add.

Robbie: Great.

Andrew: All right, the book of course as we mentioned is called, I’ll bring up the camera on me for a moment. “The Membership Economy” and it’s available everywhere. I think I got an early copy of it and I thought it was incredibly helpful and now it’s available in stores everywhere, am I right?

Robbie: Yeah, everywhere online, offline, independent book stores, yeah.

Andrew: Congratulation on the book and the business and, of course, the website is let’s bring it up, and Peninsula is a reference to here, San Francisco.

Robbie: It is.

Andrew: The Silicon Valley area.

Robbie: Yes.

Andrew: Cool. Thank you so much for doing this. Every one, thank you for being a part of Mixergy. Bye everyone.

Robbie: Thanks for watching.


Master Class:
How to get a massive webinar audience

Taught by Robert Coorey of Feed a Starving Crowd

Master Class: Big Webinar Audience



Master Class Toolbox

Course Cheat Sheet (Coming Soon)


Andrew: This session is about how to get a massive audience for your webinar. This session is led by this man. He is Robert Coorey who previously founded E-Web Global Marketing, a high end performance digital marketing agency. He is also the author of “Feed a Starving Crowd” which offers more than 200 hot and fresh marketing strategies to help you find hungry customers. You can find out about the book at where . . . there it is. It’s still available for free.

The reason I invited Robert on here because when interviewed him for Mixergy he said that people, that entrepreneurs, specifically used to give him a piece of their business in order to have him do the marketing for them. One of the key areas of marketing that he did was online webinars. He’d get a lot of people to watch and then from there he get a lot of those people to buy. And so I said, “Robert, please, please come on here to Mixergy and teach us how to get that audience for that webinar.” And Robert, that’s why you’re here.

Robert: Hi, good to be on the call.

Andrew: Thanks for being on here. Now I want to show people the pain of not doing marketing right, and I hate to bring it up again, but it’s a pain that you experienced. Here is a photo of you and your wife from back when you guys ran this previous business. What was the business?

Robert: It was called Vippo. I look like about 18 in that photo.

Andrew: And you look really happy and eager in that photo. I’m guessing you were expecting good times back then.

Robert: Oh, I was pumped. I thought I was going to take over the world and retire after 12 months.

Andrew: So how many millions of dollars did the business make?

Robert: 0.00003, or something like that. So it wasn’t, it didn’t work out as well as we would have hoped. To cut a long story short, I was working in the corporate world doing really, really well, climbing the corporate ladder, and I had a great idea that I would start a video production business with my wife. Now the thing is, this was in 2010 and video was starting to get a little bit more mainstream for online, but it was still very early days. YouTube was only a few years old, and I had this great idea that I could be one of the first ones to market and offer online video for clients. I’d go to all these businesses and they’d pay me a lot of money to do their online videos and it’d be really easy.

The thing was it didn’t work out that way. Because it was so early to market, the cost of production was still quite high and it still wasn’t as mainstream as it is today, and it was a lot harder to convince businesses to take us on than I thought it would be. So we spent a good 12 months, me and my wife. We worked not full-time but double full-time, all day and all night, the both of us. And you can see that was when we started the business and were really happy. After 12 months we were exhausted. We haven’t worked that hard in our whole life.

Andrew: Hard work, and you only brought in $30,000 a year from that business, after all the hard work among the two of you and you ended up closing down the business.

Robert: That’s correct, yeah, because it is just too hard. It wasn’t working and sometimes you’ve got to swallow your pride and just say, “Look, it didn’t work, and we’re going to pull out and just [inaudible 00:03:16] that does work.

Andrew: We all had the challenges with marketing. That’s one of the reasons why people are listening to us here today, to avoid that kind of problem and to find something that actually works. The way I work here at Mixergy. I’m kind of a jerk because you volunteer and everyone volunteers to do interviews here and to teach here on Mixergy, and one of the first things I say is if you’re going to teach something, prove it. You actually did. You said, “Here.” Here is a screenshot from proof that you gave our producer. What is this that we’re looking at, exactly, and why is this proof that you know what you’re talking about?

Robert: You’re looking at the stats from Google Analytics for a webinar that we ran about a year and a half ago. This webinar was for a nutritionist and we had, like you can see there, over 7000 people register to attend this webinar. That’s a huge number. It’s an absolutely huge number. Most people are lucky to get 100 or 200 on a webinar, but this was just an absolutely out of the park raging success because we did everything right, and we’re going to show you how to do that today.

Andrew: Okay. That’s over 7000. 7889 people hit the Thank You page on the webinar, which means that they registered to watch a webinar, and every one of them . . . or not every one of them will actually show up live, but we’ll talk about how to get more of them to come to the live event.

But then once they’re there at the webinar, you teach and you sell, and that’s why these webinars are so powerful. If you get enough people in the room it creates an energy and they all become potential customers, and you close all those sales right there in one day, in one event as opposed to waiting for the ads to work and conversion rates on website. Right?

Robert: Absolutely, and it’s kind of like, I call these webinars online seminars because it’s kind of like the way that you used to run seminars back in the day where you get all the people in a room, you do a presentation, and you make an offer. And then some people buy it and some people don’t.

The thing is, if you’ve got an international audience like you and I do, Andrew, we can’t run global tours every day of the week. It’s just not practical and not cost-effective. So we can run webinars where people can have a similar kind of experience but do it from the comfort of their own home. And it’s great because you’d have to hire an event crew, staff, all that kind of stuff. There are so many expenses when you run live events in person.

Andrew: Essentially, all you need is a GoToMeeting account.

Robert: That’s it.

Andrew: What software do you use for your webinars?

Robert: GoToMeeting, because this one was a lot more than that, we had to use a different platform because GoToMeeting cuts out at about 1000 users. It just couldn’t handle that kind of volume.

Andrew: You guys are getting more than 1000 users to come in all at once? All right. I’m getting about this. I want to learn for myself because I’ve seen that we at Mixergy have gotten good sales from webinars. I want to learn how to get more people in there.

Let me go up to the big board here. These are the different steps we’re going to use to get people to come to our webinars. The very first one on there is to identify your starving crowd. The people who have those pain points, you want to find and understand those pain points. You actually had a customer who was a nutritional client, right?

Robert: Yes.

Andrew: That’s what she was doing. She had only so much time in the day. She wanted to reach more potential customers. She partnered up with you, and how did you find the pain that her customers have? And we’ll talk later about how to use it. But how did you find it?

Robert: My client spent six years doing one-to-one consultations with women, helping their health challenges using nutritional tactics. She had all that data of what women were going through in their life. The sad thing about this is I learned way too much about women’s health than I really wanted to learn, but at the end of the day, women have a lot of health challenges and they’re really confused about what happens with their bodies. That was the biggest thing that came out of what she did.

So I went to the client and I said, “Look, you’ve worked with women for six years one-on-one. You’ve seen literally thousands and thousands of women. Can you tell me the eight biggest challenges that women have when they come to you?” So she said, “Okay, here’s what the eight biggest challenges are. I’m going to write them down.” I said, “That’s good.”

Andrew: Here’s some of them. I think you’ve given them to us before this session started. We’re looking at things like, I routinely feel bloated, I suffer from PMS, I can’t lose weight no matter how much I diet and exercise, and this is just you writing it all down.

Robert: That’s correct. This is exactly what she told me, and they’re ranked from one to eight. The most pain was the bloated one. Nearly all the women that went to her were suffering from bloating. That was the biggest pain point.

Andrew: I wonder what it is to suffer from bloating. I hate to sound so ignorant here but I don’t know.

Robert: What it means is that in practical terms you fit into your jeans perfectly in the morning, and then by the end of the day you feel like taking the button off because you can’t fit in them anymore.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: We’re joking about it here, but it’s actually quite a serious health challenge that women have, and it’s very confusing because a lot of them don’t know why it happens. They’re not eating a whole lot of food. They’re not going to McDonald’s and buying chips and burgers and Coke. They’re not doing that. There are a number of reasons why it happens. I’m not a nutritionist. I don’t want to give the answers on here because I am not qualified to say, but what we did was we promised that if they came to the webinar they would learn the solutions to these problems from my doctor nutritionist client.

Andrew: I see. That’s why you want to identify those big problems, because when you’re talking about feeding a starving crowd, you mean what it that they’re starving for a solution for? Am I right?

Robert: Yes. Think about it this way. If you’ve got bloating as a health challenge, if you wake up in the morning and you fit into your jeans perfectly; end of the day, you can’t fit into them anymore, you’re wondering what the hell is going on? What is going on here? And if you’ve been to other doctors and people before and they can’t help you, and then you have a nutritionist who’s a doctor, who has a PhD in this that says, “If you come on to this webinar, I’m going to show you solutions, how to fix this up.” That’s a starving crowd, and that’s a key reason why we had so many people come on, because the information was good, and people really wanted to find out what was happening.

Andrew: Robert, I thought what you were going to say is create a survey, find potential customers, survey them, and you’re saying in this case it was as easy as talking to the person who talked to all those customers in the past and having her just remember what were those big issues where. Write them down one to eight in order.

Robert: That’s right. And look, in my book I’ve got lots of other ways you can find a starving crowd as well. Some people who haven’t had six years of experience serving clients, and it’s not as easy as that. You might have to go do some research. There are a lot of different ways you can find a starving crowd. This is one of them, and this is the best one. If you’ve had physical one-to-one interactions with the clients, that’s the best way to find out what their problems are because they’ve told you for six years.

Andrew: Good point. I know a lot of entrepreneurs have to go out and talk to customers to understand them before getting started because they don’t have much experience with their customer base. You’re saying to understand what their issues are, and if you’ve talked to them already you know it. Sit down, write it down in order, so that you’re aware of what the top priority issue is, and all the way down the line. And that’s what you did with this collection here. I don’t even know that I need to show it again, but there. I just like to see how you’ve done it. I feel tired and wired, I have trouble sleeping at night, I’m a happy person but sometimes I feel sad for no reason, etc.

So now that we’ve identified the big pain points that our crowd has, the next step to talk about is having a success story for each pain point.

Robert: That’s why it’s okay, because it’s all well and good to have this pain points, so if you’ve got bloating or you can’t sleep at night or you feel wired, any of those kind of things, that’s all well and good. A lot of people have those challenges. What they want to know is do you actually have a solution and can you help me?

So to get more people to come to the webinar, we gave examples of how my nutritionist client actually delivered these results to people already. Her marketing wasn’t just saying, “Hey, come to the webinar, come to the webinar, come to the webinar,” the marketing was, “Hey, here’s the ten pain points. We’re going to send you one email for each of these pain points and tell you a story about how someone had this challenge, then came to my client and then got all fixed up as a result of the strategies that they learned. And we’re going to show you these strategies in the webinar.

Andrew: Let me look at one of this emails. This is kind of email that you sent out. Do you mind if include this here with the session for people to look at on their own time?

Robert: Yes, that’s fine. We include all this in the resources page from the book, so that’s fine to share.

Andrew: I’m going to read this because of course it’s going to be too small on people’s screens and frankly they pay me to read it out for them. Here’s what’s the subject line is. It says, “Tired, Moody, Stressed Out all Day. How a burned out woman put an end to those problems.” And then the body says, “Before learning about my secrets, Angela was reaching burnout. She couldn’t lose weight no matter how hard she tried. She was so tired, moody and stressed out all the time. Her life was in turmoil and her relationships were falling apart.” So right now what we’re seeing is that Angela had the problem that your audience has.

Let’s continue with me reading it. “She tried everything to fix her problems but nothing worked but as luck would have it, she discovered my method one evening. Then she started applying them. Within a few short months . . . bullet point number one, she could manage the ongoing stress in her work and home life, bullet point number two, her relationships improved, bullet point number three, and she finally felt in control of her health, weight and happiness again.”

Continuing on, “Now Angela was just one of the thousands of women who have found blessed relief using my simple method. It can work for you, too, if you suffer from any of these ailments: bloating, digestion problems, PMS, stressing, anxiety, unexplained weight gain, cravings, poor sleep, brain fog, and be sure to . . .” and then hyperlinked, “Attend my webinar. Best regards.

So I’m seeing what you’re doing here. What you’re saying is, “Here’s a person who had the problem that you have, here is how painful it is, and here are the benefits that she got by using this thing that you can get by coming to the webinar.” That’s the way you want us to promote the webinar.

Robert: Absolutely, and see, if you read that email it doesn’t feel sales-y. It doesn’t feel like you’re pitching it. It’s actually giving a bit of value, and it’s quite entertaining to read. You can definitely send 10 of those emails with different stories addressing different pain points, because if someone has bloating, they don’t necessarily care about, you know, they can’t sleep at night. It’s a very different audience.

So by having 10 different stories for the 10 different ailments, that’s why we’re were able to get such a wide range of people to come in. If we just did one on bloating, we might have gotten less numbers, maybe about 2000 or 3000. So by having all those different symptoms and addressing them all in one webinar and having those 10 different stories, that’s why we were able to get such a large number.

Andrew: First of all, the format makes a lot of sense. What you’re doing is you’re telling a story of someone who has a problem, talking about how your solution helped, and then giving details about how it helped, without saying specifically what the person did. You’re leaving that gap in people’s minds that they want to fill in by coming into the webinar. Makes a lot of sense.

Sometimes people are launching a brand new product with a webinar, and they don’t have these success stories. What I’ve seen is, actually, what do you say to those people if they still want to make people want to come to a webinar but they don’t have those case studies.

Robert: Look, it’s a bit harder. You can definitely sort of run a webinar and get people to come, but you’re not going to get the thousands and thousands if you haven’t got proof. There are a few different ways that you can do it. You can actually be really straight with people. You can say, “Look, this is a brand new course we’re running. We’ve never run it before. We’re really excited. Here’s why we’re excited.” Because you will not have proof for yourself but you may have proof that it is working in the market for other people. And so there are different ways to do it, but the very best proof is the proof that you’ve achieved for your clients. That’s always the best one.

Andrew: That’s one of the things that I insist on here when we do with one of these master classes in Mixergy. I want the person who’s teaching it to have an example of how what he taught worked for somebody else, and sometimes people don’t have that and I have to say, “You’re just not a good fit.”

But when someone who is listening to us wants to do a webinar, if they don’t have a case study, tell me if this is a fair way to do it, to say one of my steps is to do . . . actually, you know what? Let’s suppose somebody was starting a webinar trying to teach people how to do interviews, and they’ve never done an interview before. They can still say, “Here’s a benefit that Andrew got by doing interviews, and here’s what he did.” So you’re telling Andrew’s story without taking credit for having given Andrew the methodology. You’re just saying, “Andrew’s using one of the methods that I’ll be teaching you, and here’s the success that he got.” Is it fair to do that?

Robert: Absolutely. That’s what the Napoleon Hill did 100 years ago with “Think and Grow Rich.” Napoleon Hill wasn’t rich when he wrote that book, but he interviewed 50 or 100 of the most rich people going around. Then he consolidated all the best strategies from them, and that book has been an amazing bestseller.

So you can take the reporter route, where it’s like, “Hey, look, I’ve interviewed the 10 best guys that do interviews. Here’s a snippet of what Andrew does, and I’m going to show you what the other nine guys do in the webinar. Come along.” That’s worthwhile, and I’d be up for that. I’d check that out, because that person isn’t saying, “Hey, I’m the guru on interviews.” I think you’ve just got to be authentic and straight with people, and just be really . . . if you haven’t done it before but you’ve interviewed 10 guys that did do it, and they showed you exactly what they did, that’s fine, but just say that, and then whoever comes, comes.

Andrew: I remember one of the first courses that we did on Mixergy was with Paras Chopra, the founder of Visual Website Optimizer. He said, “Look, you need case studies if you’re going to be selling these high margin products.” I said, “What if you’re new and you don’t have case studies?” He said, “Don’t get a case study for your software. Get a case study for your methodology as used by someone else when you’re getting started.” So these are workarounds for it.

Here is the next big point. I think we’ve gotten everything out of this one. The next big point is to contact your current audience everywhere. That means Facebook, it means email, it means Twitter, it means wherever they are, and invite them to come to the webinar. You did this on Facebook. In fact, before we were starting you were saying that Facebook is working really well for you. What’s working better, Facebook, Twitter, something else?

Robert: For this particular market, Facebook.

Andrew: Before this women’s health nutrition webinar?

Robert: Absolutely, yes. We only had two traffic sources for this particular webinar. We had the email database and we had Facebook advertising. Those were the only two ways that we promoted this webinar.

Andrew: And for your book, I know that you’ve been advertising this landing page, on Facebook. What’s worked best for you there?

Robert: It’s running an ad to go directly to the landing page, but I’m actually borrowing the credibility that I’ve got from Brian Tracy and an ad to go fix at the landing page but I’m actually borrowing the credibility that I’ve got from Bryan Tracy and Vishen Lakhiani as testimonials.

Andrew: Right there in the center. So are you buying ads with their face, with Brian Tracy’s face on it and sending it over?

Robert: Yes, absolutely, because they have given me a testimonial and permission to use their testimonial. And with testimonials what you find is that it also benefits the person that gives a testimonial as well because his brand is getting in front of literally hundreds of thousands of people with running the ad. So it helps both people, the person that gets the testimonial and the one that gives the testimonial.

Andrew: Okay. So by those ads there . . . let me see here in my notes what you’ve said. You can send out an email, a Facebook post, Twitter message, etc., for each one of the pain points that we described. So how do you turn each one of these pain points, like I feel bloated, into an ad that delivers a new attendee to your event?

Robert: See, the way that we did this was exactly the same way we did the email sequences. We told the stories in Facebook posts. The post didn’t feel spammy and saying, “Hey, come to the webinar.” We actually just gave solutions. We told the stories like we did exactly with that email. So exactly the same way we wrote the emails was exactly the same way we did the Facebook posts. That’s why it got so much engagement, because a year and a half ago no one was doing this.

If you look at nutritionists and the way they market, 99% of them say eat green vegetables and drink water. Stop eating McDonald’s and stop drinking Coke. And it was, like, come on, everybody knows that. We all know we’ve got to eat better food and stop eating bad food. We know that, but we’re not doing it. When you’re in a competitive market space like nutrition and there’s so many people out there saying the same thing, you need to be a bit creative in how you approach it. And that’s why story telling works so well, because it flies under the radar and it helps people to have a better reaction to your marketing.

Andrew: So actually, here. You’ve been open with me about as much as you can. Something strange, you sent us this tweet. It says, “Do you think about the strength body? Do you focus on improving your flexibility? Both are critical to a . . . ” and then it’s FB.ME/etc. This is your tweet linking to a Facebook post which I’m assuming then links over to the webinar page. Why did you obscure the url? Why don’t you want me to see the actual ad as you have it in Facebook? Is that intentional?

Robert: I think that’s for a different program that we ran. I think that was an example of a tweet for a different program. That wasn’t for this nutritional webinar.

Andrew: Okay. So are you in fact hiding that webinar from me, too?

Robert: No, not at all. I can’t remember which on it actually is for, to be honest with you. That was on a few months ago, so I’d have to check it out and see what it’s all about.

Andrew: Let me get a little more specific here. So if, for example, we’ve got a problem, I’ll keep going back to this “I routinely feel bloated.” How do you present it in a Facebook ad that gets people to come to a landing page and register? What do you do? What kind of ad works for you?

Robert: We use extremely similar copy to that email that you saw. So it’s long copy and it’s a photo. You test different photos, but it’s a photo of a woman who’s holding her tummy in a bit of pain. That’s what worked well for that one. And then for each of the different symptoms, you have someone who can’t sleep at night, you might show them in bed trying to toss and turn and things like that, like she was roughing up the sheets.

Andrew: And then you link to the landing page. Does the landing page talk specifically about this problem or do you have a general landing page that says “I solve all these problems.”

Robert: Yes, the same landing page that you showed at the start, that same copy. It was a really simple one page landing page, it said, “Hey, if you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, then you have to attend the webinar.”

Andrew: All right, cool. Then let’s go on to the next big point. We talked about buy ads. The next one is to get affiliate partners. Oh, actually, hang on a second. Let me see. Contact current or whatever . . . oh, sorry. We didn’t talk about buying ads. Let’s talk about . . . wait. Contact current audience everywhere. I accidentally lumped these two together, but you intentionally in my notes here have separated them. Contact current audience everywhere means for you, do a re-targeting campaign, and I think I missed that, where you upload your email list to Facebook and you say, “I want to reach my people.” Is that what you mean by that?

Robert: Yes, absolutely. And even to take it to the next level, if you haven’t got an existing email database or if you haven’t got a budget for ads, what I teach my clients is to get down and dirty, and to contact your clients in every single channel that you have. If it’s LinkedIn, if it’s Twitter, if it’s email, even if it’s business cards. If you’ve got business cards stacked up from a long time, if some of those people would be interested in what you’re doing, you could email them once personally. You can’t upload all those into a database and kind of blast them out, but if you met someone at a conference six months ago and they could come to your webinar, you can go and email them.

When you’re getting started and you haven’t got a huge database, you’re going to roll your sleeves up, and if you haven’t got a whole lot of money to spend on ads, you’ve got to contact people no matter where they are.

Andrew: I see. So that point, contact the current audience everywhere, means the people who you already are engaged with wherever they are. If you have a Twitter following go to Twitter and talk to them there. If you have a Facebook following, do that, and again, even right down to if you have business cards, email them so that you invite them over.

Robert: Get your hands dirty, absolutely. Even if get, you might have to scrape and scramble to get 50 or 100 people in a webinar, but for some people, 100 people in a webinar, that’s a good . . . if you could stand in front of a live audience and talk to 100 people, that’s still good, especially if you’re just getting started. So no matter where you are, you can still use these strategies and you don’t have to buy ads. But the thing is, you’ve got to make an investment somewhere. You’ve either got to invest your time and your sweat where you get your hands dirty and do this stuff, it’s not as glamorous, or you can run ads if you’ve budget to spend on that kind of stuff.

Andrew: Now, then, we go back to the one that I accidentally almost skipped, which is buy ads to reach a new audience. What you guys did, according to my notes, is you advertised a success story for each one of the problems, you did it with a direct call to action, you told 10 stories, your budget was $200 per post for a total of $2000, and each post told the story of one problem.

Robert: That’s right, and all we did was, it was just a normal Facebook post on the fan page, and we hit the boost post at the bottom for $200. Nothing fancy.

Andrew: And this is the kind of thing that you were . . . is this really the ad itself? Now I see what you were talking about earlier where you said a photo with some text. Is it something like this?

Robert: Yes, something like that. But if you have a cat, that’s a different example, but it was similar to that. There were some of them like that but most of them were actually stories, so actually like that story we showed you in the email, but with a better photo like I described before.

Andrew: Image, and you do the full text within the Facebook post, even though it’s long?

Robert: Yep, long copy is good. People read it. People read long copy. They read it. It works really well.

Andrew: So you do that full long text and then you would link back to your landing page, and on your landing page you would get them to register for the webinar.

Robert: Absolutely, absolutely. Now, you can take it to the next level, like, we could have for each one of those different landing pages, we could have had an article that spoke about that problem in more detail, and then had a call to action to come to the webinar after that. So you can do that, but it’s more work. It’s ten times the amount of work. You’re going to write ten more articles and then each of them has to link back to the webinar.

We just found it worked fine. If I was going to run this more often, then you probably wouldn’t need the ten articles so that you’ve got a bit more variety. Otherwise, once those people have seen that ad and then come to the webinar, then you need to kind of mix it up and do different topics.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go to the big board, and the next big thing is to get affiliate partners. These are people who are getting a share of every sale that you make within your webinar.

You approached a big name celebrity and you said, “Hey, would you please promote,” and the celebrity said, “Absolutely” right from the start.

Robert: Yes. It depends on what your relationships are. I don’t want to say you can just call any celebrity up and say hey, please promote, and they’re going to say yes. This was someone that we already had a relationship with for this particular event.

Andrew: Who is the person?

Robert: I can’t say, Andrew. That’s confidential.

Andrew: Are we talking about television celebrity or online celebrity?

Robert: Well, online for this one.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: I can talk about my business because that’s mine and I can share that. It’s not a private client. For example, what I’ve done is with my book, I’ve deliberately sent my book to a lot of influential people that are around, and what tends to happen is if they get my book, and I send them an Australian hat as well, quite often they’ll actually take a photo with the Aussie hate with corkscrews on it which looks pretty tacky. I will send you a photo of that as well. And then they’ll have the book in their hand and the Aussie hat and they’ll say, “Thanks, Rob. This is a great book,” and they’ll post a link to my book.

Now that works fantastically well, and that’s what spoke pretty well for my book, and that’s one way you can approach it. So there are a lot of different ways you can get it to happen. I’m saying that it’s easy. I’m definitely not saying that that’s easy at all. What’s more traditional is to get traditional affiliate partners. For example . . .

Andrew: You know, what’s that? I can’t pass up what you just said right there, because frankly I’ve been Googling it on the other screen here. I never heard of an Aussie hat. This is what the Aussie hate looks like, with corkscrews just hanging out from it?

Robert: That’s it. Yeah, it’s exactly like that. And the corkscrews, do you know what the corkscrews are for?

Andrew: No.

Robert: They are to kick the flies out of your face.

Andrew: Are you, are you kidding me?

Robert: Yep. So if you got flies, in Australia we’ve got a lot of flies so you can just wear that hat and you can kind of shake your head and get the flies out of your face.
Andrew: Really? It’s not just a joke? It actually is being used in Australia?

Robert: That’s what they’re used, that’s why they do them.

Andrew: Wow. All right. So this is what you were passing out to people, and of course they would take a photo of it and say thank you, I can’t believe you just sent this over.

Robert: And here’s a photo of the book, and you know, it works really well.

Andrew: Okay. Clever idea. I can see how that would work out. How do you get people who are affiliates to start sending traffic to your webinar? What do you do?

Robert: There’s a few different ways. There’s a lot of ways you can do it. The easiest way is to actually, if you promote them first. It’s like the law of reciprocity. If you help someone first, they’re a lot more likely to help you later. That’s the very easiest way to do it, because it’s the lowest friction. Like if I approach anybody and say, “Look, can I introduce you to my audience and kind of promote your work,” nearly every single person is going to say yes. Why would you say no? And then once that’s happened, there’s a bigger chance that they’ll say, “Hey, can you help me as well?” So that works really well.

There’s other ways you can do it as well. The more traditional way is that you have an affiliate manager, and they go and approach 50 or 100 people that are in a similar category to you, and they say, “Look, here’s what our offer is. Here’s the percent of commission that we pay. Here’s the landing page, here’s the [inaudible 00:28:45] copy, would you be open to doing this to your list?” That’s the most traditional way of doing it.

But like I said, there’s a lot more creative ways you can go about it. You can send them something in the mail. You can do a favor for them in advance. And that’s what I prefer to do, rather than going the traditional route of just having all the stats, all the techniques, all the things like that. I just think it’s kind of been slammed, and I’d rather have less affiliate partners but more dedicated ones are better.

Andrew: You might send a gift of a corkscrew hat, not corkscrew, that would be painful. A cork hate, and then you’d follow up and say, “Hey, I’m doing this thing,” or actually even before, you’d offer to email your audience or support them, and then come back and ask.

Robert: That’s right, and that looks a lot better, because if you think about it from the other person’s perspective, like if I went to you, Andrew, and said, “Hey, go to all of your people that Feed a Starving Crowd. Here’s what our stat is . . . ” And you’re like, “Well, I don’t even know you, Rob. I don’t know if your stuff works, I don’t even know if it’s a good product.”

It sounds obvious, but it is important. If the show was on the other foot, you’d want to know more about that person and get to know them a lot better before you promote anyone’s work. It’s the same when you’re approaching anybody. Everyone’s the same. Everyone’s very protective of their database and they only want to be promoting stuff that’s good and that works.

Andrew: You know what? I want to ask about a photo, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m now looking at my screen. I’m looking very dark here for some reason. I wonder if somebody messed with the lights. Let’s try adjusting it.

Robert: Yes, I thought you got a suntan, I thought you’d been hanging on the beach.

Andrew: First of all, I’m always dark. I’m the darkest person in my family. I’ve got a very a white blonde wife and now we have a kid. So she’s very light, I am very dark, even the kid is lighter than me, so I’m walking around like the foreigner in my own house. But I think the light should be helping me out here. I think maybe somebody bumped into the lights and is making me look darker. Let’s adjust them. There we go. I still don’t look European but I look better.

All right. Who is this person who we were just talking, who I was just referencing?

Robert: Yes, this from my book, [inaudible 00:30:46]. This is a TV celebrity in Australia, and she and her twin sister have been featured on a home renovation show here. So what happened was the approached me and asked if I could help them with their online business, and I said, “Look, come in, spend some time in my office and I’ll help you guys out.” So I spent an hour with them. I didn’t charge them for the session, and at the end we took a photo with the book. And then she posted that to her Facebook page and she’s got 188,000 Facebook fans. What worked really well was that I got 1000 downloads in 24 hours just from that one post.

Andrew: Just from this post a thousand people had downloaded.

Robert: One post, 1000 downloads.

Andrew: Downloaded the book.

Robert: That’s how powerful this can be.

Andrew: A thousand people went from this post to this page, went to the bottom or clicked . . .

Robert: And downloaded them. And that’s just one celebrity, just one person. So that’s how powerful this stuff can be. And that’s why I’m saying good relationships, because if I went to her and I said, “Listen, can we do a sponsorship deal where you can endorse my work,” she’s going to say, “Well, okay. Fine. We’re going to spend six months doing contracts and things like that, and there’s going to be a fee.” I said, “Look, come to my office. I’ll help you out. I’ll give you some good tips.” I helped them, they started to do a lot more business online, and then they, as a result, they wanted to say thank you to me. And then they shared my work with their audience. So that worked extremely well for me, and that’s something you can do for a lot of people. You can just help them, and they’ll help you back.

Andrew: I wonder how many people are going to hear me to say, go type it in and go download. There’s no way for us to know. That’s my frustration, not just with this, but with podcasting in general. People watch or listen to one of my interviews, and then they’ll remember the url and go back to it. I’d love to get credit. I’d love for an interviewee to say, “I can’t believe it, Andrew. I just did this interview with you and as a result 5000 people downloaded, or even 500 people downloaded it. Somebody.

Robert: Well, Andrew, I ordered five new servers after that last interview because the Mixergy crowd, that’s going to be a hungry audience. I want to make sure that the website holds up.

Andrew: First of all, more than five and reup with cloud flair. Go to the next level of [inaudible 00:32:46].

Robert: I’m going to buy a whole data center, different types.

Andrew: It’s the only way that I’ll feel good about myself. I don’t have naturally feeling good about yourself capabilities. I have to have outward results in the world for me to feel good.

All right. Everybody who’s listening should go over to your site, FeedAStarvingCrowd.come, download it, and then find a way to conspicuously let you know that it’s because of Mixergy. But for now, let’s get back on track here. Use a reminder sequence. I never know how much to do here because, and frankly, I think I sent a reminder the day before, I think I sent a reminder the day of, and then we are going live reminder. That’s three. To me, that felt like a lot. I got emails from people saying I missed it. Why didn’t you tell me? I said dude, I sent three. So what’s the right amount? How do I not irritate people? Or maybe I did the right amount and I should accept it and be okay that some people are always going to complain. What is the right amount of reminders?

Robert: Look, the best way to do this is actually to tell some more stories in the lead-up to the event. We told similar stories to the opt-in sequence, but just kind of made them a little bit shorter, and just reminding people about why it’s going to be so good to come on.

Now, what I’ve also . . . I didn’t do this for this webinar, but I had done this for other webinars and it worked extremely, extremely well. 48 hours before the webinar starts, you send a PDF workbook, and it’s kind of like a fill in the blanks workbook where you have all the bullet points but they need to fill in the blanks when they come to the webinar to learn about what’s happening. The reason why this works so well is because firstly, people get a sneak peek of the content. Secondly, they feel that it’s going to be value, like [inaudible 00:34:27] is going to be a sales pitch. They feel that they’re actually going to learn something. Especially in our space in the marketing space, the number one reason people don’t come to webinars is because they feel it’s going to be just a sales pitch. They’re not going to learn anything. So if you can send them a workbook in advance, then they know that hey, I can learn some stuff here. And I know I’m going to get pitched at the end, but I’m going to learn stuff in the meantime so it’s worth my time to come on.

Andrew: So I’ve just actually seen this done. I would think that a workbook is a big PDF with lots of pages. It’s like I’ve seen four pages of a workbook.

Robert: That’s plenty. I’ve sent two pages, three pages, that’s fine.

Andrew: So we call it a workbook but frankly it could just be a work page, essentially. A work two pages, which I ordinarily wouldn’t think of as a workbook.

Robert: Yeah, like a worksheet, a work page. As long as it, the whole objective isn’t to say, “Look, this is good training. You’re coming here, you’re going to learn some stuff. You’re not going to be pitched through the whole time.”

Andrew: But I know my audience. Some people are just so anal and, God love ’em, that they would sit and write everything in the, that they would fill in the blanks. So if the first step, if I say the first step to doing XYZ is blank, they will fill that out because a lot of people think that way. They think by writing. Frankly, I guess I shouldn’t say that they’re anal. I’m pretty anal, too. I take notes within an interview, otherwise I’m not on track.

All right. So that’s what you mean by it, and it’s a reminder but it’s also a statement that they’re going to learn and it’s something that keeps them involved within the webinar. Give me more. What else? That’s 48 hours before. What else do I need to do to remind people to actually show up?

Robert: What else works really well is an SMS reminder. If you really want to drive your registrations to the next level, you can send two SMS’s. You can send one 24 hours before, and you can send one one hour before.

Andrew: And so you take, here’s one of yours. This is . . . let’s see if I could, I’ll read this again because it’s a text message we’re looking at. It says, “Phone number, don’t forget to join the webinar starting in two hours time. Click here to join.” And then you give a link to it.

Robert: That’s it. It’s just that simple, and it doesn’t need to be anything complex. It’s a text message, they can’t pick up that many things on there, so it’s just simple. And a lot of this stuff doesn’t need to be complex. It’s just about execution and doing it well.

So those are the two things that work. I’ll say the three things. So if you continue to tell stories before the webinar, send them a PDF workbook 48 hours before, and then send a couple of text messages. By doing that, that’s going to maximize the number of people that will come on.

Andrew: But within the last 48 hours all I’m doing is sending a webinar and text messages, or am I also sending an email the day before and the day of?

Robert: Well, you’re sending it 48 hours before, and you can send one out one day before and one hour before. Any more than that, you’re going to start annoying people, and you really don’t want to . . .

Andrew: So three emails within 48 hours plus two text messages.

Robert: Yep, and then if they registered a long time before that, a day or two before that as well, you can also send a couple of stories. And that’s it, because you don’t need to kill people. You want them to know about it, you want them to turn up, but you don’t want to be annoying.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go on now to the very last page, or the very last point here for today, which is to have the right elements on your landing page and your thank you page. Here is this template that you use. A lot of it just seems basic.

Robert: Very basic. Really, really simple.

Andrew: Help me understand what I might ordinarily miss if I were to look at it as a stranger. We intentionally kept this as just the key elements. What are the key elements?

Robert: Like I said, the event title is huge, because what a lot of people will look at is just the event title and make a decision if they’re going to come or not based on that title. Our title for this nutritionist webinar was “What in the World is Wrong With Me?”And the reason that worked so well is that it’s a very common question that people are asking my client. So they resonated that when they saw it.

The next thing was in that little box at the top we had two options for people to join the webinar. We had a 5:00 p.m. option and a 7:00 p.m. option. What blew my mind was that we had an almost equal attendance between both of those two options. I had no idea. I thought that most people would pick the 7:00 because it’s after work, they’d log in at home and watch it then. But we had an almost equal between the 5:00 and the 7:00. Like I said, it blew my mind.

Andrew: And that’s a dropdown menu that you have under, you ask people’s name and you ask their email address, then you have that dropdown menu underneath it.

Robert: Yeah, select the time. And then underneath the description on the left-hand side is we just had those eight bullet points which you showed at the start.

Andrew: There it is, on the left-hand side underneath the date and time, where you would have . . . let me see what those bullet points are. Things like, “I routinely feel bloated. I suffer from PMS. I can’t lose weight, etc.”

Robert: Yep, and then we had a little paragraph under that saying, “If you suffer from any of these symptoms, then you have to attend this webinar.”

Andrew: I see. And that’s what you want. But the key elements it seems like you want us to have two date options, excuse me, have date . . . wait. Have the dates on it and two options for different times.

Robert: Yes, and that’s because this was the first time we were running a webinar to this audience and we didn’t know which time they would want so we offered both. But as you get to know your audience better, you may just find that the majority go for one time, and then you don’t have to offer the two times. But to start with, it’s always good to offer a few different times so you get to know what people want.

Andrew: Here’s something else that you did that I hadn’t thought of. You had a . . . let me see. On the thank you page you had a call to action which asked them to share the event with their friends. What’s the incentive that they have for telling their friends?

Robert: That was huge. Nothing, nothing, but that was huge. That was absolutely huge, because well, we just had, like, there’s a lot of traffic that came to the site where it was shares from Facebook, where it wasn’t actually from the ad, it was from shares. So that was just huge. It was really big, and because I think, especially with this market, people might know friends that have the same kind of problems and they want to help out. See, if me and you were running an event about how to get more traffic to your website, well, I don’t know if that many people are going to go share it on their Facebook wall, or share that with their friends. So it depends on the market, but for that market it worked extremely well.

Andrew: Anything else that you want us to have on that confirmation page? I’m guessing a way for them to add the event to their calendars is helpful.

Robert: Yes, absolutely, that works as well. We had that there and that was about it. It wasn’t too complex. A lot of people are starting to get more fancy with this, and they’re putting videos on that landing page, and then even trying to make a pitch on that page. I haven’t done that personally myself so I can’t attest to the results, but I’d imagine it did do okay.

Andrew: Okay. All right. And there it is. We’ve covered so many different topics here today, or so many different steps to getting people to come to our webinar. Let me ask you this, Robert. If we were to do everything here on this big board and everything that you just talked about here today, what’s the one place where, one thing that might keep us from having a big audience for our event? Where is the one place where we’ll likely to make a mistake?

Robert: It’s the first one. It’s identifying the pain points, because if you’re running a webinar about a topic that no one cares about, then who’s going to come? You can do all these other things perfectly, but if the topic is not good then no one’s going to come. That’s why I wrote my book, Feed a Starving Crowd, because all the reason people don’t see it online is not because they’re not following the tactics or the strategies, it’s you’re selling something that no one wants. And so unless you really know those pain points, then all this other stuff doesn’t mean anything.

Andrew: All right. Well, thank you so much for walking us through it. I’ve seen that that’s actually a problem or a challenge throughout, finding the pain points of your customers whether you’re trying to get them to come to a webinar, trying to create a product that’s an information product, or trying to create software for them, wherever it is, the more you understand people’s pain, the more you can address it and give them a product that they’re dying to bye.

That is also one of the key ideas that you’ve been talking about. If people want to see how you market and learn from you, they can come to your website, and buy the book. It’s actually free. Is there shipping and handling, or something else about the download that we need to know?

Robert: The eBook is for free, and the physical book is $9.00 shipping worldwide.

Andrew: Here, I’m going to hit the download button. Let me see what the next step is on your site.

Robert: Oh, fantastic. Now I can spare you, Andrew.

Andrew: This is one simple tweak to just put . . . I hit pause on this because you and I are now talking, and then find my major business . . . actually, I shouldn’t be revealing this. People should just be going over to your site and seeing your marketing plan step by step. I like to actually see what you’re up to just because I’m curious about how you do it. Oh, this is . . . hey, what software are you using to do these multiple choice questions?

Robert: Gravity Forms on WordPress.

Andrew: That’s just Gravity Forms, where as soon as I click it, it automatically goes to the next page?

Robert: I’ve got a good a developer, Andrew.

Andrew: You really do. I love Gravity Forms. I use it all the time. I just didn’t realize that you can do it so that as soon as people click . . . oh, that is beautiful. I would pay just to learn how to do that. All right. Never mind. This has been great to have you up on the site. I’m so glad to have you teach this. I’m looking forward to hearing people use it, and frankly, I’m looking forward to using this myself because I know how powerful webinars still are. Are they still hot, or is it one thing that people have overdone?

Robert: In the internet marketing space they’re a bit harder to fill up. I’m running one in a couple of hours. I still work quite well for my audience, but in the internet marketing space it is harder to get these massive, massive numbers because think of what a market’s have kind of screwed it up. But in other audiences, these guys have never, for the business webinar, a lot of people never heard what a webinar was at the time, because it’s some industries don’t even know what a webinar is, so there’s this [inaudible 00:44:11] for it’s Greenfields, and sadly now industry is being slammed. But you can still do them and do quite well.

Andrew: I feel like in the internet marketing space everything gets slammed like that.

Robert: Marketers ruin everything.

Andrew: No, they help get people to come buy products which means that they fuel businesses. All right. But this is still effective outside of the internet marketing space. I’m curious to see how it works for people in our audience and I like the way you think in general. A lot of these ideas apply for marketing outside of webinars, like finding people’s pain points, buying ads based on them, and etc. A lot of this applies outside.

I’m so proud to have you on here. The website of course is Robert, thanks for being on Mixergy again.

Robert: Thanks, Andrew.

Robert: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.


Master Class:
How to become rejection-proof
(And turn “no” into “yes”)
Taught by Jia Jiang of Rejection Proof

Master Class: Become Rejection-Proof

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Course Cheat Sheet


Andrew: This session is about how to become rejection proof. It is led by Jia Jiang. He is the author of the book, Rejection Proof. Let’s bring it up on the screen here, “How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 Days of Rejection.” You can read all about Jia’s rejection experiments on his blog, which I’m looking out right here. It’s, and what we’ll cover here today, here are the big ideas we are going to be covering, it’s all a small part of what’s in his course. Let’s bring it up on my screen so you can see it, where you can find it at, if you want to learn more about this. But we’re going to be covering a whole lot here today with you, Jia. Thanks for coming here.Jia: Hey. Thank you for having me, Andrew.Andrew: Jia, you’re a Mixergy fan who quit his job, you started your company, your wife was pregnant at the time, you introduced it to an investor, in fact, I think, this is the site right here. Let’s bring it back up. Where is it? This is the business.Jia: Yes.

Andrew: When you showed it to an investor, what happened?

Jia: Well, the idea was, like, a lot of people liked it. And depends on the customers and . . . but the thing is, the investor said he was interested and just listened to my pitch. It was almost a little bit like a shark tank. But I didn’t get instantaneous result. He was like, “I will get back to you. Let me think about it.” Then the thing is, by that time, if I didn’t hear anything, it’s probably a good sign that he wasn’t going to invest.

But the thing is, at that time, I was a first time entrepreneur. I wanted this investment so bad. I felt it was an answer to my prayers or everything, but I just thought, and because he said he liked it and everything, I thought he was going to give the investment, but he didn’t. He sent me an email later on telling about he wasn’t going to move forward with this. It’s a very short email and that’s where the rejection that led to everything that happened later on.

Andrew: Yeah. In your book, which I freaking love because it’s just a narrative, it’s a story of a guy who gets rejected and holds himself back for a large part of his life without even realizing that he’s setting all kinds of limits to himself. And then you tell the story of how you break free of that through these crazy experiments. Some of which we’ll see here today. The thing is, though, in the book you talk about how you really expected this money. You did a great job. I think you were high-fiving after you did the pitch to this investor.

The investor said no. You were so surprised that you said to yourself, “I finally took a shot here. I finally overcame my fear and started a company and I still failed.” And that threw you for a loop and kept you from trying again. And that’s the problem that we’re trying to really overcome here. That rejection in the past often is the limiting influence on us that keeps us from taking more risks, from taking more shots at the world and we don’t even realize that that’s what it is, right?

Jia: Absolutely. Absolutely. We will have these moments in our lives that we fail in the past and we got rejected in the past. And sometimes it could be really public rejections or be about a girl or whatever. When those things happen, popular culture or popular psychology teaches us to get over it, don’t worry about it, just go, don’t take it personally, move on. But when we do that, we try to move over but those memories linger in our mind. If we don’t actually know what rejections are and they can haunt us as we are moving forward into our bigger opportunities. So I found in my life was because sometimes in the back of . . . When I was little, I got rejected in classrooms or when I was a teenager, I was rejected with a business idea.

These moments linger in my mind and tell me I shouldn’t do this, I shouldn’t speak up, I shouldn’t be more innovative because if I do people will reject me. And this is the moment that where I felt, “Wow, a simple rejection from an investor could make me want to quit my dream, my dream, my dream of being entrepreneur.” And that’s where I realized I have to overcome this fear before I move on.

Andrew: And the cool thing about what we’re going to talk about here today is it’s not just about overcoming the resistance and the fear of rejection, it’s about how to turn rejections into wins, get people who say no to you to end up saying yes. And we’re going to see a few examples of that, but let me show what can happen if people do some of what you’ve said or what you’re about to teach. This is one of the videos from your experiment. There’s a police car over your shoulder. Do you remember this one? Do you know what you did in this one? This was from a while back.

Jia: Yes, I do. I do remember exactly.

Andrew: If you describe it, I’ll just skip around here. If you just tell us what it is that you were trying to do here as you’re holding up this camera.

Jia: Well, so I approached a police officer that was outside a police station. I asked the officer, “Hey, can I get in your car? Can I just pretend to drive it?” And, by the way, I thought there’s no way and hopefully he didn’t arrest me on site. But he was like, “Okay. You look kind of harmless. Why not?” And so he did, he invited me into his car. And there was the other couple of police officers walking by, asking him what’s going on and he was like, “No. No problem.” His colleagues were asking him. He’s like, “Don’t worry. I think I got this covered. It shouldn’t be a problem.” So he let me into his car and took pictures of me in the car. He took . . .

Andrew: This is you getting into the car and that’s the photo that he then took of you in his police car.

Jia: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And we see a lot of things on TV right now or a lot of backlash against police. You know, sometimes, but in my case I found they are just humans like you and me. Of course, we’re all predisposed by our jobs. They’re high anxiety, high pressure jobs and there are things that can go wrong in many cases. But really, in vast majority of the cases that, at least, in my personal experience, they are just humans like you and me. And if you treat them with respect and, of course, I have some advantage because by the time I made that request I learned how to talk to people by doing these rejection attempts again and again. So I kind of disarm people with the way I talk and . . .

Andrew: And it’s a process. And it’s a learnable, teachable process. You’re going to teach us what you’re saying here and how we can get the kinds of results. If you can get a police officer to just randomly let you in you in a car and do some of these other stuff, then we can make more proposals, get more people to say yes to the crazy things that we have in mind. And frankly, it’s the crazy things that often help us really build our businesses. Really quickly, what are some of these other things that you got? On the top right, we see a photo of you in that police car. What are we looking at on the left?

Jia: On top left, I knock on a stranger’s door and I had a soccer ball in my hand. It was all cleats and all decked out and I asked the person, “Can I play in your backyard?” And he said, “Sure. Come on in.” And I couldn’t believe it.

Andrew: He let you do it and he took a photo of you. And the lower part of the screen, what’s on there?

Jia: This is where I got on the front of the plane. I approached the flight attendants before the plane took off saying, “Hey, can I give the safety announcement instead of you?” Most times, people when they give safety announcement, no one pay attention, right? You just watch your phone and try to make small talk with the people next to you. I said, “I’ll try to make it entertaining. I will do it.” And he said he couldn’t let me do the safety announcement because, by law, I have to be sitting in those seats. But he would ask me to come to front and say whatever what I want to the customer, greet the customers.

Andrew: Did you get to say whatever you wanted to the crowded plane of people?

Jia: I couldn’t believe it. Yeah. Absolutely. And I was like this, well, you know . . .

Andrew: This is all on camera. It’s not 100 days of wins like this, but it’s 100 days of you learning to deal with rejection to overcome your resistance to it and frankly, to get other people to overcome their rejections of you at times.

I wanted to go to the big board here and talk about how our audience can do it. I’m actually going to skip the first one and come back to in a moment. Instead, I’d like us to talk about what’s number two on our list, which is “Turn Rejection into A Numbers Game.” And one way that you did that is, let’s go and go back into your site. Do I have that here? Yeah. Let me bring it up like this. Here is, I think, rejection number 50. This is you in Austin. There you are. I like the intro to your videos.

Jia: I should take that out.

Andrew: That’s okay. We all have to collect emails addresses and grow our businesses. What are you doing here?

Jia: So this is where I went to . . . one of my rejection attempts was trying to find a job in one day. Just not about applying online, not by networking, just dropping in to random offices and tech companies, basically. And I asked them, “Hey, can I work for you for one day?” And so what happened is I made three stops. The first two stops, I got kind of swept out basically, scolded at and saying, “You shouldn’t do this,” but I left my resume.

But on the third try, the lady you were saying that beat you in the beginning, she was interested. And she’s like, “Why would the well-dressed man ask for a job for just one day?” So I had this conversation and in the end, I convinced here to give me a job for one day to work for her as an assistant office manager for one day. She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t know what was going on. She just found this interesting and eventually she said yes. She would have to get the approval from her boss and once when that happened, this is the video of me working for this company for one day.

Andrew: It’s called Big Commerce. They’re a major e-commerce platform. That’s you working for the day.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: The point is, you walked right in there and you say, “I want a job.” And what you’re saying to us here is if we want rejections to turn into yeses, we shouldn’t look for one person. We shouldn’t have what one of my past interviewees, Neil Strauss, used to call one “one-itis,” where it was just, “I have to have this one and if I can’t, then everything stinks.” Set up a series of them, so that you’re almost pushing or forcing yourself to do this over and over again until you get that yes. Make it a numbers game.

Jia: Yeah. What I learned is there’s no universally rejected idea or no universally accepted idea. If you really want to get a yes, sometimes you just have talk to enough people. So now when I approach things, instead of saying, “How can I get that yes?” I say, “How many noes can I take before I quit?” In this case, I said I will take three noes. I will visit three offices in one afternoon. And lo and behold, on the third try, that person said yes.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go to the big board. I’m going to keep skipping around here, actually, frankly because I’m going to be entertained by you today. And I also I think that it will pull people in better.

Jia: Sure.

Andrew: All right. So the next one I’d like to talk about is “Don’t Run When You Hear No. Ask Why.” And you have an example of how you did that where . . . let me bring up again another one of these videos. This is why it took me a little bit longer to set up with before we started.

Jia: You really did your homework, Andrew.

Andrew: This is a guy, and I could see you’re shooting your videos. I love these intros. Let’s skip over to you’re walking over with . . . What’s that in your hand?

Jia: This is a rose bush I bought from a local store.

Andrew: Okay. Just a plain old rose bush . . .

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: Hasn’t even fully started to grow.

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: Who is this woman?

