Emily Hirsh: Secrets to Startup Growth With Powerful Facebook Ads

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Emily Hirsh is a self-taught marketing guru. Her marketing agency, Hirsh Marketing, specializes in Facebook and Instagram ads. Like many entrepreneurs, her business started out as a one-woman show. But in just two and a half years, she has grown her company to 25 employees serving over 60 clients. She is what we like to call a Facebook Ads ROCKSTAR! In this exclusive Emily Hirsh interview, we share some of her best insider secrets (even if you’re not ready to hire an agency yet) so you can get more Facebook fans, traffic, and buyers! 

Emily’s typical client has an online presence and is looking to implement a holistic approach to their marketing to improve visibility and brand awareness and generate leads and, ultimately, sales — something most new social entrepreneurs can definitely get behind.

And with a client retention rate of over 90 percent, she is clearly doing a few things right.

Not Ready to Bring on an Agency? Some Powerful Facebook Marketing Tips

You might be at a point in your entrepreneurial journey where you’re not quite ready to invest in the services of a marketing agency but you’d like to test some paid ads. If that’s where you find yourself, Emily warns that many people will get ahead of themselves and use paid ads before they have a really solid foundation.

She also emphasizes the importance of knowing exactly who your ad audience is. Ask yourself who that person is so that you can target them on Facebook. Then make sure you have a strategy that you’re confident enough to test since merely boosting posts won’t cut it — it’s critically important to have a way in which you can measure whether your efforts are successful or not. Then spend a bit of cash to get some intel on how effective your ads were.

Marketing always works,” confides Emily, “if you are willing to:

  • go through that process of creating a strategy,
  • create metrics that would measure that strategy success,
  • spend money testing it,
  • get intel to figure out what’s wrong with it, and
  • just repeat the process until it works.

Another option, if you don’t feel you’re ready to work one-on-one with a marketing agency, is to consider taking a course like the one Hirsh Marketing has developed. As a product of Emily’s realization that nothing like it existed, the course serves those people who are wanting to learn how to do it themselves and aren’t necessarily ready to hire an agency. Her team teaches part of the course which also boasts a live support component.

The Importance of Buying Data

No one likes to feel like they’re not getting anything in return for the money they’ve spent, especially when they’re just starting out in the business world. However, Emily stresses that it is common for entrepreneurs to spend money on marketing that just doesn’t work. Sometimes, your messaging just doesn’t resonate with your audience. This shouldn’t be seen as failing. Rather, Emily refers to this scenario as “buying data.” You have effectively spent money and in return, learned what doesn’t work.

This is why it’s important to choose a marketing budget that you hand handle not recouping right away. Eventually, you will — as long as you’re sticking to Emily’s recommendations for effective marketing listed above.

Business Will Decline…and That’s Okay

Emily reports that the biggest lesson she has learned in her entrepreneurial voyage is that it’s okay — and often necessary — for your business to go through a phase where growth slows or even stops altogether. 

Sometimes you have to…go through a phase in your business where you can’t take on as many new clients and you’re not in that acceleration or growth phase.

Emily advises that this downturn is a good time to look back and repair what “broke” as you grew your business. She admits that there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to this process and that she uses it to build out her employee training and expectations so that they are set up for success when they first come on board.

Looking for More Information?

If you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship and need more information to get started on some effective marketing strategies, hirshmarketing.com is a good place to start. Emily also has a podcast she releases twice weekly as well as a monthly Hirsh Marketing Report with lots of behind-the-scenes strategies and information from her team. Lastly, Emily’s book, Ignite Your Impact, which goes hand-in-hand with her course, is a great resource.


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Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ca; there may be errors.)

Announcer 0:00
Welcome. This is the Change Creator Podcast.

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s going on, everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator Podcast show. This is your host, Adam Force. Hope you all had a good weekend. It is Monday here as we do this. And if you missed the last episode, it was with Maddy Martin. And so great conversation. We talked about, you know, really enhancing your marketing strategy. And you know, there’s money left on the table when you’re not using the latest like AI and messenger technology. So we kind of get into all that stuff and some of the pros, the cons and different ways to go about it. But it’s a really great marketing channel to start exploring. And that could become a whole new revenue opportunity for you. So you might want to check that out with Maddy Martin when you get a chance.

Today we’re going to be talking with Emily Hirsh and she has been blowing up lately. She is a marketing expert. So she’s one of the leaders in digital marketing on Facebook right now. And so, Hirsh Marketing is her company and I’ve kind of been watching her for a while now and we’re doing some work with her, actually. So she has built a team now of 25 plus people — they might be close to about 30 people now. And they have worked on over like, I don’t know, six, seven, I forget how many like hundreds of funnels and stuff for some big players out there — major players, and their ad spend, I believe is over about 25 million, and they had a return on that spend of like 90 million plus. So they really know what they’re doing and they’ve had lots of great success hence they have been scaling pretty quickly.

So we’re excited to talk with Emily. We’re going to dig into the Facebook world and how they’re doing what they’re doing. She is going to share some tips that will help you guys out no matter where you are as early stage entrepreneurs. Last but not least, guys, we just…stop by changecreator.com; we have a lot of fresh content. If you’re into the Shopify…if you have a Shopify store, or if you’re using Magento, we recently put up a lot of content around those things to help you guys out because we’ve been hearing a need for it. And there is a program called Shogun that we…one of our writers did a deep dive on and we got access to their back end to explore the software and stuff. And it’s a Shopify page builder, that is super powerful. It also provides analytics that Shopify does not offer. So when you can start customizing your Shopify product pages and all that stuff, you can really enhance the conversions and things like that. So if you go…it’s spelled S-H-O-G-U-N, Shogun.

So when you go on our website, you could search for Shogun. We have a ton of articles that we talk about to give you guys insights on how that all works. See if it’s the right fit for you. You could start with the Shogun review, and we compare it to a bunch of other softwares and stuff like that. So really valuable stuff and for the e commerce space, so you can check that out. And we’re going to dive into this conversation now. So, one last thing I almost forgot. If you go to changecreator.com, we have…it’s not available on the site but you can get it…I’m going to tell you just through this podcast, there is the…if you want to start…we’re really into storytelling and we believe that you know, this is your number one marketing asset. And it truly, truly is. This is what makes you memorable. It’s what adds value to your products. It’s what connects with people, builds trust, all these things.

So we are helping people supercharge their marketing with storytelling, and there’s some key things we share in a free offer just to give you that first step, give you some insights and ground you in storytelling for your startup, right. It’s all about marketing and sales. And you can go to changecreator.com/storytellingroadmap, and you can grab your free copy, and check that out. I think you guys will get a lot of value out of it. And yeah, we’d love to hear your feedback about it, too. Don’t forget to stop by the App Store, leave us a review. This goes a long way and we very much appreciate it. Let’s dive into this conversation with Emily and see what she has to say.

Announcer 4:00
Okay, show me the heat!

Adam Force 4:05
Hey, Emily, welcome to the Change Creator Podcast show. How you doing today?

Emily Hirsh 4:09
Doing well. Thanks so much for having me.

Adam Force 4:12
Thanks for being here. Excited to talk to you. You know, I’ve been following your team and you for about six months now and it looks like you guys have been doing some exciting stuff. So why don’t you kick us off just letting us know what’s going on at Emily’s world these days. What’s the latest? What’s the greatest?

Emily Hirsh 4:29
Yeah, so I run a marketing agency that specializes in Facebook and Instagram ads. I’ve had my company for really about two and a half years of growing a team and growing an agency but four years in the online industry and helping people with marketing. Like most entrepreneurs, I started out just me and then have grown a team for the last two and a half, three years and now have 25 employees and we serve over 60 clients in specifically the influencer industry. So a lot of people selling digital products, but also physical products and e commerce. But they usually have an online brand, online presence and are looking to have this holistic approach to their marketing to improve that visibility and that brand awareness. And then also, of course, generate leads and sales. So that’s what my team and I do. And I have a lot of fun with the leadership piece of it. And learning how to manage a team has been…is a huge part of what I do now that I’m kind of out of the day-to-day of my business. So, yeah.

Adam Force 5:29
Awesome. I love that you got yourself out of the day to day; it gives you time to go to talk at conferences and do all that fun stuff. I’m curious though, you know, in the earlier years, obviously, we all start out with ourselves a co founder, our small team, and we have to build things up. What has been some growing pains for you, as you do expand the team? I mean, now you have 25 employees. That means you know, you’re working with a larger number of clients and you want to make sure that your values and your processes stay intact. So how did you start managing that as you grow?

Emily Hirsh 6:03
Yeah, I mean, it’s constantly I’m working on it. Honestly, I would say like, every month we have projects around improving our processes and auditing and looking at what we could do better. And I always, my mentor, Alex Charfen always says like, Your business is always broken. And so that’s something that I’ve had to embrace is like, it will never be perfect, but I always can work to be improving it. So, you know, growing a team I had…the biggest thing I learned when I started growing a team is the importance of process. And actually, the importance of slowing down to document and create really solid training materials and expectations so that you can bring somebody into your company and actually set them up for success. I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started growing a team.

Like, I knew how to hustle and grow a business myself. I’ve, like, always been an entrepreneur. I have that blood in me, but I did not know how to grow a team. I had never done it before; no one had taught me. So there’s been a lot of learning around it. And I’d say the biggest thing I learned is that importance and sometimes you have to, like slow down and actually go through a phase in your business where you maybe can’t take on as many new clients and you’re not in that acceleration and growth phase, but you’re in that like stability and “let’s fix everything that broke as we grew, you know, the last quarter or something like that.” And so that’s been a huge learning curve is like that slow down, build out the training, and also expectations for people so that when they come in, they’re set up for success.

Adam Force 7:25
Yeah, I love that. I mean, it totally makes sense. And we always say on our side, slow down to speed up because, right? So like you’re setting yourself up to move forward. And it sounds like you’ve taken all the right steps. So you said you had a mentor. So you found it to be valuable to have yourself surrounded with some people that are helping you out throughout the process.

Yeah, for sure, especially people who have done what I was trying to do and what I am trying to do, you know, finding people who have built bigger businesses or managed bigger teams or done where I’m going like that’s very helpful because they have perspective that I just don’t have. So I really found myself first mentor when it became time for me to grow a team and I kind of call it like when it became time to create a real business and like have a real foundation and real process and employees and all that. That’s when I really sought out a mentor because I didn’t know what I was doing. And so I definitely needed you know, outside coaching and support and guidance around that. And still today, like that’s what I use that mentorship for.

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing when you get into those types of relationships. You don’t realize how valuable it can be until you actually experience it. Like we work with Caitlin Bacher. I don’t know if you know her, and she’s been super awesome. And we just went to one of her like mastermind summits. And, you know, like you said, it’s people that are doing things that you do, and it’s such a significant difference in the experience and the value you get when you do that, right?

Emily Hirsh 8:50
Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree.

Adam Force 8:52
Yeah, it’s powerful. So let’s talk a little bit about you know, Facebook, I mean, that’s your primary focus, obviously Facebook, and Instagram.

Emily Hirsh 9:01

Adam Force 9:01
What got you into, you know, just becoming an expert in that space?

Emily Hirsh 9:06
Yeah, so my story is kind of random. I started as a virtual assistant actually, like five years ago, when my son was born. I’m young, I became a mom at 20. And so I started my company just out of like, Okay, I need to figure out some work that I can do while I take care of my baby. We didn’t want to put him in daycare and we couldn’t afford a nanny. So that was my motivation. And so I kind of fell into then this like online world and found people, you know, creating these digital businesses and courses and influencers. And so at first I was helping them with their marketing, but actually like the systems in the back end and doing more like tactical work as a virtual assistant. And then I had the opportunity to start doing Facebook ads for them.

And so I really am a lot self taught and then the experience of actually like trying something Oh, that works; that didn’t work and then continuing to improve my skills. And even today, like my team, as I’ve grown, like, it’s our experience that is our superpower because we have this like intel and experience. And in marketing, that’s how you learn with Facebook ads is like you try something and like you see if it works or not. And then you can go more that direction or less that direction. And so that’s how I started. And it was just me. You know, it was just a virtual assistant. So I had these clients who are like, “Just try it, you know, like we don’t know are doing and we can’t afford an agency.” That was really, like, the level they were at.

And so I had this opportunity to go in and like do all the ads myself and I would take courses and podcasts. And what’s cool is some of the podcasts I used to listen to to like learn Facebook ads are our clients now. So it’s like, full circle of these huge influencers that we get to work with. But that’s how I started out and then got to a point where that’s all I was doing. And I was full time I had like, 10 clients that I was managing on my own and then I had to decide, okay, do I want to stop here? Do I want to grow a team? And I decided, you know, I definitely want to grow team and keep growing and that was kind of the start of the agency.

Adam Force 10:55
Yeah, I mean, it’s a big decision, right, when you’re at that pivotal point and you decide to…because you you know, expanding into an agency format is very different. So it sounds like it’s been, it’s been pretty interesting for you, and how are you feeling about it now at this point?

Emily Hirsh 11:09
Yeah, I mean, I love it. I love where I’m at now, not in the day to day because I get to have just a different perspective. You know, we have team meetings with my whole ads team where they talk about, you know, strategies that are working and not working. And when you have 60 clients, and we manage about a million dollars a month in ad spend, it’s really cool, the intel that we get, you know, we have and I get to kind of sit at the top and be like, Oh, that’s cool. And you know, know these strategies, but I’m not necessarily like loading ads and doing that tactical work, which is fine, but you know, you can’t grow a huge company doing that.

So I really enjoy…I…my brain definitely naturally thinks in a marketing sense, and I have a very unique way of looking at a funnel or a customer journey that’s really about like relationship building and value for your audience and customizing it for your audience. And I think that’s one of the reasons my company’s done so well is that like natural ability I have to view marketing in that way. But I love it. And then the team building is a challenge. But at the same time, one of the best things I do, because it’s also the most rewarding to see a team working so well together and coming together to do great things.

Adam Force 12:18
Yeah, that’s awesome. And how do you translate what you are very good at when it comes to testing ads and the process to your team now to stay consistent?

Emily Hirsh 12:31
Yeah, so we have a really extensive training program for anyone new who comes on our team. It’s actually built like in Click Funnels, like a course that they go through. So yeah, we have a…first of all, a very extensive hiring process. They have two interviews and a test and they go through like a lot of steps to even get to be hired. So that’s like the first thing we built that was very important for us. And then we have a training program they go through. It’s like a whole course. It’s like a 30 page workbook. They spend the first couple of weeks, like just doing that training program. And then they go through a shadowing, like test exercise portion. So we have a really huge system, which I think is why I’ve been able to scale. I have almost 10 ads managers now, so, two like full ads teams. And my…the same mentor actually said to me a couple years ago, he said, like, you know, you’re in the business of marketing and serving clients, but you’re also in the business of like, creating really good ads managers. And the faster that you can do that and do that well, like the better your business will do. And that was like a really eye opening moment for me because I realized a lot of my priority actually needs to go into how do I train?

How do I bring people in, teach them my systems, and then spit them out on the end that they can go serve clients? And the faster and more efficient I can do that, the better I can grow my business and serve clients. And so that like became my focus and so we’re constantly updating our training and building it out and like, we’re actually going through a revamp of it right now. So I’d say every three to six months we have to update it and then we obviously have ongoing trainings for our existing ads managers, too. [Unintelligible] monthly, keep them up to date. And also collaboration is super important. Like I said, like these ads managers have so much intel and experience that they don’t even realize. So leadership’s job in my company is to bring them together to be like talk about it and help each other out based on what you’re doing. And so we do that weekly on the team, too. That just brings like strategy ideas.

Adam Force 14:30
Yeah, I love that and I just love the steps they’re taking in that pivotal moment of you need to build quality ads managers, that is an eye opener when you start just kind of shifting that perspective and that says so much for where the business can go, right? So the better they are, the better the business will be, right?

Emily Hirsh 14:49
Yeah, exactly.

Adam Force 14:50
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So I guess I’m curious you know, we’re on the line and people listening are you know, in their first few years of business, and everybody starts to play with Facebook ads. I mean, at some point, when you’re ready to scale to a certain level of income and revenue, you kind of need to get into the paid ad space. And I’m just curious, you know, not everyone’s ready to bring on an agency team just like when you were VA. I’m curious, what are just some ideas of, you know, I think people get really lost in all the options out there and even just starting with like, you know, making sure like you’re targeting the right person or group of people, how many interests, and ya know, how many tests do I run on different images? How much is…do I run $50? $1,000? Like, all these things, and it just kind of like, paralyzes you.

Emily Hirsh 15:40
It’s super overwhelming, for sure. Yeah. And there’s no…and the problem too, is that there’s no like, here’s the formula and if you do this, it will work. Like it’s going to vary for a lot of businesses and then their audience and then their offer. So if you’re in that place where you’re not ready to bring on an agency, but you know the next step is to test some paid ads, I definitely have some advice, which the first one is that people always jump to that paid ads before they have like a really solid foundation. And so make sure that you’re like very clear on who you’re targeting, and not just, you know, interests like targeting on Facebook, but like, Who is that person? And do you have that idea of that person? So you can speak to them and target them on Facebook? And then do you have at least a strategy that you’re confident enough to go test? Because you don’t want to just start boosting posts, right?

And like, Okay, let me see how this works. Like you actually need to have something that you can measure if it’s successful or not. And then you can spend some money and get intel back, was it successful or not? And one thing I always say is that, you know, marketing always works if you are willing to go through that process of you know, create a strategy, create metrics that would measure that strategy success, spend money testing it and then get that intel to figure out what’s wrong with it and then just kind of repeat that until it’s working. And as far as you know, budget to start with, like and targeting, you know, there is no one…that’s the problem is there is no one size fits all advice that I can give. But I do have some…I mean, if you can get 100 people through your funnel or you can, you know, get at least some metric that’s above that even, you’ll be able to get that data and then make decisions.

And I think you also have to be okay with failing, like, you will spend money and lose it. And that’s okay. And when that happens, you have to just know like, I’m actually on the right track because I now know that that doesn’t work or that that messaging didn’t resonate with my audience that I put this out and that’s, you know, that’s actually like part of the process so don’t see it as you’re failing. See it as I’m just going through that process. And I’m trying, you know, getting to the other side.

Adam Force 17:54
Yeah, and I think that’s important. That was a tough lesson we learned, you know, a few years ago is, you know, when you have a new offer you have to pay for data. So you know, you might put in, you could end up spending several thousand dollars just to keep iterating and getting data and it sounds like you’re saying the same thing.

Emily Hirsh 18:11
Yeah, I call it buying data. Like in the first 30 days of testing and offer like you don’t know, you have to choose a budget that you’re okay if you don’t make the money back right away, basically. And then you go do that, and you see how it works. And then you go fix the holes and you do it again, and then you just keep repeating that until it’s working.

Adam Force 18:28
Yeah, yeah, exactly. You know, just a little feedback, something I did hear you say once. I don’t remember where I heard you say it, but it’s stuck in my brain. It is that more…it’s not a matter of if marketing will work; it’s when.

And I always loved that little tagline and I think it’s such a powerful statement because people, including myself, I’ve done this where you get you get panicked and stressed out and you get anxiety when things aren’t working for you. And just like you said, you have to look at it as you’re buying data, you just learn something. So like when you get into those panic modes, it’s like if people turn everything off, and they then they stop, right?

Emily Hirsh 18:43

Emily Hirsh 19:09
Yeah. Yeah. And and really just viewing it as a process instead of, I’m just throwing this out there and hoping it works like, it is a process. And if you look at marketing as those steps of like, I buy that data, I see how it works. And then I figure out what’s not working, and then I fix it, and I do it again. And you just keep doing it. It is a matter of just when will it work for you not if. It will always work as long as you’re willing to go through that process as many times as it takes to get it there.

Adam Force 19:35
Gotcha. Gotcha. Ya, I know, 100% makes sense. And I’m curious now since day one, do you know have any idea of how many clients and total that you’ve worked with over the years?

Emily Hirsh 19:45
I don’t, but I do have a metric that we’ve run traffic over 900 funnels, we do track that metric. And I think we’re at 18 million total ad spend managed and over 90 million of revenue generated so we track that monthly. But it’s definitely over 100 different clients as we have almost 60 active right now. So, over the years, probably 150 plus clients that we’ve worked with, over the last four years if you count me. But we do track the other metrics of funnels, and then ad spend managing revenue generated every month and a report that I put out.

Adam Force 20:21
Yeah, yeah. Now, tell me a little bit about you got two other exciting things going on as far as Facebook. Why did you create the course?

Emily Hirsh 20:31
Yeah, so I, obviously there’s a lot of people who are not ready to work with us yet one on one as a client with our agency. And so I wanted to for a year to create this course because I feel like we have such amazing resources, from tracking sheets to audience insights to you know, swipe files of copy. And then of course, our strategies. I knew I wanted to create something that really doesn’t exist because we’re in the trenches doing it and teaching it, you know. And there’s people who just teach it, but then they kind of lose sight of it because they’re not doing it anymore. And so I knew we could create something powerful. And I sat on it for a while, because my agency wasn’t in a place where I could put all that time and energy and attention into it, and build it and build the funnel.

And like, you know, focus is very important. So it took me a while to create it. But I wanted to have something out there that could serve those people who are more at that level of, they need to learn how to do it themselves and buy that data, and they’re not ready to hire, you know, necessarily an agency yet. And so that’s why we created the course. It’s very driven by my team and what we do every day for clients. So my team teaches part of it. There’s a live support component of it that my team, you know, goes to weekly calls to answer questions. People come and screen share their ad account to get advice on it. And so it’s just a level of support like down the step from one-on-one clients that I needed…I wanted to build because I felt like we had resources that nobody else had out there to be able to share.

Adam Force 22:03
Interesting. And are you planning on staying focused on the Facebook, Instagram space? Are you planning on trying to break through some other social media platforms?

Emily Hirsh 22:11
Yeah, I definitely want to expand, I just haven’t been able to make the decision to have the bandwidth to do it. But probably Google or YouTube at least in our agency side, I would like to expand to offering that service and building out a department that can do that. So it’s in the plan when we can do it without breaking everything.

Adam Force 22:30
Yeah, I mean, that’s, I guess it’s a pretty big step, considering what you’re doing just with Facebook. It’s like building another company.

Emily Hirsh 22:38
Yeah. I mean, it’s like it would be a whole new department. So it’s also an investment too, because you got to build out for the training and everything. And, you know, I knew how to do Facebook ads, but I’m not a Google and a YouTube ad expert. So it’s a little different experience than how I built this arm of the business because I built all the training and everything you know, so it’s on the radar. It probably will be towards the end of this year or next year, when we do it.

Adam Force 23:02
Interesting. So tell me a little bit about just strategically, again speaking for our audience here who’s kind of playing around with these things and something like your course might be really valuable for them as well. And I’m just curious, you know, if people are testing out ads and things like that, is there anything about Facebook, they should know? Meaning, like you want to give it like, several days before you really call it a test. Like what qualifies it as a statistically relevant test?

Emily Hirsh 23:31
Yeah, I mean, a few like with just an ad itself, usually 24 to 48 hours will give you a lot of data on that ad in terms of like, Is it getting clicks? Is it getting action on the actual ad? But then with a funnel, like if you’re looking at your entire strategy, I usually say at least 100 people need to go through it. So you have a webinar or something, you need 100 leads to really go through and that’s still in the lower end. That’s like minimum. But you know, if you have something that’s 1000 dollars that you sell an average sales conversion is like one to 2% of total people who sign up for your webinar. So unless you get 100 in, you’re not even gonna really know if you got a sale and if it’s converting.

So for your whole strategy, that’s usually what I say. I mean, if you can get 1000, like, that’s way better, but that usually takes a little bit; it depends what you’re running traffic to. But the more people you can get in the whole funnel, in the whole journey is actually like more important than the ads. The ads, you can tell within a couple days. Are they getting clicks, you know, what are those metrics? And what do I need to fix about the ad itself. But the funnel is actually the harder part to get that to convert.

Adam Force 24:36
Gotcha. And I mean, so people…and I like the big picture of looking at the entire funnel. But if you’re trying to figure out ads that are for you know, a lead magnet to the funnel or direct to the webinar or [unintelligible] whatever it is, I mean, is it…do you qualify something in the sense of like, I put $50 on it for two days, and I could just see if it’s being picked up or not, or do you need at least $100. I mean, I know every category and audience is different but I think people get stuck on, Right, I’m going to do a $5 tests and I’m like, I don’t know that that’s going to tell you much.

Emily Hirsh 25:07
No $5 won’t tell you much at all. I mean, I think 50 to 100 you could at least see if you’re on track like that will give you at least a cost per click. Like, is the ads getting clicks? And did it get some conversion to a lead magnet or a webinar? Your goal should be like for a lead magnet we see an average of like one to $5. It depends on the industry. And then webinar we see from like three to $8. So, a lead or a registration. So you can look for that and you know, spending 100 you should at least get some [unintelligible]. So you know if you’re at least on the right track with audiences and your ad copy, and those components.

Adam Force 25:46
Listen, you get us to $3 for a webinar registration, you’re going to be my new best friend.

Emily Hirsh 25:53
Yeah, I mean, it we’ve got some even lower but I don’t you know say it because then people think that’s the standard. It all depends on your industry.

Adam Force 26:01
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I think that entrepreneurs…I’ve noticed like some people are like, Oh, yeah, I had someone in our mastermind group. They’re like, Oh, yeah, I’m getting a 40 cent conversion on, you know, a lead magnet. It’s like for a very specific [unintelligible].

Emily Hirsh 26:17
Yeah, or a lot of times, like the health and wellness industry will convert really cheap lead magnets, but that doesn’t compare when you’re targeting business owners. It’s, it’s different. Yeah.

Adam Force 26:27
Exactly. Exactly. I mean, it gets way more expensive. I was super pumped when we were at like, $6 for lead magnet conversion.

Emily Hirsh 26:34
Yeah, no.

Adam Force 26:37
Awesome. Well, yeah, I think one of the…I had another question on the top of my mind. I just lost it. It was about where you were going with things. It might come back to me. We’ll see. So I guess right now you have this book that came out and I was just curious. I want to just hear a couple thoughts on you know, your…I’m actually curious in two things: One, just tell me a little bit about what the books about and why you created it. But two, I’m always curious when people create books in the entrepreneurship space, how long it took and what your process was like?

Emily Hirsh 27:08
Yeah, yeah, you’ll like this. So yeah, I wrote…my book is called Ignite Your Impact. It’s written for the audience that buys the course, that’s really who I wrote it for, because a lot of our higher level clients won’t read, you know, necessarily marketing books. They have it hired out. So we, I mean, some will. But it was written with that in mind, for people for the course. And it’s in depth about our…my process basically, is the core of the book, The Hirsh process, which is five steps. And I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I actually end of last year, joined a program where the goal was to write a book and it was a really cool process. So I actually wrote…the actual writing piece was two and a half days. So I wrote it all like very fast. I went to Hawaii with my friend and we both wrote our book during that time, so super fun. And the way we were able to do that was we pre planned everything.

So that was kind of the key is we had a very clear idea of like, who we were writing for. We had all the chapters planned out and the content that was going to go in them. So then you just sat down and you wrote. And you, you know, got through like three or four chapters a day, and you just had this schedule. And so I was able to get it done pretty quickly from when I decided I was going to do it to being done. And then obviously, it had to go through publishing and creating the cover. We self published so there’s a lot of steps you don’t know about, like, formatting a book and like an ISBN code, which I didn’t know what that was until, like a couple weeks ago. So you know, we added to that, but, you know, I wrote it to get my process out in another way for people to be able to consume it through reading it.

Adam Force 28:43
Yeah, I mean, that’s exciting. I see all your puzzle pieces coming together. So I hope it feels good. I mean, it looks good.

Emily Hirsh 28:51
Yeah, it does feel good. I can’t…I actually haven’t gotten a hardcover of it or a paperback of it like it’s coming. But I can’t wait to actually have that because that will be cool. It’ll be holding, you know, finally, a published book.

Adam Force 29:01
Yeah, it’ll be a feather in your cap. And so congratulations on all the progress and things that you have going on. I think one last question that people might want to hear, especially for the entrepreneurs in our audience who are, you know, six figures, and maybe they do want to hire out Facebook ads. I know I sure as hell don’t like managing Facebook ads. So the question is, you know, maybe just tell people a little bit about the process and like, how do you validate people? And are there companies that sometimes you don’t take on for any reason? Like, how do you know someone will have success with you or not? Because I’m sure you want to make sure anyone you work with that [unintelligible].

Emily Hirsh 29:40
Yeah, we…yeah, I mean, you’ve been through it. Our application and talking to our team, like we do have a pretty extensive process and of just getting people through just the application and then talking to our team about their business. We won’t take anyone on who doesn’t go through that process because like you said, we want to make sure that we can help you. And so people that you know wouldn’t be a fit is one…like the level…like if they…let’s say that they’re at a place where they’re like I can spend $1,000 a month ad spend. I mean, it doesn’t make sense to hire our agency and pay a management fee and then only spend that much like on ad spend because we can’t make you the money back, right?

So that’s one thing we’re looking at. And also, how much have they sold of their offer? Are they clear on who their audience is? Are they clear on the messaging piece, because we help with the strategy and we create great messaging. I mean, I have a creative team, but we have to… they have to have a solid idea of who they’re trying to go after and what they’re trying to sell that person to, before we can come in and do our job. We have a couple different packages. So we have like people who come in and they’ve already sold a ton and they’re at a higher level of business. And then we do have one that’s like for testing and buying data, but still done for you. So we have those options, but really they have to have a very clear offer. They have to be able to spend…the minimum is two to $3,000 a month in ad spend.

And then pay our management fee to make it worth hiring us, basically. So those are the big things that we’re looking for is like, do they have that clarity so we can do our job. We also really look for collaborative people, because our like, team takes over everything, but we’re working with influencers. And so we need you to be willing to do content and willing to show up for your audience and put out that value for our job to be the best that it can be. And so we’re looking for those people who are like, want to have a partnership and want to be collaborative and want to have like a holistic view to their marketing. And so they’re willing to show up on their organic social media, or maybe it’s like podcast or whatever. And we pair that with paid ads, and that’s when it works so well. And so we’re looking for that, too.

Adam Force 31:47
Oh, yeah, that sounds cool. I like that, too. And if you don’t mind me asking, and if you’re not comfortable answering you don’t have to, but I’m curious of…as people go through their, you know, three months or whatever the package might be that they work with you on to get the data and testing, what your retention rate is for clients these days.

Emily Hirsh 32:08
Yeah, so we track that daily. And it’s over 90% is our average every month. It fluctuates. Sometimes it’s 85, one month and 95 and other but at 90% is our average for the whole year of 2019. And we have…I’m like huge on that metric. We actually put it in our daily huddle on our team to track every day.

Adam Force 32:28
That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s a amazing number. I will let you know that when I was at the summit in California, just this last week, I was talking to Ally Ball and some others in Caitlin’s you know, mastermind program, and lots of nice things were said about Hirsh Marketing.

Emily Hirsh 32:45
Oh good. I’m glad. That’s an important piece with your…like any business, you gotta pay attention to your delivery because otherwise it catches up to you and that’s been a huge focus of mine is the actual client delivery and satisfaction and I I think that’s a huge contributing factor to my success for sure.

Adam Force 33:03
Absolutely. I could see the word of mouth doing its job. People were getting excited. Oh, really? Yeah. And you know, I’ve been following her and then they hear referrals, basically. So yeah, I’m just wanting to let you know, because I thought it was pretty powerful.

Emily Hirsh 33:15
That’s awesome. That makes me feel good.

Adam Force 33:18
Good, good. Good. So all right, listen, where I want to be respectful of your time. So we’re going to wrap up here, but I want to give you a chance to just let everyone know where do they find you? How do they learn more and see in what capacity maybe they can work with you?

Emily Hirsh 33:32
Yeah, I mean, honestly, my website is probably the best place to go: hirshmarketing.com because then you can kind of check out our agency services or check out our program or check out my book if you just want to go that route. I also have a podcast I release twice a week that sounds like yours — like short, a lot of value in it so people can consume it. And so I give away a lot of value because my ideal client is somebody who doesn’t want to necessarily do it themselves fully. So I give away a lot on that podcast, like I’m very transparent and strategic. And so yeah, that comes out every…twice a week. So that’s another option. And then we release also what I call the Hirsh Marketing Report every month, which has a lot of behind the scenes strategies and intel and data from my team, from what we’re seeing from what we do. And we release that every month in a PDF.

Adam Force 34:23
There you go, guys, you got a ton of information. I’ve listened to it. I’ve scoped it out. There’s a lot of value in there for sure. Emily, our team is sick of Facebook ads so that’s why we spoke to you guys. And we really appreciate you just taking the time here today to you know, share these ideas, share your story. It’s nice just to see how you’re developing things and the success that you’ve had. So appreciate your time.

Emily Hirsh 34:49
Thanks so much.

Announcer 34:51
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator Podcast.


Susan Meier: Electrifying Your Brand Strategy to Amplify Your Impact

Listen to our exclusive interview with Susan Meier:


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Susan Meier is a brand strategist, a visual artist, and the owner of Susan Meier Studio. Her past clients include Unilever, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Mars, Samsung, and Novartis. She has extensive experience in the field of branding and she shares some of her wisdom with us in this podcast.

Currently, Susan is working mostly in the health and wellness space. As a staunch advocate for people taking the reins when it comes to their own health, she works with a lot of clients who deal with technologies that facilitate patient interactions with their healthcare providers. Her ultimate goal is to help people improve their healthcare experience.

A Customized Approach for Every Business

For most projects, Susan takes what she refers to as a portfolio approach. She helps larger corporations with their sales and marketing teams, generally looking at branding during a week-long project with a set scope and phases of work. For smaller, early stage companies — especially those with a smaller budget — her approach generally focuses more on innovation, usually in workshop format. In this way, she helps young businesses capture their culture once they know exactly what they stand for but before they grow so much that this sort of thing gets a little out of hand.

In her nine years of helping companies build their brand identity, Susan has always set aside a portion of her portfolio for these smaller projects despite them being less lucrative for her. The payoff? They inspire her and she learns a lot from them. She enjoys contributing to entrepreneurs who are just starting out. That aha moment when the small, independent professional who has come to her for help realizes what their true identity is, who their audience is, and how they empathetically connect with them is something Susan finds truly rewarding. She refers to these elements as the three pieces of branding.

What is Branding?

Ask ten different business owners what branding is and you’ll get ten different answers. For Susan, branding refers to who it is you want to be in the world. What do you stand for? What are your values? What do you bring to the party that’s different from what anyone else is bringing?

It starts with identity and really kind of authentically thinking about who you are and who you want to be.

Language is also key, stresses Susan. Finding the right terminology when establishing your brand will make all the difference.

It All Starts With Self-Reflection

Thinking about who you are and who you want to be is the first step in the branding process, according to Susan. She explains that it’s okay to experiment with ideas and find that they don’t work. However, she also stresses the importance of constantly questioning whether it is truly you. Ask yourself if this is truly who you want to be. Is it who you are? Is this brand idea leveraging my uniqueness? My creativity? She goes on to explain that as an entrepreneur, you will not be able to create that groundbreaking idea when you’re just not feeling it. There needs to be a purpose for everything.

It needs to be mindful; it needs to be intentional. It can’t just be pretty.

The Pitfalls of Social Media

Susan warns that there is a distinction between branding and building a presence on social media. While building an online presence is important, she cautions that it skips over the step of figuring out who you are before figuring out how to get as many followers as possible. She adds that newer entrepreneurs who haven’t been through a branding process assume that their brand is synonymous with their social media presence which it is not. While branding is the basis of who you are, your social media presence is more of an execution tactic.

Advice for Early Stage Entrepreneurs

When asked for some advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out, Susan recommended the first step to be one of self-reflection. Take a moment and think about who you personally are, what you are building and why, and what your motivations are. Make a list of your values. Secondly, think about where you would like to see yourself and your business or brand in ten years. 

Another effective approach for early-stage entrepreneurs is to write a mission statement and then think about who you are serving, whether you have an audience, whether you have one customer or many, and then connect the dots between all those things. Take a good look at who you are serving, how you are serving, and what your promise is to them.

Lastly, Susan makes reference to the holy grail of branding: that you’ve thought through what you stand for and what you do before deciding how you will express your brand. 


We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s up and welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. Hope you are all doing really well and your week is off to a great start. It is Tuesday the 28th here as we speak. And if you missed the last episode we spoke with Peter Montoya. He’s a really…has a really impressive background and we spoke about transformational leadership, which is so important in today’s digital marketing climate, and leading good teams, good cultures, and that’s a great conversation. So if you didn’t get to listen to it, swing back, check it out. I think you’ll get some good nuggets out of there.

This week, we will be talking to Susan Meier. Now Susan is a brand strategist and a visual artist and so she’s done — she has a lot of great experience in this space and she has her own company right now called Susan Meier Studio. And and historically she’s worked with brands on this stuff including people like Unilever, you know, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Mars, Samsung, you know, some big players in the health space like Genentech and Novartis, so a lot of great experience to share. And we’re going to talk a lot about branding and user experience and things like that, because, well, one, that’s an area that’s really important to your business for, you know, visual, you know, communication. But also, this is an area that I nerd out on. I love branding and user experience. So I’m excited to have this conversation, I think you’ll get a lot of good stuff out of it. So stay tuned, we’re going to dive into that in just a minute. If you haven’t been to changecreator.com in a while, swing through there and pick up your Three Skills That Every Entrepreneur Must Have to Grow and Impact Business.

So many good insights in there. We’ve had lots of great feedback and I think you’ll enjoy that blueprint, basically. It’s right there on the homepage when you get there. So check that out. And I think you guys will get a lot out of it. And if you are on our email list or in our Facebook group, the Profitable Digital Impact Entrepreneur, I want to let you know that we do have a challenge that our team — myself, Amy, Danielle and Solene — are putting on. And that is actually kicking off today the 28th. So if you haven’t got the email sign up for the challenge. It’s called the Story Powered Marketing Challenge. We really want to start helping people understand how to harness the power of storytelling in today’s digital marketing world and why it’s so important, and what it means to your business — all that good stuff. So we’re going to start setting you up with those steps, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. So that’s kicking off today. So if you’re in the group, you probably got the invite or if you’re on our email list. If not, you can jump in at the last minute here or maybe you can catch us on the next time around. Alright guys, that’s about it for today. We’re going to kick this off with Susan Meier and start talking about some brand strategy.

Announcer 2:46
Okay, show me the heat!

Adam Force 2:51
Hey, Susan. Welcome to the Change Creator Podcast Show. How are you doing today?

Susan Meier 2:55
I’m great. Adam, how are you?

Adam Force 2:56
I’m doing amazing. The sun is shining. Actually, it’s pretty hot out here today. I’m in Miami. Remind me where you are.

Susan Meier 3:03
Lucky you. I’m in New York and it is freezing. The sun is shining, though.

Adam Force 3:06
I do love New York though, so cold or not. Yes. So listen, you know, I’m a big fan of branding and UX and all that fun stuff. So I think branding is such a important part of, you know, the personality of a company and who is behind it and all that kind of stuff. So tell me a little bit just about like what you have going on these days. I like to get the latest and greatest and then we’ll get a little bit on how you got there.

Susan Meier 3:35
Oh, sure. So, I have been for the last few years. fielding mostly work in the health and wellness space. And I find that really exciting because I’m a big advocate of helping people take more control over their own health journey. So I work a lot with clients who work in the technology space enabling, you know, sort of patient interaction with their healthcare or doctor interaction via new technologies. And I think we’re living in a time, in a world, where there’s so many new opportunities opening up through technology and through innovation that’s going to really improve our health — much needed — improve our healthcare experience. Yeah, so that’s been pretty exciting.

Adam Force 4:23
Okay, and so right now you’re doing a lot of consulting with companies. And I think you mentioned that you might be doing some, some new testing to work with individuals, yeah?

Susan Meier 4:33
Yeah, so my, in my business, I have a kind of a portfolio approach. So I work with larger companies, larger brands, corporations, helping their sales and marketing teams, generally, think about branding, and that usually looks like a, you know, sort of multiple week long project with set scope and phases of work, right like a traditional consulting model. Then I also run workshops, which is typically around innovation. But also I’ve done that for a very quick, quick brand positioning, sort of get my brand off the ground, put a stake in the ground around my brand. And that’s usually for earlier stage or smaller companies who don’t necessarily have the budget, but they do have the need, particularly when they’re early stage and are just about to grow, needing to sort of say, Let’s capture this great culture that we have now what our brand really stands for, before we grow and you know, the sort of things have the potential to get out of control.

So I’ve been doing this for nine years, and I’ve always saved a portion of my mental portfolio for those projects, even though they’re not as lucrative for me, right? But they’re very inspiring, and I really enjoy doing that work. And I learn a lot from it. And I like to think I contribute, you know, something as well there. So I enjoy that. And then what we were just chatting about is that in the last couple of years I’ve had individuals, so entrepreneurs, independent professionals like doctors, lawyers, consultants, people in those kinds of industries, where they’re an individual shingle. So it’s a professional brand, but it’s really the brand is them. And they’re sort of at a moment where they’re thinking about what their path forward is going to be, sort of how they want to show up in the world in a consistent way. And so I’ve been doing one-on-one work with a number of people using the same tools around, you know, what’s your identity? Who’s your audience? And how do you empathically connect with them? And how do you manage your messaging? Those are kind of the three pieces of branding, or at least they are for the way I approach it.

And, and so those are relevant for individual business owners and entrepreneurs as well. And this year going to be launching a brand new product, which I’m really excited about, which is a series of workshops where, which makes it a little bit more accessible and affordable for people who can’t necessarily pay the fee for a one-on-one, full-day session. where, you know, it’s a handful of people, maybe five or 10 people that come together in a room for that day-long session, do those same exercises, and share with each other inspiration, insights, as well as you know, my facilitating.

Adam Force 7:31
So sounds like you have a lot going on and some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline with the workshops. Can we just level set on how you’re defining branding?

Susan Meier 7:43

Adam Force 7:44
And then tell us a little bit about your process.

Susan Meier 7:48
That’s a great question. And I’m so glad you asked it. I feel like so many of the things that I do for a living and that I talk about — branding, strategy, creativity — are all words that are just a little squishy, and people use them to mean so many different things, right? And none of those definitions is wrong per se. But for me, branding is really about Who do you want to be in the world? You know, what do you stand for? What are your values? What do you bring to the party that’s different from what anyone else is bringing? And so that’s why when I think about branding, and the process that I take my clients through, it starts with identity, and really kind of authentically thinking about who you are and who you want to be. I usually do like a values…I always do a values exercise, and we often will do a mission statement coming out of that.

Because I think it’s really important to self reflect, right? Before you sort of go, Oh, well, I want to be who my customers want me to be, which is not unimportant. It’s important to understand your audience and think about how you can deliver on their needs, of course. But first, you have to be true to yourself. And so then the second part of the process is, you know, you are providing a service or product, so you need to obviously think about who is on the other end of that product. And so depending on…I’ve worked with clients who were really in touch with that, and I’ve also worked with clients who aren’t so in touch with that, not because they’re bad people, or they’re not empathetic, but because it’s typically in spheres where it’s like a new technology.

So, they’re either scientists who are developing, you know, a new drug, or engineers who are developing a new technology or developers who are developing a new technology that’s really exciting. And it’s kind of all about the science of what they’ve created. And it’s this new breakthrough thing that everybody knows is new and breakthrough and haven’t quite yet thought about how it’s going to be used or how it’s going to be understood by the audience or even who the audience might be. And so that’s not a wrong way to innovate. It’s just a way where they need a little more help kind of thinking about things from the outside in.

Adam Force 10:03
Yeah, I mean, we see this a lot, too. And it’s like, you know, people are great at what they do. But they’re not necessarily experts at how to position it, how to get the world to understand it, and how to express what they’re doing, because that’s just not their skill set. Right? So they lean into people like yourself to learn how to do that part of it. And I think, you know, strategically like you make some comments on your website and stuff about kind of joining forces of creativity and strategy. And I completely agree with that. And I think that it’s really important for people, they don’t need to become branding experts, but they have to understand the strategy about what…how to like, think about it, right?

Susan Meier 10:44
Absolutely. And we can’t all be experts, nor should we be experts in everything. I don’t know how to code. And I’m not going to learn and I’m so grateful to those who do. So, yeah. So I bring sort of my skill set, as you do and as we all do. But yeah, I think the combination of creativity and strategy is very core to my ideology. It’s kind of core to who I am. I am both a brand strategist and a visual artist. I do that not just as a hobby, but also professionally. I show and sell my work and that’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember — actually, longer than I’ve been…much longer than I’ve been a brand strategist. And so I bring that perspective to the strategy work I do and what I find, you know, in my own life, but I also hear this when I’m talking to people about their careers and their paths — that to the extent that they can bring whatever their creative spark is, whatever creativity looks like in their life, into their so-called real work or into the work that requires them to have their analytical logic brain on, the more electrified that work can be, right?

They’re going to be more innovative. They’re going to be more engaged. It’s gonna be more fun. So I think the combination of those two things. And the other thing I think is super interesting, as I’ve read a little bit about this, the neuroscience actually supports this, we talk a lot about in popular culture about left brain and right brain. And I think we’ve actually begun to believe that we have these two separate halves of our brains that govern different functions. And it’s actually just not true from a neuroscience perspective. The two sides of the brain work together on everything, you know, certainly Language Center might be located here versus there. But you can’t speak without using both sides of your brain. And so I think there’s a kind of a pretty poetry in that.

Adam Force 12:39
Yeah. I mean, I would imagine that we’re not just — that the whole brain is being used. And it’s not just these little compartments that they kind of make it out to be. It just doesn’t make much sense. And I think you know, there’s a misunderstanding. When you hear branding people are like, Oh, my logo and my colors.

Susan Meier 12:59
Yeah, I’m glad you raised that. So it’s not that that’s not branding. That’s an important component of branding. And in my experience that’s often referred to as brand identity. Although that can also be confusing, because I just use the word identity to mean something else. So language is tricky. By the way, that’s a big part of branding: finding the right language. But yes, so yeah, so your logo, your name, your tagline, your colors, your fonts, your website, your podcast, all of that is part of your brand. I think of that as the expression of your brand. So the company I actually worked for before I started my own company — I was the Director of Strategy, but my title was Director of Vision.

There was a Director of Design, but her title was Director of Expression. And I thought that was so genius. I was really inspired by that. By the way, it’s the best title I’ve ever had: Director of Vision. It was so much cooler than strategy because really, that’s what strategy — if you would ask me the question about what is strategy that’s a whole longer another long answer. But really, it’s vision, right? You’re looking forward into where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. And similarly, you know, the design and expression is really a great word for those visual components, or those succinct verbal components of how you come out into the world. That’s how you express your brand.

Adam Force 14:33
Yeah, yeah, hundred percent. You know, and it’s funny because, you know, I’ve done my fair share with some of these things. And I would, you know, I always read this research because you hear people talk about, well, you got to be this color because of this psychological reason and that’s like [unintelligible] reason.

Susan Meier 14:49

Adam Force 14:50
And one of the things that we do teach in our own program when it comes to just like, you know, helping people understand the basics around their website and stuff like that is like, you know, You can get hung up on the psychology of color. And I’m bringing this up just curious to see how you feel about it. And I would always say, listen, there’s probably some truth to some of these things, no doubt with some of the data and the tests. You could find conflicting information all over the place. At the end of the day, I would say like, Okay, if I told you, you’re going to go to the Harley Davidson website, and you think about in your mind automatically from preconceived information, bikers, black leather coats, all that stuff, and you went to their website, and it was all pink with flowers, it would probably not make sense to you. So to me, great branding is when someone thinks about, like, where they’re going, and then they get there and it makes sense.

Susan Meier 15:42
Yes, you’ve got to have a reason for what you’re doing. Now, there’s in your, for example, in your example, if you had a motorcycle brand and you got to their website, and it was pink, and there was some compelling reason for that, that they were able to explain, that was part of their brand DNA and their brand story, that could also be genius, right? Because everybody else goes right and they go left. So you can’t rule anything out. But I think the point, that is exactly the point you’re making that it needs to be mindful, it needs to be intentional. It can’t just be pretty. It has to be in service of some. And that for me is the holy grail of branding. That’s why branding is important is that you’ve thought through what you stand for, and why you do what you do before you make those expression decisions.

Adam Force 16:34
Exactly. And I like that you use the word intentional. I mean, I think that’s just such a big part of just everything we do as entrepreneurs is to make sure we’re acting with intention. You know, and I spoke to Jay Shetty a while back and one of the things he mentioned was a story he was with his art teacher, and he would go through this process there: Alright you guys, I want you to draw x, y&z. And you can do the best drawing, the most beautiful drawing just like he said. A beautiful website. And he would say, Well, why is this here? Why did you do that? Why’d you use this color? And if you didn’t have good reason, you fail. But you could have the ugliest drawing in the world and as long as you had a really specific intention for why you did certain things, you would get an A.

Susan Meier 17:15
Yeah, that’s a that’s a good teacher. That’s a good crit, as they call it. You know that you have to defend your work.

Adam Force 17:21
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So let’s talk a little bit. Now we kind of touched on strategy, we touched on branding. And you know, you say that in a lot of ways people think that these are at odds. So let’s just talk about that and explain how they’re not at odds.

Susan Meier 17:39
Well, I think there’s a bunch of myths that we grow up with, and it’s not necessarily that they’re in the front of our mind, or that we actively believe them if we were asked, but they’re so prevalent that somewhere they’re lodged inside our brains, like the starving artist, for example, right? Or in the same way that you might say, the absent minded professor. So this idea that people who are highly creative are somehow not, then at the same time, efficient or productive or organized. And it’s just not true because those who are highly creative and are successful in executing their creativity are extraordinarily efficient and productive and organized.

Everyone has their own way of doing that. Maybe they surround themselves with a team, maybe they have different tools than you or I or somebody else uses. But that tension that I think we set up as a society, starting with this idea of left brain versus right brain is just a myth. And in fact, if you’ve heard the expression freedom within a framework, I think there’s actually a sort of a confluence of the two sides. Not only is there not attention, but you need that stability and order in order to be creative and free and innovative. right? You need those two sides together.

Adam Force 19:10
True. Yeah, very true. Yeah, I think that makes sense. And there are so many myths. I mean, I guess we all have so many years of just different kinds of conditioning and messages. And you know, I always say today, it’s like, you know, we have this internet thing now. And there’s so much information out there where accessibility to become an entrepreneur, to live the life you want, is there. However, it’s also saturated with so much, just, misinformation because there’s a lot of people out there that really, they are trying to be something that they’re not, which means they’re not acting with true authenticity and intention, because they’re hungry to seize an opportunity. And all of a sudden, you have just flawed information, right? And I think a lot of that plays a part of this, right?

Susan Meier 19:57
I think it always comes back to self reflection, or should always start with self reflection if possible, right? Like thinking about who you are, who you want to be.

Adam Force 20:08

Susan Meier 20:08
And that’s also not always that easy, especially, you know, let’s say you’re 18 years old. It takes a moment to figure out who you are and who you want to be. And it’s okay to experiment with stuff and find that it doesn’t work. But that process of constantly looking back in the mirror and saying, Is this me? Is this really who I want to be? Is this really who I am? Is this really leveraging my unique stuff, my special sauce, my creativity, I think is very important. And you’re not going to really be able to make that impact, to create that groundbreaking idea in a sphere where you’re just kind of not feeling it, where it’s not the right fit for you. And so it’s always kind of that, you know, I think in the beginning of your career, you’re bouncing back and forth. Well, let me try stuff because you got to try stuff. That’s fine, it’s fine to sort of try something and you know, either fail or just discovered that it’s not right for you. But you kind of have to keep coming back to that core, that mindful intention of like, Who am I was this right? Why wasn’t it? Okay, let’s try something else.

Adam Force 21:15
Hundred percent. Yeah, it’s true. And that is those are steps I think that people believe they already know in their head like, yeah, yeah, I know who I am. I know what I love and all that stuff, and I know what I’m about. And they take them lightly and it’s kind of like the analogy I usually use is it’s like the one of the three little pigs building their house out of straw. And then you’re gonna have to keep going back and at some point, you’re like, why aren’t I connecting with the audience? Like why am I not making sales? Like why can’t I get anyone to pay attention to me? And then you’re like, then I gotta go back and like re sharpen my saw rebuild my house out of bricks now.

Susan Meier 21:50
Yeah, absolutely. I’m still doing that all the time.

Adam Force 21:54
Exactly. And that’s why I was going to do the house and I was like, you know, I said, resharpened the saw because we all have to go back and look at that sometimes because it strengthens what we’re doing just to like, sharpen it up again.

Susan Meier 22:05
Yep.And I think if we can think of it as a process, that it can actually be fun. And I think that goes back to where, you know, if you think about things through a creative mindset, then this becomes not, Oh, I had a goal, and I failed. And now I have to retool, because that thing failed. That’s a terrible story to tell yourself. Why would you tell your story that way? I mean, it’s, you know, it’s so much cooler to think, Oh, I created something. And now I need to resharpen my saw, create something else. And look, I made a hat out of something that used to be a dog. That’s much cooler!

Adam Force 22:43
True. And you put your scientific hat on, right? So here you are, you’re building a brand and you’re trying to see what works and what doesn’t. And you have to look — can’t tie emotion to it. So things take time. You put some effort in and you look at it as Yeah, you have a million ways of doing something and if the first one kind of flops, you cross it off your list and you move on to the next one. And it’s exciting; the story should be: Great, now I know that one’s…that’s one less I have to test out. Let’s move on to the next thing, right? So, in my mind, I’m always excited. I mean, yes, there are points of stress when you spend $10,000 and you’re not getting the results that you want.

But, you know, one thing we’ve learned, and you know, not to go off of branding too much, but, you know, you have to be willing to put in the time or the money one way or the other to get the data.

Susan Meier 23:31
That’s right.

Adam Force 23:31
You know, you’ve got to get the data. And I think that’s a hard lesson for people and they say, I don’t have the time and money to waste. And that’s the wrong word: waste. You’re not wasting it.

Susan Meier 23:41
It’s invest. It’s invest. For sure.

Adam Force 23:42
Yes. Exactly.

Susan Meier 23:44
Yeah, I think back to in college, there was a guy who lived on my hall who was two years older, and he was going through corporate recruiting, you know, where the companies come to campus and they recruit the best and the brightest students. And you send in your resume and then they send you back an acceptance letter or a rejection letter. And so this guy put all of his rejection letters up on his door. So you would walk by his door every day. And there would be, you know, three letters, five letters. This guy got rejected by like, 30 companies, and he owned it like a badge of honor. And he told me, I feel like those rejection letters aren’t failures. They’re like, look at the work that I put in here. And I am one rejection letter closer to landing that job. And I remember that my whole adult life; I thought that was such a cool way of looking at it.

Adam Force 24:39
Yeah, I mean, that is a mindset that you want to have. I mean, that is, yeah, it’s great to see that kind of stuff. And it’s funny because everybody thinks differently and you know, you find out in business that a lot of times, it’s not that you’re not doing the work or putting in the time. Like that’s all…everybody can do that. It’s really, How are you thinking about things? And you know, we talked about the conditioning. So how do you look at branding that maybe you’re not taking the right steps because you don’t see it the right way. Your perspective is not right. And there’s a lot that contributes to that. So, you know, having someone like yourself, like, as a guide, and somebody that’s been down the road many times, you know, this is where, you know, it is helpful to invest. Because a lot of times, you know, you need help on how to think about these things.

Susan Meier 25:22
Yeah. And I think just on what you just said…you know, I sort of read about what people are writing about when I think about personal branding. And I think that this is a little bit one of the pitfalls of the prevalence of social media, because so much of what I read about personal branding goes straight in for: How do you build your presence on social media? which is not an unimportant thing. But I think it skips over that step of figuring out who you are, before figuring out how you, you know, get as many followers as possible. And I think that a lot of people think about, you know, if you haven’t been through a branding process, a lot of people think about their brand as almost synonymous with their social media presence. And it’s not, you know, it’s not…it’s the basis of who you are. And then your social media presence is kind of an execution tactic.

Adam Force 26:15
Yeah. But contextually or content wise, I think would be a reflection of your brand expression, yeah?

Susan Meier 26:23
Exactly. Exactly.

Adam Force 26:25
Yeah. So I mean, there is a level of consistency. And, you know, we have to trademark this but we call it a digital conversation. Because, you know, you’re basically like…we teach storytelling for marketing and how to apply that to your digital, you know, business, right? And we’re not going door to door anymore. We’re not sitting down and having a one hour conversation where you can hear feedback and give a direct story or give insight that helps with the conversation. But we have all these bits and pieces around the internet that serve different purposes, and they tell different stories at different times, depending on who you’re talking to, right? So, you know, it’s that consistency. And people start doing different things in different places. And the whole narrative gets — which is basically part of the branding — gets messed up.

Susan Meier 27:08
Somebody told me the other day that in their company, they sort of forced themselves to come up with three messages and three messages only: What are our three messages? And then they put them up in the common area. And everybody had to be thinking about those three…and if what they were doing at that moment wasn’t in service of one of those three messages, they shouldn’t be doing it. I thought, wow, that’s tight. That’s great, you know.

Adam Force 27:33
Yeah, I mean, that’s true. That’s a great way to think about it. I mean, some people leverage the mission statement or whatever it might be, and there is a part of, I guess, leadership to keep the brand, you know, in line, I guess, and maybe I want to say, but just to keep everybody inspired and going in the right direction. Like, this is what we’re about. This is why you’re here. And so as you do anything, you need to be thinking about this because I’ll tell you, you know, after all my years, there’s many crossroads of like temptation to do things that might go off brand, because it might be more financially, you know, abundant for you, or whatever it might be. And it’s easy to go down those roads.

Susan Meier 28:14
It’s easy as an individual, and then think about how easy it is when you’re not thinking about a large organization. In fact, I have had a large number of clients who have gone through the branding process with them. And then they’ve asked me to stay on for six months to a year in what we call brand stewardship. You’re just sort of making sure that those branding principles were executed consistently by everyone. Everybody actually understood what we had done and why we had done it, and how it would appear in the world through those different channels of expression. That’s, that’s…it’s not easy.

Adam Force 28:52
No, it’s not. And it’s great that you’re working with individuals, smaller companies now because I think getting in on the ground floor like that to set up your culture and become a leader from the earlier days is a lot easier than trying to make a culture shift when you’re already 50 people deep. You know?

Susan Meier 29:10
Definitely. And the other thing is that, you know, most startups that I’ve seen, they have a delightful and unique culture that comes about from those three, four or five founders, right? And then they grow to like 10 or 15 people, and they still have this really true specific culture. And then all of a sudden, they grow or they’re about to grow to 30 people or 40 people, and that’s the moment when it’s easy to forget that culture. And to or to dilute that culture because those people weren’t there and it’s not their DNA. They need to be taught the DNA, you know, offered the DNA.

Adam Force 29:54
They need to be, I guess what is like a little training program.

Susan Meier 30:00

Adam Force 30:00
Onboarding, that’s the word I wanted. You know, I don’t know if you know TOMS, like TOMS shoes. So I interviewed, in one of my past conversations, Blake Mycoskie, and I asked him, if he went back and started TOMS again, is there anything that he might do differently? And at first he’s like, No, not really. And then he’s like, actually, you know what I would do differently. He goes, I would go back and I would…when we were hiring our executive team and upper management and stuff like that, he goes, I would be more careful about who we brought on, because they come with all their past experience and it could be baggage. Because now they come in, and they might be a great salesman, or whatever it might be, but they’re good at where they were and they have their own ways of doing things that now they’re going to bring to the company, which could be completely in the opposite direction of your culture.

Susan Meier 30:47
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so true. I think we’ve all worked with a person at some time or other who starts their job and every third word out of their mouth is, Well, at my old job we used to…

Adam Force 30:58
Exactly, exactly.

Susan Meier 31:00
It’s, I mean, it’s easy to do, right? Because you’re trying to leverage your experience.

Adam Force 31:04
Well, yeah, I guess our takeaway here for everybody listening is really, you know, getting set up with the right strategy, understanding yourself, kind of building out the brand to reflect this expression of all that consistently. But then figuring out as you scale the business, how do you maintain that and don’t lose touch with it, right? So you want to have that stuff thought out and make sure you’re paying attention to it. So we’re going to wrap up here in a minute. But let’s just recap…if there’s any recap, you want to give about just a couple key takeaways about the branding process for early stage entrepreneurs that you think might be helpful, let’s just recap that real quick now.

Susan Meier 31:40
Sure, I think my advice would be, first of all, self reflect. Take a moment, take a pause wherever you are in the process and think about who you personally are — what it is exactly that you’re building and why, what your personal motivations are, what your aspirations are for your company, what your aspirations are for yourself professionally. All of those kind of self assessment questions, just a snapshot. And then think about, you know, where you would like to see yourself, your business, your brand, in 10 years.

Make yourself a list of values that you stand, you know, we believe…I believe…I stand for…that kind of thing. Or write yourself a mission statement, something that puts a stake in the ground that you can then go look back at or share with other people. And then think through Who am I serving? You know, do I have one audience? Do you have one customer or consumer, or are there are many constituents to what it is that I’m doing? And then you connect the dots between those things, right? So, you know, who am I uniquely in the world and who do I want to be? Who am I serving? And so therefore, how am I serving like, what’s my promise to them?

Adam Force 32:55
Exactly. I love that perfect, perfect.

Susan Meier 32:59
So those are the Cliff Notes.

Adam Force 33:00
I like the Cliff Notes. Yeah, just a little recap. We touched on a bunch of stuff. So that’s helpful. And listen, if people want to learn more about what you’re doing, maybe connect with you, work with you, where do they go? Where can they find you?

Susan Meier 33:14
I think it’s easy to start at Twitter where I’m @susanhmeier, and then all my other information — website, etc. — is there. And also there you can read my thoughts on what I’m thinking about and what I’m following.

Adam Force 33:30
Okay, so that’s @susanhmeier. Everybody, Meier is M-E-I-E-R. Okay. Awesome, Susan. Really appreciate your time today. That was a fun conversation.

Susan Meier 33:42
Thanks so much, Adam.

Adam Force 33:43
Alright. We’ll talk again soon.

Susan Meier 33:44
Take care.

Announcer 33:45
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Ethan Beute: How to Start Re-Humanizing Your Online Business Today

Listen to our exclusive interview with Ethan Beute:


Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

Being a successful entrepreneur means having an online presence. However, it can be difficult to maintain a close connection with customers in an impersonal online world. Enter Ethan Beute, Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, a software company where the goal is to help you rehumanize your business. 

Beute explains that at BombBomb, they make it their mission to get people face to face with more people more often. And they’re making it happen. In the last eight years, they have gone from helping around 200 customers rehumanize their business to helping 45,000 customers all but eliminate faceless online interactions — all through the power of video. As Chief Evangelist, Beute sees his role at BombBomb as that of having a problem to solve as opposed to having a product to sell.

We want to rehumanize your communication. The pendulum is swung too far toward faceless digital communication.

Simplicity is Key

As the owner of a small company or one just starting out, you may be wondering how you’re going to swing allocating more funding to promotional materials if video is the way to go. Beute stresses that the videos BombBomb encourages entrepreneurs to use in their online presence is a casual, unscripted, simpler style of webcam or smartphone video. It is not about spending loads of cash on a polished, scripted video. Rather, the goal, Beute discloses, is simply to replace two paragraphs of text so that you can express your enthusiasm, sincerity, gratitude, or concern (or whatever your message may be) far better than through typed words alone. Your business will be far more successful if you are yourself more often when communicating with potential customers or investors.

Fans, Not Customers

You may have heard that the secret to amassing loyal customers is to create fans — fans who not only love your product but also love you, your business, and what you stand for. When you include video in your messages, people will feel that they know you far better, even before they’ve met you. Since your personality and non-verbal communication shine through, customers (and fans!) will understand your message far more clearly and be able to form an emotional attachment and psychological proximity far more easily than if they were just reading typed out text on your website.

Beute admits that this is also a far more satisfying way to work. You get to be who you are and build trusting relationships while doing so. He refers to a wholeness and integrity that appear when you can be yourself. When you are consistent with your own values and you can convey them in an informal video, you’ll end up attracting like-minded people who can’t help but become your fans.

Some Pro Tips

In this interview, Beute offers us loads of helpful advice on how to rehumanize your business. Here’s a synopsis:

Don’t send all your messages with videos. Aim to strike a balance. Flooding customers with too many videos will result in a loss of impact. When you do send a video, make the message specific and tailored to that customer’s situation. Include clear-cut statements such as “Thank you so much for your time on the phone today,” or “Congratulations on your one year anniversary with us.”

Focus on what’s in it for the customer. The customer always comes first. Your loyalty may lie with your business’s mission, but without customers, there’s no way of fulfilling that mission. When creating video content, be sure to ask yourself why a customer would want to listen to what you have to say. Are you just sharing your point of view or is there something in it for them?

Focus on the 25% of customers who read your email, not the 75% who didn’t. It’s easy to be discouraged when you get a very low open rate. Beute encourages business owners to stop worrying about what people don’t do and focus on the people who did do something. Focus on the people who act in a trackable setting, whether that’s by clicking through a Facebook ad, opening an email, or playing a video in an email. The benefit, in this case, is that you can speak specifically to — and invest time in — the people who have made the effort to show you they’re interested. 

Allow your customers to be heard. Beute strongly recommends talking to your successful customers. Get to know them. Find out why they’ve been loyal customers, whether you’re truly meeting their needs, and whether they’re using your product or service in the way you assume they are. Learning who your customers are and how you’re meeting their needs will tell you how well your product or service fits in the market. It will also give you a better idea of who’ll be your customer two years down the road.

The more you learn from your current customers, the better questions you’re going to ask your new prospects and future customers. 

We also recommend:


Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s going on everybody, welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. If you missed last week’s episode, it was with the one and only Perry Marshall. He’s like one of the kings of marketing. And he wrote the book on the 80/20 rule, literally. And we had a really great conversation on a lot of key topics in the marketing space. So if you missed it, circle back, check that out. Today, we’re going to be talking to somebody by the name of Ethan Beute, and he’s with this company called BombBomb. And they’re all about re-humanizing your business.

And they use the power of video. I mean, these guys have done over 12,000 videos themselves. And they do have a Amazon number one bestseller book in the under the business and sales category, and it’s called Rehumanize Your Business. So we’re going to dive into a lot of the techniques and strategies on you know, building trust, creating a human connection with people in today’s crazy, you know, digital world. So this is a really valuable discussion. And we’re excited to tap into that with Ethan. So stick around and check that out. Captivate 3.0 is moving along for those of you that are following the updates.

We have a lot of really interesting developments. And the first iteration of the platform has been released to our current members and the doors will open again soon, we’re hoping by the end of September or so, we’ll be ready to open the doors again. So keep an eye out and right now on changecreator.com, on the homepage, you’ll find a place to click into Captivate. And you can get on the waiting list if you’re interested to make sure you’re one of the first people to know when we open up the new program with all the updates and everything else. Exciting stuff.

And so that’s a big focus for us now. And I think I’m just going to close it out there guys. Don’t forget to leave us reviews on iTunes, and all the other great platforms. We’re on Spotify now and stuff like that. So really appreciate all your support. Join us on Facebook. This is a main area where we do a lot of our updates. We have our Facebook page and the Facebook group for those of you who are really interested in kind of stepping up your marketing and connecting with some of these like minded social impact entrepreneurs. And that’s it guys. Let’s dive into this conversation with Ethan and see what he has to say about rehumanizing your business.

Announcer 2:22
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 2:26
Hey, Ethan. Welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today, buddy?

Ethan Beute 2:30
I’m doing awesome. I really appreciate the invite. I’m excited for what you’re doing.

Adam Force 2:34
Yeah, it looks like you guys are doing some cool stuff, man. So I am excited to hear more about it and see what kind of nuggets we can get from you on the sales and marketing side of things. So just to tee up everybody that’s listening right now. Tell us, you know, what’s the latest and greatest in your world today, what’s going on?

Ethan Beute 2:54
I’m with a software company called BombBomb. And our whole goal is to get people face to face with more people more often. And so, for me, I recently had a title change that captures…You know, I’ve been I’ve been with the team eight years full time. And I’ve had the same title most of the time, which is something like VP of Marketing. But the job has never been the same from year to year. When I started, we had about 200 or 300 customers. And now we’ve got about 45,000. And so it’s, you know, been a dramatic change.

And so the most recent change for me was a title change to Chief Evangelist, which for folks who aren’t familiar is a somewhat common, although not particularly common title, especially in the software world. And it’s this idea that, you know, you have a problem to solve, not just a product to sell. But you know, if you’re truly innovating in what you’re doing as an organization, as a company, and as an individual, someone needs to be out on the front kind of cheerleading it, raising up awareness of the problem.

And the good news that there’s a solution. And so I’ve been a little bit more out front, related to the issues that we have today with our faceless digital communication, which I assume we’ll get into. So that’s been fun. For me, it’s a little bit less operations oriented. And it involves a lot of relationship building, which is always of course a pleasure.

Adam Force 4:21
Yeah, yeah, no, and that’s more important than ever today. I mean, relationship building is always important. But you know, as we get more digital, I think there’s a disconnect, and we’re kind of filling that gap. So it sounds like you guys are trying to address that with your video solutions, yeah?

Ethan Beute 4:37

Adam Force 4:39
So tell me a little bit about, you know, I guess what, how is your…how are these videos…Like, tell us a little bit about the product that you do have? Because I’m curious on not just the product itself, but like what it’s doing for people like what is that need to…How are you addressing the relationship factor?

Ethan Beute 4:59
Yes, thank you for asking. It’s, it’s the whole reason we exist. And we can get into the mission behind the company if we want to. But from a product standpoint, and what it looks like and feels like to the customer who doesn’t necessarily go behind the curtain to understand what we’re deeply about, we want to rehumanize your communication, you know. The pendulum is swung too far toward faceless digital communication.

Every single day, someone who’s listening to this podcast, including you, I guess, is interesting, some of your most important and therefore most valuable messages to a form of communication that doesn’t build trust and rapport. It doesn’t differentiate you and it doesn’t communicate nearly as well as if you look someone in the eye and so and just spoke to him or her right. And so, you know, when a lot of people hear video in a sales or marketing context, they think lights, scripts, editing, production, and all of that. And that’s cool. Like, if you and your team are doing that, keep doing it, it can be really useful.

We’re all all about this casual, unscripted, simpler style of webcam and smartphone video, that is not meant to replace that killer video on your homepage that you paid $3,000 for and is gorgeous, and makes you look like a million dollars. This is about replacing two paragraphs of typed out text so that you can express your enthusiasm, or your sincerity or your gratitude, or your concern, or your education or you know, whatever it is that you want to communicate, you’re going to do so much better, if you’re more yourself more often.

And the upside is people feel like they know you before they meet you. They understand your messages more clearly. They have this emotional attachment and psychological proximity to you and your team members, even in the absence of a physical proximity, which is a super interesting dynamic, and it’s very, very powerful. And it’s so ultimately, it’s more effective day to day, than relying exclusively on playing typed out text. But it’s also a more satisfying way to work.

Adam Force 7:03
Yeah, so I guess what does this mean for people and their sales process?

Ethan Beute 7:10
It means that you can get face to face earlier and more often in the process. You know, so many organizations are working, you know, obviously, regionally, where it’s difficult to you know, get together in person with some of the most important stakeholders in your success and your prospects and your customers and all these other people. But of course, if you’re working nationally or internationally, it’s basically impossible. And it’s impossible to do on a consistent basis is to spend that quality time face to face. And so this opportunity to do an initial introduction to respond to an inquiry, right, so many of us get these questions.

And I’ll give a specific video tip here. And again, by the way, I’m talking about just hitting record on your webcam or smartphone. With us, we do it in a variety of instances in Gmail and Outlook and Salesforce in our own web app and our mobile apps, etc. But no matter where you’re doing it, it’s just hitting record and talking to people. And so, again, an initial introduction or if someone reaches out to you with a question, you can just hit reply and talk to people and answer their question very specifically. Or if it’s a frequently asked question, you can record the video once and you have it at hand. So that when that comes up again, or if you want to build an onboarding sequence, right, if someone signs up for your product or your service, and you want to answer the four most common questions you get from someone who does that, you can do it once with video.

And you can blend that with, you know, the typed out text and maybe links to other articles or support pieces if you want to. But what it allows you to do is lead with your very best sales asset, which is you. Ultimately when people say yes, they’re saying yes, not just to the product, or the service and the price point and the terms and conditions and the mission that you might be on and in the values that you’ve expressed. They’re saying so you as a person and the trust and rapport that you’ve built with that person, that you’re not only competent to deliver whatever you’ve promised, but they also have this warmth, that you’re going to act in their best interest and really do it with integrity.

Adam Force 9:13
So yeah, I mean, and that’s great. And I like that makes a lot of sense. And I think more face time is important. And I kind of want to tap a little bit into the customer experience, right? So, you know, we’re going through the steps, and you’re labeling this as re humanizing the business. You know, what does this mean for someone who’s in the first couple years of their business? And if they were going to…they’re setting up their sales narrative across their website and stuff, I mean, I’m curious on the experience that you have maybe based on your background and stuff in the company that you guys are running, like, what is that customer experience like today that they should be keeping an eye out for?

Ethan Beute 9:56
You know, in general, when I hear customer experience, I think you know, the feelings and stories that people are left with, as they encounter you and your brand in your organization, the people on your team, etc. And so what this allows people to do is have a stronger attachment. So for us, when we were a much smaller company…You know, we’ve of course always used our own product, but not just to sell it–to sell it, serve it, represent it, to build relationships with people and what what I’ve found, you know, again, in the path from 200-300 customers to 10s of thousands is that I have this core initial group of people who I know personally, and when I’ve met some of them in person, two specific things happen.

One, a big warm hug, like we’re long lost friends, and I’m not a big hugger, I’ll hug people i like i like hugging people, I don’t think there’s enough physical contact in the world. But you know, I’m not a big hugger by nature, but I’ll hug them. And then we have to take a moment and establish, have we actually ever met in person before because that feeling is often easy to lose. And so what I’m saying is we built these friends and fans early on, by being ourselves. It wasn’t this, you know, you put up a website these days, just from experience standpoint, you can put up a really smartly designed good looking website that’s relatively frictionless. It’s well written, you know, you maybe use something like the story brand framework to get your message really clear. And people can walk in. And they don’t know if you’re a 50 person shop or a 500 person shop or a 5000 person shop, and you can look like you are.

And so ultimately behind that no matter what size you are this idea that people feel attached to Tim, or Jennifer, or Bill, or Jeff or all of them, if they’re all on the same team that they’ve interacted with you in a much more real and personal way. This movement is so young, that the act of communicating in this way from time to time — you don’t send all your messages with videos — but when you pick your spots, again, congratulations, you know, on your one year anniversary with us. Thank you so much. I hope we’ve been of value to you. Thank you so much for your time on the phone today, I hope you understand more clearly the opportunity, I want to address again, some of the exciting things for you and some of the concerns that you had. Then you pick your spots, and you communicate more in this way. It’s not just about understanding the information more effectively, it’s now they have a personal attachment and emotional investment at kind of that social reciprocity, right?

Like these unspoken thoughts and feelings that turn into behaviors and commitments and make us more likely to recommend or to take the next step or you know, even if it’s just from a reciprocal standpoint, even if it’s out of a feeling of obligation, I’m going to reply to that email more often, which is something we’ve seen statistically as well as through survey data and anecdotes that people get more more replies to their emails, when they ask people to reply in a video, right. And so there are all these benefits. But I think the most important one is that people are more connected, and they understand the information you’re trying to convey more clearly.

Adam Force 13:17
Yeah, it is interesting, and you know, putting that personal touch in there, we see a lot of value in it. And I think people…a point of clarity, too, for me in our experienc is that people get really hung up on, you know, the numbers like Oh, so if I do these videos, am I going to go you know, and get huge like, you know, viewership or go viral or you know, whatever it might be. And that’s not necessarily the goal here, the goal is to connect right with the right people who are really going to resonate with what you’re saying. So, you know, getting a few of the right people is more valuable than a lot of the wrong people. Right?

Ethan Beute 13:54
I’m 100%. And I’ll say a couple things there. One, if you’re evaluating video and video solutions and things, you’re going to see that promise, you’re going to see some snake oil type stuff that’s like, you know, we’re going to double this, we’re going to triple that. And to be fair, you know, when I did a survey, 15% of the people said they doubled or more than doubled their reply rate. 40% of people said they doubled or more than doubled their ability to stay in touch effectively. So you will get some of that stuff. But there are companies out there, they’re like, basically selling magic.

And there’s, and it’s interesting, because we get the residual effect of that on our side where people come in with these just unrealistic expectations that this is going to solve all of their woes. I will tell you though, it’s going to…again, it’s more effective, you’re going to get some better results. But it’s also more satisfying, and that you get to be who you are, and you get to win on who you are. So I just want to say that like to caution people say go out and read blog posts and headlines. There’s clickbait stuff, they’re over promises, etc. The other thing you said that super important, is this idea that it’s about the first five people or 10 people. I think of Seth Godin when I think about that, but it ties to this bigger idea that’s much more well established today than ever, which is that your current customers are your best source of your next customers, right?

This idea that we can go out and buy Facebook ads or Google AdWords and you know, follow people around with retargeting ads, it’s all good. And a lot of it is still relatively affordable. And you can produce a profitable customer from those things. But your very best source of your next customer is your current customer and the way they think and feel. And again, most importantly, talk about you is the best thing that you can create for your sales and marketing team.

Adam Force 15:45
Yeah, yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And, you know, we have found you know, that, yes, you have Facebook marketing, and you can always buy traffic, you can always pay for ads, you can always do those types of things, but you can’t buy trust, right. So when you’re putting out you know, and using video, and you’re trying to build a more intimate and personalized relationship with the right audience, that’s just something you can’t buy. So if you’re not set up, right, you’re not set up on your website, or wherever, on the digital environment, you can go and get all the traffic in the world.

But you’re not going to be converting people and getting people really to trust you as a company and a person and all that stuff. So I see a lot of people going out after all the tactics like I’m going to pay for this traffic on YouTube ads, or Facebook, all this stuff. But then they’re not paying attention enough to the actual conversion of turning people into like action takers who trust you and become loyalists and advocates like you’re talking about. So there’s a major gap there and a disconnect for people I think.

Ethan Beute 16:44
Absolutely. Because you know, we’re just looking for Gosh, things haven’t been as good the past couple of months, I need to fix something. And in the quick fix is what…and this is true in fitness. It’s true in diets. It’s true in our lifestyles in general. It’s just our natural tendency to say, what’s the one thing I can do right now that’s going to change everything? And you know the answer, you know, you might find that, but it’s so much less likely than making a couple good decisions today. And a couple more good decisions tomorrow. But one thing I’ll add just from my decade with the company eight years full time in two years working with them part time prior to joining is that I think one of the most fundamental keys to our success is that we’ve had approximately the same core values.

And I say approximately, because, you know, we’ve changed the way they’re stated it started as four sentences with supporting statements, then it turned into eight short phrases. And, you know, for the past five, six years, it’s been five specific words, each with their own kind of supporting, you know, two, three lines. But we’ve been operating for the same purpose and from the same values from the beginning. And this, you know, when it’s a true thing, and it’s not just just an exercise you go through because someone told you, you should do it. And you’re in you’re honest with yourself and your other team members and the closest stakeholders in the organization, about why do we actually exist? And what value do we provide in the world? And how this is the how part not just the why — why is a very popular term lately — but how is the real practical application of the why you can sit and ponder and sit in the why forever. But the How is actually the filter for how are we going to turn this into action? So what does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like?

And when when you do the exercise well, you wind up at this point of wholeness and integrity, where the people involved are actually expressing the way they view the world through the work. And people can see that and feel that especially when you do it in video, especially if there’s some sincerity and some excitement around what you’re doing. Video captures all of that nonverbal and puts it forward. And so if you’re not clear on what you’re trying to do at a high level, not just from a strategy and positioning, and go to market standpoint, how are we going to package it? How are we going to price it and all that.

But like the real deep stuff, that’s obviously where you get that persistence, that you need to get through the ugly hard times, because we all go through them, and they don’t go away. They just change. We going through hard ugly times, even though on the outside it looks like we’re this you know, overnight success, overnight decade open success. Anyway, I didn’t mean to go off on that monologue. But if you haven’t spent the time to understand what you’re really doing, and why are we all showing up every day, I don’t think you necessarily have a strong enough foundation to get through those two tough months where I started, you know, three minutes ago on this topic.

Adam Force 19:51
No, I think you’re you’re right on point with how we think about it as well, because a lot of times people are looking for that new shiny object to save them. And we see it a lot. And so, you know, if you don’t have your foundation of the house built, it’s going to continue to be a struggle, right? So you really, you know, it’s funny, because you hear it all the time. And I can read it, book after book. And you know, we interviewed people like Seth Godin, and he’ll tell you, it’s like, if you haven’t taken the time to seriously dig into, which is becoming cliche, like the why and all that stuff.

But hey, it’s it is a reality. You have to understand your true intentions, which inform your business decisions, right? And so if you have all that stuff, really, you know, pinned down, I think you’re right, this is…everything else starts to come into play. And it makes the tough times a little easier to get through because you have a real mission and intention in what you’re doing.

Ethan Beute 20:44
Completely agree.

Adam Force 20:45
Yeah. So I just wanted to talk a little bit then like, I want to, I’m covering a little bit of this, this customer experience. And I think because people we’ve noticed that we talk a lot, we talk a lot with our audience. And you know, sales is a always a struggle, right? We’re not necessarily profitable yet. And even the money we get has to go back and the business is like when do I get paid, right? And we are in the social impact space. So we’re trying to make a difference.

And the more we can be financially successful means the more impact we can have with the mission of the business. So you know, we talked a little bit about having the audience warmed up by creating stronger relationships using, you know, video in authentic ways. And now I want to touch on email marketing and content marketing. I think this is an area that you have expertise in. And so if we’re flowing the experience, you know, we want to continue that consistency of building those relationships. Tell me a little bit about your experience in the email marketing and content marketing space, how that all translates as well.

Ethan Beute 21:54
Sure, absolutely. Well, the first thing I’ll say for people that don’t have any background here and might feel like they’re a little out of their depth, or they read a book, and they don’t understand all the terms and phrases and all that, when I joined this company, I had no specific experience in email marketing in particular. Content made sense to me. I always liked to shoot photos, just personally. I was very comfortable with video because I came up in broadcast TV and wrote and produced and edited spots and campaigns and stuff. And I’ve always been a big reader, not really a big writer except in an academic setting. But all those pieces worked well for me. And so what I’ll say is, if you’re on the outside looking in, you’re going to learn so much just by doing it, you’re not going to do it perfectly well.

But the key thing in both of these scenarios is just like in video, this is simply a way to reflect who you are and how you want to be of value and service to your customer. And so it all starts with the customer, what’s in it for them. One thing I hear all the time, because you know, one thing you can do with our services, send an email or a video email to 50 people or 500 people or 5000 people or 50,000 people. And it’s like, you know, I only got a 32% open rate. Why didn’t these other 68% of the people open it? And to that, I’ll speak to both sides of that first, stop worrying about what people don’t do.

This goes back to like the first five people. Focus on the people who did do something, right focus on the people who raise their hand with their real behavior in a trackable setting, whether that’s by clicking through a Facebook ad, or opening up an email or clicking your link in an email or playing a video in an email, you know, that’s the benefit of this is that you can speak specifically to you can invest your time in the people who’ve shown with their real behavior that they’re interested. The other thing I’ll say, though, is that why didn’t she Why didn’t he? Why didn’t they is backward looking. If you think about before you ever write a word of a blog post, or you or you know, you may be done some keyword research, and you know what you want to write about from a? How can I generate some traffic from this post standpoint, it still needs to go through this filter, as does any email or video email or whatever is? What’s in it for them? Why should they participate?

Why would he open this email? Why would or why should she play this video? What’s in it for them? So often, our default, especially if we’re not, if we don’t spend a lot of time in these areas and on this type of work, we want to just go see what we have to say and say it. Instead of putting the other person first, your entire right to serve your mission with the revenue you generate through your customers is exclusively a function of the value that you provide your customer. The customer always comes first. I know it feels like the mission is more important. But the mission can only be served if you’re providing value to customers.

And so if you can keep that in mind and think about what’s in it for them, why would they click through this headline on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook or whatever to go read the whole piece? What’s in it for them? And how can I position it? in their words, in their thoughts, etc? Same thing with subject lines, email bodies, and all of that.

Adam Force 25:14
Yeah, no, I think…I love that it makes sense. And you do have to think about what’s in it for them and the results that they’re getting, why would they participate? One thing I would call out just to kind of put it out there for people is that there is one mistake people make. And when you’re always thinking about the customer, um, historically, there has been mistakes made where you’re constantly trying to adapt your marketing strategy to meet the customer, you know, which means that you start, like drifting away from your values and your authenticity, and you’re constantly chasing them, versus attracting the right customer for who your business really is.

And that’s one thing just to be wary of, because, yes, I think you have to think about like, what’s in it for them. And I always even say the first thing on your homepage, like that first tagline should be who this is for, and what’s the result they’re getting, like if they work with you. So that has to be clear. And it is for us to remember who it’s for, though, don’t lose touch with it. And people get too worried about like, well, we gotta adapt to what’s going on in the market. And what these people are looking for, and all these things, when sometimes that can lead them away from their true customer and who it really is. Maybe they’re just not the right person sometimes, you know what I mean?

Ethan Beute 26:29
Yes, and one to do there on a list is, you know, if you’re not…let’s say you are young and still growing — not fully as successful as you want to be, maybe even not even as successful as you want to be in this moment, or at this stage — talking to your real successful customers. If you’re not doing that now, I strongly, strongly recommend it. This is where you break away from the imagination where even if you’ve written personas like yeah, you know, my persona is Jenny, and she works in this role. And she’s 42 years old, and she drives this kind of car. And she worries about these kinds of things. You know, that’s all good as a thought exercise, but the real money is in who’s actually paid me for the last 18 months straight?

And can I talk to them? And are they getting you know, is the reason they’re renewing the reason I think they’re renewing is the way they’re using the product or service the way I thought they would be using the product and service. This is where you find that real like that real met need. And like the product market fit. We went through a couple rounds of that. And it’s it’s just always so informative to talk to real people.

And the challenge here is to filter. You got to recognize, you know, who’s an outlier and where the real sweet spot is. But, you know, trying to be everything to everyone is a very common mistake early on, and being very clear about, you know, of the 200 customers I have right now, who are the ones that are going to be with me two years from now? Who are the ones that have been with me for two years? And what’s unique can different about those people?

Adam Force 28:01
Yeah, yeah, 100% agree. And those are conversations, I think people should just keep having, you know, you never know how people may be using the product, why they love it, who they are, what their current situation is, and all that stuff. And I think we’ve had over you know, well over 100 conversations with people. And it’s like an ongoing thing. And one of the most interesting things for us early on was, you know, we were doing market research calls, like you mentioned, and just kind of talking to people that were getting involved with our brand, learning about them, and just kind of having nice intro conversations. Then we got to a point where we had some other products and stuff. And we were like, Well, before we do anything digital, let’s see if we can sell this over like a zoom call with somebody right there on the spot, right, like a phone call.

And we did video calls. And that kind of research was super interesting. Because you know, if you can actually get on the phone and sell to somebody, you’re going to hear firsthand like their objections and all the stuff that they go through. It’s a different dynamic when you try to sell versus like doing the actual market research. So we found these two camps, which is one, the market research people that are buying, getting involved, learn about them and what makes them unique. And then two, when you get on the phone. Now let’s say you know your customers, now you’re getting on the phone with them and you’re trying to sell new people directly, you’re going to get a whole new dynamic of information that informs your sales narrative.

Ethan Beute 29:24
Yeah, and it’s all you know… The more you learn from your current customers, the better questions you’re going to ask your new prospects and future customers.

Adam Force 29:35
Nailed it. Yeah, exactly. And it’s funny, because the more calls you have, you start really seeing what…like where someone’s mind is, are they the right person for your product and really what what kind of conversation…you can almost predict the conversation a little bit, because you’re right, you get informed from it also. It gets better and better as you keep doing it. It’s an interesting process that we’ve had a lot of fun with, for sure.

Ethan Beute 30:00
Love it. It’s especially helpful when that customer is someone that is doing something day in and day out that you don’t do or haven’t done, because they have specific — not just a unique perspective and unique challenges that you might not understand the nuances of but they even use different language and things. So the more you can kind of mirror people in their own language and with their own concerns, and with better follow up questions, you know, the more comfortable they’re going to feel. And they you know, that trust piece of they get me? I can see that kind of thing. Yeah.

Adam Force 30:28
Yeah, you know, I always tell…I remember at the time is maybe I don’t know was last year or something, where we were…my wife and I were watching that show The Voice. And we were talking with some of the people in our program and stuff. And we were talking about, like, you know, how people resonate and all this stuff, when you tell, you know, micro stories from your life that they can resonate with. And when we were watching the voice, you hear these people, they always do these backgrounds before they come and they sing. And they’ll do like, Oh, this person grew up here.

They went through all this in their life and all this stuff. And so next thing you know, these artists are like, Oh my god, yeah, I got all these like fan mail and all this stuff. And people would reach out saying, Oh my god, I can resonate with like that experience you had in your life. That’s so me, and I love you. And you’re amazing. And yeah, they like their singing, but what they really connected with was the relation…the areas of their life that they resonated with. So to your point, those things are just phenomenal. And so the more — the better you get at that you’re going to be attracting people that really love what you do.

Ethan Beute 31:31
Totally. And the best part about all of it is, you get to be yourself more often and win for who you are in the relationships and trust you build. It’s like the super win/win/win, there’s like this wholeness and integrity, when you can be more yourself. And that’s why again, getting back to being clear about your values, you’re going to attract more like people and there’s no better way to win, than consistent with your own values. It’s just it’s such an amazing feeling.

Adam Force 31:58
Agreed agreed. And we always say, you know, pretending is exhausting. So be yourself.

Ethan Beute 32:03
Love it, love it! And, and be yourself because no one is more uniquely qualified.

Adam Force 32:09
Exactly. That’s it’s a major point of differentiation when the markets are saturated. I was reading something about from the guy who founded Costco. And he’s like, I get all these suppliers, right? It could be a laundry detergent, let’s say 100 suppliers of laundry detergent are pitching him. And they’re trying to get their products sold through Costco. And he’s like, so when it’s really saturated, here’s the thing, what differentiates what, like who I choose to work with. He goes, It’s the person that I trust and like the most. So it’s going to be the people that told the right stories that connected earn the trust, and he really related to and resonated with, that’s going to win because they’re unique. It’s their own differentiation.

Ethan Beute 32:48
Love it, and people and just another pro tip: People like and trust you more when you ask them questions, and you let them talk. You’re going to learn a lot more. And people love to talk about themselves because we all ultimately want to be seen and heard as human beings. So our most fundamental need is, do I belong? Am I accepted? And so when you can let people talk about who they are and what their real concerns are, you know, even if it’s the context of their work, and the solution that you provide, they like you more, while you’re learning everything you need to learn to serve them, help them, and to help the next person. It’s just, it’s fun.

Adam Force 33:25
Yeah, hundred percent agreed. I think that’s a good note for us to end on here. We’re at the end of our time, Ethan. So that was awesome. Really appreciate it. Let’s give your you know, let people know give yourself a shout out and let people know where they can find and learn more about what you guys got going on.

Ethan Beute 33:39
Sure. Again, my name is Ethan Beute. You can hit me up on LinkedIn, you can email me ethan@bombbomb.com. It’s just the word bomb twice. Of course at the site, you can learn more, you can try it free for a couple of weeks. If you want to check out the book that we mentioned, Rehumanize Your Business, that’s just bombbomb.com/book. And if you want to go deep on customer experience, I’m having those conversations every week at bombbomb.com/podcast.

Adam Force 34:11
Awesome, Ethan. Thanks again and we will stay in touch man.

Ethan Beute 34:14
Man, thank you. I appreciate it.

Adam Force 34:16
You got it.

Announcer 34:16
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Michael O’Brien: How to Have Your Last Bad Day [Interview]

Listen to our exclusive interview with Michael O’Brien:


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Michael O’Brien’s last bad day was July 11, 2001. He found himself on his bike, hurtling down a New Mexico road and into the path of an SUV travelling at 40 miles per hour when his life took a turn for the better.

I remember the sound of me hitting his grill…the thud I made as I came to the asphalt below, the screech of his brakes.

Wanting to make the best of the situation, Michael promised himself that if he survived, he’d stop trying to chase happiness. He even had the wherewithal to throw in a bit of humor and asked the EMTs who were working on saving his life, “Hey, how’s my bike?”

Until that day, Michael saw his role in life as that of playing Superman. He was the leader. He was playing Superman at work, he was playing Superman at home, and he felt he had to have all the answers. He suffered from what he calls comparisonitis — the fixation on comparing what one has to what others have. And it was taking its toll. He was chasing some sort of ideal on a hamster wheel and getting nowhere and finally made a shift where he realized he could live by his own script and not by the script he thought society wanted him to live by. He began living his life with much more awareness. He made a concerted effort to do purposeful work that was meaningful and to do it with gratitude and a connection to others. 

If you can worry yourself sick, why can’t you think yourself well?                       

Michael put a lot of faith in the belief that if he lived his life this way, there’d be a positive downstream impact on his success. He started the day after his accident: He wheeled himself to a quiet spot in the hospital and practiced mindfulness. He he made a point of fostering his gratitude every evening by listing all the things he was grateful for. And he focused on looking at what was good in the world as a way to look forward to and embrace tomorrow and fuel his recovery. 

Not for Everyone

Michael is quick to point out that his strategy — his collection of rituals — is not for everyone. Often, we try to follow what successful celebrities or businesspeople adopt as their strategy. They do very well for themselves and so we assume that in order for us to become successful, we simply need to follow in their footsteps. But what works for them won’t necessarily work for us. Michael cites Tony Robbins as an example: Robbins, a successful life coach and motivational speaker, swears by a morning jump into a frigid plunge pool. But if you’re not a morning person and detest cold water, you’ll soon realize this is bogus (and not at all enjoyable) and that it’s not helping you move forward. And that’s the point. We all need to find our own things that help us move forward.

No More Bad Days

When Michael O’Brien refers to July 11, 2001, as his last bad day, he in no way means that life has been perfect since then. His goal, and his wish for all of us, is to be able to quickly rebound from the bad moments life throws at us. And as entrepreneurs, we’re going to have a lot of bad moments. His focus is to keep a bad moment from gaining any more fuel than it should so that it doesn’t turn into a bad day. The result: no more bad days. That’s not to say his life hasn’t had any challenging moments. But by not giving them any more energy than they deserve, he prevents the day from getting hijacked. Because, he warns, once that first day gets hijacked by a bad event, the next day gets hijacked, too. And before you know it, you’re in a pattern of bad days.

This premise reflects the work Michael does with his clients. He discusses with them ways in which they can become resilient in business so that they know how to respond quickly when those challenging moments happen. He stresses that how people respond to stressors is everything and so hopefully, with the help of some coping strategies, the intensity with which they respond is reduced over time, as is the number of times they are triggered.

Lessons Learned

Michael shared with us that he has learned a lot from his accident and the way in which it has transformed his life. He has started asking potential partners about their values. He is now much more focused on what their passion is and what they stand for as opposed to whether or not they can help him and his business get to the next level. He stresses that this is a critical part of being an entrepreneur. He adds that as entrepreneurs, we have self doubt creep in from time to time — whether our business is worth $50,000 or $500,000. And it’s good to have a team of like-minded people around you cheering you on. 

At the end of the day, as entrepreneurs, we all have the same issues: the self doubt, the incorrect assumptions, and making stuff up in our storytelling that doesn’t serve us well. Michael’s goal for himself and for others is to take a collective deep breath, look at the big picture, and begin to appreciate what each new day brings. 

You can read more about preventing bad moments from turning into bad days in Michael’s new book, My Last Bad Day Shift and at michaelobrienshift.com.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
What’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. If you missed last week’s episode, it was with Ethan Beute. He’s done a lot of amazing work and we talked about rehumanizing your online business. Really a good one. So if you guys want to check that out, swing back over. We’re on Spotify, SoundCloud, all those spots, iTunes, you name it. And this week, we are going to be talking with Michael O’Brien. And he’s an inspirational speaker and he does a lot of corporate coaching. He had this really crazy experience — a life altering event — that completely shattered his worldview. And he’s going to walk us through it, and it just changed the way he lived his life. He’s actually the author of a book that was very popular called “Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows.” He also has written the best-seller, “My Last Bad Day.”

Okay, and so he is on a mission right now to help 1 million people have their last bad day. So lots of really inspirational insights here and good tidbits on improving your life and making sure that you have your last bad day. So yeah, so stay tuned for that, it’s an exciting discussion with Michael. One update that we have is regarding the Captivate Method. So the doors have been closed for the Captivate Method, but we plan on reopening them now in October. So that is the goal; we’ll get a more specific day. We are aiming for October 1, but you know how these things go. So let’s just say October, 2019, the Captivate Method will be open, and we’re going to start getting people into the new format. So hopefully, that all takes place as planned.