Jia: So okay. There’s the backstory to this. I actually should’ve put a whole story, but what I did is I just went straight to talking to this lady. What happened is before talking to this lady, I was talking to her neighbor. Her neighbor was an older gentleman. I knocked on his door, I have that flower in my hand, saying, “Hey, can I plant this flower in your backyard.” I don’t know why I like people’s backyard that much. It’s like [inaudible 00:13.03] but the person said no and before he could turn away, I asked him why. And he said, “I like flowers, but the thing is I have a dog that would dig up everything I put in my backyard. So what you want to do is you might want to talk to . . . I think her name is Lauren. Lauren across the street is my neighbor and she loves flowers.”

So this lady you’re seeing in the video is Lauren. When I approached them, they were about to leave. She was getting into their car I said, “Can I plant this flower in your backyard?” And she said, “Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah.” So she talked to her husband, and eventually, they let me plant the flower in their yard and they’re very happy about it. So this told me that had I just left after getting the no from the first gentleman, I would’ve though, “Okay. Of course, he was going to say no. This is a strange request. Maybe I didn’t look that trustworthy” or whatever. “Maybe he didn’t like my . . .” I don’t know.

I could start making up stories that are just totally not true, but this turned out to be not me. Because I asked why, I found out it’s not because me. It’s because what I offered did not fit him and did not fit his needs. And he trusted me enough to even give me a referral, using sales terms, and asked me to go across the street.

So ask them why after. This is not the end-all, be-all, if ask why you will always find the reason. Sometimes people just want to avoid confrontation, they will make up reasons, but a lot of times some people would actually give you a real reason why they would give you rejections. So sometimes if you attack the why, meaning if you solved that why you can actually turn a no into a yes.

Andrew: That’s one of my favorite stories of yours. You really did, just by asking that one question, understand why it really didn’t make sense for him and then get him to help you to turn that no into a yes somewhere else. All right. On to the big board now, let’s go to the first point, which is “Understand What Rejection Is.” And you didn’t. You had this idea for skates or what was it?

Jia: Yeah. So if you’ve heard of these things called Heelys, basically it’s a shoe . . .

Andrew: Yeah. It’s like this.

Jia: Yup. There you go. It’s a shoe with . . .Well, you see it; it’s with a wheel.

Andrew: With a wheel on the bottom of it. I see kids running around with it all the time. It’s not so much running around. They put two feet together and they start sliding around.

Jia: Yeah. So back in 1997, I had this idea, the exact same idea. I mean, it’s a little bit different, but it is almost exactly the same idea. And I was ready. I wanted to be an inventor. I was ready to apply for a patent for this idea. And then at the time I was a 16-year-old kid. I didn’t know a lot about America or patent or anything, so I relied on my family for advice.

So I talked to my uncle, who I admired the heck out of him, he means the world to me even today. But when I asked him, “I have this idea, look, I got this imprint.” I made a drawing and I went to a school library to find out what a blueprint should look like.

I used that blueprint to make my own blueprint of this shoe, so I send it to him and yet he told me, “That’s not a good idea. Why would you spend time on this? Instead, you should spend some time on improving your English.” That’s a great advice, I guess. English is always good after moving to this country from China.

I was so dejected because I respect my uncle so much and he means so much to me. A rejection from him, to me, it was like the truth. That means I shouldn’t do this. But then just a couple of years later, maybe just one year, this Heely thing caught on. I think his name is Adam. I forgot his name, but he applied for the patent and he made Heely almost a billion-dollar company at its height.

So every day, a lot of times I see kids skating around in the malls and just on the street and I think about what could have been. But the thing is it has taught me one thing. We all have this type of experience where we have what we thought was a great idea or a proposal even at work. As soon as we hear someone we respect or we trust say no to us, we just want to give up. Because “no” is the most painful word in the English vocabulary and we just don’t want it. We just want to move away from it. So when we get rejected, a lot of times we just give up.

So what I learned later on is no matter how much I respect my uncle, no matter how smart he is, what he’s saying is not the universal truth. It’s far from it. In fact, if I asked 10 different people, I might get 10 different answers from that. So rejection is really nothing more than people’s opinion. Opinion is based on his background, his education, maybe the mood or her-I’m using the word he-but maybe it’s her mood of the day. Maybe it’s her upbringing, her prejudices. There are a lot of things that would lead up to a rejection, so if we treat rejection as some sort of a universal indictment of our idea or who we are then that’s where you get in trouble. But rejection is nothing more than people’s opinion.

Andrew: Good point. And it’s hard to sometimes accept that, especially when there’s someone who we admire. When you talked about your uncle, I think, “Well, who cares about your uncle? I don’t know him. He’s not the person that’s significant in my life.” But when I think about it on my own life who would say no to me that would suddenly make me rethink everything, and there are a couple of people, frankly.

Jia: Yup.

Andrew: Right?

Jia: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew: All right. Back to the big board. The next one we should talk about is “Negotiate for Something Less.” Negotiate. Let’s bring up your site again.

Jia: I like how you’re doing this, Andrew.

Andrew: This is one of the other people who you talked to. You’re standing outside of the Westin Hotel.

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: Right.

Jia: I’ve researched, and supposedly this is the best hotel in Austin.

Andrew: Okay.

Jia: I think Austin can do better, frankly, but anyway.

Andrew: So you’re walking over, what were you asking her here? She’s smiling. She seems okay with it. What are you asking?

Jia: I asked her for a free night.

Andrew: A free night at the hotel?

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: Okay.

Jia: But she’s really good at customer service. She’s smiling. She’s friendly and so I asked her, “Can I sleep there for free?” And she said, “No. I can’t do that.” Then I asked her could I have a trip up to your hotel room because I heard they have this thing called “heavenly bed.” Supposedly this is really good, that it is good for your spine and I want to try it. So I said, “Can I go there? I’m just going to take nap.” And she let me do it. So this is the principle . . .

Andrew: Wait. I don’t want to overlook what you just said there. You said, “Can I go there, not to see it. Can I go there and take a nap?”

Jia: Yeah. Can I try it? Can I try . . .

Andrew: Can I try it?

Jia: Can I try your bed?

Andrew: Okay.

Jia: Like, not her bed but her hotel’s bed.

Andrew: Her hotel’s bed, right?

Jia: That would be a different request.

Andrew: Okay. So you go in and she’s letting you up here.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: We can actually . . .

Jia: She sent this person to accompany me up to the hotel, and there is the heavenly bed. And I just fall down.

Andrew: And you get to lie there and you took a real nap in there?

Jia: Quick one, because that person is waiting for me, so I was there. Look, I was happy with some visuals about the best things I could dream of, including Costco. I love Costco.

Andrew: I see. Yes.

Jia: So Krispy Kreme, that’s what happened. So I took a quick test drive of the hotel room and came back. So this taught that sometimes if I come in and asked her, “Hey, can I go to your hotel room and just have a free ride on the bed and try what happens,” I’m not sure if she will say yes. I mean, I don’t have the evidence to say she would say no. But it’s pretty far-fetched. But I asked to have a free night there and after she said no, I retreated to a lesser ground, saying, “Can I just do this?” It’s really hard to say no to a person twice on two different attempts. In fact, was I doing was I was negotiating. I was willing to step back, and people usually, when they see you are stepping back, they usually return in kind. So this is what I demonstrated.

By the way, this is not my idea. I didn’t invent this idea. This is based on an idea from the book, called Influence, where they’ve done research on this. So I actually just experimented on this idea. It turned out to be, again, and again in my 100 days of rejection, I used this idea to get something lesser of what I originally requested. But sometimes even it amazes me.

Andrew: I see. And that’s part of the fun of also asking you something so outrageous that if they say yes, then you’ve got an outrageous experience. You’re like sitting in a police car and some of the other things.

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: Weren’t you in a helicopter also?

Jia: Yeah. And I was actually not in a helicopter. I was in a gyroplane, and this is toward the end of my 100 Days. I went to an airfield in Austin, in Pflugerville. It’s a small town near Austin. And I said, “What are some of the things that no way people will say yes? Just no way.” How about I fly a plane? I don’t know how to fly a plane. I have no license or, frankly, I don’t have the courage to fly a plane even right now. But I went, I saw this pilot-looking guy and I asked him, “Hey, can I fly your plane?” And not only did he say yes, he was actually really happy I asked.

It turned out he owned this thing called a gyroplane. It’s a small plane, almost like a miniature version of a helicopter or like a bigger version of a motorcycle in the air. And he seen an enthusiast and he loved to show this to people. So when he saw me come, he’s like, “Sure, I’ll take you up there.” It was pretty amazing because when I tell people, “Flying is not like . . .” When I think about flying, I don’t think about flying like that. I thought about going to the big commercial airplane and really there are a lot of bad experiences that come with it. But that flight, you can see in this video, was a . . . here you go.

Andrew: There it is.

Jia: Yeah. So that’s my buddy and I took him there. Actually, this is a crew of people who are doing a documentary. They felt what I was doing is cool, so they came down from LA to Austin to do this. And so they said, “We want rejections.” So I said, “Let’s go to ask to fly a plane and there’s no way they would get a yes.” But we did. We did get a yes. So he flew first then I did it and it was pretty amazing.

Andrew: And even if then you don’t get that amazing experience, you can always ask for a second thing that’s a little bit easier, more palatable and you’re saying people are more likely to say yes to that.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: Because they don’t like to say no twice.

Jia: No. No. We often think people are cold. They would just flat-out reject our request and so we often don’t ask. And sometimes when we ask, we don’t hear the no. We either just retreat and run away or we could get angry sometimes. We’re like, “How could they say no to us?”

Well, sometimes we’re tied to getting a yes. But what I’m telling people is to have a second ask ready. Like for example, if he will say no to me in this case, we would say, “Can I get in the plane and you can take a picture of me? Or maybe we all get on the plane? Maybe, you can just set up a lesson for me I can do that? If I have something lesser to ask, the person is more likely to say yes to the second request.

Andrew: All right. Good point. Let’s go back to the big board. And the next thing we should talk about is to use rejection as a motivating tool.”

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: Let me bring this guy up here. Do you recognize his photo and where he is?

Jia: This is Michael Jordan.

Andrew: He’s at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony.

Jia: Yep. He made the ceremony speech that’s unlike anyone else doing it. I mean, when we think about acceptance of an award, we talk about, “Hey, thank you, my wife; thank you, my director; thank you for my coach and thank all of these people helping me. You’ve inspired me.” We would maybe go into some personal stories, someone telling us an inspiring story that made us who we are.

No. This guy, he was the best basketball player in history. And he got on there, and all he talked about was rejection. He got rejected in high school and he was not a starter on his varsity team. And when he went to University of North Carolina, Coach Dean Smith wouldn’t make him a started, wouldn’t talk about him in a media interview. When he got to the NBA, he was shunned by fellow NBA stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird because they were more established stars and they thought this youngster hasn’t made it yet. And he talked about how a GM was saying players are not the reason for success, actually, managements are. He started having this laundry list of all the rejections he received in his career.

And then he talked about how each one of them was like wood added to this fire, to make him this excellent player. Because every day he needs to find that fuel, and rejection was that fuel. And this is amazing. No one has achieved the height of excellence that he has, and he did that not by using inspiration, but using rejection as motivation. He constantly try to prove other people wrong and he’s often said in the arena you would hear thousands of people cheering and clapping, but he’s looking for that one person who boos him. And he will use that as motivation to perform to a level that no one could.

Andrew: Did you do that? Did you use one person’s reject . . . What did you use as rejection motivation?

Jia: Yeah. So it was the investor’s rejection, and I would be lying to say that rejection did not pull some . . . it did not kill me and when I came back I’m saying, “I’m going to just blow this up. I’m going to. . .”

Andrew: And when you said it to yourself, did you say, “I’m going to show him,” or, “I’m going to make it”? What was going on in your head?

Jia: Yeah. I’m going to show the world.

Andrew: “I’m going to show the world,” not him. “I’m going to show the world that his assessment of me is wrong.”

Jia: I’m going to show the world that I can turn rejection into something great. Because, frankly, people like him or investors like him reject people on a daily basis. Most people would just go away or maybe get angry or sulk or maybe find on the next investor. I’m like, “I’m going to turn this rejection thing into my own tool to make me a better leader, to make me a better entrepreneur.” And later on when this thing blew up I’m like, “You know what, this is my life now. I’m going to turn this into my life mission.” So small part of that was basically the motivation of this rejection.

Andrew: All right. And let’s go back to the big board. Let’s talk about “Giving A Reason when Asking for Something.” Let me show it here, go back to your site. This is you walking around New York City. What are you trying to get people to do here?

Jia: I’m getting people to take pictures with me randomly. They couldn’t believe it. I mean, they were almost always they’re like, “What are you trying to do? What? Are you trying to have me take a picture of you? No problem.” But I would tell them, “I’m trying to take a picture with you,” they’re all perplexed but they all said yes. And part of the reason is I told almost all of them that because I feel this is New York and people don’t do this. People just want to get other people off their picture frame and instead they want to take pictures of those buildings and landmarks. But, you know what, I just want to take pictures with people. And they all said yes, which was really surprising. Not one person said no.

Andrew: By the way, let’s have a look at this one for a second because there’s something that just stands out for me. This is him. You’re talking to him, right? You’re explaining to him, you’re saying what you just told me that . . . here we go. Saying, “My reason for doing is everyone in New York wants to take pictures of buildings. I want to take pictures of people in New York.” I get that and that’s the reason that he says yes, that’s our point here, but the thing that stands out to me is you’re still wearing your earphones the whole time. What are you listening to?

Jia: Yep. This is where I’m filming with that iPhone on my neck. You see that little pouch that . . .

Andrew: And so why are you listening to them too?

Jia: No. I used that as a microphone, so I can talk.

Andrew: So the earphones that are in your ears are actually aren’t important. It’s the microphone that’s dangling from them that’s important.

Jia: Yes.

Andrew: That’s how you’re recording your audio.

Jia: Yes.

Andrew: And by wearing it around your neck, you can shoot video of the people you’re talking to.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: I see. And that way it just looks like you’re walking over them and they don’t see that they’re being even videoed necessarily.

Jia: No. Maybe once or twice some people said, “Are you recording?” I would tell them, “Yes. It’s my blog.” So I never lie about recording.

Andrew: Okay. So the big point here, the reason that so many people say yes is because you give them a reason for doing it. So it’s not, “Hey, can I take a picture of you,” which seems a little bit creepy, but, “Can I take a picture of you? Most people who come to New York would take pictures of buildings. I want to take pictures of locals. Will you do it?”

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: And that’s what gets it to it. All right.

Jia: Yeah. You heard this landmark study called Xerox Machine, right? This is back in the 7’0s when Harvard professors did this. Basically, it turned out that if you give people reason to ask to cut in line of people who are getting ready to make copies at a Xerox machine, but if you would give them a reason, and sometimes it could be a really bad reason to, but the fact that you’re giving them a reason, the chance of people letting you to cut in front of them goes way up.

Andrew: Okay. Yeah. I think that was an experiment where they said, “Can I please cut in front of you because I’m in a rush,” or something like that?

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: People would say yes, but if they just said, “Can I please get in front of you because I need to get in front of you,” or something nonsensical like that, people still were more likely to say yes than if they were asked without a reason. So just a reason, even if it’s a flimsy one, is enough to get people to agree.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: All right.

Jia: I don’t make up reasons. I don’t lie about, “Hey, can I take a picture of you because it’s my mother’s dying wish.” That would just defeat the purpose. That would be too easy and that would make me feel like a secondhand car salesman. I always give a real reason, and in that case, that was a real reason why I was doing it.

Andrew: So you were going in to experiment with rejection and putting yourself out there in situations where people would reject you. But it sounds like you are also doing a lot of persuasion research too, trying to . . .

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: You were? How methodical were you about that? Did you go home and say, “How do I get someone to say yes?” or, “What’s the way to get them to be more likely to say yes?”

Jia: Yeah. So it’s a combination of kind of just a spur of the moment thinking but also some planning as well. Because I’ve read a lot of business books, and I listen to a lot of podcasts and interviews about how other people do things. I just want to experiment with them in my own case. So these experiments started with me looking for no. There’s nothing. Just give me a no and let me move on.

But then I had these moments where people started saying yes to me. That’s where the light bulb kind of turned on because I felt, “Wow, maybe I shouldn’t expect a yes or shouldn’t expect no. Well, I should just ask and learn and experiment and turn these 100 days of rejection into a learning, experimenting or proof playground for me.” So that’s you started seeing these lessons coming out just because I became very intentional toward the middle and end of these whole experiments.

Andrew: All right. On to the big board, next big one is to collaborate. Don’t be contentious. Don’t argue. You actually had an experience. I don’t know which one of the videos on your site it is, and hopefully we can see it here. But you walked in into a music studio with someone else.

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: What happened there?

Jia: This is not actually in the100 days video, but because it was the same documentary crew you saw earlier. They made into their own video. They basically went to Austin. They are saying it’s the capital of live music, right? So are there are a lot of independent music studios where they would let you rent and play music and perform. So we went to this studio and the idea is we want to hear the receptionist play his favorite instrument.

Andrew: The receptionist? The person who’s sitting at the door?

Jia: Yes. The person sitting at the door.

Andrew: Even the receptionist to play an instrument for you?

Jia: Yeah. Yeah. We don’t know if he could play or not. So the first person, it was actually documentary crewmember. He wants to try this. He just came in and said, “I want you to play this.” And they were like, “Sorry. I can’t do this because I’m doing my job. I can’t leave here.” And then my friend, or the documentary crewmember, started arguing with him saying, “No. It is part of the job. I’m a customer. I could be a customer. That is your job to actually . . .” You know, this started to become contentious. Their voices were raised and I’m like, “Wow, I have to stop this because it’s not fun. This is not how you do things.”

So I stopped him and I said, “Hey, what we really want is just to hear you play music. Is there any way you can help us to make this happen?” So I turned that “if” question into, “How can you make this happen,” into a “how” question. And he’s the customer service person, right? Now, he started taking off his hat of argument and put on this hat of customer service and he was like, “Okay. Let’s do this. I’m going to ask my coworkers to be here, to man the booth and we’ll have a free drum room. I’m going play my favorite drum for you.” And then the documentary crewmembers, their jaws just dropped.

They were like, “How is that possible? How is that we cannot get this done and you can just do it? What are you doing?” At that moment, that’s also a moment where I’m like, “Wow, I’m actually getting really good at this, that the people who haven’t practiced this don’t know how to talk to strangers asking for favors,” and I could. And because I was respectful, because I collaborated with the other person, I was trying to fulfill a wish and try to do as favor instead of forcing them, telling them this is their duty and force them to argue. Because, as you know, after you start to argue and disagree on things, the chance of you getting a yes goes a way down.

Andrew: Yeah. Because now you’re reinforcing the other person that they believe the no. And the more you argue, the more they have to stand their ground. So you’re saying turn it into a collaborative experience by saying, “What we’re trying to do is . . . how do we make that happen?”

Jia: Yup. Absolutely. Instead . . .

Andrew: Okay. You’re trying to do is just hear what the studio sounds like, is there a way for us to try that?

Jia: Yeah. I have a few other examples from the 100 days. The solutions they can come up with are much better than we originally thought. I mean, we sometimes we have this god complex or maybe just we’ll have this thought that this is the way I want it done and it should be done. But we’re not the experts in many things.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jia: A lot of times, the other people can come up with solutions that are so much better. Honestly, I’m not sure but some of you are but if you are a US congressman who’s listening to this, get the rejection therapy because you guys need to know how to collaborate.

Andrew: All right. Final point on our big board is to acknowledge doubt before the other person raises it. And here’s how you did that. Let’s again go back to your site. This is, and there it is.

Jia: There you go.

Andrew: This is you at Starbucks. What’s happening here?

Jia: Yeah. So this person, he was manning the Starbucks store and asked him, “Hey, can I be a Starbucks greeter?” “What’s a Starbuck greeter?” It’s like I want to be a Walmart greeter who works at a Starbucks. Basically, you’re standing there at door and greeting customers and tell them we got a really good and it was holiday. It was the holiday season I wanted to give them holiday cheers.

The thing is, when I asked he was not sure, right? And one thing I said is, “Is that weird?” He said, “Yes. This is really weird.” And by me asking that, telling them it’s weird, I can almost feel that he was putting on the doubt look.

Look, he’s right here. His face is full of doubt. He was not sure. But because I acknowledged that what I’m asking is weird, he felt much better about it afterwards. And in many cases, when we’re trying to make a sale or trying to ask people for things or an entrepreneur request, we try to hide our weakness, right? We just try to sound as if everything was great.

But I found if sometimes if I make the other person know the weakness in my argument, like, “I’m asking for favor. You probably haven’t heard this a lot,” or, “Maybe this is a little bit weird,” you actually put them at ease because now they know you’re not crazy. Then now, they now know you are not trying to get them fired. You’re showing empathy that you’re thinking the same way they do. And don’t think those doubts will just go away on their own, just naturally on their own. When you mention them, the chance of you getting a yes goes up.

Andrew: This is you actually greeting people, right?

Jia: Yeah.

Andrew: And this is . . .

Jia: I’m greeting people, yeah.

Andrew: It’s weird because we don’t see you in your videos sometimes. It’s you showing us, from your perspective, what it looks like as you’re greeting people as they walk in the door.

Jia: Yep. By the way, whatever you do, being a greeter is not a good trajectory for your career.

Andrew: I know.

Jia: It’s boring as hell.

Andrew: But that’s a really good point, to acknowledge the weirdness. To say, “Hey, is that weird?” Even with guests, if I bring up, “Hey, this is a little bit of a tough question. Isn’t it?” or, ” Is that a weird thing for me to bring up?” it does reduce the barrier. Or, “I don’t think I asked that clearly,” and what I want to do is pretend that I asked it perfectly. But if I say, “I don’t think I asked that clearly,” it brings them onboard with me and gets them to help me out too.

Jia: Absolutely. Because we are showing a weakness or you show that you’re a human. You show that you’re not standing up there making this request from top down. You were just like collaborating and then that’s where almost automatically I want to defend you, Andrew, when you asked that question. I’m like, “You’re fine. You’re fine.” That’s actually a very powerful tool when you are making a request.

Andrew: Acknowledge the doubt that they’re feeling instead of pretending it doesn’t exist and they realize that they are human being and it makes them more likely to say yes. All right. These are a few ideas and let’s go back to the big word, yeah, we’ve gone through all of them. If people want to see more of your work, they should come to Almost everything I pulled up here was from these videos. I love when someone teaches not based on what they read in a book or what they theorized works best, but because of their experiences.

And here you’ve got a collection of 100 of your experiences on your site, on Fear Buster. So I urge people to click the 100 Days of Rejection link at the top of the page. I urge them to get the book because it’s really well done. Where is that? There it is. The book is just so well told. It’s a collection of stories. Here what I asked you to do was I said, “Please pull out specific tips that people can use, so if there’s one thing that they got from this, they will have gotten the value out of listening to this and go on use it tomorrow, if they wanted to, or today.” What you did in the book was say, “I don’t need to give you a bunch of instructions. I’m just going to tell you my story.”

And as I told you before, one of the things I love about you is the way you tell stories. I get wrapped up in the story but you also have these open loops where you say, “And then something happened. But I’ll tell you about it in a moment because this other thing is also important.” Then I say, “All right. I’m sucked into the story. But what happened to the thing that you didn’t tell us?” “Well, that comes later on.” Yeah, anyway, I don’t think I’m doing it justice but it’s kind of like watching an episode of Lost, where we just keeping seeing, “This is coming soon. Wait.” And unlike Lost, you actually deliver on it.

Jia: Wow. I mean . . .

Andrew: Anyway, I really love the book.

Jia: That’s crazy Andrew, wow. If my book can be as good as Lost then I’m set for life.

Andrew: More substantive and you actually deliver on your promises. I hate that TV show. I got sucked in to it every single episode. They’re so good at sucking me in but they’re not good at payoff. You’re good at sucking me into your stories and there’s always a payoff. So people should click the 100 Days of Rejection. Get the book here and if they want more of the kinds of tips that we talked about today, there’s a link right there at the top of your site for the rejection course. That is available at, if they want to skip to it directly, or from your site, which is So good to have you on here.

Jia: Can I make one more point?

Andrew: Yeah. I’d love it.

Jia: If you read my book or if you do Rejection Gym, one thing I want to say is you’re going to make some change in your lives. You got to have some tools that you didn’t have before, where you can increase your persuasion skills. The thing I want to say is don’t use that for bad. Because these things are kind of amoral things, like you can manipulate people. I don’t want that to happen. I had the idea as, “I want to be a better entrepreneur. I want to change the world in different ways. I want to make the world a better place.”

The last thing I would want is for you to learn these techniques and things that use it for something that’s not ethical.

Andrew: It’s funny you just said that because in my mind I was thinking, “If I go on 100 days of getting people to do stuff for me for free and see what happens. I can take plane rides. I can get free coffee. I can donuts made in special shapes.” I see. That’s what you’re saying. Look, don’t get carried away with the power of this. It’s not about doing this for evil and getting small things like a free cup of coffee or plane rides. So actually it’s not called . . . What was it called? The gyro what?

Jia: Gyroplane.

Andrew: Gyroplane. So it’s not about that, it’s about the bigger idea, which is how do you not get afraid of rejection when it comes to doing big things like creating these big companies that we’re all here to do. And if we do get rejected, how do we turn it around? Turn a no into a yes.

Jia: Yep.

Andrew: All right.

Jia: This is a means to a greater end. The person who defines the end can only be you. But this will help.

Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. We work so hard to make sure that every person who comes on here to teach teaches us something that’s directly applicable to entrepreneurs, has the experience to really back up what they’re teaching and can teach something that we can use right away, not just some time and then in the future, maybe, possibly, no. This is something that’s immediately useful and I’m so proud to have you on here. I’ve known you for a while and I’m glad that you’re now part of the Mixergy family. And thank you all.

Jia: [inaudible 00:46:53]

Andrew: Thank you. And for setting up the video the way you did. You’re easy to see on camera. And thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.


Master Class:
How to increase your online business’ value
(To sell it for more)
Taught by Thomas Smale of FE International

Master Class: Increase Your Startup’s Value




Master Class Toolbox

Course Cheat Sheet


Andrew: This session is about how to increase your company’s value before selling it. It’s lead by Thomas Smale. He is the founder of FE International which specializes in advising and brokering the sale of established websites and online businesses. So if you have a blog about max, for example, and you want to sell it, Thomas is the man to talk to. He focuses on companies that sell for 20,000 to $2 million. I’m going to help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of who’s about to go hoarse because all I do is interviewer entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. In this case we are going to teach you what Thomas has learned from having brokered millions of dollars worth of sales.I invited him here to talk about- … frankly all the things that he wishes everyone who came to him did before they sold so that they can increase their value and allow him to sell their business for more money. Thomas, welcome.

Thomas: Hey Andrew, thanks so much for having me on.

Andrew: Thomas, before you started you told me that you had a client whose name you changed for the purpose of this conversation, who said hey I want to sell my business for seven figures. I liked to do a million plus dollars worth of sale of this business and you told him what?

Thomas: I said to him … and this is a very common question people come to me with a certain number in mind. So I gave him some quite generic advice based on [inaudible 00:01:35] and some similar sites I had seen in the past. So I said to him, “I suggest you speak to your affiliate network and try and negotiate a slightly better affiliate commission.

Andrew: You gave us a … sorry to interrupt what you are saying but here’s the email you changed his name in this email. But this is what you sent to him. I’m sorry you’re describing it?

Thomas: Yes, so I was saying in … speak to your affiliate manager and get a better rate on the CPA deal he is getting with his network was quite a quick win. Generally working on increasing conversions on a site to extract maximum value. So one of the things he did, for example, is added a video for the sales page to help increase signups. Another thing he was doing he wasn’t placing content very regularly. So I just said to him increase the regularity of the content you’re posting, gets you more exposure in search engines, encourages users to come back and from a buyer prospective it generally shows the business has kind of been well loved and looked after so that’s a good sign.

Andrew: So I get what you are saying here. You’re saying, “Look I know you want to do this for seven figures, but you’re just not there. I want to be honest with you but I also want to tell you that the changes that I want you to make won’t take years and years. They will have dramatic impact quickly, and you gave him some advice some of which we’ll talk about. But it seems like advice that you give any entrepreneur. What’s the difference between someone who’s coming to sell and someone who’s just looking to improve their business? What is the difference in the advice?

Thomas: I think a lot of the points are the same so you can grow your business with the majority of the points we are probably going to discuss. There are some points in there that are essential to if you want to sell a business. But aren’t necessarilyy going to make your life easier on a day to day basis. In fact, some might make your life more difficult. But the majority of the points … I mean, ultimately my aim is to help someone maximize the value for their business. So whether they are looking to sell or not, the advice should still apply.

Andrew: All right, fair point. So even if the sale doesn’t go thorough, they’ve improved their business and, of course, what you’re trying to do is not to look to add some window dressing here you’re talking about sound business advice that would work at any stage in a business. Some of it is especially important to talk about with people who want to sell. All right, so you did give him … let me look at this email again. This is the email that you sent him. You said, “No, I can’t do the number that you’re looking for, here’s some tips to improve.” As a result of him taking this advice … and by the way people don’t need to exactly read it, I just want to show you the email comments. Thomas, you did a great job of explaining what you told him. He took your advice. What happened?

Thomas: So this is thing was back in June, 2013. [inaudible 00:04:26] run by couple of young guys and unlike a lot of people … I speak to a lot of different clients. I always try and give easy advice, the quick wins. I don’t want to make someone’s life extremely difficult. I want to give [inaudible 00: 04:42] that’s simple to implement and well quite easy to add value. So in this case they went away, listened to me and they came back about a year later. So some time in the middle of 2014 and their business, we have it listed at the moment. It did $110,000 last month [inaudible 00:05:02] …

Andrew: Is this your listing of your business? This is it?

Thomas: Yeah, that’s the one.

Andrew: So now he actually is … he’s got yearly revenue of about $1.2 million. He’s got asking price. Not just of a million but 2.7 million and nice profit too, 1.2 almost. Wait, so revenue and profit are almost exactly the same 1.2?

Thomas: Yeah, it’s a content site and it’s very much owner runs those partners who do the majority of the work [inaudible 00:05:36]

Andrew: Meaning, like a blog, a WordPress site.

Thomas: Yeah, exactly. It’s built on WordPress so it’s a very lean model. I think a lot of people look at it with a similar skepticism that you did but we find the vast majority of online businesses we sell [inaudible 00:05:51]. So it’s not currently on common set business making that sort of revenue with low cost.

Andrew: Cool. Go figure. I had no idea that you can do that well and if you are the guy to talk to when it comes to selling it I was looking online actually before we started. I want to get into the big points here. We have a big board of techniques that we’re going to be talking about. But before that you and I were talking about this. This is a Flippa account. It’s actually pretty interesting that you had 40 transactions on Flippa totaling $1.4 million. That means on Flippa you sold 40 companies total sale price combined of $1.4 million. Is this all that sales that you have? Is this where you sell on Flippa?

Thomas: No, so back when I started the business in 2010 Flippa was [inaudible 00:06:41] so to speak and continued … I was selling mine on Flippa which I started out doing. I eventfully got into brokering and the majority of the sites I sold in 2011 and 2012 were on Flippa but since then 2013 I barely sold anything on Flippa, 2014 and 2015. I don’t think I’ve really logged into my account. The vast majority of clients we have now we’ve built out of reputation kind of a standalone reputation. Got our own list of buyers [inaudible 00:07:15] —

Andrew: People buy and sell directly through you not through Flippa. What are your sales now? What were your sales, say, 2014?

Thomas: Twenty fourteen we did about eight million in transactions on behalf of clients.

Andrew: And ordinarily that’s what you do. You work to help a customer and not improve their business in time for a sale even though that’s what’s we are going to be talking about today. You will actually go out there and find a client for your customer. Your incentive is to maximize the sale price and what’s your commission?

Thomas: Yes, so the commission varies between 10 and 15% depends on size of the business. So a $50,000 business would be 15%, a million dollar business would be 10%.

Andrew: Okay, so if I were to do a quick back of the envelope calculation, last year your money the money that you got as a result of all those sales is roughly a million dollars.

Thomas: Yeah, just over that number yeah.

Andrew: Right, impressive especially since you still broker companies that sell for 10s of thousands of dollars and, of course, as you told me before we started up to two million in sales. All right, up to two million in sale value of the business itself. All right, let’s go to the big board here. Let’s not mess around. Let’s start with the first big idea that we are going to talk about which is. You say this is something that every entrepreneur needs to know about before they sell it’s to keep more accurate accounts. Can you describe for me what is the typical entrepreneur’s accounts. What do they look like when they come to you?

Thomas: Yeah, I’d say, to be honest, I don’t really look like anything most entrepreneurs especially online because they are quite a [inaudible 00:08:44] you find a lot of my clients are quite young. So generally in their 20s or 30s might not have run a business before. So generally speaking their accounts they come up with are not very accurate at all, or they just don’t even exist. So I would say, at least, 50% of the time I’m providing them with templates to fill out. As you go up the value chain slightly bigger businesses and older business owners do tend to keep better accounts, but I would say the vast majority of people I deal with have extremely messy accounts or they don’t they [inaudible 00:09:18] that’s assuming they keep them at all.

Andrew: You told Ann Marie Ward who produced this session that you had a client who came to you who wanted to sell their business and I think they didn’t even have a bookkeeper. What did you see and what did you say to that client when they came to you?

Thomas: Yes, so what I saw was a lot of messy numbers that didn’t really add up to anything from an owner’s perspective, assuming you get it past the tax man. Having messy numbers is really a major problem on day to day basis. A lot of people just get the end of the year, send the numbers to their accountant and then pay whatever taxes they have left over. But from a buyer perspective if you don’t have accounts that are accurate, then they are not going to be interested.

Andrew: What’s the difference between a buyer wants to see and what the IRS wants to see or what you need to prepare for the IRS once a year?

Thomas: Yeah, I think one of the key differences between what would be on your tax return and what we present to clients. So the key difference is on your tax return assuming you have an LLC or an Inc. or whatever you’d have your net profit of the business, and generally as your accountant draw up an obligation to get your net numbers low as possible to reduce your tax liability. From a broker perspective it’s our job to do the complete opposite, and show a company make as much as possible. So what business brokers use especially if you’re dealing in the [inaudible 00:10:45] million range is a figure called seller discretionary earnings. You might see seller discretionary income or cash flow but that’s effectively the net profit of the business. And then you add back anything that’s discretionary to the owner. So you might find health insurance, car, any owner drawings or salary. I guess how they [inaudible 00:11:07] the business so you effectively get a like for like comparison of the business. Where let’s say both to get two businesses both made $10,000 in profit to the IRS but one owner paid themselves $50,000 and another owner paid themselves $150,000. When you do that active is got different value which is why we sell it on seller discretionary earning.

Andrew: That’s fairly simple. Well that’s fairly easy to undo. You go through and you say which of this expenses are really paying myself in a way that the government allows me to. Yeah, they said I can write off my car so I wrote off my car, but the new owners may not even care about a car. That’s fairly easy. What about the rest of the income statement that we need to keep organized properly. My hunch is that I know the IRS doesn’t care whether I spend money on SEO or Facebook ads or Google ads, but a new buyer might want that broken down. Is that the kind of thing you are talking about? More detailed expense reporting?

Thomas: Yes, that’s another thing you find a lot of people especially if they use an accounting program like QuickBooks or Fresh Books, anything along those lines. They tend to lump a lot of expenses into one category. So you might have marketing, for example, is someone spending $5000 a month for marketing. A buyer would want to know is that an employee … a multi employee you are paying $5000 a month. What are you spending $4000 a month on AdWords and $1000 a month on Facebook ads. So from what you might present on your tax return it might be quite generic is just like the cumulative number for the whole year. But from a buyer perspective they want to see the numbers on a monthly basis which is another key difference and they also want to breakdown the expenses that are relevant to the business.

Andrew: I see, okay and you know what? And I guess on a extreme even though I can’t imagine running a business this way. I can see somebody saying, “I operate my business on a cash basis not accrual basis. That means, I will take all the money that came in from whatever account I have strive[SP], PayPal etc. [inaudible 00:13:14] and I’ll see how much money is left, put it all in the bank, and see how much money is left at the end of the year and the difference will be my expenses and that’s what I’ll use to figure out how much money I made and report to the IRS. That’s kind of an extreme case. It’s a little even hard for me to describe but it makes sense to, say, maybe I think what the government is saying here is all the money that came in, here’s how much I left, the rest must be expenses.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s quite common especially with younger clients who have college, for example. I know when I started out I didn’t have a clue about accounting or bookkeeping. So I probably fell for the same traps. I think a lot of especially younger clients have the same issues. A lot of people they are not numbers people, they are not accountants, they are not bookkeepers. They generally just forward the information to their accountant once a quarter or once a year and pay what’s left.

Andrew: Okay, right. On to the big board. Let’s go and take a look at the second big point that we are going to talk about which is to increase content posting frequency. That means post more often. What is this chart?

Thomas: So this is another interesting one. It shows the net profit of a business over a of period of time. So the x axis is months and this is the business where I spoke to a client … one of the reasons a lot of our clients come to sell. They don’t have time for business, they are no longer interested, they have another project. Just very common to see sites where especially if it is a blog where I know it might only post so once a month, once a week, once every six months. In this case the client was … and [inaudible 00:14:58] and quite a popular bloke, he was only posting once a week. My advice to him was go away and post more often. Content especially if you’ve got a reliable writer is generally quite cost effective and affordable.

In this case he had an outsource team of writers so an article wasn’t costing him much money. I think he was paying $30 an article, $40 an article. The advice is literally simple as instead of posting once a week, post an article every single day. And see what sort of compounding effect that has on income, and we can see very early on he was making under a $1000 a month then in income and after posting daily for six months now it’s got to the level where it’s $6000 a month. So it seems very simple but I like to provide advice to people that is simple, easy to follow, easy to execute. Quite often it’s literally just a case of post more often you will get more traffic, you’ll pick up more regular return in business and it’ll keep you happy.

Andrew: And I get how it is when often when we are ready to sell the business is at that point where we’re just done with it, we’re ready to move on and that’s why people don’t post as often. That’s why they don’t pay attention to those kinds of details. You’re saying pay attention to it. If you’re about to sell, pay attention, get back to it, publish more often and as a result you’ll see often that your business revenues will grow. And then you’ll be able to do right. You know what’s interesting is a lot of the advice you are going to give is what people I have interviewed have said they did after buying a company. They’ll buy a company and then they will start posting more often. They’ll buy a company and then they will start to work on the conversion rates. They will start to negotiate little things. As a result of making this small tweaks, they get all the up side. You’re saying as a seller get the upside.

All right, let’s go then to the big board again and take a look what the next … here we go. Actually I’ll highlight it right now. Improve your site’s conversion rates and let me take a look here at my notes on that. Actually I’m going to show your website and show how you did it. This is one way that you did it. I don’t know if people can see, but I’m just kind of clicking this box up and down. It says download your free guide to buying an online business. This is Drip, right? Get Drip.

Thomas: Yeah, get Drip.

Andrew: Created by one of our past interviewees on here on mixergy. What did you do? And how did it impact your business?

Thomas: Yes, I must admit I give clients a lot of advice and often I find myself not following the advice I gave to the client. So this is only quite recently increasing conversion rate is quite generic general advice. So everyone says it sounds quite cliché but in reality it can be quite easy to do. And increasing conversion rates can relate to anything. So it could be getting increase in the conversion rate of people clicking on a button, increasing the conversion rate of people signing up to your email list. Increasing the number of people who [inaudible 00:18:08]. It can be all sorts of things. It’s quite all encompassing wide advice and in this particularly case we had been collecting email addresses on our website for three or four years but we only have a small opt-in box at the very top of the …

Andrew: The one that says join our business network right at the top.

Thomas: Yeah, it’s in the top right and it converted reasonably well. We get relatively targeted traffic. People want to buy the sites they come across but didn’t convert particularly well at all. So we added get Drip plug-in, created an eBook [inaudible 00:18:49] website which is very relevant to what we do. The vast majority of people that come to our site want to read that content. We added the plug-in and it made a significant difference to subscribers. I think within a month we had seen about 150% increase in signups versus the previous month. So quite a significant difference is quite an easy thing to do effectively in this case we were turning a low conversion rate into a more normal conversion rate but it always surprises me how people don’t even bother collecting email addresses. It’s very easy to [inaudible 00:19:26]. They don’t test the color of buttons, they don’t test different price points, they are all sorts of things you can test.

Andrew: And you are saying start doing that before the seller does it. You want as much to the upside as you possibly can get.

Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. If you had a value of a subscriber, say, one dollar per subscriber and you could double the number of subscribers you’re getting on a daily basis. Then you’ve effectively doubled the value of the business if you look at that very simple way. And if you are a buyer of the site, you’re generally looking for sites where these kind of things haven’t been exploited. You can go in there and you know you can triple the number of sign ups and email list that’s revenue generating. Then that business becomes a little bit of a no brainer to you and that’s a pretty good reason to buy it. But from a seller perspective I’d say on [inaudible 00:20:19] I want the seller to sell for as much as possible so I’m always pushing people to go for easy wins.

Andrew: Yeah, the more they sell for the higher your 10 or 15% is.

Thomas: [inaudible 00:20:31].

Andrew: Cool, all right. Back to the big board. The next thing you say is interact more often with your email subscribers. What’s this chart? Let me bring up the chart, there is it. What is this chart?

Thomas: Yes, this is an analytics account and it shows a one year difference. So the orange line is a one month period into [inaudible 00:20:54] just over a one month period in 2013. And then … sorry, 2014 and then you got the exact same period 2015 and you can see that’s the blue line which is higher, and basically the only variable in that time period was email mailing list more often. We come across a lot clients who do have a mailing list and they never email them. It’s a very common thing people come along and they say “Hey Thomas, I haven’t an emailed to anyone for a year.” The more you find if you do start emailing people you can see this spikes almost on a weekly basis where the number is slightly higher than the average. Where the emails are going out and you just find over a course of doing that for 12 months the effects of emailing have just compounded. People just naturally come back more, often more people linked to you. More people talk about you, more people recommend you.

So it’s one of those things that can take a little bit of a while to build up momentum but over time it’s very sustainable from a buyer perspective. Buyers are looking for sustainable businesses. So doing things like emailing more often it’s really not very difficult. It takes five minutes to send an email to a list once a week, or you can even just set up a auto responder and just even an hour of work well in advance of the sale can make quite a big difference versus not emailing at all. Which is more common than I think a lot of people would think.

Andrew: Hey Thomas, what’s the multiple on profits? I guess there’s a multiple on profits right? That used to sell a blog. What’s the multiple on profits for a blog?

Thomas: Yes, we do sell a discretionary earnings not profit but for the purpose of most blogs it’s usually the same number.

Andrew: How much money can the seller if he wanted to take and put in his own pocket or use to buy stuff that the seller likes. So it’s multiple of that which to me means essentially profit.

Thomas: The multiples vary but the majority of sites we sell in the two to three times’ annual range. Some will be higher, some will be lower, and a lot of businesses we look at value and will be worth significantly lower than that but the average sell we have is somewhere between two to three times.

Andrew: Two to three times, so the buyer is thinking either I can actually … do buyers except to keep the profits the same and earn back their money over two or three years, or are they thinking we can increase the profits dramatically using our bigger mailing list or something else.

Thomas: Yeah, it really depends on the buyers. We have a real range. You might have a first time buyer who might come from a off line background. They might have a background, say, in real estate investing and they know less they buy a website that’s three times earnings, hire someone to run it because they don’t know what they are doing. They might quite usually get a 25% annual return not really having to do everything and then you get buyers who are very much gross[SP]buyers and they’re [inaudible 00:23:55] buying a site if they can triple or quadruple that. So we get a range. I’ll say it makes people who buy a site just to run it as it is. Which is why it’s important to make sustainable changes versus clients who buy a site and try and grow it aggressively With generally speaking some of the ideas I’ve gone over here, and when we sell a website to someone I’ll pass on exactly the same advice I would to a client who is looking to sell. Because again it’s in my best interest for them to do well with the business, grow the business, and hopefully come back and sell it with us two or three years down the line.

Andrew: Right back to the big board, next big point is cut down on unnecessary expenditures. So you actually had a client who had … I’m trying to think of a way to put a camera on you or not. I see that you’re scratching around. I don’t know if I want to put the camera on you just you’re doing it. Is it awkward for me to point that out?

Thomas: No, it’s fine. Sorry, I get distracted if I see [inedible 00:24:55]–

Andrew: Don’t worry. I do the exact same thing if sometimes I show the screen for a little bit longer it’s often because I need to hit the mute button and sneeze or blow my nose or something weird. Actually nothing weirder than that. Let’s go back to … actually I think it’s a little weird that I brought that up, don’t you?

Thomas: A little bit. I’m kind of used to it.

Andrew: You’re used to more …

Thomas: [inaudible 00:25:20] you moved the screen and I assumed that’s what I thought you were looking at. I didn’t realize you were looking at me and I tend to be quite fidgety [inaudible 00:25:19]–

Andrew: I see that.

Thomas: [inaudible 00:25:30]

Andrew: You know what? In researching I saw you are doing a lot of interviews. I feel like with all the interviews that you do and all the on camera appearances I feel you are comfortable on camera but I’d like to see you get better lighting.

Thomas: Yeah, I think it’s definitely our office. We’ve only been there … We keep upgrading, we keep growing and hiring so we keep upgrading the office and one this light sensors … I must admit most interviews I do tend to just do podcast and then [inaudible 00:25:55].

Andrew: Used to audio?

Thomas: Yeah, the camera I haven’t gone on camera for a couple of years now I think but it [inaudible 00:26:03] I need to get a good setup.

Andrew: I get it. I would do audio if I were you too not because of lack of video but because you got that accent. Where are you from? That’s a great accent.

Thomas: London.

Andrew: London, yeah, that to me says that’s the guy who’s going to manage my money right. That’s a guy who can communicate prestige.

Thomas: Yeah, it’s amazing how many people perceive Brits as trustworthy.

Andrew: Yes.

Thomas: It’s obviously true but it’s definitely a perception thing. I speak to a lot of clients who go “You’re a Brit, you must be honest.” You probably make stupid sarcastic jokes and you might sneeze on camera.

Andrew: I remember when I worked on Wall Street as an intern in college, there was some guy who clearly was not British, but he practiced the British accent just so that he could communicate the trust that he knew people associated with that British accent and I think eventually he was caught for doing something illegal. It became a big national story. I forget the guy’s name.

Thomas: [inaudible 00:27:03]

Andrew: No, no, you got a real accent but I always thought a lot of the stuff that guy did was kind of weird but that is a smart idea. Take on the accent, imagine if I had that accent. Alk right back to business here instead of me talking about the more superficial stuff. You had a guy who worked with you or who’s a client of yours who had a full time customer support person. What’s up with that? What’s wrong with that?

Thomas: So what we intend to find is a lot of clients who came to me may have a successful business in the past, but due to neglect or lack of time or lack of skill the business might have declined. So this particular business, one that I was doing really well, the owner had hired a full time customer service rep. Which was required and needed for the 45 hours a week which was great. She was paying him a full time salary. But over time as the business declined, revenue kept going down but the cost stayed the same. He continued to pay the same person full time the same amount of money but for less and less hours. There was less revenue, less customers call to deal with, less problems, less sales.

So what I found when looked to the business from a slightly more critical and objective perspective is that he was paying $2500 a month for someone to work effectively 20 hours a week. So it’s very hard for people often to negotiate with staff who have been with them for a while but when you explain the difference in value between paying two and a half thousand dollars a month and cutting that in half to reflect the actual amount of work. So that done so it’s 1250 he ended up doing. That’s quite significant up lift in value and from the worker’s perspective they are only working 20 hours a week anyway. So it’s quite a fair deal. It’s not like I would advise clients to give everyone a pay cut just before selling, this is a justifiable decrease based on a 50% decrease in workload, yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, let’s take a look at how that played out. Where is that? There it is. Here are the expenses so you see … This guy had decent expenses $371 in refunds a month, $7 in charge backs in his first month. Those all numbers tend to stay fairly consistent same with customer support 2500 and overall expenses were roughly $3000 a month. Let me see. Suddenly all those expenses dropped. Suddenly the expenses for the customer support person gets cut half and as a result overall expenses go from anywhere from 2500 to roughly 3000 a month to only 1400 a month, 1500 a month. That’s significant. Great, all right and on a bigger level, of course, that kind of change will have a lot more impact. So you’re saying, look at your expenses and start cutting out the things that aren’t necessary. That’s what the buyer is going to do anyway.

Thomas: Yeah, exactly. They also do it in a sensible way. I think a lot of people try and get rid of costs that are actually necessary. So, for example, they might stop emailing or stop adding new content. That’s not what you should be doing but you should definitely look to optimize things that are in place. If someone is working too many hours or if you are paying too much for saying say if you’re on hosting server and you’re paying $500 a month, but you can get for $50 a month elsewhere. Then move it now because if not a buyer is just going to do that and they can extract all the value that you’ve left on the table.

Andrew: Back to the big board and next you say negotiate better deals with third parties. We’re talking about suppliers, ads networks, everybody. One of your clients had a deal with an affiliate program that’s pretty common in this space. Every time this client of yours referred one of his users to a web hosting company and that user signed up for the web hosting company, your client got 75 bucks. Seventy-five dollar payout for hosting is pretty standard. You talked to them and as a result what happened?

Thomas: [inaudible 00:31:18] more background when you find a lot of people … still a lot of people do affiliate sales with various networks, but very few people ever try and negotiate. They’ll never ask. Most affiliate networks can pay you more especially if you send them qualified leads or good sales on a regular basis. So in this case this guy had been consistently sending sales at $75 a sign up which like you say is common in the hosting space. It’s usually quite a good starting point but he’d never ask for more money. He’d been quite consistently. He’d send them sales for over a year, good quality traffic. He wasn’t doing anything funny. It was all good genuine traffic and all he had to do was ask. Ask the affiliate manger, “Hey, I have been sending you traffic for a while now and sales. I’ve spoken to some other networks that can pay me more money for a similar sort of volume. So can you increase my rate to $150 a month” which is what he [inaudible 00:32:17]–

Andrew: Let’s see if we can bring up their response. Actually that’s an old chart. I want to bring up just this, here is that person’s email. Like you said, I have been running traffic to you for around a year now and I was wondering if you could increase my CPA above 75 bucks perhaps double that. I have been talking to other networks that can pay more but I value our relationship. And the response that he got back was your leads have been solid so far so we are happy to do that so you are now set up to get $150 CPA going forward, look forward to continue our relationship. So this is a little tiny different people see on the screen that’s why I read it for them. But that’s what you’re saying to do. Look around, see who you can negotiate with and then just start negotiating.

Thomas: Yeah, just ask. I think all you need to do. A lot of people say, “Hey Thomas, what’s the trick in negotiating?” But what you find it’s the difference between not doing anything and just asking. If they say no, it’s not a problem. You can move on to the next one. But in my experience if you have been a consistent customer for a long time, the vast majority will have some movement.

Andrew: Right and now our final point. This one is especially relevant when people are selling their business. You’re saying build a team and have the team members sign contracts. What kind of contracts?

Thomas: Yes, so I think it depends on the kind of employees you have if they’re have genuine employees then have them sign employment contracts. If they are freelancers, have them sign freelance agreements but generally related to that specific business that they are working for. So it’s quiet common. Similar to not keeping accounts. There are a lot of people who hire freelancers. You might have been with them for, say, three, four, maybe eight years. They have been working forever but they got nothing in writing. Which is fine for the person who is running the perspective because they have known that employee or freelancer for a number of years. They turn up every day, they are loyal, they get paid, kind of on a hand shake agreement.

From a buyer perspective that’s quite a big risk. They don’t have that existing relationship. They don’t know who the freelancer is, they don’t know they are going to stick around. So if you are ever thinking of selling a business, it’s important to get people to sign contracts. It doesn’t necessarily need to be anything overly official or strenuous on the freelancer employee. But generally speaking stating what hours they work. Stating what company they work for, stating how much they get paid. Just so you document the whole process and it adds up peace of mind to a buyer that the freelancer or employee is going to hang around for your sale which is also important that you quite often a team can make or break a business.

Andrew: You told us in the pre-interview you did with April Dykman, I think, that you had a client, I’m looking at notes here, with the business listed for a quarter million dollars. The business had three employees none of them had contracts in place. Buyers found that very risky and worried the employees will leave. The best offer as a result was $170,000. So then the owner went away, got employees to sign formal contracts which assured the buyer and it led to the full asking price. I see how that’s a winner from doing it but what about buyers who are buying not because they want to keep the team on. But because they have their own team. They want to just take the asset and have their team run it without adding more expenses, in fact, reducing expenses of having existing team in place. By signing contracts aren’t you preventing them from doing that?

Thomas: Yeah, generally speaking I would say the vast majority of the time the buyers choose to keep on the existing team. Generally speaking for, at least, six months. It is quite rare for a buyer to come in and have a complete shake up very early on. Especially if you’ve got freelancers or employees who are quite key to the business. So you’re correct in that a lot of buyers do look it in that way and a lot of sellers think that’s what might happen. But generally speaking if you’ve got loyal staff who’ve been around for a while then it shouldn’t be a problem., And generally speaking most freelancer contracts have break clauses in them. Maybe like two months or three months so it’s rarely going to work against you having formal agreements in place. In my experience 90%, at least, 90% of buyers will keep the existing team on beyond the sale.

Andrew: I see. I would never expected that. I mean, at the number that we are talking about here. When we are talking about a sale for quarter million dollars, then it seems like the asset is more important than the people but you are saying you’re finding that it’s a people too.

Thomas: It really depends. Some businesses might not have any employees so the point is irrelevant. In other cases they might have five freelancers in the Philippines who work on the business, have been for years and they basically do all the work. So in that case it’s slightly more critical to the process. So it really depends on the business. Everything’s
different but generally speaking if you do have people working for you, get then to sign something.

Andrew: All right, thanks for talking about how you do this and teaching us what we can do to prepare our business for sale. Your company is called … and what you do is you sell businesses. Your company is called FE International. You changed the name. What was it before?

Thomas: It used to be called [inaudible 00:37:40] but we went to a slightly more formal name kind of more in keeping with the kind of businesses that we sell now [inaudible 00:37:52]–

Andrew: Which is …Basically it sounds like that is connected to Flippa. You’re saying if you’re thinking Flippa, if you’re thinking about buying company and quickly flipping it and selling it we’re the company and now it’s no longer about that.

Thomas: Yeah, 2010 that was what the company was about basically buying, selling, flipping websites, but four years on we’re now a full service brokerage firm. We don’t flip sites anymore. So the name was no longer in keeping but anything else is still the same company just different name.

Andrew: Same company, same people, the site is My guess is a good person to follow up with you is someone who has a business that’s doing consistent revenue. What’s minimum revenue and profit that you like to talk them with?

Thomas: Yes, generally speaking anything over $10,000 a year, sometimes smaller than that $5000 a year.

Andrew: Even someone who is making $5000 a year you could sell the business?

Thomas: Yeah, we are funny. At the moment businesses making $5000 a year or selling for $15,000. We’ve got quite good over the years we’ve built quite a processes. I’ve got a good team in place. So we’re quite efficient in sales. We can get them through in a way it is profitable for us but a lot of other companies in the space can’t get those through in an efficient way to justify it.

Andrew: Yeah, because it does require a lot of work to sell a company. All right, Thomas, thank you so much for coming in here and talking about this and teaching us.

Thomas: Thanks, Andrew. Appreciate having me on.

Andrew: Great. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone.


Master Class:
How to boost your productivity
(By journaling)
Taught by UJ Ramdas of Intelligent Change

Master Class: Journaling




Andrew: This session is about how you can boost your productivity by journaling. The session is led by UJ Ramdas. He is the founder of Intelligent Change and the author of “Five Minute Journal,” which teaches you how to apply the principles of positive psychology. My name is Andrew. I’m here to help facilitate, and I’m the founder of Mixergy where proven entrepreneurs like UJ teach. UJ, welcome.UJ: Thank you for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: There was a time that you were living in India, and you walked over to your doctor and you asked for what?

UJ: Well, I basically said I needed to be off school for three months, so I need a note from you that will help me do that. And I used the same note over and over and over again for almost three months, where I didn’t go to school at all. And I stayed at home and I did my best. I studied my ass off to get to Canada, about six or seven months later. It was an incredibly painful time in my life and I’m happy it’s over.

Andrew: That’s one of the reasons why I want to start with this pain. I want to show people that journaling isn’t just about writing your thoughts down on paper or writing like in elementary school, it was “Who do you love?” And “Who loves you?” There is, yes, deep emotional release and work that can be done through it, but there is a meaningful change in your life that can come as a result of journaling. So you were in this place where the academics were so rigorous, where you weren’t happy about what you did in school. In fact, I think we even have a photo of you in school. Let me bring that up here. Which one of these shadows on the screen are you?

UJ: So I’m on the right, the guy with glasses. There’s only two guys there, it’s easy.

Andrew: I see, on the right, kind of on the bottom.

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: What is so bad about there? You’re smiling there, everyone’s smiling there. What was so bad about being in India that made you feel like, “I’ve got to break free,” and journaling was one of the ways that you did it and built a business and so on. What was so tough there?

UJ: Well, first of all, when there are pictures, everybody’s smiling.

Andrew: Right, good point.

UJ: And the other thing is that in India, very similar to China and Russia, the academics are ridiculously rigorous. So in comparison, high school in North America is laughable because people do everything but study. You know, there’s cliques, there’s this, there’s that, there’s no time for that. We’re covering, in grade 11 and grade 12, I later would find out that, in engineering colleges, they taught what we learned in grade 11 and 12, in year one and two.

Andrew: So what’s so bad about that? Everybody, I think, who’s listening to us aspires to do more. And if there’s an academic system that pushes them to do more, that feels like a great environment. What’s so bad?

UJ: It does feel like a great environment, but when you have teachers who don’t always support you, and you have a student to teacher ratio of about 30 to 40 to 1, you really start feeling the pressure.

Andrew: I see.

UJ: And there’s also, in an environment like that, the academics are the only thing that’s prized, everything else doesn’t count for anything.

Andrew: Right.

UJ: And so as somebody who is always used to doing things myself, and is used to have a rebellious nature and nearly dropped out of university multiple times because I knew what I wanted to do. And I just had to stay in the system to get to where I wanted to go. And so pretty much all your audience can relate to the fact, as entrepreneurs, as wanting to do things your own way. And not giving a crap about, can we swear here?

Andrew: Yeah, you can, yeah.

UJ: Good. Now I’m going to talk about how existing systems exist for a completely different reason. So it was painful because I wanted to get out of it and create my own system where I could thrive.

Andrew: All right. So I understand how a plane ticket could get you out of there. I understand how a great job that pays you over the course of 20 or two years and you save up enough money can get you out of there. How does journaling allow you to break free of this life you weren’t happy with and get you to Canada, whereas I’ve said you built up your business and built up your reputation. How did journaling help you get there?

UJ: Well, because journaling helps the unconscious become conscious, how journaling helps you solve problems. Journaling helps you work with your emotions. Journaling helps you figure out plans and execute on them. Journaling helps you stay on track of things, to ensure you follow through on something. Journaling helps you make sure you’re making reliable progress, and not just lying to yourself.

Andrew: What do you mean by lying to ourselves?

UJ: Because everybody would like to think they’re making progress, that’s the truth, right? Somebody who’s 35, 36, 37 would like to think every year of their life was spent in progress, yet age does not correlate with wisdom. So you could be 37 and reliably not have made progress during a significant chunk of it, unless you test it, unless you had metrics, unless you kept tabs on things. And my biggest fear is not making progress, is not making sure I’m better every day, and I’m doing everything I can to do that. Assuming I did everything I could, and the results are there, let reality speak for itself. But I didn’t, that’s massive mistake on my part and I can’t forgive myself.

Andrew: That’s one of the differences about the way you see journaling from the way others do. You want it to be a way of keeping track of progress, a way of ensuring that we grow as people and also a way of working through. Do you remember the day that you were on your flight to Canada?

UJ: Absolutely.

Andrew: What was so exciting that is making you smile?

UJ: Well, it was freedom, that’s what it was. It’s the most beautiful thing you can ever taste, touch, smell, or experience, freedom.

Andrew: What’s one of your proudest accomplishments as an entrepreneur? And we’re going to go into breaking down your process of journaling, and more importantly, how can someone listening to us who says, “I’ve done it before and never stuck with it,” how they can stick with it now, who someone says, “I don’t have enough time.” What they can do to still journal even they don’t have time and will keep showing how there will be benefits, benefits, benefits, productivity, change in your life, if you do what UJ’s talking about. But what’s one thing your especially proud of accomplishing since you flew to Canada?

UJ: So there’s this moment that I had, and some people are also lucky to have, when you recognize somebody you admire, admires your work. And you could talk about revenue, you could talk about profits, and you could talk about numbers, but really, what human beings crave is freedom and love. And in whatever ways that might mean, for everybody it’s different. But for me, it was having the people I really respect and admire use a journal. I’m a fan of Tim Ferriss, his work inspired the “Five Minute Journal” and him and a bunch of other people I really respect and admire using the plan.

Andrew: Here he is.

UJ: It kind of allows me to feel grateful and proud of what we’ve created.

Andrew: Yeah, there’s a guy who values every minute of his day, talking into a camera and talking about your journal, your process, and how he advocates and gets a lot out of it. All right. So he’s a believer, I’m a believer, you’re a believer. I’m sure that the person listening to us now is starting to understand. Let’s walk them through how to do it, starting with the very first step, which is you say, “Look, keep a five minute journal.” What is a five minute journal?

UJ: So before I get into that, I just want to mention one major principle. Every journal has a purpose. Every journal, there is an end goal to get somewhere or something with that journal. You don’t just journal for the heck of journaling. I don’t journal for the heck of journaling. Other people do, they might, that’s fine. That’s just not how I approach it. For me I need to get something out of it, to do something. And so each of the tactics we’ll talk about has a purpose. There’s something you do it for, and there’s tangible things you get out of it, so we’ll cover each of those purposes throughout the tactics.

Andrew: Okay. So …

UJ: So let’s start with the five minute journal.

Andrew: Yeah.

UJ: So the purpose of the five minute journal is really to improve happiness, improve well-being and keep on track with the things that happened in your life. And it’s really simple. I think the format is on the …

Andrew: Here, I can show it actually right there on the screen. Wait, it’s taking a sec, there we go.

UJ: There we go.

Andrew: This is what it looks like.

UJ: So the format is fairly simple. There’s five questions, each of them take about a minute each and you move through them. There’s the white portion at the top, you do it in the morning, and the shaded portion at the bottom, you do at night. The idea is that it’s like a toothbrush for your mind. You do it as soon as you wake up, right before you go to bed. You start and end the day with it. And those are two very powerful windows of the day to set the direction and do a wind-down. And the questions are very targeted, they’re very specific, they help you do very specific things. I don’t want to get into the research behind gratitude journaling, but let’s just say writing three things you’re grateful for and experiencing the emotion can go a long way for your happiness in the long-term.

Andrew: So the questions that you have here, or the guides that you give people are one, “I am grateful for …” and they list three things. In this example it’s, “I’m grateful for the warm bed that I sleep in, I’m grateful for the body that is working in perfect harmony. I’m grateful for the incredible friends in my life.” Second question is, “What would make today great?” And I’ll just read one of those three, and that is, “Sleep before 10 p.m. would make it great. Send a thank you note to mom would make it great.” Then you say, “What’s my daily affirmation?” And it’s, “I am confident and comfortable in my own skin, and I live with passion and purpose.” Those are the three things that you want us to do in the morning, and then at the end of the day we list, “Three amazing things that happened” that day, and “How could I have made today better?” So this seems very simple. Here’s one of my challenges when I see your work, it seems excessively simple. It almost seems too simple. What happens because we do these questions?

UJ: So first of all, in the world of behavior change, simple works, complicated fails. So actually the idea of the journal came from one of the journals I used to keep at night before I used to go to sleep. I used to take 20 minutes. I showed my friend and business partner, Mal, [SP] the format. And there was no way it took 15-20 minutes. There’s no way that a regular person was going to do that. He was like, “Dude, you’re too intense, this is not going to work.” And so we had to consistently whittle it down, whittle it down, whittle it down. I used to write 10 things, 10 amazing things that happened that day. And we actually decided to shorten it to five, and eventually, because of massive feedback we got from multiple people, had to shorten it to three because most people can’t think of five. Surprising and sad but …

Andrew: I see, but you’re saying, if we’re going to do this consistently and have everybody who’s listening be able to do it, we have to keep it this simple. Yes, we could make it more complex and add all kinds of benefits, but if they don’t do it, then none of those benefits will ever mean anything. Okay. So then why gratitude?

UJ: Because, frankly it’s one of the most researched emotions in positive psychology, and it will give you the best bang for your buck, in terms of time, in terms of making your life better. You don’t have to ask me this, you can look up the science, there’s lots of it. Martin Seligman talks about it. There’s just lots of research behind it. And starting with gratitude is something that a lot of people talk about who you wouldn’t normally think would talk about it. Like ex-Navy Seal officers, people who are into physical training quite a bit. What I’m grateful for basically can be rephrased as, “What’s good here, right now?” That’s always a good way to ask yourself to train your mind to look at, “What are the things that are working?” Because in order to be more productive, in order to be happier, in order to be more positive, in order to solve more problems, you have to ask that question, “What’s working?”

Andrew: Yeah.

UJ: And you train yourself to ask that question every day in the morning as soon as you wake up. You train your mind in a very specific way.

Andrew: So when there’s an issue and there’s a challenge, I’m aware of all of the things that I have going right so that I face it with more confidence, but also that I face it with an awareness of all the tools I could possibly use.

UJ: Any time there’s a challenge, you fall to the level of your training. This is just training.

Andrew: Okay, all right. And I’m looking here at my screen where you say, “What would make today great?” That simple act of planning for the day just by making a list of three things that would make it great. I can see how helpful that is, affirmations I can see that, end of the day we talk about what happened that’s great today.

UJ: [inaudible 00:13:22] the affirmations in a second, because some of the audience might be like, “Affirmation is a little touchy-feely for me. I don’t know if this is going to work.” Well, what if it was a question like, “Who do you want to show up as today?” “What kind of person do you want to be today?”

Andrew: I see.

UJ: You get to choose every day in the morning, just by writing it down. And there’s enough research, there’s stuff from Cialdini and influence talking about commitment and consistency. People are a lot more willing to follow through on something if they write something on paper.

Andrew: That’s a good point.

UJ: And here’s your opportunity, put it on that paper because you’ll find yourself in the day kind of aligning itself a little bit more in the right direction.

Andrew: I like that you already anticipated that the audience here is going to be so against touchy-feely that we have to deal with that because that’s the reality of who they are. They don’t walk into an environment saying,
“I’m so open-minded I’ll try anything just because it sounds great.” They walk in saying the same thing you said at the beginning, “What am I going to get?” Because I have limited resources, limited time, and I have a lot that I want to accomplish in my life. All right, then finish it off with three amazing things that happen that day and then how could I have made today better? As a way of kind of a post-mortem for the day.

UJ: So three amazing things, same thing, gratitude in reverse, right? So I’m not going to speak to that very much. And the last question is, “How could I have made today better?” This is an iterative question, Kaizen, you’re all familiar with this. If you consistently change 1% of your day over time, in 70 days, you’re 100% better, right? So assuming you are …

Andrew: No, 1% is more than 100% better.

UJ: Well, in 70 days.

Andrew: Oh, in 70 days, okay.

UJ: So the last question is basically an iterative thing. You give yourself feedback, and don’t beat yourself about it. This is not an exercise in self-loathing. This is more of a detached exercise. So like if I were someone else and I were looking to tweak out my day, how would I do today better? The first 50 pages of the journal are just a guide in how to do this. So if you want to learn more about this, you can look it up online. We have the entire format there for free, including the writing. You don’t have to buy it. If you want to, great, awesome, but you don’t have to.

Andrew: All right, so let’s emphasize that, that they can get it for free. Where do they get it?

UJ: Well,, the entire format is there.

Andrew: Right here, the page I’ve been showing. There it is.

UJ: Yeah, you go down, and you can just flip through it.

Andrew: Let me click it right here.

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: This is where we got our screen shot.

UJ: So if you flip back for the writing stuff and you flip forward for the pages and the quotes. So you flip back for the written material.

Andrew: Super. It’s a pretty ballsy thing for you to do, as long as we’re cursing I might as well say it. All right.

UJ: Well, the thing is most people who see it and see the value in it, will buy it. That’s just fact. If people would want to copy the format, go for it. They can do their own journal. That’s what I did for seven years, so I’m happy to share it.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go back to the board. The next thing you say is, “To get to know yourself better, use traditional journaling.” You did that, and it led to something like this. What are we looking at here?

UJ: All right, okay, cool. First of all, let me kind of talk about what it is, and how I got into it and how the story came to be. So traditional journaling is what you probably all heard and experienced when you think about journaling. And it’s the idea of the Morning Pages as made popular by the author, Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way.” And really what it is is it’s free-flowing your thoughts in a way to allow yourself to gain more awareness of who you are, what your thoughts are, where your feelings are, what the result is. And so the text that Andrew put on there was text that I sent this wonderful woman that I was dating at a certain time. And I had a few interactions with her and I was left feeling uncomfortable. I was left feeling disrespected, and I didn’t know what was going on there.

So I opened up Evernote, and I do most of my free-form journaling in Evernote because my mind moves very fast, and I like my fingers to be able to keep up with them. If I write, my hands won’t be able to write as fast as I’m thinking. So typically when I have that feeling of “Oh, I don’t know what it is, I’m feeling this, I need to figure this out.” I usually open up Evernote and go at it and ask myself questions. Ask myself what’s going on here, why am I feeling this? What’s the lesson here? What can I learn from this, and how do I ensure this doesn’t happen in the future?

Anyway, a long story short, about 30-40 minutes or so of doing this, I realized that in every other area of my life, except dating, at the time, it was really important for me that people respected my time. And they had integrity, you know. I’ll be here at a certain time. If they’re not there, stuff happens, I’ll call them and see what … I’m really sensitive to that. Somehow, in the dating sphere, that hadn’t been the case, and I realized very quickly, that if I was going to date someone successfully in the long-term, that had to be one of the requirements. It was a must and I was very surprised it wasn’t there. And so, in a short period of time I came to the conclusion, and that’s when I sent the text, I said, “Hey, we’ve tried doing this multiple times. Stuff keeps happening at your end, mostly bullshit excuses. That’s okay, Figure it out, and I wish you well.”

So that’s just one of the things of so many insights that you can get when you’re feeling a little off, or you know you have an idea ruminating in your unconscious, but it just needs to get out. It’s like airing your unconscious out for nuggets of gold. And those nuggets of gold can rapidly shorten learning cycles. It can increase your ability to anticipate things, in this case, your dating life as well.

Andrew: So I had a similar situation, not around dating but an epiphany that came from doing this kind of journaling. I went on a retreat with a journal and a list of questions, and like you it was a digital journal. It was an old phone that didn’t let me do much beyond just sit with the keyboard that I attached to it and journal so that I wouldn’t have any distractions. And I had a list of questions that I walked in there with. And one of them was, “Why am I being such a jerk?” And the reason I wrote that down was I wanted to be a speaker, and there was a group of people who I was masterminding with, who I got to meet through Toastmasters. And we were supposed to be helping each other out, but instead I was being a jerk to them.

And I had to sit down and really answer that because if I got distracted the page would be empty and I’d know that I was avoiding the question. If I was filling it with words that had nothing to do with why I was being a jerk then I could see that it’s not really answering the question. And I started to really push and say, “Why am I being a jerk?” I said, “I’m not being a jerk.” I said, “Then what’s going on?” And I wrote down, “Oh, I’m doing this. I’m saying this. I’m saying this other thing that really bothers me.” I said, “Why am I saying it?”

And through this confrontation with myself, I realized that the problem was I’d already sold the last piece of my last business and I didn’t have another business I was working on and I was just in personal growth mode. And one of the things that gave me satisfaction when I was running a business or when I was going to school was saying, “This is the direction I believe you all need to come with me on.” So if it was a business it was, “We’re going to do affiliate programs. Here is why we have to do it. You all have to get on board,” and I would keep championing that. If it was going to school it was, “I think I need to be an entrepreneur. Here’s why entrepreneurship is great. You have to understand it.”

Well, once I didn’t have anything that I was championing, I still had this need for them to accept me as the leader or something, and to convince people to do something. So I would say something to the group like, “I think we should do a mastermind over the phone.” And they would say yes, and I would think I better push them to really follow, to make sure they’re really here and I’d say, “We can’t just do it over the phone, you have to do it on my schedule.” And then we would get on a call and I would say, “Well, we have to do it this way.” And they would say, “Yes.” And I would go, “No, with this twist, you’re not aware of it.”

What I realized was I just wanted to make sure that people were following me, that I had something to convince them was right. And it wasn’t until I confronted that that I understood what was going on and I could then repair the relationship. And as a result, become a better speaker and someone who could come here and have a conversation with you. And journaling forces me to have that kind of insight. Well, I was going to say all of the time, but whenever I can sit and have those long sessions.

UJ: And that’s good material, right? That’s amazing material because once you have that, you improve your life so much more. You’re so much better to other people. You know your boundaries so much more, and you know all those triggers of when you’re kind of moving forward towards old patterns.

Andrew: Yeah, right. So the next time it happens, I understand why I’m doing it, and I recognize it, and that’s what journaling does. It’s going to be, yeah, it’s incredibly, incredibly powerful. What do you do to make sure that you find the time? We talked before we started about how I’m feeling like now that I have a son, he’s about eight and a half months, I don’t have that time to sit and do these long-form entries, the ones that helped me.

UJ: It’s typically like as soon as I start my work day. The first 15 to 20 minutes are just writing, just journaling, and figuring out whatever’s going on, and this stuff just starts popping up. And if it’s something really important, I’ll just stop and follow it all the way down. If it’s not, I’ll just shelf it and move on to getting work done. It just becomes part of the work day. So I don’t really start work before I do it.

Andrew: I see. The way I start my work day with email sometimes, you start your work day with Evernote and journal through.

UJ: Exactly. And once you get a streak, you don’t want to stop.

Andrew: Because you’ve done a streak of entries in the journal, right?

UJ: Right.

Andrew: Okay. On to the big board and the next thing we want to talk about is to use a problem solving journal to flex the idea muscle. What is that?

UJ: So this is different from the traditional journaling stuff. This is just zooming in and getting your scope out, your sniper scope out, and figure out what the problem is. Let’s just destroy the problem with lots and lots and lots of ideas. As opposed to the Evernote, what I use for free-form journaling, this is on pen and paper, right? I do this specifically for figuring out problems and one question, and one important question that really makes all the difference. I don’t need to write a lot of stuff. The majority of the processing happens here and I just need to write what really needs to be written. And this is an example …

Andrew: What we’re looking at here on the screen is an example of something that you would have written down. This is what it would look like if we’re doing it the way you’re suggesting.

UJ: Absolutely. And it’s remarkably simple. I set a timer. I use the Pomodoro technique. Some of your audience might be familiar with it. It’s 25 minutes of single tasking work. You cannot get up during it. You should make sure you’ve got some tea, go to the bathroom before, all that. All you do is there sit down, for 25 minutes, just cranking out ideas for how to solve the problem. Typically, what you don’t see on this page, is I’ll spend the first 10 or so minutes refining the question. Initially, the questions might have been, “How do I make more money?” Or something. And then you refine it to, “How do we increase profit?” And then you’d refine to, “How do we increase profit by improving distribution?” Because distribution is really important, we reach audiences we normally wouldn’t be reaching otherwise.

Andrew: I see. So the way that at the top of this page it says, “How to increase profits while improving distribution?” That’s not the first question you asked yourself. Your first question is maybe something like, “How do I get more money?” “How do we get more profits?”

UJ: Exactly.

Andrew: You spend a lot of time just writing down the question in different ways until you get to the one that you really want to solve. And then what do you have underneath it?

UJ: Underneath it you just write ideas. And you can write as many ideas as you want. There is no filter on the ideas. What matters is you’re allowing your ideas to flow freely from your brain to your paper. The reason why you won’t take a lot of time is because ideas don’t take massive amounts of space. They’re like four or five words max, right? And that’s why you can …

Andrew: I see, I’m looking right here at the screen and it says, “Podcast advertising, sponsor events, incoming.” Oh wait …

UJ: Incoming blog traffic.

Andrew: Incoming blog traffic, got it. So that’s the kind of stuff that you’re thinking of. Just sit down, write, write, write, all the different ideas that you can come up with. I see. Why not just walk around and think about it? Why not take a walk somewhere, or maybe on your commute say, “I need to come up with a way to increase profits. How do I do it?”

UJ: You can. But most people do that anyway. I find, for myself, this is a way to concentrate all my attention, all my energy on one thing. And guess what, try spending even half an hour to an hour on it, I might not solve it. Some of the best ideas I get during restorative yoga, where I’m doing nothing. I’m barely even moving. But that’s not a reliable strategy for solving problems for me. It’s nice when you have an idea, but there’s no way to direct what idea you want and how it’s coming from. And so lots of people take walks for having good ideas. That’s great. It’s wonderful you’re having great ideas, but I don’t know where that idea is coming from. I had an idea for a website a week ago, in restorative yoga. I looked it up and someone already had it. But the point is I didn’t know if that idea was going to come. I had no idea, I wasn’t looking for it. How do I find the ideas I’m looking for? This is how you do it. Direct your conscious attention and awareness almost like a laser beam on this thing and do not move until you see something moving.

Andrew: That’s another thing about accountability, that the fact that I look at a page that has this question at the top and only two answers, or three possible answers, three ideas, tells me, you know what? I think I could do a little bit better. I think I need to push myself to come up with a few more items because when you see it be so sparse you know you’re cheating yourself. You know you’re trying to get away with something. So I’ve had the same experience. I do it digitally. Why are you recommending it on paper?

UJ: This is how I do it. You can totally do it digitally. If that’s what works for you, great. But to me, the tactile experience of pen and paper, I do this and interesting things with my hands.

Andrew: I see the flipping.

UJ: Yeah, it’s exciting for me. I usually get a cup of coffee and that’s my routine. Caffeine fuels my thinking sessions, but that’s what works for me. Again, you can totally do it …

Andrew: I see, but unlike the traditional journaling, as you called it, where there’s so much writing that your hand can’t keep up with it and a pen is too slow, this doesn’t involve a lot of writing so you might as well do it with a pen and paper.

UJ: Exactly. James Altucher also calls this “Flexing the idea muscles.” That’s where the title comes from. His concept is if your brain isn’t hurting, you haven’t gone all the way through it. That’s also a metric you might think about.

Andrew: Make sure your brain hurts.

UJ: Exactly. Don’t stop until your brain hurts.

Andrew: Yeah, he starts every day with those ideas, and then he’ll sometimes mail them out to people. Say, “Here are my ideas for you.”

UJ: He’ll have waiter pads. That’s what he uses, right? And whatever works for you, waiter pads, this bound notebook, right? Evernote, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re doing it, and you’re treating it as if you’re concentrating the rays of attention on one point and you’re searing the problem, you’re good.

Andrew: All right. Back up to the board. Next big thing we’re going to talk about is to create content, to create your plan, use mind-mapping. This is not something that we expect people to read, but we want them to just get a sense of what it looks like. What is this?

UJ: Okay. So this is my entire screen. It’s kind of built … This is kind of shortened down, but this is my idea on how all the things I wanted to cover in this course. Before I started this I had no idea, how or where, or what I was going to talk about. But this mind-mapping, if the analogy for the problem solving journal is more of a sniper scope, mind-mapping is more of zooming out. You’re zooming out completely, and you’re looking at the big picture. You’re getting a 10,000 foot view on what’s going on here. A lot of people use this for organizing books, content, courses. Whenever you have a large amount of material that you need to organize in some way, use mind-maps. It’s also typically how the mind works. It works in associations you would’ve seen [inaudible 00:30:57]. Lots of lines connecting this topic to this topic to this topic. And all it does is it allows you to look at it visually and associate relationships between those things that you might not have connected before.

Andrew: Let me show it here. Again, we don’t expect people to be able to read it, but it does say “Mixergy Course” here. You have a few phrases that are circled, including “Creativity journal, letter to your past self, five minute journal, problem solving journal, mind-mapping, keep track of your goal.” It sounds to me like these are the big points that you want to cover.

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: And if you had another one, you’d write it down. It seems like when you circled it you meant, “Yes, this one’s in. This is what I want to cover.” Am I right? And this one, which is called “Resources, or think visually”, you decided not to circle so they’re not included.

UJ: Yeah, well, not everything is included even in this course. This was just created when I thought about it. But the circled ones are the main titles.

Andrew: Main ones. And then I’ll read one of them, the one that we started out with, “Five minute journal,” and then it says, “For happiness.” Then there’s another line from the, “Five minute journal.” It says, “Gratitude journaling.” Another line from the phrase, “Five Minute Journal” it says “Priming your brain, etc.” What are those?

UJ: Those are just ideas and concepts that I thought would be useful for your audience.

Andrew: Okay. So you’re just coming up with different ideas for what you might talk about around the concept of “Five minute journal.”

UJ: Exactly. It’s just putting everything, all the stuff on there. It doesn’t mean it’s going to show up in the course, it doesn’t mean anything. All it means is it was somewhere in my head at the time.

Andrew: I see, and so “Problem solving journal,” I see James Altucher. His name is on there because he’s someone you might want to talk about his process. All right. I see.

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: What are some issues that we would use a mind-map to deal with?

UJ: So creating a course, writing a book, creating content, organizing content. So whenever you’re looking to create something and you have no idea how you’re going to create it and how it’s going to show up as, this is a great way to do it, and put everything on a mind-map, and then start connecting. So first you put everything that you think would be valuable, or useful, or important to mention on there. And you could just start writing, typing up 100 things, 200 things, it doesn’t matter. As you saw, it was fairly large. You had to zoom in on specific parts. All of it actually doesn’t even fit an entire screen.

Andrew: What program did you use to create it, if it doesn’t fit?

UJ: Scapple.

Andrew: What is it?

UJ: S-C-A-P-P-L-E.

Andrew: S-C, I’m going to write that down and include that in our session notes. S-C-A …

UJ: P-P-L-E.

Andrew: P-P-L-E. So you know what? I’ve had people, I’ve had entrepreneurs in here talk about you and, of course, what they know you for is the “Five Minute Journal,” the guy who’s going to show you how to make journaling really easy and fast and not take up a whole day. And now we’ve talked about mind-mapping. We’ve talked about problem solving idea journals. We’ve talked about the traditional journal. We’ve talked about the five minute journal, and we have so many different journals that it feels like it’s going to take up our whole morning.

UJ: First of all, you don’t have to do this every day, right? You do this when you need to. I do mind-maps when I need to. When I need to create content, I need to create a course, I’m looking to create a new product, whatever. I don’t do this every day. So there’s one issue right there, right? I will also say, I’m a little bit different. I have about four to five journals going on at any given time. That doesn’t mean you need to or you should. It just means I find it useful and effective for me. There are some ways and systems that you can allow yourself to do this consistently every day and become better at it, like the “Five Minute Journal.” That’s what it was designed for. Look at each of these journals as a prescription for a problem, right? So if you have a problem you want to solve, use a problem solving journal. Ideally, if you can do it every day, your muscle is going to get stronger, and you’re going to get better at solving problems. But if that’s not so much of a priority in your life, don’t do it.

Andrew: I see.

UJ: Right? So if the pain is big enough in your life, you’ll do it. The only reason people don’t have behaviors and have this in their life that they want and don’t yet have, is the pain isn’t big enough. So if the pain isn’t big enough, don’t start.

Andrew: Okay. So when I feel overwhelmed I’m acting like the guy who opens up the fridge and says, “How am I going to eat all of this in one sitting?” And the answer is “No.” In the morning you can have some cereal and milk. In the afternoon you can have this salad, etc. So you’re saying, “Here are a bunch of options for you. When you need them, go to them.” The “Five Minute Journal” sounds like the only exception to that where you would want us to sit down every morning and think and write and every evening end the day with the two.

UJ: Absolutely. You got it.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go on to the next big point which is to find the delta with a goal tracking journal. I think I got, here, what is this? I can’t believe you sent this over, and I’m glad that you did, this is you.

UJ: This is me, yeah.

Andrew: How did Anne Marie get you to send over a photo of your chest?

UJ: Yeah, well, preservation skills.

Andrew: Sorry?

UJ: Preservation skills.

Andrew: I guess, because you know what? I went working out earlier this morning with a few people who I know from Mixergy and I thought, “I’m not even sure that in this locker room I’m comfortable with them seeing me with my shirt off, or in just a towel.” And now you’ve got the whole Mixergy audience seeing …

UJ: That was my before picture. Just so we’re clear.

Andrew: All right. Way to go, Anne Marie. But there’s a bigger point here. The reason we’re showing this is because this relates to one of your goals. What was your goal?

UJ: So about a year ago I nearly died in a motorcycle crash, and I decided that I would show my body who’s boss and the only way I would do that is consistently keep on track of how much weight I’m gaining and how much muscle I’m building. And so this is what you do, at the risk of looking like a frat boy. I had to take selfies in front of the mirror every week. And keep on track of working out, keep on track of workout journal. I think we have a picture of that as well.

Andrew: Yeah, here let’s take a look at that. So were you taking a picture every day like this? And also doing this?

UJ: No.

Andrew: No.

UJ: So every week or so, and also weighing myself every day. And so there’s a calendar I used to keep, I still have it and as soon as you wake up, just weigh yourself. So you’re weighing yourself at the same time so you’re accounting for water weight, so to speak. So this is just a quick example of a workout journal. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the best workout journal in the world. Other people have different tactics and tricks and interesting things that they do with it. But all you do is you track one metric over time consistently, you’re going to get better. And that’s what this is here to show, right? If you’re working out without metrics, you’re compromising results.

Andrew: And so you’re journaling what you’re doing every day as a way of measuring your progress and not kidding yourself about how I’m going to the gym every day. Why am I not getting healthier? Why am I not looking buffer? Well, if you look at your journal and you see that you’re doing the exact same thing all the time, or maybe you’re doing fewer of it than you realize, I’ve been making excuses and that’s why I’m not getting the results. So that’s one thing. The other way you want us to journal for goal setting is to have one metric that we follow on a regular basis, and so you would weigh yourself. For me it was revenue, I might journal about my daily revenue, right? That’s what you’re talking about.

UJ: And also, Tim Ferriss is a really good case study in this book, “The Four-Hour Body”. And I don’t remember his name off the top of my head, but there was someone who said, “You know what? I just want to lose weight over time.” And all he did was weigh himself every day. And he had a target weight, and he plotted this on Excel, and had a target weight where there was a red line and he would never allow himself to go under the red line, or so over the red line. And he didn’t take any conscious effort to diet, to exercise, to do anything different. And in about seven months he was some 20-25 pounds lighter, I don’t know the exact number. But just the act of measuring himself every day over time, and keeping track of that number led to results that he wouldn’t even have gotten if he didn’t do that. He wasn’t consciously taking effort at all. No dieting and no exercise. So just by measuring it you can make significant improvement over a period of time.

Andrew: You know what? I was Googling it over here on this computer to see if I could find the guy’s name very fast over here, but is so good at SEO, and they have so much content related to weight loss and 4-hour body that basically all my responses, all my results in this Google search are That’s the company that used to be known as Lift.

UJ: Lift. I still prefer the landing name, Lift. I think their new branding sucks.

Andrew: You do?

UJ: I still use Lift all the time. I use it right now.

Andrew: Lift is an app that was used in the past to just make sure that you were doing things on a consistent basis. If you went to the gym, you would mark off that you went to the gym, and you would get to see how many days you did it in a row. And you could compete with your friends to see if you had achieved it. Then they added this coaching feature where, if you’re going to the gym every day, you might want a coach, and they were connecting you through the app to one. There’s yours, and that’s why they rebranded. Tilt the top down a bit.

UJ: There we go. Better?

Andrew: No, tilt the top of the screen down so that it doesn’t reflect.

UJ: I see.

Andrew: No, not your computer, sorry, the phone. Yeah, like that, and closer and all right. That’s about as good as we’re going to get.

UJ: Yeah, okay.

Andrew: All right, cool, and I think we’re cutting off the top of your head. I’m going to include that also in the session notes. What do you use for?

UJ: Keeping track of things that I want to do on an everyday basis. Nothing crazy. Just making sure I like the streak function. I like the fact that it gives me a high five. I love it.

Andrew: And do your friends get to follow you on there too? So if you don’t hit …

UJ: Yeah. Exactly.

Andrew: That’s one of the other benefits, that you can see who’s on the leader board, who’s been doing this for the most days in a row, and your friends get to see if you’ve been doing it.

UJ: I’m also, in a total aside, but I thought this would be of interest to you and your audience. I’ve been doing this thing that’s called a prop bet with a good friend of mine who originally came up with the idea, and he’s a professional poker player, so this is how it works. Every day we have X amount of habits. I think I have five habits right now, and he’s got about six habits. So every day the total fee is about 50 bucks. So if I don’t do one habit, it’s $10 off for me. And if he doesn’t do one habit, it’s just under 10 because he’s got more habits, so 50 divided by six. And we’ll do it for a two to three week stretch. And whoever loses, the money goes into a pot, and we decide what we’re going to do with the money. Give it away, give something, we don’t use it for ourselves. And what’s really great about that is you can use each other for motivation.

So then there’s a competition thing. I started flossing. I’ve never flossed before, a foreign habit, and the only reason I started flossing was because I put it on this thing, because I didn’t want to lose money on it. And it’s one of the best things I did for just making sure I’m staying on top of the habits, because you know, every day you update that and you comment each other on this Google spreadsheet. It’s an incredible way to make sure you’re on top …

Andrew: And that’s how you keep track of it, a Google spreadsheet that you both share.

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: I’ve seen people do it with also getting up at a certain time. You have to be up and texting, “I am up” into this mutual text, and if you don’t then you’re dinged 10 bucks.

UJ: Oh, brutal.

Andrew: All right. On to the big board for our final point which is travel to the future, then think backwards.

UJ: Actually, we’re missing one.

Andrew: Am I missing one? Oh, right. Yes, here, let me highlight that, do a review to stay on top of your goals. A weekly review. This is one that came to you from a friend who said what?

UJ: It’s really interesting. So I have a really good friend, Dan Gel [SP], and we were having coffee on a Sunday morning and he said, “You know, I’m going to do my weekly review. Have you heard of the five things exercise?” I’m like what? And he shows me this template, and he said, “I do this every Sunday.” And I said. “You’re kidding me?” How have I not thought of this, and how have I not been doing this for all this time? And so I started doing this, and it’s the most significant thing I’ve done in the last few months of my life. Just by making sure I sit down every Sunday and make sure I do it in an environment that’s not work related, so usually in a coffee shop. Where I can just sit down and look at all of the things that I did the previous day. So I think there’s a template.

Andrew: Yeah, this is. Here it is, and we can give it to everyone who’s watching. This is your weekly review template. and this is what you’re going to list. Five things you’re grateful for for the week, your intentions for the upcoming week, what are five things you’re proud of for last week.

UJ: And so what’s interesting here is this is a weekly review and weekly planning all in one, right? So you look at all of the intentions for this week, maybe look at the intentions for last week and you see what happened. Did you follow through? Did you not? If you did, there’s a “done” next to it. If you didn’t, you start talking. you got to explain yourself. So it’s more like you’re monitoring yourself and seeing how much you’re actually saying you’re doing and how much you actually end up getting done.

Andrew: How can you keep this from being another to-do list, in a life where it feels like we have emails to-do list, we have our reminders app on our phone that’s a to-do list, we have to-do lists everywhere. How do we keep our weekly accountability journal, our weekly review from being another to-do list?

UJ: Because there are things there that are specifically meant to evoke pleasure, not the sense of “Ah, I got to do this.” For example, I have five things I’m excited about. Are purely experiences for me, right? Five things I’m excited about is purely experiences, all the things that I’m looking forward to, when I don’t have to do shit, frankly.

Andrew: I see, yeah. So you’re saying it’s not just about the to-dos or what did you do, it’s also about what are you excited about having done in a way of touching into the things that are going well in your life.

UJ: Absolutely, and there’s one final question that’s actually my favorite, which is five lessons I learned. And how I’m going to implement them in the future because that’s the feedback loop right there, right? So if there are some things that you learned this week and you have to bring them up, you have to dig them up, and you journal about it, and then you ask yourself, “How am I going to implement this next week, moving forward?” You can learn something, for example, my gym bag got stolen a couple weeks ago. And as a result, my internet security is tight as hell.

Andrew: I see, that you learned to stop …

UJ: Yeah. So I learned to realize where else in my life am I not as secure as I want to be. And I realize I hadn’t changed my passwords for a long time, longer than I’m willing to admit. So I realized, shit, this is a massive pain point, and the gym bag was $200 nothing, right? But all the internet security stuff is worth a lot more. And so I’d much rather that be a lesson that allows me to get that security tighter than anything else. And so a lot of people …

Andrew: How long does it take you to do all this?

UJ: Huh?

Andrew: How long does it take you to write this whole thing down?

UJ: Half hour to an hour, tops? The first time it takes longer, because you’re trying to get the hang of it. But once you’ve got it down, half hour to 45 minutes is all it should take.

Andrew: On to the big board for now, our final point, the one that I jumped ahead to earlier. This is the one where you say travel to the future and think backwards, and do that as a way of reaching your long-term goals.

UJ: So this is the most touchy-feely part of all this …

Andrew: I think we’ve earned the right now to be a little touchy-feely. People know that we’re not just coming from a place of do it because it feels good and for no other reason. We understand that we have …

UJ: That’s right. I appreciate the fact that we’ve earned it but I still want to earn it one more time. I want to ensure that this is legit. So Cameron Herold has written really good books, I’m not sure if you have interviewed him, but if you haven’t it would be a great guy to interview. He’s the guy behind 1-800-JUNK, and is really good at scaling companies.

Andrew: 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

UJ: GOT-JUNK, that’s what I mean. He wrote a book called “Double Double,” and the first chapter is the only chapter I’ve read by the way. It’s called A Painted Picture. And he talks about the process that he takes the COOs of companies through, to build the vision for the company. And that’s the very first chapter of a book, on how to scale your company by a long shot. It involves walking away from the office, sitting somewhere where you’re open to creative ideas, and just write down, in three years from now, or until whenever you hit your goal, what does your environment look like? What does your company look like? What does your day-to-day operations look like? How do the people interact? How do your customers interact with your employees? What’s the culture like? What time do people go home?

All of the details, to envision this whole thing, this whole idea of how this company is going to function day-to-day. Not how it’s going to get there, how it’s actually going to show up as when the result is reached. And consistently, time over time, this has been an incredible exercise for COOs to do, to scale our companies. And so this is kind of where it comes from. It comes from the ability to imagine and put yourself in a position where you’re already there, and you’re walking backwards, trying to figure out how to do it.

And there are many ways to do it, and the simplest is very similar to what Cameron suggests, to go somewhere and write a letter to yourself. Write a letter as if you were three years from now, having achieved whatever you want to achieve, in business, in life, whatever. And write back to yourself as if you’ve already achieved everything you want to achieve. Write back to yourself talking about how life is now, what time you wake up. This can also be called the ideal average day exercise. In fact, Kern talks about it quite a bit. Where you move through your day, what time you wake up, what do you have for breakfast, what your bedroom looks like, what time do you start work, what does your work involve, how do your customers look like, what kind of products and services do you offer, how large is your company, what revenues or profits.

Of course, you want to get all that in. But also you to get into the experience of it, into the emotion of it, into the full flow of actually being there and who are your friends? What do you eat? What does your body look like? What do your relationships look like? Do you have a wife? Or a husband? All of that. How do you end the day? How does your year look like? It’s more of an imagination exercise, as if you’re writing back to yourself. Kind of having achieved all of this, how do you feel? And how you want to tell the person who you’re writing to this is all possible and I’ve done it, so here’s how you think. How I think you can do it.

Andrew: You actually had a friend who did it, wrote it down, and what happened? Can you tell his story I think this is …

UJ: This is a pretty fantastic story. This is actually a really good story to end on. He’s a good friend of mine, and at the time when he wrote the letter he was 17, and he was in a really dark spot. He recently had an injury in his elbow, and it was a nerve injury too so it took about a year for his hand to heal. And he was really angry, was really frustrated and he was broke and he wanted to change something. He wanted to do something desperately and he started writing. In this emotional intensity he started writing about all the things that he wanted, as if he had already accomplished it. And talking to himself backwards in time. And he talks about how he has this multi-million dollar business, how he has this beautiful wife, how he’s overcome obstacles over and over and over again, how he has this great life and then he forgets about it.

He forgets about it for years. He forgets about it until he’s about 24 or 25, I believe it was 25. He’s cleaning out his house because he’s moving, and his mom brings out this letter to him and she gives it to him and he reads it and he starts crying. Because at the age of 25 he had accomplished everything he had written in that piece of paper. It was incredible for him to read, and he shared it with me about a week or two later, and incredibly for me to hear, because I had seen his life. I hadn’t seen him when he was 17. I’d seen what his life was now.

Andrew: And he’d made money. He had the family, he’d had the travel, he’d had the comfort. What’s his name?

UJ: He’s my business partner.

Andrew: Oh, really?

UJ: Yeah.

Andrew: Oh, cool. I’d love to see that letter. Is that something he’d be willing to show?

UJ: I’ll have to ask him.

Andrew: All right. He’s got to post that online if he can. You also say that there’s a site where we can send letters to ourselves if we prefer to do it electronically.

UJ: You can do that, yeah.


UJ: I like to do it on pen and paper and give it somebody and have them give it to me next period of time.

Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay.

UJ: But you can do it whatever way you please, as long as you get it down. That’s good.

Andrew: You know what’s interesting? This site,, allows you to read the letters that people post publicly, and see what they want for their futures and where they see themselves going. It’s all anonymous but if they want they can post it for everyone to see. Wow, that’s a really touching story what happened to your business partner that he actually used this idea and had his life reach what he wanted it to be.

UJ: And so this is a very powerful exercise, guys. Like you have to get over this whole touchy-feely thing and just do it. If COOs who want to scale their companies are currently in the multiple seven figures and want to scale to eight figures, are doing this, then you can take an evening out and do this for yourself. Trust me, it will be worth it.

Andrew: Your website is, let’s bring it up on the screen, People can get the journal here by buying it. It’s on Amazon, where your reviews are frickin’ off-the-hook. Or they could get it here on your site. Let me just bring that up, because I’ve never seen anyone, well I don’t know never, I don’t want to exaggerate but, your reviews are fantastic on Amazon, aren’t they?

UJ: They’re good, they’re all right, thank you.

Andrew: All right? That’s great.

UJ: Thank you.

Andrew: Most people are hated on Amazon, it looks like …

UJ: Well, our audience typically is positive, so we have that going for us.

Andrew: Or they could just click and read it right here on your website and see the whole process. Thank you so much for teaching this. Thanks so much for being willing to be open with the world about the process and not just hide it all behind, I was going to say behind a pay wall, but frankly I do that. So I can’t put that down, I could just say, “Whoa, you’re putting me to shame.” Impressive that you do it, but also more impressive the impact that you’ve had on other people. Like I’ve said, before we ever had a conversation I’ve heard people talk about you. I’ve seen the impact that you’ve had on them, and I’ve admired your work for a long time. And it makes me so proud to have you up here on the site.

UJ: My pleasure, Andrew. Like I said, before we started this conversation, Mixergy has done more for me than you can imagine, and I’m just thrilled that you are just at it and that you continue to produce great content. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Andrew: Thank you. And if you’ve got anything of value, please let him know. Find a way to connect with UJ and tell him in person, via email, on the site, on Twitter. I just had someone email me and say, “Andrew, I did it. Here’s the guest I did it with, and look at the response.” And the response was basically, how can I help you? How do we connect? Here’s my phone number. I couldn’t believe it. From a guy who I interviewed who is really busy, and it all comes from just expressing gratitude, not seeing the person who’s on the screen as just another set of pixels on your computer screen, but seeing him as a person who’s just helped you, and reaching out and saying thank you, here’s what I learned, here’s what I got. Incredibly powerful, it’s a great way to start a relationship, or just also show appreciation and have somebody else be as touched as you were. UJ thank you, I’m going to start off by saying it right here, thank you so much for teaching us.

UJ: My pleasure Andrew, happy to be here.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it, Bye everyone.


Master Class:
How to find your calling
Taught by Jeff Goins of GoinsWriter

Master Class: Find Your Calling


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Andrew: This session is about how you can discover what you’re meant to do. It is led by Jeff Goins. He is the author of four books and a popular blog that you can read at conversation and everything we’re going to be talking about is based on his book “The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do.” I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders teach.Jeff, thanks for being here.Jeff: Thanks for having me, Andrew. I love the show. I’m a big fan of Mixergy, and excited to be here.

Andrew: Thanks. You know what? The reason I was hesitating is I was looking at my beard there in the OneShot. Here, let me bring my OneShot up on my phone. Maybe I should actually trim down here. I’m trying to figure out what the length is of my beard.

Jeff: I don’t have that problem.

Andrew: No. You just shave right off?