And we’ll keep you guys updated about those things. I think that just about covers it for today, guys. We’ll keep the intro short and sweet. You know how to reach us at changecreator.com. Hit the contact, let us know if you have anything you want to talk about or get involved in. We’re always looking for contributors, guys. We’re looking for contributors for this site and if you have a passion, you’re an activist, your business owner — there’s a lot of things going on the world — share your passion. This is a great platform for you to get involved. There’s an application there for you to do that. Alright guys, let’s dive into this chat with Michael.

Announcer 2:25
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 2:30
Hey, Michael. Welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today?

Michael O’Brien 2:34
Good, Adam. Good to be with you, man. I’m totally pumped for our conversation.

Adam Force 2:37
Yeah, no, I appreciate you taking some time to chat. You know, it sounds like you have a really great story and lots of good experience. So we’ll dig into it. But tell me just a little bit. I like to just hear off the bat. You know, what is going on in your world today? What’s the latest? What’s the greatest?

Michael O’Brien 2:55
So with the latest and greatest? I’m pretty stoked for the next two weeks. Because the next week, I’m going to be with a client down in Miami for their sales meeting, doing a couple of keynotes, doing a little facilitation and hosting. But then the week after, I get to go up to Nova Scotia, for a week long bike ride through Nova Scotia for basically Multiple Sclerosis care, a great organization called Can Do MS. They’re based in Colorado and I’ve raised money for them. And they do some excellent work for people dealing with multiple sclerosis current day versus like looking for new treatments. So it’s like in the moment, and so we’re going to ride around, you know, the northern part of the world, all in an effort to change people’s lives, which is pretty cool.

Adam Force 3:44
Yeah, that sounds pretty fun. How long is…how many miles is this bike ride supposed to be?

Michael O’Brien 3:50
So it’s…we’re going to ride for six days. It’s going to be like 60 miles a day. And you know, so the good news is like we ride a lot. We eat a lot. Now, we might have a might have a beer or two and then we sleep a lot. But you know, going up there in, you know, in the fall, it’s going to just be absolutely beautiful. I just can’t wait. It’s one part of the world I haven’t ridden my bike in. So totally stoked. I can’t wait to get up there.

Adam Force 4:18
That sounds like a lot of fun. I just saw something in the news. I was talking to my wife and I was like, Man, this guy, he broke the record for running 100 consecutive miles and guess what his average mile pace was for 100 miles of running.

Michael O’Brien 4:36
I’m gonna guess so I think it’s going to be a little crazy so I’m going to say like like a seven minute mile.

Adam Force 4:43

Michael O’Brien 4:45
Wow. That’s nuts. Because like as a former, you know, I used to run before my accident which we’ll touch upon and so that is kick ass man like holy cow.

Adam Force 4:58
I couldn’t believe it. So Anyway, that was a jaw dropper. And when you talked about the doing some…I mean 60 miles a day on a bike is a lot in my world, like I’m not doing that. But a good way to keep in shape, that’s for sure.

Michael O’Brien 5:10
It’s a good way to keep in shape and you know, the cookies and the treats — you have a little bit less guilt as they touch your lips, you know, if you’ve ridden 60 miles so, but it’s really like it’s a great, great group of people and their attitude — I mean, it’s called Can Do MS — it’s just one of abundance. So you get that really cool vibe just being around them. And you think and you can do so much more than you think you can when you’re around them. And that has a beautiful way of just cascading or rippling into other aspects of your life.

Adam Force 5:42
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. So I’d like to give everybody a little background just so they know, you know, where you’re coming from and stuff and you know, you have a story that kind of led you to where you are now in your life. I’d like to just have you kind of walk us through that, you know, in a couple minutes or so, if you can do that background that would be great.

Michael O’Brien 6:03
Yeah, I’d love to share because it’s, you know, seminal to like who I am today. So, I’ll take your listeners back to July 11 2001. I had what I call my last bad day. I was out in New Mexico, riding my bike. I was out there for a corporate meeting sort of sales and marketing type of thing. Like a summit you fly out on Monday fly back on Friday. In between, they try to torture you with PowerPoint. And I thought, Adam, I was going to be the smartest guy in the world. I was going to bring my bike out, get some exercise, avoid the hotel gym. And unfortunately, and also fortunately, later, fortunately, I came around a bend on my fourth lap at a two mile loop. I was going to do about 10 loops for 20 miles before the meeting began. I came around the bend on my bike and an SUV, a Ford Explorer, white Ford Explorer, was coming right at me had crossed into my lane fully.

It was going about 40 miles an hour based on what the police estimate. And I had nowhere to go. And I didn’t have enough time to go anywhere either. Plus I was looking at it, I was like, Oh, he’s going to move, he’s going to see me, he’s going to move, he’s going to see me. And he never saw me and he, unfortunately, never moved. And I remember the sound of me hitting his grill into the windshield. You know, the thud I made as it came to the asphalt below, the screech of his brakes. I remember all that. And I was knocked unconscious. And when the EMTs arrived, they start trying to save my life, and I did I asked them the question that only another cyclist can really appreciate. I asked them, hey, how’s my bike? You know, because I was trying to cut the tension in the situation with a little humor, because I knew my life was in question just based on how they were reacting to, you know, my state of health and I was in the worst pain of my life.

To make a long story short, when they put me on that helicopter to take me to Albuquerque to the trauma center, I promised myself if I lived, I would stop chasing happiness. Because before that period of time, I was playing Superman at work. I thought I had to have all the answers because I was the leader. I was playing Superman at home because I thought as the provider and the dad and the husband, I had to have all the answers. And I was pouring a whole bunch of stress inside. I suffered from “comparisonitis” — like what I had versus what everyone else had. And I always felt I didn’t have enough so I just kept on chasing on that hamster wheel.

And I caught some things every now and again that made me happy but then like any great finish line to poofs and goes away and that was back to chasing. So I knew in that moment that I had to change the way I lived if I was going to have the life I wanted to have so I made that commitment that was gonna stop chasing happiness when they put me on the helicopter and long story short…and you know, I’m, you know not to ruin the end of the story: I live in the end. And I finally had a shift where I realized that I could live life by a different script and not by the script I thought society wanted me to live by.

Adam Force 9:17
Yeah, that’s powerful. I mean, sometimes these experiences can really jolt your perspective and how you see and live your life. And it reminded me of a time somebody told me I was talking about something about, you know, I want this and I want that and he’s like, well, you have to, you have to realize that if you feel that way, that’s the person you are that wants these things, when you get it, you’re still going to be the person that wants. And you’re always going to be in the cycle of wanting no matter what you get. Like, oh, man, okay, and so you mentioned you know, you were in some kind of cycle there of chasing happiness and things like that. So, tell me a little bit you know, from this event, how–what kind of changes did you start making?

Michael O’Brien 10:00
Well, I knew I had to get clear on my priorities, you know, because a lot of it was sort of chasing those external merit badges in terms of, well, I’ll be happy when I get to the next level. And, you know, I see a lot with even entrepreneurs like, Well, once I get this done, then I’ll be happy, or once I get this, you know, like, once I get a TEDx talk, then I will be a successful speaker. You know, you can name 100 different things, Adam. So, one, I first realized that if I was going to get my body healthy, I had to get my mind right, you know, because we often talk about how we worry ourselves sick.

Adam Force 10:39

Michael O’Brien 10:39
Well, in a moment of aha, sort of like my big shift, I was like, Well, if you can worry yourself sick, why can’t you think yourself well? And my big goal at that point in time was I wanted to try to get back to some level of normalcy, and to get back home and out of the hospital. So I knew I had to start shifting my mindset. And that was the really the beginning part of like having more of a mindfulness practice, which I didn’t even know what it was back in 2001. Like, you know, we forget, like a lot of this mindfulness work, meditation, gratitude, being courageous, being vulnerable, all that is relatively new on the scene, thanks to social media.

It’s one of the good byproducts because some of those messages get to be spread pretty quickly. But back then I just knew in my gut, if you will, that I had to get my head right. I had to get my mindset, right. And also, I had to get really focused on what I wanted my purpose to be. And back then I just made a commitment. You know, I’m going to let go of all the titles, I’m going to let go of all the chasing of material possessions. And I want to be the best father and husband and version I could be, which I know sounds somewhat cliche and a little Pollyanna-ish, but really for me, if I could show up that way and sort of fulfill that, get closer to being the best I could be in those areas, then I knew the rest of the success of my life would flow naturally from that.

So I began doing different morning rituals, different evening rituals, but also just trying to live life with much more awareness as opposed to just sort of aimlessly going through life on the hamster wheel, just grinding it out before we knew anything about grinding it out, right? Because we didn’t, we didn’t call it hustling, grinding it back then. But I just knew that I needed to do purposeful work that was meaningful, and do it with gratitude and connection with others. If I showed up that way, if my “how” was right, then I would have the downstream impact that would be successful, you know, and I just…I put a lot of faith in that.

Adam Force 12:47
Yeah. So there’s a lot there. And I’m curious, were there certain routines that worked well for you?

Michael O’Brien 12:58
Yeah, there’s two that were very fabulous. One was–and I remember, the very next day I got up out of my bed early in the hospital, I scooted myself into my wheelchair and I willed myself to a quiet place in the hospital. And I had like all my CDs because I was rocking a Sony Discman back then; there was no iPod yet. So, you know, now everyone’s music is on their phone or through Spotify. But I had about 10 CDs and I had my disc man and I used that time one just to get quiet. So that was the beginning of my mindfulness practice where I just sat in quiet and connected with my breath. And really started to think through how I wanted to show up in the day.

So it really was about my intentionality, which I didn’t call it that back then. We sort of call it being intentional now, but I really wanted to frame out how I wanted to show up with my physical rehab, with my occupational rehab, and then with all the visitors that would come, and just energetically for myself. So that was a routine that I would spend the first five minutes just doing that. I spent some time, about 5-10 minutes, just connecting with my breath. And then I would put on the soundtrack of my recovery, which was Depeche Mode’s Violator album, which is still one of my favorites. And I would just get in and sort of connect with my music, and that would fire me up, and I would start moving my body.

So it was a whole ritual to get my mind set for the day, but also my body set for the day. And it was a really good way to sort of frame it out. And then at night, before I hit the pillow, I developed a gratitude practice because in my condition, it was so easy to fixate on all the things I couldn’t do anymore, all the things I didn’t have, all my pains, all my aches, the scars, all the problems of my accident and how it was going to impact my life. So I spent time just listing out what I was grateful for. And it’s so simple, but not enough people do it even today to really help, you know, balance out because we’re so hardwired to look at what’s wrong in the world, it gave me a chance to look for what’s good in the world. And that helped me build into the next day. And then I developed that mantra creating better tomorrow’s as a way to sort of fuel my recovery.

Adam Force 15:25
Yeah, yeah. I don’t think a majority of people, you know, have these types of practices and, you know, everybody, you know, start talking about morning rituals or evening rituals. And after enough research, you know, and talking to some of these people around the world, like the Arianna Huffingtons and Tony Robbins, all these things, it’s like you find out that — in my perspective where I’ve come to conclusion is — you don’t have to wake up at 4 a.m. if that’s not good for you, right? Working within the best hours for yourself and finding a routine that is grounded in certain principles, but it’s for you. It’s tailored for you. You know what I mean?

Michael O’Brien 16:07
Absolutely, I think, yeah, I think a lot of times we go to celebrity too frequently to say, oh, wow, Tony and Ariana or Seth or fill in the blank — those guys are so super successful. I’ll do exactly what they do. And then we’ll do like Tony’s like ice, you know, ice plunge in the morning. You know, and we do that for a couple days and we’re like, this is bogus, like, how does he even do it? And so, yes, totally sucks. And that’s not to, you know, throw shade on Tony, obviously a wicked successful, but like they’re doing things that help them move forward. And we got to find the things that help us move forward. So my practice is my practice. And I offer it up to people and my clients as an example of what you can do. But what I try to share is like, you know, there are no hacks, there are no shortcuts. If the hacks and shortcuts were really things that were working, they wouldn’t be known as shortcuts and hacks. They would just be standard practices.

Adam Force 17:11

Michael O’Brien 17:12
So find the things that work for you to give your day some structure to allow you to rebound from those bad moments. Because whatever we’re doing, especially as an entrepreneur, we’re going to have bad moments. And my big thing coming off of my recovery is, I don’t want a bad moment to gain any more fuel than it should so it doesn’t turn into a bad day.

Adam Force 17:34

Michael O’Brien 17:35
And that’s why I sort of labeled my July 11 2001 as my last bad day and I haven’t had a bad day since, but I certainly have had challenging moments, bad moments, but I never want to give them any more energy than they deserve. Because if I do, then the whole day can get hijacked. And you know this Adam, one day gets hijacked, the next day gets hijacked. And now you’re on this pattern of bad days, over and over again. And then you can’t do the work you’re meant to do to help change the world and change people in a really magical way.

Adam Force 18:07
Yeah, it becomes like, as you focus on these things, you start just manifesting it every day. So you’re right. It’s kind of like, how you respond to things is really the bulk of what matters. So, you know, every even just as an example, outside of business, you know, if my wife and I get in an argument, it doesn’t last. We won’t be mad at for more than like an hour. Because after that, we’re like, okay, like I’m done putting energy into this. Still love you, let’s move forward. And that’s it. Like, we don’t want to carry any kind of resentment or, you know, just like the stress of being angry. Like, it’s just so ridiculous when you really get down to it. And I’ve learned that even with business, if you are focusing on things that aren’t working for your business, and you’re stressing and waking up in cold sweats and panicking about the money and all these things, not only are you when you focus on the wrong things like that, you are going to constantly perpetuate those things to get worse.

Michael O’Brien 19:05
Yeah, and you’re gonna, it’s what you’re talking about is really sort of forcing your way through life and your business. And nothing really good happens when we’re trying to force our way through it. Like you’re just clenching our teeth, you know, and not really enjoying our work because the other people that we serve, we can pick up on that, right, we can pick up on your vibe we can pick up on your energy. And so when we’re stuck in that loop, that negative, you know, self narrative, sometimes it sort of shows up that way, then it’s really hard to be present with the people that you need to be present with, and create the change that you’re really looking to create.

Adam Force 19:43
100% Yeah. And so tell me a little bit about the work you’re doing right now today with clients.

Michael O’Brien 19:52
With a lot of my work, I really try to help them focus on how to become more resilient because hey, here in 2019, we need more resilience, we need more courage. And we also need more communities. So we talk about — and I share with them — ways that they can be resilient in business. So when those bad moments or challenging moments happen, how do they respond quickly, much like you just mentioned, Adam. Like when you and your wife fight, that’s a bad moment, you don’t still last any longer than it needs to. So these things are going to happen. What I work with my clients on, it’s like, those moments are going to happen, how you respond to them is everything.

Adam Force 20:32

Michael O’Brien 20:32
So when you do respond, the intensity isn’t as strong and the number of times you are triggered, hopefully, that’s reduced over time. So we work on that, but we also work on really understanding like who’s in your peloton. So, as a cyclist, I love to use cycling metaphors. So a peloton is a group of cyclists in a bike race. Much like the Tour de France, all those brightly clad guys racing down the roads of France are called the peloton. They need a whole bunch of trust and collaboration and communication and leadership to go down the road as fast and as safe as possible.

And we need it, too, as entrepreneurs or just as human beings, like who’s in your tribe? Who are you riding with if we’re going to use the peloton reference, so I really help people understand like, Who are you riding with? Who’s around you? And what roles do they play because not everyone on your personal board of directors or in your peloton serves the same role. Some people aren’t going to be there for you in a crisis. Some will be there to challenge your thinking and get you outside your comfort zone. But let’s be aware about who we’re spending our time with because life and running a business is not a solo endeavor. So you need the right people around you to bring out all its beauty and all your success.

Adam Force 21:50
Well, and so what are some of the, I guess, ideas around making…like what happens when you don’t have like…have you ever…I don’t know about you, but, like, I’ve started a couple companies and there has been times where you know, you’re in a position where you need help or you think you need help because you’re probably doing too — much more than you should be — to start your business because you don’t know what you’re doing. And then you bring people on board who are offering like, Hey, I’ll help and be part of this, it’s cool and all that stuff. And you start kind of getting stuck with this team that actually may not be serving you, may not be serving the business and in the end, you know, you’re going to have to figure out a way to maybe separate yourself. So I’m curious if you have any thoughts for people in their early stages on how to think about you know, getting involved with the right people?

Michael O’Brien 22:41
I love this question because gosh, it happened to me frequently. Probably more frequently than I care to admit but I’m sharing this with you now. It’s really the first time I’ve done it really publicly. In the beginning, even after all the work that I’ve done on myself coming out of my accident, when I was an entrepreneur, I got caught in comparing my beginning to a whole bunch of other people’s middle. And I was like, I want to be where they are. And I want to be there right now. And so there’s all these people coming to you saying, Hey, I’ll help you, I’ll help you, I’ll help you. Oh, it’s only a $19.97 program or, you know, a $97 course. And I’ll do this freelance work, and you’re like, oh, wow, if I just take that course, or if I get that person to help me, they’ll, introduce me to the next level and, it’s just a different version of chasing happiness.

And I did that, you know, a number of times. What I learned along the way after my first, I’d say year, year and a half, is I started asking people who were potential partners about their values. And I really wanted to tap into like, Okay, what do you value and how do you look at a partnership with a prospective business client, and I wanted to see how they were sort of hardwired, if you will. If their orientation was at least similar to mine that we look like we wanted to work together because we believed in each other’s work.

And it was more than just Hey, dollar signs, you know, dollar signs from me like, Oh, this person is going to help me get to the next level and dollar signs from them like, oh, here’s a new client. I wanted to have much more of a intimate passionate partnership where I believed in them and what they stood for and they saw the value in what I stood for as a way to get more cohesiveness with my peloton, so I would have more trust and with more trust you can do so much more good out there in the world.

Adam Force 24:42
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I think everybody gets a little taste to this experience. And a lot of times you might find you know, I really like the people that are here. But you have to come to this like hard realization, like, are they right for actually making progress in the business right now especially at that particular phase in the business, right? So interesting, and I think a tough situation for a lot of people because you know, you can always…it’s so easy to get desperate and just want extra hands and so you’ll take on anybody that’s a willing spirit. Right?

Michael O’Brien 25:18
Absolutely. And I think a lot of times when the person is a good person, but doesn’t necessarily deliver the value prop that really will serve both parties, well, that’s tough because we don’t want to be a jerk. We want you know, we want to be kind. We want to be caring. But really, when we can separate that type of partnerships to say, hey, like, as a person, I love you to death. But from a work perspective, where I’m going and where you’re going, it’s not the same place. What that does, it frees us up to go into different partnerships. It also frees them up to explore different partnerships that fit them better. So there’s a lot of care…it’s tough to have the conversation. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a tough conversation to have. But it’s a vital one to have for really both parties.

Adam Force 26:12

Michael O’Brien 26:13
So, both parties can be surrounded by the type of people that can bring out their best but yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Like this aspect of being an entrepreneur is so critical. And you know, to avoid chasing those shiny objects and have those partnerships that will do right by you and can help shine a mirror in front of you when you need to, you know, have some awareness and can push you outside your comfort zone when they see that your work has even more value than sometimes, you know, what you see in your work, right? So because every now and again, we get a little self doubt that pops up as an entrepreneur. So it’s good to have these types of partners around us.

Adam Force 26:58
A little self doubt?

Michael O’Brien 27:00
Yeah, so a lot of self doubt, like I was inside before we got on. Before we got on the call Adam, I sent an email to someone. I was doing a reference check on a potential partner. I was checking out their values. And the email I wrote to my friend was like, yeah, I’m having a little self doubt, because the price tag to work with this person is a little steep. And in the early days, I got burnt by some price tags that were a little steep thinking it would be like, oh, they’re going to take me to the Promised Land of entrepreneurship. And so I emailed her, I was like, yeah, little self doubt, price tag, you know, am I going to replicate something I did years ago. And, you know, it’s good to get to this point where you can be open about that and say, Okay, this is what I’m dealing with. And, you know, after we get done talking, I’ll spend some, you know, more time to sort of processing it and then ultimately making a decision if I want to work with this person or not.

Adam Force 27:58
Yeah, and you kind of over time after really as you get experience in your space, I feel like you start learning where you need coaching and support. And we all need mentors, right? We all need people that have experience that can push us out of our comfort zone and stuff like that. But finding and vetting the people who have bad advice versus good advice, it becomes a little bit of a craft. And the more you know about your space, you’ll start knowing like, are they saying things that are logical here that makes sense and that I can trust them? And here’s that word again, trust like it comes down to Can I trust that one, their focus is what I need and that they can actually deliver on what they’re promising. Right?

Michael O’Brien 28:38
Absolutely. And I love to check them out, too like, just what they’re putting out there in the social space, right? So is it aligned to their marketing? Is it authentic? Are people making comments about their work and comments that are positive or maybe less so? Because that, you know if we’re going to develop a partnership with someone, we got to have that trust and a lot of the breadcrumbs we leave behind on social media gives us a good indication of like who this person is. And I think it’s a wise business practice just to do your due diligence on that before you broker a partnership. Maybe it’s easy to start, but a little bit harder to break.

Adam Force 29:25
Yeah. I mean, and we’ve gone through, you know, the courses and all those things. And you know, we’ve done even we have partnerships and mentors up to like 20, it can be, you know, $20,000 we’ve put in to get coaching and as you get more experience, it gets more expensive when you’re pushing into the next level of of what you’re doing. So you really do need to kind of like have a keen eye and do your due diligence. I think that’s a good way to put is really do that due diligence.

Michael O’Brien 29:49
Yeah, and I would say at all levels, you know. Even so, as a new entrepreneur, I remember my thinking is like I just want to get to the next level. I was fortunate last year to be in a pretty high level mastermind and the price tag was very similar to what you just referenced. And what was fascinating to me — and I knew this intellectually, but I didn’t necessarily understand it emotionally until I went for the first weekend. So all these, all these entrepreneurs were high level, like, like, let’s call it a million dollars plus. And they had their version of self doubt, because they were trying to get to the next level. And it was, so it’s like, oh, wow, like the self doubt — that part doesn’t necessarily go away, right? So you gotta be dealing with it. But, you know, goes back to that old adage: next level, next devil — that we’re always working with our self narrative, so we can get past it to serve more people, regardless of where we may be. If we have a $50,000 business or a $500,000 business. We all experience some of the same things. And we also experience the question mark of Who should we partner with? And spending some extra time on where we need partnership and who we do it with is just, yeah, it’s a sound business practice for any entrepreneur that wants to last over time.

Adam Force 31:17
Yeah. And you’re right, that self doubt. I mean, I one thing that Tony Robbins that stands out to me that he told us was like, he’s like, I work with all these people, all these professionals in different spaces, you know, they’re multi million dollar people. And anytime someone was stuck, and they’re trying to get to a next level in their life, or their business, whatever it might be, he said, 80% of the time, it was a psychological block that he had to help him get past. So they’re holding themselves back. It was not about the tactics, the strategy. It was just this psychological barrier, which is obviously self doubt is one of those types of barriers that I think is like, fundamentally consistent across the board, no matter where you are in your life.

Michael O’Brien 31:56
Absolutely. You know, I don’t really do a lot of work with entrepreneurs, as far as coaching them, most of my coaching is with corporate executives who have reached some of the highest levels in their company. And it’s all mindset as well, right? It’s all the self doubt. So here they are, they got these big corporate jobs, you think that they’re all that and a bag of chips. And at the end of the day, we all have the same issues, the, you know, the self doubt, the limiting beliefs, the incorrect interpretations or assumptions, making stuff up in our storytelling that doesn’t serve us well. We all have it, regardless of what level and when we realize that it’s like, wow, we’re all pretty human. And you can take like a collective exhale, and say, Okay, all right. So now what? Let’s get to work. And let’s try to figure it out and make iterations upon iterations or take a step closer to mastery. You know, appreciate the gift that each day really brings. Yeah, try to maximize it and then the next day we try to do a little bit better. And then, you know, you follow suit day after day.

Adam Force 33:06
Yeah, hundred percent. And it’s amazing because you can get into these conversations with coaches and other people that might be helping you out. And sometimes it’s just an experience or the way you might have heard something, I say this all the time, like, you might have heard someone, say, a certain make a certain point or share an idea. And you’re like, Okay, yeah, I get it. And then you hear someone else say it, but in a different perspective that’s right for you at that time. And it all of a sudden, a light bulb goes off and you’re like, Oh, now I really get it. You know, and it’s like, you have these moments of clarity.

Michael O’Brien 33:38
Absolutely. Well, there’s, I think there’s a belief in the advertising world that you have to hear a marketing message six or seven times it could even be higher, because there’s so much noise out in the marketplace now, but same thing in terms of sometimes advice, you know, as a parent, you know, I’ve told my kids like x y&z probably 1000 times and then someone they might hear from a YouTube influencer. And they’re like, Oh my god, Dad, I heard this amazing thing from so and so. And I’m like, Oh, really? What is it? And they’re like, well, we I should do this. And I it takes all my effort, Adam to be like, Oh, yeah, I think that’s really good advice even though like I’ve told you that 1000 times before. You know, it’s just, you know, as a parent, it’s, you know, it’s humbling at times because you tell your kids, all these different things, and sometimes they finally pick up on the lesson when they hear from outside or or a teacher or someone like that.

Adam Force 34:36
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, Michael, listen, we’re going to wrap up here in a second, but I want to do two things. One, tell us about your latest book real quick what that is, so people, you know, who are interested can check that out and then tell us where people can just learn more about what you’re doing.

Michael O’Brien 34:51
Yeah, absolutely. So the new book is called My Last Bad Day Shift. And it’s all to help the reader prevent bad moments from turning into bad days and in it, I give real practical advice. Once I get done reading and it’s a short read it was a number one new release on Amazon’s quick reads and then in multiple sections within Amazon like work life balance and work life stress, all that. You know, practical tips in the morning, during work, and in the evening to help us manage our day so we have more energy in our days. So that’s I think it’s a great compliment or a companion piece to my memoir, and people get to learn a little bit more of my about my personal story, but the tips make it magical in my opinion, and then where to find more about me is my website, which is michaelobrienshift.com. And there you can find like my social media channels and sign up for my blog posts and all that good stuff like that. So yeah, so that’s the best place to start.

Adam Force 35:55
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Michael. Appreciate your time today.

Michael O’Brien 35:59
Thanks, man. Thanks for having me on.

Adam Force 36:00
Alright, have a good one.

Announcer 36:01
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Mark Agnew: Challenging the Buy-One-Give-One Social Business Model

Listen to our exclusive interview with Mark Agnew:

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Mark Agnew’s life’s work was sparked by a brutal attack when he was mugged at the age of 26. He was hit in the face and permanently blinded in one eye. The 1987 attack planted the seed for a future in the eyeglass industry, but not right away.

First came a move to another city, a business degree, and a stint on Wall Street in a research capacity. But after 10 years, he realized he didn’t find the work interesting since he wasn’t having much of an impact on others. After looking into the eyewear industry, Mark recognized that the inefficiencies he discovered were causing people to pay far too much for eyewear. Another issue was product selection in most stores that was mediocre at best. This led to the creation of eyeglasses.com in 2000, one of the first online retailers to sell eyewear. Back then, Mark’s greatest challenge was convincing the general public that they could and should purchase eyeglasses online. But, as time went on and people became more comfortable with online shopping, business improved. 

PiWear: Eyewear With Purpose

This past July, Mark’s goal to help others through his business came to fruition through the launch of PiWear, a line of eyewear that gives back. For every pair of their glasses sold, PiWear provides eyesight-restoring surgery to a blind person in need. Mark describes this model of giving back as “version two” of the one-for-one giveback model — a step beyond the original version. The name, PiWear, is a nod to the line of eyewear as it features circular glasses. The line is constantly evolving, explains Mark, with new designs and colors continually added. 


Good Karma is Universal

PiWear’s charitable work is accomplished through the Sankara Eye Foundation in India. They’ve built 10 hospitals, with an additional two under construction. With PiWear’s help, they’ve performed over two million surgeries so far. Mark states that this model is so interesting that they are looking to expand it to other countries. When asked why he decided to help people in India and not his native United States, Mark makes an interesting point: He sees the world as a place where we are all linked together. So, giving someone the gift of sight in India, he explains, will come back to us in karmic benefit.

So when you help another person, whether they’re next to you or they’re across the world, it helps you, it helps them. And in the business context, it helps your company.

A second reason PiWear funds surgeries in India is that each cataract surgery costs roughly $30 to perform there. In the United States, that same surgery costs $3,000. Mark argues that it makes no sense for him to wait until he has sold 100 pairs of eyeglasses in order to only help one person in the U.S. He adds that this also wakes people up to the realities of the American medical system since the surgeries performed in India are identical to those performed in the United States, each only taking about 15 minutes. 

Help Others and Never Give Up

When PiWear helps a person in need, they don’t just help the person regaining their eyesight; they help those around them, too. Mark points out that the recipient’s community also feels the benefit of someone who can once again take care of themselves. They also feel inspired by the fact that a total stranger would be willing to give them the gift of sight. This is the prime directive Mark believes is at the base of every successful company — to help others and to never give up.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:13
Hey, what’s up and welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. Hope everybody is doing amazing. So this episode, we’re going to be talking to somebody who was a former Wall Street trader and financial analyst, and his name is Mark Agnew. He has now founded eyeglasses.com. And that is an antidote to optical stores and insurance companies that are known to overcharge customers for eyeglasses, prescriptions and sunglasses and things like that. He was really unhappy just with the state of the industry. And so he actually wrote a book called Eyeglasses Buying Guide, and that was published in 2019. And it covers basically 20 years of all his insights and tips for consumers to navigate eyecare products.

Now what’s interesting is he launched this new line called PiWear, and for each pair of those glasses that are sold, they’re offering eye surgery for somebody in rural India that actually cures blindness caused by cataracts. So he has a really interesting story. And he’s got a lot of experience in this space. And he’s challenging that one-for-one model with a new creative approach by offering this surgery instead. And this has been helping a lot of people with that problem. So pretty amazing stuff. And we’re going to learn more about that and how it works. If you didn’t catch the last episode, we spoke with Tom Kulzer. He’s the founder of AWeber and we talked about email marketing, and he has over 20 years of insights. So it’s a great conversation that we have about email marketing. So we want to step up the engagement and the growth of your email. There’s a lot of good little tips in there. So if you want to swing back and check out that discussion with Tom Kulzer.

Make sure you stop by changecreator.com, we’ve been putting out a ton of new content that you guys can check out, that will be super valuable. And you can get on the waitlist for the Captivate Method, there’s tons of opportunity in that program for people that are looking to take a social impact business and create a digital system that helps them become profitable. Okay? Guys, we’re on Facebook a lot. So if you’re not following on Facebook, you’re going to be missing out on stuff. So make sure that you catch us on Facebook. And we also have the group, the Profitable Digital Impact Entrepreneur. So if you want to get a little bit deeper and more intimate with learning and a network of like minded people, you want to get into the group. So just fill out a couple questions over there and we’ll get you in. We are selective about who comes in. So we appreciate you taking the time to check that out and answer those questions. And last but not least, please stop by and leave us a review in the iTunes Store. Those are very, very helpful and we always love hearing from you guys. Appreciate all the good feedback and the emails we get from everybody. It’s always great to see. Alright guys, let’s jump into this conversation.

Announcer 3:10
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 3:15
Hey Mark, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today, man?

Mark Agnew 3:20
Doing great, Adam. Thanks for having me on today.

Adam Force 3:22
You got it. I appreciate you being here. I love talking about social impact business models, and it looks like you’re doing some cool stuff. So before we get into all the dirty details, could you tell us a little bit about what you got going on today? What’s going on in your world?

Mark Agnew 3:36
Well, the world of eyeglasses is I wouldn’t say the most exciting world out there. It’s an item that we have in our daily lives. And it’s been around a couple hundred years. But what we try to do here is to continually evolve our service product that we offer to people and give them more than they thought they were going to get when they come to our website.

Adam Force 4:05
Awesome and tell us a little bit about yourself. Like, what’s going on for you? How you feeling about things? What’s your goals these days? Any big wins for you?

Mark Agnew 4:13
You know, what I constantly try to do with this company I’ve been at it 20 years and it’s…there is no single mission; it’s an evolution. And so we started at one place and had been working at it and recently have started a new project which I’m very very excited about. We’ll talk about later — the the PiWear — and for us, it’s about how to give back more while doing it, you know, efficiently and profitably and so that we can stay in business and also be an example to others.

Adam Force 4:54
Awesome. I love it. Yeah, there is this constant evolution of things. And, you know, I guess fresh ideas come from previous ideas and we just keep iterating. Right? Just kind of like that lean process almost. Do you see a difference in the marketplace? How like, just what people are looking for from businesses today?

Mark Agnew 5:18
Yeah, the people expect more from the internet than they did; they’re much smarter and savvier and more educated than they’ve ever been. And this is something we’ve seen, year after year, it grows and it’s very much in our favor. So typically, what you see in the lifestyle of things is that a new shiny object will come up and everyone will get excited about it, and they’ll blast on social media. And then it’ll kind of wear off because they realized that that shiny new thing doesn’t have a lot of substance behind it or beneath it. And so that’s been very much a challenge that we’ve had. We are one of the first places that opened up online back in 2000. And about six years ago, seven years ago, we saw a ton of companies coming out with a very inexpensive eyeglasses on the internet. And the amount of customers for those places exploded. But those customers are now starting to look for a better quality product. They know how to do it online. And, and that’s helping us quite a bit.

Adam Force 6:46
Yep, yep. Yeah, so I guess you know, before we get into what you have going on, and let me know if I think you said PiWear, right? That’s how you pronounce that?

Mark Agnew 6:56

Adam Force 6:56
Okay. Before we get into those details, and how we’re kind of shifting that one-for-one model with what you’re doing, what got you into eyeglasses? Can you tell us that story?

Mark Agnew 7:08
Sure. So, and you mentioned at the beginning, that companies do things that are based on their interests or their…something that’s really affected them in a forceful way. And that’s exactly how eyeglasses.com started, although I didn’t know it. Back in 1987, when I was 26 years old, I was mugged and hit in the eye with a stick and permanently blinded in one eye. And at that time, it shocked me into changing my life, but I was still a long way away from starting an eyeglasses company. So I changed my job. I moved to another city. Couple years later, I got a business degree, came back. I went back to working on Wall Street in a research capacity this time. I moved from sales to research, I learned over 10 years at Bear Stearns Lehman Brothers how to analyze companies and businesses.

And then after about 10 years of that, I realized that it just wasn’t that interesting because I wasn’t doing anything for people. So I really wanted to have more of an impact. So I started looking around at businesses to research and I looked at a lot of different things, but I kept coming back to the vision industry because being blind in one either there are certain experiences you have seeing the doctor and eye operations and going and getting eyeglasses. So I started looking at it and I realized that there was tremendous inefficiencies in the eyewear business, which was causing people to pay way too much for eyeglasses and being forced to buy from a very small choice in most stores. And the internet was a perfect way to fix some of those problems and that’s how it all got started.

Adam Force 9:09
Wow, that’s pretty cool. I mean your story ties right in. I think it’s actually good that you kind of stuck with the eyeglass space because it makes…it just kind of aligns to your history and there’s a good reason for you doing what you’re doing now.

Mark Agnew 9:21
Yeah, and it’s funny how a person’s personal passion or personal experience translates into a passion to help others.

Adam Force 9:34
Yeah, I love it. And we always say that you know, it’s not just the product that brings the value; it’s the intention that it was created with. It’s the meaning — the story — that’s behind it that really can give it value for people and I love your quick story that you gave us behind this. And it sounds like it’s gone down a really interesting path because, you know, you talk about let’s actually tee up PiWear and what you’re doing because we talked about kind of challenging the existing one-to-one model. Now, we’ve interviewed Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS and we had that conversation. So, people who listen to our show, I’d love to hear kind of like your take on the evolution of this business model and what you’re trying to do with PiWear, so maybe a little background there would be good.

Mark Agnew 10:18
Sure, the one-to-one model is definitely very inspirational to me. And you know, I’ve listened to his story and obviously very familiar with Warby Parker, and, you know, Pura Vida, and you know, there’s a number of stories out there that…The Sock Company…And and it’s just really inspiring to hear how those companies have taken the one-for-one model and inspire people to think differently about how they consume, when they consume, and why they consume. So that was very inspirational to me. But I couldn’t figure out a way to translate this into our business. So in the first, say 12 years before Warby Parker came along we would do things like give free eyeglasses to local homeless shelters and get them eye exams and when people had real problems we hooked them up with doctors who would give them free eye surgeries and things like that. And that was great. But it wasn’t, like, it wasn’t enough.

So then you’ve got these one-for-one models and that’s great, too. But I think we’re kind of getting beyond that model, call that the version one. And I’m kind of looking at version two of the give-back and putting all that together and trying to get people in really truly inspired to take another look at the giveback value proposition. I came up with a new eyewear line which we call PiWear because they’re circular glasses, symbol pie. And when you buy a pair of these glasses, we donate a surgery so that blind people can see again, which is just so powerful to me because, you know, seeing again is a luxury I don’t have from an operation but many people do. So, yeah, so that evolved.

Adam Force 12:47
I mean, it’s interesting. And as I hear that, I’m thinking about your experience and you know, the immediate thing is like, well buy one get one. I mean, great, so we can evolve that and it could be yeah, you buy something from us and now we’re donating this surgery to somebody and it’s not just about helping people who can’t see well see better; it’s about helping someone who can’t see at all see: a very different dynamic and it leads me to…I kind of want to ask about your experience personally, meaning when you lost you know, your vision in the one eye, what was the most difficult part about that for you?

Mark Agnew 13:23
Oh, it was definitely the emotional part. The physical part wasn’t that dramatic but the emotions that you go through in losing vision is really devastating. That first month or two months was very, very difficult to function at all. Because we are so kind of trained to assume that our vision is there and will never go away. It’s like the ability to lift a glass to your mouth and take a drink of water and the ability to you know, pick up a fork with some food. We take it for granted. Just, you know, looking out a window with the trees — we take that for granted. And so when that is kind of being taken away from you in the space of about two hours every fear in your life kind of comes home to roost and interrupts all your basic functions for a while.

Adam Force 14:36
Yeah, I mean, I can close one eye and I feel like I’m a blurry mess. You know, it’s like a whole other world.

Mark Agnew 14:43
Yeah, yeah.

Adam Force 14:44
I can imagine the the emotional stress and the difficulty of just adapting to that and I guess just personally accepting it, right? So here you are, you know, you’ve had this experience and now I can see obviously why it kind of led you to help people cure blindness who could be cured versus just giving people who can already see glasses, right? So why did you decide that you were helping people in rural India? What’s the reason for that location?

Mark Agnew 15:13
You know, the concept of charity is interesting because every one of us has a finite number of amount of resources that we can give. So, you know, between the guys in the street that are asking for money and the emails that you get from your friends asking for money and the things you do in companies that you might work for and the things then businesses that you might create, to give back — all of these things require resources from us. And we have a finite amount of resources so we can’t give to everything. You know, the richest man in the world can’t give to every everything. So there has to be a — each person has to create like a personal, you know, boundary around what they’re going to do and why they’re going to do it. And so this is why I think you see so many people starting businesses around a personal passion, because that’s the boundary they have erected to pursue. It’s something that comes from the heart and that truth is what fires up the business.

Adam Force 16:24
100%. It makes it meaningful for them to wake up every day and you know, it has, I guess, a connection for them and, and that is felt by the people who become their advocates. Right? So I mean, it’s great when you hear someone’s story about what they’re doing and why just like you’ve shared today because when you see that, you can see they’re genuine. You see where they’re coming from, and we all know there’s something in it for the business owner, like what’s in it for you? Well, the story is a great representation of you know, your intention. So to me, it’s just — it’s a good feeling and you know you’re getting behind something that you can be proud of.

Mark Agnew 17:03
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. There has to be, I mean, we have to do certain things. You know, we have to buy eyeglasses, we have to buy socks. And so the question is, where do we do that? And what things in our life do we want to support? So if you’re going to buy a pair of socks or a pair of eyeglasses, why not do it with a company that has the intention of, you know, putting a portion of their profits to help people who need help?

Adam Force 17:34
Yeah, exactly, exactly. I mean, it is..and that’s the thing I love. And this is what Change Creator’s all about is really trying to flip the script on how we…the intention we have behind business, because obviously there’s people who have bad, not bad intentions, but intentions that don’t serve the world. Right? Now, that happens all the time. And so we’re trying to like change the way we think about this approach to business and, you know, seeing people like yourself. You’re right, we got to buy all this stuff every day. Let’s get it from someone who has good intentions and they are considering, you know, the bigger picture of the people, the planet, and not just the bottom line as they classically say, right?

Mark Agnew 18:13
Yeah, I think it’s fascinating that big business is now moving away from the Milton Friedman model of profit as the, you know, the great denominator and are starting to look at soft benefits such as you know, employee happiness and you know, betterment of the world and you know, improving things in the community. It’s happening not only at the small company level like ours but also in big business.

Adam Force 18:47
And what makes you say it’s happening in big business?

Mark Agnew 18:51
Well, the Council of CEOs recently, you know, changed their kind of their edict or their mantra away from the Milton Friedman model to one that’s, I believe it’s there’s five different, you know, qualities of what a company should be doing and profit is not among them.

Adam Force 19:19
That’s interesting. Where does someone find that kind of information?

Mark Agnew 19:24
I can show you the link after the podcast.

Adam Force 19:27
Yeah, that would be cool. I’d like to share that and see it. I’m always looking for big business and seeing like is the demand of people and what the attitudes of people have about this stuff? Is it changing the behaviors of big business and you know, I love hearing what you’re saying and I love even more to see what you’re talking about, but then actually see it in action. Right. They know that it’s good business to talk about it just like you have the cow on a milk carton, in a grassy field. But, you know, behind the scenes, it’s a very different world sometimes.

Mark Agnew 20:05
Yeah, absolutely and maximizing profit is so deeply ingrained in our legal system and in our stock market, that it’s an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. But it’s, it has to [unintelligible] somewhere.

Adam Force 20:21

Mark Agnew 20:23
And hopefully what you’re doing, what I’m doing, what other companies are doing, smaller companies will facilitate that change. Also, if you look at what our kids are learning in schools…I have three kids or two kids in college, one out of college, and they’ve been learning for 20 years to do community service, to protect the environment. And that whole, you know, all those kids in their teens and 20s in 10 or 20 years are going to be you know, largely running this country. So I love to see the progress of that moving into industry.

Adam Force 21:02
Me too. I love that. And you know, it starts in those early years. So if good schools are picking up those types of, you know, educational behaviors and stuff like that, that is a beautiful thing. And you do see it, right? I mean, I don’t know how much I trust this data anymore, whether it’s Nielsen and Pew and all these guys, Gallup but, you know, you see these trends where you go from the boomers to Gen X to millennials, and then as you get down to Gen Z, they, the younger you get, the more their value, their attitudes and behavior shift towards exactly what you’re saying, you know, protect the environment, put values into business, you know. Buy things that are ethical and sustainable. It gets stronger and stronger with the younger generations.

Mark Agnew 21:46
Yes, yes. It’s great to see that.

Adam Force 21:49
And you’re right. It’s like an evolution. I mean, you know, your business and all these other people who are out there with this intention behind the business and they’re thinking big picture. This is the transition. Like, we always talk about how there’s a major transition happening. It’s like old school of thought fighting with this new school of thought. And, you know, it’s going to take a while because it’s like, like you said, so many years of profit first mentality. It’s going to take time for that to dissipate.

Mark Agnew 22:18
You know, it’s going to take time, and there’s going to be, you know, different versions of things happening. That’s why I refer to the buy-one-give-one as version one, and what I’m trying to do with PiWear as kind of version two, where people are connected to really a massive change of another human being. And, you know, a question that should be addressed if I was going to start asking the questions here…

Adam Force 22:48
Go for it! Flip it around.

Mark Agnew 22:51
…is because I’ve heard this question from people and at first it kind of stunned me, but I think it’s important to ask. People are asking me, “You know, that’s great that you’re helping people in India. But why don’t you help people in the United States?”

Adam Force 23:06

Mark Agnew 23:08
So I think that’s kind of a key question. And the way I solve for that is in a couple ways. First of all, I see the world as a place in which everyone is linked together. So even though we’re helping people in India, the gift that I’m giving to them, that our customers are giving to them, is helping us. Even if nobody knows about it, even if you come and buy a pair of PiWear and don’t tell anybody about it, that gift that’s going to an anonymous person in India is providing psychic benefit to you or karmic benefit, if you like, to you and it’s something that everyone should focus on doing more because when we help others, that immediately comes back to us in some form. So that’s that’s one answer. The other is that it kind of is a backhanded way of me pointing out that a cataract surgery in India costs $30.

In the United States, it costs $3,000. So it, it really makes no sense for me to, you know, to wait until I’ve sold 100 pairs of glasses in order to provide an eye surgery here. It just isn’t enough leverage in that and it kind of wakes people up to the concept of how crazy our medical system has become because the surgeries going on in India are exactly the same process. It takes 15 minutes. It’s the same amount of expertise. They’re probably better at it than we are. So that’s going on and…you know that those are really the two main ways that I would answer that question. I do want to help people in the US, but at the moment in the context of my mission, it makes a lot more sense to do it this way.

Adam Force 25:16
Yeah. I mean, you know, being close to the industry, I kind of take that for granted. And, you know, I was asking you like, why India and stuff like that, and I think that your answers are perfect, because, yeah, we have a for profit health care system in the US. And it’s like, seven times more expensive than anywhere else in the world, if not more, right? So it’s very difficult to contribute in these ways in the US, so you know. But I also look at around the world where people have more, you know, there’s people with a lot of need, and I agree with you, it’s like, you know, we are all…it’s like a wave who’s part of an ocean, right? Like, it’s all connected in that way. And so you’re helping a human being, period. And people are so wrapped up in this idea of thinking with borders and being patriotic that they think it’s better to help one person who lives closer to them versus another person who doesn’t, which is kind of crazy.

Mark Agnew 26:07
Yeah, yeah, it is crazy.

Adam Force 26:12
That’s another thing too. It’s just long term…I guess, you know, just the way we were taught and what we were taught to believe. I always found borders and things like that a little bit crazy. And I don’t wanna get too off topic, but, you know, when you mentioned that, it kind of rung a bell for me as well. And I think the same way as you. It’s funny, I think people in the social impact space, many of them think this way, you know?

Mark Agnew 26:36
Yeah, yeah. And also, the other thing that I’m conscious of is not just the person that receives the gift, but that person and that — and this goes for, you know, the US or anywhere else — every person that is struggling in that way. When when they’re helped, they’re being supported by a community. So the community feels the, you know, the impact of someone who’s not able to take care of themselves. And if you’re able to take someone from a position of, you know, really not being able to function at all for themselves in a productive way and bringing them back into society, the whole community feels the benefit of that and feels the inspiration of that, that a total stranger would make that gift.

Adam Force 27:29
Yes, yes. Yeah. No, it’s a beautiful thing. I love that. I do love that. So what is the I guess next 12 months for for PiWear? Is that relatively a new project for you? Or has that been…I see you have like a nice part of the eyeglasses.com website for PiWear. How long have you been active with this?

Mark Agnew 27:53
We launched it early this summer in July. And no, it’s an evolving vision. We started with really just one model of round metal eyeglasses and then I’m continually adding to it with different designs, different shapes, colors, etc., to broaden that and make it appealing to the largest possible audience.

Adam Force 28:21
Interesting. Okay. I’m curious what…and I know you probably have teams for this. But you know, as you started originally eyeglasses.com and things like that, how did you start getting things off the ground, getting out there? I mean, eyeglasses, I mean, I would consider it a saturated market, right? So what do you think contributed to you getting traction in that?

Mark Agnew 28:40
In eyeglasses.com?

Adam Force 28:42
Yeah, yeah, let’s start there.

Mark Agnew 28:44
Well, back in 2000, there was nothing; there wasn’t anybody else doing it. Maybe a couple of companies, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that nobody considered buying eyeglasses on the internet. It was hard enough to sell books on the internet back then. But eyeglasses was so far afield that our biggest problem was just to educate people that they could and should buy eyeglasses online. As time went by, things got better. And then with Warby spending $300 million in advertising and marketing and all the other companies selling super cheap, low quality eyeglasses, you know, you’ve now got millions of people that are aware of the benefits of buying eyeglasses online. And so we’ve actually hugely benefited from all those activities that our competitors are doing.

Adam Force 29:44
That’s interesting. So they helped educate the market for you.

Mark Agnew 29:48
Exactly. Only 3% of the eyewear industry is online now, compared to what about 15% for most apparel — [unintelligible] category? So we have a long way to go just to get, you know, get to parity that way.

Adam Force 30:16
Yeah, yeah. I mean it’s a pretty big marketplace, right, so I think there’s…sounds like there’s room for all players here.