Jeff: It just doesn’t grow.

Andrew: Oh, it doesn’t grow. I see. Okay. That is a whole other issue.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m glad you’re here. Because frankly, little things like that — do we grow a beard or not, do we send out this email or not — are challenging. And you’re about to show us how we can find what we’re meant to do? That’s the goal of this book? That’s the goal of our conversation?

Jeff: Absolutely, yeah.

Andrew: And you’re a guy who didn’t always have that figured out. In fact, let me just talk about one thing that I noticed here. This is an old photo of you, right?

Jeff: Yeah, very old.

Andrew: One of the things that I noticed here is — not a big detail, but a small one — you’re holding the guitar. And I heard about a time that you used a guitar to woo a girl, a girl named Lane. And I think that’s helpful for us to see one of the issues you were wrestling with. What happened with Lane?

Jeff: Yeah, I was just looking at that photo, and that’s probably from . . . I don’t know, six years ago, and I’ve got a . . . you know, and that’s the same kind of sweater. And actually . . . you know, we’ll point people to the book site. I think you show that later. But I’m wearing that same exact sweater. It’s . . .

Andrew: No way. Let’s take a look.

Jeff: Nope, the . . . yeah.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: Same sweater. Oh boy. I need a wardrobe consultant.

Andrew: No you don’t. It’s working for you.

Jeff: Hey.

Andrew: Why waste time on a wardrobe?

Jeff: Classic.

Andrew: Let’s waste time . . . or let’s spend our time on things that are much more important.

Jeff: Indeed.

Andrew: I think. Go ahead.

Jeff: So one of my favorite stories to tell is about this girl named Lane that I crushed on in college. So it may surprise you that I’m in my 30s, because I realize I look — and if my voice cracks, I might sound — like I’m 14 years old.

And in . . . but when I was actually in college — which was, you know, whatever, over a decade ago — I had this crush on this girl named Lane my freshman year. And Lane was my freshman orientation leader. So she was a junior, I was a freshman. I thought it was a little scandalous to ask her on a date my freshman year. And so being the gentleman that I was, and having nothing to do with the fact that I was deathly afraid of girls at the time, I waited a good long year before I asked Lane on a date.

And so sophomore year rolls around, and I decide that I’m going to ask Lane out. And I tell my friends. I make the mistake of telling a couple of my friends, who were these, like, uber-romantic guys. And I said, “Hey, I’m going to ask Lane out.” And they’re like, “Oh, finally.”

And one of them said, “Well, how are you going to do it?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know. I just thought I’d call her or something.” And he goes, “Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, no, no, no. Dude, go big or go home.”

And I was like, “Okay. All right. Fine. I’ll go big. I don’t want to go home.” And I did what I think any well-intentioned college male with a guitar sitting in the corner of his dormitory room would do: I wrote Lane a song.

And I practiced it for probably a week. And it was, you know, this short, 90-second love ballad. And one Saturday afternoon, I felt like I was ready. I had memorized all the lyrics. I was ready to go big. I called Lane on the phone, and it rang and it rang, and then she picked up, and then I hung up. Because now I knew that Lane was home.

And so I grabbed my guitar, I raced across campus. Somebody let me into the girls dorm. And I knocked on her door, and she opened. And I stepped in with my guitar into a room full of people.

And for the . . . you know, at this point, I sort of had this decision to make. Like, do I take another step in, and risk embarrassment and rejection in front of all these people? Lane had, like, half a dozen friends hanging out in her room. You know, as you do in college. And they’re just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon. And I could do that. Or I could take a step back, retreat, say I was knocking on the wrong door or something, and probably never do it again. I just knew myself, and I knew that if I didn’t do this now, I’d probably never do it again.

Andrew: Yeah, I get that.

Jeff: So I stepped in, and I just started playing. I didn’t think about what I was doing or what people were thinking. Everybody’s staring at me, and Lane’s looking at me, and I’m looking at her. And I play this song. And the song was basically asking her to the homecoming dance. And I somehow figured out a way to rhyme the last two lines — you know, the second to last line with the last line — which was, “Will you go to the dance with me?”

And so I strummed that final chord, and I locked eyes with Lane, and she looked at me, and everybody looked at her, and then there was silence for a minute. And then she said, “I can’t. I’m sorry.”

And then something worse happened. I didn’t leave. Like, I don’t know why I didn’t do this. I don’t know what was broken in my brain that made me think, like, playing a song, getting rejected by a girl, and then, like, blending in and not leaving, and pretending as if nothing ever happened, was somehow less awkward than just doing it and leaving. But I . . . that’s exactly what I thought.

And so I just, like, sat down, you know? In a chair, and tried to join the conversation at this party that I wasn’t really invited to. And, you know, I’m just hanging out.

Andrew: That is awkward. That says something about you, that you would sing to her, and that you wouldn’t understand why you should leave, or why, frankly, leaving is not as big an issue as . . . why didn’t it work?

Jeff: Yeah. Right. So eventually I kind of excused myself, after 10 minutes of awkwardness, and Lane walks me out and says thanks for my song. And I said, “Well, I aim to entertain.” You know, as cynically as I possibly could.

Andrew: Yes.

Jeff: And it would be a long time before I ever did something audacious for a girl, or in my life. I mean, years.

And looking back on that, I thought about that for a long time. What did I do wrong? Was it the fact that Lane didn’t like me, or was it because she just didn’t know me?

And looking back, I can now understand that. Because the next time I played a song for a girl was for the woman who became my wife. And the way I pursued that relationship was very different from the way I pursued Lane. I took time to get to know her. You know, we started dating, we got to know each other. She found out I wasn’t a crazy person anymore. And then I wrote her a song, and then I asked her to marry me. Looking back on the thing with Lane, I realized I didn’t say more than, like, 100 words to her in a year.

And I shared that story in the book because I think this is the way that we tend to treat a dream, or some big idea that you have that you want to share with the world. We think it’s all or nothing. And in “The Art of Work,” I talk about why I don’t think that’s the case. Why some of the best dreams take time. It’s less about taking a giant leap, and it’s more about building a bridge.

Andrew: I see. And so if you would have done this . . . if you had an opportunity to do it again, you would have spent some time getting to know her, talking to her, not just going for that all or nothing, asking for the date day one.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I would have . . . you know, instead of spending that year fantasizing about what it would be like to be in a relationship with her, I should have spent that time getting to know her, becoming her friend, hanging out with her. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, like, big, audacious, crazy leaps of faith. But I think in . . . you know, especially in the space of entrepreneurship, that we sort of glorify this as the only way to do it. Like, you have to risk bankruptcy and go all in.

Andrew: I see.

Jeff: And I’m just not so sure that’s the case.

Andrew: And we’re going to talk about this process and how it can apply to the thing.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: The thing that is the most meaningful thing that we’re going to be doing in our life, what we’re meant to do. But I want to understand you. You got on this path of being a writer, and putting out books, and blogging, and getting your ideas out for the world, because of a friend named Paul. What happened with Paul?

Jeff: So a few years ago — several years ago now — I approached my boss. I was working for a non-profit at the time. I was a marketing director for this international non-profit. And it was a good job. I liked it. I wasn’t miserable. But I had this feeling . . . I was in my late 20s at the time. I had this feeling that I think a lot of people get, which is I just kind of felt like there was something more that I was missing out on.

So around that time, I decided to invest in this personal coaching program. Like, a group coaching thing. We met for a year, kind of like a Mastermind-type thing. And one of the other members of that group was a guy named Paul.

And I actually . . . I call him a friend. He’s a friend now. He was not a friend at the time. He was this random guy that I had known maybe a month. And we’re sitting around, and he goes, “Jeff, what’s your dream?”

And I was so burnt out on seeing my friends and colleagues pursue dreams, burn out, and then go back to working at Starbucks or whatever, that I just thought the whole thing was a farce. I said, “I don’t have a dream, and I just think that’s for kids. I have a good job. I’ve got a wife and a good life. I don’t need a dream. I just need to do good work.”

And he goes, “Huh, that’s interesting.” Remember, Paul didn’t know me that well. But he did know that I had a blog at the time, and he said, “I just . . . that’s interesting. I would have thought that your dream was to be a writer.”

And when he said that, like, so nonchalantly . . . and he was, like . . . he’d been through some serious therapy. He knew, like, the Jedi mind tricks to mess with me. And he said . . . he goes, “I guess I was wrong, then.”

I said, “No, no, no. Wait, wait. Yes, if I have to have a dream, it would be to be a writer. But that’ll never happen.”

And he just looked at me for a moment, and he said, “Jeff.” Got real serious. “You don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just need to write.”

And something about that conversation really changed me. It changed my life. The next day, I got up at 5 a.m. I hadn’t done that in, I don’t know, years. And I started writing, and I didn’t stop. I haven’t stopped since.

And I learned from Paul that I think activity follows identity. That before you can go do something, you have to become someone. And the idea of the book is figuring out what you’re supposed to do with your life is really a process of figuring out who you are.

There’s this great quote by a guy named Parker Palmer, who’s an author and activist. He says, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I need to listen to my life telling me who I am.” And that conversation with Paul kind of opened up the process of me understanding who I was.

Andrew: I just took a pen out to write that down. I love that phrase. “Activity follows identity.” You’re saying that once you said, “Yes, I am a writer,” once Paul helped you see that you were a writer, then the activity of a writer naturally flowed from it.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: And that’s what you’re suggesting that we do. Take small steps like that that get us to the path of whoever we’re meant to be.

I have a list here of different tactics that we pulled out of your book that we’re going to be discussing today. Some of them we touched on already, but we’re going to dive in deeper on them.

The first one, though, is to reflect on your life and look for common themes. And you talk about, in your book, about someone named . . . here, actually. This woman, Jody. It’s going to bring up her photo.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Why don’t we talk about Jody, and then I want to show you something that I’ve seen about her. Who’s Jody?

Jeff: Jody . . .

Andrew: And how did her friend Larry Elliott help her?

Jeff: Jody Noland . . . the book is these different stories of these different people, each of which kind of teaches a different lesson about finding a vocation. So again, if you’re listening to me and, you know, I’m 32 years old, I look like Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. You go, “Well, what does he know?” Well, maybe not that much. But these people I got to talk to when I was writing the book have a lot of wisdom.

Jody had this really interesting story. When I talked to Jody, she was a widow. She was in her late 50s. And she was really starting the thing that she felt like was her life’s purpose. And when I asked her to unpack that story a little bit, it was very interesting.

So for, like, 15 years, she worked for IBM. And then she quit that job, and she became a wife and a stay-at-home mother for about a decade, and she helped her husband with his business.

And then, kind of around the time when she was feeling like, “What am I supposed to do with my life? What else am I supposed to do? You know, I’ve worked a job, I’ve been a wife, I’ve been a mom, but I still feel like there’s something more.”

And she was thinking about that. Around this time, her friend Larry got brain cancer. And so she runs to the hospital. He had just checked into this hospital. His family . . . he had gone on a vacation in Europe, and they had to cancel the trip because he had this headache that, once they got to Italy, they did a CAT scan and realized that he had a brain tumor.

They flew him back home and brought him to the hospital. And he didn’t have much life left to live. You know, it was looking pretty bleak.

And so Jody goes to the hospital, she meets Larry, and he asks for a pen and paper, because he wants to write his daughters a letter telling them how much he loves them before it’s too late.

And Larry ends up living several months longer, but then he dies, and his girls, his daughters, cherish these letters that he wrote. Just telling them, you know, “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the women that you’ve become, and that you’re going to be.” And then just held onto that.

So fast-foward a little bit of time. Jody’s husband gets cancer. And she pleads and pleads and pleads with him — because she saw what happened with Larry — she pleads with him to write a letter to their children. He refuses. He thinks that he’s got more time than he does. He just doesn’t want to do that. He’s sort of in denial. And then he dies. You know, the cancer kills him pretty quickly.

And Jody . . . that kind of . . . you know, that puts her into a tailspin for a while. But as she comes out of it and grieves the loss of her husband, she realizes, like, “I don’t want what happened to my kids . . . ” Because her stepdaughter, her husband’s daughter, comes up to her right after the funeral and says, “Did Dad write me a letter?” And it just breaks her heart. She said, “No, he didn’t. I’m so sorry.”

And she starts an organization called “Leave Nothing Unsaid,” writes a book, and now teaches workshops to people about how to do this, so that you can leave nothing unsaid, so that you can tell your loved ones exactly what you think about them.

And Jody actually teaches, don’t do this on your deathbed. Do this now. But she’s seen the power of the words of affirmation that you can give a loved one, and she’s seen both sides of it.

And what’s interesting about Jody’s story is I asked her, I said, “Did this one thing that happened to you in your late 50s, like, was this the thing? What about all that other stuff? Could you go back and just, like, not work for IBM for 15 years?”

And she said, “Oh, no. All that stuff prepared me for what I’m doing now. And if I wasn’t paying attention to what life was teaching me . . . ” And the main thing that she learned was . . . she had this great idea, and she kept telling people, “Hey, my friend Larry did this. Isn’t this a great idea?” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a great idea, but I’m not a writer. I don’t know how to do that.” And she kept, like . . . it just seemed obvious to her, and easy, and yet it wasn’t obvious and easy to other people.

And she realized, “Maybe this is a calling. Maybe this is something that I’m supposed to do. And it’s not obvious to other people, but when I tell them, they recognize it. Maybe I need to do something with this.”

Andrew: And I see her site right here.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: I can see the work that she’s doing on it. But how do we use that? I feel like maybe for her it was easy to find the common themes in her life because she had these two really poignant moments, one where a father does leave a note, another where a father doesn’t leave a note. And those two points are obviously going to leave a mark on us.

What if we don’t have anything that dramatic in our lives? What kind of themes can we look for that will help us find out path?

Jeff: Yeah, it’s certainly a dramatic story. One of the things that I talk about in the book is that I think stuff happens. Like, things don’t go according to plan. At some point, something has arrested you, that’s grabbed your attention, that stops you in your tracks. And I think the people who end up finding their purpose in life . . . and I argue that you could miss it. You can . . . you know, life can be sending you signals, and you can miss out on your greatest work if you’re too caught up in how you feel, or . . .

Andrew: What are some of the things that we could look for that will help guide us?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things I think you need to look at is look at pain. Like, what hurts? So we all have pain. Maybe it’s not losing a loved one. But at some point, you know, something happens, and it bothers you.

What bothered Jody was that other people . . . that she was going to have to see the pain that she saw in her stepdaughter. That she was going to have to see that in other people.

Andrew: I see.

Jeff: And so when you see something . . .

Andrew: So what’s so painful that we’re almost turning attention away from it.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Not being aware of it. You want us to be aware of that, because other people are probably feeling that pain, and maybe there’s a solution out there that’s a common one for you and others.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Andrew: All right. What else?

Jeff: Yeah. So when you’re . . . yeah, look for pain. Look at past experiences. There’s this great anonymous quote that I came across that basically says, “Everything in your life is preparing you for what’s to come.”

So Jody didn’t like her job at IBM, and she spent 15 years there, and she took her job . . . I mean, when she looked back and kind of remembered the things that she had done, she realized what she really likes doing . . . because she would do these employee evaluations. But instead of doing the typical “what have you done for me lately” kind of conversation, she would just ask them, “How is life?” You know, “How are you?”

And she realized that she was a really empathetic person, and she could help other people who maybe struggled to share their feelings — like write a loved one a letter — she could help them express that.

And so she looked at the stuff that she was good at, the stuff that bothered her — you know, the pain — and then she saw an opportunity for that. And the reality is, Jody didn’t want to do this. I mean, her husband died. She said, “I’m done,” you know? She had actually started writing letters for people. When her husband died, she couldn’t convince her husband to do it. She felt like a failure.

And then this family came and found her and said, “Our mom’s dying. We need . . . you know, we want her to write a letter. We want to . . . ”

Andrew: “Will you help us write the letter?”

Jeff: Yeah, and so . . . yeah.

Andrew: So maybe that’s the other thing. If there’s something that you’re doing on a consistent basis that you maybe are not valuing enough, that’s an indication.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: So you’re saying just look for those commonalities, look for those themes. You don’t have to have two people who you care about in your life, or anything that dramatic happen, for it to set you on this path.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Good advice. Let’s go on . . .

Jeff: Sure.

Andrew: . . . to the big board here, and see what the next big idea is. The next one is . . . you say don’t go in search of mentorship. Instead, find mentors who are around you. And in fact, you give us the story of Ginny, who’s someone who started every day — there’s a photo of her — started every day with this excitement and gratitude for another sunrise, and then every night she’d go to sleep, crying herself to sleep. Why?

Jeff: Ginny, Ginny Pong, the woman who would eventually become Singapore’s first full-time doula.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: She was . . . she had a baby out of wedlock, and there’s a big taboo for that in Singapore. And she wanted to have the baby, but her boyfriend was giving her an ultimatum. You know, “Have an abortion or I’m going to break up with you.” Her parents — she was living with her family — she had failed her exams. She didn’t have a lot of options. They were threatening to kick her out. Again, because of this social taboo.

And so she had a tough decision to make. She was about to have the abortion, and then her aunt called her and said, “Hey, if you don’t want to do this, we’ve got a place for you.” And so she flushed these pills that were going to start that process, and she moved in with her aunt, and her aunt took care of her.

And she had a hard life for many, many years. And you can watch Ginny’s story on a TedEx video. It’s really inspiring.

But what ended up happening is, you know, Ginny has this incredible story of going from being this single mother to becoming a doula, a birth coach, and then starting a business, managing a whole team of doulas. How she got to that place is not by a plan. She was working late nights and trying to take care of a kid, trying to survive.

It’s very difficult for single mothers to make a living for themselves, make a life for themselves, in Singapore, just because they don’t get . . . you know, they’re sort of treated as second-class citizens. They don’t get a lot of special treatment. There’s these taboos. And so she was having a hard go at it.

One night, she’s talking to a friend. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, and a lot of her friends were young and partying, and she just wasn’t connecting with them anymore. She had this friend online, and the friend said to her, “You would make a good doula.” And she’s like, “What’s a doula?”

And so she kind of goes through the classes, just, you know, curious, and then gets paired with this mother. And, you know, a doula walks a mother through a birth plan, helps them do whatever they want, whether they want to do a natural childbirth or they want drugs. Whatever they want to do, they can do that. Ginny just walks them through that.

And she said the day that she helped this woman do this thing that nobody was there to help her for. Her parents were saying, “We’re not going to help you.” Her mom was in the room when her baby was born, but couldn’t help her because, you know, her mother had had a Caesarian and Ginny wanted to do a natural childbirth. And when she helped this mother, she said it felt like slipping into a pair of old shoes. And after that moment, she knew she had found her calling.

When I asked Ginny, “Did you do this all on your own? I mean, all these people abandoned you. Who in the world helped you?” She started listing all these people, like her friend Amy, who told her that she could be a doula. Like her friend who helped her . . . you know, let her move in with her, that she could help her pay the rent and watch her kid. Like her aunt who said, “Flush those pills. We’ll take care of you. If you want to have the baby, we can support you.”

And I think what we learn from a story like that, and lots of stories, is that you can spend a lot of time going and trying to find somebody to teach you or help you. And sometimes you get lucky and that happens. Most of the time, we feel like we’re alone in life, but I don’t think that’s actually true. I think that we are all apprentices in a craft. It’s just that the mentors and masters around who can help us are sometimes hiding in our everyday relationships, as they were with Ginny.

Andrew: But Jeff, what about this. When we look for mentors, we don’t want people who are on our level and are accessible to us. We want people who are so far beyond where we are that they can help us make those giant leaps to get there. And yes, our friends can give us advice, but they don’t compare to those kind of mentors. People who are leaps and bounds ahead of where we are.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: What do you say about that?

Jeff: I think that’s great. I mean, I’m a fan of seeking out people who are above and beyond where you are. I just know that I went through a season of life where I was looking for one mentor. You know, one person who was going to, like, make it all happen. And I just don’t think that’s realistic. I think you need to be looking for a multitude of mentors.

And what I mean by that is, yeah, I’ve got, you know, older men that I learned about how to be a better husband or a better dad from. And then I have, you know, friends who are 20 years ahead of me in business, and they teach me about entrepreneurship. None of these are formal mentor relationships. They’re all sort of cobbled together in what I call an accidental apprenticeship. A bunch of different relationships where you sort of, like, craft your own syllabus about how you’re going to learn.

So I’m a fan of seeking people out, but I think there’s this idea in our culture that you can just have one mentor for 25 years, you’re going to sit together and have coffee all day long, you know, once a week or whatever, and you’re going to learn all this stuff and become as successful as them. I think successful people are busy. It’s hard to get attention, you know, from one important person all the time. And I think it’s unrealistic. I think it’s much better to have a multitude of mentors, people that you can learn from in different fields, and use that to kind of create this self-education that’ll get you to where you’re going.

Andrew: All right. Back to the big board. Start by working on your calling right now, today. What is this, Jeff? Let me show you this page. This is not the prettiest page online, but it exists. It is on . . . what’s the URL that we found it on? Is it

Jeff: Yeah, that’s right.


Jeff: Right.

Andrew: By Martin Chamberlain. What is Martin trying to do there?

Jeff: So Martin is a senior in college right now. And all of his young adult life — you know, through his youth and teen years — Martin wanted to be a painter. In fact, he was flown out to California to feature some of his oil paintings in an exhibit. And then when his brother, his older brother, went off to college, Martin grew up in the home of a Baptist minister in Oklahoma. They had one family computer. Martin didn’t really use it. He was an artist. He wasn’t really concerned about that. He, you know, played guitar and didn’t really care about computers.

Then when his brother left, he decided that he wanted to get into web design. He started playing around with the computer. His brother gave him a book about how to design websites. And one of the websites in the book was that site right there, BubbleUnder, where basically they teach you how to build the website and make it look as beautiful as that one does.

And what was interesting about Martin’s story is, you know, he kind of exhibits this idea that you see throughout the book “The Art of Work,” which is that what you want to do and what you’re supposed to do don’t always align. Like, we think we want to do one thing, and then we start doing it, and then we realize that the thing that we’re practicing for is actually something else.

And so Martin was spending all this time as an artist thinking that, you know, I’m painting and doing all this stuff. He thought he was preparing to be an artist. And then he realized, “I’m actually preparing to be a web developer.” And now he’s dedicated. He’s got a web design company. He’s actually designed several of my websites. And he realized that his . . .

Andrew: [inaudible 00:27:01]

Jeff: . . . preparation, what he was doing with art, was actually . . . yeah, that’s him.

Andrew: That’s his current site.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. That’s his, you know, one-page thing.

And yeah, so what he realized was that . . . he thought his calling was something out there. You know, something that he would do someday. “I’m going to be an artist someday.” And what he didn’t realize was that . . . I mean, he is . . . you know, he was 16 years old when he started a web design company, and I met him when he was 18, and now he’s 20-something, and he’s doing it.

And I think there’s this idea that we have to wait for permission, or enough experience or education, to finally live out our purpose. And that’s not true at all. I mean, here’s this kid who’s doing it, and he thought it was going to be one thing, and it ended up being something else.

And when he had this moment of, you know, what author Daniel Coel calls a spark moment, when you see something that connects with your desire and interests, he went after it. And he spent hours every night learning how to build websites.

Because, you know, you’re not going to find your calling, live out your purpose . . . it’s not just going to happen to you. You’re going to have to work really hard. You’re going to have to master that. And I think that’s one of the things we learn from Martin, is you have to practice. And practice doesn’t begin tomorrow. It begins today.

Andrew: Right. Did he actually create . . . which of your sites did he create? Where is that site? There it is.

Jeff: He’s worked on probably all of my sites.

Andrew: All of them.

Jeff: He’s done that.

Andrew: This . . . where’s the one . . . this is the one. I love this.

Jeff: Yeah, we outsourced that, actually. That was somebody that the publisher hired. But, yeah, he actually emailed me and goes, “Hey, who did this? This is great?”

Andrew: This one’s actually a theme. Sorry, he did what?

Jeff: He emailed me and said, “Hey, who did this? This is great.”

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: But we . . . the publisher actually hired . . .

Andrew: Hard to see if there’s a theme here that I can catch. Wait, where is that? Can’t I just do a search for theme in your . . . yeah, no, it’s a custom theme. Okay.

Jeff: Yeah. I’m pretty sure it’s [inaudible 00:28:56].

Andrew: But I really like the design of all of your stuff. Wait, I’m on the wrong page. Here’s one of the things I really like. Where is that? Was it this one? No. Earlier as we were talking, I was looking through your site, and . . . I like how you have your pull quotes on a page of an old-fashioned typewriter. I love that stuff.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: I love your whole design sets. I love how when you take a photo to use online, it’s not just an author photo. It looks like this.

Jeff: That’s totally my wife.

Andrew: Oh, she’s fantastic. She took that photo?

Jeff: Yeah. She’s a photographer. She takes all my photos. And she, like, stylizes the shoots and everything.

Andrew: You have a really good sense of design. Even the backdrop is fantastic, too. We’re not seeing most of it, because you’re just on a computer. But in the video on your site, I was able to look behind you and check it out.

Jeff: Yeah. Thanks.

Andrew: All right. So let’s go back to the big board.

Jeff: Let’s do it.

Andrew: Build a bridge to your calling. That’s the next big idea from your book that we’re going to be talking about.

This . . . these guys . . . this family here. I’ll bring them up on the screen. They want to become social entrepreneurs in . . . is it Burundi? Is that where they want to do it?

Jeff: Yeah. The world’s second poorest country.

Andrew: Second poorest country.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. So that’s an ambitious goal, to go to the second poorest country to start a company there, and have it not just make profits, but also help people around them. Most people would just say, “Great. I’m going to fly to Burundi.” Or, actually, most people would say, “That’s a great idea. I’ll do it when I get a chance.” If they decide to get started, they might think, “I’m going to go to Burundi, and I’ll figure it out.”

What did they do instead?

Jeff: So when I talked to . . . their name is Ben and Christy Carlson, and those are their kids, and they run a coffee company in Burundi. And they’ve done that for the past few years now.

Andrew: Yeah. This is their website. I’ll zoom in on it.

Jeff: Yeah. The Long Miles Coffee Project.

Andrew: It looks beautiful.

Jeff: And what you have to understand . . . I mean, it’s a complex story, but what you have to understand is coffee is a commodity in Burundi, and it accounts for something like 80% of, you know, their total GDP. And yet . . .

Andrew: Wait, hang on a second. Anne Marie, you’re zipping something over there. I’m going to call it out, just so people don’t think I’m zippering something inappropriately while the camera’s on Jeff.

Jeff: Can’t see her hands.

Andrew: She’s zippering her backpack. She’s working here out of the office on her way out.

Jeff: Keeping it real. To the launchfest. All right.

Andrew: So she . . .

Jeff: Yeah, you threw me off.

Andrew: I’ll say bye. Wait, let her show the door, so it doesn’t seem like I just disappeared. Thank you.

All right. Now no side noises coming in. No zippers, no snaps, no doors.

So yeah, so you’re saying it’s a complicated issue.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: It’s a complicated task. And largely because coffee’s a commodity in Burundi, and frankly, in the world.

Jeff: Yeah. And, I mean, basically these farmers are working themselves to the bones. They’re selling the coffee beans, getting, you know, a minimal charge for it. And then people are . . . you know, companies are taking these beans and then redistributing them to roasters and whatnot, and making a lot more money off of it.

So they saw this, and they said . . . Burundian coffee apparently is incredible. I mean, it’s really, really good coffee if it’s done right. And they saw an opportunity, and they went after it.

So they moved their family into this French-speaking, very poor country to pursue this dream where they didn’t speak French, didn’t really know the industry. Ben loves coffee, but he had never really, you know, done anything with this. Before this, they worked with a non-profit.

And so I asked Christy, I said, “How did you do this? What did the transition look like?” And this kind of goes back to the Lane thing. She said, “Well, we took a leap.” I said, “Great. What did that look like?”

She said, “Well, first we moved our family to South Africa, and we spent 10 years there doing leadership development with this non-profit organization. Towards the end of that 10 years, I realized I really wanted to write,” she said, “and take photographs, and Ben really wanted to do something with coffee. And we started looking for opportunities, and we saw one in Burundi, and we went after it.”

And then when I . . . we kind of, like, went back to it, I said, “So you took a leap that took 10 years.” And she said, “Yeah, well, actually it was a lot of small steps.” And there was . . . you know, there was fear, there was risk. She told me about the first day she dropped her son Miles off at this French-speaking school. He was scared. She was scared. She felt like she was throwing him out into the ocean.

But I think when we think about pursuing a dream, it’s sort of that all or nothing mentality that you mentioned, Andrew. Either it’s, “Hey, that’s great! I’m going to do it today!” Or I’m probably never going to do that.

And the story of the Carlsons moving to Burundi and starting Long Miles Coffee Project was really a truer story of transition, in that it’s more like building a bridge, less like taking some giant leap. And it requires a lot of daily work taking small steps that get you there.

Andrew: Okay. But you’re not saying 10 years is . . . you’re not advocating 10 years, necessarily.

Jeff: No.

Andrew: You’re not saying it has to take even multiple years. You’re saying you don’t have to go from an idea to starting this business in a foreign country with this big goal of changing other people’s lives. You could first say, “I’m interested in going to Africa.”

Jeff: Right.

Andrew: “And maybe I’ll take a step towards there. And as I look around, then I’ll get an understanding of what my next step is.”

Jeff: Yeah. I think most people don’t know what they want to do with their lives. I don’t know about you, but I talk to a lot of people, and they either don’t know what their passion is. They have a bunch. They don’t know which one to choose. Or they have this big idea and they don’t know how to make it happen.

And what I’m trying to say in the book is if you don’t know what your passion is, join the club. If you have a big idea and you don’t know how to make it happen, join the club. If you’re one of those special people that knows exactly what you want to do and you know how you’re going to accomplish it, and you’re doing it, well, hooray. Like, that’s great. But that’s not the rule. That’s the exception.

And the Carlsons is a great story of . . . we didn’t know what we wanted to do. We wanted to get to Africa. We wanted to help contribute. And when we got there, we realized that we really liked doing this thing, and then we started exploring and looking at these different opportunities. And then when we saw one that made sense, then we took the leap.

And really, it was about taking the next step, because they had been slowly building a bridge by basically looking for opportunities for their passion, and then listening to their lives, paying attention to what resonates with me as I’m taking these small steps, and how can I course correct along the way if I happen to go in the wrong direction?

Andrew: I feel like that’s good advice for a lot of things.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: I see every year people . . . every January people come to my gym. They’re fully decked out. They’ve got the latest shoes.

Jeff: Sure.

Andrew: They’ve got outfits. They’re signed up, some of them, for a year, to make sure that they’re fully committed to working out for a year. And then by . . . I wouldn’t even say February. Mid-January, they’re done.

And I think it’s so much better to say, “I’m going to try running, and I’ll try going to the gym, and I’ll give it some time to see, do I click with it?”

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: You know, you don’t click with the gym necessarily. I know I don’t. I just go there to shower after my run. You don’t necessarily click with running. You want to try it a little bit . . .

Jeff: Yeah, agreed.

Andrew: . . . without fully investing in it.

All right. Let’s go onto the big board here. The next big idea is to see failure properly. See it as an opportunity for growth.

And one of the people that you talk about is a guy named Matt McWilliams. I’m going to bring up his current website so we can see his face and get a sense of who we’re talking about. There he is. The guy who’s in the upper right corner.

And here’s a guy who one day opened the door to his place, and a detective asked him for his laptop.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s a shocking thing to have happen to you. Why did this detective show up at Matt McWilliams’ place?

Jeff: Well, it probably wasn’t that shocking to Matt, because it was the fourth time in less than a decade that he got fired.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: And in this case, he was being laid off from his current job. And he was actually glad to give up his laptop, because he had had a conversation with his wife the night before saying, “I really want to go do this full-time consulting thing that I’ve been thinking about doing, but I have a really good job.” And then the next day, this guy shows up and knocks on his door, and it was this, like, “Okay, I guess this is what I’m supposed to do, because I’m being . . . you know, my hand is being forced.”

When I talked to Matt — and he’s really honest about this — I was intentionally kind of looking . . . you know, I had my . . . I was writing this book, and I had my antenna up for stories of, you know, radical transition from doing one thing to doing something else in terms of careers. And Matt came to me, and he kind of laid out all of his successes and how much money he was making, and how successful he was as a marketing consultant.

And I said, “That’s great. That’s awesome.” And in the back of my head, I was going, “I’m not telling that story.”

And then I got on the phone with him, and we talked a couple of times. And then at the end of the conversation, he basically said in passing, “Oh yeah, I got fired from this job. I got fired from this job. My dad fired me.” “Wait, what? Your dad fired you?” And we had a couple of conversations and unpacked it.

And basically, he had this season of failure. Of trying to be a professional golfer, getting hurt, then having to go work at his dad’s golf course. Getting fired from that because he was too distracted, you know, building websites for friends on the side. Then he started a company with a friend that, early into the start-up, was making a ton of money. Really cocky. You know, would chew people out. Got fired by the co-founders that he kind of helped start the company with because he was a jerk to work with.

You know, just one thing to the next, the next, all a bunch of failure. And I said, “Matt, that’s the story. That’s the thing that people want to connect with, is this feeling of, ‘I missed it.'” As he started to unpack it, I said, you know, “Could you have gotten to where you are now without all that failure?” And he said, “Absolutely not.”

And so I think of when we . . . I think that when we think of failure, we think that it’s an obstacle that keeps you from success. We look at successful people and we go, they succeeded in spite of all the failure. Michael Jordan succeeded in spite of being cut, or making, you know, the JV team instead of the varsity.

And I don’t think that’s true. I think successful people succeed because of their failure, not in spite of it. That the failure is a means to help you find out exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. It gets you to where you’re supposed to be.

Andrew: Why? But Jeff, didn’t Matt just fail, fail, fail, fail, fail? How did that help him? Maybe you can say you can learn something from it, but I don’t even see how those failures would lead him to become a better consultant, to become a better entrepreneur.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, he would say that every failure had two things that happened. One was a lesson, as you mentioned, and the other was, he was doing something that didn’t quite work, and failure wasn’t . . . it wasn’t like, “Go back and try it again.” It was a pivot point where he could run into some, you know, big mistake, try something and go, “I’m doing something wrong here, and I need to shift my focus and head in a different direction.”

You know, so in the case of getting hurt as a golfer, they told him, they said, “You can keep doing this, but it’s going to take this reconstructive surgery.” And he was a great golfer. He won all these championships in high school and college. So he could have done that. But he said, “You know, I’m not that passionate about it. I’ve been doing it like crazy, and this is an opportunity for me to go do something else.”

And so I kind of re-describe failure as a pivot point. You know, you think about in basketball, when you’re running down, dribbling down the court, and you stop, you just run out of options, right? Because if you take another step, you’re traveling, and you’re going to give the ball over. You’re too far away from the basket. You can’t shoot.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: So what can you do? You’re out of moves. Well, except for a pivot. If you have one foot planted, and you’ve got the other foot that you can kind of, like, kick around and 360 degrees, you can still move in any direction and then pass the ball down the court.

And I think there’s . . . you know, a great example of that was Groupon. They started out as this non-profit organization. They lost $1 million. And they had this great idea, like, “Let’s get people to volunteer their time around a specific need.” So they used social media to say, “Hey, let’s go give clothes to homeless people in downtown Chicago.” And everybody would say, “Okay, I’m going to pledge my time to that, and it’s going to be great.” If they got enough people to say yes to it, they’d go do it.

It failed. And they made one little tweak. The founder said, “What if we try to make money with this?” And $13 billion later, you know, it worked okay. At least for a while.

Andrew: It’s still doing well, actually, surprisingly.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: I’ve been looking at their numbers. It’s still a multi-billion dollar company.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: You know, Jeff, I introduced you, I think, as a writer. I should have introduced you as a speaker. You’re fantastic.

Jeff: Thanks.

Andrew: I like your storytelling style.

Jeff: Thanks, dude.

Andrew: I hope I didn’t just inhibit you and cause you to pay too much attention to the fact that you’re a good storyteller. But I like it.

Jeff: Thanks.

Andrew: I think most guests really undervalue the story, and I think that by giving examples, you really help illustrate your points. And frankly, you just remember the details of these stories so well. I’m impressed.

Jeff: Thanks.

Andrew: All right. Let’s look at the big board here. The next big point is to build and combine multiple skills. You talk in your story about this guy, his name is Jody, he’s unpacking in his new house. He is talking to his wife, and suddenly this thing that he heard from . . . I guess it was another . . . from a park ranger?

Jeff: Yeah. Right.

Andrew: What was it that he heard that set him off on this new path in life?

Jeff: So Jody was a financial consultant at the time. He was working with a bank. And he had moved out to Washington. He’s from Illinois. He’s from my home state. And he had moved out to Washington and, you know, married this woman, and they were helping somebody move.

And he always loved parks. Ever since he . . . he was a business major in college. Ever since he took a trip out to Washington, went to a place called Deception Pass State Park. And he would say that . . . you know, I use this word “calling” a lot. He says, “Sometimes places call to us. Sometimes being in a location, you just feel this resonance in your soul that says, ‘This is what you’re meant to do.'”

He felt that as a college senior at the state park in the state of Washington. And years later, he feels this same sort of sense when he’s talking to his friend and he’s going, “We just heard there was an opening for a park ranger. You should check it out.”

And he had to go study. He had to spend a year of studying for it. And then he went and pursued his dream, moved cross the state, you know, had his family kind of follow him later. And he got to fulfill his dream of being a park ranger, at least for a little while.

Andrew: And then what happened?

Jeff: And then he started a family. And he . . . I mean, you have to understand that Jody loves parks. I went to Washington. He drove me . . . we spent an hour driving up Mount Spokane, which is this mountain in Washington. And he’s just telling me story after story, because he used to work there as a park ranger, and he’s just telling me all this stuff. This is years after him not being a park ranger.

And what happened was he realized that he had to choose. Because being a park ranger is a very demanding job. You know, you live on the facilities. If anything happens, they radio you or whatever, and you have to go respond.

And during the time Washington State Parks were doing a lot of layoffs and downsizing, and a lot of guys were losing their jobs. And Jody was just realizing, “I have to decide, am I going to keep pursuing this or . . . and kind of not see . . . you know, see even less of my family? Or is this something that I need to kind of let go of for a season?”

So he let it go, and he’s now a business consultant. And the really interesting thing about him, and the cool thing about him, is that his story’s not done. But he has this podcast now called the Park Leaders Podcast, and it’s basically a podcast for park rangers. And one of the guests that he had on recently was his old boss, who was sort of his mentor.

And he . . . you know, Jody was just saying, “I miss being a park ranger.” And his boss said, “Don’t, because what you’re doing right here is . . . if you love parks, Jody, what you’re doing right here is doing more for the industry than you ever could as a park ranger. And so I know it’s hard to not be out there every day, but your expertise as a businessman . . . ”

Because he spends a lot of time on this podcast and working with other park rangers now. He helps them understand that they don’t have just one job. Like, they have a bunch of different jobs. They have to understand business and communication and leadership. It’s not just driving around and making sure people aren’t breaking the law, or that there aren’t, you know, trees on the road or something. It’s a portfolio type of job. You have to have a lot of different tasks and skills.

And so he’s beginning to realize that maybe I wasn’t just . . . maybe I wasn’t called to be a park ranger at all. Maybe I was just called to parks in general. Maybe the calling, the thing that I’m supposed to do, is bigger than I realized, and all these things that I’ve done in the parks, out of the parks, working for a bank, working for a business, maybe all of this combined in a portfolio is really what my calling is about.

And as he’s embraced that, his life has become a lot more fulfilling, as opposed to thinking he’s just doing one thing.

Andrew: That’s a good point. It kind of . . . it’s really easy to look back and say, “I really wasted those three years by not doing this, and I gave everyone else a three-year head start on me because I was doing this other thing.”

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: And you’re bringing up a good point, which is often that those three years, or the time that you spent doing something else, often helps make what you’re doing now — even if it seems different — helps make what you’re doing now so much better.

Jeff: Yeah. There’s this great quote that Robert Green, author of a book called “Mastery” and many other great books, he says the future . . . I mean, this is a book about mastery. About, like, mastering one skill. He says, “The future belongs to people who can take a few skills, unique skills, and combine them in interesting ways.”

And I think that’s absolutely true. The days of you doing one thing, and doing it really, really well, and getting paid a ton of money, are over, I think. You have to take a skill like writing and combine it with technology, or a skill like speaking and combine it with humor. I mean, you have to combine skills in an interesting and unique portfolio that’s going to help you stand out.

And I think it’s also the most fulfilling way to live. Because we’re not just one thing. We’re multi-faceted people.

Andrew: Onto the big board for the final point, which is to make others the focus of your calling. And you had a period in your life where you had money in the bank, you had good savings, you actually didn’t feel motivated. What was it like when you weren’t feeling motivated?

Jeff: So I quit my job. I spent all this time . . . I was a writer. I had sort of this blog. All I wanted to do was get published. I thought, “This is what I’m supposed to do.” I got published. I made $6000 off of my first book contract, so I was, like, rolling in it. You know, not really.

And then my wife and I got pregnant, and I . . . she and I were talking about whether or not she was going to go back to work, or whether or not she was going to stay home and be a mom for a while. And we could not live off of my salary. We could not afford to do that. And so I wanted her to be able to do that. She wanted to do that. It was not possible.

And so I got really tenacious about, you know, finding time in the margins of life — early in the morning, late at night — and I started building an online business. And I built this online business helping other writers do some of the things that I’d done. Start blogs, get published, and start making money online.

That became wildly successful. You know, you talked about, does it have to be 10 years? It doesn’t have to be 10 years. I started my blog, and I wrote on that every day for a year. And then the next year, you know, as we were sort of counting down the months until it was baby time, I was . . . like, that was the clock counting down on me to make enough money that we could replace my wife’s income.

By the end of that year, I’d replaced my wife’s income, replaced my income, replaced my wife’s income again, and then mine again. I mean, I think we tripled our income that year.

Andrew: Wow.

Jeff: So it kind of became this no-brainer, where my wife quit her job, and a few months later I quit mine. Which was a really cool experience, because I went to my boss, and I thought he was going to be disappointed, and he was, like, waiting for the conversation. Because he just had seen all this stuff happening in my life, and he saw how excited I was, and he goes, “Man, I’m so proud of you. You need to go do this.”

And so this was a really cool transition. So I was like, “This is it.” Like, “This is the finish line.” March 31st was my 30th birthday. April 1st, I was a full-time writer, entrepreneur. I was doing . . . I was living my dream.

And very quickly, I got depressed, because I did not have a reason to work. I didn’t think I did. Like, I always worked as a means of making a living. And my wife told me around that time, like, “We’re set for the year. You don’t need to make any more money this year. We have enough to live on and then some.”

And I was like, “What am I supposed to do?” And she says, “Well, you can do whatever you want, I guess. I’m going to raise your kid. You do whatever you want.”

And that was, like, the worst thing that I could . . . that someone could tell me, is you can do whatever you want. Because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t realize how important work was.

So I had this weird crisis of purpose. Like, what am I supposed to do with my time if I don’t need to work? And I did the four-hour work week thing, where I just worked a few hours a week and I was, like, watching TV the rest of the time, and screwing around, and hanging out with friends. And it was fine, but I realized I need to work. Like, I need to do something, and I need to have something to work for that’s so much bigger than me.

And around that time, I met a friend who told me that . . . he goes, “Jeff, I stopped working for myself years ago.” And he was an entrepreneur, and so I knew that he understood it.

Andrew: This is Stu McClaren.

Jeff: Yeah. That’s Stu.

Andrew: Yeah. Here he is.

Jeff: Yeah. [inaudible 00:50:46]

Andrew: [inaudible 00:50:46] There he is. This is from his Facebook page.

Jeff: Yeah. So Stu told me that . . . he said, you know, “I kind of struggled with that, too, when I started making frankly more money than we needed or knew what to do with.” And then they took . . . his wife asked him to take a trip. His wife is a teacher.

And they took this trip to Kenya, and he just saw . . . you know, he didn’t . . . it wasn’t this, like . . . he wasn’t pitying people or feeling sorry. He just saw, wow, like, education make a big difference. Education creates an opportunity, and we’re in this community where there just are no schools. Kids cannot get the same kind of opportunities that I was born into, because there are no schools.

So he came back from that trip, and he realized, “I’m not going to . . . this isn’t about me. I’m going to work to build schools in Africa.” And he and his wife started this awesome charity doing just that.

And every day Stu goes to work not to make more money or fund his retirement. Partly because he’s been so successful that he doesn’t have to worry about that, and partly because he knows if I’m living just for that, it’s not enough. It’s not enough for him, and frankly, it’s not enough for me.

And that was permission for me to realize that I need to work not just for myself. I need to work for the joy of working. You know, the value of doing stuff that’s contributing to the world. And for being part of something that’s bigger than me.

And I would argue that we all need that. That we’re not actually searching for happiness, you know? Victor Frankel would say that we’re not looking for . . . we’re not looking to be happy. We’re looking for a reason to be happy. We’re looking for meaning.

And I think work is the best way. Having meaningful work that you do, that you contribute to the world, is the best way for you to find meaning and a life that has purpose.

Andrew: And for you, that had to do with Mumbasa, Kenya.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: These women there. Who are the women?

Jeff: So about a year ago . . . well, two years ago, I talked to a friend of mine who had started this non-profit called Know Think Act. And he told me about these projects that they were working on. I was like, “Okay, yeah, that’s great.” You know, people hit me up for money, and it’s fine.

And he just kept . . . he’s like, “That’s cool, man. No pressure.” He says, “I just think it’s an interesting story.” And he just kind of, you know, kept sharing every once in a while. And I was like, “Okay. Tell me more.” He just started telling me more about this story in rural Kenya, really outside of Mumbasa, about this community, this leper community, that he had kind of stumbled upon in his travels.

He had basically taken a trip to Uganda years ago, and just kind of accidentally started a non-profit really helping local African leaders kind of create development programs locally.

So in Mumbasa, there is this camp called Blessed Camp. It used to be called Tumbe, which means, you know, “place where the forgotten people go.” Because what it is is it’s a squatter camp for lepers. These people who have leprosy would go to this leprosy clinic, and then they would . . . the leprosy clinic actually closed down, and they would just stay there, because their families wouldn’t let them come back home.

So you have this camp of hundreds of people, lepers, you know? And there are these women there that needed a place to make these handbags and these uniforms. And my friend came to me and he says, “We need to do this. Would you like to be a part of it?”

And it was, like, a $10,000 project, you know? And we had just had a really successful launch of one of my online courses, and I said, “Yeah, I want to be a part of that.”

And so we did that, and it was great. And then just last year, I went there, and I walked around this camp, and I was shaking, you know, these people’s nubs of hands, feet, and seeing it. And I go into the workshop where these women, on a Saturday afternoon, with their babies on their backs, you know, in their little sacks or whatever, they’re sewing. They’re sewing these handbags and these uniforms. And then they go into the market and they sell them.

And I asked the local leaders there, I said to, you know, the guys kind of running the operation — it’s really a pastor and a couple of his friends — I said, “What’s going on here?” And they said, “Well, we’ll take these bags. We’ll sell them.”

And I said, “You know, do you . . . ” I felt like I knew some stuff, right? Because I’d been running a business for, like, a year and a half. I was like, “What’s your profit margin?” Like, I’m going to stump these Africans, because they don’t know anything, right?

And they go, “Oh, our profit margin is this, and our overhead is this, and we try to limit it to that.” And I said, “How much do the women get to keep?” He says, you know, “Once we pay for all expenses, they get to keep everything. And if they make more, they get to make more.” And I was like . . . I was stunned. I was amazed.

And they sat me down and showed me this five-year plan about . . . you know, because they’re getting some funding from this American non-profit, and they have this five-year sustainability plan where they’re going to start doing . . . you know, creating more products, doing organic gardening so they can go sell these organic fruits and vegetables in the local market.

I was just stunned. It was amazing.

Andrew: I saw the YouTube video of you . . .

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: . . . looking at it. Is this it?

Jeff: Yeah. All the sudden, I went from feeling like I had done something good to being grateful, honored to be a part of something that was so much bigger than me. And that’s what . . .

Andrew: And that’s what you’re talking about. Taking it outside of yourself . . .

Jeff: That’s what I think we ought to be working for. Yeah.

Andrew: . . . to increase motivation.

All right. I think we were just talking over each other, but . . .

Jeff: Okay.

Andrew: But I think we’re saying the exact same thing. Make others your focus, make them the focus of the calling, and it becomes a more motivating experience.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: These are just a few ideas from your book. Anyone who wants to follow up . . . I actually recommend they check out your main site, which is And right now you’ve got a link on there where you’re giving away the book for free, and along with it, people can get a PDF of the book, not just a physical copy. They get a workbook, a community, and so much more. And that will be linked to from your site.

Thanks so much for doing this.

Jeff: Thank you, Andrew. It’s a pleasure, and I hope it helps a lot of people.

Andrew: It was great to talk to you. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone.


Master Class:
How to create an inbound sales machine
(to maximize conversions and paying customers)
Taught by Steli Efti of

Master Class: Inbound Sales Machine


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50% Discount code for Steli’s book: mixergy


Andrew: This session is about how you, the person who’s watching or reading the transcript or listening to us on MP3, how you can build a sales machine so you can grow your sales. The session is led by Steli Efti. This guy is fantastic when it comes to sales. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s currently the founder of, modern CRM that eliminates data entry and integrates calling and emailing within the product. This is the machine; this is the software that salespeople use to close more deals. Before that, he launched ElasticSales, basically its sales as a service. His team of sales people would call up and I think even still do, call up customers, excuse me, do sales on behalf of their customers and am I explaining that right, Steli?

Steli: Yeah you are. We’re not doing that anymore, but that was what we were doing. We were calling customers or calling prospects and closing deals for other startups.

Andrew: That’s a pretty gutsy thing to do. Most people would be afraid to sell for other customers because they’d say, “How could I as a consultant create a sales team here that can sell better than my client?” But that’s what you did. That’s where you learn sales and that’s where we’re going to get a lot of what you’re teaching here today. You showed me something in your hand earlier before we started, you just flashed it, what was that?

Steli: Oh. This is the book that we’re about to release. It’s “The Ultimate Startup Guide to Inbound Sales,” describes all of our strategies we’re going to talk about today and some more. And we chatted about offering a special discount to the Mixergy community, if they want to have it after the master class.

Andrew: So show the book again. What is it that you wrote?

Steli: It’s “The Ultimate Startup Guide To Inbound Sales.”

Andrew: Great. All right, so you’re the guy who did sales for the companies. You do it now for your software and you wrote the book on sales. My goal here is not to keep touting how great you are, but to make sure that anyone who’s watching this becomes a better salesperson, and more importantly, build a sales machine for their company.

Now, you weren’t always this good. In fact, I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it’s kind of painful, but there was a time when you ran a business. Here it is, this is a screen shot from of Supercool School. And when you ran it, there was a time that you and your teammates got into a huge debate. Debate about what?

Steli: Yes. So, this had happened after we abandoned the plan to do enterprise sales for Supercool School. We talked about this in the enterprise sales master class that people should check out. So we failed at closing these massive organizations. So we decided to go the other way and offer a self service platform with Supercool School, so people could just signup and then pay us 15, 25 bucks a month and use the product. And all our energy and effort was on making this fully self service and we spent a ton of time, for instance, on things like debating if the onboarding screen, once you signed up for Supercool School, should have a three step onboarding process or a five step onboarding process or even an eight step onboarding process.

Andrew: And as a result of all these debates, did the company turn around?

Steli: No, it had no impact on the future of the business or how successful…

Andrew: And that’s your point here with our session. A lot of entrepreneurs a lot of sales people focus on the wrong things. As a result they don’t grow their sales. What you want to do, is give us the right things to focus on and show us how to do it systematically so we can grow our sales. And you did it, you actually launched, as I said earlier, software. Software, the transition from consulting where you do in sales for other people to actually creating software that stands on its own is really challenging. And frankly as a consultant, you make much more money, especially at first, then with software, where you’re looking for monthly recurring revenue from one customer at a time. But you did it. You flew to Vegas to celebrate what with

Steli: Yes, we flew to Vegas with the team here to celebrate the moment where the revenue we made with Closed surpassed the revenue we made with ElasticSales. It was a big milestone for us.

Andrew: Huge milestone for software, right? A lot of entrepreneurs have trouble even setting aside enough time to build software on the side. You not only did it, but you actually got more revenue from your software than your services. I want to beat this to death because I’ve got to get into the points here that we’re going to teach, but there’s one other milestone I want to talk about. You went to Walgreens and you got cheap champagne one day. What was the cheap champagne for?

Steli: The cheap champagne was for when we hit the two million in annual revenue run rate. So once we hit that milestone and in hindsight we thought once we get to that point we would do a huge celebration. But what it ended up being is we hit that point, we were really proud. I went to surprise the team, went around the corner to Walgreens, bought some cheap champagne, came back. We all cheered and then we went back to work because it was a really busy day.

Andrew: All right, well that’s an appropriate way to celebrate. Quick and then go back and see if you can grow beyond two million. So that’s setting up your credentials and showing people what is possible. Let’s now get them to that Promise Land and here are the points that we’re going to use. The first thing that you say is, you tell us to shorten our trial period. In fact, I was on your site, this is what has on its sales button. It says, “Get started, 14 days free, free trial and no credit card required.” Why are you telling us to do 14 days or a short period? It has some to do with a client of yours that had a 60 day period? What’s wrong with a 60 day free trial?

Steli: Yes. So nothing is wrong with the 60 day, nothing is wrong with 120 days. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any trial period whatsoever. It depends on how you want to run the business and what your hopes and aspirations are with it. So with that particular client that we had with Elastic, they were operating under this illusion unfortunately, that their product was so sticky that the longer the people who used it for free the more locked in they were. So after 60 or 90 days they would get a better conversion rate than if the free trial was just 14 days or 30 days. And once we actually checked the numbers, it was clear that that was absolutely wrong. There’s no reason to assume that.

And for most products, we all want our product to be as sticky as Evernote or Dropbox or something along those lines. But for most products it’s just simply not true that people during the trial period, it’s not even true that they’ll use it beyond the first day, beyond the first log in. Most people, they’ll login, they’ll create a free trial and then they’ll leave and forget about you and never come back. And the ones that do come back, it’s not like if they keep using it for 30 or 60 day for free that that means that they’re going to convert. So a lot of times companies waste time with sales cycles and they put their hopes on things that don’t match reality. And the 14 day trial has the benefit of shorting the decision period for the customer.

So as a user, when you see you have 14 days to figure this out, it gives you a little bit more of a sense of urgency of like, “Let me check this software out, let me play around with it and make a decision if I want to use it or not.” And for you as a company what I advocate is that you’re going to be reaching out to them really proactively with drip emails, with calling them, with lots and lots of things, to then activate these people and help them in the decision process in the 14 days. Not just leave it up to them, but help them make a decision within a short period of time if they want to buy or not.

Andrew: You know what? That’s counterintuitive. I would actually, frankly, think that with clothes, that people would be adding more contacts with each day. They’d be making more phone calls using the software, sending more emails, and then all of those records would be in the system. You experimented with 60 days too, for your software?

Steli: No, we never experimented with 60 days.

Andrew: You just went to 14.

Steli: We went straight to 14. There’s a caveat to be said that I think that the question is, how much money can you spend in customer acquisition? Right? If you raise a hundred million in venture funding then you should have free plans and you can afford to invest heavily in things that might pan out in revenue two, three, years down the line. But if you’re small, you’re a bootstrap, you want to get to real revenue numbers really quickly, you need to be proactive. In 14 days, the thing is this with our software for instance, the CRM in general, when people trial it, they don’t typically trial it full force. They’ll have one person on the team look into all the different options. They’re not going to import all their data. They’re not going to add all the sales people to the system. They’re not going to use it as a fully operational system. They’ll play around with it and poke in it.

Andrew: I see. Fourteen day trial is not, start using it fully for those 14 days. It’s 14 days to look around. Okay.

Steli: And some people might use it fully but many won’t. Many will just look around. And also you can be very proactive in extending the trial. That’s one of the times where we reach out two days before the 14 day trial is over and you’ll get an automated email personalized from somebody on the team here that asks you, “Hey, did you have enough time? Do you need more help? Do you want us to extend the trial?” And many times that’s the beginning of a real conversation where people go, “Yes, please give me another week or two,” and this and this question and then we start engaging and closing these much more successfully.

Andrew: It almost triggers reciprocation because you’re giving them something for free that they didn’t expect to get it and didn’t feel earned and so they feel obligated at least to continue the conversation, not necessarily to buy. Is there anything magical about 14 days? Is it, you just want us to have a shortened trial period. You’re not specifically saying 14 as opposed to 7 as opposed to 10 as opposed to 1.

Steli: Yeah. No, I’m not dogmatic about it. There’s not a single number that I think beats all of the numbers for all businesses. But I think that for most SAAS products, two weeks is a good time. Many people are fearful of having a higher price or having a shorter trial period. But I don’t want you to make decisions based on fear, I want you to make them based on real reasoning. So if fear is all that stops you from making the 30 day trial into a 14 day trial, you should try it out and see if you get more engagement, more active users and more customers through that in a shorter period of time.

Andrew: So somebody signs up, they try it. But you don’t just leave them to try it on their own. Let’s go back to the big board here. You say, call your trials, the people who are trying your software within five minutes. Is that number specific? Do you really mean five minutes?

Steli: I really mean five minutes. And again, I do realize that oftentimes as a startup, you don’t live in a perfect world with perfect resources. So you’ll have to adjust this. But generically, the philosophy here is that you want to call your signup, specifically if you’re B2B, you need to call your signup your trial users, and calling them within five minutes the reason why that’s so important is that your reach rate is going to go up dramatically. There are studies that show it goes up by 100% even. Some professor ran some studies.

Andrew: What was it for you? When you’re saying in the past what you guys used to do is wait how long before… in fact, before we talk about why five minutes. Why call them up at all? They just signed up. They want to try it. Nobody seems to want a phone call. Why call them up?

Steli: Well for multiple reasons. Number one is you want to call them to welcome them to the platform. You want to call them because you want to qualify them and figure out, who is this person or this company? Why are they interested. How did how did they hear about us? Learn more about your market, your customer, and then you want to see, what is the goal that this person has? Why did you signup? What do you want to accomplish? And make sure that you point them in the right direction to get to that goal and accomplish that. So we would reach out, we’d tell people, “Hey, I know you just signed up three minutes ago. I wanted to say a personal welcome and I want to see what do you want to do with a platform?”

You’ll see a lot of times people will say, “Well, this is too early for a call. I don’t know yet. I’m still playing around with it,” and then once you ask them, “Why did you signup in the first place?” they’ll start talking for 15 minutes telling you all the problems they have or the issues the team has with the current solution. They’ll give you this wealth of information that will then help you help them get something real out of it. Or you might just discover within five minutes, a lot of times that happens, we’ll discover in the first five to ten minutes on the call they’re not a good fit. We will not be able to make them successful and then we’ll point them in another direction to save them time.

Andrew: I see. I guess we’ll get to qualifying later on. So did you try saying, hey, you know what? Whenever we have time or maybe we’ll batch it and once a day we’ll make calls to all the customers who joined within the last 24 hours. Did you try something beyond five minutes?

Steli: Yes. Yes. So at the beginning we would just call randomly whenever we had a chance to call. So maybe it was an hour later, maybe it was two days later, depending on our workload. The most painful thing about calling and why lots of startups don’t want to call their signups or one big reason why calling seems ineffective, inefficient is that, you spend the majority of your time listening to dial tones, voicemails, just not talking to human beings. It takes so much time. You can’t just batch call a thousand people like you can do with email. You just sit there manually one by one, takes up all your mind share, and your own time.

So we realized that we wasted a ton of time. Although these were inbound leads, we would still not talk to most of them. Most of the time we would just listen to dial tones and voicemails and not reach a human being to have that conversation. And once we shifted into calling within the five minute mark, what happens is that because it happens within five minutes, the likelihood of that person still being on their computer or on your website actually, still checking it out, having some time, not being in a meeting on something else that’s important. The chance of that is just dramatically higher. And then when you call, they’ll still know who you are, they’ll have full context of what this is about, and you have a bit of their time. And it makes a massive difference in your reach rates, which makes calling a lot more efficient, a lot more effective, a lot more worthy of your time.

Andrew: I see. You were going to give us studies but you know what I think is even more interesting is one of your clients went and did that, actually cut down from, I forget what it was, anything from 3 to 48 hours, whenever they could. And that got them a 10 to 15% reach rate, which means that sometimes 90% of their calls would end up with just voicemail, which often is not returned. They then switch to this five minute call suggestion and they got a 67% reach rate. Sixty-seven percent of the time they got to talk to a customer which is amazing.

So I want to know how you do it? What do you do to make sure that you can get on a call with someone within five minutes? And this is what you gave AnnMarie Ward in the production call that she did with you. What is this?

Steli: So this is actually a screen shot of a part of our own software In what happens is that when a lead signs up, the software creates an automatic task, assigns it to a user and tells that user to call within five minutes. What happens as a result of that creating that task is that you as a user you get an email notification. You open that email there’s a link, there is the note that says, “New signup, call within five minutes.” And there’s a link. You click that link and it loads up, it starts calling that particular signup.

Andrew: I see.

Steli: So it’s a super efficient model and we’ve had to tweak it when we first started and we had a few signups a day. We religiously were calling them within five minutes. And as the business grew and we had too many to call within five minutes with the amount of people we had, we started prioritizing leads and doing some more magic to prioritizing; call the most important leads within five minutes and maybe the ones that weren’t as high value sources of opportunities, call them a lot later. Or not call them at all and automate that process.

Andrew: Okay, so Close makes it a lot easier to contact customers. But no matter what system we’re using, if someone has a trial, even if we just have a Gravity form or a Wufoo form as the onboarding process, we could have the phone number and the name of the person who signed up, emailed to us and we can use it to call from our phone. The important part is, that we do that. Your software just makes it easier and it also helps prioritize. What about if a call comes in after-hours? What happens if someone signs up at midnight, if someone signs up at 4 a.m.? You’re not expecting a five minute response are you?

Steli: No I’m not. So what we do in the early days was, we were just working very late, or even when I was at home at midnight still checking an email, doing something, if I saw a new signup coming in I would just decide to be proactive and call them and wow somebody. Like somebody from Europe or South Africa or anywhere else in the world would signup and then get a call and their mind would be blown, especially when I told them that I was calling from California. So it was just a way to wow people but we didn’t expect to call people within five minutes 24 hours a day. That’s something that you want to do once you have the resources and the bandwidth and the people. But the early days you’ll have to make certain adjustments and sacrifices. And one of them is that you can’t call people within five minutes at 3 a.m. in the morning if you have a team of four people, somewhere in the U.S. It’s not going to be possible.

Andrew: Right. Get the trial, get it quick, then make a phone call. Then the next thing we should talk about is what you mentioned earlier. You say set up drip emails to activate your inbound leads.

Steli: Oh, yeah.

Andrew: What kind of emails are we talking about? I would think that the phone call would activate the inbound lead, meaning they signed up for the trial, get them to actually use it. What is the drip email do?

Steli: Yes, that’s a great question. The drip email does the same thing. It just does it in different ways. So we’re big believers in over communicating and being overly proactive during a trial. For every inbound lead you want to be as proactive in communicating to them and with them as you can to get the maximum of out of every single lead that comes and checks out the website. These leads are worth so much to you.

So what we have done is, you get a lot of email when you signup for a trial for and one layer of email for instance is these drip emails that we set up where you get personalized emails that are automated. When you signup for instance within five minutes you’ll get a little welcome email. But it’s not going to be in a beautiful HTML welcome email from with like big logos or just super generic. It’s going to be an email coming from a person on the team here. It’s going to be somebody saying, “Hey, I’m your personal account manager. My name is Kevin. If at any time you need anything, let me know. Here’s all my contact information. Let’s do this.” That’s going to be one personalized email.

Two days later they’ll get a personalized email from me saying, “Hey, I wanted to welcome you. I’m one of the founders of the business. If you ever need anything, have feedback, want to chat sales or sales software, I want to talk to you. You can always get in touch with me.” A few days later, depending on if they’re active, depending on if they do an import of their leads into our system, if they make a lot of sales calls, depending on their activity, we’ll send them an email that either tells them, “Hey, it seems like you need some help. We haven’t seen that you haven’t been able to try these free features out. Let’s get on a call and make this happen.” Or if they’ve been very active we’ll congratulate them and tell them, “Hey, you’re trial is going really well. It seems like you’ve been using this a lot. Let us know what else can we do to make you really successful, really kill it with”

And then they’ll get an email from me that’s super long about the story of our company. After seven days I’ll send them an email, an automated email will be sent to them from me that shares the entire story and journey of our business. And it’s a super long email but it’s one of our best converting emails and people are really touched. People go right back sharing their story and it’s a really emotionally engaging email. And a few days before the trial end they’ll get an email saying, “Hey, your trial is about to end. Did you have any more questions? Do you need more time? Let us know, we’ll make it happen.”

All these emails, maybe seven or eight emails within a 14 day period and that’s just one layer we have. A lot of other emails that people also get additionally, they get our newsletter, they’ll get four emails that are a little bit of a tutorial on how to use So people gets lots of emails from us with great content hopefully. And it makes our conversion rates go up, it makes our activation rates go up. It makes people respond and start a conversation with us which we want to accomplish with as many of our inbound leads as possible.

Andrew: You mention that the salesperson will send a personalized email and then you will send a personalized email. How can you send a personalized email, as the founder of a company with lots of obligations, to everybody who signs up?

Steli: That’s a great question. So what we do is we use a drip email tool. So there are tools out there, there’s GetDrip, there’s which is the one that we’re using. That’s a tool that allows you to write email templates and then select what is the email user this should be sent from. It allows you to have little tags, so it changes the first name and it can just customize little bits of information.

Andrew: I see. So by personalized you’re not saying, “I checked out your site,” etcetera. You’re just personalizing using mail merge, essentially.

Steli: Yes.

Andrew: And then you evaluate the responses here. This I think, I mean the details of this aren’t that important but I’ll zoom in a little bit so people can see it, this is your drip campaign emails. These are the emails. I see that each one you see the open rate, you see the clicks, you see the conversion rate and that’s how you have a sense of how effective these emails are. That’s what you’re keeping track of.

Steli: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, so the ones that are important are the ones that get people to… here’s what I have. You want them to know that it’s a real person and see if they will reach out to you because if they talk to you, they’re much more likely to tell you their problems, their needs, and then you guys can sell them. Especially since you have real sales people. You also want them to know the story of your company. That’s why that big email converts, the long one. And you want them to know how to use the software itself. That’s why you have this four sequence email. Did you also say that you have an email that goes out when someone doesn’t use a feature that they might want to check out? You do?

Steli: Yes, so in a drip email tool you can specify certain things based on how people behave on your platform. What kind of pages they look at, if they went to the billing page or not, if they’re using certain features or not. Based on that behavior, you can tell if somebody is slipping away in the trial and you’re going to lose them or if somebody is very engaged and very likely to convert into a paying customer. And based on these activities you can customize and automate very specific emails to be sent to them.

Andrew: So Steli, this feels very overwhelming to someone who’s listening to us and realizing they should set it up for the first time. Out of all this stuff, the newsletters, the how-to’s, the emails from the founder and the salesperson, the activation for features that they hadn’t used. If we wanted to start, what’s the first email that we should send out as part of our drip?

Steli: A welcome email.

Andrew: Just welcome to the system.

Steli: “Welcome to the system. I want to talk to you and help you get the most out of it. When’s a good time to chat?” And you want that email to come from a personal email address.

Andrew: Even if you’re not manually typing it out, you still do not send it from no-reply?

Steli: Do not send it from no-reply, do not send it from hello@ or support@ or any generic email. The reason for that is that anything that feels generic, like something that’s been written to many people, not from a human being, will automatically get less response rates. We don’t respond well to messages that don’t feel like they’ve been written and addressed to us personally.

Andrew: All right, cool. Let’s go back now into the big board and the next big thing for us to talk about is qualify your leads to close better customers. You started mentioning this earlier and people might have noticed that I intentionally cut you off so that we can focus on it right here.

Steli: Yeah and before we go into this, I want to just say one more thing on the email side of things. One main message that I have to people out there is, you need to send more emails to your trials. You need to. Whatever number it is that you have today, just double it.

Andrew: Really? I would think they just signed up. Leave them alone, let them experiment. Don’t be a pest.

Steli: No, no. When they signed up, it’s your obligations, your responsibility to make them successful and successful means get whatever they wanted to get because they invested time in doing the trial. It doesn’t matter if it’s information that they wanted to get, whatever they wanted to accomplish, it’s your responsibility to manage their trial and help them accomplish that.

They have other responsibilities. They have families, they’ve little children, things happen. They forget. It’s not their job to make this trial a success. It’s yours. A famous SaaS VC once told me if some people don’t think you’re spamming them, you’re sending too little email. And I do believe that your email should be high quality, great content, sincere. You should be trying to service them and make them successful. Not be selfish with emails. But if you do so, you have to send them a lot of emails because otherwise they’ll forget and they will not have the information, the assistance that they need to get what they wanted out of the trial. Really, I can’t over stress that whatever the numbers that you sent today, just double that number and you’ll see your conversion rates rise and people will appreciate it.

Andrew: So I’ve got to tell you, this is now your third appearance on Mixergy. You did the interview, you did a course, you’re now doing a second course here with us. I can see such a dramatic change in you, I can tell, even if you hadn’t told me at the top of the interview that story about getting the champagne to celebrate a two million dollars, I could tell that you’re doing really well. There’s swagger, there’s confidence, there’s experience and there’s the ability to tell people something that’s scary and dangerous. Like email people to the point where some of them think you’re spamming. You guys really must be killing it now.

Steli: We’re doing well, we’re doing well.

Andrew: I can tell.

Steli: I appreciate that feedback. It’s an honor to be playing a really small part of the Mixergy community. I told you I’ve been a huge fan. When we were doing Supercool School I was watching your interviews. I’m watching them today and learning lots. It’s super. It’s a little bit of a trip to be on here as it is.

Andrew: I’m glad that you are. And one of the coolest parts is that people aren’t just listening to you, but I sometimes say if you hear something useful, you should let the person know. And before we started you said “Andrew, I’m actually hearing from people who both are signing up because they had learned something from me, but in some ways even cooler who just are sending a note saying I learned something from you. Thanks so much. It was really helpful.” And I know I do learn from you all the time.

Apparently I should be spamming people more. Let’s go on to the next. I shouldn’t say spamming. But you’re saying get rid of the fear that you are over emailing and take the brakes off. That’s something that frankly I need to do more of and I don’t know that I’m going to get to the point that will make you happy. But I should do more than I do right now.

Steli: Just double what you’re doing right now.

Andrew: All right. I do know actually talking to my customers, they want specifics like that, even just saying double where you are right now is actionable for many people. All right, so you had a situation where your salesperson was trying to close a deal and spent 14 days on the trial with the person, talking with your customer and then again and again. Talk to me a little bit about the issue as you experienced it with dealing with unqualified customers.

Steli: Yes. So a lot of people think that because we’re selling, we’re selling to everyone we’re trying to get everyone’s money and that’s a bad idea. You don’t want everyone’s money. You want the right kind of money. You want money from customers that you are certain you can make successful, that want to use your product in the right use case with the right workflow, that have the right type of needs, the right type of environment, whatever that is for you. In our case we know that we don’t want enterprise clients so we’re looking for small businesses, mid-size businesses, startups. We know that we’re looking for companies that do inside sales and not field sales, knocking on doors because our software was not made for that.

So we know who our customer is and we qualify people before we sell them. First thing we do is we’re trying to figure out, should you be a customer? Is our software really the best piece of software for you. And we’re not trying to sell you if we can’t answer that question with a “yes.” If it’s a “no,” we’ll tell you don’t buy us, go somewhere else. If it’s a “yes” then we will try to sell you and get you on with real conviction.

Andrew: Is that because you talk to your customers that if you just had software like Highrise for example with no sales team, and somebody decides hey I’m going to use it to keep track of my grocery list even though it’s meant for CRM. You say, you know what? Who cares? Do it. Enjoy it. We will make it available because you’re committing human resources; their time on the phone, their emails etcetera, that’s where it just doesn’t make sense. Am I right?

Steli: Yes and no. So it’s not just because of that. It’s because truly, if somebody wanted to give me tons of money and they use it in a way that’s going to make them very unhappy or unsuccessful, I don’t want that because the problem with that is that whenever somebody else asks them, “Hey, have you ever heard of” They’re going to say, “Yes. It’s a really shitty like laundry list, a shopping list tool.” And people go, “Shopping list? I thought it’s a project management tool.” And now I’m creating confusion and creating a bad reputation. I want people to be raving that not just that they’re paying us money, but that they’re getting a lot more value from it than what they’re paying us and to accomplish that it needs to be a good fit.

Andrew: Okay, I don’t know if you can see this, but this is an email from someone, actually this is a note.

Steli: A note on in

Andrew: On someone’s account. It says, “We’re changing the way we’re growing our business and do not need this software at this time.” This is someone who canceled.

Steli: Yes.

Andrew: Why is this?

Steli: This is particularly painful because this was not because the business really changed direction or anything like that. It was because they weren’t qualified properly. So here’s a deal where the prospect tells our salesperson that if they’re going to hire all these new remote workers to do certain types of sales and they have all these grand plans and how to do that. And if you ask a few more questions in the qualifying process, we would have learned that what they’re trying to accomplish is probably not going to happen. It’s not a good idea, it’s not going to work well within our system. But we got, or our team got too excited about the positives and didn’t really investigate enough in the qualifying process to uncover the red flags.

What happened as a result, is not just that they canceled and we got a little bit of money. Is that we invested time in closing this deal in extending the trial, extending the trial again. We serviced that account, we gave them extra engineering support. We jumped on multiple cause, we onboarded them, we trained the team. We invested a lot more than what we got just in a few months of being paid. And then they leave, which is always a super painful and demoralizing process because you’ve invested so much in a relationship that never had a chance to succeed. And it’s especially painful to me because if you look at why that happens, it was because we didn’t qualify as well as we could. And I just hate that we missed out on that and we did a bad job at that.

Andrew: At what point you qualify someone to know whether they’re worth pursuing as a customer?

Steli: That’s the very first thing that I do. It’s the very first thing I try to do so.

Andrew: You mean on the site itself?

Steli: On the site you can do a bunch of things but that’s not perfect. So on the site itself the things that you can do to qualify is it has to do with your pricing, it has to do with if you require a credit card or not, it has to do with how much information you’re asking them for, like if you asked for a phone number or not, if you ask them to tell you how big their team is. The more things you ask them for, the more you communicate to them who your ideal customer is, what your price point is and things like that. That can discourage certain people that you think are not a good fit of signing up.

So you can do a bit on the messaging and marketing side. But real qualification happens on the phone or in the conversation with somebody. And when we reach out to say hello during the trial, we’ll try to understand what are your needs and understanding what you’re needs are are the first step in the qualifying process. But the first thing they’ll do when I communicate with somebody is trying to qualify them very first and figure out, can I help this person or not.

Andrew: I see, just by asking basic questions like tell me about your company? What kind of company do you have? How do you sell? That kind of thing. If you ask, how do you sell? And they tell you, “Well we have sales people out in the field,” then you know it’s probably not going to be a good fit.

Steli: Exactly. You know who your best customers are and then you try to find out what do they have in common. And then based on that you’ll see if this new prospect fits that criteria or not or if they want to do things with your software that you think are just a bad idea, will not work well.

Andrew: All right. No grocery lists onto the big board. The next thing that we want to tell people, is give a demo that actually sells. You had a client who did what instead?

Steli: They gave demos as if a demo was a training course for customers, that went on forever, with no direction towards the end, which is what many companies do. Many companies set up the product demos, the one-on-one product demo with a customer even when they do webinar demos of the product. They set it up in a way that is more training than sales. And a demo should be sales. You should demonstrate value, not demonstrate all features and functionalities. Not train people in being proficient users. But demonstrate why what you have is really addressing their need, so they should investigate more time and energy in becoming customers and then proficient users.

So the demo that this specific client had was an hour and a half long demo and they would go through every single click in the universe. Like, “Oh when you click this,” and they would do stupid clicks and they would explain everything that a page can do and then you set up your analytics and then you would click this button to save the information, you would click the button and you watch them, watch the save thing spinning wheel spin and then three seconds later, it’s safe. Now, we saved it.

And I was wondering why the hell do we have to see this? You explained how the page works. You showed how you set up the data. Why do we have to watch somebody click a stupid button and for two, three seconds look for a little safe icon to pop up. So this person would just click on everything and show every little detail to the degree where after 10 minutes you’re just like you were brain freezed out of your mind.

Andrew: Overwhelmed. What did you tell them to do instead?

Steli: Well, what I told him to do instead is to shorten the demo to a 10 or 15 minute show me the most important things.

Andrew: Ten or 15 minutes?

Steli: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay.

Steli: Even that could be too long if you don’t know what you’re doing. So first you qualify me to understand what do I care about, what other functionalities and features and things that I need, why do I need them? What do I want to accomplish with them? Then when you demonstrate a product, you can focus on these things. Maybe I should just check out the big two or three items that really relate to what I care about and what I need. You demonstrate how your software accomplishes these things and hopefully in an impressive way.

You do a 10, 15 minute show me really broadly and quickly how this thing works and how it does what I want it to do. And then you give me another 10 to 15 minutes to ask my questions. Go into more depth and say “Well what happens when I click this link and how do I exactly do this and this and this? But you have to keep the prospect focused so that they don’t run off with a million questions that might not even be relevant for what they want to accomplish. But you kind of rein it in and make sure that we focus on the top priorities in the demo and demonstrate the most important things versus demonstrating everything.

Andrew: And when you did that, at what point do you sell? Now we’ve got 15 minutes of show and tell and then 15 minutes of question and answer. What point you sell?

Steli: At the end.

Andrew: Right afterwards? “You want to buy?” Is that what you say?

Steli: I mean that’s not a bad question. It might be a scary one for you to ask. But that’s why it might be the right one. Maybe you’ll say it a little bit more elegantly and you’ll say, “Hey, what did you think? What’s your first impression? Do you think we are the right fit? Did you like what you saw? Is there anything that would prevent you from becoming a customer after you’ve seen the demonstration? Is there any open question that I haven’t answered yet?”

Andrew: I see.

Steli: You’ve demonstrated the product, now turn around and ask them, ‘What do you think? How do you feel about this?”

Andrew: One of things that I noticed, this is a screenshot from your demonstration. The important part for me is that lower left, first of all looks like you just used “join me,” right? Just simple screen share. What is that clock on the lower left doing?
Steli: That’s a timer to keep us in check, keep myself in check. It’s 15 minutes that I have and that forces me to prioritize. The problem is that when I have an hour block, is that I’ll try to fill it and I don’t feel any sense of urgency, I don’t feel any need to prioritize. So I’ll just give anything and everything as much attention and time as the next thing and I will not be in control, I’m not going to be managing the time, I’m not going to be managing the demo.

Andrew: Okay, and that’s just an online clock. I forget which one it is but I’ve used that too. And you just keep it for yourself. Stopwatch, yeah.

Steli: Online Stopwatch. You just take joined up, meaning you set up the page that you have and I’ve done it with calls where I’ve forgotten to set it and people saw the time and I said, “You know what? I want to make sure that we’re focused. I want to make sure we get the priorities done, so we’ll have this thing to keep us in check.” And people will smile and appreciate that this is not going to be an hour long rambling that at the end all the parties that were involved feel like, “Was this really worth our time?” But that this is going to be focused

Andrew: I’m looking it up because I don’t know if I got darker or my lights are not directly on me but I’m looking dark today.

Steli: I didn’t notice a change.

Andrew: Angle it just like that. They never do this at There’s so much more professional and lighter maybe I don’t know. Back to the big board. Actually, that did make a difference, that little twist of the light. Next big thing is you say go for the close. You actually started talking about this right now. But you watched a customer of yours, do what?

Steli: I’ve watched so many customers end a conversation with the fear of closing and just leaving a big void at the end. People would go through a really good conversation. It was clear that both sides were very engaged, that this was a good fit and at the end of the call I would listen to CEOs and founders go, “Well yeah, I mean this was great. It’s very exciting stuff. Well I’m going to send you more information and then I’m looking forward to hear from your team.” I’ll be like, what the hell was that all about?

Why can’t we just ask the question, “Hey, do you want to become a customer? Are you guys ready to roll?” Why are we so afraid of it and instead of just asking for the close, we just avoid that and we end the call with no direction. Basically leaving the responsibility to the customer to close themselves. Well I’ve done my part, now you guys go and convince yourselves. No, it’s your responsibility to help them make that decision to close the deal.

Andrew: So you mentioned that the way to lead to it is to say, “Do you have any questions? Is there anything that would keep you from buying today?” What do you do to make the sale right there? Are you offering a discount? Do you say, all right, now here’s a link, go use it and buy. What do you do?

Steli: I mean it depends on your product. You could just go, “Hey, do you have your credit card ready? Let’s get this done right now.” We don’t want people to give us their credit card numbers for We’ll want them to put them in the system themselves. But before one of our guys went to lunch, I heard him say, “Are you ready go? All right, let’s do this. Let’s set you up. Do you have your credit card ready?” “Yes.” “Okay, log into I’ll make sure that this works out. I’ll be your virtual assistant at this. Go to this page, click this type in your credit card.”

Andrew: So I’ll be here in case you have any problems. Let’s do it together.

Steli: Yeah, it might be that it in some cases it might be that I say, “Hey, I’m sending you a contract over right now by email.” The close might just be to decide what the next steps are. Maybe they’re not ready yet to buy but you need to decide, what is the next step towards the buy? Maybe it’s for them to look at the contract and sign it. Maybe it’s for you to schedule a follow-up call with more stakeholders. To close means to get to the next action step, an action item on the way to them becoming a customer. And philosophically what I want people to know, the way that you need to think about this is that, you need to ask for the close often and early. And you need to be expecting the yes and embracing the no.

What I mean by that is that, you need to be comfortable asking the question, “Are you guys ready to buy?” And when they say “no,” it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the beginning of the deal. When people say, “I don’t think we’re ready yet.” You go, “Of course you’re not. It’s still early, but I wanted to check in. You seem like smart, sharp and ready to go. But we’ll come back to the question later on. Most of our customers are not ready yet. But you’ll be ready by the next time we talk.” And I realize that this is not something everybody is comfortable with.

But it’s not so much the words, it’s more the basic philosophy. You have to get good at closing deals. You have to ask a lot and be okay with the shots that you’re missing, just like the Michael Jordan thing with like more missed shots than made ones. You have to get comfortable with asking this question. And a lot of times the first reaction you’re going to hear is not going to be “yes” and you need to get comfortable with that as well.

Andrew: You know, I’m surprised that you are making a lot of calls, a lot of demos. I was going to say, your product doesn’t seem like it’s expensive enough to have enough margin to do that. But I guess it’s one of those things that people buy on a perceived basis and then they implement it throughout the company and so they’re more likely to want a phone call and a demo and to interact with you. Do you recommend this kind of call based sales process for other SaaS and at what point does it make sense and at what point is it just too much?

Steli: So that’s a great question. Here’s my answer to this. At the beginning when you’re just starting out, everybody should do this because the economics don’t matter as much. What you’re trying to do is you try to learn as much as possible about your market. So call everyone, visit everyone, just drive to their offices and just give presentations. It doesn’t have to scale. It doesn’t have to make economical unit, economic sense. You’re just trying to figure out get the first customers, make the first learnings. You need to go the extra mile and do what doesn’t scale and really hustle.

Once you have that initial thing going, eventually you have to ask yourself, how much can we afford to acquire a customer? How much can we spend in terms of time, energy, resources, money? In that case typically, what you’re looking for is that you’re probably not going to… to do this type of sales, which is basically inbound, light touch inbound sales, leads come to us and we’ll send them a bunch of automated emails and we’ll jump on a few calls and demos. You usually want to be in the B2B sector, so customers that are businesses. And you usually one to have at least a few thousand in customer lifetime value. Probably at the healthier pace at the 5 to 10 to 15,000 over the entire lifetime of the customer.

Andrew: So what is the cost to have an outbound sales process per customer?

Steli: Outbound is different.

Andrew: Sorry, inbound with a personal touch like this.

Steli: Yeah, it’s hard to say because it depends so much on where you are. If I have some junior CEOs inbound sales reps and I hire them in Las Vegas, it’s going to be different than if they’re in San Francisco or New York. So it depends a lot on that. It depends on a lot of factors. But generically speaking, you want to make a few thousand dollars per Close customer to be entertaining the idea of having sales reps.

Andrew: What if we talk about it on a time basis? How much time does a salesperson usually have to invest to close a sale, and that would include the no’s.

Steli: Yes, so in our case typically two to three weeks, that’s our sales cycle.

Andrew: What about number of hours total that they would spend over the last two to three weeks?

Steli: It’s so hard to say. It also depends. Our sales guys, they will talk to a new young startup that might just be $300 per month in total value for us for the first few months. And then they might talk to somebody that’s worth $4000 a month to us. Obviously the sales rep will invest a lot more time, will have to invest usually a lot more time, for the $4000 deal than for the few hundred dollar deal. But honestly, at this stage, what we’re looking for is overall productivity. So we’ll see, is this sales rep bringing in a lot more than what they cost to us. Is that profitable, because if you raise a hundred million in venture money, you could be spending $100 for every dollar in revenue. So you don’t care that much. All you care about is ramping up revenue as quickly as possible.

Andrew: How much did you guys raise?

Steli: For, nothing. It’s basically all bootstrapped.

Andrew: ElasticSales that did it.

Steli: It was actually even one thing before ElasticSales. So the company, the business was called SwipeGood back then. That raised over a million in seed funding, pivoted to Elastic. Elastic had a little bit of that money left and then it was growing by revenue and profitability and had no venture money whatsoever.

Andrew: I see, okay. So if I’m understanding you right, what you’re saying is, look if you’re getting started make calls to all your customers so that you learn from them. It’s not about being economical. It’s about getting to know the kind of person who’s going to buy from you and what it’s going to take to get them to buy and so on. After you do a little bit of this, you’ll get a sense of what it costs you per sale, per close, and then you can decide whether it’s economical to keep it going or maybe you raise your prices or you stop.

Steli: Yeah, and typically you should raise your prices. Double your price, that’s another good advice that generically is good advice. But once you get this going you could look at your salesperson and say I’m paying this person 4K, 5K, 6K, 7K a month and they’re bringing in X per month. And if you’re bootstrapped, the math is simple. At the beginning you might want to recoup what you’re spending immediately and over time you might be able to afford to recoup at a later. So you’re going to hire more aggressively or less aggressively.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s move on here to the next big point, which is deal with discount inquiries properly. I’m going to bring up my browser here because there’s a tweet I think that we should look at. Here’s one from a guy named Craig Clark and what he’s saying is “ I’d pay more for you than I do Highrise” which is a competitor. But the pricing structure is too prohibitive if I wanted two to three for a small business to use.”

So essentially he’s saying I like you better. But I’m afraid of the costs because I’m going to have two or three people use it and I’m a small business. I should actually even zoom even more though. I read it and I think we got his point here and I’m sure you get this often. What did you do, how do you handle this?

Steli: That’s something that we deal with every day. People reaching out asking for discount or complain that our price is too high or telling us that they will buy our competitors product because they negotiated some really crazy deal with them and asked us if we could match or beat that price. And our basic philosophy is that we’re never going to negotiate on price. We’re always going to negotiate on value. And what that means is that our response always is, if all you care about is getting the cheapest product, please go with our competition. We’re more than happy to help you get a better price with them. So we will be a tool in your repository to get the best maximum price. But we are looking for customers that want to crush it in sales and want to get the most value, not the cheapest price. So that’s just generically a philosophy.

So a lot of times we’ll offer them and tell them, “Listen, you haven’t trialed the product yet or you haven’t given the product a real run for its money. Sign up for a trial. Really use for two weeks, three weeks whatever it is and once you truly know what the values that we can provide to you, at that time we’re more than happy to talk about price and we’ll promise we’ll make you happy.”

Andrew: But are you then frankly on the down low, are you talking to them one at a time? This is what you said to him. Let me bring up the browser again. There’s a browser. That’s his question, the one I read before. Your response or someone on your team said, “Give the trial a shot, play with the product. If you’re happy email us and I bet we can work something out.” And here’s this great response back from him. “You guys sure know how to say all the right things. I’ll set up a trial soon.” But are you implying with the “give the trial a shot. Play with it and if you’re happy, I bet we can work something out,” that privately you will give him a discount because he has a small business? Is that your policy.

Steli: Our policy is that, sometimes we give discounts. We’re not like completely opposed to discounts. But it depends on why and how much and it depends on a case-by-case basis what we’re able to do. What kind of plan you want if you used telephony within, call internationally, different costs to us so we have different ability to give you a discount than if you’re using something without telephony. If you signup a one or two year contract, it gives a different room to work with.

But what we’re saying is let’s set the right priorities. First, let’s decide that we’re the best product, that we’re the right product for you and then let’s figure out the pricing discussion. Let’s not talk about pricing before. And the reason for that are simple. There some of them are very logical for the customer which is like they’re negotiating on something that they we both have an establishment that we’re even the right solution. But also selfishly for us, it’s the right sequence in negotiating because once they’ve invested and figured out we are the best thing in the world and they want to buy it, then the negotiation is a completely different one than when they have invested zero in it and they don’t care about us and they’re just trying to get through a number that [inaudible 00:51:39].

Andrew: That makes a lot of sense. I see. By the way, this is a side track completely. But here’s how this whole conversation started. This guy Craig says what is like Highrise CRM but with excellent, dare I say seamless Google Apps integration, just for small business. So cheap is good. And then CRM Online, which I guess is a Website for CRM recommends a couple of things. You guys respond and say, “Check out” He says, “Sure I will check it out.” And then he says, “Can I tweet back?” which of course, you can tweet back.

But you also give an email address and then he has more questions. And basically you’re getting him to try this just because he asked a question about CRM. He wasn’t directly engaged with you, he was just curious. I thought that was a really interesting sales process. A really interesting way to catch somebody who’s at the right point in the consideration process and frankly from what I can see here, never even heard of

Steli: Yeah that’s absolutely true.

Andrew: Back to the big board here, because we have so much to get to and we’re already running late. Next big thing is to say, give customer references at the right time. When is the wrong time? Why not just say, “Here’s great software.” In fact, if I look at your home page I was really impressed by the people who you got on here. I don’t know if anyone noticed it.

But you have both Jeff Zwelling, who is one of my most popular interviewees on Mixergy because he is the founder of EchoSign among other things. And you have Joseph Walla the founder of HelloSign. Two competitors both like your software and they’re both talking about how good it is. Why not give more references early on? If someone’s interested say, “Here, this software is so good. Here are 12 people you could talk to.”

Steli: Yes. So the reason for that is that you don’t want to burn out your references and you want to make sure that any time one of your customers talk to a prospect of yours, the chances of that prospect becoming a customer and having a shared success story is very, very, very high. It should be almost 100%. You should be almost 100% certain that when you put your happy customers with new prospects, that these prospects also become customers. Because your references will know, your references will hear later on that, that call lead to that prospect becoming a customer or lead them to not become a customer. And you want to make sure that they get as much success as possible.

To do that, what you need to do is you can’t give out references as if it’s free candy at the beginning of the sales process. A lot of times people will check out the software, just on the website, they’ll just check out on the website. They haven’t even set up a trial. They’ll send us an email and say, “Here’s the 400 requirements I have. I have met all these and I need to talk to four of your customers as references before we can move on with this.”

And what we’ll tell people, we’ll engage with them, we’ll call them. We’ll tell them, “Hey, we’re absolutely happy and thrilled to give you references, as many as you want at the right time. Once both of us have really investigated this deal and we’re both sure this is the right deal and we have the pricing figure out and we have everything ready. All you have to do is now sign and you’re ready to go. The only thing that’s still missing is for you to make sure that you could talk to some outside customers to get that assurance that we deliver what we promise. We’ll give you as many of these references as possible.”

When we tell people that, “Hey we’re happy to give you many references at the right time. Let’s first figure out that this is the right fit. Let’s make sure that the deal is right and once both things are figured out we’ll get you references.” Everyone, not a single time somebody complained about that, every single time people say, “That makes perfect sense. I’m happy with that.”

The difference it makes is that when we do put them in touch with our successful customers, if they become customers, because we’ve made sure that we give them the highest value prospects, and then what happens is that our customers feel part of the success and responsible for that success. So they’re excited when we tell them, “Hey, can you take a quick call?” They’ll know I’ll talk to somebody and these guys also are going to become customers [inaudible 00:55:50].

Andrew: I see. They’ll feel like, “I did that for them. Last time I did this. I closed the sale. Another time before that I helped somebody find software that they’re happy with. So yeah, I’ll do it again.” It’s not, “Last time I did it, I wasted my time.”

Steli: Nothing is worse than taking up the valuable time of a customer. The customer talking to a reference for an hour and then figuring out that oh, they really needed this feature that we didn’t have so they went with a competitor. What the hell? You wasted somebody’s valuable time and then you deliver failure as a result to them. That’s super frustrating.

Andrew: I think you’ve even said half the time they don’t even want the reference. What they really wanted was just to try the software, make sure it was real and they had this request for reference because they thought let’s just cover all of our bases. Not necessarily something that they want.

Steli: And that’s also true for the discounts by the way. Half of the time or a majority of the time when people tell us, A, the price is too high at the beginning when we convince them to give the product a try before worrying about the price, by the end they just buy. They don’t even mention discount pricing anymore. They just convince themselves of the value. We don’t have to talk about that anymore.

Andrew: Back to the big board again. We have lots to cover here. The next big point is, use peer negotiation to avoid costly mistakes. Let’s illustrate this because I don’t think I’ve heard peer negotiation as a term before. The problem you had was, do you have an example of where this goes wrong, and why something called peer negotiation is important?

Steli: Typically, what happens is that the longer you invest in a deal, the more invested you get. And the more invested you get, the more emotionally invested, the harder it is for you to let go of that. Which means that if you’ve worked on a really important deal for very long time, you will lose your ability to be an effective negotiator and you will tend to give in more and more and more because it’s too painful to losing the deal or risk losing the deal. And this is such a strong psychological factor that it doesn’t matter how much of a sales guru, it’s how experienced you are in sales. Everyone falls victim to this problem. So you need to be aware of that and we found a hack to manage that.

Now when you’re a big business, the reason why these large companies are so great at negotiating is that that there is never one person that goes from A to Z with a deal. You start with one person, that’s a champion. They get really excited about what you do. They have you jump through all the hoops. They get all their questions answered. They do the demo. They do the calls. They do everything. And then when they’re really excited, the point where you’ve invested a month or two and they seem ready to go, they push you over to the legal department. And in the legal department the person you’re talking to has not invested any minute and it does not care at all about this deal. It cares about completely different things.

So this person on the legal department will have you jump through more hoops and give in on things that two months ago you’d just have said, “No, I’m not going to change our contracts. No, I’m not going to change the terms of service.” But now you’ve invested three months, so you’re like, let me do this one thing and get this deal done and this other thing. And then when legal is through they’re like, “Now you go over to the procurement department,” and they push you over to one more department. And every time you start renegotiating with somebody that has no stake in this deal, doesn’t care and has different priorities and you give in a little bit more, a little bit more, until at the end of the whole process, you’ve given them a deal you would have never agreed to at the beginning. A deal that maybe is crazy and it’s all because you’ve invested so much time while the big company didn’t because they have so many people and so many departments they have to go through.

Andrew: Do you think they do that intentionally? That that’s part of their process of not just covering all their bases and making sure that legal is protected, but also let’s wear the guy down because it doesn’t cost us much and it gives us long term savings.

Steli: Some companies and some departments do the procurement departments, so instead of buying departments, they’re set up to negotiate, squeeze the last little bit of blood out of your system. But I think in many cases the individual in the organism or in the organization doesn’t know that, is not maybe aware of it. But the organization is set up in a way where one individual doesn’t have the entire negotiation power over what the company buys or not and it has to go through different departments and a side effect of that.

Andrew: I see. So the main goal is not to wear you down and get a lower price. But it’s a nice by-product of a process that wears you out. As long as they’re going to spend all these resources, they might as well get a discount. So your solution, sorry to interrupt…

Steli: One second. I think we have the cleaning crew.

Andrew: You’ve got to show me. You said that this might happen.

Steli: I don’t know if you’re going to be able to see them. They’re probably trying to hide. Let me go over and talk to them real quick.

Andrew: Okay. We’re going to see if they will hopefully pause things while we finish up one last point. We had a whole lot to set up before we got started. One of things that we did was, he put earphones on so that if people come back from lunch, they won’t hear him in the office. And the other thing he did was he sent a text message to the cleaning people to see if there was a way to keep them from coming in. That text message apparently didn’t land. Good, it looks like they’re good to… by the way, beautiful office.

Steli: Thank you.

Andrew: In Palo Alto. What are you spending for an office like that? That’s really sweet.

Steli: This is just a really beautiful apartment on the 12th floor, we have a view of Stanford campus and so we spend a lot less than we used to with ElasticSales let’s just say that. It’s just a few thousand dollars a month.

Andrew: Okay, I’m paying now 14, 1500 a month for an office for two people here in the heart of San Francisco.

Steli: So, we’re paying probably like double that but it’s for six people and it’s a really, really beautiful [inaudible 01:01:38].

Andrew: Yeah looks like it. So if that’s the problem that we’re trying to avoid, which is that a sales cycle can take so long that the salesperson’s worn down and basically ready to take anything because there’s so much time in on it. What is peer negotiating and when does it come into play?

Steli: Yes, so our hack for this is that whenever somebody, it doesn’t matter who it is, if often times involves me as well. If I’m working on a deal for more than a month and I haven’t closed it yet, I cannot close it myself without getting the approval of somebody in the team. And in our case, it doesn’t matter who it is. It could be anyone in the team. Junior engineer, doesn’t matter if they’re sales people or not, any one of the team has to okay the deal. And the way this typically works is that after a month in the negotiation I’ll pick somebody from the team and I’ll have them as a critical sounding board and go, “Well you know this is what I initially offered. This is why they’re seeing this, this is where we’re on the negotiation. Here is what they want.”

A lot of times the interesting thing is that, the person and this includes me, I will take on the role of the customer and I will sell really hard, why this isn’t a reasonable request. I will even describe the negotiation a way that should make the other person go, “Okay, let’s just give it to them.” And then the other person in the team will ask some really critical questions, we’re a pretty critical group of people here that are very high on the BS calibration level. And even the most junior engineer that we have, I’ll talk to him and he’ll go, “Yeah, but why do we offer them this?” “Well because they really need this because of X, Y and Z. And this and this and that and that” and the person will go, “Yeah but it doesn’t seem to make sense. All of the customers get this and…”

Andrew: So you’re saying its a sounding board. Its not like you then have two different people on the call with the customer. It’s not like another person calls on their behalf. It’s just, hey, it’s been about a month, they’re asking for this. I think I should give it to them and what you want is somebody else on the team to splash some cold water on the face of the person who has now been exhausted through a long sales cycle and says I don’t think that makes sense. If you were doing this in the first week, you’d know that this wasn’t right okay.

Steli: Yeah and the crazy thing is that usually the dynamic of the conversation will go something like this where the other person will challenge it, then the salesperson will defend it and will push against. And after a little bit of back and forth, I’ll go, ” Shit you’re right. Damn it.” And now I’m forced to go and risk losing the deal by telling a customer “no” for something.

The other day or a few weeks ago where one of our sales reps would be like, “I think that I should give them… we’re negotiating on price. They’re really such a large team and they’re really price sensitive for this and this reason and I think I’ll offer them a 15% discount that’s going to get the deal done,” and the most junior person the team goes, “Why 15, why don’t you offer them 5 to begin with?” And the salesperson is like, “Well I don’t think it’s going to be enough and this and that and that. “And we all just look at each other and the salesperson is like, “Damn it you’re right, you’re right. Why don’t I just start with 5?”

Andrew: Let’s start with five if you’re going to.

Steli: And this is somebody that’s awesome at negotiation, has just worked so long on this deal. It’s such a big deal, so this person is afraid of losing it. Saying something that might risk the deal. So you know what happened? He offers 5% and they take it. They’re happy with it and it’s just like ah.

Andrew: What a great example.

Steli: Yeah, we would have offered 15 for no reason whatsoever.

Andrew: One thing I noticed about your sales page and I’ve got to get to the last point, but you actually list the price for enterprise customers. I notice a lot of interviewees that I have on will have an enterprise level but they’ll say, “Call to talk.” Why do you do that? What do you think about that?

Steli: You know, that’s a good question. Our enterprise plan is not really truly enterprise in the sense that large Fortune 500 companies should use that plan because we don’t want those customers. They’re not a right fit for us. But enterprise for us, it was just like that the basic plan in the business doesn’t mean that basic, those are not businesses. They’re just using a different pricing plan. So enterprise for us are the most serious customers that we have that have 100, 200, or 300 sales people that are much larger than just a two person, new startup that’s using us. It’s just a lot more sophisticated as a customer. And we like to have per user pricing, so we don’t like to have the “call us” if you need it. But in some cases makes sense. If you sell software that’s worth millions, call us if you need a price, is the right way to go.