Mark Agnew 30:23
Absolutely. Yeah, we all do something a little bit different. And you know, if you take any of the top 10 players, everyone has their own little niche they’re going after. So there’s plenty of business to go around.

Adam Force 30:40
Awesome. How important has your story and your, you know, the story including your background, like your intention, the surgeries that you’re offering, like how does that play with your audience as they learn about you?

Mark Agnew 30:56
It’s kind of a new thing because up until this year, we really didn’t do much with that story. I mean, it’s you know, the whole concept of storytelling — although it’s well known in social circles — is not something we really paid much attention to.

Adam Force 31:14
Hmm, interesting. Yeah.

Mark Agnew 31:16
But I kept getting…people kept saying, you know, you should talk about this. This is really interesting. So that’s what we’re trying to do now.

Adam Force 31:25
Awesome. Yeah, I mean, you donate to….How do you pronounce this: Sankara Eye Foundation, as well?

Mark Agnew 31:32
Yeah, well, that’s how we do the gift.

Adam Force 31:36
That’s how you do that. Oh, and they do that. I got it. I see. Okay, I got…Yeah, I got you.

Mark Agnew 31:39
They organize it. They’ve built an incredible system of 10 hospitals, two under construction, so they’re going up to 12. And they do…just in…I don’t know how many surgeries they’ve done. But you know, a couple million surgeries so far, and they’re growing every year. The model is so interesting that they’re looking at expanding it to other countries.

Adam Force 32:09
Very cool. Very cool. I love that. Amazing. Well, listen, we’re going to wrap it up here in a minute. And I’m going to ask my final question. So, you know, we talked about a lot of interesting things here regarding the business, but also just like how the business models are evolving, and how people feel about these things. And just, you know, I love the conversation about how we’re all in this together kind of thing, right? And what I’d like to understand, you know, if you could just speak from your heart and what you would want to share with the world. So if you had one…if you had the ear of the world right now, and everybody could hear you, what is the one most important message that you would take your chance to share right now?

Mark Agnew 32:47
Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s really, what I said earlier that I truly believe that every person in the world is linked into one ecosystem. So when you help another person, whether they’re next to you or they’re across the world, it helps you, it helps them. And in the business context, it helps your company. Every successful company I can think of functions on that model. And the companies that fail, they fail when they lose sight of that Prime Directive, which is: Help others and never give up.

Adam Force 33:24
Perfect. I love it. Awesome. We’re going to close on that beautiful message to the world. And Mark, thank you for your time and sharing your story. And thanks for doing what you’re doing.

Mark Agnew 33:33
Absolutely. Thank you.

Adam Force 33:36
One last thing actually, let’s not forget to get people to give you a shout out to your website. So listen, lots of people need glasses. And guys, what a great place to get it done. So Mark, where do they find you?

Mark Agnew 33:46

Adam Force 33:48
It doesn’t get any easier than that. Eyeglasses.com. You guys could check them out. They have a beautiful website. And yeah, if you’re going to get glasses, you might as well do it with some good intention. All right, Mark, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Mark Agnew 34:00
Alright, thanks Adam. Have a great day.

Announcer 34:01
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Angela Henderson Interview: How to Identify New Opportunities in Ecommerce

Listen to our exclusive interview with Angela Henderson:


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Angela Henderson’s business career began in 2010, a year after her son, Finlee, was born. She was disheartened when she saw that most toys for young children were battery operated, high-technology, and invariably made of plastic. Soon, Finlee and Me was launched, a successful ecommerce store featuring a wide variety of baby items that focused on fostering creativity and sparking the imagination. 

Conversation = Conversion

Finlee and Me had a custom-built site, Angela explains, and really focused on conversions. She adds that there are many people who feel their website ticks all the boxes when it comes to sales, but they’re really lacking the elements of conversion.

For me, I believe that conversation equals conversion.

In those early days, Angela was intent on having a conversional website in order to have the greatest chance of being profitable. She explains that you really only have six seconds from the time someone lands on your website to be able to tell them what you do and how you can solve their problem. She made use of her “conversation equals conversion” motto and began featuring blog articles that were relevant to her clientele whom she had taken the time to get to know. 

Building a Fanbase

Featuring insightful and informative articles helped Finlee and Me grow its Facebook fanbase to over 70,000. Their Instagram had over 20,000 followers and their newsletter database had over 50,000 client contacts. Angela attributes this success to the fact that these moms began to build up a trust and credibility in her as a direct result of her blog. Moreover, she had created a space where moms could safely be heard and feel connected.

Another way Angela promoted Finlee and Me was to feature the business at Pregnancy and Baby Expos. She recounts one particular strategy at an Expo that proved to be highly successful: Angela teamed up with ten other businesses who had a booth at the Expo and they all did a giveaway as a promotion. Each business’s entry form stated that it had teamed up with the other businesses and that by completing the entry form, the customer was agreeing to have their contact information shared among the businesses. In this way, Angela was able to gather information from not only those potential customers who stopped at her booth, but also from those who stopped only at the other businesses’ booths and she was able to grow her database of valuable clients a lot more.

A New Business Chapter

As time went on and Angela’s children got older, she began to disconnect from Finlee and Me and she decided to focus on consulting. It all began rather organically when she often found herself driving 30 minutes to meet someone for coffee so they could pick her brain about effective business strategies. She realized she could easily charge for the information she was imparting. Initially, it was often just one-to-one services but she soon found herself exhausted and stretched to her limits.

Many entrepreneurs will identify with this — it’s so easy to become tapped out when working in a one-to-one capacity. She soon switched to a one-to-many model, featuring a group coaching program as well as a Women in Business Retreat — a four-day, three-night retreat attended mostly by moms, many of whom have never been away from their kids for an extended period of time. With this in mind, the retreat makes topics like self-care a priority so that these women in business can take time for themselves while learning effective business leadership.

Know Your Worth

Lastly, something Angela likes to emphasize when talking to entrepreneurs is understanding their worth. She admits that she has no problem charging what she charges for her business coaching because her clients aren’t just paying for their time with her; they’re also paying for all the time (and money) Angela has spent travelling around the world learning from the best entrepreneurs. They’re paying for the connections they will make. And they’re paying for the business experience that Angela has garnered over the years. Angela is a business coach for women and teaches her clients that they, too, need to understand their worth. And that it’s important for them to charge based on their skillset and expertise, not just on the length of time spent with clients.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:00
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam Force. Excited here. We got some great weather going on in Miami now that we’re reaching the winter months. It’s my favorite time of year out here. So last week, guys, if you missed the last episode, it was with Michael O’Brien. He’s an entrepreneur, business professional author. He’s got all kinds of stuff going on. He has a very powerful story. And his story is it was a traumatic moment in his life that kind of shifted his whole life trajectory. And he’s on this mission to help all these people around the world have their last bad day.

And that’s the title of the episode: How to have your last bad day. So it’s an inspirational conversation, I think you’ll find his story very powerful. So check that out when you get a chance. And this week, we’re gonna be talking to Angela Henderson. She is the founder of a very successful ecommerce store, Finlee and Me. And she really has a lot of experience in the space. And since then she’s converted to start helping others with a consulting program. And she does these really cool retreats and she has a lot going on and a lot of experience. So I think you guys will find a lot of value from the conversation with Angela. So I’m excited to dive into to her world of knowledge in those things, you know, and I think you’re gonna get some really good ideas around the ecommerce stuff and, and everything else so. So hang in there. We’re going to get started in just a minute.

A big announcement for the October 1 time frame. This is the deadline we have here to open the doors, the doors are planning to be open for the Captivate Method on October 1. Alright, so keep your eyes out. If you’re not following us on Facebook, that’s the best place to be. This is where we really put a lot of our content and attention. So you go to our page Facebook page and then you can get involved. If you have a business idea, you have a business and you’re trying to really take your marketing to, you know, the next — I hate saying the next level, that’s kind of like what we’re talking about. You really want to enhance your marketing, like leaning into modern solutions, really building relationships with your audience. You get involved with our Facebook group, there’s just a couple of questions you’re asked there and we’ll give you access.

We got to make sure it’s the right fit for you, right. So yeah, you can find that link right on the Facebook page. So follow the page, and then you can go to the group. And that’s a great way to get more involved with what we’re doing. And you’ll learn more about the Captivate Method and stuff like that. So powerful stuff there. We’re very, very excited because we made lots of cool changes and updates based on our beta runs and everything since 2018. This is version 3.0. And we really made a lot of enhancements there so it’ll be a lot of fun. Okay, guys, we’re going to dive into this conversation and with Angela and see what she has to say from her experience as an entrepreneur in the ecommerce world and consulting world.

Hey, Angela, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How’s everything going today?

Angela Henderson 3:15
Everything’s awesome. How are you doing, Adam?

Adam Force 3:16
I’m doing pretty good. Pretty good. Bright and early here in in Miami. Well, it’s a later at night over in Australia, right?

Angela Henderson 3:24
Yeah, that’s correct. It’s almost 10 o’clock at night here in Brisbane, Australia. So a slight time difference but yeah, that we get into entrepreneurship for is to have these awesome conversations that they just happen whenever they naturally need to happen.

Adam Force 3:37
That’s it, the global community. I love it. Yeah, so I’d be curious to just to hear…I like to always tee things up and understand, you know, what’s going on in your world these days, the latest and greatest, what are you focused on? Like what’s happening?

Angela Henderson 3:51
I’d love to share that with you. So I’ve actually just come back for a seven-day business mastermind over in [unintelligible] with my own business mentor [unintelligible]. So I’m still kind of recovering from that jet lag. And just that level of enthusiasm being around really cool, like-minded people. And obviously being on the yacht in the middle of the Maldives, learning from some of the best was super exciting. What else is happening in my world?

I’m also running my sold out four-day, three-night Women in Business retreat here in Australia at the end of October. So that’s super exciting. And today, I worked with the state government here in Queensland, Australia, as one of their female business mentors. It was really great being able to give back to the community and help other businesses to really get clear on that clarity and strategy they need to move forward to gain those sustainable and profitable businesses. So that’s a little bit of what’s happening over here in the land of Australia.

Adam Force 4:45
Cool. So what led you to the consulting world? Like, where did that come from? Like, I know you mentioned you had a lot of work you did prior to getting into the consulting game. So what was the connection there?

Angela Henderson 4:59
Yes. So our son, Finlee, was born and about a year into [unintelligible] I just kind of started to see like all of these plastic toys, battery operated, high-technology…which again, we use technology every day such as yourself but for little kids, I thought there’s got to be something better, something brighter out there that can allow kids to work on fine motor skills, spark their imagination, their creativity, and just create those long, long lasting childhood memories we had back when we were growing up in the farms or doing whatever we used to do back out…you know, connecting with nature.

So I started my first business which is called Finlee and Me ecommerce platform. At one stage, we had about 1400 different products. And our core focus again there was educational component and focusing really on creating childhood memories through play, love, and travel. So the ecommerce business was great and then we also had a secondary monetary stream of income that came in which was through being an influencer and blogging over here in Australia, became one of their leading parenting bloggers.

Working with companies such as Netflix as one of their top 30 influencers here in Australia and New Zealand. [unintelligible] Yeah, that’s led into the consultant side of things. It’s seven years of being in that, if people wanted to pick my brain and from that, I just thought, Well, if I start charging people to pick my brain, I can have a secondary business and that’s how the consulting came about.

Adam Force 6:23
Yeah, yeah. That’s pretty cool. And I’d be curious to know what did you run your ecommerce business on? were you using any platforms like the Shopify world or big commerce or anything like that? Or were you just doing iy custom?

Angela Henderson 6:37
So yeah, so we had a custom-built site but we obviously then connected that with WooCommerce, so on WordPress, with WooCommerce, but the build is completely custom so that we really focus on that conversional website. There’s a lot of people out there that have websites and think that they check the box but one of the things that they’re lacking is the elements of conversion.

You really only have six seconds from the time someone lands on your website to be able to tell them what you do, how you can solve their problem, and how they can buy your product. So it was really important to me starting off that ecommerce platform that we had a conversional website, ready to rock and roll, so that we could have the greatest chance of being successful and being profitable.

Adam Force 7:16
Yeah, and one more question just in the ecommerce stream, just because I know there’s a lot of people in our audience that are working ecommerce businesses and I’m curious what you found to be successful for your space. I know every category is different for getting you know, people to understand who you are and become comfortable with buying your products. Was there any kind of strategy behind that? Was it just, you know, smart landing pages? I’m curious what you think helped with your conversions and sales.

Angela Henderson 7:50
For me, I believe that conversation equals conversion. So I was really big about making sure that I got in local markets. I also did…there’s a big pregnancy and baby Expo here in Australia where they go to all the major capital cities. I also ran that for the first few years of my business. Being able to get my products into as many people’s hands as I could, so that the more they talked about it with other moms and moms’ groups or their family members, etc. They were kind of like my mini marketing agency, you could say for me. So that was one tactic that I used was really [unintelligible]. Again, those conversations, equal conversions.

And another really big thing that worked for us was not just talking about the toys all the time. And those benefits…we really got to know my ideal client, which was typically you know, mom who had two young kids under the age of five, who had disposable income, was really big about education, and the mom was the one that was buying for their child. So what I did is I started writing blog articles that were relevant to moms so that they started to build up a trust and authority and credibility with me.

And once I had that trust talking about either postnatal depression or anxiety, or say, you know, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding — whatever it was that were topics that were relevant to the mom — the buyer — we started to see our community grow fairly quickly. So we started with [unintelligible] and we ended up at about 70,000 Facebook fans in our community, we had up to 20,000 people on Instagram and over 50,000 people in our newsletter database. And that was because I didn’t just focus on selling them the product, that I focused on creating that community element and really creating a space for moms to be heard and connected. Because in motherhood, it can be quite lonely. So yeah, that’s angle I took.

Adam Force 9:27
Yeah. And that’s, that’s awesome. I like to hear that you did the articles to create a first touch point that built trust. I think that’s super important. It’s a good point. You know, and everybody’s always looking to build their email database just to continue that conversation. So in that e commerce world, I’m curious, you know, what kind of tools were effective for you to build that? I think you said 50,000-person database. You know, you see a lot of ecommerce things they do, like, you know, give me your email and I’ll give you a discount code or something. Was there other strategies that you implemented to get people onto your list so you can continue those conversations?

Angela Henderson 10:06
Yeah, one of our biggest things was at a pregnancy and baby Expo, they had the QR readers. And so what happened is I would team up with other businesses that were there, we would do a giveaway together. And then we would cross pollinate the email list with permission of those people entering. So as part of entry, we would say, You’ve teamed up with these, say, 10 businesses and as part of that you are agreeing to being on you know, receiving emails from us, and we listed every single business. So then the fact is is not everyone would stop at my booth, and not everyone stopped at those other booths. So we then were able to capture a much larger database of the valuable clients, and we weren’t competing against each other.

So that was one way that we grew that list. The other way that I grew my list was through three-day and 14-day challenges. So one of the challenges that I did was 30 days/30 ways to connect to your child, because we know that parents are super busy [unintelligible] and they’re really looking for things that they can do with their kids and still connect with them on a daily basis. So I created a connection that they could do every day, right. But within that 30 day challenge, I also did a product of the day. So it was a way for me to add value, but at the same time use a 30 day challenge as an advertising hub.

And then at the end of that 30 day challenge, I gave them a 20% off discount coupon. And that worked extremely well, because they had 30 days of building that strong connection with me, we opened a Facebook community so that we could continue that dialogue. And then they were also getting the emails every day in the interactions. So we saw a significant amount of growth through our challenges.

Adam Force 11:38
And I’m sorry, you cut out a little bit. What was the challenge? That sounds really cool. And I think those challenges are actually really powerful tools for people when they’re executed properly. The challenge here was to What was it again — to connect with the mother and child? What was that?

Angela Henderson 11:53
Right. So what we found when we surveyed our audience is that parents are struggling to connect with their children because they’re just so busy. I kind of wanted to [unintelligible] that scenario. And what I thought, [unintelligible] it’s just an excuse. So everyone has 10 to 15 minutes a day to spend with their child at some stage. You could blow bubbles, you could read a book, you can draw them a bath, you can bake cookies, there’s a million different things. And so what I did was every single day, I gave them a [unintelligible] they could do that would take no more than 15 minutes every single day.

The requirement was you put your phones away, shut the TV off, go and do this with them, you know, be present and laugh with them. But then as part of that daily email that they would get the connection piece that they would do. But then the second thing is I would just have product of the day and would introduce a brand new product from our product range. So they just started to get comfortable with what we were offering in addition to the 30 Day Challenge. And then on the back of that challenge when I offer them the discount code in order to then increase our overall sales.

Adam Force 12:53
Makes sense. Yeah, I love that; it’s a good strategy. I think that should give a couple aha moments for people listening. So, yeah, I mean, because you know, people get stuck with how they should frame up some of these things. And it’s different for every category, obviously. So you know, your business might have its own twist, you know, for anybody listening here where you were working with the relationship between…

So you got to know your audience, get to know the disconnects, and kind of frame something up that would be helpful and valuable. And, you know, you make a high value content offer. And that’s basically what you had there. And it was helpful for people and you earn their trust and those types of things. So I think it’s super powerful and smart. And so, you know, you got over into the consulting gig, and are you still part of the ecommerce shops? Or did you totally detach from that now?

Angela Henderson 13:42
We’ve [unintelligible] probably about eight months ago, and it was just one of those things that always kind of knew I would continue really, really loving it or as my children got older, I would probably just start to disconnect and that’s what happened is, the consulting business came in. It was super exciting, something new. My children were older and so it seemed the best strategic avenue for me, was to wrap up Finlee and Me so that I wasn’t having that headspace and kind of dragging around and something that I wasn’t really enthusiastic about and focus on consulting.

Adam Force 14:11
Got it. Got it. So how did you get your first consulting gig? What did that look like?

Angela Henderson 14:20
But that was like for me, which really just blew my offer out into the world of Facebook and obviously also [unintelligible]. And so when I started in [unintelligible] I had an enormous amount of people that I was getting introduced to. And again, it was just like, [unintelligible] hop on a call and start to learn what your struggles are, what your goals are, and then started having conversations that didn’t even offer anything at the beginning. It was just really about me giving value back. And once I started to find out what was working, what was [unintelligible], what was people’s [unintelligible], I then cam up with an offer and at that stage I would [unintelligible] for a 30 minute call.

And through there at the end of that call I’m just talking to them about what I had on offer. At that stage, it was often just one to one services. And I got a few people on board. And then that kind of infiltrated, I got a few more people on board. Eventually, as many of you listeners might know is, you become tapped out in the one-to-one capacity. So I then opened up my 12 month group coaching program so that I could go to a one-to-many model. And that’s currently…those are my two main things that I offer, plus the Women in Business retreat now. So that’s how it all started was just serving, connecting, testing, learning [unintelligible] and coming up with a one-to-one offer, which then led into a one-to-many offer.

Adam Force 15:39
Yeah. And I want you know, people who are listening to understand that, you know, you don’t just wake up one day and say, I’m going to start this consulting gig and it’s going to take off, you know, because I put my — put an ad out there and let people know what’s going on and they’re just going to get — you’re just going to get clients. This is something that has been in development, you know, for you. I always think of the iceberg — like, people see the the tip of the iceberg, but they don’t see what’s below.

And it’s the time and energy that built up your credibility with the work that you did in the ecommerce space and everything else in your life that kind of worked its way up to make this happen for you in the consulting gig. And it seems like you learned as you went, like you were kind of pivoting and saying, Oh, now I can do this. And you kind of took opportunities as they presented themselves to you. And they were relevant at the time, but it doesn’t happen overnight, right?

Angela Henderson 16:29
Oh, gosh, it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that I really appreciate you bringing up because I think there’s this assumption that everything just happens and [unintelligible] if everything just happened we would all be millionaires. It wouldn’t be hard, right? Like the struggle is real that we have to go through. And for me, if I kind of rewind, the question that you had said was around, how did I start off things, but even if I rewind a little bit, what happened was as I looked at my diary, and I had 16 Coffee dates is what had happened. People kept wanting to pick my brain. And then I was like, driving home one day and as like, you know, I don’t even drink coffee. I’m having to buy my own Diet Coke. You know, I was like this kind of sucks.

And then I was like, I’m driving 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back and anyone who knows me knows I was a big giver. Like, again, today I spent eight hours volunteering to work with eight businesses to help them out with the state government. Like I’m really big about giving back to community. But I was like, hold on a minute, like, if each of these coffee dates, and I don’t even drink coffee took me 16 hours. And I was like, hold on a minute, if I would have even charged a small fee for them to pick my brain, I was like, I could have a secondary business.

And that’s how it all came about was that just all of a sudden I was like driving home one day, I was like, hold on, I should try and test and start charging for this. Would people actually then buy it if I started to put a dollar figure attached to it? Or would they try and kind of use me for my expertise? And that’s when again I started to put that out there and people were like, Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got all this wealth of knowledge. We’re happy to pay you. Yeah, so that’s kind of you know, if I rewind a little bit, that’s where it came from was from really all the coffee dates, and I decided, well, let’s test this. Let’s make it a little bit more strategic and you know, really save this is viable?

Adam Force 18:03
Yeah, I mean, and that’s the cue. You know, you start getting all these requests for your time, people are asking you questions. And I always tell people like, what does ever someone ever come to you and ask for help with? I mean, it’s kind of a clue of what people see you as knowledgeable about, obviously. And here you are having your brain picked. And that’s 16 Coffee dates in your diary. So it’s like, you know, you can either look at that and see the opportunity. And some people might just be like, Oh, I’m not doing this anymore. It’s a waste of time. And they don’t actually capitalize on it. But you know, if you can see that opportunity and and then reframe it up, because you know, what, your time is probably the most — well, I won’t even say probably — it is the most valuable commodity that you have in life. It’s the only…you can’t get more of it, right? It’s like, you know, how do you value yourself? I mean, and people devalue themselves. They don’t put value against you know, their knowledge and time and they very well should. I mean, we live in an economic system. You need money. Money gives you options. It gives you control over your life. So there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on that.

Angela Henderson 19:04
And I also think one of the things I do talk about is people understanding their worth. And when people come to me, either for my group coaching or my one-to-one, is I’ve got no problem charging what I charge because you’re not just getting me for two hours a month plus unlimited email access in our VIP groups, etc. You, like, I spend about $40,000 a year traveling around the world learning from some of the best entrepreneurs so that I’ve got that skill set to then pass on to my clients. I then spend endless hours going to local networking events, going [unintelligible] right? Like, this is how then…So if I make those connections, that means there’s opportunity for my coaching clients.

And so people…I think it’s really important that you’re not just paying for the coaching, you’re paying for connections, you’re paying for their ongoing training and learnings because not everyone is able to travel the world to learn from these people. They might…I wasn’t in the position at the beginning, but now I make it a priority. So again, it’s, you know, when you’re looking for a coach or you’re looking for that mentor, and they do put a price figure on it just like web developers do, or designers do, they didn’t just get that skill overnight. That took hours and hours of practice. And that’s why people charge or start to charge and know their worth because of what they have to assess, and what’s gone into that expertise and that skill set.

Adam Force 20:25
Yeah, I love that. And, it’s so true. And I think a lot of people who are looking for coaching misunderstand, like what’s really beneath the surface of what they’re paying for. There was a funny analogy, and I’m going to totally butcher it, but I’ll get the essence of it across here. Let’s just say there was this big piece of machinery and it wasn’t performing properly after all these years of being perfect and they couldn’t figure out what was going on. And they found this guy who has all this experience in fixing these things. So he comes over there. And he’s been doing this for let’s say 20 years and he comes over there. And he’s like, oh, and he takes a wrench and he taps it in like one spot. And it took him less than, like 30 seconds. And the guys like, here’s your bill for $10,000. He’s like, What are you talking about? $10,000. And he’s like, all you did is hit it with the wrench and it took you 30 seconds. He’s like, yeah, maybe all I did he goes is a $2 for the wrench and hitting it. And it was the rest of the money that $9,998 was for knowing where to hit it.

Angela Henderson 21:29
But it’s so true, right? And he had to learn that skill. He had to figure out what you know, what does that sound and what does that make, and why does it happen? He knew exactly what to do. But it’s 100% true that paying for years and years of teaching — and I know that some person said in this group I was in they’re like, Why should we…Why should you charge more than what, say, a lawyer charges? For example, you don’t have a formal education. I said, Well hold on a minute.

If I’m spending $40,000 a year to be in masterminds and go around the world and learn from the best… it might not be a piece of paper from Harvard University. But the knowledge that is there is just as equivalent to sitting in a classroom environment. I still have to sit through, say an eight hour conference. When I did Caitlin [unintelligible] course and we did the summit, it was two days’ worth of, you know, sitting there. It was my plane tickets from Australia to America, it was all of those things, right? And people…just because it’s not a degree on paper, doesn’t mean that it’s any less important than the degree from the University.

Adam Force 22:28
Absolutely not. No, I’m one of these people that combats you know, college and schooling and all these things, and it’s evolving. It’s changing over the years of what’s actually, you know, the best experience and people are going to pay for experience over classroom education. I mean, I would say what 60-70% of the teachers who are teaching, let’s say key topics like entrepreneurship in college, they’ve never even owned a business.

Angela Henderson 22:56
And a lot of universities here in Australia are now reaching out. Like, I was asked by the University of South Australia, which is in the city of Adelaide, down south here in Australia to come and work with some of their entrepreneur students [unintelligible] What does it look like? What is messaging, brand voice, you know, funnels, emails etc. And I was like, for a university to reach out I think that’s really that growth mindset that they’re looking to capitalize on it because they know that they’re not the experts in that when it comes to that field.

Adam Force 23:28
No, no, and they’re not they’re not. And school is, you know, traditionally to teach you how to get a job and do certain things a certain way and it frames up a mindset that is very opposite of what an entrepreneur’s mindset is. It’s very, very different.

Angela Henderson 23:46
Totally. I couldn’t agree more.

Adam Force 23:48
Yeah, it’s a 180. And that’s been a hard thing for me because I worked in corporate for, you know, 15 years or so and then to start my own businesses and do things on…the from, you know, grassroots starting point, it’s a whole other way of thinking about not just business, but thinking about money and like hard work and what that means and all that kind of stuff. It’s just, I don’t know, you have these like blueprints in your brain from years of just, you know, being told what to believe. And that stuff’s great for a job, but it just does not work for entrepreneurship.

Angela Henderson 24:22
No, because I mean, in entrepreneurship, we are testing every single day; we are testing what’s working on an ad, we’re testing what a product resonates with our audience. We’re testing with email subject headers work better, like it’s an ongoing investigation, entrepreneurship, and just when you think you’ve got something worked out, the algorithms were changed or the market or the dollar will change whatever, like, you can’t learn that in a book. You have to be adaptable at all times.

Adam Force 24:49
Absolutely. Absolutely. So I just you know, as we get a little bit closer to the end of the talk here, I want to make sure we touch on your retreats because they sound pretty cool and I’d like to learn a little bit more about what you’re doing there and why did you decide to do these retreats and what is in it for the people that attend when they do that?

Angela Henderson 25:13
Yeah, sure. So I initially did a mastermind with Chris Ducker over in the Philippines three years ago and the way Chris had his, you know, seven day retreat laid out, I thought it was super interesting. He flew in amazing speakers from around the world. You know, Peter Shankman, he had Jada Zellner there, like just to name a few. And what happened [unintelligible], like so many amazing people were there. And what I noticed there is that it was an intimate group of 50 really solid, like-minded, enthusiastic, growth mindset individuals, and there is no division between speaker and attendee. The speakers were in the pool with us having mojitos, playing, you know, beach volleyball. And it was just this really great dynamic and I thought one day I’d really like to test that.

And then as I started to grow the consulting business over the last couple years what I realized was, there’s not a lot of conferences in Australia, there really isn’t. That’s why I pay as much money as I do to go overseas because we just…there’s a few great entrepreneurs…I mean, there’s lots of great entrepreneurs, let’s get that straight. But there’s not a lot that are leading the way from a conference perspective. And I didn’t want to go big. I’m really big about human-to-human marketing and really high touch point — maybe, you know, being able to walk down the street and give someone a hug, give them a handshake and know who they are.

So I wasn’t looking at creating a conference that had 200 people, 500 people or 1000. That just wasn’t it. So I wanted to create an intimate retreat with 50 people. My target market is women in business. And so I created it around a four-day, three-night women in business retreat. And then I also…my ideal client is mothers; a lot of moms haven’t even been away from their kids. And so I wanted to give them the experience that when they come, you know, their breakfast is cooked, their morning and afternoon teas are cooked, their dinners are cooked, their nighttime meals are cooked. Like, everything is absolutely done for them because it’s not just about learning when you’re there; it’s about the connections that you make both short- and long-term.

But it’s equally about giving those entrepreneurs, and specifically those moms, too, who don’t get a lot of sleep and rest, to be able to have self-care, and equally to be able to work on their business for four days versus working in their business as so many entrepreneurs just do, especially in those startup phases. And it’s high touch point. So I’ve got two different creative sessions because I also think people, even though we’re super creative, as entrepreneurs, naturally like we stopped doing arts and crafts at a particular age. We stopped just allowing ourselves just to have a creative energy and flow. So I’ve got two high creative sessions that happen there. I also rent a boat on one of the nights and we’ve got this, you know, theme party that we have.

And then there’s downtime and then there’s time with the speakers and then we also break into mini masterminds, so that everyone has an opportunity to work on a specific one to two problems over the days to get insight and help from those experts, but equally their peers to be able to help move them forward. And then the last day is all about mindset and preparing them for the next 12 months and equally allowing them to plan out the next 12 months, which a lot of businesses, you know, “I don’t have time to do that,” they’re kind of flying by the seat of their pants. So that’s why I really wanted the four days and three nights so that we can make it a really immersion type experience and experience that again, just didn’t focus on learning, but allowing the self care and creativeness and all those fun things to flow.

Adam Force 28:28
I love it. That sounds really cool. I mean, it makes me start thinking if one of my favorite places is Costa Rica, and my wife and I go there all the time. And I’m just like, man, I would love to, like rent out just an amazing spot, like near the beach and just do these, like incredible masterminds where everyone’s got their defense down and likw, we’re just in a really good environment and you can just kind of, kind of really have those epiphanies, you know, it sets up that setting.

Angela Henderson 28:54
It does and you should see like some of the aha moments like it’s funny. One of the touch points that I do is I’ve actually not…It was yesterday, actually here in Australia, I rang all 50 attendees that are coming. So I spent two hours literally picking up the phone and calling every single person. Now, not everyone picked up the phone because God forbid you get on the phone and speak to people if you don’t recognize the number that’s coming up. But I had some really great conversations with those attendees that I did get through to. And one of the things that came through is, I can’t wait to learn from the speakers. And I said to them, I said, you might want to be surprised because the majority of aha moments probably won’t come from the speakers.

And they go, Well, what do you mean, you guys are the experts and I said, trust the process, allow it to happen, because what happens is, is when you’re able to let your guard down and do those experiences, creativity just kind of happens and people get to just be in the moment and be present. And the aha moments aren’t what they expect that they’re going to be. So I would say if you did something in Costa Rica, something similar would happen. Like, when we were at Chris Ducker’s event, it was when we were in the pool, drinking mojitos and playing beach volleyball, right, is when the moments like, Oh yeah, I could do that. And then you’re like, Okay, you have great and then you just carried on; it was really quite magical when those moments would come.

Adam Force 30:07
Yeah, I love that. You know, and people talk about like shower thinking and stuff like that. It’s the moments, you know, where you’re just walking and or inactivity and you’re not thinking about the situation where these epiphanies will most likely happen. And I love your pool moment. That’s cool.

Angela Henderson 30:26
Yes, well, let me know if you do a Costa Rica, because I’m always about connecting with new people. So if you do do that, keep me posted. I’m looking at actually doing a mastermind over in Colombia next year with — I could never say his name correctly — Ron Reich. Looking at the Colombia one next year. So [unintelligible] I could be a first person signing up.

Adam Force 30:51
Awesome. Yeah, well, definitely. I mean, I think when we get in the right place at the right time, we’re going to do stuff like that. Hopefully in like 2021 most likely would be a good year for that. So we’ll definitely keep you in mind as we get to those steps and we’ll close out this — I got my new closing question I want to ask that I’ve been asking people like Blake Mycoskie and Nasreen and stuff like that. And this is just a chance to really say like you’ve had all this experience, you’re pursuing things you want to pursue. And so if there was one, if you had the world’s ear right now, right, and you were able to tell them a very important message, what would that one message be that you would want to share with people?

Angela Henderson 31:32
Sure, my message would be is eight people take their lives every single day here in Australia, it’s almost 3000 people every single year that die in Australia due to suicide. And for me the message that I would want to get across to people, whether or not it’s you, a family member or friend, or etc, is if you broke your leg, you’d go to the hospital, if you had a heart attack, you would go to the hospital. If you broke your arm, you would go to hospital. If you needed glasses, you would go to the eye doctor and get the glasses. If you are feeling down or anxious or suicidal, or any or that go to the doctor and get the help that you need because that health is just as much there as it is for those that need the heart of you know, heart surgeons, or the eye doctors etc. and that there are people ready to help you

It might not feel like it. If you’re friend and you don’t know what to do, you could suggest taking them to the doctor, going with them. Here in Australia, we have a thing called a mental health care plan where you can get 10 psychology sessions for free. If you go to your regular family doctor and get your mental health care plan. There are different avenues that are available in any country to be able to help you with your mental health because eight people every single day which is much higher in the United States and Canada just because your population so much bigger — eight people a day is eight people too many.

Adam Force 32:49
Amazing. Yeah, that is a staggering number. And it’s a whole other interview to talk about why they feel that way. Listen, thanks a lot, Angela, appreciate everything you’re doing and sharing your insights around the retreats, the consulting and the ecommerce. Really great stuff. Keep up the good work. Appreciate your time.

Angela Henderson 33:10
No worries. Have an awesome day, Adam.

Adam Force 33:12
You, too.

Announcer 33:13
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Martin Ochwat: Scaling E-commerce For Long Term Success and Social Impact

Listen to our exclusive interview with Martin Ochwat:


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Martin Ochwat is an expert in growth marketing. In our interview with him, he imparts some sage advice every social entrepreneur should hear and introduces us to Moop, his zero plastic waste personal care product company set to launch in January 2020.

Martin’s career in growth marketing really took off when he worked for the mobile gaming company Machine Zone, manufacturer of some top-grossing mobile apps. He found himself on the marketing team, managing close to $100 million US just on Facebook ads alone. It made them one of the largest advertisers on Facebook at the time.

This experience taught him exactly how to drive traffic on the web and how to work through the algorithms and find the optimal way to get users to whatever product the business is selling. He was immersed in the ins and outs of digital marketing. By the time he left two short years later, he was able to work with some engineers and automate most of the advertising, essentially handing the management of their huge marketing budget to a machine.

We essentially had a machine just managing tens of millions of dollars a year.

Here’s a summary of the growth marketing advice Martin shared with us:

  1. Advertise on Facebook. It is still one of the most powerful advertising channels. Martin highly recommends advertising on Facebook, especially for B2C businesses, because it’s quick and easy to get started and you can build an audience and a following in no time — excellent features if you’re just getting started. He calls it a must-do.
  2. Do enough testing when running ads on Facebook (or any channel). One of the biggest mistakes people make, Mark asserts, is not testing ads enough before running them. He uses his experience at Machine Zone as a comparison: They would run over 10,000 new ads per day, testing dozens of different images, videos, and new ad formats. Mark points out that you can often get really cheap traffic through a new ad format.
  3. Keep in mind that when you’re just starting out, testing is a means of paying to learn. Martin assures us that it’s something we all go through. And eventually, those learnings will pay off and your ad cost will decrease or your sales will increase.
  4. Use lots of videos. Regardless of the platform you’re using, the part of the ad that people look at the most is the image or video. You get far more engagement when you use video so be sure to put most of your time into testing and using lots of videos.  
  5. Focus on being authentic. You’ll have fewer issues running your ads if you are more compliant and authentic since these days, Facebook is a lot stricter on their platform. Martin warns that you don’t want to get into the fake news style of advertising, especially if you’re a social entrepreneur.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with looking to close the sale right away. In fact, probably 90% of businesses in ecommerce are doing just that, Martin admits. If you’re launching a new business, you certainly want to get sales in order to prove out your concept. Just remember that at some point, you need to shift your focus to long-term, sustainable revenue. This is where advertising through emails or Facebook Messenger can be very effective.
  7. Build retention and lifetime value into your business model. Look for ways that you can build more value and add more value for the customer. Some examples include offering subscriptions, a loyalty program, or a special offer for customers who refer a friend. Your customers will stick around longer as a result.
  8. The business with the highest lifetime value within a niche is the one that wins. This is a quote Martin heard once and it has stuck with him. Basically, you can out-market others in your space by increasing the lifetime value of your customers because you’ll be able to spend more money on marketing and on product.

Moop: The Future of No Plastic Waste

In Q1 of next year, Martin plans to launch Moop, a D2C brand featuring a zero waste toiletries kit containing deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste. Currently, Martin and his team are making sure their products are top notch. They’re running beta tests and sending out free samples to get feedback on the product.

Since they want to build a business for the long term, Martin says they’re investing in branding, good packaging, and formulation. He acknowledges that this takes time (the brand has been in the works since January 2019), but it lets you start out with a much stronger business on day one. It results in better customer experience and better retention.

Moop is currently pre launch, but you can joint their waitlist at getmoop.com.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:00
Hey, what’s up everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. This is your host Adam Force. So if you missed last week’s episode, it was with Stephen Carl and we talked about supersizing your digital ecommerce conversions and impact, some really great nuggets in there. So check that out if you haven’t already. And this week we are going to be having a really great conversation for all of you out there trying to step up your marketing game in the ecommerce world.

Ecommerce or not, right. This is going to be very helpful and his name is Martin. And I’m not sure how to pronounce that…Ochwat. So I probably just butchered that and I’m sorry, Martin. But he’s a super cool guy and he has quite a background. So he’s a growth marketer, and a serial entrepreneur. He’s built several seven figure ecommerce businesses from the ground up. And right now, he’s working on a zero plastic waste company called Moop. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that with Martin. I mean, this guy has done…he’s managed over 100 million dollars annually with you know, Facebook marketing ads and done some incredible work. So he knows a lot about that kind of paid marketing and just getting conversions, building leads, building long term sales, right?

So we’re going to dive into all of that and see what he’s learned from all that data and experience so that you guys can benefit from it. So stay tuned and check that out. And if you haven’t already guys, swing by changecreator.com. We have a lot of new content posted up there of different kinds. So really focused on the tools that we’re trying to give you clarity on what might be best for your business, but also different guides and articles in the social impact space that will be relevant for you as entrepreneurs. And we have our download: Three Proven Skills That Every Entrepreneur Must Have to Grow an Impact Business, some really powerful nuggets in there. And you know, I mentioned it on the last podcast, but check that out, I would swing through there, it’s right on the homepage, I think you’re going to find a lot of value in it. So if you haven’t already grabbed that, definitely get your copy.

These skills rise to the top, whether it’s from based on our experience or talking to some of the biggest experts around the world, right. This is always like tried and true proven skills that you really do need to have. So you want to start focusing in on that stuff. And if you’re not following us on Facebook, stop by check us out. We do most of our focuses on Facebook, to connect through social media. And once you’re on the page, if you want to dig a little deeper, you just go to our Facebook group, there’s a button there on the page, and it’s called The Profitable Digital Impact Entrepreneur and we have a lot of good conversation going on in that group. So really good little community of people who are really focused on building profitable businesses that make a difference in the world. So yeah, check us out there. And without further ado, we are going to get this conversation rocking and rolling. So let’s see what Martin has to say.

Announcer 3:15
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 3:20
Hey, Martin, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today?

Martin Ochwat 3:24
I’m doing awesome. Thanks for having me, Adam.

Adam Force 3:26
Yeah, absolutely. So you are a marketing and digital growth kind of guy. And, you know, I’m excited to tap into your experience. I think this is a important topic for people in our audience. You know, especially as we’re trying to scale impact, we need to actually scale the growth of the business financially and in other ways. So I would love to just hear what’s your latest project? What do you have going on? What’s going on in your world these days?

Martin Ochwat 3:53
Sure. So I’ve been a growth marketer for five plus years now — work in various roles ranging from gaming, ecommerce, you know, doing contracting consulting for other mid sized startups. And most recently, I’m working on a D2C brand called Moop. So we’re doing zero plastic waste personal care products, and really trying to reinvent products people use every day such as toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo, but ones that are good for both your body and great for the planet.

Adam Force 4:26
Yeah, sweet. So I’ll just…I’m just going to piggyback off that real quick, because I’m super interested in that. And then we’ll get into some of the other marketing stuff. So when you approach a company like that, you know, when I think about those types of ideas, and I see someone like yourself doing it, I start thinking, well, if we’re going to start a company like that, we want zero waste products, like where does it begin to start finding out Well, how do I start manufacturing these type of products or finding out how to create these types of products so that I can build a business with this idea.

Martin Ochwat 5:00
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s a one I get asked a lot. So I think when you’re starting in this space, like, obviously step one is trying to learn the market in and out. Llike if you’re going to be starting a, you know, eco friendly company, you should probably try to live a more eco friendly life yourself, whether that’s trying out different products or different ways where you can reduce your impact day to day. But then once you have an idea and you know, you want to start building products, often a big bottleneck is you know, how do you source manufacturers and build it?

The good news is I’ve — and my friends, too — there’s usually people out there that are just experts at this. You can find them on different sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Basically, if you know…say you want to make a deodorant in the United States, you can find someone on Upwork where you send them the specs. You say, hey, I want to make a natural deodorant. Has to be U.S.-based. Has to be a great formula. And for not a lot of money, they can come back to you with a list of 30 to 50 different factories along with their contact information. And at that point, you kind of just hit the phones and email and try to vet who is the best one for your brand.

Adam Force 6:17
That’s pretty interesting. I never thought really, that going through a service like Upwork would find people who have those skill sets and…What kind of a…So if you’re doing a job posting on Upwork for something like that, I mean, what do you call those people that you’re trying to reach out to, like, what category does that fall into?

Martin Ochwat 6:36
Yeah, it’s kind of a, I guess, market research category. Say, you know, looking to find list of 30 plus factories in this space. And you know, I’ve gotten searches done for as low as like $50. So it really isn’t a high cost of entry. And I think it’s something a lot of people overlook, and they just get stuck at Oh, I don’t know how to find the factories to contact. So, you know, I’ll find a different idea. But it really is accessible. You just need to know where to look and get that information.

Adam Force 7:08
Yeah, that’s interesting. And I like it because you can give specs and then obviously you don’t have to spend your own time. Say you throw a couple dollars out there and somebody can start digging around who’s good at doing that research because you know, you can get sucked into this vortex or black hole on sites like Alibaba trying to figure out what’s what and next thing you know, you’re, I don’t know, what do you do? Go fly to China and check out factories? So it’s like, you know, I think I always found that to be very overwhelming.

And, you know, we try to create, for example, swag, we have some key taglines for our audience, and we want to have swag for that like t shirts, mugs and stuff. And it’s hard to find, you know, print on demand solutions for you know, organic t shirts and different things like that. So it gets a little bit difficult. So, kind of leads me to a question on you know, what made you start this particular company? I mean, there’s the obvious cause on plastic pollution, but what got you, like amped up on that category?

Martin Ochwat 8:07
Yeah, so I think there’s kind of a few factors that lead to this. So before starting this company, I had a few other smaller ecommerce businesses — mostly drop shipping. And I spent about two years being a digital nomad, visiting up to 30 countries with my good friend and also my girlfriend. And, you know, during the time we were looking for, you know, an impactful business to start not just, you know, selling everyday products like sunglasses, for example, but we wanted something with a mission behind it. And we just kept seeing this thread come up of, you know, there’s a lot of pollution in the world.

We would see it ourselves when we visit countries like, you know, go to the islands in Philippines and you see a lot of waste and trash there. And I think another thing that really inspired us was living in Europe for a couple of months. Europe is way ahead of the United States and North America in terms of the environment and sustainability. And we saw a lot of companies and entrepreneurs starting out there in this space with really cool products. And so that kind of inspired….the combination of that inspired us to, you know, try and bring this back home to North America and really build an ecommerce brand with a mission behind it that we can get really excited about.

Adam Force 9:28
Yeah, I love that. And I hear so many times that it’s travel experience that inspires these ideas to do something and I’ve had the same experience where I’m out in these very remote areas of Costa Rica and you just feel like you know, there’s no way there would ever be any trash and then you can walk down the beach and you’ll see it’s not little shells. And sometimes it’s like little pieces of plastic that wash up from the ocean and it just drives you crazy.

It’s like, how can this be, you know? So yeah, I get that feeling of You know, you want to step up and try to do something. So it’s exciting to see that you’re taking those steps. But maybe you could take us back before this. And you know, you have experience as a growth marketer. And I’d like to hear a little bit more about that. So maybe you can rewind a bit and tell us how you got into that and some of the, you know, accomplishments or experiences you’ve had there.

Martin Ochwat 10:23
Yeah, definitely. So my career in growth marketing really started off when I got an opportunity to work in Silicon Valley. So I worked at a mobile gaming company called Machine Zone. They used to make top — or they still do but — they make top grossing mobile apps: Game of War, Mobile Strike. And at that time, I landed on the marketing team, started running Facebook ads with my boss and between the two of us we would manage close to 100 million US dollars per year just on Facebook, which made us one the largest advertisers on Facebook at the time. So it was really there where I got to learn the ins and outs of how do you drive traffic on the web at scale to both desktop and mostly mobile in our case, and then how do you work through these algorithms and, you know, find the most optimal way to get users to whatever product you’re selling. So I think that’s really what took off my career. And I learned, you know, going really deep the ins and outs of digital marketing.

Adam Force 11:29
Hmm, interesting. So I guess what were some…what are some of the…I guess you managed like Facebook ad budgets, like didn’t you have a massive Facebook ad budget that you were managing and stuff like that?

Martin Ochwat 11:42
Yeah, we managed close to 100 million a year in Facebook. And by the time I left, two years later, I actually worked with a few engineers to automate most of that. So we essentially had a machine just managing hundreds like 10s of millions of dollars a year.

Adam Force 12:00
That sounds pretty sweet. I’m all about automation, what kind of technology was that proprietary technology? Or is that something people can get their hands on?

Martin Ochwat 12:08
So the good news is a lot of the technology we worked on back in the day is now publicly available to people on Facebook. So this was back in, you know, 2014/2015. Features like, let’s say you’re running Facebook ads, one of the features they have now is split testing — if you want to split test two campaigns and see which one does better. Or if you want to just upload a you know, five different images and see which one works the best. Facebook has a lot of these features built in where they’ll just tell you, you know, hey, here’s the best performing image and it’ll automatically run it for you. Yeah, so I guess that’s the benefit now is from a lot of our learnings, I think Facebook had a lot of learnings, too, as we were one of their top clients. You get a lot of these tools for free.

Adam Force 12:54
Nice, nice and do you still find Facebook to be a powerful marketing asset?

Martin Ochwat 12:59
Yeah. Facebook is I think one of the most powerful channels still, especially for in the B2C side and a lot in the B2B I hear as well. The one challenge with Facebook today is it’s becoming more expensive as, you know, more advertisers are on it, the platform starts to saturate. But in terms of getting started, it’s super easy, super quick, and you can build an audience and a following, you know, in no time, so I’d highly recommend it. If you haven’t tried Facebook for your business, it’s a must-do.

Adam Force 13:33
Yeah, yeah, that’s where we put a lot of our energy. You know, we’re a smaller team and we can only focus on so many platforms. I found that trying to do every platform gets very distracting and I’d rather be a master of one than like, okay at many. And so I’m curious if you have any insights for people who are, you know, in the first five years of business, you know. They have smaller budgets and they’re trying to scale up their page or run their ads and get some conversions. Like, is there anything that stands out to you that might be beneficial for people to understand?

Martin Ochwat 14:07
Yeah, so I think the biggest thing I see is people are not doing enough testing when running ads on Facebook or really any channel. To give you an idea: at Machine Zone, we would run over 10,000 new ads per day. And that’s…I wouldn’t expect a small business to do that. But that goes to show how much testing we’re doing every single day with our creatives, you know, testing dozens of different images, videos, new ad formats.

Whenever a new ad format comes out, you can often get really cheap traffic through that ad format, whether it’s you know, Instagram Live or IGTV as just like an organic channel. Definitely test new formats. And then testing audiences, right? If you’re not, if you haven’t tested at least 100 audiences on Facebook, you know, you have a lot of opportunity there. So I think if you continue to take the testing mindset and just tweaking a lot of levers, you can get way, way better results that way.