Andrew: Final point here. Create a follow up system so that you can recover customers that seem at times to be unwinnable. Here is one of the people who followed your advice, this is Brandon Gracey. He says, “Steli’s philosophy on follow-up sent me back to significant prospect that had gone very cold. A mix of 41 emails and voicemails later, I got my response. You win. Let’s connect at the trade show.” Long story short, they’re onboarding this month. That is the founder of, a software that eliminates paper order, taking orders on paper. What is this follow-up…

Steli: He’s not the founder. I think he is the VP of Sales over there.

Andrew: VP of Sales, excuse me. I just assume now everyone’s founder that I talk to. I don’t call my dad, my father anymore. I just say, “Here’s the founder of Andrew Warner.”

Steli: I also refer to our kids as like we launched the oldest one two years ago and…

Andrew: The lingo is stuck in my head. When I talk to my parents I go, “Hey this is Andrew Warner.” They go, “All right, I know the last name. Hi son.” Anyway, so what is the follow up process?

Steli: So the follow-up process, it’s a simple philosophy. The thing that I want to share here is that silence does not equal rejection. So people go silent. People you’ve engaged with in the deal, people have checked out your product, people that were really excited. They go silent eventually. You sent them emails, you don’t hear from them, you call them, they don’t call you back. And most people will assume that, that means rejection and they’ll create a very elaborate story in their mind. Usually they make it very painful of how much of a rejection it is.

So to not get more virtual rejection and to not be annoying and feel like you’re the type of person that annoys others, which doesn’t feel good, they’ll just stop and assume this didn’t happen because they didn’t like me, they didn’t like our deal, they hate my shoes, whatever it is. They’ll come up with a story in their mind. I think that’s crazy and it’s really harmful and it’s very bad for business.

My basic assumption about this is when I don’t hear from someone, is that they are busy. They have different priorities, something came up, something in their personal life or in their business life came up and this not a priority right now. But it’s my job to keep championing this deal to keep following up until it becomes a priority again and they can respond to it. So my personal follow-up philosophy is that when I have a good conversation and when somebody came into us as an inbound lead, we will follow up indefinitely until we get a response. And it doesn’t matter if the response is yes or no, both are good.

What kills startups is not a yes or no. What kills startups is the [inaudible 01:08:59] gets the big in-between, we don’t know why they didn’t buy. We have to make up stories in our mind. Or, we will keep the hope alive that they might come around it someday but we’re not doing anything proactively to make that happen. That’s what screws companies and entrepreneurs and founders. So, I, with sales I’m in the business of generating outcomes and my follow-up philosophies, follow-up indefinitely forever with somebody if I had a good initial conversational connection until I get to a result. Yes/no, are both good.

Andrew: So follow until you get a result. If they don’t respond, keep going back.

Steli: Yes.

Andrew: Interesting. We did one follow-up process just for potential interviewees and course leaders here at Mixergy where our process used to be very straightforward, find a potential guest. Have somebody else approved to make sure that you’re not just excited about a person and there’s no substance there. Then find their email address. Then send out a request to do an interview. And then if they didn’t respond, we would just let it go. We just added a follow-up step and saw dramatic responses. I think people respond to the follow-up more than they do to the initial request. But we do just one. You’re saying if they have an interesting conversation, like if somebody says, “Yes I’ll do the interview,” and they don’t book it, you’re saying just keep following up with them until they either say I don’t want to do this interview or until they book.

Steli: Yes. Again, we can make the same basic assumption as earlier where in the early days when you start your interviewing show, you might follow-up indefinitely with everyone. Eventually once you are where you guys are at today, you might have to decide how much is an interviewer worth to you and if it’s Bill Gates it might make sense to follow-up indefinitely for five years. And if it’s Steli Efti might just be two follow-up. You have to move on with life because it’s just not worth the energy and time. But generally you should follow-up a lot.

Personally I try to have a very high level follow-up and it’s opened doors and created opportunities time and time again when they seem closed before. And I’ve taught this, I’ve been you singing the gospel of the follow-up every single day and it’s the one thing that consistently people come back to me with results that they’re just amazed by. And maybe one thing that I forgot to mention earlier but I want to share now is, we talked about these drip emails and setting up kind of somewhat of an automated process. A really effective drip email I’ve seen in B2B startups and B2B software companies, is that they’ll send a couple of emails like the ones I described, “Hello, here is our story. When can we talk?” Blah, blah, blah. “Here’s a discount code,” whatever it is. And then after seven, eight, nine emails, they’ll send a breakup email. And the break up email is basically, the subject line could be goodbye from Steli, a goodbye from

Andrew: Yeah, because that’s dramatic. It gets attention.

Steli: Oh yeah, and then they say, “Hey, I’ve tried to reach out multiple times. I’ve left voicemails, I sent you all these emails. I’m really excited about you, but it seems like it’s not a priority right now. I’m going to take you off my list. You’re never going to hear again from me. But when the time is right and you want to talk, here’s all my contact information. I’m going to be excited. Good bye.” And that email gets incredible response rates.

Usually that’s the email that I will respond to something that I’ve ignored to all other emails because it’s you’re taking this away from me and you’re like, “No, no. I’m actually interested. I was just busy with all these other things.” So it’s a very powerful email to use in the automated follow-up. But you can also personally use this if you follow-up with somebody 20, 30 times and eventually before you’re ready to give up just send that email. When you’re like, I don’t want to keep following up with this person, just send the breakup email. You’ll see a lot of these people will respond and thank you for reaching out and apologize that they didn’t respond earlier.

Andrew: I get that. I get it completely. A fear of loss, loss of version. All right, we’ve got a lot here that’s substantive. I think that any one of these points, I’ll bring up the big board, any one of these points on its own is useful, especially that follow-up. Together, they’re incredibly powerful and I can see why you guys keep growing at What’s the name of the book? In fact, can you hold it up again?

Steli: Yes, the name of the book is “The Ultimate Startup Guide to Inbound Sales.”

Andrew: Inbound, because in the past you wrote “The Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound.” You have them both there. What’s the difference between inbound and outbound?

Steli: Well outbound is all about you cold calling prospects, you cold emailing prospects, you reaching out to businesses and people that have never heard of you and didn’t show any desire to know of you. And you try to educate them of the existence of your company and then get them interested and close them. So that’s outbound, you’re going out to generate business. And inbound is when you do marketing, PR, whatever it is, you create awareness so people come to you and want to know more and then you sell them on what you do and try to close. So that’s inbound and that’s outbound.

Andrew: And now you’ve got Inbound. We’re now recording this before you officially released and published it and you still don’t even have a landing page for it. But we will have one by the time the session is up and we’ll link to it. And you wanted to give a discount, my guess is you want to give a discount not because you’re the kind of person who gives in on price very quickly, but you say let’s see how effective the Mixergy audience is. Or let’s see how effective promoting to the Mixergy audience a book is. And that’s why you’re offering a discount. What’s the code?

Steli: The code is going to be “Mixergy” and honestly it’s a bit of both. So in this case, even if I didn’t know what the numbers were, I would want to offer a discount code because I just love the audience and I was the audience. And I want people to read this not because selling this book is going to make us rich or anything like that. But because I want them to be successful. I want less companies to fail and less companies to go through the painful experience that I had to go through just from a… these are my people, like entrepreneurs, startup founders. But it’s also good business. Its good for us to know how much of a response we got from the audience.

Andrew: All right. I’m curious about that too. Congratulations on the book and the success of the business. The business people have heard us say all the time, But I will say that find a way to connect with Steli and say thank you. Great relationship to have and to start today. So if you’ve got anything of value, do it. I’m going to say it right now, Steli, thanks so much. I learned so much from you today.

Steli: Hey Andrew, it was a pleasure

Andrew: You bet. Thank you everyone. Bye.


Master Class:
How to productize your service
(And break free of hourly billing)
Taught by Brian Casel of Restaurant Engine

Master Class: Productize Your Service


Report Bugs


Andrew: This course is about how to turn your service into a product so you can break free of the hourly billing. It is led by Brian Castle. He is the Founder of, let’s bring up his site, Restaurant Engine, which allows restaurants to get beautifully designed websites easily and without spending an arm and a leg. Brian launched the company after being a freelance web designer and developer. I’ve invited him here to talk about how he did this. How he transitioned himself into a product I service. He also teaches this and if you want more after you finish watching us here today, he teaches this process in a course called Productize, which you can see on I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the Founder of Mixergy, where proven founders teach.Brian, good to have you back.Brian: Thanks, Andrew. Great to be back. I love everything here at Mixergy, so I’m always thrilled to talk to you and your audience here.Andrew: Thanks. I appreciate it. You were listening back in the very, very early days of Mixergy. I remember talking to you, exchanging emails, and showing your website and different things that we were doing. Different courses and interviews. So it’s especially great to have you on here today.Brian: That’s very true.

Andrew: Oh, thank you and I’ll try not to keep interrupting you. You know that over the years I’ve gotten better at not interrupting, but I still do it. The problem we’re trying to solve is one that you experienced. And so many other people who are consultants, freelancers, and designers for hire. Experience, which it is. Actually, why don’t you tell it? What happened with this client that you were telling me about before we started?

Brian: I come from a background, I started out as a freelance web designer. After a couple of years doing that I just kind of fell into this rut of working or living project to project billing by the hour, and just feeling like I didn’t have this freedom or the ability to scale up and build something that was larger than just selling my time for money. Just one memory, and it happened multiple times, but this one thing really sticks out is I had this lead, a potential new client, contact me. At the time I was getting lots of referrals. People just emailed me asking for a website design. So this guy contacted me saying he wanted to build a new web application from this new thing he was starting up. I said, “Great.”

I did a couple of pre-qualification questions. He asked me about budget and what not. Once I determined that he sounds like he was a pretty serious prospect, the budget is in line, so let’s move forward with what a lot of people call the discovery process, which is you go through a series of phone calls or meetings, and in this case I did both. I had a couple of long phone calls, and then I met him in person. Now I’m getting out of the office and I’m spending half a day meeting him at Starbucks for half a day here or there. Ironing out, what does he need? What is the scope of what he’s looking for? Then I’d go back and write a long proposal. I spent about half a day on that. I sent that to him and he gets it and says, “Oh, I think things changed. I actually want to do a mobile app instead of a web app.” Now I have to go back to the drawing board, rewrite this whole proposal, give him a whole new price quote. It just went round and around. By the end of it, I think I had spent 40 or 50 hours, not getting paid for anything. It turned out he flaked out. There was no deal and no contract.

Andrew: No deal for all that work?

Brian: Right. It was a total waste of time.

Andrew: Meanwhile, after you made this transition, you, your wife, and you have a new baby daughter around the same age as my son, you guys took a trip to Acadia National Park. What happened to the business while you were away?

Brian: Well that was fast forward a couple of years. This past August my wife and I, and our baby daughter, and my dog, by the way, we brought the whole family, packed them in a car, and we spent a whole week up in Maine at Acadia National Park. I was able to completely disconnect for the week and enjoy a little summer vacation. Meanwhile, my business, Restaurant Engine, continued to operate. We actually signed up six new clients that week. Got them set up with new websites, did sales, on-boarding, and set up. Happy customers and I didn’t need to touch them or do a thing. My team kind of carried it all out and basically the business continued to run without my direct involvement systematically.

Andrew: That’s the key part here. It continues to run. It can grow even when you’re not there, and instead of you having to hunt down sales that often don’t materialize, sales are being developed, processed, and taken care of, and revenue coming in, even while you are away. That’s what we’re going for here. The very first thing that you said in this process, and there it is upon the big board is to shift your mindset from freelancer to business owner. We talked about this before we started. I said, “Isn’t everyone who’s listening to us right now, they already shifted their mindset. They’re just ready to go. Tell us what to do. Be practical. What’s the first step? Why is that so important for us to talk about?

Brian: For me, maybe people can relate to this or not, but I was watching Mixergy interviews and Mixergy courses when I was a freelance web designer. At least for a year, maybe longer, before I really took action toward building a product and productizing my service. So I started to learn about the things that I would learn on Mixergy and elsewhere. But it wasn’t until it clicked in my mind, “Okay, I need to actually start investing my time and energy and focus into working on my business, and not in my business.” I had to get out of this mindset of being a freelancer selling my time for money to becoming a business owner.

And that’s building up a value proposition and building systems and processes that I can then build the team around and scale up, so that at the end of a long year of freelancing, all I’m left with is my time, and that’s really not worth very much. But as I start to build a business, now I’m building an asset that has value which grows over time. That’s kind of the mindset shift that I’m talking about here. Working on your business, not in your business. And the point here being, this kind of frames everything else that we have listed here today. You’re making your business the project that you’re working on.

Andrew: Okay. All right. So the next thing is to start positioning your service as a product. So before we started, I was thinking that what we were going to talk about was how to turn what you do day to day into software that runs without you, and you said, “Actually Andrew, you’re not expressing it right.” What is the right way to express what we’re doing here?

Brian: What we’re talking about here when we say productize services is starting with some kind of service, some kind of value proposition, and it very well might still be delivered as a service, manually done, manually delivered, but packaged, positioned, and sold just like any other product that you would buy off the shelf, or buy at Amazon, or subscribe to. What we’re talking about there is getting away from billing by the hour, and putting together a predefined scope with a set price, non-negotiable. This is what’s included. This is the problem that this service is designed to solve. This is the price tag. Are you the right customer or the right fit for this?

Andrew: So I’m looking at your website right now. Restaurant Engine will create websites for restaurants. But it’s not like they sign up, fill in a form, and then they end up with a website that they can customize. No, it’s they sign up and then your team of designers and developers and people who you work with will create a website for them, based on the restaurant’s need. But somebody or some group of people are doing it, and that’s the distinction. It’s not software. We’re not competing with Square Space. We’re doing service on a consistent repeatable basis.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. So this is a little bit jumping ahead, but it’s kind of like a done for you service. Restaurants sign up and they get their website designed, launched, populated with content, all done by my team. It’s done systematically, and when we’re saying position it as a product, when you go on, you can browse around the website. You’ll find the price. You’ll see exactly what’s included, which features and services are included for what price. And that’s it. It’s kind of non-negotiable.

Andrew: Where was that price? A price you can sign up right there. So you’re saying anyone who clicks here can see a standard pricing, just like if it was a product on the shelf of Amazon. Before we continue, why not then turn it into software? Why productize your services as opposed to just creating a software product?

Brian: Again, this is a bit jumping ahead, but it’s a really great question. I found that there is a really high value in the done for you aspect versus the do it yourself aspect. There’s a lot of great software tools out there that they solve a problem, a pain point and a solution. That’s like any good product does, but at the end of the day, the customer, the user still needs to use the product. Install it, set it up, implement it into their work flow. And then they need to use it on a weekly, monthly basis, whatever it is, whatever type of product it is. For example, this week I just signed up for accounting software. I still needed to spend all of last week setting it up and connecting my bank accounts, and it was a huge time to set it up.

Andrew: I see. And you’re saying customers value having it done for them much more than value a piece of software that does it. I see. And actually, that’s reflected, frankly, in your pricing them back to your web page. If I click on the pricing page, these are higher prices than someone who only sold software for web design would charge. What I thought you were going to say is, “Hey Andrew, not everyone can create software. Software is a very competitive market, and frankly do you want to start entering that market with a finished product, as opposed to entering that market with a service as a product. But then you keep taking the people out of it and replacing more of what they do with software.” I thought that was what you were going to say. But now I see it from both sides. Great for you, great for the customer.

Brian: Exactly, and that is the other really big point to be made here. You’re right. For folks who are like me, a couple of years ago, I know there’s a lot of people out there, freelancers, consultants. You’re trying to make that huge leap from billing by the hour to selling a product. It seems like everyone I talk to these days wants to make that transition, but it’s so hard, especially when you look at building some big software as a service tool. Software is a very big build and lift to do that. A product has services kind of the path of least resistance in a way. It’s kind of like …

Andrew: Yeah, and how many times have I seen, really, either full time dev shops or even individuals who say, “I’m going to get into software.” And then they get stuck trying to build even the first minimum viable product because it takes a long time. Or they build that and customers expect the next step. And then their developer runs out on them or they have issues with it. You’re saying, “This is a different way to start.” You’re not the only one to have done it this way. You actually gave me an example of a guy named Nick, who did it too. Here’s a screenshot of his site. I obviously don’t expect people to see it. We can include a link to it in the course notes. But what did Nick do that you’re telling us we can learn from?

Brian: Yes. So this is the site of Nick Disabato. He’s one of many folks I’ve been speaking to and interviewing as I’ve been researching, not only what I’ve been doing, but talking to others who are doing the productized services and productized consulting. What Nick has done here, his service is called Draft Revise. Basically he does conversion optimization. What his service offers is he’ll run one AB test on your website every month. He’ll implement the successful result on your website and that’s the service. The next month he’ll run another AB test, and then another one the following month. It’s just a set price like a retainer subscription model. He’s clearly defined the scope of what’s included, the one AB test and all that. He lays it all out there on his website. So it’s positioned as a product.

Andrew: I see. That makes a lot of sense and I can see how he can get up and running with this, how he can build it easily and continue to grow it. You’re saying also, only AB testing. He’s not also going to redesign your email. He’s not also going to install WordPress for you. He’s not also going to bah-bah, bah, bah-bah. Only one thing. AB testing. That’s what he does.

Brian: Exactly. And if we get back to that whole discovery meetings. I did so many of them where it’s like, “Okay, Mr. Client, what do you want? What do you need?” “Well, I want a Facebook app. I want a web app. I want a WordPress.” It’s kind of doing anything and everything. You don’t really have a value proposition. You’re redefining what you do. You’re reinventing what you do every single time you have one of these meetings. Whereas you look at a website like Draft Revise or Restaurant Engine, and this is what they do. They do this for customers again and again. They’re the experts at solving this problem. We’re jumping ahead, but if you’re that exact ideal customer, then it just speaks directly to you.

Andrew: Let’s get to that next step then. All right. So the next step is to find that ideal customer. Before we talk about how to do it, you’re saying find the ideal customer before we even figure out what the product is?

Brian: Well, I think a lot of these things kind of happen in conjunction and simultaneously. You want to take a lot of this stuff into account as you go, and you want to continuously refine it. You might start in one place, serving one ideal customer, then you might learn even more. For example, I’ve even found that in Restaurant Engine. A restaurant itself seems like a pretty tight niche, but even within that, we started to find, okay, now we’re serving a lot of food trucks or now we’re serving a lot of pizza and take-out places. So you can even get more targeted within a niche. So it’s really about focusing on one ideal customer. You want to move away from working with everyone and anyone, the way that most freelancers do, and get to the point where you’ve defined and you’re communicating this in everything you do. Like, who you’re speaking to, who you’re serving, and who your solution is really designed to benefit.

Andrew: You could have gone with websites for medical professionals. You could have gone with websites for e-commerce companies. You could have gone with websites for restaurants, in fact, that’s what you’re ended up going with. How did you pick that? How did you know, of all the different kinds of clients that were out there, and all the different clients that you had, that restaurants were your ideal?

Brian: I kind of landed on restaurants. I get asked this a lot, like, “Did you used to work at a restaurant?” I mean, I did used to wait tables back in the day, but that had nothing to do with it. I was looking for a type of business that has very standardized requirements specifically for websites. I looked at restaurants thinking, well, every restaurant needs to showcase their food menu on their website. Every restaurant needs to show their hours and their location. Many of them need to take reservations online.

This is a standard set of functionality that I can build into a very standardized service, through templates, and a set of functionality. Whereas if we were offering it to a whole variety of clients, like some e-commerce, some portfolio artist websites, or medical professionals, then we’d have a huge line of different options and configurations that we’d have to deal with. Then it’s like I’m back to square one as a freelancer reinventing what we do with every single client. It’s impossible to scale that up and systemize it.

Andrew: All right. You’re not the only one to have done this. You told me about a few other people. Let’s go into my browser here. Who is this person who created the site?

Brian: This is Jane Portman. She’s a designer and she offers a productized design consulting service similar to the model of Nick Disabato, where it’s a monthly retainer, a set price, packaged up as a predictable service. But she targets it specifically at software startups. She works with a lot of SaaS companies and digital software startups. She’ll network with these types of people at events and get involved in these kind of communities. That’s who she offers that service to.

Andrew: You also gave me another person. Let me bring up again the browser. There it is.

Brian: Philip Morgan, he created his productized offering which he calls My Content Sherpa. He’s a writer and again with the retainer model, he will write content for your blog and for your newsletter. He’s targeted it specifically at technical agencies. So if you’re running a software shop or some kind of technical firm, that’s where his writing and his skills really excel and that’s the problem/solution that he’s offered.

Andrew: We have lots of courses on Mixergy about how to figure out what product to create, so I don’t want to spend too much time on that here, but once you find your ideal customer, how do you know what product you will create and systemize for them?

Brian: I think that’s right into the next tactic here, which is doing one thing exceptionally well.

Andrew: Here, let me bring up the board. There it is. Right there, to put it in order for us. How do you find that one thing?

Brian: You’re really looking for that problem/solution fit, the same thing we hear again and again in all of these courses and elsewhere. Building a product, the way to do it right is to solve a painful problem. The process that I’ve been teaching to freelancers and consultants as you’re starting to productize your service is, number one, look at the range of services that you’ve been offering yourself as a consultant. Typically it’s a lot of different things.

For me, as a web designer I used to do WordPress sites, e-commerce sites. I did logo design, email design, mobile design, all these different things. Then you want to go through that list and identify the most commonly sought after items. Think about those conversations that you had in those discovery meetings, the questions that the clients are typically asking. If they’re repeatedly asking for mobile websites, maybe that’s a high value requirement that you can potentially productize.

Andrew: I see. Look for what it is that your existing clients are asking you for over and over again, that’s similar, that can be systemized, that can be productized, and that’s probably what you’re going to build first.

Brian: You also want to factor in how valuable is it to the client, or how painful is it. You’re looking for a painful problem that they’re willing to spend money on to solve.

Andrew: I see. It’s kind of a pain in the butt for me to restart my computer everyday, but I’m not going to pay somebody to do that. I can spend some time doing it. But building a website for a restaurant is critical. It brings in revenue. It allows people to find them and it’s something that you can charge a lot of money for on an ongoing basis. I see. You also say to us, be disciplined about what you do. You don’t want to do, not even everything that your customers ask for. You had a client, a restaurant who asked you to help with selling bottled barbecue sauce. And what else?

Brian: Like on Restaurant Engine, we had two or three of our customers ask about, “We want to sell t-shirts.” “We’re a Texas-type barbecue restaurant and we want to sell our bottled barbecue sauce through our website. Can we do that?” That would have probably meant that we would have to build in this e-commerce system built into Restaurant Engine. A very small subset of our customers were asking for that. So I saw that as, it’s not really worth the investment in time and complexity to add that. Not only the functionality into website building systems, but also for our team. The extra procedures that they would need to follow to serve a few customers here and there who ask for that. It was just way too much overhead and complexity.

So I decided to say no to those requirements respectfully, offering good support and all that saying, “No, it’s not something that we offer right now. We can add a button, and that can point you over to PayPal. That’s one way to do it. We can do that for you, but it’s not built in.” And those customers still stuck with us because they still were getting value in everything else that we were offering them. I guess the lesson there was just saying no to these fringe requests is okay. It’s not necessarily going to turn those customers away if the core value is there.

Andrew: By the way, I like how we’ve not only have the same mic, we also have the same haircut and beard.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: That just occurred to me, but you don’t play with yours the way that I do. I play with the bottom part when it gets long. I just can’t help but get distracted by it.

Brian: I did trim it today for this interview though. It was much longer this morning.

Andrew: Smart move. I try to do it on a regular basis. This thing grows so fast. WP Curve is, again bringing up my browser, a site you want us to learn from. What is it about their process that you think we can learn from?

Brian: Yes. Talking about doing one thing really well. WP Curve, by my friend, Dan Norris, they’ve been doing really, really well this year, if you’re following along with what they’ve up to. This is …

Andrew: They write a lot on their blog about what their process is.

Brian: Yeah, totally. This is really a productized service built up almost as successful as one can be.

Andrew: By the way, this page, for some reason, isn’t coming up on my screen. They will even reveal their revenue numbers on an ongoing basis. In December, it was $56,000. That’s what I was trying to look at. Sorry, go ahead.

Brian: They’re just killing it right now. Basically they offer one thing, and that is customer support for WordPress site owners. That means you can subscribe to their service. I think, currently it’s 69 a month. They’ll be there with chat and email support to help you out, like installing plug-ins or tweaking your logo on your site or changing your theme. Small tweaks like that, just ongoing support and questions if you’re running a WordPress site. That’s all they do. They don’t do complex redesigns of your whole website. They won’t do that. They won’t work with your site if it’s a Drupal website or expression engine or something else. They only work with WordPress, and they only do small tweaks and support.

Andrew: Let’s go back to the big board. The next big thing is to give them the result with no work. What do you mean by that?

Brian: Up until now you’re hearing us talk a lot about doing things manually and delivering this service. The question becomes isn’t that the same as freelancing or consulting? You’re still doing the work. What’s the difference? The difference is the systems that you’re building. That really is the unfair advantage. You’re streamlining this to the point where, we’ll talk about it in a minute, you can remove yourself as the founder to the point where the business really runs itself.

Andrew: When you say no work, you mean because the systems allow the company to do all the work, the client has no work.

Brian: Exactly.

Andrew: Unlike software. They sign up for, I don’t mean to put Square Space down, I love them, but when someone signs up for Square Space there’s still some work involved in creating a website. When they sign up for Restaurant Engine, there’s no work. They don’t have to figure things out. If they have a WordPress site, yes WordPress is easy, but you still have to some work to do, like upgrade and plug-ins, maintaining security. They sign up with you. They don’t have any of that work.

Brian: Yes, exactly. Thank you. I kind of jumped ahead there.

Andrew: No, that’s fine. In fact, I was looking at this piece from your site. What’s this?

Brian: With productized services, we’re talking about done for you aspect. Right there that’s a piece of our homepage where we briefly outline, look, when you use Restaurant Engine, we can get your new site done by this weekend. We’ll do the work for you. Step one, you just send us your content, your food menu, your Facebook page, whatever you’ve got. Step two, we’ll get to work. We’ll start in-putting that into a template. We’ll make a couple of configurations. And then step three, we’ll connect to your domain. We do all that work for you while you get back to focusing on running your restaurant.

Andrew: I see.

Brian: I think the idea here is, getting back to the idea of software is do it yourself, and that’s fine. A lot of software provides a lot of value. A productized service goes a step further in that it solves a certain problem, there’s that pain and solution. But it’s like a double edged value proposition where you, the customer, you’re not the one doing the work, setting it up, implementing it. You’re saving that time and having the expert, the provider implement the solution for you.

Andrew: They don’t do any work. You do the work for them. Your systems will keep you from personally having to do it, but your company will do it. Let’s go back to the big board. Systems are your unfair advantage. That’s what you were starting to say earlier. Why don’t we look at this site here? In fact, this is one of your clients.

Brian: Yes. That’s a restaurant, one of our customers on Restaurant Engine. They’re called Mama’s Boy. They’re local here in my town, one of our only customers that’s pretty close to where I live. Here we’re looking at their site. It looks fairly tailored to their brand and customized and whatnot, but it is using a template. One of our standard ones.

Andrew: I did a view source on it before we started and I can see here. You’re putting this up on WordPress. There’ll be WP content. You’re using a theme. It’s called the slate theme, right?

Brian: Yes. That’s one of our themes that we’ve designed and we use on a number of our customer sites, but we customize it. We even have a standardized set of customizations that we can make. We’ll put in the client’s logo. We can change some colors, change out some content, layouts, and whatnot. Really, the idea here is building these systems so that it’s an unfair advantage. When you look at Restaurant Engine compared to, say, hiring a local web designer or local web firm, what they need to do, the web designers, they need to go out and custom design something from scratch, try out different options, and show you different mock-ups, and back and forth. That’s many months of work and thousands of dollars whereas we have a standardized way of doing things.

The way that I teach this is, number one, you need to standardize the work. That means settle on one way of doing things, one methodology, and make the work as predictable as possible. At Restaurant Engine we use a set of templates. We always set up sites the same way every time. We make it as predictable as possible, so that it’s easy to delegate. It’s easy to bring my team on, and they can churn out new websites in literally under a week. We can get a new website from zero to launch.

Andrew: With a new design that looks like it belongs to the restaurant. I asked you before we started, is this just about themes? And you said, “No, you are actually going to start doing email marketing on behalf of your clients. How did you use this unfair advantage when you were thinking about creating that?

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. This is something we’re just rolling out right now. We’re calling it Marketing Boost. We’re continuing on with this productized service idea. It’s an add-on service on Restaurant Engine, where we will start to manage your email marketing for you, you being the restaurant. We’ve had restaurants asking us for this, like, “Can you handle our email newsletters for us?” I had enough requests for that, that I started thinking, “Okay, that’s a way that we can really add value and we can do it for them.” We have some customers doing this now. We’ll write the email newsletter and we’ll send it out for them to their subscribers. The way that we standardized this is we’re only using MailChimp for this service. If they’re already using MailChimp, then we’ll use their MailChimp account. If they’re using Constant Contact, then we will migrate them to MailChimp. Or if they’re not using anything, then we’ll set them up with MailChimp.

Andrew: If they insist on using A Webber, you say, “Sorry, we can’t work with you. We’re only using MailChimp.

Brian: Yes. Right. Exactly. Because it’s part of our standard process. This way I can train my team on using MailChimp and using their interface and our template in MailChimp. We can make the same recommendations to all restaurants.

Andrew: That makes so much sense. It’s such a hard decision to make, but once you make it, it just keeps you from going crazy. With all these different options and then someone else has a new email marketing platform that they want you to use and you have to figure that out. Then before you know it, you’re not systemized. You’re not creating a product, you’re creating chaos internally.

Brian: It is also getting back to who is our ideal customer? I’m sorry. It’s kind of loud in the other room. I don’t know if you can hear that.

Andrew: Let me see. Don’t say anything, and I’ll look at the levels. No. I’m telling you this road podcaster is a cool mic

Brian: There’s a couple of people that are talking. It’s pretty loud, but okay. That’s good.

Andrew: All right. I’m glad it’s not being picked up. I used to use this exact mic, I think it was this mic, in Argentina, where people would talk in Spanish, right outside my door, because sometimes at the end of the day they would want to relax and I would want to record. No one could pick up on it.

Brian: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Andrew: What my trick was I would hit the mute button, then I would put them. Wait, I was actually doing that on you. Then I would put the thing up here and go, “Guys, please be quiet.”

Brian: That’s pretty good.

Andrew: I figured how to say that in Spanish, but I didn’t even need to. It was a very U.S. style audience there. They all understood English. It was a professional crowd over there. A lot of financiers were in that office space. Anyway, all I have to say is no problem. You’ve got a great mic. We’re on track. Move onto the next point, true?

Brian: Let’s do it.

Andrew: All right. Get everything out of your head and document it. I wish I’d started doing that early on, but I do it now. Talk about what that looks like specifically. What kind of software do you use? How do you document? What do you document? What level do you document?

Brian: The idea here is get it all out of your head and document it into procedures, standard documents, guidelines, and whatnot. I mean, today we’re using Google Docs. It really doesn’t matter. Whatever tool you feel comfortable with for documenting, as long as it’s something that you can quickly and easily use and maintain and share with your team.

Andrew: This is what your doc looks like. I always think it helps to see a sample of it. You know what? It’s a little tough to see on this screen. Would you be able to give anyone who’s listening to us a link to one of your docs, so they get a sense of how you’re organizing things?

Brian: Yes. Absolutely. I could export one of these as a PDF template that you can look at and include as a link.

Andrew: I’d love that. Tell me what goes into this.

Brian: Here you can kind of get a glimpse of the amount of detail here. What we’re looking at there is one of many procedures that we have. This one is titled, how to send a MailChimp campaign for a new blog article. This is a procedure that we use internally. Every week we have writers who write a new article on the Restaurant Engine blog. Then someone else from my team prepares that article as a newsletter, and they send it out in MailChimp to our list. So they’re just following this procedure. Step one, they’re grabbing the title of the blog post. They’re pasting it into the MailChimp template. Step two, grab the excerpt and put that in there. Step three, change the call to action button to point to the article and then schedule it. A long procedure details exactly how to do this so that they can do it predictably, repeatedly, week in, week out.

Andrew: That’s all you do? You do blog posts via email? Do you, as part of the service, if the restaurant sends you some content, you’ll email that out for them too? Or is it just the blog post?

Brian: Yes. This particular example is actually our own email newsletter that we use to market Restaurant Engine, but the same thing applies to our email management services.

Andrew: I see.

Brian: We’ve have these standard set of procedures for delivering and creating the email. Basically, to answer your question there, the way that it works is we have a form that we would send to the customers once a month. We call it a content questionnaire form. They fill it out. It’s five questions long. What’s new at your restaurant? What are some new happenings, new promotions that are going on? What are food specials? Just tell us what’s new and then my team can take that and craft the email newsletter and then get it created and scheduled out.

Andrew: I see. And these docs walk people step-by-step through that process. I saw what goes into the subject line? Where do you get the content? You specifically even say copy and paste the content. To that degree you want us to document?

Brian: Yes. Really getting detailed. The end goal, whenever you’re documenting anything, is to make the job of your employees, your team as easy as possible. You want to put so much care into these procedures so that when they’re following the procedure, someone new, especially if you’re training a new employee coming in, you want them to come in and feel like, “Okay, I get this. I’m not lost. I’m not confused.” So just give them everything that they need to be successful in their role.

Andrew: Brian, what level of expertise are you hiring for this? You’re building websites for people. Are you hiring web developers? I said the word designer earlier and I looked at your face, and it seemed like no, you weren’t hiring developers. What level of expertise do you need in order to run this business?

Brian: Different roles require different types of skills. They are designers with some front-end development skills, so our customer support team who handles, not only answering customer questions, but also setting up these websites. They have some basic website chops, writing some custom CSS here and there and HTML. They’re familiar with WordPress so they can use our interface pretty well.

Andrew: And are they working for you full-time or part-time, or how are they connected to you?

Brian: Today. we have two full-time support people. Probably adding a third one pretty soon. Another good example is our other teammate who is a part-time sales person, she basically manages our inbound consultations. That’s another whole part of the business that I’ve systemized and made really predictable. This goes back to when I took that vacation in Maine. This is how we’re able to bring on those customers without me being involved. As we get traffic and inbound leads who request a consultation, she is the one who calls them up, follows up, and then ultimately on-boards them.

Andrew: I really like this process a lot because I can see how it scales. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of services scaling. I can see how this scales. I can see how there’s clarity for you as a CEO of your company, for what to do with the business. I can see how there’s clarity for potential customers. I can see how others can use what they’re learning from you, to do it for themselves, too. Let’s move on to the final point here. That’s to delegate and remove yourself. There’s a problem when we start to delegate. You experienced it yourself. What was that?

Brian: I think so many people run into this, especially kind of freelancers who are starting to grow and starting to make that leap into becoming a business owner. You have trouble delegating because it’s so easy to do yourself. You look at something as simple as sending out an email blast to your list. You can train someone on how to do that, but you’re thinking, “If I just do this myself, I can get it done 10 times faster, so I’m just going to knock it out myself.” Then next week comes and you got to do it again. It’s still on your to-do-list, and not someone else’s.

Andrew: But you do it so well, right? You’ve done email marketing for years. You can handle it in a few minutes, if that. Why? How do get yourself to stop passing it on to someone else who’s probably not going to get it right the first time?

Brian: The reason why you should break out of that hurdle is that you need to be focused on other things, on the bigger picture. Whether it’s pushing forward a new marketing strategy or growing the business or improving your system. You need to be working on your business, not the day-to-day nuts and bolts of delivering the service or doing the repeatable tasks. The way that you get started with that is you ease into it. You can start with hourly contractors, part-time remote workers, contractors. Between the documentation that we talked about in the last step and standardizing the work, like we talked about earlier, all of that put together makes it easier and easier to hand this off to someone else.

Andrew: And not have them screw it up and do it worse than you. And in fact, if you document it right, they’re going to do it as well as you.

Brian: Right.

Andrew: What’s the first thing that you delegated out, using this method?

Brian: In the early days, the first kind of part-time contractor was our content writer, someone to write the blog posts on the Restaurant Engine blog. And that same person …

Andrew: Oh, that’s a tough thing to do.

Brian: …is still with us today. They do that and then the next person that I hired was a customer support person. In the beginning, the first step was I did do all of this stuff myself. From day one, I was writing blog articles until I delegated that. Then in the very early months of Restaurant Engine, I was doing all of the customer support and all of these website setups myself. I remember really painful days of inputting these restaurant food menus myself by hand. It was like a Sunday afternoon, and I’m just doing this work, thinking it’s going to get me one more customer. I’m just going to do it until finally I got to the point a couple of months into it, when I felt, okay, I’m ready to remove myself from that process and get someone in place so that now that’s delegated. Now I can focus on, okay, what’s our marketing strategy? How are we going to grow this thing?

Andrew: All right. The web site is, let me bring it up, it’s That’s where people can see what you have built and hunt around and see a little bit more about how you did it. If they want to learn even more, they can go to Casjam is your personal site and now you’re teaching people how to productize the way that you did.

Brian: Yes. Absolutely. Productize is the course that I’ve been teaching. It talks about a lot of this stuff in much more detail. Of course, right on, that’s my blog where you’ll find plenty of articles and my newsletter where I write about bootstrapping. I do have a free crash course on productizing your service. You’ll find that on the homepage of

Andrew: Let me go to that. Actually, before I do, Joanna, we recently did something exactly like what you’re talking about. I thought copywriting. You can’t productize that. I can’t believe she’s in this business. It won’t scale. It won’t grow any bigger. But she’s in the information business. Terrific. Then she recently launched a service that will do copywriting for people, very similar to the process you talked about here today.

Brian: Yeah, Joanna, she’s one of the case studies in the productize course.

Andrew: I see a case study with her about how she did it, how she turned writing into a productized service.

Brian: Yes, and this was actually a productized offering that they’ve been offering for a couple of years. What that one is, I think, they were calling it Website Copy Reviews, or The No-fluff Website Copy Reviews, something like that, I think where it was one price, like a buy now button. Anyone can just click that. Basically they then fill out a form, enter their website or the page that they want Joanna to review. Then Joanna will just go and record like a 30 minute screen cast of her going through the copy, giving you feedback, telling you what’s wrong with it, and some suggestions, and then sending that back to you. And that’s the service, just a one time productized consultation.

Andrew: It’s not just her alone. I met this guy, Listen, who is a student of hers in her copywriting course. He is one of the people now. Now that he’s graduated the course, he’s one of the people who she trusts to do some copywriting work too, and copywriting feedback like this. I can see how she did it. I can see how you did it. It’s really cool to see that this is out there, and frankly, I’d seen it forever, obviously, but I never even noticed that that is what it was. That it was a productized service. Here is your website. Where do we go if we want to take that crash course, as you called it?

Brian: Right there. I think you’re showing it in that box.

Andrew: Of course, it’s right in front of me. Subscribe and get the free crash course productize your service. It’s available on Brian, it was so good to talk to you again. Congratulations on all this progress. I’d really like this process. I’m hoping that someone out there who uses it will follow up with me, and let me know how well it’s going for them. And of course, if they want to follow up with Brian, the best place to do it is to go to What does casjam mean? You’ve had that site for a long time and your Twitter handle. I keep meaning to ask you.

Brian: You know, the name casjam, it doesn’t really mean much.

Andrew: It’s just your last name, Castle, and then jam?

Brain: My last name is Castle. It actually goes back to when I was a young teenager. Casjam was my handle on AOL Instant Messenger, whatever. So Cas was my nickname growing up and jam, I don’t know. So I think I was around the age 18 18, I saw that was available. I registered it and today that’s my personal blog.

Andrew: Gotcha. Cool. Thank you for being here. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye everyone.


Master Class:
Connect with influencers
(To accelerate your startup’s growth)
Taught by Selena Soo of S2 Groupe

Master Class: Connect with Influencers


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Andrew: This session is about how to connect with influencers so you can accelerate your startup’s growth. It is led by Selena Soo. She is the founder of S2 Groupe, a consultancy group that focuses on marketing and publicity. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where proven founders, like Selena, and as you’ll see she is really proven when it comes to making connections, where proven founders teach. Selena, welcome.Selena: Thank you, Andrew. I’m so happy to be here.Andrew: It’s great to have you here. You and I went to the same school. I went to undergrad here. You went to business school at NYU, and they always had us do these presentations in front of big groups of people. What was your experience like when you did that?Selena: Oh God. I mean, I’m someone who, for basically all of my life, had been afraid of the spotlight. I’ve always been that behind the scenes person supporting these big leaders. So being in business school and having to get in front of the group and talk about myself or even introduce myself in front of small groups at orientation was always extremely nerve-wracking for me. So even with the most basic thing like an introduction, you know, my legs would shake and I would just be so embarrassed. And fortunately over time I’ve gotten better at that, but public speaking is not something that I am naturally comfortable at.

Andrew: And you’ve gotten really good at not just talking to people now but connecting them with each other. You helped us here at Mixergy make good connections. I’m looking at your website using what you’ve learned. I’m looking at the bottom here. You launched this site with quotes, with testimonials from Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, an editor from O, the Oprah Magazine. You’ve gotten a lot of connections. Can you give me one example of a connection that you built because of what you’re about to teach us?

Selena: What is it?

Andrew: Or did I just give them all away here?

Selena: Sure. I mean, let’s see, so Danielle LaPorte. She’s someone who I’ve admired for a long time. And I’ve been in touch with her a little bit over email, and I reached out to her when her book was coming out, “The Fire Starter Sessions” because I thought, you know what? She should really connect with the people at Oprah Magazine. They need to know what she’s doing. So I just reached out to Danielle and said, “Hey, I know your book is coming out. Have you been in touch with the people at Oprah because I would love to reach out on your behalf and let them know about your work.” And she was just like, “Yes, please do.” And so I put together a beautiful care package for them.

Andrew: Hold on. We’ll actually show it in the session here, but as a result of that, what happened to her?

Selena: So, yeah, she developed connections at Oprah Magazine and other places that really helped with her book launch.

Andrew: All right. I want to get into the details of it. I didn’t interrupt because I don’t want to hear it, I interrupted it because I want the process of doing it and I want it not just for myself but also for my audience. This is really important stuff. If you’re going to build a business, you need to know how to connect with the people who are going to help you build it stronger, faster. That’s our goal here today. And the very first thing we’re going to talk about is deciding who you want to connect with. And the problem here is that, what? How do most people do it?

Selena: You know, a lot of people come to me and they say, “You know, I want to connect with these influential people, but I have no idea where to start. I don’t even know who these influencers are.” Or maybe they’re thinking, “Okay, influencers, you mean Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey?” And they’re trying to get the attention of those people, and that’s really the wrong way to think about it.

So when you think about influencers, you know, there’s really three categories of people that you want in your network. One is mentors, so these are people who are ahead of you in their careers. Two are colleagues and referral partners, so people in your industry or related industries who are already working with your ideal clients and are their trusted advisors and who can basically send business to you. Those are important people to know.

And then the third category are people who have reached, so this could be people in the media that have a large platform, or it could be another expert or colleague with a really big online audience. But it’s really important to think about, you know, who do I know or who do I want to connect with in those three categories. And I always tell people to start with thinking about who would be great mentors, people who are where they want to be.

Andrew: And there’s something about just being clear about who you want to meet. In fact, there’s someone who came to one of your events. Do you recognize this photo?

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: Who is this?

Selena: That’s my client, Daphne Chang.

Andrew: And Daphne came to your event, and she said that she wanted to meet with whom?

Selena: Yeah. So Daphne is a vegan chef, and, you know, I had this exercise for the group. And I had them write down what were their most important goals. In their business, in their personal life? And then looking at those goals, you know, who did they want to meet? And so Daphne wants to have a book, and she wants to open up her own restaurant. And so she made a list of these really popular vegan chefs that she would love to meet one day, and this was actually a small group that I was with, a group of 10 people. And she shared the names of people she wanted to connect with, and two people in the room said, “I know these people. That one person you mentioned back when I was doing book publishing, I helped publish his book.” Another person in the group said, “Oh yeah, that guy’s a family friend. I’d love to connect you two.” And so it’s just amazing that in just a small group of people, but as soon as it got clear on how she wanted to meet, people were like, “Oh, let me put you in touch. That’s easy.”

Andrew: I just interviewed Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, and in the interview I did some research on him. Actually within the interview I really did. I started Googling him, and I found this one post that he did about a year and a half before our interview which listed the 13 people he wanted to meet.

Selena: Okay.

Andrew: And sure enough, I was on the list and he got to meet me, of course. But I think more than half the people on the list over the last year or so he got to connect with. It was incredible, and it’s all because he started to get clear about who he wanted to meet.

Selena: Yeah, that’s so great. For me, you know, I don’t know. I kind of know different people that I want to meet, but I also don’t feel like I need to rush it because in my mind I’m really clear about who they are. I even share that with people, and I know that when the time is right I will connect with them. But I think when people aren’t clear, then it just doesn’t happen.

Andrew: I see. So don’t make a list and then go out hunting for them and start to really sweat them. Give them space, but just be aware that when you put it down …. Do you want us to be clear about the names of the people or just the kinds of people that we want to meet?

Selena: I think that you want to be clear about both because you don’t want to just get so fixated that you need to meet these top two people in my industry and that’s it. You also want to think of people who are also maybe just a couple steps ahead, maybe two or three years ahead. So let’s say you want to have a book deal. Tim Ferriss isn’t the only person who could, you know, be a mentor, although you probably can’t get him as a mentor. There could be other people that you know who are going to … book writing workshops or who maybe know book agents or publishers. And so it’s really important to think expansively versus just the top two people in your industry.

Andrew: All right. Back to the big board. The next big thing that you want us to be aware of is we should think friends not business contacts. And you actually had somebody who you met. Is it … Am I pronouncing the name, right? Abbe Wright?

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: Who’s Abbe Wright?

Selena: Abbe, so she is an editor at Oprah Magazine. She recently moved over to Glamour, and this is just, I really think, an important point because I think when people are looking to build their network and grow their business sometimes it’s approached in a very transactional way. And the truth is that people do so much more for a friend that they care about than someone who is just a formal business contact.

And so Abbe, I met her at this event. There were a lot of people there, but we managed to talk for a little bit, and then I sent her a followup email. And rather than just focusing on business, I just said, “You know, hey Abbe, I loved meeting with you, and I would love to get to know you better. You know, I’d love to take you out for dinner and I picked this really amazing restaurant that would be really fun” and she said yeah. She’s like, “Yeah, that would be great.”

And the thing is these magazine editors all day long they have people saying, “Oh, will you write about me? Put me in your magazine. Will you get on the phone with me or have a cup of coffee?” And it just becomes another to do on their to-do list. So I just wanted to make it a really fun thing where I could get to know her on a personal level. And we talked about everything from family and our career ambitions and even dating. And so it did really go very deep and develop a friendship but in a formal business setting we wouldn’t have had that. And so that one on one dinner was just really, really powerful, and it ended up being really great for my business because I do organize these events for my clients where I bring together media influencers. I really feel like they should meet because they’ll accelerate their careers.

And so Abbe is a friend of mine now, and so she comes to these events, and she brings her friends from all these other magazines, like Oprah and Glamour, and all these great places. And so now I have an expanded network of influencers that connect my clients with. And I think that, you know, if I didn’t take the time to just develop that friendship none of that would have happened.

Andrew: You know, I’m wondering how you did that. So I remember I met Rich DeMuro at a conference, and he was the tech reporter for KTLA-TV. He came to cover the tech conference. I talked to him, and then we went out to lunch and we got to know each other. And then our wives and we became friends, but I remember what I did to start that conversation was chat with him and then say, “Hey, do you want to go to lunch? I’m curious about how you do your work, and I can tell you a little bit more about what’s going in the tech scene over here because that’s what you’re covering.”

I don’t know that I could always come up with the reason for doing it. Sometimes I just want to get to know the person because maybe we’ll hit it off. Maybe frankly, there will be some work for us to do in the future, but I can’t just say that. It’s a little creepy. Maybe we’ll hit it off. Do you want to go out for lunch?

Selena. Yeah.

Andrew: How do you say it?

Selena: I think that, you know, you really want to establish a personal connection. I mean, in that case, I had met her at an event so we had a little bit of a connection there. But I think when you’re reaching out to anyone, you really want to make it feel very personal. And that it’s just not a copy and paste that you’re sending to all the magazine editors or influencers that you want to become friends with. If you can reference something like, you know, I was reading the latest issue of your magazine, I really loved that article about this and this or when we were at the event you mentioned that … I thought it was so cool. You know, I see synergy. If you dig deeper and know something about their personal life or their goals, then always bring it back to that. But I think if something is just very kind of bland, like meet with me or appear business, it’s not exciting for people.

Andrew: I see. So here let me take a look at her Twitter feed. So you might do something like, come back home, look at her Twitter feed, see what she’s into. If she’s got a website, maybe there’s something I could help her with that, and maybe she into reforming the criminal justice system, I don’t know. Equal pay, so I’d look for something here, look for something in our conversation and use that as a hook as a reason for us to go and have lunch. I don’t know that people can see that. I should have zoomed in.

Selena: Yeah, and you know I have a quick story around that because Twitter is a great way to connect with influencers. And there was this magazine editor. She’s at Elle Magazine, I’ve been following for a while. I actually pitched her before, and she didn’t respond which is not a big deal because they get hundreds of pitches, but she was on my feed and she posted one day, “Oh I’m so tired. I’m feeling like going to yoga.” And I just responded to her tweet and I was like, “Oh, yeah, I’m getting ready for yoga too, something like that.” And she was, “Oh, that’s great.” And then she looked at my Twitter profile. I mentioned that I write for Huffington Post and Forbes and that I support visionary entrepreneurs. And I guess my Twitter profile intrigued her and she’s like, “Do you want to get drinks?” I was like, “Yeah”. So I think for her, she gets so many emails all day long that it’s just like if you send these people an email, sometimes it can seem like another thing on their to-do list to get to versus Twitter is kind of her mental break. And it wasn’t even about work. And it just kind of happened more organically, so yeah, social media can be pretty powerful.

Andrew: All right. The bigger takeaway though is the friendship part.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: You get to know somebody. You look for ways to connect as friends with them, and one way is dinner with them. I don’t want to overstress the dinner, but I’m always curious about how you can take a stranger out. We have other ways, and we’ll talk about it in a moment. But first, let’s go back to the board and the next one is to add value above and beyond. And here’s where that Danielle Fire Starter story that you were starting to tell really fits in. Can you remind us what you wanted to do with

Selena: Yeah, sure. So Danielle’s book was coming out, and I just thought that more people needed to know about her work. And so I asked her if she would like for me to reach out to the people at Oprah Magazine. And she said, “Yes.” I think that’s important. I just want to emphasize I didn’t say to Danielle, “How can I help you” when she was in the middle of getting ready for her book launch? But rather I identified proactively how I could add value.

Andrew: Why is that important? Because a lot of people do say, “Hey, how can I help you? Is there any way that I can help you? What can I do to help with what you’re working on?”

Selena: Yeah, I’m glad that you asked that because the thing is with someone who’s really busy, if you’re asking them how you can help them, you’re actually adding another to-do on their list. You’re actually taking up their time. And the other thing is they’re thinking, you know, can I really trust this person. Like, you know, is this going to be a waste of time? Because a lot of time people offer to help me and then they have never followed through or they’ve done a bad job. Or why would you tell a stranger what your priorities are and needs are? So with Danielle, it just showed that I was someone who was proactive, who was exciting about supporting her. I already had an idea, a plan, I was ready to go, but I just wanted to make sure that it was cool with her. So that’s a real way of adding value.

Andrew: So, of course, she’s going to want the book in Oprah’s magazine, in O. So what did you do to help her get that?

Selena: Yeah, so what I did is I put together a care package, got a copy of her book, and put it in this brown bag with red fire paper bursting out, Fire Starter tattoos, yeah.

Andrew: That was it, huh?

Selena: I bought some nice stationery, some orange flower stationery. I bought a chocolate fire chili bar. These are just all of my ideas. And then I hand delivered it to Hearst Magazines, and then I also wrote a really thoughtful pitch that was just, you know. There was so much heart that went into it that it couldn’t get ignored. And so they thanked me for that. I forwarded the pitch to Danielle. I also took a photo of the package and sent that to her. And she was just so happy with it. She sent me an email just saying, “Selena, thank you so much. The pitch is impactable every single word. You’re so in your zone, and just for the love of God, thank you.” And so that was a way that I built a relationship. It was really coming from just a place of passion and just kind of connecting the dots between people and opportunities.

Andrew: Did you get to know her because of what was it called? Inspired Coach Magazine.

Selena: No, actually I got to know Danielle many years ago. I think it might have been eight years ago when she had this business called Style Statements. And you would take like this task, and they would give you these two words that described who you are. And I just reached out to her saying it was really cool and offered some help. I don’t remember exactly what I did. I was just like, “I want to help you with something.” And we just kind of … You know, we were on each other’s radar. So I reached out to her long before, I guess, she is as big as she is now. But she just always knew me as somebody who is helpful and never really needed it or wanted anything but just believed in what she was doing.

Andrew: I see. And then you had a client, Julie Parker, who wanted to work with her.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: What was Julie Parker doing at the time?

Selena: Yeah, my client, Julie, she’s amazing. So she is a life coach in Australia who has a coaching certification school and also her own magazine called Inspired Coach Magazine. That’s a pretty new magazine. It’s been around, I think, for about a year now, and she wanted Danielle to be on the cover of her magazine because a lot of life coaches look up to Danielle. But the thing is, you know, it’s one thing if it’s a huge national magazine with millions of people reading it to reach out to Danielle. But if you’ve got a podcast or an online magazine, there are quite a lot of them nowadays. Danielle just can’t say yes to everything.

Andrew: I get it.

Selena: Yeah, you get it. A lot of people want to be on Mixergy, for example, but it’s just not everyone can be on these shows and get these opportunities. So with Julie, we worked together on an email, and one mistake that I see is when people are ca-ching. The emails are all about them, like oh my podcast is so great. And then it comes with a copy and paste thing where you’re just kind of adding the person’s name at the top. And it’s not personal at all, and for Danielle to say yes, it really needs to be all about her. You know, why is this going to be a benefit?

So we really spent some time thinking about how we could get Danielle to say yes. And so while Julie doesn’t have magazine circulation in the millions, she does have a niche audience of coaches in the thousands. And Danielle LaPorte is actually launching a desire map licensing program which is this big offering that she’s rolling out in 2015, and that’s a major priority. And so we wanted to make sure to really focus on that. And so Julie, when she reached out, let Danielle know that she wanted to do an interview with her about the desire map licensing program. And she wanted to promote it to all the coaches. Also mentioned that she runs a Facebook community with 800 life coaches who are really the target market for becoming a licensee. And so just really focusing on how this would be good for Danielle’s O launch and then also letting Danielle know that she’s been following her for years, bought her products, is part of her Facebook inner circle. And so this is not just an email that she’s sending to the top 10 people, it’s really a very heartfelt personal email and that she would really love to support Danielle in whatever is a priority for her right now.

Andrew: And it led to this. It’s a great cover.

Selena: Yeah, it’s such a beautiful magazine cover and, yeah, it just generated so much excitement and a lot of new people who hadn’t heard about Inspired Coach Magazine ended up jumping on Julie’s email list. So Danielle ended up posting this on Instagram, and I believe that Instagram feeds into Twitter and Facebook. What ended up happening … I haven’t really seen this happen before, but just from that social media post 600 people signed up for Julie’s newsletter.

Andrew: Wow. And so the big point here is that you want to make it about the person who you’re trying to recruit. In this case, Inspired Coach didn’t have hundreds of thousands of readers. In fact, very few magazines today do.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: But they realize that by doing some research that Inspired Coach had the right audience, and that’s what you’re trying to get us to do, to think about our needs from the other person’s point of view. Sorry, what are the needs that the other person has that we’re trying to get will help them with.

Selena: Yeah, and the truth is a lot of times we do have something to offer people that people aren’t taking the time to really identify that and communicate that to the other person. So not that Julie would ever do this because she’s a thoughtful person, but if she had just sent a quick copy and paste email, even though she had the perfect audience for Danielle and it was really synergistic, if it was not communicated in the right way, she would not have gotten Danielle on the cover.

Andrew: All right. Back to the big board. The next one is to get testimonials from influencers. All right. So now in this case you got Danielle to help out …

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: … one of your clients and you also got this. This is a quote from your site. I’ll read it because I think it’s a little bit small here the way that I’ve posted it. But it says, “Selena, this pitch is impeccable, every angle, the whole spirit of it really is so good. I’m so impressed. You’re so in your zone. For the love of God, thank you” in capital letters. So how did that come about?

Selena: Yeah, so that testimonial, along with a lot of other testimonials, came about because I’m somebody who just naturally enjoys helping people. And with Danielle, as I shared with that story I pitched her, and she sent that email in response to the update I gave her with the pitch and the photo. And I was doing this for Danielle before I had a business. But I was graduating from business school, and I realized I’m ready to start my own company and have a website. And I knew how important testimonials were for a website. And so I reached out to Danielle and I said, “I’m launching a website for my new business. I’m so excited, and I would be so honored if I could include a testimonial from you.” I said, “I know you’re really busy, but I was wondering if perhaps we could use these two or three sentences from the email you sent me. Let me know if that might work,” something along those lines.

But I basically did the work for her because asking someone to write a testimonial is another thing on their to-do list. I personally am someone who … I’m a slow writer. I’ve had people ask me to write LinkedIn recommendations and things like that. I like think about it. I’ll put it off. I write something. I’ll rewrite it. It takes like a week, it’s a law. And so if you can simplify it by providing them with some points, drafting something if that’s what they want, or maybe even giving them some sentences that they can use that they have given to you. And all they have to do is just say yes, then you’re going to get a lot more testimonials.

Andrew: Aw, it’s such a big help. You’re right. People who are good at this often will send back something that I’ve said before, maybe with a little bit of editing and say, “Do you mind if I use this as a testimonial?” Or here’s a couple of things that I think you’re feeling. Feel free to either write your own or do nothing at all, but here are a couple of samples. Because you’re right, I do the exact same thing, especially with testimonials because I never know how long do you want it to be. Do you want it to be a paragraph, two paragraphs? Are you looking for just one sentence, two words, you know. And then I have to sit and make sure that I say something that’s both meaningful and also feels powerful for you. I’m not that kind of a writer. It’s really tough.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah.

Selena: It is happening.

Andrew: So you’re saying write it for them or give them a couple of samples. Make it easy for them and that’s what you did.

Selena: Yeah, you obviously have to do it in the right way because if it’s someone who you’re just like, “Hey, want a testimonial from you and I’ve already drafted something up.” Then they’re going to be like, “Whoa.” So you have to kind of say it in the right way, but in Danielle’s case she had already given me these sentences. Usually, for someone else, I might say, “You know, I want to make this as easy as possible for you, so let me know how I can help, whether that is drafting something up for you, sending some ideas or giving you some samples, just let me know.” So it’s always in their court, but I make it as easy as possible.

Andrew: I had somebody be upset because I asked them for a sample of what he’s looking for. He said, “No, if you don’t know what to say, then you’re” … I forget, “If you don’t know what to say, then forget about it. You must not really care.”

Selena: Oh my God.

Andrew: I guess I don’t care then. Now I don’t care. Not with that reaction, I don’t care any more.

Selena: Yeah, I guess that person has just really a lack of perspective and not understanding the bigger picture. I mean, because a testimonial is so valuable. And yeah, again, I don’t think it’s probably going to get that many testimonials then if that’s the attitude he has.

Andrew: No.

Selena: What he’s saying to people.

Andrew: And you also don’t know, again, like I said, what size. I’ve had publishers push back on some of my testimonials because they were either too long or too short. They wanted them to be consistent with what others were saying on the back of the book or whatever space they had allocated. All right. Really good advice. I’m glad that you’re saying it. It would help me if anyone who heard this actually used this advice with me.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Back to the big board and get back away from me and on to the person who’s listening, who’s the most important person in the world to me. And here’s our next point for them. Consistently build your network before you even need it. I know a client of yours who is a health coach, helps women stop hating their bodies.

Selena: Mm, yes. So I have a client. Her name is Isabel Foxen Duke. She is an amazing health coach, and her work is just so important. I really feel like everyone needs to know about who she is. And so we started working together. She had moved to New York relatively recently, and while her work was really powerful not a lot of people knew who she was. And she felt like she really wanted to become friends with the other health coaches and life coaches and influencers in New York City. And also with people in the media. And so that’s why we started working together and she became a coaching client. And one thing that I said to her is that, you know, you really want to be systematically building your network. You want to build it before you need it. And she knew that she was going to have launches coming up where she would be looking for partners, and that’s not when you want to start beginning a relationship.

And so one thing that I tell my clients to do is if they’re really looking to expand their network to make it a point to connect with one new person a week. Because if you do that consistently over the course of the year you’ll have 50 powerful influential people in your network. And if you want to double up and do that two times a week, then you’ll have a hundred ones in your network. It’s really not that hard to do when you make it a practice and you make it really systematic.

And so what I tell them to do is when they make their list of who you want to connect with, and I had given people the three categories earlier; the mentors, the colleagues, the people who you have reached. Also referral partners, super connectors that … developing that list and then reaching out to them.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Selena: And when you meet with them, you know, at the end of the meeting you can say something like, “I loved our conversation together. I’m so inspired by what you do, and I feel like we have so many synergies. I’m just curious. Based on everything I’ve shared, is there anyone that you think I should meet? Anyone who you think that we would just really hit it off?” Or you could also ask, “Just curious. Who’s the most connected person you know?” That’s such a good question because then people are going to connect you to all of the super connectors in their world. And basically the super connectors, I mean, their favorite thing is just natural is to connect people with other high level people.

And so when you do that, it’s very easy to get one meeting a week, whether it’s a phone meeting, a coffee meeting. And by the end of the year you’ll have a hundred powerful people in your network.

Andrew: You said be systematic. What is the system for doing it? Are we talking about almost a CRM-like system that you have your funnel for getting to know people, or are you talking about something simpler than that?

Selena: Oh yeah, way simpler. I mean, just an Excel spreadsheet where you just put down the names of all the people that you would like to meet with. And then with every single meeting you go into say, “You know, who are two or three people that you think would be good for me to know about to have on my radar or to connect with?” And then they’re going to give you three names, and then the list is just going to grow and grow. And then every week either reaching out to someone or ideally having that person that you just met with connect you to that new person. So the system is having that Excel spreadsheet with a list of people that you continuously add to. And then when you do connect with the person, you know, at the end of the conversation say, “You know, who else do you know that I should connect with?” And then having them connect you to them, and then that’s all you really need to do to get those 50 to 100 people.

Andrew: Let me ask you. Let me take a step back away from our agenda here and ask you … I see a photo here of you and some people who have really big reach, big audiences. Is that you there?

Selena: Yeah, that’s me in my apartment.

Andrew: Oh, so they’re all coming over to your house. First of all, it’s impressive, but what’s the point? What do you get out of getting to know people like Lewis Howes?

Selena: Right.

Andrew: Getting to know people like Derek, Ramit?

Selena: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, for me I connect with people first and foremost because I’m passionate about the work they’re doing. If someone was to say, “Oh Selena, I can introduce you to Beyonce or Katy Perry or some really famous person.” It doesn’t really mean anything to me because there really isn’t any synergy or commonality. I mean, they’re amazing and cool, but I’m not really drawn to meeting with them or trying to meet with them. But there are certain people who I find really inspirational, who I really believe in, and who I want to support. I want to help them reach their goals.

And so with all of these people, these are people I’ve developed friendships with, and that I’ve, in many cases, identified ways I could help them. I’ve just started helping them and being a valuable person. It’s not like I’m thinking, “Oh let me help them so that then they’re do something for me.” The kind of mindset is really that, you know what? They’re amazing. They’re inspiring, and the opportunity to help them is the gift. I don’t need anything else. And I think that sometimes people forget that. I’ve had people get very angry when maybe, for example, there’s an influencer that I know, and her book came out. And someone was like, “I reached out to her. I offered my support. I did some stuff on Twitter and in my newsletter, and then I reached out to her to do something for me and she said no.”

And it’s like, okay, when a person launches their blog, they’re kind of leveraging their entire community. And so it’s not like she can repay in kind to, you know, hundreds of people and send solo mailings. And I think if that’s your intention, that’s the wrong intention. It’s not going to work. And people are kind of repelled from that. And so I think with the people that I develop relationships with, they know that I don’t really need anything from them. I just value their friendship, and what usually ends up happening is there are such powerful synergies that good things do come from these relationships. But I’m really thinking about them and how I can give. And so, as a result, these people enjoy having me in their world, and that’s why I have these friends and mentors.

Andrew: I see. I get not thinking about it as an IOU with an unspecified requirement, an obligation. I understand that there are a lot of people who help out with this idea that at some point I’m going to need something in the future, like the Godfather. And I will come to you and you better give me, or else I’ll break your legs or maybe I’ll walk away upset. I get that that’s the wrong attitude to come into it with. But to just say, “I’m going to help people because I enjoy it” feels like it just doesn’t make enough business sense, right? Shouldn’t we at the end of this say, “There will be some good that comes to my business, and I know it will be there. And I know that I can’t predict it here, but I can depend on it in a certain way. And I can learn how to call back on it.”

Selena: Yeah. I mean, that’s the other part to it. So I think for the people that I’m passionate about, that I want to support. There’s a reason why I’m passionate about them. It’s because there is someone who is doing amazing things, who’s going places. And in my mind I can see the synergies. I can see the possibilities. But I don’t need it to happen today or right away, but I just know that it is there. And when I get to know these people, it’s not just giving to them, it’s also them getting to know me as well. Then getting to know what I’m up to, what my goals are.

You know, when I started my business I had a point where I wasn’t really happy. I was doing work as a publicist, and I knew that I wanted to make a switch and move into coaching and consulting. And so I invited people, like Ramit Sethi and Derek Halpern, to come to my place and we had a mini focus group with them and some other people. And so I also, you know, I give, but I do also ask sometimes like, “Would you be willing to help me?” But I also say that you have been such an important mentor to me, you really inspire me, and I know that your time would make such a massive impact.” And they’re happy to say yes to these things. That’s usually because one, I’ve added value first. Second, they know that I’m someone who is hard working, and I’m actually going to implement their advice. And then we also have a friendship.

So it’s not that I never lean on my network for support, but it’s just something that I know that they will be there for me, and I’m also not afraid to ask. I think a lot of people are afraid to ask. I think I know how to ask in a way that’s very kind and respectful and …

Andrew: How do you ask in a way that’s kind and respectful and gets the results?

Selena: How do I ask in a way that’s kind and respectful?

Andrew: Yeah.

Selena: Well, I think first, these busy people get invitations from so many people, right? I mean, everyone can benefit from their help. And so you want to make them feel like they’re the most important person. So as an example with my focus group, I reached out to Ramit and I said, “You know, hey, I’m going to organize this focus group. Would love for you to be there. And also if you can’t, if you’re willing to help, like let me know if any of these dates work for you because I’m going to organize the focus group around you.”

Andrew: I see. That’s flattering to him that it’s organized around him.

Selena: Uh, yeah, and it shows him how important it is that he’s there specifically. So then he’ll come to my focus group and then I’ll reach out to Derek who’s also a friend and a good friend of Ramit’s as well.

Andrew: Like you said, if Ramit will be there, Derek is more likely to want to be there.

Selena: Exactly. And then, you know what? I’m also going to organize dinner, have lots of nice food, lots of cool people there. And so I just make it a win and win and invite more people. Hey, Derek and Ramit are going to be there. Now everyone wants to come to the focus group.

Andrew: I see. So they all know you’re putting together an event that makes sense for them. Even though they’re coming for you, they are also getting there to get to know the other people who are coming to the event. All right.

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: I think that brings us up to the next point that we should talk about which is organizing your own events. You say if you want to connect with the influencers, it helps a lot to organize your own events for them. I agree with that completely, and I think we just saw a way that you do that. Bring one people in like the anchor tenant. Then you start to follow other people around them, and if they’re all good people for the anchor tenant, as Keith Ferrazzi expressed it to me, then the anchor tenant’s happy because you’ve done all this work to get him together with a group of people he likes. And all the other people are happy to get together with the anchor tenant. That’s how you do it.

Selena: Yeah, and that’s always how I do it when I do my [inaudible 00:35:20] events, for example. I’ll reach out to the most high profile people first, the person that Oprah Magazine or the Today Show. I’ll make sure that they’re coming and then I reach out to all the other media. Because media, they also want to become friends with other people in the industry. You never know when you’re going to need a new job or just wanting to build your network. So always have those anchors first because that’s really part of the marketing, and that’s part of the invitation. These are the types of people who are going to be there.

And earlier me and you talked about building that network of 50 to 100 people over the course of the year and being systematic. But after you have those one on one phone calls and one on one meetings, it’s not like you can meet up with those same people one on one, you know, two times again over the course of that year. But you do want to keep those relationships alive. And so a really powerful way to do that is to organize events, and I think you should also think about making that systematic, whether these are monthly happy hours, quarterly gatherings, weekend champagne brunch. So just name that as regular on the calendar.

And then invite 30 people, 50 people to a single event. And what’s really powerful about that is that you’re reconnecting with all these people, and you’re adding even more value to their lives because you are now introducing them to your network of friends, mentors, clients. And so they’re reconnecting with you, but they’re meeting all these amazing people in this very curated way. And people love that. They love going to these events knowing that in just one evening they’re going to be able to meet 30 amazing people that you’ve curated for them.

Andrew: Who pays for the event?

Selena: So it depends on what kind of event it is. It also depends on what your situation is. So if it’s, you know, drinks I think it’s nice for the host to buy appetizers for people and have that out there, and then people can buy their own drinks. You know, if it’s something that you’re hosting in your home because I’ve hosted brunches in my home and dinners or things like that, and definitely you want to provide the food. But I don’t want people to think, oh because I don’t have enough money to pay for 10 people’s dinners that I can’t hold these events. You know, you need to think about, you know, what makes sense. Sometimes a casual brunch, which is more affordable, may be better or just drinks.

Andrew: Yeah, that makes sense. I tend to overpay. I want to pay for everything, for some reason, but it creates a bad dynamic with people where they’re coming to my event instead of all of us getting together for a mutual event. I like happy hours where people get to pay for their own drinks. And, yeah, even if I buy a round, then at least I’ve not bought everything for everyone.

Selena: Yeah.

Andrew: I do love dinners at my place.

Selena: Well another thing that people can also do is they can co-host with someone. So if you want to expand your network even further, it’s you and someone else who just knows a lot of people. And then you can bring everyone together. When you’re working with a co-host though, sometimes a co-host might be like, “You know what? I don’t want to pay for anything.” And then it becomes a little bit complicated.

Andrew: Right.

Selena: So you really want to establish what makes sense, but if it’s a potluck where everyone is like bringing something and the hosts are announcing we’re going to have the entrees, you bring the appetizers, or whatever. There’s ways to do it so that it’s cost effective.

Andrew: All right. Happy hour, simple way to do it. Get together with a bunch of people. It doesn’t even need to be as many as you said. Even five people for happy hour, brunch, even dinners. I’ve noticed people will pay for their own, and you create a nice atmosphere when you take people out to the right place for dinner. Anchor tenant is the important thing for us to have, right?

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: What else? What’s one more thing that we should think about because I do events all the time. I feel so comfortable doing them, but I think a lot of other people have a lot of hangups about it. What if they don’t find the right place? What if people aren’t happy meeting each other? What if only one person shows up? I’ve learned if only one person shows up, that’s fine as long as I pick the right person.

Selena: Yeah. Oh, then let me give you a few more tips because, yeah, this is an important topic.

Andrew: Yeah.

Selena: So whenever I’m trying to get people to come to events, I’m not someone who does mass emails. I mean, definitely not in the beginning, at least. So what I’ll do is get my anchor tenants. I’ll individually email, let’s say, 20 people and have them come. And then if you want to do a mass email, then you can invite more people once you know you have that base of 20 people. Although I have to admit that I actually email every single person individually, but usually I’m working with an email that I just modify slightly. So if you do that, people will show up. I’ve got your anchor tenants and they feel that you actually care that they’ll show up because you took the time to write a personal email. Then they will be there. So there’s no surprises. So that’s powerful.

And then the other thing that I think about, which I imagine you think about too, is that your events … You want to make sure that people are connecting. You don’t want to just show up, and then everyone is in their small groups, and this person feels like uncomfortable, unwanted, and then you’re kind of in a conversation. And so what I do at events because I’m always at the door greeting people as they come in. So even if I can’t have a 20 minute conversation during the happy hour, at least, as soon as they walk in the door, I can give them a hug, “I’m so happy that you’re here. By the way, Jennifer is here. I think that you should meet her. She’s in that corner. Say that Selena told you to say hi.” And so I just have that personal touch in the beginning.

Andrew: Yeah.

Selena: That makes it everyone feel so much better.

Andrew: Yeah, Mixergy started as events organized by a handful of co-hosts with me. One of the things that I would always say to the co-hosts is, “Let’s have somebody greet a guest at the door because if they come in and they’re not comfortable, if they come in and they’re unsure of the environment, then it makes it so much tougher for them to get out of their own heads and go and talk to people afterwards,” right? Because then they’ve gotten into this whole self-critical judgment mode, and it’s hard to snap out of that. So, yeah, meeting them at the door helps. Introducing them to each other helps. Cool.

Let’s go on to the big board here. Next thing you’re suggesting is we should attend specialized conferences. Now you had a client, Dr. Tara. How do you pronounce Dr. Tara’s last name?

Selena: Yeah, Tara Cousineau.

Andrew: Cousineau. This is her right here?

Selena: Yes, that’s her.

Andrew: How did this happen?

Selena: Yeah, so that’s her Awesomeness Fest. So Tara, she’s a clinical psychologist doing amazing work but really wanted to get out there in a bigger way with the book and more media. So we started working together, and she’s a busy mom. So she doesn’t have a lot of time, and what I really recommended for her to connect with these influencers is to go to specialized events and conferences. You know, events that maybe it’s a couple thousand dollars a ticket, but it’s way better to do that and go to one event where you meet, in that case, there’s really hundreds of influencers there versus going to three events or $10 events which it’s really hit and miss. And you’re kind of doing that every week and not meeting anyone.

And so she met this person there. His name is Dr. Bob, and he is a media personality and has a book. And they connected, and he said, “You know, I love what you’re up to. Here’s my personal email. Let’s stay in touch,” and he’s becoming someone who is like a mentor and a cheerleader for her work. But she wouldn’t have found him at a $10 event. So I really think that, I mean, one of our most precious resources are time, and so we can go to one event a year or a couple of events and meet tons of people. Do that instead of thinking that, “Oh my gosh, I need to go to two networking events per week in order to connect with the right people.

Andrew: Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve heard so many good things about Awesomeness Fest, but I also understand the resistance to go. It costs money. It takes a lot of time, but for the end. They also have a screening process, right?

Selena: Yeah, I mean.

Andrew: You could apply and they could reject you.

Selena: Exactly. Because I’m someone who has planned a lot of events myself, I understand what goes into an event. So with an event like the Awesomeness Fest, I imagine that they are planning this event one year in advance, and they’re spending a lot of time and money on the marketing and on the team to put this event together. And they’re getting their amazing keynote speakers and inviting all these influencers back, and they’re spending an entire year curating this event just for you. All you need to do is show up. If you try to create that own event for yourself, it’s like, do you know how long it would take you and plus if you don’t know these people, it’s probably be very hard to get those 100 influential people to show up.

So I think that people don’t always see the real value of these events which is why I really want to bring it up because it can be a game changer to go to a couple of these events per year.

Andrew: All right. On to the big board for the final point which is to express gratitude when people help you, even publicly. I’m going to do it right here. Can I say the name of the person who you helped us introduce to?

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: So we met and you said, “I know Tony Robbins’ people. Can I introduce you to them?” And we said, “Can you? Of course, we’d love it. What do we do for you? How do we …” So we said yes, thank you. I think we might have actually been a little less effusive, but we definitely said thank you. And internally we were really just excited about it. You introduced us to his people so that we could ask him to do an interview, and we’ve talked to him. And so far, no interview yet, but boy, it was such a great introduction and so considerate of you to have offered that before you even came on here. You didn’t know if I was going to be a jerk to you or not.

Selena: Well, I mean, the thing is I’m familiar with Mixergy. I know how your interviews are great.I mean, so many people have said to me, like, Andrew is the best interviewer that I know. He is born to do interviews. So I also felt like it would be a great opportunity for Tony to be on this show. So it seemed like a huge win-win, but before kind of making any introductions or doing outreach, I always like to ask for permission first because I don’t know if you’re already in talks with him or if he’s not the ideal guest. I never know what’s happening behind the scene, but I’m glad that that’s the kind of person that you want to connect with. And I really hope that it works out down the road.

Andrew: I do too. Thanks and your reach is impressive. Now I’m glad that I said this now because I know what it’s like when people don’t do this. In fact, you had an experience recently where someone said that she was looking for a job. And how did you help and what happened?

Selena: Oh gosh, yeah. I mean, I’m glad that we’re talking about this because I think this is something everyone needs to hear. I’ll share this story first, and then they’ll see what the big point is. But basically there was someone in my world, and she had been out of a job for quite some time. And she had reached out to me, and she described what her dream job would be. And I thought I know the CEO of a company who’s looking for a marketing person. Basically, it would be her dream job. And so I reached out to the CEO, put them in touch, and I was happy to do it.

And then weeks later, it might have even been months, because it might have been a bit of a process, but I see a post on Facebook. And she announces that she has gotten this job. And by the time I saw the post, it was like, 30 people had already congratulated her and I was like number 31, “Oh, congratulations.” And it was a little bit of a turnoff because she never really thanked me for that. And she got a job. I don’t know if it was a six figure job or what, but it was a big deal job. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put her in touch with this CEO. I just kind of felt like I was the last person to know. And for me and other people who enjoy helping and connecting people, I mean, we’re not looking for even a gift or you want to connect with a client. You don’t need a referral commission or anything, I’m doing it because I want to help. But I think that, if I am to be honest, and maybe it’s being a little bit selfish, but I kind of do want to feel that I’m being appreciated for the time and energy that I put into things.

And so I think it comes from a place where I’m so excited to make the connection. I’m so excited to help this person get their dream job. When I feel like they’ve just forgotten about me entirely and that I didn’t matter to them, then I just don’t feel good about it. So I think a lot of times people think, “Oh, how can I add value to these influencers and super connectors and mentors and all these people?” They think it has to be so complicated. And I think a lot of people just want to know that you appreciate their help, that sometimes just really that simple. And when people express appreciation, then you actually want to help them more.

You know, when people tell me, “Wow, what you did was so helpful. It led to this result” and they thank me. And when they thank me publicly, that’s even better sometimes, you know. I just keep on helping them over and over again, but the people who act like they don’t care or just have forgotten and didn’t take that time to just say thank you in a meaningful way, I usually don’t continue helping them.

Andrew: Well, that’s a really good point and here’s the way that you do it.

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: This is just simple and effective.

Selena: Yeah. So what happened here is my friend, Spencer, said to me. You know, I met someone who writes for a [inaudible 00:48:17] company. I think that she should do a story on you, and I was like, great. I would love that. So he put me in touch with this woman. Her name is Elizabeth. We had this amazing interview, and the story came out. And wow, I got so much attention for that story. I got new clients and things like that. And I shared on social media. When I shared it on social media, I didn’t just say, “Oh yeah, I’m in fast company. Look at me.” I said, “Oh yeah, I’m so honored to be in this piece in [inaudible 00:48:47] company”, and I kind of gave a shout out to the writer.

Andrew: Yeah, I see it.

Selena: Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you, Elizabeth, for interviewing me and Spencer for the intro. Right there at the top above it. And that’s what you’re talking about when you say …

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: … thank them publicly. I was starting to imagine this whole big public thank you, but know you’re saying it’s as simple as that.

Selena: One sentence. It’s all it takes. It can make a big difference.

Andrew: If anyone wants to learn more, these are just a few ideas that you’ve taught me, that now we’re sharing with the Mixergy audience. You have many more ideas, many more tactics to share. We’ll, of course, include a link in the course notes, but here’s your URL for anyone who wants to go directly to it and see what else they can learn from you. It’s a tiny URL that you can use to go directly to the right spot. It’s And, of course, we’ll include a link to it.

Wow, Selena, thank you so much for teaching all this.

Selena: Thank you. Yeah, this was so much fun, and this is my favorite topic to talk about. And so if they want to go to that link and check out the video there, I have a video called “Get VIP Access to Media Influencers and Online Stars,” and I go deeper into how I built relationships with these people and the media. It’s very specific tactics that they can apply to their own businesses so I hope that’s helpful to people.

Andrew: I’m sure it will be. And I always say at the end of a session here or an interview, of course, anything. If anyone heard something that was useful, they should find a way to say thank you. I’m saying it because now people who have listened this far now understand how important it is for a person who does something to feel that, hey, this has helped. It’s good feedback.

But also I’ve had interviewees who happen to be … I remember one guy. I said he happened to be in China. Somebody reached out and said thank you from China, and as a result they connected and they had lunch together which was fantastic. I remember somebody who saw me on Leo LaPorte’s show, This Week in Tech, sent me a note and because of that we ended up, actually this was fantastic, at his vineyard in Argentina. That’s where I happened to be at the time. He said, “Oh, you’re here? Cool seeing you on there” and anyway the reason I’m saying that is you should never watch something or read something online and feel like there’s an invisible wall separating you from the person who you just heard and learned from. You should always feel like they’re reachable, and the best way to start interacting is to say thank you.

And I’m going to do it right now. Selena, thank you so much for teaching here.

Selena: Thank you, Andrew. One thing I’ll just add is if anyone just wants to say thank you or hello, I mean, I love connecting with people. My personal email is People can just feel free to send me an email. I always love hearing from people and just connecting with people who resonated with my message.

Andrew: All right. I was actually starting to type it out. Here we go. This is what it looks like,

Selena: Yes.

Andrew: Super. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone!


Master Class:
How to get featured in publications
(Like TechCrunch)
Taught by Conrad Egusa of Publicize

Master Class: Getting Featured

Report Bugs

Master Class Toolbox

Course Cheat Sheet


Andrew: This session is about how to get your startup featured in publications like TechCrunch. It is led by Conrad Egusa. He is the founder of Publicize, a company that’s changing the way startups approach PR. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven entrepreneurs like Conrad teach. Conrad, thanks for being here.Conrad: Thank you so much for having me.Andrew: Thanks for coming back, I should say. Conrad, the problem that we’re helping people solve is one that was experienced by this company, Shirley.Conrad: Yes.

Andrew: What’s the issue that Shirley had? Is is called “Shirley”? On their site it says “Shirley.” On Kickstarter it says “Shirley Box.”

Conrad: Yeah, I think “Shirley” is just for short.

Andrew: Okay.

Conrad: I think the issue that the company was facing is they were hitting this turning point. They were about to launch this Kickstarter campaign and it was critical to the company, to the point where, “Hey, if this Kickstarter campaign doesn’t work out, is this an initiative that the founders should continue pursuing?”

Because of a number of the PR efforts, the company was able to exceed its Kickstarter expectations. It ended up raising a little over $150,000.

Andrew: So they were counting on Kickstarter as a new way of getting funding, almost like a last-ditch effort and to get anyone to contribute to Kickstarter. These guys did not have a big mailing list of potential customers. They did not have a huge following of people who were reading their blog. What they needed to do was reach out to people who did have that kind of following. Right?

Conrad: Absolutely.

Andrew: Okay, and these were your clients? You helped them do it?

Conrad: Yes.

Andrew: Okay, and one of the ways that you helped them do it was by getting a post — there it is — on TechCrunch. Here it is. What did TechCrunch write about? Why was TechCrunch interested?

Conrad: Yeah, I think sites like TechCrunch, and VentureBeat, I believe Gigaom, as well, covered this story, I think the biggest thing is we look to make the story much larger than it really is in a lot of ways. With Shirley Box, they were introducing essentially a new way to sync a lot of files. We essentially looked to introduce that they were bringing a new paradigm to the table for this specific industry.

Andrew: Okay. All right, and as a result of that article that I just showed a moment ago, which is right here – let’s zoom in one more time – they did hit their goal and exceeded it, actually almost more than twice what they were aiming for. So the company is up and running, and I see then that they are active.

That’s what you want to show us how to do, to understand how to use publicity so that we can do it ourselves and get in publications like TechCrunch. In this case it was TechCrunch, but throw off some names of publications that you’ve helped entrepreneurs get into.

Conrad: Really, any of the top 100 largest publications, anywhere from The New York Times, to The Guardian, to The Financial Times, to sites like TechCrunch. One of the things that’s important is what I’m about to explain is applicable to any vertical, it’s not just to tech sites like VentureBeat and TechCrunch.

Andrew: Okay. All right. So the first step to doing it is actually finding a story. You used to write for VentureBeat. Right?

Conrad: Yes.

Andrew: When you did write for a very popular blog, VentureBeat, what are some of the mistakes that you saw entrepreneurs make when they were pitching what they thought was their story?

Conrad: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that the media, and journalists, they’re looking to cover essentially meaningful story lines. What happened a lot of times is people would reach out to the media without the story line.

I remember a specific case. I was walking around New York City and a friend ran into me. He said, “Conrad, I know you’re writing at VentureBeat. Can you write about my company?” I said, “Sure, what do you have to announce?” He said, “Oh, we don’t have anything to announce.” I said, “If you don’t have anything to announce, then there’s no story. There’s nothing I can write about.”

Andrew: So they can’t just say, “Look, I’ve had this company for a while. It’s a good company, good product. All we need is some press, and if we get that, then people will actually start to come to it and use it.” That’s not enough? That we’ve been around for a while and we have something good?

Conrad: No. It needs some type of action.

Andrew: We have to announce something.

Conrad: Exactly. There has to be action. Something has to have happened.

Andrew: Give me some examples of what announcements you mean.

Conrad: The most prominent, the most common would be something like a product launch, maybe a funding announcement. So it could be an angel round or a VC. It could be a milestone, so maybe your mobile app reaches 100,000 downloads. It could be an acquisition as well, kind of across the board. It could even be something smaller. Maybe your company hosts a hackathon.

Andrew: I’m going to show an example of that.

Conrad: And we’ll make that really newsworthy.

Andrew: You know what? I hit 1,000 interviews a little while back. Did I miss a big opportunity to get some press by saying I hit my thousandth interview? Is that the kind of story that you’re looking for?

Conrad: Yeah, I think that is a perfect one. I think one of the things that’s important is that ideally an entrepreneur can map out the next six months of these meaningful announcements. Some are obviously going to be stronger.

Let’s say, Andrew, you raise a million in funding, or whatever it is. I don’t think, but hypothetically, so for that, that’s a big announcement. You should aim to get that on, let’s say, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But let’s say, hypothetically, it’s a smaller amount spin, like 1,000 interviews. Maybe you’ll only try to get that on a smaller site, maybe on Gigaom, or whatever it may be. So you can have different expectations for different announcements. What’s most important is that these are really good opportunities across the board that you should push for.

Andrew: What’s another everyday event that many entrepreneurs wouldn’t realize is announcement-worthy?

Conrad: I think there are a lot of smaller things you could do to make announcements seem larger than they are. As an example, let’s say a company does a redesign of their website. Well, nobody really cares about a redesign of a site, unless maybe you’re a Facebook. But for smaller startups, but if you launch, maybe instead of announcing a redesign, you announce a next-generation platform, that suddenly sounds like a much bigger announcement. So there are things you could do to make these announcements seem much larger than they might actually be.

Andrew: All right, and we’re going to see an example of how you did that in a moment with, one of your clients. But one of the things that you also advise your clients is to not lump multiple announcements into one, what they think is a giant announcement. Even if events happen at the same time, keep them as two discrete, different announcements, or more.

For example, here is one of your clients, In fact, before I show them,, what was the mistake they were going to make?

Conrad: The big thing was, and this happens to actually a lot of my common era, modern tech start clients as well, is when they are about to make an announcement, go to the media, to TechCrunch, they announce let’s say a company or a product launch, and at the same time, they announce let’s say $1.5 million in funding, whatever it may be. Usually if you see those articles that say, “TechCrunch” [inaudible 00:07:25], the primary article is about the new product launch, and at the very end they say, “This company is also announcing they raised $1.5 million in funding.” By doing that, they’re not optimizing press coverage.

The best thing they should do is actually divide it into two announcements, let’s say two to three months apart. By doing that they can essentially double the amount of PR coverage that they would have gotten otherwise.

Andrew: Okay, so here’s how you help them. They did do a redesign? There it is.

Conrad: In this case, they . . .

Andrew: Oh, excuse me, a relaunch.

Conrad: Yeah, it was a relaunch, yep, and they got on TechCrunch.

Andrew: That’s the TechCrunch article, and then, a few months later, they got . . . here, I’ll zoom out.

Conrad: Yep, it was Business Insider, Wall Street Journal.

Andrew: About their funding.

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: Got it. And otherwise, I could see an entrepreneur saying, “I’m going to bring it together. We have a brand new platform, and it’s backed by all this funding, and now we’re ready to get some press.” For them, they could have . . . you were saying that the funding came around the same time as this launch, and you had to explain, “Let’s separate into two different things.”

Conrad: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things to keep in mind, specifically for funding, a lot of entrepreneurs think that if they raise funding on August 1st, they have to announce it in August. As long as the information isn’t public, online, they can really announce it a few months later.

Andrew: Okay. All right, so if we’re going to relaunch our site, and also launch a mobile app, we might want to separate that into two different events.

Conrad: Absolutely. That’s a perfect example.

Andrew: All right. Then, now that we’ve found our story, you don’t want us to just tell the story. You say, “Lead with the vision.” That’s the example of that I was bringing up a moment ago. In fact, we have their press release.

Before you even talk about what you did here, or why this makes so much sense, what did you do here? I know we’ll give people a copy of this so they can read it on their own, but I just want to show a quick screen grab of it.

Conrad: What happened, when I first spoke to the founder, essentially they had created this Google Chrome extension to help people better translate words online. What I talked to them about is, “What’s the bigger vision of the company?”

The best way, I think, to ask yourself this question, is for most entrepreneurs when they’re let’s say in the gym, or they’re about to go to bed, and they’re day-dreaming about their company and how in three years it’s going to be a hundred-plus-person business, and growing and taking over the world, what do you see then? Describe that. Lead with that larger vision.

In this case, with, the larger vision wasn’t about a Google Chrome extension. It was about changing the way languages are learned online.

Andrew: Yeah, I do see that. I kind of wish, actually, that you would have said it the other way, here. When we were going over these notes you were saying, “Well, look, these guys are going to change the way language is learned online, and they also have these degrees from whatever school.” What school was it?

Conrad: Yeah, it was Stanford.

Andrew: Stanford. “So they didn’t recognize that that was valuable, so we made sure to include that in there. We made sure to talk about how they’re going to disrupt this $60 billion industry,” etc. And I said, “Interesting. What did you do there?”

You said, “Well you have to understand, all they had was a Chrome plugin, and we added the jazz to that story, and we made sure that people understood that they went to Stanford. We made sure that people understood that this was part of a bigger movement to change the world.” Frankly just, period, to change the world by helping people learn languages.

Conrad: Yeah, and speaking at the very beginning with social proof, when I was speaking to the founders, at the very end of the call they said, “Oh, I don’t know if we should even add this in the press release, but we have our PhDs from Stanford.” I said, “How could you not have told me this before? We’re not only going to include it. We have to lead with that,” because when you first read that, even in the first line, I think there’s a certain connotation. It stands out, the fact that this is a Stanford PhD.

It’s really important, I think, that entrepreneurs identify one or two things about themselves, that they can lead with in the story. If I was going to email The New York Times about an announcement of mine, I would say, “I’m a former VentureBeat writer.” That would kind of stand out, so people would read further.

Andrew: Interesting. What are some other characteristics, or experiences that are worthy of including in a press release or in an email?

Conrad: Yeah, I think a couple of things. One is any prior companies that you’ve worked for, so maybe you’re a former engineer at Facebook, or Google, etc. Maybe it’s a university you’ve attended; maybe it’s an award. If you were [inaudible 00:12:03] with an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, that’s huge, the fact that you can present that.

A lot of entrepreneurs talk to me and they say, “We don’t have anything like that.” It’s important to then think, “What are one to two things that are kind of different about yourself, that separate?”

It’s really funny. There are a lot of, let’s say, 16-year-old entrepreneurs who say, “Hey, it’s not worth me writing TechCrunch, because who cares about a 16-year-old.” I say, “That’s really interesting. There are very few 16-year-old entrepreneurs that get featured on these sites!” On the same note, there are older entrepreneurs who might be over 60 years old, who don’t even bother, when that is a key component to the story.

Andrew: I can see, and they probably don’t even bother because they think, “No one is writing about people like me.” You’re saying, “The fact that people aren’t writing about people like you means that that’s an interesting story.”

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: So any awards, any degrees might help out, working for major companies. So Microsoft engineer leaves to found this other thing, that’s worthy of including. And any personal characteristics that are different, so age might be one. What’s another one that’s a personal characteristic?

Conrad: I would say anything that really makes you stand out as an entrepreneur. I think a mistake that a lot of people make is that they will email a journalist and say, “Hi, my name is John. I’m a bootstrap entrepreneur.” Well, there are 50 million other bootstrap entrepreneurs! It’s not really unique. But any specific characteristic that, hey, if I’m in a room with 100 other people, it’s very unlikely that these other people also have that characteristic, I think it’s worth including.

Andrew: I noticed that I do that myself too, in Mixergy interviews, that if there’s someone that I want to make more interesting, I look for parts of their past. Maybe you used to be in the military and worked with fighter jets somehow. I’ll talk about that. Maybe it’s the fact that he used to be a professor.

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: I’ll say, “How did a former professor launch a company that . . .” whatever. That kind of stuff really does help.

Conrad: Yeah! It could even be something that’s potentially seen as “negative.” To say, “This person is now a successful entrepreneur, but he used to be homeless,” as an example. That’s very unusual and that makes him stand out to the media.

Andrew: Interesting. So if we don’t have anything going for us, we might want to just go and live on the streets for a week, so we can get that streak read and be the former homeless entrepreneur. Do you encourage your clients to do stuff like that? To maybe go and do stunts, like, “Go live on the streets for a week, just so I can sell you as a former homeless entrepreneur”?

Conrad: I don’t. And I think it’s important that everything I explain, I don’t want people to look at is as, hey, this person is trying to manipulate the media in any way. I think it’s really about optimizing and just understanding, “What are the media actually looking for and how can I position my story to make it as easy as possible for a reporter to write about it?”

Andrew: I kind of want the manipulation of the media. Maybe you can come back and teach that?

Conrad: No, well, it’s really important though because – and a lot of what we’ll talk about as well – so many writers today are paid per article. If you can, when you first contact a journalist, usually they can tell, at least I used to be able to tell, “Is this article going to take me 30 minutes to write? Is it going to take me five hours to write?” If you can present everything a certain way to reduce the amount of friction, you’re going to be much more likely to get a lot of media coverage.

Andrew: All right. Back to the Big Board, and the next big topic to talk about is crafting that convincing email. So now you’ve found your story. You understand that you want to lead with the vision, and you found your bigger vision, something beyond the fact that you’re selling a plugin, or beyond the fact that you’ve got another mobile app. Now it’s time to actually write that email to send out to a reporter.

Actually before we get to what you recommend, what shouldn’t we do? What are some mistakes that are easy for us to avoid?

Conrad: I always joke with a lot of journalist friends of mine that the three words that journalists hate the most are “For Immediate Release.” It’s so common. I still get a lot of emails every day.

Andrew: Why? What’s the problem with “For Immediate Release”?

Conrad: It’s in capital letters. “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” Just as a press release. It’s not personalized at all. My thought, “It doesn’t matter if this was a huge Apple announcement, I’m just going to remove it because it almost looks like spam. As opposed to if someone said, “Hi, I’m Conrad. I’m an alumni of the university that you attended, and I wanted to reach out to you with an exclusive.”

I’m going to read that email. Even if I decide to decline the article, I’m going to go through and spend more time on it.

Andrew: So something that’s personally connected to the person, to the . . .

Conrad: Absolutely. And that’s as easy as just including the person’s name. I mean, you would be surprised at how rarely that’s done.

Andrew: I’m doing the search in my inbox to see did I get any recent ones that just say “For Immediate Release”? So someone will actually just email and say “For Immediate Release” in the subject?

Conrad: Yep, yep.

Andrew: I don’t really get a lot of press releases, thankfully. I do have some here that I can . . . well, it’s kind of a pain to show, unfortunately. I have some, not that many. But it says in the headline, “For Immediate Release: LA Fashion Week Recap.” “For Immediate Release: Brazilian Bikinis at Fashion Week.” “For Immediate Release: Man Eats Dog in a Five . . .” Oh, never mind, that one is actually making a joke of that whole thing!

All right. So find something that’s personal to start off with. That’s what you would start off an email to a VentureBeat writer with? You would say, “Hey, we both went to college together?”

Conrad: Yeah.

Andrew: Or, “We both went to the same college”?

Conrad: It could be as simple as searching the journalist on LinkedIn and seeing, “Hey, this journalist attended UConn. I didn’t attend there, but several of my friends did.” Then the email saying, “I’ve always been a lifelong UConn fan. And congrats.”

Andrew: That’s it. Who gives a rip!??! I say “rip.” Who really gives a rat’s ass?

Conrad: The thing is, when you’re contacting these journalists, one of the things you have to fight against is almost — I’m going to mispronounce it — but basically being anonymous. You want to show that this is a human behind it. Writing something like that is surprisingly rarely done.

Andrew: I see.

Conrad: And you can build a relationship and connection through that.

Andrew: I see, so even if I don’t care that you care that I went to NYU, it’s flattering that you checked it out. It shows that you really did some work and this isn’t just another email that was sent by a machine.

Conrad: Absolutely. And something else you could do with the media is say, “I saw that you recently covered this trend, and this article obviously has to do with that trend, which is why I’m sending it to you.”

Andrew: Okay.

Conrad: Just that small bit of effort.

Andrew: Something that’s a personal touch, or a personal connection to what they’ve said, or a story that they’ve written that’s similar to what you’re about to talk about. We start off with that.

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: What else do we want to include?

Conrad: Then you want to lead, similar to the press release, with the greater mission of the company, and a lot of social proof as well, to say . . . probably one of the biggest fears that a journalist has is that they’re going to write about a company that is going to turn about to be fake, especially actually with Kickstarter campaigns, or any fundraising.

One of the best ways you can fight against that is to say, “Hi, my name is Conrad Egusa, LinkedIn or Twitter.” Like, “I’m a real person. You can see that I have this reputation, and it’s not something that’s going to be a fake announcement,” something like that. Anything you can add to include is really important.

Andrew: Let them know you’re a real person. Then at what point do you say what the actual product is?

Conrad: Usually in the first line, the first paragraph, which usually consists of two or three lines, I talk about myself, and in the second paragraph I would talk about what the announcement is.

Andrew: Oh, first paragraph about yourself and your connection; second paragraph is what the announcement is.

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: So it might be, “Hey, Andrew, I’ve got a lot of friends who also went to NYU like you did.” What’s the next sentence?

Conrad: I would probably say something . . . you know, this reminds me. I just emailed Frederic from TechCrunch. He attended UConn.

Andrew: Okay.

Conrad: I would say something like, “Hi, Frederic. My name is Conrad Egusa, LinkedIn,” link to it. “I didn’t attend UConn but I’ve been a lifelong fan. I saw you attended the university. I’m writing to offer you an exclusive for this specific announcement.” Then the second paragraph would say, “This company . . .” the big story about it, and maybe two or three lines explaining the specifics of it, summing it up saying that I really appreciate their time.

I like to say, “I completely understand if you aren’t unable to respond, but I have attached additional information in this press release, and I would love to follow up if you may be interested.”

Andrew: What’s a good subject line for it?

Conrad: I would say something like, “Hi, Frederic. This is Conrad Egusa (former VentureBeat writer) in regards to an exclusive.”

Andrew: That’s a subject line?

Conrad: Yes.

Andrew: Your name in regards to an exclusive.

Conrad: Yeah. Oh actually, I would say, “In regards to an exclusive,” and then for the specific company. I might say something like, “In regards to an exclusive for a Y Combinator company.” Something that kind of stands out about that.

Andrew: In the subject line, are you putting your name in again even though it’s in the “To” line?

Conrad: I’m sorry. Yes, I would say, “Hi, Frederic.”

Andrew: In the subject line?

Conrad: Yes, yes.

Andrew: You would say, “Hi, Frederic” in the subject line?

Conrad: Yep, absolutely, just to make sure, especially with a lot of these journalists who might get a thousand emails every day. Just the fact that we’re including their name, to say like, “This isn’t an email sent out to 5,000 people.”

Andrew: It sounds like you’re writing the whole message in the subject line. “Hi, Frederic.” What else do you say in there?