Adam Force 15:09
Right. And I think a major barrier for people to get over — and this included us, I would say, two years ago as we were getting into bigger spend on a monthly basis, or even just the daily spend, right — and that was that when you have a new let’s say, product, and you’re testing to see, you know, maybe you want to get people into a sales funnel, and you have like a free offer, like a lead magnet, or you have like a webinar or whatever it is, in your testing creative and you’re testing if this funnel converts, there’s a decent amount of money spent in the testing environment where you may not be converting and getting a ton of sales, but you’re getting…you’re basically paying for data so that you can learn and then you start optimizing for sales. Is that… I mean, is that like a Is that how you guys felt about it? That sometimes you’re just paying for the data?

Martin Ochwat 15:57
Absolutely. Yes, starting out and when you’re doing testing you’re really paying to learn. And that’s something everyone goes through. I mean, a good way to look at it is if you already have some campaigns running, maybe you set aside five or 10% of your total budget. And that’s a constantly learning and testing budget. And that way, you know, once those learnings pay off, and eventually they will, you know, you could see, like, huge differences in your performance, like your ad cost might drop 25%, or you’re scaling up 30% more. And that’s only possible because of your previous testing learnings.

Adam Force 16:35
Yeah, that’s interesting. And the one challenge that we have found is that there’s so many variables to test. You can test the copy. You can test the images. You can test the audiences. You can test the, you know, the different interests that you’re aligning people to or maybe the lookalike audience or a custom audience.

And so I’m wondering with all the testing that you’ve experienced, are there certain variables that tend to have the most impact? Like, let’s say, the image you use or the copy you use? You know, if I was going to spend $1,000 testing 20 images, is that a smarter first test versus you know, 20 trying to test the copy, like, you know what I’m trying to say?

Martin Ochwat 17:17
Absolutely. So whichever platform you’re running on, you kind of have to look at it and see what, like, logically, what parts of your ad are people looking at the most, and on a Facebook or Instagram it’s definitely the image or video. So I would dedicate most of your time testing new creative content, and especially you know, in 2019 entering 2020, video is showing great results, you know. You get way more engagement, way…you have retargeting capabilities with video so if you’re not testing a lot of videos, even if they’re just scrappy, you know, slideshow style videos, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.

Adam Force 17:59
Yeah. Yeah, I love that retargeting type of funnel option that we have there. It’s pretty sweet. And to your point, like, you know, I think a lot of people have their guards up when they’re seeing yet another, you know, offer for something because you’re not necessarily on Facebook like looking for those things so it’s a little bit more passive for them. And do you find that more genuine authentic kinda like? I don’t know, it’s I’ve heard that that stuff does better for some people, but I’ve also heard that you want to make it like it’s almost like a news type thing because news gets the most attention.

Martin Ochwat 18:38
Yeah, so you really want to stand out I think and try to always be testing different angles. That’s an important part of it. Yeah. Being like these days, Facebook is a lot more strict on their platform. So being more compliant and authentic, you’ll have less issues running your ads versus you know, you don’t want to be getting into like fake news style of advertising especially if you’re like a social entrepreneur. But I like your point of testing a lot of angles, you know. You can make it seem more like, you know, eye catching wow like news style headlines and then you can try authentic headlines and see sort of what resonates with your audience.

Adam Force 19:18
Yeah and it just comes right back to the testing. Because everyone’s audiences different. I think there might be some common denominators just from a Facebook you know audience in general meaning like the kind of headspace someone’s in and just, you know, if they’re gonna…if it looks really salesy, and like that car salesman kind of feel people will probably stay away. But I think that granular testing is really the only way to find out what works best with your specific audience. That’s all really helpful feedback. And yeah, we’ve been really playing around a lot with the Facebook stuff, too. So definitely good results, but I do see it getting more expensive.

One of the questions I’d love to hear from you is you had a nice focus for a while with several ecommerce businesses, and as you’re building those businesses, you know, especially in those first few years, you know, I see a lot of people in ecommerce…it’s different than having a coaching business or selling digital courses and stuff like that. So when you have ecommerce, I go to these websites, and I’ll scout them out, and I see that they’re always trying to just make the sale. And then you go on Facebook, and it’s product promotion, product promotion, product promotion.

And you know, I’ve always found that you get a lot more value if you get somebody you know, onto your email list so you can keep talking to them because they may not buy right away, but then you can continue that conversation. What kind of strategy…I mean, does that align to how you saw a good approach? Like what was the approach from an ecommerce mindset that was helpful for you guys?

Martin Ochwat 20:48
Absolutely. So I think you’re totally right. Probably 90% of businesses I’ve seen in ecommerce are just looking to close the sale right away. And you know, that strategy starting out is not the worst strategy, right? If you’re launching a new business, you want to get sales to prove out the concept. But at some point, you need to shift your focus to how do you create long term sustainable revenue, right? It’s, yeah, if people just do one purchase and they never come back again, you know, eventually that business is not going to work. You’re just going to run out of people to sell your products to.

So capturing things like their email address, very helpful. You can continue to you know, send them emails until they unsubscribe or you just find they don’t interact anymore. Yeah, things like Facebook Messenger. I was probably one of the first advertisers on Facebook Messenger. We made a killing doing promotions through that. It’s a lot more strict now but there’s a lot of retargeting opportunities or, you know, it’s another way you can interact with customers where they have open rates of over 50% on your messages, which is still pretty insane.

And then the third thing I’d add is trying to build retention and lifetime value into your business model. So whether that’s offering subscriptions, you know, offering some sort of loyalty program for customers that have bought a few times, or even referral programs where they refer their friends, and both of them get some sort of special offer. These are all ways you can build more value, add more value for the customers, and as a result they’ll continue to stay customers for longer.

Adam Force 22:29
Yep, I love that. And that’s the thing we always talk to our audience. You know, in our program, we have a program where we do some educational stuff and coaching and we always talk about stop looking for the short term ROI and look for the long term ROI and think long term because you’re going to have new business, but then a huge part of that revenue to scale the business is the renewal business. So getting that business to repeat and grow and continue is going to be a major miss if you don’t have that renewal strategy. So that’s a big part. So it’s nice to kind of hear you back stuff up.

Martin Ochwat 23:01
Absolutely, yeah. And the other thing I’d add is I heard a good quote once. Usually the business with the highest lifetime value within a niche is the one that wins. And the reason for that is if you can increase the lifetime value of your customers, you can spend more money on marketing, you can spend more money on product and at the end of the day, you’ll be able to outmarket others in your space.

Adam Force 23:27
Exactly. That’s a great point. And, you know, having that long term strategy allows you to optimize the value of a lead. So to your point, that means you could spend more. So if you’re getting 100 people as let’s say it’s 100 leads, and you just get…there’s only one person out of 10 that’s ready to buy, instead of just selling them and you get them on your list and then you can get maybe four out of 10 to buy. So now that pool of 100 people you get more, right? You get you just quadrupled your sales for that particular spend.

Martin Ochwat 23:57
Yeah, that’s definitely the right way to look at it. So if you can focus on that, you’re going to have a great long term business.

Adam Force 24:03
Love it. Love it. So tell me now a little bit now that we’re going to…let’s just shift over to your latest zero plastic waste business. Where exactly are you in getting that off the ground? Is it up and running? So I didn’t see a link or anything like that yet?

Martin Ochwat 24:17
Yeah, so we’re pre launch right now. We have a waitlist you can join at www.getmoop.coom. We have a few thousand people on the list now. So really what we’re doing pre launch is making sure our products are top notch. We’re running beta tests, you know, just sending out free samples of products to people and getting genuine feedback. And we’re looking to launch in Q1 next year. So, yeah.

Adam Force 24:45
That’s exciting. How many products are you starting out with? Like, is he going to try to just sell one type of product to get rolling or a whole suite? What are you trying to do?

Martin Ochwat 24:54
So really, our our starting point is we’re trying to make your zero waste toiletries kit. And that starts with a deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste. So those are our three core products. We’ll be adding other complimentary products as well down the line, but we really want to tackle products that you have to use every day like most people are using, you know, anyway, and how can we just make them less waste so that they’re both good for you and the planet?

Adam Force 25:23
Yeah, I love that man. These are like always business ideas that I historically used to think of and my skill sets were never really in this kind of ecommerce space. And I was like, man, I really just don’t know how to get these products like created, son of a bitch.

Martin Ochwat 25:39
Now you know, you know the secrets of Upwork and Fiverr.

Adam Force 25:42
Yeah, well, you know, and it just takes time, right? Like, you don’t want to rush the process. I feel like you do want to take your time to do the due diligence, take your time to get samples. You know, test the market with your stuff and prepare an actual launch of the business and, you know, that takes a while. Like how long have you been in process? Like just getting this off the ground at this point?

Martin Ochwat 26:04
Yeah, so in our case, we really started working on this in January. So it’s been almost a year now. And like you said, we want to build a business for the long term. So we’re investing in branding, good packaging, so much sampling and formulation, and just getting customer feedback. So all of that takes time. But it lets you get out the gate with a much stronger business on day one. And so that’ll give you a better customer experience and better retention.

Adam Force 26:35
Very cool. Very cool. So I’m curious…obviously, you’re going to be applying now all these strategies you have for Facebook and all that kind of stuff with your new ecommerce shop. What have you found is a good you know, we call it a high value content offer, which is you know, someone comes to your website, and if you want to start a conversation with them, you give them you know, some one step closer to solving whatever problem they’re looking to solve and that might be to buy a zero waste product. And so how do you get them on your email list?

You know, a lot of these ecommerce places will have, you know, a pop up that comes up and it’s like a discount code or free shipping and you know, things like that. You know, ecommerce again, it’s a little different than a coaching or digital courses and all that kind of stuff. So I’m curious if you have…and obviously you guys haven’t put this together just yet. But you know, in your mind, like when it comes to an ecommerce space, do you have any thoughts on you know, what might be a good idea to get people on the list?

Martin Ochwat 27:34
Yeah, so I totally agree. Most businesses just do like a pop up after 30 seconds: get 10% or 20% off for joining our list. I mean, the reason they do that is it does work but it doesn’t really build you know, a great relationship with the customer and might make…they may see you as like a more of a discount brand. I think if you build a strategy more around content where you know, a lot of customers are going to find you on social probably on Facebook or Instagram.

If you can share helpful posts and stories there to get them warmed up. Have you know a blog or podcast or video series where you have a bit more content, and you can still do that pop up on your homepage, but it doesn’t have to be a discount. If you, you know, you make it cheeky or interesting and say, Hey, we just…we’ll just give you like the best content free of charge, like live a low waste lifestyle in five easy steps. A lot of the time, that is enough to get people to sign up via email. And, you know, you don’t have to discount your brand on day one. So that’s what I’d recommend.

Adam Force 28:44
So that would be like a lifestyle checklist like five, five ways to do this. And like, you know, just simple things. And I like what you’re saying because you’re right, you have to warm them up. And if you want to build trust, you need to have a certain conversation with them. And I think that the people that become real advocates, they’re the ones that do invest in understanding like your stance on the cause or your story and all that type of information. And as they do absorb that, they become real buyers who will renew and really love what you do, right?

Martin Ochwat 29:13
Absolutely. Yeah, those are…you want to look for brand advocates, I think starting out especially. And if you can build a small community of people that just love your product, and they share it with their friends and family and stay engaged, like that’s kind of your beachhead market, and you can really expand your business from there.

Adam Force 29:32
Beautiful. Yeah, I love that. So I think we’re coming up to the end of our time here, and I just want to be respectful of your time. And I appreciate all the great stuff and I’m excited to see…so the brand name is get Moop. Right? So that’s going to be the new company name.

Martin Ochwat 29:50
Yeah, so our name is Moop. And yeah, it stands for Mindful of Our Planet.

Adam Force 29:56
Cool, cool. Cool. Well, I’m excited to see where you go with that. We’ll keep an eye out and it’s www.getmoop.com. So if you guys want to get signed up to see where that goes and be notified about the updates, you guys can just pop over there and check it out. Martin, thank you so much for your time. Very much appreciate it.

Martin Ochwat 30:16
Yeah. Thank you, Adam. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.

Adam Force 30:20
Awesome. We will stay in touch and talk soon.

Martin Ochwat 30:23
All right, take care.

Announcer 30:25
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect, right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Dan Doyle: Raise More Money More Efficiently for Your Nonprofit

Listen to our exclusive interview with Dan Doyle:


Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

In this podcast, we talk with Dan Doyle, Chief Evangelist at Fundraising Report Card, a fundraising analytics platform that helps nonprofit organizations measure the performance of their fundraising campaigns, gain insights into constituent data, and raise more money more efficiently — all essential to running a nonprofit.

The Creation of Fundraising Report Card

Fundraising Report Card was started by a couple of people from a company called MarketSmart which helps nonprofits around the country build their major giving and legacy giving pipeline. They saw that their clients were struggling to analyze their programs as they didn’t have any tools with which to do so. So, on a whim, Greg Warner, the founder of MarketSmart, and Zach Shefska, the COO, decided to build a tool that would help nonprofits analyze their fundraising programs. With the help of a team of coders and programmers at MarketSmart, they created Fundraising Report Card and built all the key dashboards and KPIs that nonprofits need and rely on. 

Our interview with Dan Doyle discusses ways Fundraising Report Card can help you fundraise more efficiently. Their clients get growth dashboards, and they can look at things like their revenue and donor growth year over year, quarter over quarter, and month over month. They also get retention dashboards, so they can look at the retention by loyalty. Perhaps most importantly, clients can access lifetime value customized to them based upon the information they send and upgrade or downgrade reports. Additionally, Funding Report Card offers 12 KPIs, which clients can use to better understand their program. 

Where to Begin?

Your focus will generally depend on what stage your business is at. If you’re a new organization, you’re probably going to focus on growth and whether you are growing year over year. If you’re a mature organization, your focus is more likely to be upgrades and downgrades and donor retention.

One key advantage of using Fundraising Report Card’s platform is that they offer a free version which is great for organizations that are just starting out and need the most help. This type of business doesn’t have the budget for an agency, let alone business intelligence tools, so it’s great that they can have these tools up and running within a minute at no cost. You can check it out at fundraisingreportcard.com.

Simple and Intuitive

Dan explains that their platform is incredibly user-friendly — a plus if you’re new to the business world. He adds that clients just upload a three-column CSV or Excel file from their database and start using their tools. Their typical client already has a CRM tool for its fundraising program. They then develop the criteria for people they want to analyze, export those donors off their CRM tool, and then upload them. As mentioned above, the Fundraising Report Card platform only requires three columns of data: a unique ID, a gift date, and a gift amount. It’s that simple.

If you can’t get a three-column CSV or Excel file off of your database, you have bigger problems than the analysis endpoints.

Frequency of Analysis

A typical client would first upload their file and look at their data through a fundraising assessment at least on an annual basis. They would examine factors like growth, dollars and donors, and retention rates. They can do a multi-year analysis and look back several years to see if their retention rate is improving or decreasing. 

Dan explains that while initially, their typical client does an annual assessment, Fundraising Report Card likes to drive their clients to do an assessment at least semi-annually, and then quarterly, which is optimal.

Good Funding is Critical

Nonprofits are deeply rooted in doing good for others but all the good intentions in the world will get you nowhere if you don’t have any money.

There’s an old saying in fundraising: No money, no mission.

And so, fundraising is critical — it’s the engine that keeps the organization focused on its mission.

Lastly, in addition to quarterly assessments through the Fundraising Report Card platform, Dan recommends keeping the following in mind when addressing your nonprofit’s funding needs:

  • Have an investment mentality. Be willing to invest in order to find new donors to support your organization. Don’t shy away from it as it’s key for startup nonprofits.
  • Be willing to try things that are new and different. Experiment with new tools and don’t get lulled into doing the same thing year after year. Stick with what works, but always look to new and different fundraising tools.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:00
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam Force. And if you missed last week’s episode, it was with Cassie Parks who talks about money stories is all about your money mindset, the blocks that people have, and how she helps people overcome those blocks even has a program $10,000 in 90 days.

And she says she’s blowing that number away some really interesting conversation and very important, you know, insights to understand about the money mindset. So if you missed that, jump over to listen to the interview with Cassie parks. Today, we’re going to be talking to Dan Doyle, he’s a chief evangelist for the fundraising report card. And basically, it’s an analytics and reporting tool for nonprofits provided by market smart. And so fundraising report was actually developed with one very specific goal in mind. And that is to help nonprofits raise more money efficiently.

So we’re going to talk to Dan about all the ins and outs and how it actually does that and what value it brings to, you know, people in different levels of their business startups versus larger nonprofits. And so you can see where you fit in for anybody listening right now that has a nonprofit or thinking about a nonprofit, these metrics, these metrics, and this type of data is very, very important when you’re trying to grow a nonprofit. So yeah, this will be helpful information for you guys to hear what Dan has to say about that.

Another update is just if you haven’t stopped by the website in a while guys changecreator.com, we do have a new free report, I was going to say program free report. And it is called three skills every entrepreneur must have to grow impact business. And these are three things that are just really important to focus on. So if you’re feeling confused, you don’t know where to put your energy and your time. These are three things where you should really be putting your time and energy to start developing and growing your business. Okay?

So this is going to be helpful for you as a self development, opportunity, a business growth opportunity. And there’s really good insights, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it. So you know, if you download that if you’re not already get into our Facebook group storytelling strategies to grow your impact business, and we want to hear from you what is the key insights? What questions do you have, we have an amazing community and it’s growing, and it’s very, very engaged. So we’d love for you to be part of that community. So find us on Facebook, guys, this is where we hang out. This is where we do a lot of cool stuff. Alright, we’re going to jump into this conversation with Dan Doyle. Thank you all for being here. And I hope you enjoy this.

Announcer 2:48
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 2:49
Hey, Dan, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show how you doing today?

Dan Doyle 2:58
I’m doing fantastic out here in lovely San Francisco, thanks.

Adam Force 3:01
San Fran. Yes. You know, I’ve only been to San Francisco three times in my life. And this past time I went was for the So Cap Conference. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there.

Dan Doyle 3:12
No, I haven’t. Sounds good, though. We have a lot of conferences.

Adam Force 3:15
Yeah. It’s a big one for impact investing and stuff like that.

Dan Doyle 3:18
Oh, yeah. I do know what you’re talking about.

Adam Force 3:19
Yeah, yep. Yep. And you know, it’s funny, because when we first went to our first time out to that conference, couple years ago, we went out there because we’re kind of at the time looking at, you know, talk with investors and stuff like that. And it happened. Muhammad Yunus was down the street doing another event at the Commonwealth club.

Dan Doyle 3:38
Oh, no kidding.

Yeah. So we’re like, oh, man, wow. Yeah, just is random. So we, you know, we called ourselves that, you know, hey, we’re a media company tickets are sold out was like, 200 bucks a head. And they let us in. And we and that’s how we ended up getting him on the cover of our magazine.

Fantastic! Congrats!

Adam Force 3:55
Yeah, I mean, it’s like one of those things where, like, if you’re not getting out there, you know, know what opportunities might just pop in front of you. Right?

Dan Doyle 4:02
True. True.

Adam Force 4:03
So, Dan, tell us about you’re doing some really interesting stuff with fundraising, report card, and, you know, just in the nonprofit space and all that kind of stuff. So tell it Tell me what you have going on these days. Like what’s what’s the latest? What’s the greatest? And then we’ll, we’ll build up to it after that?

Dan Doyle 4:21
Sure. Yeah. Well, absolutely. fundraising report card is been around for a couple years now. And so the latest and greatest is we’ve got over 4000 nonprofit clients. So that’s an amazing deal. And we’ve got a growing number of consultants as clients, so philanthropic, nonprofit, fundraising consultants use the tool set too, so we’ve got a great growth in the number of clients both on the nonprofit side and the consultant side. And we have a wonderful free version, that a lot of smaller nonprofits, small and mid sized nonprofits are able to use it, then we have a bunch of paid subscriptions. So it’s really I kind of say it’s democratizing analysis, it’s making it. It’s something that’s at people’s fingertips where it didn’t used to be, and they’d have to pay a pretty hefty fee to get this stuff done.

Adam Force 5:11
Got it. Got it. Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty cool. So before I actually I have so many questions I want to get into but let me just get there. So we get to the background for people just so they know. It. What was the reason you decided that this was necessary? Like what led you to fundraising report card? And, you know, putting this this business idea itself together? Because it looks like, you know, on the surface thing all that’s complicated, right? There’s a ton of just like, technology behind this and all that. So it’s always interesting to hear how these stories blossomed.

Dan Doyle 5:45
Yeah. But actually, the story predates me. So I’ll give it to you, which was what excited me about joining the team, this this last year as the chief evangelist here. So it was actually started by a little group of folks at a company called MarketSmart. MarketsSmart specializes really in helping nonprofits around the country build their major giving and legacy giving pipeline. And what they thought is that what they saw with all of their clients is they were struggling to analyze their programs. They had lots and lots of reports with, you know, columns and rows of numbers and reams and reams of paper, but they didn’t have any tools at their disposal, that allowed them to visualize, you know, key dashboards and KPIs to help them understand and analyze their fundraising program.

So Greg Warner, the founder of MarketSmart and, Zach Shefska, the COO there decided on a whim that they would actually build this tool that would help nonprofits analyze their fundraising programs. And so the great thing is it there’s all these tools are out there and available. Just no one had been really putting them together. And so they with another team of coders and programmers at Market Smart, built out fundraising report card and kind of built all of the key dashboards and KPIs that nonprofits need and rely on. And it was really just an opportunity to hopefully help nonprofits, you know, raise more money by understanding their programs better, just kind of filling the deficit that existed and, you know, with over 4000 clients now, I think it’s proven that there was a huge deficit, you know, the CRMs just don’t offer the tools that we do. So it’s been a real great thing for nonprofits.

Adam Force 7:27
Yeah, I mean, the and what kind of data? What kind of like, what are these nonprofits getting from the platform, exactly?

Dan Doyle 7:35
Oh, my gosh, they get you know, they get almost everything but the kitchen sink with it. So it was just, we sort of gave away the store. So the kind of dashboards they is growth dashboards, and they can look at things like their revenue and donor growth year over year, quarter, over quarter month over month, they get retention dashboards, so they can look at the retention by loyalty. First time donors report dollars to get lifetime value, which I remember, I used to own my own fundraising agency, and you pay a hefty price to an agency to build out lifetime value of your acquire donors. And just because the technology so easy to leverage these days, clients can access lifetime value customized to them based upon the information they send, upgrade downgrade reports, I mean, there’s just a whole slew of dashboards. And then we’ve got 12 KPIs, which are sort of single snapshots that they can use to understand their program.

Adam Force 8:33
And can you customize, like what metrics maybe are most important to you? So I want to put ourselves in the mindset of some of the early phase nonprofits who are in our audience and probably listening right now. So they’re thinking, wow, this sounds amazing. You know, there’s a there’s also data overwhelm, right? And so yeah, I’m curious how much control you have. And if there’s some really key metrics that people, especially in the early phases, focus on.

Dan Doyle 9:01
So the nice thing I like about why I joined was, you know, we got 36, dashboards and 12 KPIs. And I guarantee that within those having been in the business for 30 years doing fundraising, consulting and running fundraising programs, small and large, I guarantee you, the metrics that you need to assess the strategies and developed tactics are within that tool kit, right. So you can pick you know, and depending on the life stage, you’re you’re absolutely right.

If you’re a new organization, you’re probably going to focus on growth, and are you growing year over year. If you’re a mature organization, you’re probably focused on upgrades and downgrades and donor retention. So, you know, there’s just within all of those, it kind of matches up with wherever an organization is in its life stage.

And frankly, also with consultants who consult with clients, they can access all the tools to based upon whatever client they have, wherever they are, whatever strategy. So I think for me, that’s one of the benefits of it is we don’t have to create anything new. It’s all sitting out there. You just need to decide and I do a lot of demos and webinars with new clients.

Adam Force 10:04

Dan Doyle 10:04
And it’s great to see them, they will ask all the important quick go great analysis leads to more questions. And they ask all the great questions they should be asking themselves internally, but now they’re asking it informed by the actual data.

Adam Force 10:17
Yeah, yeah. Which makes a huge difference, obviously.

Dan Doyle 10:19
Huge, yeah.

Adam Force 10:22
Is there any, I guess, future vision for expanding this type of dashboard and metric insight for the for profit space?

Dan Doyle 10:33
No, we’re pretty much focused only on nonprofits and consultants who work with nonprofits. And that’s our target audience, you know, there. And the reason being is, you know, for profit companies have different analytic needs, they have different funds that are available to them. And so what we found was one where we’re an organization, a company, steeped in fundraising, and helping nonprofits. So that’s sort of where we do our best and we shine.

And they’re kind of the organizations that needed the most help, you know, we find our typical new client signs up for free version. And they have zero analysis, they don’t have an analytic staff person, they’ve got a fundraising executive who wears multiple hats, you know, they open the door in the morning, sort the mail, do the fundraising, you know, you know, they’re doing everything.

They don’t have money for an agency, you know, they certainly can’t afford business intelligence tools like for profit companies can so a free version just immediately is, you know, up and running for them within a minute.

Adam Force 11:36
And so that was that kind of an interesting segue to fulfill a curiosity I have, which is around your growth. You said you How many years did it take now to get to your 4000? How long has this been going on?

Dan Doyle 11:50
It’s kind of started at about seven 2017, you know, end of 16, early 17, is when folks were really hearing about the tools. So just a couple years.

Adam Force 11:59
Okay, what were some of the more, I guess, what were the biggest contributing factors towards the growth at this point?

Dan Doyle 12:10
I think it was just, folks, finally, hearing word of mouth that there was an easy tool available for them to do analysis. They, you know, all those people who just had been suffering without having it because, you know, I know, I consulted with a lot of regional and small groups, and they just don’t have the money to bring in analytic tools, or even hire an analyst or anything like that.

And all of a sudden, they had that for, you know, 30 bucks a month, 50 bucks a month, you know, or free if they wanted the free version. So I think just plain old word of mouth and people saying, hey, there’s a tool out there, that’s super affordable. And all you have is a super simple, and yet gives you really deep analysis. So it’s simple analysis, deep analysis, and affordable.

Adam Force 12:53
And it sounded like you said, you’re doing webinars and trainings and you’re out, meeting people in person. So just Yeah, all of those things, I guess, are contributing towards helping people because I feel like sometimes, while this stuff can sound exciting, people are always looking for the catch, right? It’s like, well, it’s like, you gotta like commit yourself to exploring something new, learning a new product, and all that kind of stuff. So I was curious about that onboarding, if there was challenges and stuff.

Dan Doyle 13:20
You know, there really isn’t. There’s the — 99.9% of the problems that a client might have, are getting data off of their CRM that has nothing to do with us, right. So if they can get three columns, CSV or Excel file off of their database, they can upload it and use our tools . They are incredibly intuitive. And when I do demos, it, you know, I spend a half hour but they only need about five to 10 minutes to kind of get the system and maneuver it pretty quickly. It’s all super intuitive. The navigation is great. You know, I always tell clients, if you can’t get a three column CSV, or Excel file off of your database, you have bigger problems than the analysis endpoints. So if they can get it off, they literally drag and drop upload, and within a minute, they have all their dashboards at their fingertips. So it’s, you know, it’s not that hard.

Adam Force 14:09
Yeah. Have you noticed that when you’re presenting our doing the demos and stuff like that, there’s certain aspects of the program that people is, you know, their eyes kind of light up?

Dan Doyle 14:21
Well, yeah, cuz for most of them, it’s the first time they’ve actually seen their numbers visualized. And I, you know, I always tell people, you know, a lot of our clients, I say, so many folks are visual learners. And they’re, like, 60% of the population is visual learners. And I think, frankly, fundraisers are even more visual learners.

And so for so many of these people is just an eye awakening moment, that all of a sudden, they’re seeing things visualize, so they can see growth, they can see decreases, they can see problems in retention, just visually right in front of them.

You know, it always kind of goes back to some of the fundamental questions about nonprofits and fundraising, which is where Where are the red flags? Where am I not doing well? And, you know, then they start asking, Well, how can we do this better? What did we do wrong? And then where are we shining? And how can we replicate that?

Adam Force 15:15
Right, right? And how big is your team now?

Dan Doyle 15:20
Well, there’s a whole team at MarketSmart, but there’s about four of us completely dedicated to Fundraising Report Card coders, myself, and, and others there. We’re kind of all virtual. So we don’t do a lot of in person meetings. It’s all by webinar and virtual meetings. So it’s really cool. We can meet anyway, actually, we’ve got clients all around the world. I was talking with someone Australia the other day, we have clients in Switzerland that wre logging in, and the UK, so we’ve got clients everywhere.

Adam Force 15:48
So that’s interesting. So people, and I just find this to be super valuable. So I’m just kind of digging into it with you for the sake of you know, anybody listening in the nonprofit world, and you guys can obviously go and explore the platform. It sounds like anybody right now listening that wants to can go sign up for a free plan. Is that correct?

Dan Doyle 16:09
Yeah, the free plan is available, they just go to fundraisingreportcard.com. And there’s a lot of green boxes that say, sign me up, it’s pretty easy. You sign up, all you need is a email address and a password and you’re up and running. And the the the only limitation is that we for free versions, it’s only 5000 records or fewer. So that meets the needs of most of the smallest nonprofits around the world. And then there are some dashboards that you don’t get some of the high powered dashboards. They don’t they’re limited to.

Adam Force 16:39
Yeah. And so like, what do you have to meet certain requirements? Like, do you have to have a certain like, where does the data I guess I’m trying to understand where the data is coming from? Yeah. So like, is it pulling? Cuz I know, there’s been some platforms in the nonprofit space where like, it’s like, oh, you have all these different areas where you have data, but how do you see it all in one place? Can you share a little insight on how that backend works for people?

Dan Doyle 17:07
Yeah, sure. So usually, the typical relationship is our client already has a CRM tool for their fundraising program. So whether they’re on NeonCRM, Salesforce, Little Brain, Raiser’s Edge, whatever it is, they have that. And then what they are able to do on their end is develop the criteria for people they want to analyze, export those donors off of their CRM tool, and then upload them just three columns of data, we just need a unique ID, a gift date, and a gift amount. That’s all we need.

We don’t want four, we don’t want two, we want three, you know, unique ID. No more, no less. And then they upload them and they’re up and running. And usually clients upload the largest kind of data master file they can find on their clients.

And then once they upload the largest, they then start saying, Oh, I want to only look at individuals, I don’t want estate gifts and bequests to be included, because they skew things all I don’t want monthly donors to be included, because they have a different look and feel. I want to upload them separately. So the beauty of it is I always find is they upload a big file, and then they start getting into the data and start parsing out their program.

Adam Force 18:18
Okay, that’s pretty cool.

Dan Doyle 18:19
So we’re platform agnostic. So you know, I really couldn’t care what platform they’re on, as long as they can get a file off of it. They can be up and running.

Adam Force 18:28
But typically, they would already have a CRM, where they have a database that’s at least starting to build.

Dan Doyle 18:36
Most of the clients do, we do have clients who have files smallest, you know, local clients, who everything’s just sitting on an Excel spreadsheet. So you know, so we have the whole gamut. We have clients who don’t even have a fundraising CRM, but they have everything on QuickBooks or something. And they can still use the tools.

Adam Force 18:56
Interesting. Okay. So and and I guess, our people, lot of the clients that you work with, is this for, like, I guess, how can you tie like, tie it together for me to show. I go in here, I upload this information? And how, then does it help with their fundraising efforts? So because I’m sure they’re all running like multiple campaigns a year? Or is it usually for evergreen campaign? Or is it like a launch? Like, how do they? And I just want to understand that like, sequence, I guess, a little bit?

Dan Doyle 19:30
Yeah, no. So what we would hope a typical client would do is they upload their file. Yeah. And at least on an annual basis, they are looking at their data and doing a fundraising assessment. So they’re looking at growth and dollars and donors, they’re looking at retention rates, and if that’s increasing or decreasing, so it’s a multi year analysis, so they can look back five years, let’s say they can look back as far as they have data that would say they look back five years, they can see if their retention rate is improving or decreasing.

If it’s decreasing, what loyalty level is at the increasing what strategies and tactics do we need to develop? So it helps get clients into the sort of analytic loop. And so they’re constantly evaluating. We then like to drive our clients from moving from an annual assessment to semi-annual and then hopefully, that the best use of it is quarterly, people are looking at their programs on a quarterly basis and assessing their their tactics against the strategies they’ve developed.

Adam Force 20:26
Right. Interesting. And and you could see in the data does it show? I guess, over time, as you do these things, it shows tactically, like what, what’s working and what’s not, or is it just showing loyalty of certain channels of donation?

Dan Doyle 20:44
It shows fundraising success or failure. And so what then has to happen is the professional fundraisers on the team, whether it’s a consultant or the organization itself, what they need to do is then assess what strategies they put in place.

So if they had a problem in 2017, they need to ask themselves, what strategies we have in play. What tactic do we have in play last year that caused retention to go down? Right, if someone so you really still do need a fundraising professional at the helm? We can’t replace that.

Adam Force 21:14
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I got it.

Dan Doyle 21:16
There’s no robots doing that work.

Adam Force 21:18
Yeah. No, that makes sense. That makes sense. Okay, so you got all this data, you could see your your growth and donations, and then based on the trends you would look at, okay, well, then here’s the campaigns that we ran, obviously, we can align, like, if this, you know, shows the uptrend or downtrend?

Dan Doyle 21:37
Absolutely. You know, one of the demos I do is with one of our mid sized clients, I have their data uploaded, and there was a year in which they lost their major giving officer. And so for about eight months, they didn’t have a major giving officer. And it just shows dramatically in their trends, you can see the year where they lost a major giving officer and for a while Oh, we can just kind of scoot along without one.

And clearly, the evidence is No, you cannot you can’t raise major gifts without a giving officer. And it’s all right there for them to see. And you know, other things show up, too. So for example, if a client, you know, nonprofit has a very poor new donor welcome series, it’ll show in lower first time retention rates. And, you know, if they improve that we have case studies where they see that data, and then they implement a tactic like a new donor welcome series that’s actually thoughtful, they can see their rates increasing in the coming years.

Adam Force 22:30
Got it got it. Interesting. And what was the role that you mentioned that they removed and noticed a big difference? What was that title?

Dan Doyle 22:38
It was a major giving officer. So that’s the person it was actually the staff member who was responsible for raising gifts at 5000 or above for that group. And the person moved on to another organization, and they struggled to hire someone, and they ended up not having someone for about eight months. And when you look at giving at the 5000 or above level, it just disappeared.

Adam Force 22:57
So how is that translated? And sorry, like, I’m super not in the nonprofit world. So that’s why when I hear titles like them, like say what? But so that translates, though, just by seeing the numbers like you would have that’s not you don’t see in the system, the the changes of like losing someone of your personnel, you just see that flows and trends of donations and growth. And if you see a big dip, you would say, Oh, well, that was during the time that we lost our major giving officer.

Dan Doyle 23:28
You bet. Yeah, it’s it’s black and white. It’s in color, but it’s, it’s in black and white. Yeah. And that’s part of the beauty of data visualization. And part of the beauty of sharing this, with so many nonprofits or around the country around the world, frankly, is now that they now they can actually see this stuff. And when you see a big dip, it almost always will know the answer.

Oh, we converted our database, we moved you know, we did a database conversion. And we lost a lot of records, or we lost a major giving officer or we cancelled an event for you name it. They’ve almost always had the answers to why things improved, or did not improve.

Adam Force 24:07
Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah. And it looks like you guys have a nice visual design, as well, which is it was helpful. And I’m just looking at your your website. And yeah, I mean, so it sounds It sounds like you helped to really organize data, give it a visual representation, so you can understand it more clearly and make decisions that are smarter.

Dan Doyle 24:31
Yeah, that’s, that’s it. But it’s really a tool that helps fundraisers do better and raise more money.

Adam Force 24:38
That’s pretty awesome. And I know that can be a challenging part of nonprofits is raising that money. I mean, that’s like, you know, it’s, it’s an ongoing one way or the other nonprofit or for profit, you’re you’re always fighting to get your next round of dollars.

Dan Doyle 24:53
Absolutely. And there’s an old saying in fundraising: No money, no mission. You know, if you don’t have money, all the good intentions in the world will get you nowhere in helping your cause. So you’ve got to actually have money in the door. And so fundraising critical, it’s the engine that keeps the organization focused on mission. So we’re playing a little part in that.

Adam Force 25:12
Yeah, yeah. Well, listen, it sounds like you have you know, and just reading your, your resume and stuff, it sounds like you have a lot of background and incredible experience in the nonprofit space. So just thinking of our, you know, early phase nonprofit entrepreneurs, any advice from your experience that you might have on the fundraising, you know, front?

Dan Doyle 25:39
It all starts with investment. And so some of the things I know having been consulting with nonprofits for almost 30 years now, is that we can often be investment shy. And they are nonprofits that are small and starting can see that as losses of money, where it’s really an investment in the future of the program. So have an investment mentality. And I think that’s a key factor to kind of startup nonprofits is really having an investment mentality.

And then be willing to try things that are new and different. We find, as organizations grow beyond the sort of startup phase, they get lulled into the same old, same old, so we’ll just do what we did last year, we’ll just do what we did last year. You know, they keep going back to that well, and so I challenge people, yes, you need to go back to what you know, worked. But you need to keep in within your toolkit, new and different things that you haven’t tried sort of experiment. And so I think those organizations that will be most successful, enjoy investing and are not shy. Yeah, and are willing to try new and different things and assess the risk.

Adam Force 26:46
Calculated risk.

Dan Doyle 26:48
Exactly, exactly.

Adam Force 26:49
And you say investment, you mean to get investment from people or to be willing to invest in what you’re doing,

Dan Doyle 26:56
willing to invest to find new donors to support the organization. And that’s the, you know, the, all my years of fundraising that was in number one constraint on the organization was how much they were willing to invest. And so, you know, I think that you have to have an investment mentality.

Adam Force 27:14
Interesting. And any, I guess, you know, as you in the donor in the world of like finding donors and stuff, where does the nonprofit even begin to start finding a donor?

Dan Doyle 27:27
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many different channels, you know, you know, the tried and true ways they do direct response to find low dollar donors, whether it’s digital marketing, or direct mail marketing, and so they find $15, $30, $35, $40 donors, and then grow them up the pipeline to become mid market donors and major donors. So there’s that that’s a channel that has been around for ages. A lot of organizations use events as a as a way to find new donors. So whether it’s a black tie event, a special event or a challenge event, a bike-a-thon, walkathon, something like that. That’s another avenue they use to find new donors.

Adam Force 28:06
Interesting. Okay. Well, I want to make sure we have a minute here just to let people know where they can find the Fundraising Report Card. So I think it’s just fundraisingreportcard.com, right?

Dan Doyle 28:19
Yeah. couldn’t be easier.

If you if you can type and you have a browser open, you can find us at fundraisingreportcard.com.

Adam Force 28:28
Yeah. I mean, it sounds like a good piece of software. And I was interested in talking about it, because I think there’s a lot of value and you know, the more that we grow Change Creator and stuff like that we know. Wow, like you really do need to see what your data is doing. And the more clarity you have around that. Yeah, it’s worth the investment of your time and energy because it really accelerates your growth when you have that clarity.

Dan Doyle 28:53
Yeah, knowledge is a pretty important thing and in fundraising, too.

Adam Force 28:57
Exactly. Awesome. Awesome. I really do appreciate your time, Dan, and

Dan Doyle 29:03
Thanks for having me.

Adam Force 29:04
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well keep up the good work and supporting the nonprofit world. And guys, you can check out their awesome software and hopefully it’s something that will help you grow your fundraising.

Dan Doyle 29:15
Thanks so much.

Adam Force 29:17
You got it. Take care.

Announcer 29:18
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meeting intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Sydney Sherman: How to Build an Online Marketplace That Combats Poverty Through the Things We Buy

Listen to our exclusive interview with Sydney Sherman:


Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

Sydney Sherman is on a mission that many social entrepreneurs share: to do good in the world while making a living. And she’s making it happen through Faire.Shop, her online marketplace where conscious consumers can find ethical brands.

Faire.Shop was born out of Sydney’s desire to do her part in alleviating the extreme poverty she has seen in her life. She compares the website to Etsy in terms of function, and explains that they vet all of their vendors according to the wages they pay their workers, the working conditions, as well as environmental stability. Brands are promoted within the site and each vendor controls their own shop.

Helping Ethical Businesses Grow

As her business grew, Sydney realized that the vendors she was featuring on Faire.Shop were not utilizing technology as well as they could — something that can easily hold a small, ethical business back. So, on the back end, Faire.Shop is helping vendors improve their business by developing technology to help each individual merchant collect metrics on their business such as what their best-selling product is, where most of their products are sold, and where they’re making the most money. Sydney refers to the site as a “double-sided marketplace.”

Our main focus is on extreme poverty and how to help eradicate it.

Not only is Sydney on a mission to do her part in eradicating global poverty, but she also recognizes that the solution needs to be a sustainable one. She stresses that in order to deal with the root causes of extreme poverty, the solution needs to be self-sustaining. The way in which ethical vendors use Faire.Shop lends to their independence. They manage their own “mini shop” through their own portal. They fill orders and ship everything themselves. And they have the freedom to pull or add new products if they want.

Advice for Early Fundraising

Those early days served as a great learning experience for Sydney. She was kind enough to share with us some amazing bits of advice she has for people who are just starting out and are looking to optimize their fundraising:

  • Before you do anything, figure out whom you’re going to ask and what you’re going to ask them for. Sydney put together a spreadsheet to organize a list of potential supporters. She listed each person as well as exactly what she needed from them, be it business connections or money.
  • Be specific when asking for something. When Sydney was raising money, she found that people didn’t just want to hear her “spiel.” They wanted to hear precisely what she wanted from them.
  • Know that you’ll make mistakes in the beginning. Sydney told us that she made a complete fool of herself in her first meeting. She suggests practicing with people as much as possible. She got some outside help and enlisted the advice of experienced business owners to put her slide deck together.
  • When raising funds, start with friends and family. While it’s incredibly hard to ask those closest to you for money, Sydney advises that this is the way to go. Through her experience, she found that potential investors were more likely to lend her credibility if her grandmother’s money was on the line, too. It was as though they understood that Sydney would have to face this group of her investors at Thanksgiving so there was extra pressure there for her to invest the funding wisely and for her business to succeed.
  • Know your potential investor well. It’s important for your potential investor to know your business idea well, but it’s even more important for you to know your potential investor well. Do your research before reaching out to someone and use that information to send personalized emails, etc.
  • Know your numbers. Go to meetings well-prepared. If you don’t know your numbers by heart, write everything down and don’t be afraid to refer to them if you need to. At the very least, be familiar with the math.
  • Connect with potential investors often. Sydney is the first to admit she doesn’t like doing this because it takes up time and she has a million things to do. However, she finds it incredibly helpful. Every week, she connects with her LinkedIn contacts. She makes sure to add them to one of a few lists she has: people she needs to update on investor information, people she has recently been in contact with (including what she could potentially ask them for in the future), and so on. 

Next Steps

Just a little over a year into her new business, Sydney is looking at a business merger. She was introduced to her business partner by a mutual friend and coincidentally, each wanted to start doing what the other was doing. While they each have different approaches, their end goal is the same. Her advice for anyone considering a business merger, especially this early on, is to get a good lawyer. The legal component is complicated and you need to know what to expect under any given circumstance.

In addition to the merger, Faire.Shop’s second year will focus on improvements on what they’ve already done. They’ve never done any sort of branding, so they are looking at doing a complete rebrand in order to make the customer-facing marketplace more attractive. A main focus for year two will be to determine ways in which they can optimize sales for their vendors and really focus on marketing. Lastly, Sydney admits that the backend of their website needs a lot of work. There are a lot of plugins that they can provide for their vendors and they plan to focus on improving their vendors’ user experience and business success.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
What’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. It’s a sunny day here in Miami. And I’m excited to let you know that issue 27 with Nasreen Sheik is out now on iTunes and Google Play and of course at changecreator.com if you like that desktop reading experience. Wow, what a powerful, powerful story from Nasreen. We’re really excited about this edition we also have some incredible motivating content from a no holds barred interview with Laura Gassner Otting.

She’s been rocking stages around the world these days and has her latest book “Limitless” out now in Amazon. So really good content there, guys. super inspiring. So get a chance check that out. If you missed last week’s interview, it was with Moe Carrick. And she is also a rockstar. She’s done several TEDx talks. And she has her latest book. And it’s all about cultivating a good culture in the workplace. And making sure that it is a place where people can thrive. I mean, how important is that?

I spoke to, you know, Blake Mycoskie not too long ago, and this is something he mentioned, too, is getting the right people in there. It’s a game changer. So if you’re an early phase entrepreneur, and you’re starting to build a team, you know, even finding those co founders and things like that, it’s really important to know, like people come with baggage, and you need to also know how to lead and cultivate an environment that will help people thrive because they are going to be your number one resource. And so yeah, building that is really important. So that’s a great conversation with Moe Carrick, she has a lot of expertise to share in that area.

So if you haven’t caught it, go back, check that out. It is available on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, all that good stuff. So today, we’re going to be talking with the one and only Sydney Sherman. And she actually is the founder of an online marketplace. The company is called Faire.Shop. And it is an online marketplace where they’re connecting conscious consumers directly with ethical brands, she comes from a family of entrepreneurs, it’s in her blood, this is what she does. And she basically, she encountered… and she’ll talk about this her experience, of course, during the discussion, but she came across a lot of extreme poverty at one point in her life and decided to help do something to fix that problem.

And that’s where the Faire.Shop, you know, was born. So she’s going to walk us through it. Now they’re in their earlier years. But she’s starting to build this team, she’s starting to cultivate this business. And she has lots of interesting experience from that front lines perspective of those early years. And I think what she’s doing is actually really cool. And it certainly is never easy. So we’ll hear about some of the challenges and successes and things that are working for her as she gets traction for Faire.Shop.

If you guys haven’t stopped by Facebook, in a while make sure you catch us in our group, if you go to our Facebook page, you’re going to get lots of good insights over there. That’s our primary place right now. And from there, you’ll see a link to jump over to our group. And that is going to be a group to talk about marketing from a storytelling perspective. So its storytelling strategies to grow your impact business.

We’ve been getting a good uplift over in that group. And we try to make it a more intimate community to really get into the nuts and bolts of marketing and the power of storytelling to do that, so that you can connect with people and grow your business. So jump over there. We’d love to see you guys. And that’s it, guys. Leave us a review on iTunes, Spotify, all that good stuff. We appreciate it. And without further ado, we’re going to get into this conversation with Sydney. Hey, Sydney, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today?

Sydney Sherman 4:01
I’m great. How are you?

Adam Force 4:03
I’m doing very, very good. And I love the work that you are doing. And I’m also excited because you’re just breaking into year two. And I know those early years are something of great interest to people in our audience — to learn how you’re getting through them, the ups, the downs, and all that good stuff. So before we get into some of your background and things like that, can you tell us just what’s going on with your business today?

Sydney Sherman 4:31
Yes, of course. So, basically, we are a marketplace for ethically produced products, we vet all of our vendors according to the wages they pay their workers, the working conditions, and then environmental sustainability. And so the second component of that is that our vendors, our shops, function very similarly to Etsy. So we actually promote the brands within our website, and they control their own shop. So on the back end, we’re trying to develop a lot of technology that can tell them a lot more about their businesses like what is their best selling product?

Where do their products… Where are they making the most money, what marketplaces their own store, just in any technology like impact reports, even because they found a lot of ethical small businesses aren’t utilizing technology and the way they could. So it’s kind of a double sided… It’s very much a double sided marketplace. So that’s what we’re working on.

Adam Force 5:30
Okay, awesome. And let’s just talk a little bit about just to ground people listening here, why you decided to start your business.

Sydney Sherman 5:42
So it really started I mean, I think there was something that I was always interested in around these kinds of issues. And one of the, our main focus is on extreme poverty and how to help eradicate it. And so I don’t know, like, you know, sometimes you just grew up with something that is like, it’s like a little like, it started as a little seed, probably, when I was, like 10. But then by the time 2010 hit, I was traveling a ton and seeing a lot of really extreme poverty en masse.

And that’s when, like, it really started to like, take root. And I started to think about, like, what I could do to contribute to like helping these issues that I was seeing. And I was also realizing like there was so much poverty in the world so that it had to be a sustainable solution, right? Like nonprofits, charity, they’re amazing. And they do amazing work. And they’ll always be needed on some level. But like to truly deal with the root cause of these issues, it has to be something that’s self sustaining. So that’s just when I started thinking about, like, what I could do, and like what was already out there, and like how I can support what already existed. And so that’s what led me to the marketplace.

Adam Force 6:56
And did you have background doing other work? Like, did you do the whole nine to five for a while, like, what was your experience?

Sydney Sherman 7:06
Yeah, that’s always an interesting question. So I worked for like six months. And then I started a company that connected like administrative assistants by the hour to small businesses, in Austin, Texas, and my parents are entrepreneurs. So I guess I just grew up with that. But I have very little work experience. So yeah, I ran a business for three years. And I went back [unintelligible] my always knowing that this was what I wanted to do, but at that point, it was very overwhelming. I knew marketplaces had some, like, unique challenges as far as creating a business goes. So I went back and got an MBA in entrepreneurship. And from there, I finally launched this.

Adam Force 7:48
Okay, did you find that helpful getting MBA, do you feel like I could, I could have done this differently?

Sydney Sherman 7:55
I found it extremely helpful. I mean, it was an interesting program in the sense that it was for entrepreneurship. Yeah, I think with you know, if I had worked maybe in other businesses, for a little bit longer than six months, of course, you know, I worked in college or high school, but not, it’s not the same. So I think that, given the little work experience I had, and like the first business I ran was very small and very different. It was incredibly helpful just to know, like, what kind of existed as far as options and like, yeah, like, we’re, I told you, before we got on the phone, like, we’re in the middle of a merger right now, I would not have known anything about that. Or how to go, you know, so for me, it was incredibly helpful.

Adam Force 8:43
That’s good. Yeah, I’m always curious, because I know, you know, schools don’t lean in too much. And I, I’m seeing it more and more obviously, even with just specific, like social entrepreneurship, you know, courses, programs, and curriculums, and stuff like that. So, and I haven’t talked to too many people that have gone through them.

So that’s, you know, what piqued my curiosity when you said that. So I guess that you know, the model you have is interesting. So I want to talk a little bit just about your business model. Because obviously, there is…you’re pulling in different brands and kind of becoming the face like, the collected like sales portal for them. Why did you take this approach instead of trying to develop your own products? I’m just curious on the thought process around that.

Sydney Sherman 9:31
Sure. So I actually a friend approached me in college and wanted me to help her start a dress company. And we did, we started it, we created products. And I realized pretty quickly, that is definitely not where I should be. I’m not very detail oriented. So one thing I know, like that would be really helpful in any business. But like, especially when producing products, like there are so many details to consider. So that was like, just not for me. And I knew that after that little experiment. But then, just in general, when I started after 2010, all the traveling, I started to really like research what was happening in the industry.

And what I found is that a ton of brands already existed, but sales were a huge issue, it was still a really fragmented market. And there are a lot of ethical — not a lot but — there are ethical marketplaces that have been created. But a lot of them were more niche, like, they’ve mainly carried clothing, beauty, accessories, and that was kind of it. And as a consumer, I also wanted more. Like if I it was a lifestyle for me, like how can I buy everything ethically? Like phone cases and cleaning products? And sweaters? GIFs? Whatever? Yeah. And so yeah, that’s what kind of planted the seed I guess, for this marketplace.

Adam Force 10:55
Yeah. And so it seems like so and I’m only asking these questions, because I really don’t know how these models work. So I’m actually quite interested in learning more. And I am curious to understand, I’m sure people listening are, too, is, when you look at a model like this, and you’re going you go out and you vet brands, right? You have like a certain level of like a quality standard and ethical like, you know, standards that you try to abide by, which is awesome.

And and anybody listening, you could see the outline on their website. And so when you find a brand, or Oh, I would love to help them sell this product, how do you create a partnership with them? Meaning is this like an affiliate type-like partnership? You’re now selling it on your website? Can you just help clarify some insight around that?

Sydney Sherman 11:47
Yeah, sure. So it’s basically it’s not affiliate, like they just sign up for the market. But will we vet them, of course, first, if they already have a fair trade certificate easy, we don’t have to do any work. But if they don’t, we know it’s really expensive and time consuming. So that’s always step number one. And then once that happens, we upload the products and they manage their own little like portal, when they get orders, they ship everything.

So they can pull their products whenever they want, they can add more products if they want. So it’s totally up to them. And we just take a percentage of every sale. So and there are other things we could charge for, of course, but like until we’re a new business until we’re really generating value for them. We’re not going to charge anything, like even any marketing we do with their products. Like it’s all on us for now. So, um, but yeah, it’s not really affiliate, they just upload and like manage little shops within our website.

Adam Force 12:47
Interesting. And so yeah, obviously had to do some real tech, I guess, work to build that kind of thing. So on the back end, it seems like there might be a lot of custom work, or did you find technology that existed that was helpful?

Sydney Sherman 13:04
Oh, yeah, we started on… So back in, let’s see, September 2017, is when I started working on it. By December 2017, I just put up a Shopify site and had asked like a few brands to join us. And just like threw open the doors. But then we realized very quickly, that there wasn’t something that existed that did everything we wanted. And it was creating a lot of issues like our Shopify site randomly just only sell [size] smalls. We know it was like stuff like that constantly. And so, and we’re not technical, like I’m running a technical company, and I’m not a technical person.

And we’re also you know, we got investment, and people are like, Were is the technical person on your team? And so it was definitely a challenge. But we did end up switching over and building our own software. And we just contracted with an awesome team that’s going to help us build because I mentioned like, it’s two sided. So there’s the customer facing platform. And then there’s also like all the technology, we want to offer it to the vendors on the back end, and they can develop all of that. So yeah, we’ve become a very technical company. And that was one of our first pivots.

Adam Force 14:20
Yeah, I mean, I find that to be exciting. And it is overwhelming. Like when you’re not a designer or you know, a website engineer or like developer of some kind, it’s like these things, can they hold a lot of people back, right? So and then if you can’t do it yourself, the dangerous part, and for a lot of people is they have small budgets. And if they don’t have investment, it’s like, How do I know it’s going to actually give me an ROI if I invest in this, right? So it becomes a huge gamble. So you mentioned that you actually were able to raise some dollars now. So you did a seed round?

Sydney Sherman 14:52
Yes, we did. It took me all year and was so hard. So I feel for any, I mean, not having money is also really hard. Like you said, like how, you know, like, we wasted a lot of money on technology, because we didn’t know what we’re doing. And we had like, I mean, you never want wasted is kind of a strong term. I know tons of people that are way more experienced business owners that have also spent money on technology that didn’t pan out for them. And so for us, it was a rather small amount, but it felt like a lie. But yeah, we raised a million dollars last year, and it literally took me all year to do that.

Adam Force 15:32
Well, congratulations. That’s pretty exciting.

Sydney Sherman 15:35
Thank you. Yeah, it was, it was definitely wouldn’t Yeah, I guess when you ask big wins, like that was — that’s a big one.

Adam Force 15:44
Yeah, I mean, this is a huge stress point for a lot of entrepreneurs, you know, you have ideas, especially when you’re doing something like you’re doing because you do need the right technology. When you have the right tools, it works a lot better, right?

Sydney Sherman 16:00
Oh yeah.

Adam Force 16:00
So you know, tell us just a little bit about your experience, like it is a brutal process, sometimes to build out the investment process. So tell us a little bit about what made it work for you — some of the learning curve. I’m sure there’s a lot of things just like anything, right, you can put your time in, it doesn’t work. So what actually advice might you give to people listening that are looking to raise their seed round.

Sydney Sherman 16:28
So I mean, first I just roll out like… I put together a spreadsheet and roll out like all the people that I was going to go to and like what I would ask them like some people it was connection, some people it was money. And a lot of the people I found when I was raising, they wanted to hear that asked like, they didn’t just want me to give my spiel, and then like sit there. And I don’t know if that is particular to the group of people I was raising from or if that’s like a thing, but they wanted to hear, like precisely what I wanted from them.

I made some so many mistakes. I mean, my advice is like I practice with people, very experienced business owners helped me put my deck together. Everything. But like, there’s nothing like just showing up. It’s like doing anything for the first time. I made a complete fool of myself in the first meeting. But there was no like, there was nothing I could have done differently. Like, I just needed to get in there and hear the questions that they had. And like everyone’s going to ask different questions. So it was very humbling at the beginning.

Adam Force 17:31
Yeah, it gets intense. And, so were you doing more local outreach, meaning you can go in person, are you like flying out places to meet people?

Sydney Sherman 17:39
No, it was all local friends and family. I mean, I think I would… I grew up in Texas. So I was going and I lived in Austin for 10 years. But I grew up in Houston. So I have connections in both places. And I was I mean, that was pretty much it going back and forth between those two cities. But then I moved to New York. And so at that point, I didn’t have any connections here. I tried to meet up with some people here that didn’t go well as a completely different type of fundraising that I was unprepared for. And I just I didn’t have the same like connection. So yeah, I started flying back to Texas, but I was already there for other things, so…

Adam Force 18:20
Yeah, interesting. Well, I love hearing those stories, because it is a pain point for people. And did you have like an executive summary or just went straight with the slide deck?

Sydney Sherman 18:32
Yeah, I had the deck, I had, like a one pager that had the summary, but I am like, so bad at over sharing information. So our one paper looked really crazy. I was cramming, like so much in there. And most of the people like, I would send them that and they would kind of glance at it. But none of our investors are familiar with ethical at all. So…

Adam Force 18:55

Sydney Sherman 18:56
It was interesting. So like, honestly, I still wonder if they like, understand what I’m doing on like a really, like intimate level. Not really, you know, like they for any business they invest in, like they don’t understand that like their own businesses, of course. It was better to go in person. And like explain that yes, this is ethical and like, what that means. But like, also, the point is to make money so that we can show that like, this is a valuable business to be in whether I mean, hopefully you care about people and the planet. But if you don’t like you can still do the right thing through business and make money for whatever reason you want to do it.

Adam Force 19:34
And my last thing on this would be Is there any as you were having these conversations, does anything stand out, that would be helpful for people listening as key information that is helpful, either during the conversation or to get their attention to get a meeting?

Sydney Sherman 19:52
Um, I would say it’s, like, they like to see you starting with friends and family. And it’s really hard to ask those people for money. But like, for example, my grandma invested. And when she invested, I didn’t even know she had money to invest. And like other people at first, I was like, I don’t think people are to think that’s not impressive, but they’re like, oh, if your grandma’s money is online, like this is you’re not like messing around.

So they do like it’s scary to ask the people you’re closest to and a lot of people won’t because they’re like, I still have to have Thanksgiving with them. I don’t know, for me, I think it said a lot to future investors that I don’t know. And then also, I mean, do your research before you like reach out to someone — send a personalized email. And then in the meeting, know your numbers like even if it means and you can say like, oh, let me check, like, even if it means writing it down and like having it next to you. Just yeah, know the math.

Adam Force 20:51
Okay. Yeah. All right. Well, that’s helpful. It’s, it’s a big process. And we’ve spoken to a few people who have raised, you know, several million dollars and stuff. And one of the things that did come up that you might find interesting is, they would say, if you get a meeting and someone doesn’t invest, you just asked either advisors or investors, if you can put them on a very exclusive email list where you do like monthly or bi monthly updates, to let just say, Hey, here’s what we’re working on challenges, successes, and you just keep updating that list. And then when it’s time to do a raise, everyone’s kind of like, Oh, I know exactly where you’re at. And I’m interested, you know?

Sydney Sherman 21:30
Oh, absolutely. And I’ve started to do every single week all… And I don’t like doing this because I have a million things to do. But it’s so helpful. Every week I go through and like I connect with those people on LinkedIn. And then I add them to there’s a few lists that I have. One is like the people that I’ll update, like you said, with the investor stuff. And the other is a list of people like I’ll write out like what we’ve talked about, and like what I could potentially ask them for in the future. And knowing that like we’re in a place where we’re a startup, we’re asking for a lot right now. But obviously end goals like we’ll be able to give back at some point. But yeah, keeping track of that is kind of a pain. But like, it really pays off.

Adam Force 22:10
It does. Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s a powerful thing. And you’re right, like most people don’t do it. Because it’s just one of those things that it’s easy to say “I don’t have time for that,” you know?

Sydney Sherman 22:23
It’s annoying.

Adam Force 22:23
It is but hey, anybody listening, trying to raise money. It is bit of a dance. And it’s kind of like dating, right? So you really got to get to know people, and they may not jump on right away. But if you can get a chance to continue to earn their trust, that’s a good way to do it.

Sydney Sherman 22:38

Adam Force 22:40
So let’s talk a little bit, you mentioned that you’re doing a merger. So like, what’s that all about?

Sydney Sherman 22:46
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy, because we’re still a really young company. But yeah, and mergers and acquisitions. Whenever I was in my MBA program, we talked about HomeAway. And they basically started…it’s like, kind of like Airbnb. But they started their business by merging and acquiring other marketplaces, like all over Europe, and then all over the world. And for some reason, that’s always fascinated me. And I was like, if I’m dealing with a truly fragmented market, and I want to help take this like movement to the next level, whatever way I can, then, you know, “defragmatizing,” if that’s even a word is like, a good way to do it.

So mergers and acquisitions were always on the list, doing it like two months into year two, was not on the list. So yeah, just we were introduced by a mutual friend and kept meeting up and like, we have the same end goal, but we had taken different approaches. And both of us wanted to start doing what the other person was doing. And finally, we’re just like, while we could share resources, and we would each have a smaller piece, but it would be of a bigger pie. And it would speed up what we want to do. And like, it’s at the end of the day, we evaluated like, it’s not about us, it’s about the movement. And if we can help more people by doing it together, then by all means, let’s do it.

Adam Force 24:10
And how does that work? I mean, so how do you? And you know, obviously, you don’t have to give all the crazy details. But how do you set up that kind of a…what does that look like? Basically?

Sydney Sherman 24:22
Yeah, I mean, this was my first time doing it. So who knows? I could not work out — could be a huge error in judgment. We don’t know yet. But we…basically, I put together a document and I met up with a ton of advisors, people who had done this before. And I just wrote down every question they had, and I put together it’s like a 10 page document, with everything from like, every question that I had about her business, how it would work her opinion on like our future, what she had done up to this point, etc, all the way down to like personal stuff, like personal boundaries, how we work fast, like, strengths and weaknesses.

And we both just went through and like filled out the document, we kept meeting in person. And everything. We also tried to figure out like, okay, when something goes wrong, like, of course, it’s like, raising money, like I wasn’t going to be able to truly, like figure out how to get better until I started doing it. So I know, decision making, like we can’t plan everything in advance but like, how do we make decisions together? If we’re disagreeing? Like, what does that mean? So it’s a lot of just conversations. And now we’re getting into the legal component, which like the lawyers, they know what they’re doing there. So just hire a really good lawyer.

Adam Force 25:43
But you guys are not…So are you creating a parent company that would, then both of your individual companies would fall under?

Sydney Sherman 25:53
Kind of where so she would essentially, because we’ve gone to the B Corp, and we’ve gotten certified by WBENC like we’ve done some of those things, she is going to shut down her entity and join ours, but we’re coming at is 50/50 owners and then… So that will kind of be the parent company. Her marketplaces a little more curated than ours. So we will have to like version one, which is just ours, which will have everything and then like a more curated version of that. But there’s no like, parent company with two separate entities; we’re like actually merging. And we might create other businesses after this, through this, and this would become a parent, but there’s no like holding company.

Adam Force 26:39
Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, that’s always interesting. And even at Change Creator here. We’ve discussed a few potential mergers. And it can get a little tricky, but it’s nice. Like we we’ve done like work partnerships with people over you know, a few months on things, to see how how the workflow is because you never know, right, until you really get into with somebody.

Sydney Sherman 27:01
Yeah, totally.

Adam Force 27:02
Although you mentioned about, you know, decision making and different opinions and how you handle all that stuff. And then just are they reliable, right? It’s like…

Sydney Sherman 27:11

Adam Force 27:11
Yeah, it makes a big difference makes a big difference. So tell us a little bit more, then, about like the next 12 months or so, what we can expect? I think we have a little bit of sense of where you’re going with things, but just what are we looking at and anything — any big changes?

Sydney Sherman 27:29
So the next 12 months, really trying to so last year was hard. It was the first year. I mean, second business. First one was tiny, but still the first year is always really hard for me at least Yeah. And now we’ve built the basics. So a lot of improvements on what we’ve already done. So we want to do, we’ve never done branding or anything like that. We’ve mainly focused on tech and getting the vendors last year, so like doing a complete rebrand, so that our customer facing marketplace was more attractive, really drilling into marketing and figuring out like, how can we generate sales for these vendors. That’s number one. And then, of course, the backend of our website needs a lot of work. And there’s a lot of different, like, plugins that we want to provide for our vendors. So more of that, too.

Adam Force 28:22
Gotcha. Okay, cool. Well, I want to just be respectful of our time here and make sure that you get a chance to give a shout out, you guys could check out all the amazing products that they have, and how they work. They have their whole, you know, ethical production standards outline and the process, and then FAQs and stuff like that. So you could check that out under the About Us on their website. And Sydney, I’ll let you give a shout out. What’s the best way for people to learn more, get involved, all that kind of stuff?

Sydney Sherman 28:51
So yeah, visiting our website, www.faire.shop. But I mean, I’m also like a very available person. I really like connecting to people. So if there’s anything you wanted to talk to me about, especially if you’re trying to start a marketplace, I am available at sydney@faireinc.com. So sydney@fairing.com.

Adam Force 29:16
Awesome. Alright guys. So check her out doing lots of good work. And it’s exciting that you have a B Corp. status. It looks like is it still pending? Or did you guys get cleared yet?

Sydney Sherman 29:27
Still pending. We sent in our application in February. So any day now.

Adam Force 29:32
Nice. That’s a big process. So congratulations.

Sydney Sherman 29:34
Yes, it is.

Adam Force 29:35
I’m excited for you to get that cleared.

Sydney Sherman 29:37
Yeah, me too. Thank you.

Adam Force 29:40
All right, Sydney, thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience and congrats on the raise and the and the wins that you’ve had so far. It has you’ve only been doing this for two years. So I think you know, that’s pretty awesome.

Sydney Sherman 29:53
Yeah, well, thank you. I appreciate it. Definitely.

Adam Force 29:55
All right. We’ll talk soon.

Announcer 29:56
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play, or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Geoff Cook: What It Takes to Win in the App Space

Listen to our exclusive interview with Geoff Cook:


Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

Geoff Cook is an entrepreneurial success story. He started his first company as a sophomore at Harvard back in 1997. A few short years later, at the age of 24, he sold it for millions. He then sold his second company for $100 million. More recently, he co-founded The Meet Group, a collection of online dating apps, each targeting a specific niche. Geoff also recently co-founded Podcoin, a platform that rewards podcast listeners. His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. 

Dating Apps with a Twist

Geoff is all about developing unique apps and it’s this originality that is their selling point. A little over a year ago, he launched a live streaming video platform. He grew it to more than $80 million in revenue in just a short period of time. It boasts almost a million daily active users who are live streaming every day.

This live streaming platform goes across all four of his online dating apps: MeetMe, LOVOO, Tagged, and Skout. Geoff has essentially turned what used to be a flat and one-dimensional dating platform world into online communities where people can communicate via video in realtime. Think about the ramifications: no more wondering whether a potential date is using a profile pic from 10 years ago. Their personalities would come alive and you’d be able to get to know them much better than you would by just texting.

Podcoin: Get Paid to Listen

Geoff’s second major project at the moment involves Podcoin, a listening platform that essentially pays you to listen to podcasts. App users get paid in the form of gift cards for retailers such as Amazon and Starbucks. I mean, who doesn’t like free money? And if you’re feeling particularly philanthropic, you can donate your earnings to one of about a dozen charities, instead. It’s simple and everyone wins. Needless to say, the app has been a success.

Innovation Sells

By now you’re probably sensing a theme: Geoff Cook is a master at being innovative. He stresses that when developing a new app, a great approach is to fashion it to be a novel solution to a problem — often a problem that the user didn’t even know they had. He adds that the novel factor really needs to be high for an app to be successful. If it’s only slightly different from an existing one or if it’s been done before, it won’t sell. The key is innovation and novelty — stand out from the crowd and solve a problem most people don’t know they have. 


When asked about the logistics of promoting a new or existing app, Geoff explains that just because you have access to marketing funds doesn’t mean you have to spend them. He adds that he can’t think of too many apps that became hugely successful because of the amount of marketing dollars that went into their promotion. Good apps — successful apps — speak for themselves. Consider your most used apps: Do you use them because a glitzy advertising campaign attracted you to them? Or do you use them because they work well and do what you need them to do? 

As for raising funds, Geoff suggests the best course of action is bootstrapping as much as you can for as long as you can. And put off putting energy into raising funds as long as you can.

…the entrepreneurs who don’t raise and are successful — that’s always a better story than the entrepreneurs who raised that were successful.

When you eventually do start looking to get funding, Geoff suggests holding off until you have something that’s actually fundable. You’ll be far more successful at getting funding if you have something people can actually look at. If you’re just starting out and you’ve only got 500 DAU (daily active users), Geoff warns that you won’t be successful in your pursuit of funding. He recommends first churning out your app, working hard to drive DAUs and retention rates up, and then having something concrete you can show potential investors.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the translator podcast show. If you missed last week’s episode, it was with what I like to call the Jedi Master of Facebook marketing and growth. She knows how to build audiences on Facebook because she knows everything about Facebook. And she’s done it time and time again. So we interviewed Rachel Miller. And if you’re looking to grow your Facebook audience, and figure out how that whole big crazy platform works, she’s the one to listen to. So check out that interview.

She’s full of energy and excitement. Today, we’re going to be talking to somebody by the name of Geoff Cook. Geoff has an incredible background. He is a serial entrepreneur. And he started his first company from a Harvard dorm room. He’s Harvard educated, and he sold it for millions of dollars at the age of 24. Then he sold his second company at 100 million dollars. So yes, he’s doing pretty good there. And he is now the founder of another company called Podcoin. And we’re going to talk about what that’s all about today.

But that does have to do with some of the app world. He’s in the consumer app world. So we’re going to talk about what it takes to build these companies, how to get traction with apps and some of the keys to his success and how he’s selling these companies. So we’re going to dive into that in just a minute with Geoff Cook. And so also guys, just a really exciting time coming up because we have issue 28 of Change Creator magazine that’s going to be out soon. And it is with the one and only Blake Mycoskie. He’s obviously a legend in the social impact space. So we were really pumped and it’s like what’s Change Creator magazine without having somebody like Blake Mycoskie on the cover, right?

So finally, were able to lock that in. And we had a really cool video interview. And he even wore a sombrero during that interview. So you can check that out, we’re going to be releasing some snippets of that interview on Facebook. So make sure you’re following us on Facebook. That’s where you’re going to catch those things. And he just gave this really great discussion. I mean, he’s full of passion, this guy, he’s doing all kinds of stuff. And he talks about some of the lessons he’s learned, which are really valuable through his experience with this one for one model, but also just about life in general.

He’s on a whole new journey. So you’re going to see another side of Blake. And so we highly recommend you check out that magazine and that interview, you’re going to get a lot out of it. So we’re excited about that one. We’re almost at issue 30. That’s a big milestone. So plugging away hope you guys are enjoying it. Don’t forget to leave us, you know, reviews and those big thumbs up five star reviews on the iTunes platform and Google Play and stuff like that. We really appreciate it. Alright, so let’s get into this episode with Jeff.

Announcer 2:51
Okay, show me heat.

Adam Force 2:57
Hey, Geoff, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today?

Geoff Cook 3:01
Very good. Thanks for having me.

Adam Force 3:03
You’re welcome. You’re welcome. You have a huge resume, and you have a lot of things going on in your world. So we’re going to dive into some of that. But I’d like to just understand, you know, what’s the latest and greatest? What do you what are you working on these days?

Geoff Cook 3:18
Yeah, so I mean, the two things that I think we’re working on the most right now one is the live streaming video platform. So, you know, we started this live streaming video platform only about 15 months ago, grew it to more than 80 million in revenue in just a short period of time, grew to almost a million daily active users who are live streaming every day. And then the other thing that’s that’s pretty recent, is an incentive listening platform called Podcoin that basically pays you to listen to podcasts. So both of those things are two of the you know, the main projects we’re working on right now.

Adam Force 3:53
What was the name of the live streaming platform?

Geoff Cook 3:56
So it goes across all of our apps, we have four big apps, one is MeetMe, LOVOO, Tagged and Skout. So we have these social communities. And what we did with — they’re each, like a dating, social dating, social chat community. And what was new about it was that we added livestreaming on top of this, what had been a text based chat community.

Adam Force 4:18
Got it. Got it. Okay, that makes sense. Very cool. Cool. So, we’ll tap into that stuff a little bit more. But I want to give people and yourself just the opportunity to understand some more the background you have. So I want to give you a chance to tell people like in a nutshell, what led you to these current projects. You have a pretty extensive background. So maybe you can try to sum up some of the things you’ve done and how you got here today.

Geoff Cook 4:44
Sure. So I started my first company back in 1997. As a sophomore at Harvard, I was basically looking for a side job. And, you know, didn’t want to work at a library essentially. So just started up, asked myself what could I do. The answer that was write and edit. So I started an editing business, grew it to millions of dollars in revenue, few hundred contractors ended up selling that a few years after I graduated, then worked under contract for a couple years.

Left to start myYearbook along with my brother and sister who are 10 and 11 years younger than me at the time. This was now in 2005. In 2011, I sold myYearbook for $100 million in cash and stock to a public company. Then I kind of came back as CEO of that public company, about a year later, and continue to run it today. What I’ve been doing in the last three years has really been building this live streaming video platform out and then acquiring other apps. And in the last, you know, three years we acquired four sizable apps. Spending, you know, in the neighborhood of you know, $180 million.

Adam Force 6:04
Okay. Yeah, some pretty exciting stuff. And I — and correct me if I’m wrong, but you also won Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst and Young, correct?

Geoff Cook 6:15
Yes, for Philadelphia.

Adam Force 6:16
Philadelphia. Have you ever lived in Philly? I see that you live in Princeton. But did you ever live in Philly?

Unknown Speaker 6:22
No. And you know that that was the area that I guess the they tie your business to. Our business is in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Adam Force 6:29
I Love New Hope.

Geoff Cook 6:31
Yeah. Me, too.

Adam Force 6:33
I’m originally from New Jersey. So I was right in central Jersey. So Lambert Ville, New Hope that was very familiar. And then I lived in with my wife in Philadelphia for six years, which is why it caught my curiosity.

Geoff Cook 6:45
Where in central Jersey?

Adam Force 6:46
I was in Flemington, which is, you know, you actually know Flemington?

Geoff Cook 6:52
Oh yeah, I lived in Pennington for a while.

Adam Force 6:54
Oh, yeah. Okay, nice.

Geoff Cook 6:56
And I’m from South Plainfield, New Jersey originally.

Adam Force 6:59
Awesome. Okay, very good. We got some roots together. Alright, so you’re working on the livestreaming. And you got Podcoin. And before we go a little further in that. I feel like because of your history, you’ve done a lot as far as starting a company, but also growing the company and even selling those companies.

And, you know, with our audience listening today, I think these are pretty hot topics. You know, everybody wants to know, right? How you’re growing the companies and stuff like that. And there’s always the real high level, you know, anecdotes around that stuff. But I’m curious, just because you’ve had a number of experiences now, have you seen any trends? Like if you were like, you are not you started Podcoin? Like, what are some of the steps besides, you know, dumping major marketing dollars into it that you would advise for people that they should be aware of when trying to grow and really get those first three years moving?

Geoff Cook 7:59
Yeah, I mean for like a consumer mobile app so most of what I think about is like consumer mobile apps. But for something like that, you know, I think it’s, it’s difficult, like there’s no, there’s no question. To get something to break through is ridiculously hard. I mean, people only use something like a couple dozen apps a month. And, you know, to break into that set is just really hard. And so I think one of the ways that I tend to think about that problem is, you know, is there some novel solution?

Like the novelty factor on an idea needs to be really high, because if people have seen it before, or if it’s just like a tiny bit different than some other thing, it’s like a feature added on to something else like that almost certainly won’t work, from my standpoint. So the novelty factor has to be high, but it also has to be a good experience as to solve some problem that people like may not know they have, but that that they do have.

And then I think the other piece of it — and I don’t think novelty is enough — but but I think then the other piece of it is like how can you…because even if you have access to marketing dollars, you don’t want to spend them right? Like the question, you know, there aren’t too many apps that are really made because of their marketing spend. So how do you get into these communities and get adopted? Like, how can you turn some of your first adopters into your sales people? And like that, that’s another thing that I think we’re trying to do with Podcoin that we’ve done in the past as well.

Adam Force 9:30
Yeah, I think that’s a big one. And I’ve seen some companies with serious success app or otherwise, that had smart Ambassador programs, basically, and really inspired their early adopters, you know, they did something unique and cool. Like the idea was cool, but once you get them on board, how do you incentivize them to be your marketer? So you know, you said that, and I think it just really kind of hit home. Because I think, you know, for anyone listening that that is a huge win. And I’m seeing it more and more I know, these affiliate programs are one thing, but these Ambassador programs can be quite powerful.

Geoff Cook 10:09
That’s right. And so like an example of this is like in the Podcoin case, right now, we you know, we know that a problem that podcasters have is getting listeners. And you know, we made it really easy to claim your podcast for free on the platform if you’re a podcaster. And then if you did, so we essentially through promotion inside of the app and how we rank podcast, we’re able to give you a lot more listening minutes, like drive 30 to 40% of our listening minutes, just to the people who the podcasters who have claimed, and in order to be claimed you essentially have to do a mid roll ad somewhere in your podcast. So so we’re finding hundreds of podcasters willing to do that. And you know, obviously that drives new users through the door.

Adam Force 10:54
Tell me about it a little bit here. You know, Change Creators is a podcast. We’re on Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher. You know, you’re talking about bringing people on board, and they get paid to listen on Podcoin. And this is based on an advertising model, it sounds like. So you have a mid roll ad? And is…how do you align the relevancy of the ad to the topic of the show?

Geoff Cook 11:23
Yeah, so actually, we are pre revenue. So Podcoin is a is a new concept. And I think we have a good sense of how would monetize but, you know, taking it back a step: So basically, what Podcoin is a loyalty points program for podcasts. Rather than, you know, listening to podcasts and earning nothing, which is the typical experience, this basically allows you to earn this currency called podcoin, which you can then redeem for Starbucks gift cards or Amazon gift cards or various things.

And the idea being that you’re spending your time inside of an app you’re giving, you know, information about what your listening habits might be, and what other podcasts you might listen to, if you listen to this one, so the platform is clearly getting some value out of this. And the idea being while we’re pre revenue right now, you know, we’ve run enough mobile apps to know that, you know, you can typically monetize these things. And I don’t know 20 plus cents are live streaming video function monetizes much better than this. But But let’s say 20 cents per per hour, per user hour. And so you know, if you if you have your your Podcoin earning rate less than that, you know, you’re likely to have some profits.

We view kind of the Podcoin is kind of a marketing expense a reason to have people come in. But the the ultimate idea is, then the potential monetization hope down the road is…and down the road typically means like…when I build these consumer apps, that I normally I’m not thinking, Well, how do I monetize it day one, because I think if you’re, if you’re doing that, you’re kind of missing the point. Like, if you monetize day one in a consumer app, there’s really no chance at all right, like, you need hundreds of thousands of DAU probably before you even have that. That’s a lot, but you should have at least a pathway.

And I think the pathway here is, we’ve found that by making small variations in the Podcoin earning rate, like a half penny per hour, for example, that we could drive 30% of the listening minutes to a certain subset of podcasts that would ordinarily, you know, not be discovered. And so that, you know, in the future, and I don’t know how long the future is, maybe some months from now, maybe, maybe years from now, you can you can imagine how that could be powerful in driving people to particular podcasts and how that could be monetizable.

Adam Force 13:44
Yeah, no, that’s interesting. Okay, and how many…I guess I’m curious, you’re, you’re bringing on podcasters? How are you guys getting shows involved with you guys now?

Geoff Cook 13:55
You know, it’s been just very, in this is just a new initiative, it was, you know, we have probably 21 teams, at the meet group, and 20 of them are more or less on either live streaming video or subscription and one team is on this. And, and so it’s kind of an experimental concept. But you know, we, we’ve always been of the… I don’t know if you followed, like the Google, Eric Schmidt used to talk about, like, you know, 20% time and like having having 70% of the resources beyond core business 20% on [unintelligible], 10% on blue sky.

Like, I don’t know, if we subscribe to these particular percentages. But you know, I think having having blue sky concepts, and, you know, we view podcasts and audio as almost like the flip side of live streaming video, right? Because the video is really lean in, you know, you’re chatting with the, with the broadcaster, you’re maybe sending gifts, it’s, you know, kind of this immersive thing.

In the podcast thing, you know, you’re often feeling some human connection, like people often feel like they’re in the room. But it’s more laid back, like you’re driving a car, you’re maybe running like, but you’re following the conversation. So we see it as just kind of another place, like our users are sometimes driving to work listening to podcasts, and sometimes they’re interested in dating and connecting to people via live streaming. And so we view it as kind of two sides of the same coin.

Adam Force 15:23
Yeah, you know, it’s, it is interesting, and there is an interesting intimacy to it, but also that convenience factor and, you know, even ourselves, we’ve been, we’ve been audio only for a few years now. And I, you know, we started doing some of the video based interviews very selectively, just, you know.

I’m not sure…it’s almost like our, you know, beta test, in a sense, too, because I find that the conversation, there’s distraction, in the sense when you have video instead of just audio, I don’t know if that makes sense. But when you have like you’re on screen, and you’re trying to stare at a webcam, like it’s, it’s a very different experience. And when you’re just listening, I like what you said, you feel like you’re in the room, and it’s a more intimate conversation. I found it’s a very unique differentiation.

Geoff Cook 16:12
I tend to agree with that, you know, I’m a avid podcast listener, of course. And, you know, I think that, you know, you often see these changes into the industry where, like, people are trying that, well, let’s see if we can create two minute podcasts or like, super short segments or the video podcast, and it’s like, or maybe the format works for a reason, you know, this kind of long form content, that’s audio, that’s typically audio, right?

Like it works for a reason. Yeah, I think we do have some thoughts on on maybe live podcasts and down the road. But you know, I don’t know that it’s going to be, you know, the vast majority. I think the current model is more likely to be the winner.

Adam Force 16:54
Seems to be I mean, I love taking like, I like when there’s a really great question that you can use and sample like, take a quick like one to three minutes sample from the show, and then you can use them as a social media hook. Right?

And that’s fun when you have video. That’s what I love the video for. But I feel like when you do the video as the actual interview, I don’t know, like these conversations are good. But when I can, like, have my head down, and my notepad out, and I don’t have to focus on the screen, I feel like the conversation is a little bit more in depth, you know?

Geoff Cook 17:27

Adam Force 17:28
Yeah. So just interesting talking points and stuff and the platforming that the site looks good for Podcoin. And it looks interesting. I mean, I think the concept is interesting. So yeah, we’ll have to see how that develops and where it goes.

Geoff Cook 17:43
Yeah, no, we’re excited to see where it goes, you know, the other thing people can do, and we have an advisor on our, on our advisory board, who’s the head of, or one of the heads of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which is a childhood cancer charity. And, you know, it didn’t occur to me, when we were first thinking of this idea that, you know, there’s always you know, you can run for an often like, you run or you bike and, and people give you, you know, some some money per mile.

And that’s a that’s a way people raise money for charities, you know, but there’s people who can’t run and they can’t bike and through no fault of their own. And so like, is there a way for those people to potentially participate through their time and attention. And Podcoin is essentially that, you know, we do work with charities, and you can donate your pod coin to to about a dozen different charities who work with us, as well. So you don’t have to redeem it for gift cards. And and many of our users actually use it that way.

Adam Force 18:47
Hmm. That’s pretty interesting. And yeah, so you mentioned the Podcoin can go towards gift cards and things like that. So now you’re also saying it can be selected for charities and I have seen things where actually we have friends who are running an interesting business called Atlas, and they do what you’re talking about. They raise money through this app where you run for change and stuff like that. And so they’re kind of doing that. And I never really thought about, well, What about the people that can’t do that? Right? So I think it’s a good concept.

Geoff Cook 19:19
Yeah, no, I don’t think we were kind of keyed in on that. But then we had kind of had that conversation and it just made a lot of sense.

Adam Force 19:27
Yeah, that is interesting. Okay, and how long has Podcoin been going right now? Or is it just a test at this point?

Geoff Cook 19:35
Yeah. So it’s been out for about four months. We launched it in December, and then, you know, we’ve been expanding it since.

Adam Force 21:24
Okay, great. So Jeff, let’s, let’s switch gears just a little bit from Podcoin. And we know we can circle back around on that if we have some things to cover. But I kind of want to hear a little bit about live streaming. And this idea of more human connection. I think, you know, more than ever today, the the idea of live streaming, whether it’s Facebook Live, or you know, doing an Instagram, you know, live session and things like that. Even…I think …Is YouTube doing live now? I don’t even know, I’m not I’m not too big into YouTube, but…

Geoff Cook 21:55
It does.

Adam Force 21:56
Everyone’s getting into the live streaming space. And it’s like, you know, you have Facebook watch and stuff. And you can have your own shows, basically, and Jeez, who needs cable TV anymore, almost. But tell me a little bit about why you decided to get into that. And about the connection factor behind it from your perspective.

Geoff Cook 22:18
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. So we have had this fairly sizable, you know, millions of users community for some time, and people were always chatting, and a key metric for us was chats per day. And yet you log into the community, and you’re seeing people near you, that you can chat with, or that you are already chatting with. And it felt kind of flat, right? Like, it’s profile pictures and, and you can — multiple profile pictures — and you can put interesting things in your profile. But, you know, there might be 100,000 people online right now.

And yet, it seems super flat. Like you’re just browsing through these profiles. And the beauty of live streaming video is it suddenly makes, you know, personalities and makes the thing come alive. So like, it takes it from being like a collection of profiles to kind of feeling like the nightclub or the bar, you know, kind of a coffeehouse — like, this casual gathering spot, where, you know, people are having all these conversations, and you can jump in here, you go into that room there.

And you’re actually seeing someone. And, you know, in the dating space in particular, you know, I think there’s this thing about authenticity, right? Like, is that picture even them? Is it them 10 years ago? You know, is it the best picture of them taken on their best day with the best lighting? You know, what does the person really look like? Also, what is a picture really tell you about a person? What does their voice sound like?

You know, what, you know, can you get any sense of how, you know, if they [unintelligible] and you know, it’s hard to tell any of that, except through video. And so livestreaming, you know, I think kind of is such a natural for kind of dating and social meeting apps. And so we actually first saw it, though, in China.

So China was the first place where we’ve ever seen livestreaming married to a dating app, and it was on an app called Momo, a very big app in China. And so we saw that in 2015, we launched our live streaming solution in 2016. And I think we were among the first if not the first kind of Western brand in the dating space to have it. And that was on our MeetMe app. Okay. And we’ve since added it to our Tagged app, which is an African American meeting app, as well as our LOVOO app, which is a European dating brand.

Adam Force 24:42
So then it sounds like, you know, with all these different apps and programs you’re putting together there, you do keep a very niche focus with them.

Geoff Cook 24:51
Yeah, yeah. You know, I think we we know who the audiences are there we’re trying to serve. And, you know, we see live is kind of an enabler of that audience. So we didn’t see live as our way of expanding, you know, Tagged, for example, beyond the African American demographic, or LOVOO out of Europe. It’s more, okay, you know, we have this existing large base of users, can we get 30% of them to spend 30 minutes a day watching live streams, in addition to the time they already spend on the platform?

Adam Force 25:25
Got it. Yeah. And so, you know, you have this big audience, because they, you know, implementing something like livestreaming? Obviously, I have to imagine is a fair bit of development.

Geoff Cook 25:37
Yeah, yeah, that’s fair. You know, we literally have, you know, 17 out of 21 teams on the live streaming portion. Yeah. And, you know, they’re not all just working on, you know, the, the bits of live streaming, but but also, you know, as you can, I’m sure, you can imagine, there’s moderation demands, right, like, livestreaming at scale. We have about 200 people who do nothing but moderation.

Adam Force 26:03
Wow,that’s a lot. Okay. Yeah, that’s a big operation. But I think, you know, the most valuable part of this topic, you know, for our listeners is, you know, the value and benefit of live streaming, because, you know, you’re connecting people, right. And so as an entrepreneur, you know, you might use live streaming for the same benefits, because you have a chance to connect with people.

And you know, there’s a trust building factor there. Because you just like you said, you know, who knows what those pictures look like in the dating world, and all that kind of stuff, and you get to see someone, you know, live, it’s a different dynamic, and you can earn a different level of trust. What do you think?

Geoff Cook 26:46
Yeah, yeah, no, I think you can, I think you absolutely can. And I think where we, you know, are going with this is, you know, we’ve already kind of doubled and tripled and quadrupled down. But, you know, we’re right now, all of the streaming activity, we have all of the live video activities is broadcast media, it’s almost it’s like one-to-many kind of more few-to-many media, almost like a podcast, right?

Few-to-many. And, you know, dating, of course, lends itself to one-on-one. And so we actually are going to be launching one-on-one livestreaming this this summer, and that’ll take it, you know, in the whole new area. You know, hopefully, you know, maybe a few quarters later we will launch a group video, where we’ll enable maybe people to talk about topics or things that are important to them.

Adam Force 27:32
Interesting. Okay. So I something that caught my attention earlier, just about one of your companies that you started, if you don’t mind me just kind of diving back a little bit. I have a question for you, which is you said you got into an editing and writing business. Is that right?

Geoff Cook 27:49
That’s right. That’s right. When I was at Harvard.

Adam Force 27:51
And how did that I’m curious on how you grew that especially, you know, I guess, I don’t know what year that was, but it was, you know, a different time and stuff. And I’m curious how because it sounds like you built it up to a pretty substantial size? And, um, what some of the steps there were and…

Geoff Cook 28:07
Yeah. I mean, that was my first business. And so it’s kind of dear to my heart. Yeah, I started originally as a side job. And like, my first year, it was really just like, you know, the worst that’ll happen is I lear something about making a website and ecommerce because I did everything by myself. And like, I literally took a $500 or $600 advance out of off a credit card. Because I needed money, there’s a whole reason for doing this exercise was that, otherwise, you’re going to get a job.

So but I thought I even if I don’t make any money, no one wants to buy anything. It’s not really a big deal. You know, at least I’ll learn a little bit about e commerce. But, you know, my first year, I thought it was like the best side job ever. I made $10,000. And, you know, that’s probably more than I would have made if I had a side job. And then, you know, I took an internship as like a lot of students do.

But in the night, I would — it was at an internet company in Denver, they took this internship, and at night, I would work on on this business. And, you know, by my junior year, it was $40,000. But I was still doing all the editing. So then it’s like, oh, my God, this is like a chore. But it was still good money. I was probably making 60 bucks an hour, you know, something like that.

And then I was like, okay, you know, at the end of that year, I was like, I’m not going to take a job, I’m just going to go work on this. So my girlfriend at the time, and I and she’s now my wife, we actually rented a house, did nothing but work on this business. And by my senior year, I didn’t do any editing, I just hired people. And we did 300 grand, and then we grow to five plus million, you know, in the next few years.

And it was basically college admissions essays, Business School, personal statements, it was resumes, we were the resume writing to hot job and the Wall Street Journal’s career journal site for when I still was owning it. So it was a great little business, a lot of fun. And it’s one of those straight line stories, like a lot of stories or pivot stories, that was like, Hey, I needed a side job. And then it just, you know, kind of kind of got big.

Adam Force 30:13
So it sounds like you were taking on any kind of writing work.

Geoff Cook 30:17
It was really admissions and resumes. So like those key things, those key documents that people might pay for, right, like, you know, not not necessarily like the business writing or that you might do or book writing. But more like that, you know, this this thing that you need in order to get through some gate?

Adam Force 30:34
Got it? Yeah. And I’ve seen I think you can I think people can charge a pretty penny for resumes and stuff like that.

Geoff Cook 30:40
Absolutely. Absolutely. And a good resume, right is worth it. Right? Because, you know, might help you get that position and get noticed and resume writing and admissions essays like these are all just a skill. So like those services, they weren’t writing it for you. You had to bring your stories, but like be good editor can work with you.

Adam Force 30:59
Yeah, yeah. Right, you know, to frame up the language properly. And all that kind of stuff, I assume.

Geoff Cook 31:05
Exactly. And and just to invoke the right questions, stories, right. Like, and someone to tell you like this stinks. That often helps. Right, yeah, because a lot of times you’ll give it to someone and they won’t tell you that.

Adam Force 31:17
Right. Right.I guess through your experience too, what have been some of the bigger challenges? I mean, you’re talking about selling companies that are hundred million dollars and things like that, which is, you know, that’s big picture stuff. That’s, that’s big, you know, we’re talking with companies that make, you know, seven figures, but you’re talking about a million and stuff like that. And I’m just curious through the experience of now that you’ve had with these companies, you know, what were some of the challenges that you’ve had that maybe were big life lessons in business? Anything come to mind?

Geoff Cook 31:52
Yeah, I mean, you know, there’s been so many, like, I tend to look at these things as kind of chapters, right? Like, it will be…these aren’t straight line stories were like, and then, you know, I started the company, and then I sold it. It was kind of this up into the right thing that just happened until the day I sold it. Right?

Like, it’s almost never that way, like, you’re often on the brink of disaster, or, you know, you’re worried about, you know, something that’s existential. You know, I mean, I think, layoffs, you know, think things like that, you know, ad rates move against you. Investors are upset, like, I mean, I, you know, just kind of one thing after the other and I think the thing to that the kind of hang your hat on and makes you want to keep doing it is the creation aspect, right?

Like you’re trying to create something new and interesting that hopefully people like and, you know, if you’re able to do, that’s the stuff that I like the best, like the kind of what’s the next thing we’re going to be building? Why is that going to work? And the reality is that you have to also realize that like, probably it won’t, really. But occasionally it does. And when it does, it can really work.

Adam Force 33:10
Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing, though, because every time you want to try a new idea, there is a level of work that you have to put into, you know, you don’t have to go crazy, but like, it’s just you have limited time, and you got limited resources. So every time you want to test out something, there is a level of work and time that goes into it. Did you find it challenging? Were you doing things at the same time and spreading yourself thin at all and stuff like that?

Geoff Cook 33:37
Well, I mean, I mean, as a student, I would probably say, like to go back to the college days and starting the business. Like, at the time, yeah, I was probably spread pretty thin. But then by senior year, I was like, wow, this is kind of exceptional, right? Like, this is a significant business. There’s no question which should win here. Right? I’m going to go to class as little as humanly possible. And so you know, that was kind of an easy decision.

In terms of, you know, there’ll be a lot of demands for your time from from investors or from others. And, you know, if there’s key product decisions, or key things you got to do to be moving the actual business forward. Like, that’s where you should be spending your time. And like, I think, ultimately, like, a lot of people understand that. Like, hey, don’t meet with me, if you gotta go grow the business right.

Now, of course, some people will still make demands on your time. But yeah, I mean, being spread thin is, is kind of just part and parcel. And I think, you know, what helps with that, though, is just personal decisions, right? Like, if you can, you know, if I’m able to work out in the morning, that’s a good day, right? No matter kind of what happens, what happens after or, you know, if I can, you know, read to my kids when I when I, you know, at night like that, that’s that that’s good. So as long as you have some of these kind of routines, kind of humanizing routines, I think it helps with the stresses of the day.

Adam Force 35:06
Yeah, no doubt about it. And it’s hard. It’s hard to commit. And that’s something my wife and I are debating all the time, and we’re super busy people and you get so focused on what you’re trying to do each day that you may not eat, or, you know, you should run for, you know, run a mile or go and meditate or whatever your routine is. And those things are a very small fraction of your time throughout the day, yet, you still feel that you can’t tear yourself away to go do it. It takes discipline.

Geoff Cook 35:39
It’s discipline, and a lot of it really does come come down to that. But then, you know, it’s also true that if you keep it up, you know, it gets a lot easier.

Adam Force 35:48
Yeah, it becomes habit. Right. Right, you know, a part of your normal routine. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. I think that we’re getting to the end of the time here. But where can people…I mean, you have a number of apps and stuff. But is there maybe Yeah, shout out for some stuff.

Geoff Cook 36:08
Sure. I mean, given it’s podcast, I’ll give a shout out to Podcoin, give you that a try. Or if you’re interested in meeting people or livestreaming, MeetMe app would probably be the good one to start with.

Adam Force 36:19
Yeah. And I’m actually just one thing. I’m curious as we wrap up, I don’t think you have but have you ever had to raise funding for anything?

Geoff Cook 36:27
Oh, yeah. I mean, I’ve raised hundreds, hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of time. Yeah, yeah. So you know, I, you know, the myYearbook business. Actually, I signed a $750,000 financing deal three days after I graduated, for my first business, the editing. So I did an angel round. I raised about $17-$18 million in venture capital for the business I sold in 2011. But on top of that, I’d raised, you know, another $20-$30 million in venture debt. And then, you know, as part of a public company, now that I run, you know, we’ve raised what, well in excess of $100 million.