Conrad: Someone could say for example, “Hi, Frederic. Exclusive for a Y Combinator startup.”

Andrew: I see.

Conrad: Something like that.

Andrew: So it’s not, “Hi, Frederic. I’m a former VentureBeat writer. Here’s an exclusive with a Y Combinator company”. It’s not that elaborate. It’s just, “Hi, Frederic. Exclusive Y Combinator company”.

Conrad: Yeah, I think it depends. I want to make sure to add at least one piece of social proof, so if there isn’t any social proof that I can use for the company, then I would use it for myself, which is, “a former VentureBeat writer,” which would make them pick up.

Andrew: I see.

Conrad: I hope that makes sense. It kind of depends. If it’s just an exclusive for a Y Combinator company that would stand on its own, I don’t have to mention anything about myself, because it really wouldn’t matter.

Andrew: Boy, that VentureBeat writing is really going a long way for you. How long did you write for VentureBeat?

Conrad: Let me see. I wrote for them, I guess in total I think it was about four months that I was writing about two to three articles a day.

Andrew: I see, so it is a lot of articles.

Conrad: Yeah, I think now, there are so many different things that you could use for social proof. Now I’m a guest writer, for example, for The Next Web, just as a contributing author. There are so many different things.

Andrew: I was just going to say, it is so much easier to be a guest writer somewhere, and then you get to say, “I’m a guest writer for, or a writer, or I write for, or I’ve written for,” whatever the publication is.

Conrad: Yeah. I would say just that I feel very differently as a writer than I do as a guest writer. Because a writer, where you’re in a newsroom everyday, essentially kind of tapped in with this and speaking to reporters every day. As opposed to guest writing, where maybe you submit an article every two or three weeks.

Andrew: I see.

Conrad: But there are many different things. You could say something like, “Hi, my name is Conrad Egusa. I’m a Y Combinator alumni.” I’m actually not, but as an example, but I’m a founder and student mentor. Or “I’m a Stanford graduate.” There are a lot of these different things that will pique people’s attention.

Andrew: All right. You mentioned “exclusive” a couple of times. Let’s talk about that.

Conrad: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s one of the things that you tell entrepreneurs to do, to give one publication an exclusive.

Conrad: Yeah. When you think about it as an entrepreneur, you’re going to face this conundrum with the media, which is that the TechCrunch covers are launched on Monday. You email The Next Web the following week. They’re probably not going to want to cover the story because it’s already been written about.

You basically have two options. You can create an embargo, or you can offer an exclusive. With an embargo, you email 20 publications on Monday and say, “We’re about to launch on Thursday at 12 p.m. Do you want to cover the story? If you would like to, you have to agree to cover it at that time.”

Ideally, multiple publications will cover the story and you get a lot of press coverage. No one essentially will break the story, because everyone is writing about it at the same time. I think the downside of that is potentially there won’t be any journalists that cover the story, and then you essentially miss this great opportunity.

The other option is with an exclusive. You essentially email let’s say the largest sites, TechCruncher or Wall Street Journal, and say, “Would you like the exclusive, the first right to publish this story?” The reason why it’s important is that most journalists that are looking to break stories, the strongest publications are the ones that in general have access to the most stories. In general I recommend an exclusive for anything smaller than a seed announcement, a seed round of funding.

Andrew: For anything smaller than seed.

Conrad: Exactly. Let’s say, in particular if you are a first-time entrepreneur that is about to launch a mobile app, and you don’t have a ton of experience. If you set an embargo and you don’t have any kind of social proof, anything to stand on, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s very likely that no one is going to cover that story.

As opposed to if you email VentureBeat and say, “Would you like the exclusive, first right to cover this story?” It’s a way to break through a lot of the noise very quickly.

Andrew: Right, you did that for this company, Lucky Penny.

Conrad: Yep.

Andrew: All you did was you said to TechCrunch, “I’m going to give you the exclusive to cover their launch”?

Conrad: Yep.

Andrew: That’s what got it.

Conrad: Yeah. One of the things too is when refer in coverage and end up getting picked up as well by VentureBeat and these other publications. But basically we guaranteed to a certain extent that this startup would be featured on some very meaningful publications.

Andrew: All right. So let’s go back to the Big Board here. The next big idea is to further coverage, as you said a moment ago. So now we’ve got our story. We’ve got the vision that we’re leading with. We’re crafting a convincing email. We’re giving one person, or one publication, an exclusive. Things are starting to go well. We’ve got a little bit of coverage.

You’re saying, “Don’t stop there. Further your coverage.” How do you do that?

Conrad: I think the biggest thing to remember is that some publications are more time-sensitive than others. As an example, particularly with tech publications, every day it’s almost like yesterday’s news is very old. So with a site like Lucky Penny, we knew right away, right when that TachCrunch article comes online, we have to email all their tech publications within a 24-hour period to see if they want to cover that story as well.

Immediately after, we targeted more general publications. For example, Time magazine, BBC, sites that have a broader audience. And at the very end, you can target industry verticals. An example with Lucky Penny, we might target music publications, who might not care that a week earlier, TechCrunch covered this launch. They’re just looking for basically interesting announcements.

Andrew: How did you guys do it here? Let me show, this is some of your own coverage. Right?

Conrad: Yeah.

Andrew: How did you guys do it? Walk me through the logic behind it.

Conrad: Yeah, ESPACIO is a co-working space. It kind of summarizes everything for what I’m explaining. The story that we initially announced wasn’t about a co-working space. It’s not that interesting. We made it much bigger, which is to turn the city of Medellin into the Silicon Valley of Latin America.

We got that as an exclusive, Anthony Ha covered it on our launch day. Immediately after, we furthered it with more general publications, so then we got it on the BBC. Then we specifically targeted publications that focus on Colombia, kind of more industry verticals. We had Colombia Reports, most of the national media in Colombia covered it as well.

Keeping in mind that any start up can apply this as well to their own company. Let’s say you have a mobile health app and you’re targeting TechCrunch. There are also all these publications that cover health and fitness. They might be interested in covering it as well, so keep that in the back of people’s heads.

Andrew: Walk me through what you mean by this process. Start off with where, and how do you proceed.

Conrad: Okay. With ESPACIO, I reached out about 10 days ahead of time to Anthony at TechCrunch, who covered the story. Immediately after, when the article came online, we actually had the launch party and it came on as the launch party was happening. I went home and was emailing BBC and these other sites, general publications.

About 48 hours later, then I said, “Okay, I’ve already contacted these general sites. What are some industry verticals?” In this case, the vertical is publications that cover Colombia. That’s when I emailed sites like Colombia Reports, sites that specifically covered Medellin as well, which is where we launched. They were much less time-sensitive, so there were sites that covered us a week to two weeks after. Just the nature of the publications meant that they were less time-sensitive.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Back to the Big Board for the final point that we’ll talk about today, which is to repeat the process at every opportunity. How often do you say that we should be going back to the media?

Conrad: I think ideally people should aim for every 10 to 12 weeks for media announcements. I think one of the mistakes a lot of founders I speak with make is you’ll speak to a founder and they’ll say, “In the beginning of 2012 we raised $1.5 million in funding and we got on TechCrunch and VentureBeat. Now it’s the end of 2014 and we just raised another round. We want to get on these sites again.”

There was basically a period of, let’s say, two-plus years where they didn’t promote any of their announcements, and I think because they’re doing that, they are not optimizing their PR coverage. There are so many different announcements, whether it’s a mobile app, these milestones, where it’s worth contacting the media to try to get their companies out there.

Andrew: Here’s one way. Is this a client of yours? Fordham University?

Conrad: Our client is Fordham University startup incubator. It’s called the Fordham Foundry.

Andrew: I see, and so that’s part of Fordham University, and they hired you guys to do PR for them.

Conrad: Exactly, exactly.

Andrew: Wow, I would have thought that Fordham would have their own, internal PR department.

Conrad: I think they likely do. I think that there is a lot of flexibility that the incubator has as well. This was an example.

Andrew: Yeah, let’s take a look at that. The article was about how an “Evernote-Backed Hackathon Brings More Tech Activity to the Bronx.”

Conrad: They’re looking for some PR coverage and they were hosting a hackathon. When you think about it, hundreds of hackathons are held every single week.

Andrew: Everybody seems to be having a hackathon. People will do a conference and then as an afterthought almost, say, “And we’ll also through in a hackathon. Come on over and develop something here.” Yeah, it’s not a big piece of news.

Conrad: Exactly. But by following this process we were able to get into Wired magazine. Even more, there are a lot of publications, for example, Gigaom, I think it was New York Daily News, Crain’s New York.

Andrew: All covered it?

Conrad: Half a dozen, so Wired was the largest one that covered it, but these publications wrote back and they said, “Hey, we haven’t had enough notice, so we’re going to have to pass.” Because in this case, we actually emailed a little over 24 hours ahead of time. We didn’t have a lot of heads notice. But they were like, “But please keep us updated, because we are really interested in covering that [inaudible 00:32:09].”

Andrew: How do you get anybody, let alone Wired, interested in a hackathon, in something frankly as ordinary and as everyday as a hackathon?

Conrad: I think two things. The first was we tied it into a much bigger story, which is that we didn’t just focus on Fordham University startup incubator. We focus it on the Bronx, which is where Fordham is based. The story was about this startup community growing and all the initiatives involved in that.

The second thing is that we did try to tie in a lot of social proof. For example, Evernote’s CEO, Phil Libin, is from the Bronx. He was very active in donating support and money as well to the event, so we did try to tie in social proof as well.

Andrew: I see, and so nobody cares about a hackathon, but people do care about Evernote. And they do care about how a small community that doesn’t really have any tech startup roots, like the Bronx, would suddenly be embracing it. That’s what you used.

Conrad: Absolutely.

Andrew: All right.

Conrad: Exactly.

Andrew: Your company is called, here, let me actually bring up the site. It’s Publicize. I clicked throughout the conversation, because I like the way you’re doing things. But I think, “What if I just don’t want to do them? What if I don’t want to do it myself?” So I went to Overview. These are your prices?

Conrad: Yep.

Andrew: What do I get if I pay $100? I see here I get an hour or press release.

Conrad: Yeah.

Andrew: But what I’m wondering is results. What kind of results can somebody who spends $100 a month, or $400 a month expect?

Conrad: Yeah, I would say 95%-plus of our clients use the the $399 service. Essentially the idea is that traditional PR firms charge about $10,000 a month, six-month retainers. Most people can’t afford $60,000. With all this, can we introduce a solution that was closer to $400 and it follows a very specific process?

The first week, we create all the PR material, the press release, etc. Second week, the client reviews. Third and fourth weeks, we secure an exclusive in a leading publication. Then every week we do different things to further coverage. And we’re actually completely transparent, so people see, we actually list out each of the journalists we’re going to contact. We list out the emails and the press release, so a client will see exactly what we’re going to send.

The results. One example, we had a client who paid $5,000 for the other PR firm but didn’t have any results. The first month he was with us, we got him on The Wall Street Journal, second month, Forbes.

Andrew: You will help us come up with a story? Just writing the press release you could get somebody on oDesk to do fairly easily, right? But finding that story is a lot harder. Is that what you guys will do?

Conrad: Yeah. I think a lot of what we do with finding the story is the conversation where we propose ideas like, “Have you guys had, or are you guys planning on doing any of the above dozen-plus things?” Usually the founder will say, “We actually did do that, maybe two months ago, but we didn’t announce it,” or, “We do have this upcoming announcement that we’re planning on making.”

Andrew: All right, and so you will help them uncover the announcements that they might not have considered otherwise, and then take it all from there.

Conrad: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: All right, the company as I said earlier is Publicize. Website, Thank you so much for doing this session with me.

Conrad: Andrew, thank you so much for having me.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone.


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(Through referral campaigns)
Taught by Dan McGaw of Fuelzee

Master Class: Growth Hacking

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Andrew: This session is on how to grow 200% more traffic using referral campaigns. This session is led by Dan. He runs this site called Fuelzee, a mobile app company that helps you find the right gas station and get the best deal on gas. What we’re going to be talking about today is a system that he learned and implemented at Code School, which is a site that teaches coding online. My name is Andrew Warner, the Founder of Mixergy, and I’ll help facilitate. Dan, thanks for being here and teaching us.Dan: Thank you very much.Andrew: Dan, when you got started with Code School, how many subscribers did they have?Dan: We had just over 4000 subscribers.

Andrew: Four thousand subscribers. Is this what the site used to look like?

Dan: Yeah, that’s what it looked like when I started.

Andrew: Wow! And when you say 4000 subscribers, are they paying subscribers, or paying, I think, $25 a month?

Dan: Yes, it was $25 a month at that time.

Andrew: That’s great, but the grow rate was?

Dan: Well the growth at that time, we were only growing 2% a month, so it wasn’t really fast. It wasn’t enough to really make it a stable business forever.

Andrew: And afterwards where did you get it? After you did what you’re about to teach us?

Dan: We were growing about 15% a month in certain periods, but we basically had a 300% growth in 15 months.

Andrew: Three hundred percent growth in 15 months, so what you’re about to teach us you did deliver on. I see that you created a campaign that got 5500% return on investment, and I’ll talk more about that. All right, let’s talk about double user base, double subscriber, double traffic; everything just went up across the board. It’s not like one metric suddenly shot up.

Dan: Right.

Andrew: Let’s talk about how you did it, and this is the Big Board of topics that we’re going to be talking about. You can see on the bottom of your screen there the word more. That’s because we have even more than this and we’re going to try to zip through as much of it as possible, as quickly as we need to in order to get it all in. So, the first thing that you say is you suggest that we create a free trial. You guys had some hesitation about creating a free trial. What was the hesitation about it?

Dan: When you have educational content people can just take advantage of all of the content if they’d like if they have enough time. At Code School each course was about three hours. If you give somebody too much time in the free trial they can get through all of the content.

Andrew: And then that’s it, and then they say, all right, I got the free trial. I got everything I need, so long, and I don’t actually need to pay. And that was the hesitation. So then what led you to actually create a free trial then?

Dan: One of the things that we paid attention to is we created what we called a delayed free trial, so when you came to the site it wasn’t like sign up today and get 30 days for free. You would come to the site, and of course we have some free content you could play with. But instead of giving that free trial right away, we would wait two days after you registered and then send you the free trial. So in that way if you’re going to buy we let you buy. And then if you decide not to, then two days later we just sweeten the deal to get you to come back.

Andrew: Oh, that’s clever. I see, but how did you figure it out? But I guess we’ll get to how you figured it out two days later. So the flow is, someone comes to the site, and it looks like this. They click on ‘view courses’, and I know things change a lot. Then they would try to access one of the courses and be told that they need to enroll to play. And then after enrolling, that’s where you would get their email address?

Dan: In that flow that one is a little bit different. And some of the site has been rebranded. There was a big rebranding that happened. But when you typically get to a course and you would join the first level, for the first level you would have to give us your email account before you got into that course. We’d say, “Hey, you have to register for an account so we can track your progress.” You would then be able to jump into that course and be able to accomplish the first level. Usually there are anywhere from like eight to fifteen levels per course. Now if you didn’t enroll, which would be the goal anyway, and two days later you weren’t enrolled, we would send you that pre-trial email.

Andrew: And this is what that looked like. You actually called it a hall pass.

Dan: The hall pass, and we tried to keep things as branded as possible through the whole school part of it. Nothing was better than when I was in high school and I got a free hall pass and I could just go do what I wanted to do. So by connecting it to that it made it a lot easier, because people kind of fell into the gimmick and went with it.

Andrew: I’ve got it, so it gave them an opportunity to try the software. After they tried it for a little bit you asked for their email address. You have their email address, so if they don’t buy within two days, then you trigger off an email to them and say, here, try it for free. And the free trial also required a credit card, right?

Dan: No, that pre-trial did not require a credit card at all. It was a two-day pre-trial, and then there was a referral mechanic that was attached to it, and that’s where it really started to take off.

Andrew: All right, let’s get into the referral mechanic, because if we look at the Big Board, that’s the next big thing you suggest; to build a referral component. And how did that work for you?

Dan: It took a lot of testing to create the right referral campaign. And I have to give credit to the guys over at Dropbox. They did a fantastic job. Shawn Ellis over there, I mean, the program they created was amazing. So we looked at how we could give somebody a free trial, but also get them to give someone else a free trial. And we worked a lot on that. And what it came down to was the reciprocal incentive. If there was an incentive for you to take the free trial, you get two days free. But if you got one of your friends to also have a two-day free trial you would get an additional two days. And that reciprocal incentive is the most important part of our referral campaigns now. Because people no longer just want to give stuff to their friends. And they can’t give stuff to their friends and just get something in return. Both people have to get something out of the referral. And there has to be an action, and it takes some time to figure out what those incentives are. But once you get it, I mean, it’s golden.

Andrew: And here’s what that looked like. You can see that in the upper right, but I’ll read it just in case. It says, “Your hall pass ends in two days. Earn an extra two days when someone activates from your URL.” And then you give the URL, and we’ll discuss why you put Twitter and Facebook there in a moment. But that’s the process, and you said it takes a while to figure out what the incentive is. What are some of the incentives you tested that didn’t work?

Dan: We tried to figure out how many days of the trial we needed to give people, so one day give them a one-day trial and see how far they’d gone. Or give them a two-day trial and see how far they’d gone, and even all the way up to seven days inside that trial. We even tested out how many days that we’d have to limit the trial for, so you could only get a maximum of 30 days for free. And again, you could just get as many days as you wanted, and there were a couple really smart people who had amazing Twitter followings. The next thing we knew they had like 3000 free days, [inaudible 00:07:01] campaign. So we had to put the kibosh on those. But there were a lot of tests to see how many courses and how many levels that people actually get the advantage to take. How many of those people actually purchased, how many people were we able to capture to come back after the fact? We really found out that two days was the perfect amount, because it was just enough to get you knee deep in the multiple courses, but it wasn’t enough to get you to complete one single course. Because people tried to go at [inaudible 00:07:29] and take a little bit of that, a little bit of this. But by the time they got into it they were too far into the course to be like, “Oh, I can’t just leave this now. I have to finish it. I’ll pay $25 and finish the course.”

Andrew: That’s fantastic. And they get an opportunity to test out the site before they get to fall in love with it like that. All right, you give them the two days. Then you give them an incentive to tell their friends by offering them two more days, terrific. That’s where we are right now, but that’s not where you ended. You also say we should personalize the media sharing options, and that goes back to what I said before. I happened to see on the previous screen shot Twitter and Facebook. But you guys did something behind the scenes to decide whether Twitter and Facebook were the right media options. What did you do?

Dan: Well, there’s a company called And what they allow you to do is when AddThis has a JavaScript on a site it will read the other cookies that are there and then display whatever social network is your preference. For an example, that screen shot had Facebook and Twitter primarily because I was the one taking the screen shot. I was either on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes it would show LinkedIn, sometimes it would show Gmail. But what we really noticed was that when you’re working with developers, they are inherently introverts. They prefer their own networks. A lot of them like Hacker News, or Reddit, or [inaudible 00:08:48]. If you’re able to personalize that share and that button that they see as their network, they are more likely to share. That’s because not all developers are going to share everything on Facebook, so we had to tailor that experience to each individual person, and AddThis made it really easy.

Andrew: They are reading cookies to see which of sites your users are visiting the most and that’s what they end up showing.

Dan: Exactly, and it was awesome. We incorporated that and it worked out great.

Andrew: And it looks really simple and elegant on the site. And from what I see here in my notes, you guys doubled your social shares just by doing that.

Dan: Yes, we even expanded that. We learned in the referral campaign how successful it was. We moved that same program into almost all of the sharing that was on the site, so it was a tremendous help for the campaign.

Andrew: And what I notice going through the site is that after finishing one stage, I get a badge and then there is a button that says, “Share this badge,” and the button for me wasn’t actually a button, but was a Twitter button and a Facebook button. That’s because that’s where I spend most of my time. And if I happen to spend most of my time on Reddit and not on Facebook, then I might have seen a Reddit share button.

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: Okay, and on to the Big Board. The next big thing is send an activation email. I wouldn’t have thought that this was such a big deal. But obviously in preparation for this conversation I looked through the notes and I see it was. Why is the activation email such a big deal for growing user base?

Dan: Well, when you have an activation email, primarily in the [inaudible 00:10:17] campaign, it allows you to put specific pieces of information you need the user to accomplish. And what we did in our activation emails, we sent them the referral link. We sent them sharing buttons, as well. So that way in the email you didn’t have to go to another landing page to share. You just click on the Facebook button. It immediately opened up a Facebook sharing request. And your customer’s URL is already in there. And it helped the campaign expand even faster, because the people weren’t logged in. They were just able to share it right from their inbox.

Andrew: I see, right there, so that’s the reason you care so much about bringing this up in our conversation, because it encourages more sharing the way that you have it. I see it right there in the middle of the email. This is the email that you would send out, right in the middle of the screen. It says, “A quick way to share Facebook, Twitter, and email,” or I could just copy the URL.

Dan: Yes, we tried to make it as simple as possible. The email should be your landing page, and that’s what a lot of people really need to look at. Make your email the landing page. There’s no point in them clicking and going to another landing page and have to fill out information there. Do as much of it in the email as you can.

Andrew: What was your title there?

Dan: It was Vice President of Growth.

Andrew: Well you definitely did grow the company a lot. How long were you at the company?

Dan: Seventeen months. I was the first employee there, which was great. And I worked heavily with the founder and we did a lot of cool things with the company.

Andrew: Did they offer equity in the business?

Dan: They did not, because I had a side project they couldn’t agree with.

Andrew: Really?

Dan: But we won’t cover that today.

Andrew: I thought because they were self-funded they didn’t do equity for their team.

Dan: They do have equity, but they don’t do shares. They offer real straight up percentage points, and very interesting stuff.

Andrew: And on to the Big Board. Next you recommend that we send a ‘you’ve got a referral’ email, and I think this is what it looks like. I’m so glad you have these screen shots. You must have taken them before you left.

Dan: Yes, I actually did multiple presentations on this whole campaign while I was still there, so we shared a lot of this while we were still there. But the ‘congratulations, you’ve got more referrals’ was always a really good help, because it reminded people and congratulated them that they’d accomplished something. One of your friends joined and you earned four more days. But it that same message again, here are quick ways to share this again. You’ve already had success, so let’s continue this process, and continue to grow the business.

Andrew: All right, let’s go back to the Big Board. We really are moving quickly through these. Next is, “Send an up-sell email when the free trial ends.” This is how you take someone from just a trial member to a customer, and I’m going to show the email that you sent out.

Dan: When the campaign is over, obviously you want to get them to enroll, and you have to make it was enticing as possible. The call to action on this, of course, is enroll. We did do some testing with enroll, and in this email and with enroll I did perform the best. But you have to make sure you’re trying to convert that lead at the end of the day, because if that person just finishes their trial and goes on, and you don’t reach out to them, they might never come back.

Andrew: And you do something even more than that, but this actually is a huge help, and I’m looking at my notes again. You got 666 new subscriptions in nine months from that part of the process.

Dan: Yes, that was a huge help. When we first started there were not all the email integration, and there was not all that stuff. We had to continuously bulk things onto it. But it was a good help. Six hundred and sixty-six times a lifetime value of $150 adds up.

Andrew: And on to the Big Board, “Send a follow-up email with a promotion.” Now this is something that if someone didn’t become a customer, well what would you send to them, before I show it before I describe it?

Dan: If you did become a customer we wanted to send a way to sweeten the deal. The first offer was to sign up for $25. What we then did was say sign up for $9 for your first month. Let’s figure out a way to see if we could incentivize them to get them in, because once they sign up for the $9 first month, of course the next month is $25. And by that time they’ve already tried more content. We have their credit card on file, and we could still grow the business through that method.

Andrew: This is what that email looked like. I say looked like, because we’ve changed so much online, at any given moment things change. There it is, “Enroll now for $9 and get full access to all of the Code School courses; access code TV Screen cast, with no contract or commitments, and the ability to vote for future Code School courses, etc.” This was just for the first month. You’re just trying to get them to sign up and then afterwards they are regular members like everyone else.

Dan: And as you can tell on this one compared to the last email, this one has a lot more visual cue in trying to explain the value that they are going to get for that $9. And the email worked really well. We were able to capture additional people, and it definitely helped out. You got a lot for $9, but after that first 30 days you went right up to $25.

Andrew: This is what the previous email looked like. This is the one that use send when their hall pass, two-day free trial ends. The interesting thing about that is that yes, you do say Code School enrollment is just $25 a month. But ever completed course earns you $5 Code School cash. “Play often and enjoy payments of only $20 a month.” How did that work?

Dan: If you completed a course, any course on the platform, you got $5 off your next month, so there are a lot of people who actually only pay $20 a month. Since I left, or right before I left, I had that program killed, so that’s a little bit outdated. There is no longer $5 off.

Andrew: Why did you kill it?

Dan: It wasn’t helpful. People didn’t know that they weren’t getting the credits half the time. People didn’t understand, and it just ended up throwing off internal metrics. And when you’re trying to run business metrics, and you’re like wait a second, they paid $25 a month for three months, and then they paid $20, and then they paid $25. It just wasn’t helpful, and it wasn’t a sticky reason why people came and did the contents. They weren’t eager to save $5. They were more interested in doing the course. Probably about three months before I left, Eric Allen and one of the other gentlemen here who helped out the company, we agreed we just had to get rid of it. When you look at the business argument, if we get rid of this next year we’re going to make $550,000 more. So it was okay, let’s just get rid of this, because nobody cares that we have it. We’re just losing money for no reason, and we did eventually kill it.

Andrew: And to the Big Board, “Promote free trial to the right target market.” Did you ever promote to the wrong target market, and what happened?

Dan: Yes, you can’t promote free trials to Russia. We learned that lesson. They didn’t take advantage of all of it, and we had to make sure that we focused on which markets would use it correctly, and who would convert. So what we would do is dynamically change the homepage and offer free trials to certain people, and not offer it to other people out of the gate just because we weren’t going to earn money off them, and we wanted to get the profits over with. You had to be very conscious who you give your free trials to, because if you’re giving away money, and basically that’s what a free trial is, you want to make sure you’re going to give it to the people who are actually going to convert.

Andrew: What would you use to figure out that someone was in the wrong market? And by market, we mean specifically where in the world they are.

Dan: Yes, the region. We actually used Optimizely to do that. Based upon whatever region you were in, we would say if you’re based in this country, show this. If you’re based in that country, show that. In that way instead of using Optimizely as an AB testing tool, which everybody else does, we used it to dynamically change our website based upon certain attributes. If you came from Russia it would say get this free trial immediately so that we can move on. And then, of course if you were from Brazil, you would never have seen a free trial. So it made it very easy and quick to do.

Andrew: That’s a simple solution for it. I thought because you guys were a Coding company that you would have coded some great solution, and I’m so glad you didn’t.

Dan: No, I was working at a company that was full of engineers. I started at the company, and everybody was an engineer but me. Trying to get an engineer to do something for a developer or a business guy is not always the easiest thing to do. We would hack together a ton of stuff to make things happen; dynamically changing the homepage based upon referrals for us, you would land on the homepage and it would say, “Hey Facebook user, how’s your day?” And it was only because Optimizely knew that they were a referral from Facebook, and we didn’t even change the content. None of the developers there would have built that because it would have been by manipulation, or it would have been creepy. But I said, “Listen, this is what people love.” So we just hacked it all together.

Andrew: You also would encourage companies to get free trials, because companies were more likely to convert. In fact I’m looking at my notes, and ThoughtWorks had 300 employees sign up.

Dan: Yes, and we used the same hall pass mechanics to do this, which was quite interesting. When we first built the sales process we were kind of shrewd with it. “Hey, Stark, we’ll give ten of your employees a free trial. Just give us ten emails, and we’ll send in the advice, and they’ll each get 30 days to try it out.” And that’s because we’re talking about bigger accounts. All right, that’s sweet. If we get ten people that’s $250 a month, and that’s great. And then randomly one day it hit me. We should just get them to invite their entire company to a free trial, and give everybody 30 days free. What happens now is, if those people don’t buy a corporate account, we just gained access to all their developers who now have an account on Code School, which is great. But when that account ended you also had 600 plus people thought wait a minute, I just lost access to Code School. So it gave you this army of people inside the company who would turn around to their boss and ask, “Where is my Code School account?” And because there were so many people now with the ball, the boss would say, all right, let’s get the account. That’s actually how we got ThoughtWorks to be such a big account. It was because we gave their whole company a free trial.

Andrew: How would you know that it was a company that was coming through? I understand how you can figure out where in the world someone is, but how would you know that it was a company, and therefore you should offer them the hall pass for the whole company?

Dan: A lot of that was that we would notice the email address, if certain emails came through. I got an email of all of the emails that came in every single day, and sometimes I would scan through that. But a lot of these were relationships where we had reached out to them and started talking to them. ThoughtWorks actually reached out to us.

The funniest thing ever is how we got ThoughtWorks as an account. We had a rogue developer from ThoughtWorks who was using Code School all on his own, but he had a ThoughtWorks email. So somebody thought it was a great idea to put ThoughtWorks’ logo on the homepage, and say that ThoughtWorks was using us. Well ThoughtWorks then sent us a letter from inside the company saying cease and desist. “You have to remove our logo, as you are not using this with our approval.” And I talked to the guy and he was cool, and then three months later we had a 300-person account from ThoughtWorks. So somehow we spun that into an account, it was amazing.

Andrew: That’s fantastic, and I’ve heard of companies doing that. Of course, if you see someone from a company who is using your software you want to tout it so the rest of the world knows that that company now has your software inside and they’re using it. But I’ve also heard that some companies don’t like it, because they have all kinds of criteria about who can use their logo, and how to use the logo, and what it looks like.

Dan: Right.

Andrew: Most entrepreneurs will do exactly what you guys did and it’s nice to see that there is a positive outcome that could happen when you do that, even if the company isn’t happy with it.

Dan: Yes, and it worked out great for us. I was quite impressed myself. I couldn’t believe it.

Andrew: Way to spin that, and on to the next point, which has something to do with the flu. This one says, “Test your incentives until you get them right.”

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: And you tested day amounts, and what was the longest that you gave to people as a free trial?

Dan: We did seven days at one point for the initial trial, and it was just too much time. We didn’t get the conversion back. People had enough time to go through the courses, so there was definitely a lot of testing on those incentives and figuring it out. But we also did a lot of testing on how many days from the first time that they signed up would we send them that trial email. And we did it all the way up to 15 days, and we found out once again that the magic number was two, yet I don’t know why. But two days after was always better. But we also tested the day of the week, and we found out that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the best days to send the email to get people to start their free trial, and were also the best days to get people to actually buy. If you sent it out on Monday they were too busy. They might have been at meetings. We don’t know the reasons, but it just didn’t convert as well. So we were testing not only how long the trial was, but on what day the email goes out is extremely important.

Andrew: I’m going to follow-up on that in a moment, but I’m curious about the software that you used to do all this. Is this something that you did get the developers to build for you?

Dan: It was primarily built in the MailChimp, and we used MailChimp as a giant user table, so we stored every date in there as well. So every single date that had to do with something was stored in there. A registered user was a date, and not true or false. And then what we were able to do was set up automation rules, so I could then change anything I wanted inside of MailChimp.

Andrew: So all this, two days, seven days, etc., was all within MailChimp. But you needed something within Code School software that says this member’s account works for free for the next seven days, or this member’s account works for two days.

Dan: The sharing URL that was given to them had its own information stored inside of our user table at Code School.

Andrew: Then that part you guys had to develop?

Dan: Yes, that part we had to develop. Now there is a way to get around this. You can’t use it for member services. There is a company called ShortStack, and they have an internal referral component, which actually works really well. It’s typically used for baseball contests, but we’ve been able to hack it together so that way you can just imbed it on your site and then create a referral campaign, and issue a standardized promo code for a discount. But ShortStack is actually the easiest one that we’ve been able to hack together for more junior marketers.

Andrew: Is this the right site, what I’m seeing here?

Dan: Yes, you have the right site, but you’re just on an inside page. Just click on the ShortStack logo.

Andrew: Okay.

Dan: Maybe it’s just stuck on that screen.

Andrew: I can’t change it.

Dan: They started as a Facebook application company, and then since Facebook got rid of the default landing tab they kind of changed it into being able to embed things on your website and things like that. But if a user signs up for one of their referral campaigns, they get their own referral link, and they can share that. It integrates with MailChimp and a whole lot of other things. I’ve used ShortStack for referral campaigns at my company now, [inaudible 00:25:22], without having to get a developer involved.

Andrew: That’s fantastic. I’m guessing this is the way that the flu spread, right?

Dan: Yes, this is the R value, which is basically how many times it reproduces. And when you look at any type of referral campaign, if you are not hitting a reproduction rate of three, you’re not going to be able to really grow very fast. I had a scientist reach out to me at a recent conference, and I think the actual number is 2.7. We found three, so if a user did not get three people to join, we had no way to exponentially grow. So it has to be a reproduction rate of three people for every originator, and that’s actually scale.

Andrew: And that’s what you reached?

Dan: Yes, we got an R-3, and a 3.2 at one point. But we were able to get it, but it fluctuates, obviously. But until we hit that point, it wasn’t going to double every month.

Andrew: Wow! That’s pretty impressive, that a Code School, that an online school could actually get that kind of virility is really impressive, and especially one that charges. We’re not talking about Khan Academy where people can just go and click around for free, and so they’re more likely to spread it. We’re talking about a real school where people have to pay, and that it’s getting that kind of virility is fantastic.

Dan: It was the focus on quality. That was one of the greatest things about Code School. The courses are amazing, and the product is entirely solvent. But we struck a very niche market that nobody else was serving in that coding world. Everybody was either focused on entry level, or college, and we were in the middle of all of that. We couldn’t teach entry level people, but we were able to teach people who were intermediary and higher. And developers run in very small circles. They are all on Hacker News, they are all on Reddit, and they hang out in groups. You just can’t advertise to them. So if you can get one developer to tell another developer to tell another developer, that’s when you’re actually going to be able to grow. And that’s how GitHub got wildly successful. They created a social community for developers. It was genius, and that’s what we focused on at Code School. How can we create that, too?

Andrew: The thing that strikes me is I think you guys were fantastic before you implemented all of this, but fewer people knew about it. What’s great about these techniques is that they helped spread the word, and so many of them are reproducible. So, let’s go to the Big Board and look for another one. Here’s something that you mentioned before; you want to test your deliver day. What you’re telling me is that you’d wait to see if somebody paid. If they didn’t pay, then you’d offer them two days free. But you wouldn’t send those two days free the same day they joined, or the next day, or necessarily even two days later. You would send it a minimum of two days later, or the following Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: That’s the thing.

Dan: That was a huge thing for us. We looked at the conversion that happened each day and examined the open rates and click rates, and all the way through the conversion. And when we first started it was two days after you’d registered and that you’re were getting this email through [inaudible 00:28:41] subscriber. Then we started looking at different times of the day, and different days of the week. And of course we did send it on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursday, which were the best days. Saturdays were atrocious, Sundays were atrocious, Mondays were okay, but Tuesday was like hands down the breadwinner. We definitely set it on that, and it only would go out, if my memory is still there, at 6:00 a.m. It always went out at 6:00 a.m. so we could get the international time.

Andrew: At 6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Dan: I can’t see that, of course, because it’s really blurry on my screen.

Andrew: Let me zoom it even more, and move it right there.

Dan: Is that Eastern Standard time, and 6:00 a.m. still?

Andrew: No this is 8:00 a.m. Eastern Standard time, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I didn’t even know that you could do all this using MailChimp.

Dan: I love MailChimp; it’s great.

Andrew: I thought that only automation software, like Confusion software, or AutoDesk could do it.

Dan: No, and it’s funny.

Andrew: AutoDesk, or OfficeAutoPilot, sorry.

Dan: MailChimp now has an automation suite, and it’s based upon triggers on your website. So if somebody reaches this page, you can send this email out, but if they reach this page, and it’s during these hours, they send that email. They really have done a big overhaul of their auto responders. And we did a lot of testing on this, but the thing for us is the Code School was an international company. We had more user outside of the country than we did necessarily inside the country. We had to find a time that worked well for the U.S., but also catch people before they went to bed when they might have been in Germany. So there was a lot of time testing that had to go on.

Andrew: I really wish that it was easier to do that; to say, give it to them wherever they are in the world, and then when they sign up you can figure out where they are.

Dan: MailChimp now has that; they have their time warp feature, which allows you to send at 9:00 a.m. in every single time zone. They now have an IP tagger, which will also store the IP address of where that person is from. We actually use that at [inaudible 00:30:46]. We now use [inaudible 00:30:49] for our geo-targeted campaigns. We stopped asking people where they were located, and now we just know from the IP. So that stuff is primarily built into the solution now. And if you had developers, and had them hacking into a mandrel or transactional system, you can get very nitty-gritty on that.

Andrew: What did you use to tell you whether Monday was more effective than Tuesday? How would you tie the emails that you send back to orders?

Dan: In the beginning stages of course we used MailChimp to track the opening clicks. But we used KISSmetrics and we also used Mixpanel. We used both in tandem to attach the users and what messages they received back to the conversion. And of course we had UTM campaign codes on everything so we knew all of that information. But definitely KISSmetrics was the winner when I was at Code School.

Andrew: But you would at first look at open rates and click rates, and then that tells you that Saturday is not a very hot day. But it’s actually not the most reliable, because Saturday may not be a hot day for open rates, but anyone who is up on Saturday checking their email might be eager to start learning.

Dan: Yeah, but you have to look at the conversion. That’s a huge thing that we paid attention to. A lot of people forget this, but you have to look at the full funnel and figure out what your business metric is that you really need to increase. Because it’s great to say I had a 40% open rate, but it’s even better to say that I made $40,000 today. So we definitely looked at that full funnel, and then we would compare things back and forth, and even try to change it so maybe we got a really high over rate this day, but we got a better conversion from subscribers that day. We would try to figure out why there is that reason. Is Brazil a market that’s changing? Which day is more successful? And all we were able to come out of it with was that people don’t actually work when they go to work. They play on Code School, and that’s what we gained out of that. People don’t work when they go to work; they play on Facebook and Code School.

Andrew: Let’s keep going, because there’s so much more that we want to cover. The next one is to design your programming to be non-developer dependent. That goes back to what we talked about earlier, which is that you wanted to be able to do it without your developers having to help you with every step of the way.

Dan: Yes, and everything that we built we built so that a developer wouldn’t have to do it. Typically with a referral campaign, or something like this, you would build it all in a transactional system. It would all be hard coded. I knew that it would be a bad idea, because if you needed to get one change done it could take two weeks or two months. It just depends on what sprint the developers are in. It wouldn’t be your priority. We build everything we could in something that a marketer could edit. We had MailChimp, we used Optimizely. We used Unbounce for all of our landing pages. But everything we did we tried to make it so that we could edit it on our own.

Andrew: Did you use WordPress?

Dan: We did use WordPress there, but just because of how we built the program. But every other company I now work at we have put our marketing site as WordPress. We separated the application out so that it’s its own product. But WordPress is definitely probably the best and most flexible CMS to use for a marketer.

Andrew: I understand. The part that faces the non-customers is WordPress. It’s easy for marketers to edit, and then the app itself gets a sub-domain like

Dan: Exactly, and you see that a lot now. It’s a lot more prevalent than it used to be. At Code School when since we couldn’t edit every single page, we just used Optimizely to edit every page. So everything was dynamically changeable, and we could hide sections. That was the great thing about Optimizely. It’s a WYSIWYG or a website builder in essence.

Andrew: I know what you’re talking about actually. It’s so much better to instead of even asking a developer to change this button, to just go into Optimizely and say you’re changing the button yourself. Now this is not even part of an AB test. I’m just going to change the button, because I know the one AB test. And then when the developers are ready they can get to that.

Dan: Yes, they’ll finally change it and then you can turn off the Optimizely test.

Andrew: That’s cool; I didn’t even realize companies with big developers do it. That kind of justifies the whole approach, and this is such a bootleg solution, a good hustler approach. The next big idea is to get other companies involved. So everything we’ve talked about so far is about how you grow more engagement with your current users, and get them to bring more people in the door, but you guys did this. Here is Summer Camp. What was Summer Camp?

Dan: Summer Camp was awesome. It was a nightmare at the end of the day, but we did think about the logistics. We had a lot of people that wanted to get access to developers. A lot of companies that wanted to partner with us, do something, they always are trying to get us to do something. That campaign solved two purposes. One was to get everybody who wanted access to our developers to leave us alone. But two was to reward all of the developers with all this cool stuff that people wanted to give them. We came up with Summer Camp and we always tried to do holiday theme kinds of things and keep with the times, and keep engagement high, because it’s always personalized them. We partnered with 20 different companies. The requirement was that they had to give our developers something special. One company gave us $10,000 in pre-processing for every single person that bought a backpack for Summer Camp. We had another company give us three months free service, so everybody gave us all kinds of things, which was great. But what happened was that all of those 20 companies also promoted Summer Camp. We had the bigger email list. We had the bigger promotion funnel, and they all gave us free stuff. So we charged $100, and you got a Book bag. We shoved all this free stuff in it, and then you got three months free of Code School, and we shipped it to you. Well, you got $1,500 in free stuff. We sold out of 250 bags in 23 hours, so it was way faster, and we were way more successful than we had planned. But we got all these other companies, and there was so much more promotion than we anticipated that it was overwhelming.

Andrew: They gave you the stuff for free. You sold it to your audience at $100 per?

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: And they didn’t get any cut of it. All they got was your users who bought this trying out their software for a limited time.

Dan: Exactly, and an introduction to their solution. It was sent out in an email and also the Book bag. Now after the fact we didn’t think about the logistics that Amazon goes through every single day. We had to take 20 different things and then shove them into a Book bag and ship them wherever.

Andrew: Why didn’t you do it all digitally?

Dan: We thought about it, but then you wouldn’t have anything go in the Book bag. And the whole point was to have a full bag show up stuff with our logo on it.

Andrew: I see.

Dan: It was actually a mistake, because I had one of my guys in a room for three weeks just stuffing bags, and then putting them in bigger bags with labels on them and sending them out. That part was a little bit of a nightmare. But at the end of the day, to sell out of that in 23 hours, I was magically impressed.

Andrew: That’s $25,000 in less than a day.

Dan: Yes, less than a day.

Andrew: And I have here in my notes that you only lost $10 per student. What does that mean?

Dan: Based on the normal price of $75 for three month, with the book bag it was a total of $102.

Andrew: With the cost of actually buying the book bag?

Dan: Yes, with the cost of buying the book bag, and printing the logo and then shipping it there. Off the normal price that we would typically have, we only lost about $10.

Andrew: What’s the coolest thing that you were able to give away for free?

Dan: I don’t really know what would be the coolest thing that we gave away for free. I think the shirts that we gave away, the Summer Camp shirts, were pretty awesome. The bootcamp shirts were really cool. I don’t know, I can’t remember.

Andrew: Here’s what I see that was included in the list, and I’m not going to be able to get them all, but I see GitHub by C Intercom. I see StickerMule, I see Clickee [SP]. I see Active Campaign, EngineYard, New Relic, Benchmark Email, GoSquared, Geckoboard, just so many different things. And all these guys gave you something free, and it had to be more than just a free month. It had to be something that felt big.

Dan: Yes, it had to be something of value. We really turned down quite a few people. They were like, “Yeah, we’re giving 15 days, free,” and I’d say, “That doesn’t cut it.” And you have to send us something. And that was the hard part for some people; that we said they had to send us something, because it had to go in the bag. So, there were a lot of companies that made postcards and fliers and things like that.

Andrew: Just to be included in this.

Dan: Just to be included in this.

Andrew: Do you think that this would have worked out if somebody is listening and saying, “Hey, you know what, I would like to do this, too, but I can’t send out a book bag. I just want to partner with these companies. They can promote my thing and I will promote them in this bag and give it away to everyone. But it would be a virtual bag.

Dan: For us it was more about putting something in the hands of these people. When you think about it that’s the opposite of working in the Internet. We are so used to everything being digital, so the moment that you put something into real life you’re kind of changing the perception of the value, and that was the goal. You can definitely do digital. Maus has Maus perks, right. You can get these awesome deals from being their customer and get all these other perks, but to me it’s just a wall of stuff I can go take advantage of. To actually get something that’s in my hand, I think is even cooler.

Andrew: This is the email that you guys sent out.

Dan: Yes, the Camp day was a lot of fun. And that sale [inaudible 00:40:18] actually moved on the landing page, which was cool. [inaudible 00:40:21]. But the email went out to around 350,000 people on our side, and then obviously it was promoted all over the place. So it went really, really well.

Andrew: Well, let’s talk about “May the 4th be with you.” I’m bringing up the Big Board here. The next big idea is to run limited time discounts, and you recommend that they be centered around holidays like this one.

Dan: Yes, May the 4th be with you was awesome. We stuck it with developers, and I’d say this in no negative way possible, but they are nerds and they like Star Wars, which is great. We tried to follow that theme and that premise, and it was Star Wars Day on May 4th, so May the 4th be with you. And we offered an exclusive discount, and I think it was only available for 24 hours, or maybe a couple of days. But we did $35,000 in sales that day.

Andrew: Just from that discount, a 30% discount. What did you do when someone says, “Hey, I see this discount is available online, and I’m already a customer and have been paying for a long time? I want that, too.

Dan: We would usually just credit their account. The email didn’t go to current customers, but if someone was to complain about it we would always just credit their account.

Andrew: Okay, the next big point is to find other companies that have an interest in your users. We talked about the book bag, but that’s not the only way that you were able to do that. You guys also did that with New Relic. Do you remember what you did there?

Dan: Oh man, Relic was awesome. The New Relic was a big company, and wants to get more developers on their platform. What we did was we came up with a way for them to buy non-customers of ours for three months free, and they had to pay us full price. So if you deployed on New Relic, and you came through this campaign, they would buy you three months of Code School and send you a unique code. And then they would pay us $75 for you to have the three months for free. We definitely leveraged that campaign to make a lot of money.

Andrew: How?

Dan: When it first started out you would come to the web property for us. You would sign up and then we would send out an email from time to time. But the real way that we grew it is that we started a retargeting campaign. Once again we had a delayed start on it. If you did not become a subscriber within the first 48 hours, we actually shut off hall pass for this campaign, which was a bummer. But you would then start receiving, “Get three months free at Code School,” sponsored by New Relic, and you would see those ads everywhere. We would pay a lot of money because we knew that we had $75 to make back, guaranteed if you deployed. So we had a $25 budget for the retargeting campaign. And people would go and sign up for that and go deploy it with New Relic on their application, and then get a code for three months free at Code School.

Andrew: I see, so you were advertising them, so there was something in it for them? Now there’s a new person going out there and promoting them.

Dan: Exactly, and they were able to get a pretty engine. I worked down to just over $500,000, and it was about nine months that we did that. And I think they actually just ended another one of those campaigns recently. I don’t know if they did it the same way, but I got an email from them, “Deploy New Relic and get three months free at Code School.” I remember at the time we were the most successful campaign New Relic had ever had. And it was just because we leveraged their emails and we leveraged their targeting. We really went out and exploited it.

Andrew: They are basically paying you $75 to go bring in a new customer for them. Did they do much to promote it?

Dan: They sent their email to people who were non-current customers, so it definitely helped us. They did have an email system set up on it. I don’t think they ran any ads, but I do know that they did send emails out on our behalf. It just worked out really well, because it was they knew the cost per acquisition for any given user and what their lifetime value was. So the business venture for both sides worked, and it was really good. The only thing that after the fact that we didn’t really like was it made our churn look pretty high a few months after that, because all those accounts ended. So in one month we had a really high churn and then it went away. We still converted a lot of them. We worked really hard to do that. But when you give somebody something for free they’re not always going to convert at the end of the day.

Andrew: Did you get their credit card information on that one?

Dan: No, I think later on we did set the system where we did get the credit card information. The actual Big-a-thon that we had with that, which is how we track it on the back end; we actually gave everybody this internal membership thing to make it work. And we ended up having 700 members we couldn’t see. We couldn’t tell if they were actually paying subscribers, so there were some interesting things that happened, but nothing with credit cards.

Andrew: And here’s what that looked like. It’s actually pretty cool here, that you guys are having trouble, too, because it seems like it stalled so simply for a company like Code School. There it is; this is what you would send out.

Dan: We started with Geek Cry Day and we actually got some press for it. Once again, we stuck to a lot of the holidays and got a lot of stuff out there. When you attach the things that they can be relatable to, it inclines them to do something. And it was Geek Cry Day, so we actually got some press out of it, too, which was really nice. People signed up and it was for a limited period of time. There were people who went through 15 courses in that weekend. It was just amazing amount of work.

Andrew: The final point that we have is cross promote, but that’s essentially what we’ve just talked about here. Is there another partner that you guys did this kind of thing with where you said you pay us every time we get you a new customer and we’ll email our mailing list?

Dan: Yes, we cross promoted with a lot of companies. The company was very much bootstrap driven, get money. Obviously it’s a business, but we partnered with companies like O’Reilly. They needed a course on R, so they paid us to make a course, and then we gave that course away for free. We had a new free course, and then they had a course that helped get people to buy more books. So we were cross promoting all the time. We did relationships with GitHub. We have a huge relationship with GitHub, Google, O’Reilly books, Pearson, Block.IO, Flatiron Schools. We tried to work with as many people as we could inside the industry, and cross promote their products, and they cross promoted ours. But we never looked at anybody like a competitor. That was one of the things that I really took away when I left Code School. We didn’t have competitors. We looked at everybody as a friend, and just wanted to work with them. We wanted to help out in any way we could.

Andrew: What do we follow up with you? How do we read more about the ideas that you use today to grow your business, Fuelzee, or any other ideas. I love these growth ideas, because they are easier to implement. They just have simple logic behind them.

Dan: I would definitely call me up on Twitter. It’s really simple; @daniel mcgaw. There is no R in my last name. I show a lot of stuff on Twitter and on Facebook and things like that. I typically host on LinkedIn pretty often, as well. I’m pretty crappy at making a blog. I try to do that, but I just can’t keep up with it. I don’t like typing that much.

Andrew: That’s when you go to a mail-in list. With a mail-in list you don’t have to publish as often.

Dan: Exactly. I have a mailing list set up, but I’ve just never actually done it. I’m too focused on my business now and trying to knock that out. But once a month in Orlando I run the Growth Hackers meet-up here, so every month I’m doing something like that. But I typically share all my slides on Slide Share and stuff.

Andrew: This is your site, Fuelzee, and your Twitter account, and I hope we’ll get to see you. Are you speaking at any conferences any time soon?

Dan: I’ll be in, and I can’t remember the country. It starts with an A, but I’ll be there in March. I was supposed to be in Turkey next month, but I decided not to go. I can’t remember what it’s called now. That’s going to drive me nuts.


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