Adam Force 37:16
Yeah, any…I mean, you’re, you’re playing in big numbers, and obviously, with different track records, but any tips on raising funding for the entrepreneurs that were…that are on the line listening?

Geoff Cook 37:31
Yeah. I mean, if it’s an app, you know, like I, you know, I tend to say bootstrap, as long as you can; don’t raise as long as you can. Now, it’s not always reality that you can not raise, but you know, that the entrepreneurs who don’t raise and are successful, that’s always a better story than the entrepreneur raised that were successful. But, you know, some milestones I’ve heard that some investors look at these days are like, 10,000 DAU.

You know, if you can prove your thing out, if you had a mobile app, let’s say, you got 10,000 DAU, and you’re looking at day 30 retention rates of 20% or more — and I realize those are really high numbers — then you’ve got, you know, something that’s probably quite easily fundable, especially if you have a, you know, especially if you have some good backstory, or like, you should be able to figure that out.

But, you know, but like, if you’re, if you’re sitting there with 500 DAU, or, or even worse, you know, just an idea that you want funded. That’s not really the way to go about it. Like, you got to just figure out whatever the heck you need to do to get the first version out, get some users on it. You know, people want to back something they can see.

Adam Force 38:42
Yeah. And can you just for the audience, can you define DAU?

Geoff Cook 38:46
Daily active users, so like, how many users are actually on your app every day?

Adam Force 38:50
Yeah. All right. Awesome. Listen, Geoff, appreciate your time. Sounds like you’re doing a lot of cool stuff. And we’ll keep an eye out on Podcoin and see where that goes. But I think any final words on your end, Are you good?

Geoff Cook 39:08
No, that’s great. You know, I thank you for having me today.

Adam Force 39:11
Awesome. Well, thanks for being here. And we’ll be in touch.

Geoff Cook 39:15
All right, take care.

Adam Force 39:16
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play, or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Oscar Trimboli: Mastering Deep Listening for Impact Business Growth

Listen to our exclusive interview with Oscar Trimboli:


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We’ve all heard what it takes to be a good listener: make eye contact, face the speaker, and so on. But is there more to it? Oscar Trimboli says there most definitely is. He has coached and mentored professionals in a variety of leadership roles in numerous industries including the financial sector, technology, professional services, education, and nonprofits. And he wants to make sure that you, too, understand the intricacies of becoming a truly effective listener.

I’m on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world.

He points out that only about 2% of us have been taught how to truly listen. This is a problem, since we spend 55% of our day listening. Part of the issue is that when we’re listening to someone speak, we don’t clear enough space in our own head in order to listen to ourselves before we begin a conversation.

Not Listening Will Cost You

In our podcast, Oscar discloses that he is on a mission to help people move from distracted listening to deep and impactful listening. There is a cost to not listening — whether it’s to your customers, your employees, or to anyone else you’re working with.     

He stresses that it’s listening — not just speaking — that is going to make the difference between success and failure when you’re in a business and you’re trying to change people with ideas or raise funds. 

Listening Across 5 Dimensions

Oscar refers to effective listening as deep listening. And in order to do listen deeply, we need to listen across five dimensions:

  • Listening to yourself,
  • Listening to the content,
  • Listening for the context,
  • Listening for what is unsaid, and
  • Listening for meaning.

Asking the right questions when someone is speaking also makes for a deep listener. “Tell me more,” is a great example. This phrase is not to help you better understand what the speaker is trying to say; it’s to help the speaker better express what they mean. Often, when we say, “Tell me more,” the speaker will sigh very deeply and when they do, you know you’re starting to hear what they truly mean rather than just what they’ve actually said. A distracted listener may not even be tuned in enough to a conversation to notice this, but a deep listener will.

Targeting Your Customers’ Customers

A good salesperson will be focused on their customer’s problem. A great sales rep will be focused on their customer’s customer’s problem. It’s not enough to know the organization’s problem that is in front of you; you also have to understand, who are they serving?

Deep listening requires insight. Oscar stresses that if you’re selling B2B, it’s critically important to understand the needs and problems that your customers’ customers have — that is, keeping an eye out for what’s two steps ahead, not just what’s right in front of you. He adds that a great sales rep will help their customer promote the business to their customer and understand who else they’re competing against beyond the traditional competitors.

Listening Advice

When asked for some specific key pointers to help us listen better to others, Oscar stresses the importance of being comfortable with silence. 

You’ll be surprised how much heavy lifting silence can do for you in a conversation if you don’t interrupt who you’re speaking to.

During a conversation, we seem to be hell bent of filling every gap with words and become uncomfortable with the shortest of pauses. Oscar points out that in Eastern cultures such as Japan and China, long pauses are commonplace in conversations. As the Western world does more and more business with the East, becoming comfortable with silence during a conversation is more important than ever. 

Oscar also shares that we shouldn’t be taking handwritten verbatim notes when having a conversation. Simply put, this type of writing shuts down the part of the brain that actually hears and understands — something no one wants to have happen when trying to listen effectively. Instead, Oscar suggests writing down graphical notes.

The 5 Myths of Listening

Lastly, Oscar Trimboli offers a fantastic resource on his website — a download called The Five Myths of Listening. It outlines the five most common mistakes people make when listening and, most importantly, the five solutions that go along with them. You can find it at oscartrimboli.com/listeningmyths.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the change creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam Force. And if you missed last week’s episode, it’s with the one and only Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes, and the founder of that one for one business model that everybody loves so much. So we learned a lot from Blake and his experience, we talked about what he has going on in his world now, as he kind of takes his steps towards a different path.

So it’s a pretty exciting conversation. So if you missed that interview, there’s a lot to learn from Blake and his experience with TOMS and just kind of like the insights he has for where he’s going next. So check that out, if you missed it. This week, we are speaking to somebody who is a master at the art of deep listening. You know, I have literally read books from people like Richard Branson, and the entire book was about listening. You know, like, this is such a simple thing, it seems simple on the surface. But there’s so much power behind the art of listening. And it’s a really important skill, when you want to be a leader and an entrepreneur who is you know, going to successfully grow their business and create partnerships with people, and all of those types of things.

So we’re going to be talking to Oscar Trimboli, and he has quite a background, he’s done the thing, you know, working as a marketing director at Vodafone, Microsoft, and all those types of things. And he has always been really passionate about the importance of listening to his customers. And today, he’s on a mission to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. And so during this interview, we’re going to talk about what does that actually mean? And how does that work and examples of deep listening and how you can start practicing. And so all those goodies are going to come out of it, I think you’re going to get a lot of value out of this discussion with Oscar.

So stay tuned in just a minute, we’re going to get that started. Issue 28 of change career magazine was with Blake Mycoskie on the cover. And that was a really amazing addition, we’ve had incredible feedback on it. So hopefully you had a chance to peel through those pages. Another update about the magazine is our team is going to be changing the model and distribution of the magazine. So there will be price changes coming up to everybody’s benefit. And also the distribution frequency is going to change as well. So as those details get flushed out, we’re going to be making announcements across our Facebook network, as well as through our email channels. And then of course, I’ll make a shout out here just to give those details, but I wanted to give a heads up, those things are coming down the pipeline, they’re all good changes.

And we’re going to be putting emphasis and in other areas that you guys have been telling us that are really important to you. And then access to the magazine, all of our editions will still be there. And some new editions will be coming out. But again, just a couple tweaks on frequency and pricing models and stuff like that. So we’re just working out the finer details. But there’s a quick heads up just to so you guys know what’s coming down the pipeline. And I think that’s it guys, if you’re not following us on Facebook, that’s our spot.

So follow us over there, that’s where you can get a lot of the the updates, especially in the group. So if you go to our page, you’ll see a link there to the group. And that is about your marketing. So storytelling from marketing to grow your impact business, check us out on the Facebook group. And we have a great little community there — people who are entrepreneurs in the impact space and we share ideas, we network, and there’s a lot of value that comes out of that. So check it out, when you get a chance. It’s a great way to connect with our team and others in the space. So alright, without further ado, let’s dive into this conversation with Oscar.

Announcer 3:54
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 3:58
Hey, Oscar, welcome. Welcome to the Change Creator podcast show how you doing today?

Oscar Trimboli 4:04
Look, I’ve enjoyed a really full day. You’re catching me in the evening in Australia, and you’re just kicking off in the morning where you are.

Adam Force 4:12
Yes, absolutely. That’s right. It’s early and early for me late for you. And you know, as I love that’s what one thing I love about doing this show is talking to people all around the world. So always interesting.

Oscar Trimboli 4:27
Yeah, the world completely connected these days. I was doing a podcast of Boston about four months ago. And somebody one floor above me in the same building was listening to that podcast and sent me an email and said, Where are you in Sydney? And I explained to him what street I was in. And he said, I’m in that street, what floor are you on? I said I’m on five. He said, I’m on six. And that’s how connected the world is today.

Adam Force 4:51
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Awesome. So let’s, I just want to get grounded. And I like to make sure everybody knows kind of like what’s going on in your world these days, like what’s the latest and greatest.

Oscar Trimboli 5:07
I’m on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. And that’s no insignificant undertaking. And somebody challenged me once and said, If your goal can be achieved in your lifetime, you’re not being ambitious enough. So the initial goal was 10 million, and they challenged me to put an extra zero on it. So I’m on this quest to help people move from distracted listening to deep and impactful listening. So that means I’m spending my life doing interviews like this, but also helping people with speaking about the topic training organizations to explain the cost of not listening, whether it’s to their customers, or their employees, or the regulators or everybody else that they’re working with as well.

Adam Force 5:53
Yeah, so let’s dig into that just a little bit. So you wrote a book about deep listening and Impact Beyond Words, which I do like that title. And I think listening is such a important art, especially in the entrepreneur space, and just in general as well. Right. So how are you — I guess, let’s talk a little bit about how you are impacting people. So you’re doing these shows, you’re talking at events, and I’d like to dig into what deep listening is to you, and how this helps people just to tee that up?

Oscar Trimboli 6:28
Yeah, I think, for me, a couple of times, people would always reference me as I you know, go and talk to Oscar, he’s a really good listener. And then I remember when I was working at Microsoft, the boss president said to me, after a really highly tense meeting with some global people and some original people, some people from the Australian business. Wow, Oscar, did you realize you changed that meeting at about 30 minute mark, just by how you started to listen to what people weren’t saying? And she said to me Oscar, if you could code that you could change the world.

Now when Tracy said that she actually meant coded into software, and which I will do eventually. And that’s how we’re going to get to 100 million. But I didn’t think much of it at the time. And then three weeks later, another lady said to me, wow, the way you listen, is it impressive, but the way you see who people really are, wow, that’s powerful, that’s transformational for them. And I think for most of us, Adam, we’ve never been taught how to listen. In fact, only 2% of us have been taught how to listen, yet we spend 55% of our day listening. If you go back to school, you can probably remember your math teacher, English teacher, geography teacher. But none of us can remember our listening teachers. And the teachers we remember the most, whether that’s our math teacher, English teacher, generally people say to me, they were the teacher who really listened to me, that really got who I was.

And they were able to get the best out of me, because they were listen well beyond the words. And a lot of us have been taught to focus on the speaker when we’re listening. And that’s handy, the most important person you need to listen to, is you. And most of us don’t clear any space in our own head, to listen to ourselves, before we get to the conversation.

Our head is like a messy kitchen bench top, which has got pots and pans all over it and no room for the listening to land into. So it’s really critical that everybody understands that if you can remove the distractions, the technology, the cell phones, the laptops, iPads, away from the conversation, your ability to listen will exponentially grow. And if you’re in a business where you’re trying to change people with ideas, with trying to raise capital, it’s listening — not just speaking — that’s going to be the difference between your success and getting there as quick as you’d like to.

Adam Force 9:00
Yeah, so let’s unpack that just a little bit. You talk about when you talk about listening, I think a knee jerk reaction A lot of people have and you know, Richard Branson talks about how important is to listen, and you hear these things from people. But when you hear it, you think, okay, so you know, I’ll sit and I’ll shut my mouth. And it seems like such a simple thing. Like, just don’t talk and just listen.

But it’s but it you know, when you can write a whole book about it, and you’re in so many people talk about how important it is, there has to be a lot more depth to this practice. And so I want to see if we can unpack that just a little bit more. So maybe you can share some of the insights from the book or just from your experience about what you know, take it a little bit further, like, can we dig into it?

Oscar Trimboli 9:49
Yeah, look, most of us listen in black and white, because we haven’t been taught any different. And we’re really two dimensional in the way we listen, we listen to words, and we look at body language, and we use visual prompt sto get us moving forward. And that’s, that’s useful. But a deep listener can listen across five dimensions. And those five dimensions are listening to yourself, listening to the content, listening for the context, listening for what is unsaid, sounds like a bit of a ninja move. How do you listened to what’s unsaid, but we’ll spend a bit of time there and ultimately, listening for meaning. About two years ago, I interviewed an amazing nonprofit leader Kathy LeMay out of Boston, not too far from you.

In the US, well, relative to me, it’s not far away. It’s probably a five hour plane flight from Miami. And Kathy at that stage had raised $175 million. And when I got to interview her, the reason I did is because she said the reason she was so successful is she listened to what donors meant by their donation, not what them money was. You know, when you’ve raised that much money, she was raising money for immigration services, she was raising money for domestic violence, she was raising money for people from war torn parts of the world and refugee programs. She has to listen so much deeper than others.

And the minute she stopped trying to understand what their objections might be, and really listening to what they wanted to say, not the first thing that came out of their mouth, but ultimately what they meant, Kathy said, that was the biggest breakthrough. And the way she did it was pausing. It was using silence and not interrupting. So when we talk about listening for unsaid, Adam, here’s a really simple rule for all of us to remember. I speak at 125 words a minute, you can listen at 400 words a minute, and I can think at 900 words a minute.

Think about this very simple neuroscience in my brain, I have 900 words in my head. And the only way I can get that message out to the world is at 125 to 250 words a minute. That means that the first thing that comes out of my mouth is a one in nine chance that what I’m saying is actually what I mean.

Adam Force 12:21

Oscar Trimboli 12:22
So there’s an 11% chance that what I say the first time is actually what I’m thinking. Now, I don’t know about you but if I had an 11% chance of success from a surgery, I’d probably ask for a second opinion. If I had an 11% chance of winning a court case, I’d probably ask for a second opinion from another lawyer. And yet, very few of us ask the person who’s speaking for what else is stuck in their head. The head is like a washing machine in wash cycle. It’s sadly it’s messy. It’s rotating, and it’s moving around. And spin cycle is when you speak.

Now, again, I don’t know how much washing you do, Adam, but even washing machines have more than one rinse cycle. So what we want to do is listen to these magical code words, you understand what somebody means when they say words like: “Well, actually,” or, “you know, what’s really important?” “You know what I should have said that I haven’t said so far?”

Adam Force 13:25

Oscar Trimboli 13:26
“Thinking about it, the most critical thing on this topic is… .” Now you’ve just unpicked what’s unsaid when you hear those code words. And here is a phrase you can learn if you take away one thing that’s about maths, it’s the 1 25 400 rule. And if you take away the art of listening at this question, “Tell me more.”

Adam Force 13:49

Oscar Trimboli 13:50
And that question, “tell me more” is not for you. It’s not to help you understand more, it’s helping them to express what they mean. And when you say to more, that will pause, sometimes about five very deeply. And when they do you know, you’re starting to hear what they really mean, rather than what they’ve actually said. So a distracted listener won’t even be present enough in the conversation to notice this. And a deep listener will.

Adam Force 14:19
Yeah, no, that’s all really interesting. And it makes me think you know, about a couple things. So you know, as entrepreneurs, we have conversations with people in our audience to understand you know, what they have going on. But we also have conversations with potential, you know, b2b clients and understand what they have going on. So I’d like to maybe just think about those situations a little bit. And, you know, I hear the things that you’re saying right now, and I’m like looking back in my brain on these conversations.

And you start to think, geez, you know, you’re in these client meetings, and you’re, you have this genuine, you know, interest in helping them do better with what they’re doing. And some of the times, like what happens to me, especially with whether it’s client meetings, or it’s like, with your potential customers, you know, there’s the irrational thoughts and the rational thoughts, what they want, what they actually need, and deciphering, you know, where to put your attention. So when you’re listening, it’s like, is this really what they need? Like? So do you have any insight on how to start listening in a sense to identify the true needs versus just what they think that they want, but it’s not really the need, you know, what I’m trying to say?

Oscar Trimboli 15:36
I think I do. So if I don’t, you’ll know me. As someone who spent 30 years selling b2b in enterprise based accounting, CRM, and call center and human resources and payroll and finance systems, I have spent a bit of time with b2b buyers, but in the last decade of my life I have spent a lot of time coaching CEOs, CFOs, CEOs, Chief Operating Officers, Head of Risk, Head of Human Resources. So I’ve been fortunate enough to get to both sides of the equation. And Adam here’s one thing that I think distinguishes good from great when it comes to selling in a beta Bay context.

A good salesperson will be focused on their customer’s problem. A great sales rep will be focused on their customer’s customer’s problem. It’s not enough to know what’s the organization’s problem that is in front of you, you also have to understand, who are they serving? And what problems can you help them solve? Because it’s one thing to sell them something that helps them; It’s quite world class to sell them something that will help their customers. The other thing that distinguishes good from great when it comes to the database, sellers is a good database seller will beat the competition. And a great database seller will help the person in front of them sell a business case inside the organization.

Couple of years ago, I was working with a customer in New Zealand, and I was selling contact center software. And they were absolutely certain they’d beaten their competition — their very traditional technology competition. But at the last minute, I will call by procurement and told that this was on hold. And what had happened was Kimberly Clark, who are very famous for making diapers, but also make toilet paper had made an offer to the CFO. If the CFO bought a whole year’s worth of toilet paper, that would give them 50% off.

And what they lost to wasn’t their traditional technology competition, they lost to toilet paper because they didn’t understand who was involved in the buying process. They only understood how to beat the competition. So there’s two tips when you’re selling b2b: Tip number one, a good seller will sell to the customer and the customer’s problem, a great rep will sell to the customer’s customer’s problem. And a great rep will also sell the business case and help the person who’s in front of them sell the business case internally and understand who else they’re competing against beyond the traditional competitors.

Adam Force 18:29
Yeah, I think that’s important. So you know, anybody listening I as as Oscar as you’re talking, I think it makes a lot of sense. Because as you’re in these meetings, whether you’re a coach and you’re trying to onboard people to support them, or you’re, you know, support an agency supporting other clients, like, you have to go in there with the intention of listening for those things. Right. So and asking the right questions too I mean, do you agree like you have to go in. And if you ask the right questions, that’s how you get to the point where you can listen and get the information you need.

Oscar Trimboli 19:00
In a lot of cases, we ask the questions too late as well. Well, a lot of time, if you think about the standard unit of the meeting is either one hour or half an hour. And if we’ll just do the half an hour, the one hour meeting because the math is easier for me. You should be asking this question at the 45 minute mark, in any conversation, who else is involved in the procurement process? And most importantly, this is this is the question you want to ask. So they might say, Oh, it’s Adam. It’s Jenny and Simon. And you simply have to ask them, so if they were in this room right now, how would you explain what we’ve just discussed to them?

And when you do, all they’re doing is rehearsing in front of you how they’re gonna sell this business case. And when they do, you can make a judgment call to go, Wow, these people are rock stars, they’ve got it all covered, or gee, they’re really strong at explaining features and functions, but they don’t realize the financial implications of what they do. So if Simon was the finance guy, you just simply have to ask, What other questions would Simon have from a finance perspective that we haven’t covered today? And typically they go, Oh, I think we’ve covered them all.

And you can simply ask, I look, when I work with other finance leaders and other organizations, they typically want to understand the payback period on this. How would you explain that to Simon? And typically they’ll stumble, and you know, okay, you need to help them out there. So that’s a lot around level three listening, which is listening through the context and understanding how things get done in an organization. Rather than just giving them the content, it’s not enough to give them an executive summary in a pitch deck, you need to be rock solid, that whatever questions they’re going to get, you’ve got covered off. That’s why I have to ask it two thirds of the way to three quarters of the way into the meeting, because you’re going to need the next 15 minutes to step them through the kinds of questions other people going to ask them.

Adam Force 21:14
Yeah, that makes sense. And so your recommendation, you know, you so it’s all kind of like ties together. So if you know what to look for, you can ask the right questions, and then you gotta listen for the information and kind of see got a guide these conversations a little bit, right.

Oscar Trimboli 21:31
Yes, and no, I think in a lot of cases, the people you’re dealing with know how things work in their organization. I think if you come across as too guided that it feels manipulative. I think being just being open to working with them and going, How do things get done around here, when a transaction of this size happened last time, how did that work? They’ll tell you the answer. You don’t have to necessarily guide them.

And then all you have to do is pull a couple of different perspectives. So what does that mean for Finance? What does it mean for operations? What does it mean for human resources? And you can use those questions no matter what the organization and the context is. And all of a sudden they’ll go, Yeah, well, Alice in operations is always going on about quality. So tell me what your quality story is, and off you go. And you tell them the quality story. I think in a lot of cases, if they feel it’s their story, and not yours, they’ll go and advocate for it much stronger than they ever would if it was only your story alone.

Adam Force 22:34
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. And is this stuff now — I have not read the book yet that you have. And I’m curious. Can we just talk a little bit about like, what you go through in the book, Deep Listening? Do you touch on these types of topics? Like, where’s the focus? And who is this really written for?

Oscar Trimboli 22:57
Yeah, so the book is small enough to sit in your wife’s coat pocket or, or in your bag, if you carry them around. It’s designed to be read in 90 minutes. The book was designed not to be a dust collecting trophy on your shelf that you never use. And because it’s so accessible, a lot of people go back to it over and over again. The book is designed to do a couple of really simple things: Unpick the five levels of listening, it helps you understand how to use silence.

In the West, and Western economies, silence isn’t used as much as it is in the East in high context cultures like Japan, Korea, China. So again, in a more global world, you’re going to interact with more of these people so understand and become comfortable with pause and silence. And then finally, help you identify which listening villain you are. There’s four villains of listening. There’s the lost listener, the dramatic listener, there’s the interrupting listener. And finally, what have I covered up dramatic, interrupting…

Adam Force 24:06

Oscar Trimboli 24:08
And the fourth one should be really obvious as he looks at his fingers. So lost, dramatic, interrupting, and shrewd, of course. Sorry about that. The shrewd listener is disproportionately represented in the sales profession. So what a shrewd listener does, Adam, is they go, you think that’s your problem. But I’ve already solved that. And you haven’t thought about the three problems I’m already solving for you, I wish you’d hurry up. And while you’re doing that, you’re not really paying attention to what they’re saying.

The interrupting listener is the most over listening type because the interrupting listener just jumps in every time you draw breath and think that’s a commercial break to jump in. The lost listener doesn’t actually know why they’re in a meeting or they’re distracted when they’re in the meeting. And the dramatic listener loves listening to your story because they’ve got a bigger story. If you had a bad boss, I had a worse boss. If you had a tough merger, their merger was tougher than your they’ll love your stories, because it just builds a theatrical stage for them to continue on, on the journey as well. So helping right now Adam, which one of those 4 do you think you are the most or…

Adam Force 25:22
I think I have I try my best to have silence but I think I become interruptive.

Oscar Trimboli 25:30
Yeah. And look in 32% of people in our research database identify immediately with the interrupting listener. But listening is situational and relational. You’ll listen differently to a customer that you’ll listen to an advisor. You’ll listen differently to your parents than you will to a doctor. So we’re actually all of those listening villains, it just depends on the situation that we find ourselves in.

And if there’s one tip, I would give any men listening to this podcast right now, stop trying to fix women. Yeah, they’re not broken. And if you just listen to them, it will completely transform your relationship. I’ve got a funny story. I was coaching a guy called Mick and Mick was working with me for three months. And he said to me, we need to talk. It was a Monday and he said, this is what happened last Friday night. My wife said to me, we need to talk, Mick. And when your wife says that that’s not a good sign 12 years into a marriage. The kids had gone to bed, she sat me down across the dinner table and said, We need to talk.

And he took a deep breath in and she said, You can be completely honest with me now. You’re having an affair, aren’t you? And he took a deep breath in and he says, Wow, she says for the last three months, you have never, ever paid me so much attention in the last three months as you have in the last 12 years of our relationship. So tell me, who are you having the affair with? And she said, Look, and Mick said, I Ggtta be honest. It’s a bloke. It’s a guy. And the guy’s name is Oscar. And he’s been teaching me how to listen for the last three months. And she went, Oh my God, this makes complete sense.

And the funny thing from this whole story is Mick said, her closing comment is, in the last three months, you have never appeared to be more sexy than you have when you listen to me. So Mick’s reflection was he realized for the last 12 years of his relationship, all he was trying to do was fix his wife. And all she wanted was for him to listen to her. For all the work I’ve done and all the researchers in a workplace. But sometimes people get a bit crazy and go and use it at home as well. So

Adam Force 27:53
It’s a powerful tool for just your life in general, I guess. Right?

Oscar Trimboli 27:58
Yeah, whether it’s our home relationships, whether it’s community relationships, whether it’s work relationships, I think we’ve spent a lot of time in the 20th century learning how to speak, how to speak with influence, how to speak with impact. But I think the productivity hack of the 21st century and where you’re spending half your day, is listening.

Adam Force 28:21
Yeah, makes sense. So let’s wrap up with just one last question for the entrepreneurs on this line. Because I think this is such a powerful tool, and I want to give you a chance to kind of give your final words of wisdom to them. And if you were going to give a piece of advice for the early stage entrepreneur who’s you know, trying to get the next client, trying to get the next sale? What would you tell them about the art of listening as they try to grow their business?

Oscar Trimboli 29:00
Be comfortable with the pause, be comfortable with silence, you’ll be surprised how much heavy lifting silence can do for you in a conversation if you don’t interrupt who you’re speaking to. The number one tip I would say is if you’re in front of somebody, and you’re trying to do business with them, build a relationship, create a transaction. Keep this in mind, try and avoid taking verbatim notes. Meaning if you’re hand writing notes, don’t write up word for word or don’t write sentences or don’t write phrases. Try and write graphical notes. The reason you don’t want to take handwritten verbatim notes, or take handwritten notes is that you shut down the part of the brain that actually hears when you’re writing these verbatim notes.

But if you take graphical notes, the part of the brain that allows you to take graphical notes doesn’t shut down the part of the brain that actually hears and when you take graphical notes, you’ll take fewer notes, but you will force yourself to listen at level five and listen for meaning. Your recall from that conversation will be higher, and your eye contact with the person you’re talking to will be much stronger.

The most significant signal you can send to somebody that they believe you’re listening to them is when your eye contact is the highest. So if there’s one thing I would say is get rid of the electronic devices, go analog and just take simple graphical notes about concepts in the meeting, draw the linkages between them, but don’t take verbatim notes. You’ll be much more present in that meeting. And you will transform the person in that room because you’re paying them the biggest compliment in the world. You’re giving them your full attention.

Adam Force 30:51
Yeah. Excellent. Thank you so much Oscar. This is enlightening and very interesting. And I think it’s a very important part of just you know, not just business but like you said life, right? So I think the better we can understand these practices, the better we’ll be all around. So we appreciate you sharing your insights and the work that you’re doing.

Oscar Trimboli 31:14
Well, thanks for listening.

Adam Force 31:16
Absolutely. All right, Oscar. Let’s just give a shout out. How do people learn more about what you have going on? Where can they find you and information and stuff like that?

Oscar Trimboli 31:26
Look, we’ve got a really simple download for everybody called the five myths of listening, which is a downloadable. It’ll tell you the five most common mistakes people make when it comes to listening and the five solutions that go along with it. So if you go to oscartrimboli.com/listeningmyths, you’ll be able to download it there. And that will open up a pathway to the book, the playing cards, the jigsaw puzzle, the podcast series, and soon the comma animated comic strip about how to listen better in the workplace.

Adam Force 32:00
Excellent, and we will include that link for anybody in the show notes when the interview is active on the website. Again, thank you so much Oscar and we will be in touch.

Oscar Trimboli 32:12
Thanks for listening.

Announcer 32:13
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meeting intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Paxton Gray: Take Your Content Strategy and SEO to the Next Level

Listen to our exclusive interview with Paxton Gray:

Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

We all want our businesses to be successful, so the importance of effective content strategy and an eye towards SEO are decidedly important. As 97th Floor’s Executive Vice President of Operations, Paxton Gray knows a thing or two about both. In this interview, Paxton shares some great tips on optimizing your content strategy and how and when to focus on SEO. 

Should SEO Be Your Main Goal?

Paxton explains that link-building is still an important and effective part of SEO. Links are important to outreach. He goes on to explain that there is an abundance of data that shows that pages rank well when they have good links pointing back to them. 

However, a couple years ago, he and his team learned that the particulars of SEO may not necessarily be the most important thing to focus on. It’s far more important to focus on quality content. His team was using a bunch of data to determine what they should write about in order to give their pages a good ranking. Makes sense, right? And it did work. The pages ranked. However, because they were so focused on SEO, there wasn’t nearly enough focus on developing quality content.

While getting your pages to rank will attract people, showing them quality content will incite action. In fact, as long as you’ve got well-formatted title tags and good user experience, it is much better to focus on the content than on SEO.

Developing Great Content

One great way to come up with some great content is to care about the user. Focus on what it is the user is looking for and expecting to see when they visit your page.

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.

Carefully consider how you provide them with what it is they’re looking for. Content for the sake of content isn’t going to be helpful. Make sure your content is helpful and relevant. The last thing you want is for a potential customer or client to have their intelligence insulted by content that’s nothing more than fluff. Think about who your typical user is and good content will follow. Especially if you’re a solopreneur who is just starting out, focus on what you can give your clients to make their lives better. Building a fan base this way is a much better investment of your time than figuring out SEO.

Hire Some Help

For additional guidance, as you grow, consider hiring a consultant you trust to do a quick once-over for you. Then, when you’re in the market for an agency, compare what they say to what your consultant said. 

Marketing Automation: An Effective Tool

If you’re a medium-sized business and you have at least one or two people on your marketing team, Paxton suggests you get into marketing automation. Marketing automation is taking the “one-to-many” approach of advertising and making it feel like the “one-to-one” approach of sales — tools such as chat bots and emails.

If you don’t, you’re probably not making as much money as you could. But make sure you’re doing it right. Marketing automation done wrong is a quick way to make your business look really bad. Effective marketing automation is a lot more like computer programming than content marketing. 

Lastly, good content is really all about telling a great story. Focus on telling an interesting and captivating story when promoting your brand and building your fan base. 

As long as you can tell a good story, you will be successful in marketing and in business.

We also recommend: 


Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam force. And if you missed last week’s episode, it’s with Heather Dominick. Can we talk about how to scale your business as a highly sensitive entrepreneur? Really great conversation. So check that out when you get a chance. And today we’re gonna be talking with Paxton Gray. He’s the Executive Vice President of Operations at 97th Floor. And he covers all kinds of work that the agency produces for clients like Discover, ESPN, Salesforce, you name it. He’s full of incredible insights when it comes to marketing and digital work like content strategies, SEO and all that good stuff. So you guys are going to learn a lot. And we’re going to have a really fun conversation with Paxton today, which we’re going to jump into right now. Keeping this intro short and sweet today.

Announcer 0:58
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 1:03
Hey, Paxton, welcome to the change, greater podcast show how you doing today?

Paxton Gray 1:07
I’m doing great. How are you?

Adam Force 1:08
I’m doing awesome, man. You know, another day, another dollar living life. You know, you have so much cool experience. And I just I actually I really liked the name 97th Floor as well. So why don’t you just tell us what you are doing today? Not today, specifically, but like what’s going on in your world at this time? And where you’re at?

Paxton Gray 1:32
Yeah, yeah. So I I’ve been here at 97th Floor for six years. We’ve been around as an agency for 14. And, you know, we focused primarily on on digital marketing. And so that’s, that’s where my head is thinking, you know, how do we leverage all the different platforms and, and tools within the digital space to get results? So yeah, that’s that’s kind of where I’m living what I’m working on trying to help grow 97th Floor to be even bigger than it is.

Adam Force 2:00
Awesome. Awesome. I am curious, you know — actually, that triggers a number of questions. But before we get into it, you know, what got you into the marketing space, what led you to 97th Floor, just a little background would be helpful and know where you’re coming from?

Paxton Gray 2:14
Yeah, so I studied advertising, actually, at a university here in Utah. And my plan was always to go work at the big sexy New York advertising agency. You know, that’s kind of where I wanted to end up at Ogilvy or shy day. I mean, those aren’t in New York, but yeah, you know what I’m saying. So that’s kind of my plan. And I started looking around for internships in New York and Chicago. And then I, you know, I also got engaged around that same time to a girl that hates the idea of living in a big city. Like, her ideal is to like, go have a bunch of horses and live on a giant ranch. So I stopped looking for internships in New York and Chicago, because she didn’t want to go there. And instead, I looked for places around here in Utah. And I found this company called 97th Floor. And I was like, that sounds like the big sexy New York agency I wanted to work at, you know, so I applied and it, anyway, so I start working at 97th Floor and back then it wasn’t even close to being you know, that big, sexy giant agency. It was a very small shop at the time. I think I was like employee number 12. And I realized, however, that if I could — like, this agency has potential, like, really cool services, the market is growing really well, awesome talent. And if I stuck it out, and I worked my butt off, I could maybe turn it into the big sexy agency that I always wanted to work at. And, you know, I don’t think we’re 100% there. You know, we’re still growing. But you know, we have an office out in San Francisco, hopefully in a couple years will be out in New York as well. So we’re getting in there.

Adam Force 4:00
Excellent. Excellent. And so my question would be, are you actually on the 97th Floor?

Paxton Gray 4:07
No, we’re not. The tallest building in Utah, I think, is 36 floors. So it’s not on the 97th floor.

Adam Force 4:18
Cool, cool. Cool. Yeah. So do you know where the name came from?

Paxton Gray 4:23
Yeah. So when our founder — so, we started 14 years ago, this September, and back then it was just our founder, you know, he was kind of running a one man show. And he wanted to give it like an LA and New York type vibe. And I believe he was planning on calling it the 100th Floor. And his wife said, yeah, that doesn’t sound very good. Like, doesn’t roll off the tongue 97 rolls off the tongue way better than 100.

Adam Force 4:48

Paxton Gray 4:49
And so he’s like, all right, check for the domain name. It was available, and boom, that was it.

Adam Force 4:54
Awesome. That’s cool.

That’s cool. So when you got there, I mean, what what was going on at the time? Like, can you describe for us the environment there? And what you guys were working on?

Paxton Gray 5:06
Yeah. So it was very much and still is about results. You know, we’re always focused on how do we get results for clients, not just how do we make a ton of money? Or how do we just get hours to bill. All of our contracts are based off of results. And so that leads into like a very scrappy, innovative testing type culture. And that’s kind of what I walked into, kind of anything went as long as it works. So there was no bad ideas, or just experiment trying new things. And so there are some areas, we were a little rough around the edges. But by and large, you know, we just, we were really good at getting the job done. And that’s kind of been our focus always is just getting the job done.

And so that’s kind of what I walked into. There was a time — in fact, it’s kind of a funny story — it was my third week there. We were using a couple different tools sets. And I won’t bother you with particulars. But I found this weird loophole and how to use a couple of tools with each other to get some really cool results. And it was working really well. But it ended up getting — like, I didn’t realize that we were being billed for all this — these API calls that we were making on this one tool. And we got a bill from this tool for, I guess, $6500. So with my third week there, I was like, boom, I was a huge liability.

Adam Force 6:27
You’re welcome!

Paxton Gray 6:29
Yeah. But our CEO, I mean, to his credit, it’s like, Hey, man, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about testing and trying things. And I love that you’re experimenting. So that to me cemented in the idea of nothing’s, you know, nothing’s not worth trying.

Adam Force 6:42
Yeah. Now, that’s pretty cool. So yeah, so it was just some kind of like marketing stuff you were trying to pull off? or What was it?

Paxton Gray 6:51
Yeah. So back then, we did a lot of link building, which if you’re familiar with SEO, you know, links are important for ranking. And I was doing some outreach. And I discovered, well, we had one tool that allowed us to find the email addresses for editors and publishers.

Adam Force 7:11

Paxton Gray 7:11
And then we had another tool that allowed us to scrape all the backlinks of our competitors. And so I figured out that I could scrape all the backlinks of our competitors, get get thousands and thousands of URLs, and then stuff all those URLs into this other tool that was basically an email scraper. So I could walk away with, you know, 20,000 email addresses of publishers, and editors, and then I could just hit them up just all day. And what I didn’t realize is that the email scraper charged per scrape. And so when I stuffed 20,000 URLs into it, we got a giant bill, but it worked out that way. We got it. I got good results. And…

Adam Force 7:50
Right, so you got the return on it.

Paxton Gray 7:51
Yeah, we got the return. Just a little unexpected costs there.

Adam Force 7:56
Yeah, but that’s pretty cool. So like, what was your role when you started there?

Paxton Gray 8:01
So my role when I started was SEO marketer. So I basically got doing the link building, doing optimizations, kind of doing all the legwork for SEO.

Adam Force 8:12
And how have you been seeing now the evolution of the marketing space? You know, we’re talking, we got a lot of entrepreneurs listening here. And obviously, marketing is a very important part of any business. And I’m just curious from your experience, you know, we’ll just tap into the SEO conversation for a minute. Just how you see things changing, like, do you still focus on, you know, link building? Or how is the dynamic changed in your mind over the years?

Paxton Gray 8:40
Yeah, so link building is still an important part of SEO, we have oodles and oodles of data that show that pages that have good links pointing back to them do rank well, so it’s still a big part of the algorithm. It’s gotten a lot more complex than it was back when I started 11 years ago, for sure. Like back then we were keyword stuffing and putting words and meta keyword tags and all that good stuff.

But these days, you know, I think as long as you have your bases covered, and your you got your title tags, great, and they’re formatted well, and you’ve got good user experience, I think it’s much better to focus on the content, necessarily, than the particulars of SEO. Now, something that we learned a couple of years ago, there’s a system called TFIDF, the term frequency inverse document frequency analysis, where essentially, you are using a bunch of data to figure out what you should write the page about to give it the best shot of ranking as possible.

And it was working. Like, we could get these pages to rank. However, we were so focused on the content being formatted to rank well, and not focused enough on the content actually being good.

Adam Force 9:54
Exactly. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 9:56
So we’ve made a pretty big pivot over the past couple years into, hey, that’s still good to know. But primarily, what we want is great content that is going to actually incite action once a user visits and reads, rather than just merely attracting eyeballs. Because you attract eyeballs, and it’s not good content, that’s not good for your brand. That’s not that’s that’s a waste, right? So, yeah, so I’d say, from an SEO perspective, like still know what you’re doing, still, I would say consult a professional, get people involved, because you can make some pretty serious mistakes that will cost you a lot of money. But then beyond that, I think it’s really important to focus on the content, the message and the user experience once they actually come down.

Adam Force 10:38
Yeah, you know, we, my co founder is really into the SEO stuff and knows it well. Thank God, because I have no idea. And it’s not where my brain goes, right? You know, we think about our titles and stuff, but it is really thinking, like you said, it’s like, Who is this for? And what purpose does it really serve? And, you know, like, what are they getting out of it. So as long as it really speaks to them, and then she’s always like, at least have a good title in there. That can help rank and get get noticed. Because you want to, you know, you want to get picked up by by Google. And we do get like a pretty good high value on the worth of our our content. So it does make a difference. And interestingly enough, like we were running a Facebook campaign to sell one of our programs. And as people came in, on the early days, I would reach out and say, hey, how did you find us and talk to them. And I was hoping it was our Facebook strategy. And it was always the content marketing that was bringing people in. So content wins, man.

Paxton Gray 11:40
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there’s so many articles out there that will tell you that the market is just over saturated. And it’s not worth the investment to do content marketing, because you have to do so much to stand out. And I, you know, all the data that they pulled it say, hey, the internet is growing by 15 million pages a day, the vast majority of those pages are just computer generated pages that will never be seen by anybody. And the other half are just a bunch of crap articles that were written by people who don’t care about the user. I don’t think it’s, I mean, I think it’s definitely worth the investment to have some good content. Like, I got an iPad recently, and I was like searching for some cool creative things to do with an iPad. And so I searched for that on Google. And I can’t tell you, like, the vast majority of them said things like buy a screen protector, get get a cover for your iPad, it’s like, Dude, are you serious? Like you don’t think I’ve just thought about that already. Like, you clearly don’t care about me. You’re just trying to get my views so that your ads, you can get some ad revenue.

Adam Force 12:38
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I saw it all the time, too. Yep. Agree. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 12:43
Yeah. So just caring about the user. And, you know, keyword research is something that is used by SEO and PPC, very heavily, for obvious reasons. But it’s not used enough by content marketing. And Google is that special tool in our lives that we ask questions from Google that we don’t ask anybody else.

And so that query data that you can get from Google is so important from a content perspective, because if you see people are asking this question over and over and over again, let’s give this some great content to answer that question, let’s help make their lives better. And that will attract an audience and develop really good brand relationship. And hopefully, people will get into the funnel and convert, you know, rather than just saying, like, hey, let’s use this keyword research to so they can rank like, pick some keywords, the high volume keywords to rank for.

Adam Force 13:32
Yeah, exactly.

Paxton Gray 13:33
Which has its place it has its merits, but using it, like looking at that data from a content marketing perspective, I think is is really valuable.

Adam Force 13:41
Okay, and are there any tools you would recommend that people may want to check out to help support, you know, their efforts in in that journey?

Paxton Gray 13:50
Yeah. So there’s lots of lots of cool tools around. Ahrefs has some really great data on keywords. My favorite is Spyfu. And the reason I love spyfu because it’s actually built for PPC kind of intelligence, but they have this organic part of the site. And the data is just so fast. And Spyfu is so cheap. So if you’re, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re trying to decrease the cost of your marketing stacks Spyfu is a great way to do it. It’s only I think it’s like 30 bucks a month. And they have really great data really fast and gives you everything you need.

Adam Force 14:27
Cool.Yeah, isn’t it because Ahrefs is we use Ahrefs, but it’s pretty expensive, isn’t it? I don’t remember how much it is every month.

Paxton Gray 14:33
Yeah, it is. I mean, it they have different levels, but it’s definitely more and more expensive than Spyfu.

Adam Force 14:39
Yeah, yeah.

Paxton Gray 14:40
And then beyond that, I actually have a template that is built for use with Spyfu to where you can kind of run some data, export it and then shove all that data into a template. And it will sort through all of it for you and find the best keyword opportunities. Because it kind of allows you to sort through, you know, 40,000 rows of data in 10 minutes, as opposed to one by one. So it’s a really cool template that I can share with your users. I have a URL I can give you afterwards.

Adam Force 15:13
I mean, is it like, do you have to be some kind of super user to figure it out?

Paxton Gray 15:18
No, I actually, within that template, I also have, there’s a link to a YouTube video where I can walk everybody through how to use it. So yeah, so I teach a course actually, university around here. And it’s intro to SEO and analytics, and I teach them that exact same process for keyword research. And so I’ve taught a lot. So it’s very, very easy. Anybody can do it.

Adam Force 15:42
So you know, one question I, you know, as we think about being entrepreneurs, and building up our marketing and stuff, you know, you got to pick and choose where you’re spending your time. And I mean, would you recommend like, Hey, you should have some basic understanding of these thing and these tools. You might be a small team. So you guys are like you wear multiple hats. But do you I have noticed to like it can be really tough when you try to bring on somebody, there’s a lot of like swindlers in the SEO space. And yeah, any advice on like, Is it worth hiring people? Or should you kind of get basic knowledge yourself?

Paxton Gray 16:17
I think it depends on what stage you’re at. So if you’re the solopreneur kind of stage, you’re just doing it by yourself, I think it’s far more valuable to just focus on your audience and focus on what do they need? And what kind of what can I give them to make their lives better. And in that way, build a good audience and build a fan base, that’s going to be way better investment of your time thanfiguring out the ins and outs of SEO. And then, you know, once you’ve gone past that stage, and you have some more time on your hands to focus towards marketing, I think it would be a good idea to learn, learn the basics, but just enough so you don’t get swindled, you know, and I think a really great way to dip your toe into it is to hire a consultant that you trust, to just come in and do a real quick once over, just say what are the big things I should focus on? And then when you go out to shops, shops, some agencies compare what they say against what that consultant you said that you trust what they said, Yeah, I think that’s a really great way to save yourself some time and avoid people who are just in it for a quick buck.

Adam Force 17:19
Absolutely, yeah. When I, when I built up stuff on my own, and I didn’t know anything, I had all these articles and all this stuff going on. And then Amy came in. And she was like, man, we gotta fix this, you know, so you can end up creating more work or hurt your your site, your website’s, you know, effectiveness, if you don’t always take a little bit of time just to get a basic understanding. So I think your your flow of like where you are and what you should do, it makes a lot of good sense. That’s helpful. Yeah. Yes. So you know, as you now are you obviously you’re still doing a lot of that, is that still a big focus for you at 97th Floor at this point?

Paxton Gray 18:00
In terms of SEO?

Adam Force 18:01
Yeah. I mean, you’re right now you’re Executive Vice President, right?

Paxton Gray 18:06

Adam Force 18:06
So you’re focused on operations. So I guess you’ve expanded far beyond just the SEO focus?

Paxton Gray 18:11
Yeah, yeah, I’m not I’m not involved too much in the day to day of SEO. But I do I mean, I do, I’m very aware of kind of what’s going on in the industry. I kind of view my job rather than the execution, my job is to keep us on the cutting edge of marketing strategies in SEO, PPC, marketing, automation and content marketing. And so I’m, you know, I’m constantly consuming media to, to kind of help spark those ideas and to test out new things. And so, yeah, I’m very aware of what’s going on the industry. But yeah, I’m not from a day to day perspective involved much.

Adam Force 18:52
Interesting. And so, you know, as far as like, so you’ve gone through a process of like, building an effective team. And I guess, you know, I like what you just mentioned, which is that, you know, you’re you’re leading into the understanding what’s cutting edge for content marketing, but also automation. So I guess I like to talk a little bit about the content, marketing automation, and what you’re seeing is going on today. And if there’s anything that we can, you know, get from your insights there, that would be cool. And then I’d like to talk about well, as we’re starting to build our teams, like, what should we be looking for around these things?

Paxton Gray 19:30
Yeah, yeah, with marketing automation. So much opportunity out there right now. And that barrier to entry is, is getting so much lower than it has ever been in the past, to where, you know, if you’re, if you’re a medium sized business, you know, if you’ve got, if you have at least one or two people in your marketing team, you should be getting into marketing automation, because if you don’t, you’re leaving a lot of a lot of money on the table.

Adam Force 19:55

Paxton Gray 19:56
It’s also a way to quickly make your business look really bad. If you don’t do a good job with marketing animation. In a sense, you know, I used to have a much more simplistic view of marketing animation, you know, the idea of, yeah, someone comes to this page, they download an E book, they get an automated email for me, Bing, bang, boom, they become a customer. Pretty simple.

And I’ve been very corrected in terms of how simple it actually is. I mean, it can be very simple, depending on your, your sales cycle and your objectives. But marketing animation is much more akin to computer programming than it is content marketing, in my opinion. Because you have to get that logic correct. Because if you if your logic is off in terms of the flow and the automation and the triggers, then you’re going to make your business look really stupid. Even if your content is great. If you don’t, the wrong message is the wrong time. Because your logic is off. Yeah, the potential for downfall is high.

So I would say, if you’re going to dip your toe into marketing automation, and you’re going to do it yourself, keep it as simple as possible, I would recommend using HubSpot. They’re very, in terms of complexity, they’re pretty simple. They build their business off of working with this small and medium level businesses. So there’s a lot of support a lot of great content out there. But keep it really simple.

And the best thing to do, and this is true for all marketing, this is actually probably true for business and product development. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. And what what do they expect to see when they click that button? And how can you give them what they expect to see? Right?

If that’s off, then then you got to make some changes. So I think start simple and make sure that that’s true, whatever their customer expects to see. Give them that. And as long as you can keep that true, as you add more more and more complexity, then you’re gonna be good.

Adam Force 22:03
Yeah, that makes sense. And can you just define for people, when you say automation, I have a number of things, it could be a chatbot experience, it could be an email sales sequence with behavioral marketing. How were you looking at it.

Paxton Gray 22:19
Yeah, loosely defined marketing automation is, you know, the difference between sales and marketing is sales is one to one. And marketing is one to many. Or I should say like advertising is one to many. Marketing automation, is trying to take that one to many approach and make it feel like it’s one to one, so that the person is getting spoken to in a way that is very customized in it and makes sense for their particular stage of interaction with your business.

So that can be through chat bots, that can be through email. Some something that people don’t do often that is actually something that’s great is calls to action on content should change dynamically, depending on what has happened before. So for example, if you have an article talking about, it doesn’t matter was talking about but it has a call to action download this this white paper. Yeah, or this ebook.

If you use marketing automation, you can have smart CTA, where if they if it knows that that person has already downloaded that ebook, then instead it says, sign up for a demo, or download this other ebook that we know you haven’t downloaded. So having smart calls to action is really simple execution and saves a lot of waste of time, you know, from asking people to do something they’ve already done, or that doesn’t make sense for their particular situation.

Adam Force 23:37
Yeah, I like that. So the personalization is definitely, you know, something that we focus on too. It’s a great point and actually the smart CTA, I haven’t actually seen that before. We use Active Campaign for, you know, our email sequencing and automations, and it’s pretty cool with their behavioral marketing. And you mentioned HubSpot. What about HubSpot do you find compelling like what are they they can you do the smart CTA with their software? What’s the difference there?

Paxton Gray 24:06
Yeah, you can if if you’ve built a CTA, through HubSpot, or the landing page through HubSpot, then you can use smart CTAs that will change…

Adam Force 24:13
Ah, ok.

Paxton Gray 24:14
Yeah. I like HubSpot a lot. It’s not something we use. We use more complex platforms typically for larger level businesses like Lexmark Animation Cycle. But for the majority of businesses, HubSpot is a great, great suite of tools.

Adam Force 24:35
Okay, that’s pretty cool. And so 97th Floor, like who’s your typical client these days? Like I actually, I’m curious to know how that’s evolved. Like, who was your client when you started? And who’s your clients now? Like, is it changed? Or you guys have the same focus?

Paxton Gray 24:50
Yeah, so our focus is primarily on more enterprise level businesses, a lot of b2b tech, and then b2c lifestyle fashion. We have a lot in that space as well. And that’s what we’ve been pretty much since I started at 97th Floor. Our background really is, in the early days, there’s a company called Omniture, not sure if you remember.

Adam Force 25:20

Paxton Gray 25:21
So you know, our CEO kind of was talking with Omniture and convinced them to let us do a test on one of their keywords. And back then we were doing primarily just SEO. And the test went really well, we got the keyword to I think spot one or two. And so based on that test, they hired us to do work for Omniture. And then when Omniture was acquired by Adobe, Adobe did the review of their agency and the work that we had done for Omniture and then fired their agency and hired us.

So then we started working for Adobe, and Adobe is one of those companies that people come to work for, so they can get on their resume, and they go somewhere else. So we did such good work for Adobe that as people came and went, they brought us with them. And so we kind of spread over to the companies that their marketing team went to after they left Adobe. And so largely, the growth of 97th Floor has been organic and based off based on the work that we do, not based off of really great marketing of our own brands, you know, our sales team is really small.

And especially in comparison to our fulfillment, I think on fulfillment, fulfillment, we have probably 80 people and our sales team is three people. So we rely pretty heavily on word of mouth. Like our clients, you know, we used to do SEO for our own brand. And that’s just like, the people that we’re trying to talk to they don’t go to Google when they’re searching for their agency.

Adam Force 26:44

Paxton Gray 26:46
They ask their connections, you know, what’s an agency I should use? And so we work on trying to be that agency that people recommend.

Adam Force 26:53
Okay. Yeah. And so when you I guess I’m curious, because I always see people trying to start their own, you know, agencies and stuff like that. And I think you know, it is that immediate Rolodex that can really get you off the ground, but like, sooner or later, the Rolodex runs dry, and you’ve kind of gone through it, and you got to start picking up cold leads.

Have you guys. And I know you mentioned referrals now, and you guys are obviously well established. But there must have been a time where you had to get new clients that were cold. And I’m curious if there was, if anything stands out to you on how you guys approach that?

Paxton Gray 27:29
Yeah, referrals still represents the majority of the leads that come through today. Okay. But other things that we’ve tried, we’ve, we’ve run some ads on LinkedIn. Not a lot of success there. Just the cost is pretty high and hard to get down. We’ve run some ads on Facebook and Instagram, surprisingly, with a lot of success. Yeah, we actually just did a survey of a lot of clients and the vast majority are pretty active on Instagram, which isn’t something I would have guessed.

Adam Force 28:03
That’s interesting. Especially clients that you go after, like the enterprise clients. Yeah,

Paxton Gray 28:08
Yeah, you kind of think they’d be a little bit more maybe boring or more business focused. But everyone loves Instagram, everybody loves those pictures so I guess yeah, so it’s been Instagram has been pretty successful for us. So that’s what I would recommend trying out if you want to run some ads.

Adam Force 28:22
Yeah, we’re big fans of Facebook and Instagram and obviously they tie together there and really powerful marketing tool like just just really smart and the depth you can take it for, you know, really getting niche is and retargeting and all that stuff is pretty cool.

Paxton Gray 28:41
Yeah, yeah. Lookalike Audience is awesome, too.

Adam Force 28:44
Ah, yeah. And you know, like we and I love that they let you you know, retarget so you could do like a video sequence where, you know, did they watch, you know, 75% or 95% of that last video? I’m going to retarget those people.

Paxton Gray 28:56
Yeah, yeah. There’s other agency that I I saw, I watched one of their videos, and now I just get their videos all the time. Like, I’m definitely in their cycle of videos.

Adam Force 29:07
Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s funny, I watched. I don’t know, if you saw this documentary, you probably find it fascinating. It was The Great Hack on Netflix.

Paxton Gray 29:16
I saw it as my things to watch, but I haven’t watched it.

Adam Force 29:23
My god, it’s been one of these things that I’ve been talking about recently, because I just saw it. So I’m bringing it up here. A little off topic. But it’s interesting, to say the least. And you know that my wife and I sometimes we’ll be talking about something. And then next, you know, she’ll be looking at like Facebook, 20 minutes later, she’s like, swear to god, these microphones. They’re listening to us through these microphones, because I didn’t go to this website. But now I see the ad.

And I’m like, that is interesting. Because I know, the Facebook machine. And I know someone so I was watching this movie. And you know, these companies that Cambridge Analytica, they’re like, here’s what the said like, have you ever had the experience where, you know, you think your microphone is listening to you? And next thing, you know, you see this ad and I was like, holy shit, this is what we were just talking about.

And like, well, that’s not actually what’s happening. What’s happening is we have so much personality data about you that they can predict like, what you like want to talk what you’re going to be talking about and what you’re thinking about. And so all of a sudden, you’re getting served these things that are just predictive ads.

Paxton Gray 30:27
That’s creepy, man. That’s trippy. Yeah, I think we’re getting to a point where technology is just outpacing the capacity of the human brain to think, frankly.

Adam Force 30:38
Oh, yeah.

Paxton Gray 30:40
This kind of stuff is going to happen more and more. And, you know, in aggregate, we’re pretty predictable beings. And as long as you have enough data, and it’s the right data, you can kind of guess what we’re going to be doing next.

Adam Force 30:52
And that is scary, that is creepy because you know what, with what the whole point of this documentary was, they were showing, like so much data is being used without your consent to do things that we will never understand. Like, they basically Cambridge Analytica came out and they’re like, yeah, we made Brexit happen. We made Donald Trump happen, and they explained how it worked and what they did. And when you see it, you’re just like, Whoa, did not even have a clue about that.

Paxton Gray 31:20
That’s crazy, man. Yeah, I gotta check that out. I gotta check that out.

Adam Force 31:24
Oh, yeah, it’s definitely worth it. I think you would really be fascinated by it. And now it’s just like, so what is real anymore? What is being mass manipulated? And what’s actually real?

Paxton Gray 31:35
Yeah, I mean, I, there’s so many times when I’m on even LinkedIn, like on LinkedIn. Oh, man, this is going to get into a weird story. But it’s like sometimes I’ll see this debate that’s raging on LinkedIn. And I’ll follow someone down the rabbit hole and be like, I’m pretty sure this is a fake account. Like they’re not endorsed by anybody. They don’t have any experience or anything that seems like this is a real profile. They’re just like stirring stuff up.

Adam Force 32:02

Paxton Gray 32:03
Yeah, pretty crazy. We actually at 97th Floor we have a day called Black Hat day that we do every Halloween. But it’s the week before Halloween. And basically everyone brings their like dirtiest sneakiest online trick that they can figure out, you know, not with the idea that we’re never going to actually do it at 97th Floor. But I think it keeps people sharp and kind of aware of like what is possible out there when you have the right sets of data.

Adam Force 32:29
Oh, yeah.

Paxton Gray 32:30
My hack last year was to create a fake LinkedIn profile. And made her a recruiter at Ogilvy. And so she’s connected with CEOs all over the United States. And yeah, it’s crazy. And it’s just like a total fake account. I pulled two images, and I combine them to make a profile image. And then I just pulled pieces of other people’s experience and made this fake profile. It looks super legit. And because she’s a recruiter, like people hit her up and connect with her, like all every day, I get like 10 to 20 LinkedIn requests for profiles bigger than my profile. Yeah, it’s nuts. I was I was just playing around like, I wasn’t, I don’t do anything with it. It just exists.

Adam Force 33:09
Sure, sure!

Paxton Gray 33:12
As for to do something like that was easy. It was easy to build that up.

Adam Force 33:17
Wow. That’s crazy. I did want to — we’ll wrap up here in a minute. I want to be respectful of your time.

Paxton Gray 33:24
No, I love this. This is awesome!

Adam Force 33:25
Okay. Yeah, well, one of the things they mentioned is like, you know, when they have this, like when they have a campaign of any kind of something going on, they will have like a whole warehouse of people who create those types of accounts. And like an instance that they were referencing here, they’re like, there was literally like a million and a half like 1.5 million budget, going at the monthly 1.5 million a month being pumped in to trolling accounts to shift and combat, like things that were going on with misinformation.

Paxton Gray 34:00
I believe it.

Adam Force 34:00
All these fake accounts are made and all these fake websites. And all this stuff is put together as a complete manipulation machine, which is — and they know like what happened, like Cambridge Analytic is like, well, we have 5000 data points on every American. And we isolated everyone that we we called “the persuadables, and they have this huge bucket of persuadables. And then they would run these crazy campaigns that would just constantly push people to believe certain things so that they would vote their way. It’s like, Oh, my God.

And yeah, like one other quick example. And I don’t want to spoil too much, but like, they would this is what really impressed me. They were in like another area for an election. And there was two different populations. And they knew one population of — and they were going after kids. And they’re like, so we can’t talk about politics because kids don’t care. But they do like to get behind movements, and they react to things. So they came up with this thing called the do this campaign.

They would make it this thing about like, oh, like, I’m not going to vote, I’m going against the man and blah, blah, blah. And so they knew that one population of kids, they would stick to it, and they wouldn’t vote and they wanted that to happen. But the other population, which was like another race, like just to be clear, they said, Well, we know that they listen to their parents, and their parents are going to tell them you better vote and they know who they’re going to vote for. So now they got the one side to not vote, and then they got the other side to vote.

Paxton Gray 35:31
Wow, wow, that’s sophisticated.

Adam Force 35:34
That’s sophisticated marketing on a very mass scale, and you don’t even know it’s happening.

Paxton Gray 35:38
I would love to see somebody start a social platform that requires like, some kind of identification. I mean, like Coinbase can do it like. Get something where it’s like, only you can have that profile and you are verified, who you say you are, and then not let anyone else in. And I think that’d be so much healthier,

Adam Force 36:01
It probably would be and I’m surprised we don’t see things like that. I’m wondering if naturally these types of things will start surfacing just because of the environmental circumstances of what’s going on.

Paxton Gray 36:11
It does seem like the market’s right for something like that.

Adam Force 36:13
Why don’t you get on that?

Paxton Gray 36:15
Yeah, we should. Yeah. It’s my next business idea.

Adam Force 36:20
You know, everybody complains about the changes, you know, Instagram makes about the way they’re running the feeds, and you know, the organic traffic on Facebook, all these things. And I’m always wondering like, well, if you want things like, where you see every post, like chronologically, right? Well, why don’t you create a platform and test that out and see, like, maybe you’ll get all those people that would much prefer to have that and no one’s doing it though.

Paxton Gray 36:43
Yeah, I think people are just scared of that. Like, I think we’re often fed that message of, you know, you want to enter a market where no one else is where you’re gonna have no competition. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the wisest thing. You know, so many people are just tired of their current selection of social media. I think there’s still room for other platforms.

Adam Force 37:04
You know what, and that’s that I think you’re 100%, right. Because at the end of the day, you always feel like it’s too saturated, too whatever but I think that when you see it over and over again, like there’s, you can someone else will start something sooner or later, and then you’ll go Oh, I guess there is I guess you can start acting out there’s always like a niche you can carve out.

Paxton Gray 37:23
Oh, yeah. Well, I’m plus as humans, like, we’re so attracted to new and something that’s novel.

Adam Force 37:29

Paxton Gray 37:30
And how old is Facebook? I mean, freak. I started Facebook, back when only college students were allowed to be on Facebook, you know, like, yeah, that’s old. That’s like, I’m ready. I’m ready to get off. I would love to get off. In fact, if I didn’t have to be on for like, other reasons, but yeah.

Adam Force 37:47
Yeah. I mean, I don’t — Are there things you don’t like about Facebook at this point?

Paxton Gray 37:52
I’m not a fan of all the all the breaches, all the data security, like,

Adam Force 37:56
Yeah, yeah, that was I mean, they got they got hacked, man. And that was, yeah, that was a big, that was a big to do for sure. I’m, and I’m surprised because obviously, they have they should have pretty tough firewalls and all that stuff. But and they did step it up. Now they got all this, like two step authorization and all these other things going on, which was a real pain in the ass, by the way.

Paxton Gray 38:18
Yeah, yeah. No, I’d love to see, I’d love to see someone marry the idea of Facebook and Instagram and YouTube, in the sense of, you know, like, with Facebook, we’re selling, there are data like we’re the product right? At least on YouTube, the creators get some cut of what’s going on. Why isn’t that true on Facebook? Like, why don’t Instagram influencers or creators get a cut of the ad revenue that Instagram gets from them producing content? I think, you know, that’s that, I think is an opportunity there.

Adam Force 38:50
That’s a good question. And the platforms are — well, Facebook at least is getting more and more complicated. And I have noticed that when new platforms like this come up that like, hey, only the cool kids know about it. They — the simplicity of it is something that people tend to really like. So if you have something that’s simple, and just like it has like a very singular focus, people tend to like that.

Paxton Gray 39:14
Yeah. Well, I hope one of your listeners is a developer and does something awesome.

Adam Force 39:20
I know, I wish I you know, I always tried to get into learning development. And I’m just I’m far more of a front end like designer and creator. But as far as the coding and stuff, I just have a hard time wrapping my head around that all.

Paxton Gray 39:32
I’ve always said, like our kids, when we get old, our kids are going to tell stories to their kids about us and say like, my grandpa did this. And he didn’t even know how to code! Similar to how we say something about like people way in the past, like this guy didn’t even know how to read and he did this like Isn’t that crazy?

Adam Force 39:49
Yeah. Well, I don’t know, when you were born. I was born in 79. So I’m sharing my age here. But I always say to people, I’m like, Listen to my friends. I’m like, we’re probably the last generation that will ever know what it is to drive with a hard copy map or not have had the internet.

Paxton Gray 40:10
Yeah, Yeah, no kidding.

Adam Force 40:11

Paxton Gray 40:13
I mean, we’re getting close to the end of combustion engine cars.

Adam Force 40:17
Yeah. Yeah.

Paxton Gray 40:19
Not a long time, like our kids are gonna look back and say I remember when you guys had a gasoline car. Isn’t that crazy?

Adam Force 40:25
Yeah, I can’t believe you are burning gas every day.

Paxton Gray 40:29
Sounds so prehistoric and caveman-like.

Adam Force 40:32
You know, there’s a lot of talk about those Tesla cars. So it’s, you know, talk about a great marketer and a great entrepreneur. This is a guy who just has this. He’s a great storyteller. He has a story that everybody wants to be part of. And he’s really good at leaning into it and kind of like — he doesn’t care. Like, he’s gone bankrupt multiple times. And I forget what book I was reading about him. And he’s like, yeah, you know, I went bankrupt. And I wasn’t worried. So I started PayPal with some people and made my money back so I can fund my next idea.

Paxton Gray 41:03
Yeah, I like him a lot. He’s, he’s a cool guy. And I think that that idea of storytelling, you know, that’s what marketing is at its core. And that will never change. What works with SEO now won’t work in the future. PPC will different, it will be different, some sometime in the future, Facebook will be gone and all that changes from day to day.

But what will never change is that humans love stories. And as long as you can tell a good story, you will be successful in marketing and in business. That’s the art form, that’s the golden standard is being able to tell a story and incite action from telling a story and he is just so good at that.

Adam Force 41:44
100% agree. I think that’s a great a great note that we can wrap up on because it was perfect. And I always say that to him, like the tactics change. And there are certain things that change all the time. But there’s other marketing principles and fundamentals that are just so deeply rooted in our human you know, wiring and behavior that stuff like storytelling — it’s a skill that you want to master because it can make or break your business.

Paxton Gray 42:11
Yeah, for sure.

Adam Force 42:13
Well, Paxton, I really appreciate it man. That was a fun conversation. And let’s give a shout out you know, people I mean, you know, I know you work with enterprises. But guys you want to check out Paxton what they’re doing over at 97th Floor. It’s 97thfloor.com. You can see what they’re up to. And there’s a cool video of facts in on there. And Paxton, yeah, maybe we can get that link to that template. And we’ll share that in our show notes and put it up on the site for people.

Paxton Gray 42:41
Yeah, yeah, I’ll send it over. You can watch the video and download that template.

Adam Force 42:44
And you’re okay with us, including that there. I just want to make sure you’re cool with that.

Paxton Gray 42:47
Yep. Yeah, for sure.

Adam Force 42:49
Okay, awesome, man. All right. Well, listen, appreciate your time and good luck with everything sounds like you’re doing some really exciting stuff. And listen, if you’re in Miami, open for a cup of coffee if you’re around.

Paxton Gray 43:00
Awesome. Sounds great.

Adam Force 43:02
Alright, man, take care. Appreciate it.

Announcer 43:03
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meeting intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Drew Dudley: How to Work Less but Have Way More Impact

Listen to our exclusive interview with Drew Dudley:


Subscribe to this show on Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Stitcher  |  Soundcloud

As you listen to our interview with Drew Dudley, you’ll soon see why he has been called one of the most dynamic speakers in the world. His talks on leadership are captivating and inspiring — so much so that his 2010 TEDx conference talk on lollipop moments was voted one of the most inspirational TED talks of all time. 

For the last 15 years, Drew has inspired countless individuals and corporations to expand their leadership capacity. In our talk, he discusses the importance of not going overboard in the amount of time you dedicate to your business. Working countless hours each week can become addictive, he warns. We promise ourselves that we’re working an insane number of hours now so that we can work less in the future. However, as company leaders, we become addicted to working too much and end up just following society’s expectations of putting in long hours.

Leadership is not martyrdom.

Working a meager 40 hours per week goes against most of what you’ve heard about scaling your business.

“We live in a 90-hour-per-week hustle culture and if you’re not burning the candle at both ends, you’re clearly not committed to your business.”

Drew points out he is failing himself if he’s working more than 40 hours per week. “If you overdo anything,” he adds, “you don’t love it as much.”

Remember Who It Is You Want to Be

Often, we lose ourselves in the process of setting up a new company to the point that we end up forgetting who we are. Drew points out that our values — those core beliefs that govern our day-to-day decision making — should be reflected in our businesses.

Research shows that clarity on personal values plays a much bigger role in happiness, productivity, retention, and overall effectiveness in the workforce.

Drew’s Six Key Values

Drew shared with us his six key values, each of which has a specific question tied to it that helps him make sure that he’s acknowledging the leadership skills in others. These values are:

  • impact
  • growth
  • courage
  • empowerment
  • class
  • self-respect

It seems logical to make business decisions that will avoid any immediate negative consequences. But what if those decisions go against your values? Drew points out that sometimes we sacrifice integrity in order to save the company. The problem is that you will always regret this down the road. Why? Because you’ve gone against the fundamental beliefs that make you who you are.

The Five Year Question

One amazing bit of advice Drew offers when faced with a critical decision to make is this: Ask yourself how a person you respect would react five years from now. Would they support you in having gone against your values to keep your business afloat, or would they be proud of you for sticking to what you believe in and doing what you feel was the right thing to do? Drew promises us that the latter is what will make us happiest in the long run.

Good leaders live their values whenever they get the chance and great leaders create opportunities to live their values.

We also recommend:

Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ca; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:12
Hey, what’s up, everybody? Welcome back to the change Creator podcast show. This is your host, Adam Force. And if you missed last week’s episode, it was with Paxton Gray. He is one of the main guys over at 92nd floor. And he’s an SEO and content marketing and strategy expert. So we got into a lot of good stuff there. We even branched off and spoke about Cambridge Analytica. So that was a fun little tangent to go off on.

And today we’re going to be talking with Drew Dudley. Drew is a leadership expert. He’s worked with all kinds of major companies like JPMorgan Chase and major universities. But also, he had his first book, “A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters” And he’s spoken to 250,000 people across five continents, doing TED Talks, and all that kind of stuff. So a lot of exciting experience and knowledge coming from Drew, we’re going to tap into that conversation in just a minute. And just yesterday, we were talking about how some people are getting very frustrated with their, you know, marketing, not connecting, they’re doing all the social media posts, they’re doing blog posts, podcast, you know, all this stuff. And they’re just not getting the results, you know, webinars that go out there, and they’re not making sales, and we totally get it. We’ve been there; this is a disconnect. You know, there are two things that have to happen: a good product, and a good offer. And then you have to have also a third thing, I guess, which is you’ve got to have your messaging line up. And that’s part of that offer, right? So, you know, when your messaging is out of sync, these things just don’t work.

So if you see other people getting results with the same stuff you’re doing, and you’re not getting the results, that’s usually why. And you know, we we ran a beta for our captivate program in 2018, and worked with a bunch of people like Jay Shetty, and Seth Godin, and got all kinds of advice and put together a program to help solve that problem — to fill that gap, you know, using storytelling, provide clarity, but also how do we use it with our businesses and our startups, and where do we apply it and all that kind of good stuff. So we are on version 3.0, of what we call the Captivate Method now, which is really exciting, guys. So our team has been putting it together, and we’re going to start getting our plans for release. 3.0 is not out yet. This is going to be a much more enhanced program and platform with major community forums and all that kind of stuff. Lots of coaching calls, live sessions, and goodies. So keep an eye out.

I wanted to just give you guys a heads up that we are working hard to help solve for that disconnect that is causing frustration. But more importantly, is causing entrepreneurs to give up on what they’re doing. Right from burnout or just financial strain. Okay? So we need your ideas. You guys are out there trying to change the world, we want you to succeed. So we’re working really hard to make sure you can overcome those challenges. Alright, guys, we’re gonna jump into this conversation with Drew and let’s see what he has to say. Don’t forget to stop by the App Store and leave us reviews. We appreciate it.

Announcer 3:03
Okay, show me the heat.

Adam Force 3:08
Hey, Drew, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today, man?

Drew Dudley 3:12
I’m doing amazing. I’m in my happy place when I do this interview. So I’m really excited to be here.

Adam Force 3:19
Awesome. Yeah, so we were just talking before this chat, and you know, the name keeps escaping me. We tell me that happy place again. Where were you in Canada?

Drew Dudley 3:28
Oh, I’m in Cape Breton Island. So the northern tip of Nova Scotia. And if anyone out there is listening, make this part of your to-do list in your life.

Adam Force 3:37
I’m actually going to write it down so I can look it up when we’re done. Okay. Cool. So yeah, what are you doing out there, you just want to vacation, you got some stuff going on for work? Tell me what you have going on these days

Drew Dudley 3:52
Well, actually, what happened was I have a speech that is happening this Friday, and it’s Tuesday right now. And one of the things when I talk about my work, and we’ll probably get into this a little bit later, is making sure that I never lose sight of the fact that leadership isn’t martyrdom. And you know, it’s all about 90 hours a week and the hustle culture, particularly in the entrepreneurial world is just like, if you’re not burning the candle at both ends, you’re not really committed to your business and to growth. And one of the things I’ve discovered, you know, after doing things on my own now for over 10 years, is that basically, when you’re empty, you have nothing to give. And so I came out here because even though it’s only three or four days of downtime, and hiking, where I can continue to work on ideas, I can continue to work on speeches, and sort of write as I walk, ultimately, I’m so much better at my job if I take even two or three days in a place that makes me feel refilled, as opposed to trying to pack it into, you know, two weeks of vacation once a year. It really is a way of recharging. So it’s something I try to scatter throughout my work. And you know, this might be sacrilegious in the entrepreneurial world. But I’ve come to believe if I work more than 40 hours a week, I’m actually failing myself because I love my work. But if you overdo anything, you don’t love it as much. So for me, it’s sort of like as long as I keep my work organized and efficient and I don’t work more than 40 hours a week, one, I better at my job, and two, work always stays a treat. Because I mean, you could love pizza, man, but if you eat pizza for a month straight, even this thing that you love begins to lose a little bit of luster. So I’m out here to follow my own advice.

Adam Force 5:39
Well, I love hearing that because I’m with the man I’m on the train of you know, not agreeing with this, like I work 100 hours a week, it’s the only way to succeed. And like, you know, I see too many times otherwise, that people who work hard but smart and you know, you accomplish the things that you need to do in a reasonable amount out of time. Right? And you know, I always said when I was in the corporate world, I was like, just because someone’s coming in early and staying late doesn’t mean they’re getting more done.

Drew Dudley 6:09
Yeah, and I think one of the things that gets me is this idea that we convince ourselves that we’re only doing it temporarily, right, like I’m working 90 hours a week now, so that I can, you know, spend more time with my family or I can have freedom later on in life. And what happens is, it’s an addiction, right? So you tell yourself, you’re doing it to create all this time and freedom and security later on. But we never stop doing it, when we have the opportunity to start living a life that sort of is better for us. We just don’t, because we’ve never trained ourselves to do it. And I think that’s something is that we always rationalize that approach is temporary, for long term gain. But I found very few people that once they get, you know, to that place they were chasing, ever give up the lifestyle and and I was one of those people and I am much more productive, much more successful, and much happier now that I’ve sort of said, Hey, those hundred hour a week craziness that I did 10 years ago, they got me to a place where I could take that philosophy. And I actually seize that opportunity. I see a lot of people who don’t.

Adam Force 7:15
Yeah, no, it makes sense. And there is that culture today. And I mean, I guess it’s been around for years, but you hear the words “grind” and “hustle” in everybody’s entrepreneurial vocabulary. And after a while, it just drives me nuts. Everyone’s like, Oh, I’m grinding. I’m hustling. I’m like, and so I don’t know, I feel the same way on different levels with that. And I’m certainly not afraid of hard work. And I do lots of that myself. But I guess it depends on how we define that and what we’re actually spending our time doing, exactly.

Drew Dudley 7:48
Because when you grind things like if you really think about what a grind is, there’s a purpose to it, right? You’re grinding something to sharpen the saw, right? Yeah. And ultimately, if you don’t stop and say, okay, the grinding has now accomplished its purpose, what happens if you leave anything up against the grindstone for an indefinite amount of time? It just gets worn down to nothing. And when you wear yourself down to nothing, that’s a hard hole to climb back out of. And so I’m not saying don’t work hard. And I’m not saying don’t be passionate, I am saying that you need to build a business that serves your life. And by that what I mean is that you need to build a business that is going to give you the last day of work that you want. Look ahead and say, What do you want the last day of work of your life to look like? How do you want to feel? And make sure that you’re building a company that creates that and serves your life, as opposed to you creating a company that you are then a slave to forever. And yeah, you created it. But now it’s now it’s your master. And I think that that’s really important. Because if something you build becomes your master, you know, why did you build it?

Adam Force 8:55
Yeah, and I think something that you said there really stuck out, which is you build a company that serves you. And you know, everyone can have a slightly different variation of what success means to them, right? So you can run a million dollar a year company with you and a partner. And that could be more than enough for your lifestyle, you know, you don’t have to have 100 million dollar a year company. So don’t let other people define what success looks like for you. Right?

Drew Dudley 9:22
Yeah, because for me, success is being completely happy with what you have, even as you’re driven to try to accomplish more like my job and what we managed to build, I’m still driven to take on new challenges and grow. But if there was never another day of growth for the rest of my life, in terms of business, I am really happy with the life that has been created around me. And so I think that true success is when you can say I am driven, I want to get more, I want to grow more, and I want to become something bigger as a person in terms of skill and insight. But I’m really happy with what I have. Yeah, when you’re happy with what you have, and you’re still driven to want more, not because you’re supposed to, but because it’s an innate piece of who you are, that’s a successful life. If right now you say I have built something that makes me happy and I still want to do more, but I’m not sort of addicted to that need. So that’s what success means to me. And, and I think you’re right, the idea that you could make $20 million. And people look at you and say if you can make 20 and you don’t, you’re a fool because you’re not hustling. You know, I’ve lived that a lot of my life. And I’m just like, making more money than I make now means being miserable more than I am now. And as long as what you’ve got is enough to make you live the life you want, why be miserable? Right? Like because honestly, if you’re miserable doing when you work for yourself — like, is there anything worse than just hating your job and you created it? You got no one to look at now.

Adam Force 10:58
You can’t blame the company you work for anymore. Oh my god, this is my own creation; I created a monster.

Drew Dudley 11:05

Adam Force 11:05
So you know, we have a lot of entrepreneurs listening in who are actually — I think a lot of the people that are listening are transitioning or have transitioned from corporate to start something on their own, because they wanted to do something that served them more, meaning it’s meaningful to them, right. So, you know, you want to be excited when you wake up. And I think a tough part for people is, one, when you start a business, there are a lot of moving parts. And you know, as you get started, you have to be a leader from day one. And you have to start making decisions on what to do and how to spend the little bit of budget you might have. Do you bring someone on board or not? And so we’ve gone through all kinds of mistakes, Change Creators, my second company, and I am curious to hear your thoughts. So for that early phase, starting first few years, let’s start a conference around leadership at that point. So any thoughts jumped into your head that you want to just kind of kick that off with?

Drew Dudley 12:07
Yeah, I think one of the things to which we often fall victim when we’re starting our own company, is because it means so much to us, what happens is we start to substitute our to-do list for our to be list. You know, when we start to identify, yes, we want to build this company. But I think far more important when it comes to leadership is Who do you want to be as a person. Because I said your company should serve who you are and should give you the opportunity to create the change you’re looking for in the world. Like, how is your product going to impact people? How is it going to make their lives better? And we get so tied up in how we build the company that we often put aside making sure that we stay true to who we want to be. So one of the things that I encourage everyone, whether they’re starting a business or not, is make sure you define the things you want to define you. And what I mean by that you’re going to be faced with all kinds of decisions, some of the ones that you just laid out, for instance. You’re gonna be faced with all kinds of decisions through building your company.

My question for people is, what criteria are you going to use to make decisions because one of the things that leaders have is a set definition for what their decision making is going to be. And you know, I call it a personal leadership philosophy. And another way you could call it is a decision making philosophy. But what the research shows is, if you’re seen as somebody who has a personal leadership philosophy, or is very clear about how you make decisions, and by that, I mean, you can rhyme them off your leadership philosophy in 30 seconds or less. If you do so, it’s not the first time in the last 72 hours that you’ve done it. And if I asked somebody who knows you well, or particularly works with you, hey, what what’s this personal leadership or her personal leadership philosophy, they’re going to rhyme it off, and they’re probably going to roll their eyes when they do it. What it means is that you’ve repeated so many times how you make decisions. And what that means is that what people may not always agree with your decisions, they’re always going to know, and respect the fact that you’re consistent and how you make them. And so what I always argue is: Define the things you want to define you.

So if somebody followed you around for 30 days, and watched how you built your business, how you interact with customers, how you interacted with employees, and with people you’ve never met before, out, serving you a drink in a bar or a meal in a restaurant, at the end of those 30 days, if I sat that person down and said you follow this person without their knowledge, what three values do they stand for above all others? Like what three values do they hope to leave in their wake, personally and professionally? And what three values do they pivot to every time they have to make a difficult decision? You know, if you’ve been the man or the woman you want it, I’ll ask you, my friend. If that was what I did to you, what three values do you hope that person says they see out of you? What three values you want to leave in your wake everywhere you go?

Adam Force 15:06
Sure, yeah, I mean, one big value is collaboration, I believe in working together with people and not competition. So collaboration, I believe in putting people first. So always thinking about the action I’m taking and the holistic costs behind it. So people first, and my last one would be family. So making sure that my life incorporates family into my overall success.

Drew Dudley 15:40
That’s awesome. And what I do is I know a lot of people do that for their business, they put a lot of effort and time into saying, Here are our business values. And that’s important. But what’s interesting is the research shows that clarity on personal values plays a much bigger role in happiness, productivity, retention, overall effectiveness in the workforce. So one of the things I say to leaders as they’re building is determine your criteria for decision making. So define the values you want to define you. And then ultimately, decision making becomes a simple process, but not an easy one. So every time you have to make a decision, as you start to build your business, what you do is you look at the options available to you, and you hold them up next to your list of personal values. And you ask which one of these options is most consistent with these values? Yeah. And the challenge with that is that often the option that’s most consistent with your values sucks, like it doesn’t allow you to avoid consequences, it doesn’t let you look good. It doesn’t let you take the money or remain in the relationship or stay in the job, which I’m sure some of the people listening to this have already experienced.

But ultimately, it’s always the decision you’re happiest you made five years from now, as you start to build a company, every decision you make, ask yourself, Is this the way I want to describe this decision to a room full of people I respect five years from now. And if you make every decision, as if you’re explaining it to a group of people you respect five years from now, instead of you’re about to make it, a lot of the noise surrounding decisions falls away. Now, ultimately, one of the things I ask people is that if you haven’t defined your values, and a value is only a value, if you always reference it, when you make decisions, like if you don’t think about your values, as you make decisions, then they’re not actually values. But what I always ask people is, if you’ve never taken the time to identify and define your personal values, as a professional as a person, what criteria have you been using to make decisions your whole life? And for most people, and me, myself included, the criteria we too often use to make decisions is, which option will avoid the most consequences right now? And that’s not good business decision making. And that’s not good personal decision making.

So one of the first things I always say is, you’re going to have to make a ton of decisions, and there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in your life. Figure out what are the core values that no matter what you do, you want to make sure you stay true to those. And make sure that you always reference them when making decisions. Do not allow yourself to make decisions based on what will avoid the most consequences now, always make them on what will stay truest to who I am. Because even if that decision causes you to lose a company, and I know that’s scary to think, five years from then you will still be glad that you made that decision. Because all the short term consequences will have passed and what you’ll be left with is a memory that said, this was the man or woman I wanted to be. And sometimes we will sacrifice saving our own integrity in order to save our company. And believe it or not, you always regret that down the road.

Adam Force 19:01
There’s a lot of good points packed into, you know, what you just talked about. And I think something that stood out to me is, you know, I like the way you phrase it go five years down the road, do you look back? Is this something that aligns to who you are, and that you’re proud of when you tell people? I think it’s important because there’s a level of consistency. So to your point, when you’re making decisions based not just on business values, but just personal life values that translate to your business decision making this then should be consistent throughout the entire digital footprint that you have. Because one thing with today, you know, we have these businesses that are making a difference in the world. And as new businesses come up from entrepreneurs that are not established yet. And you know, trust comes with established businesses. So when you don’t have that people look into who you are. So for example, I went to your website, your book page, or social media, and if I see on your personal Facebook, you’re talking out of the other side of your mouth than your business values, like it’s going to be conflicting and inconsistent to me, which then I lose trust.

Drew Dudley 20:08
Yeah, and that’s something that always bear in mind. I joke that in my book, one of the values that I want to live up to is class, which is a commitment to treating people in situations better than they deserve to be treated. And one of the things I said is that leaders always elevate, they never escalate. and elevate means trying to succeed and escalate means trying to win, which means I’ve kind of tied my arms, just as what you said, because there are times that I pissed off, and I want to tweet, and then I realized, dammit, man, you said that leaders never escalate. And, you know, and if you do look, you’ll occasionally find me not following that. But it’s almost always related to people being jackasses on planes. I’m like, I don’t care leaders elevate but don’t escalate that you take your damn socks off on a plane, I’m escalating that.

Adam Force 20:57
I earned the right to escalate that.

Drew Dudley 21:00
Yeah. So I mean, that’s the thing, right is that I have to recognize that I have made that statement. And now every time that I do not elevate a situation, but I say something snarky or I escalate, or I bitch, ultimately, what I’ve said to people is, Hey, I don’t actually buy that. And the thing is, it’s always in my head. And it really should be in yours as well. And there is no such thing as a personal Facebook page. I don’t care how high your privacy is, and like, personal business, whatever. If it’s out there, it’s out there.

Adam Force 21:32
Yeah, you better be consistent and know that everyone’s looking at it, whether you think it’s just family and friends or not, that’s not true.

Yeah, I learned that. And that’s all connected that stuff. So it’s important. And I think it ties together well with what you were talking about. So something for people to be aware of, as they’re trying to earn the trust from, you know, new people who are learning about what they do.

So so let’s just shift gears a little bit, or just use that as a segue to talk about your book, you mentioned the book, and “This Is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters.” And for anybody that doesn’t know, Drew has done a handful of TEDx talks. One of them was the lollipop moment, and I actually saw that one. It’s a fun story. It’s inspiring, all that good stuff. And it’s been quite popular. So things you could check out through his website. But true, let’s just tap into this book. Obviously, this has been a big part of your life, a focus this whole concept around leadership. And now you have this book where you’re, you’re putting it into practical terms for people. So give us the overview of why you decided to put your time and energy into a book and what you’re trying to convey to people.

Drew Dudley 22:41
Sure, well, the book emerged from a fact that I got annoyed about something, which was I ran a leadership program at the University of Toronto, and I’m surrounded by extraordinary leaders, we’re talking students, staff, students who are trying to foster social justice to raise money for charities, and they just would not call themselves leaders. They kept seeing leadership, something they were training for. And what I started to realize is that we’ve been educated out of seeing ourselves as leaders, because we’ve been taught that leaders are giants, from a very young age, and whatever examples you’re given to demonstrate a concept early in life, not only does it shape the way you think of that concept for the rest of your life, it also limits it.

And because we teach kids about leadership, using presidents and scientific groundbreakers, what we basically have done is educated people out of their leadership. And we created a world where the vast majority of the leadership on the planet is coming from people who don’t see themselves as leaders. Because we have dismissed the idea that individual moments of impact of generosity of kindness, of empathy and of forgiveness aren’t leadership, they’re the little things. And what we do is when we call these moments that have the biggest inner personal impact that we have, when we dismiss them as little we reinforce the idea that leadership, for it to be active leadership, it has to make you rich, or it has to make you famous, or it has to involve power, and followers. And so ultimately, I wanted to outline a form of leadership to which we all can and should aspire, I do not argue that everybody can be a CEO, or a senior executive, or even start their own business. But there is a form of leadership that we can focus on on a daily basis. And ultimately, what I wanted to do is give people a step by step process, to making sure that every day individually, they have engaged in specific leadership behaviors.

And so we created a process called the leadership test, which basically is a six-question test, that at the end of each day, we adopted the philosophy that imagine at the end of each day, you had to prove you deserve another day on this planet. And in order to prove it, you had to pass a test. But you actually were given the questions for the test in the morning. And if that was the case, those questions would be non-negotiable each day. You would not try to fit them in between meetings and emails, you would make sure that you live them each day. And what we did is we created a set of questions tied to our core values. And you can’t answer those questions without living your values.

So we said, you know, impact is a value we wanted to live. Well, in order to do that every day, we try to answer the question, What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership? And what we do is my work and the book is designed to help people figure out what their specific personal values are. Because you can’t just ask people, you actually have to walk them through the process of surfacing them. And then how can they create their own version of the leadership test? And it’s specifically a test because tests have questions. And what’s really interesting is when we were trying to come up with a way to make it more likely we’d actually live our values, we discovered that simply saying, Okay, I’m going to have impact, or I’m going to have class wasn’t effective. And so what we did is I actually went to a group of psychology professors, and I said, Okay, what are some subconscious motivators that we could use to make sure that this commitment we have to behavior actually translates into behavior? Because we all know that just saying we’re going to do it doesn’t mean you do. And they actually gave you a couple of psychological effects that we turned into these questions because one’s called this the Zeigarnik effect, which says, things on your to-do list that you haven’t completed, take up a more prominent space, and you’re just doing some things you have. So in other words, stuff you haven’t finished bugs you until you finish it.

And the question behavior effect says, If I ask you a series of questions about a behavior in the morning, you’re way more likely to engage in that behavior later in the day. And so if questions can drive behavior, and unfinished tasks cause psychic discomfort, one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior are unanswered questions. When presented with an unanswered question, your brain will feel uncomfortable until it finds an answer, it will seek a way to answer it. And so when you create a question in your life, and you planted it in the morning, that is tied to particular behaviors, what have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership? How do they help someone else move closer to a goal today? You know, how did I What did I do today to be good to myself, that’s actually going to cause psychic discomfort in your brain until you answer it. So we basically made our brains uncomfortable, until they did certain actions. And those certain actions were specifically tied to specific values.

So that’s sort of where it all came from the day one concept is, the first day of any voyage is the day you’re most committed, you’re most humble and you’re most forgiving. And so the idea is that you say, this is my first day of my leadership voyage. And here are the non-negotiable behaviors that you make part of that voyage, and then you treat me every day as if it’s your first day on the voyage, which actually, you know, emerged in large part from my recovery from alcoholism. Every day you treat it like the first day of your recovery because committing to a particular behavior for the rest of your life every day is too intimidating. So the key is, choose not to have a drink today. And then just treat every day like it’s the first day because I can’t commit to not drinking for the rest of my life. I can’t, but I can commit today. And if I treat every day of the rest of my life as if it’s that first day, then I can do it. And my argument is that we can claim to be leaders and claim to stand for values. But for the most part, most of us can’t point to a specific thing we’ve done today that lives up to those values, we assume that will do it when we get the chance. And good leaders live their values whenever they get the chance. But what separates great leaders from good leaders is that good leaders live their values whenever they get the chance. And great leaders create opportunities to live their values. So the whole book is about saying, okay, you claim to stand for this. Here’s how you prove it every day. Because it’s not just about proving it to other people. It’s about proving it to yourself. And if somebody says, for instance, family is a core value, but you can’t point to a single thing you did today, that reinforces the value of family. And if you’re working 17 hours a day, you’re probably not, you know, it makes you prove it to yourself. And when you’re proving it to yourself, effectively, you’re engaging in behaviors that prove it to other people. So I wanted to write a book that says, figure out what your values are, figure out your own personal questions and create your own leadership test. And what you’ll do is you’ll start to behave every day in a way that you can’t deny is leadership.

Adam Force 29:44
Yeah, that sounds awesome. I mean, lots of inspirational stuff. I just like the way some of the ideas are framed up to help, you know, understand them and take action and things like that. So I guess the proven method of having questions at the beginning of the day, that kind of gnaw at the brain. I haven’t heard that one before. So that’s actually really interesting. And I’m curious, then do you start your day off with certain questions in mind?

Drew Dudley 30:16
Oh, yeah, I’ve got six. And you know, what’s interesting is when you first start, you really got them front and center. But the more you do them, the more it becomes instinctual. We also have an app that you can download that will ask you your questions and say noon, three, six, and nine.

But I have six key values that I want to drive me in my business every day: impact, growth, courage, empowerment, class, and self-respect. And the questions tied to those impact what have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership, there’s so much leadership around you. And it might be the people that inspire you, it could be the person who makes you smile every day when they hand you coffee. We have so many opportunities to recognize that leadership. And if you are going to start, you’re listening to this, and you’re going to start with one, that one every day for the next 30 days. What have I done to recognize someone else’s leadership for growth? What have I done today to make it more likely someone will learn something, and that could be yourself or someone else? For courage? What have I tried today, that might not work, but tried anyway? And if you’re interested, there’s a great TED talk by John Zhang, who talks about 100 days straight, where he tried to be rejected. And that’s the whole idea of bringing courage back into our life when we’ve been educated out of it. Empowerment is what have I done today to move someone else closer to a goal?

The whole idea of being if you’re creating a business, we need to get people who’ve come out of the education system, and they’ve been taught from day one, you are competing with one another. And ultimately, that question is about creating a culture that says, Yeah, if you outperform 90% of the people in an organization, yeah, maybe you’ll make six figures. But if you become the type of person where everyone who works with you outperforms everyone who doesn’t, then you’re indispensable. And that’s so much rare. And in order to become that person, what have you done today to help someone else move closer to a goal? class is when did I elevate instead of escalate today, and self-respect is, what did I do today to be good to myself. And what happens is, sometimes you’ll plan ahead and say, you know, what, I’m going to call my former boss and tell them that they were leader in my life. But what happens more frequently, is because the questions — and I like the phrase you use, “gnaw at your brain,” what happens is when an opportunity to answer the question actually pops into your sort of daily life, immediately, your brain goes, here’s the chance, grab it now.

And sometimes that sucks, you know, like, I get pissed off over the course of a day or on a phone call. And as I’m about to sort of, you know, let them have it, the little voice pops in my head and says, shit, here’s your chance to elevate instead of escalate, and you kind of have to because that’s the rule. And it does, you know, it starts to, you know, you got a bulkhead seat on the window, and a guy says, Can you switch seats with me for my middle seat in row 32? So I could sit next to my family? And let’s face it, you know, it’s a nine-hour flight? I don’t want to do that. But in my head is the question, you know, how did I help someone else move closer to a goal today? How did I elevate instead of escalate, you know, and the big overall is this when you don’t know what to do, you ask yourself, what would the person who I want to be do in this situation? And then you do that. You know, I often say to people, when you don’t know what to do, ask yourself, what would a great woman do in this situation? What would a great man do in this situation, and then do that.

And ultimately, the option that a great man or a great woman would take, that is also an option that is available to you. And so that I think is the key to these questions is, every time you’re presented with an opportunity to answer them, you have to fight with your brain not do it. And usually, it’ll win.

Adam Force 34:02
Yeah. And you keep the same questions every day, or do you change them up?

Drew Dudley 34:08
For the most part, they always evolve over time. But for the most part, as long as those are the values I want to live, those are the questions that I personally have. Now, the thing is, I don’t try to get, as I said, all six of them every day, I try to pass the test, which means three out of six. And if I get three out of six every day of the year, that’s still over 1000 conscious pieces of value of actions that I’ve taken, that are completely consistent with my values. And on the days where everything outside of your control blows up in your face, what this allows you to do is still recognize that while the day may have been a loss, it wasn’t a waste, because you did seize the opportunity to be the person that you want to be. And that seems like a simple thing. But it’s often not something that we give ourselves. The whole concept of Day One is the idea that you’re not always in charge of what you have to do every day. But you’re always in charge of who you are, as you do it. And I think that we sometimes lose sight of that fact. And if we don’t flex that power, we forget that we have it.

Adam Force 35:11
I love it. Listen, let’s close up on that note, I think that’s awesome. And love, love what you’re talking about and some of the insights that you shared here. So we appreciate your time to do that. And let’s give a shout out to where people can find more about you and catch your TED Talks. Find your book. I’m gonna let you go ahead and shout out your website here.

Drew Dudley 35:33
Sure, it’s drewdudley.com. And on the various social media, it’s @dayonedrew.

Adam Force 35:47
Awesome. They have it drewdudley.com. You can find his book and all kinds of other goodies on there, guys. So check out Drew and his work. As you heard today, he’s got lots of good ideas, so you probably gonna enjoy his book. Drew, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it and look forward to hearing more from you.

Drew Dudley 36:05
Oh, man, thanks for this opportunity. I love getting to share ideas.

Adam Force 36:08
You got it. Talk to you later.

Announcer 36:09
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meeting intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Perry Marshall Interview: Getting to the Rock Bottom of Real Problems to Reduce Competition

Listen to our exclusive interview with Perry Marshall:

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Perry Marshall is the ultimate guru when it comes to sales and marketing. Touted as one of the world’s most expensive business consultants, he is an expert at getting to the root cause of business problems. That’s why his sage advice is an indispensable tool for all Change Creators. His book, “80/20 Sales and Marketing,” was rated as one of the “5 Best Sales Books of 2013” by Inc.com. Marshall describes the book as being “as valuable as a year at MBA school.”

Among Marshall’s many accomplishments is the founding of the $10 million Evolution 2.0 Prize, with judges from Harvard, Oxford, and MIT. The world’s largest science prize, announced at the Royal Society in Great Britain, aims to solve the biggest mystery in biology — to find the origin of the genetic code. This is remarkable when you consider that his roots are neither in biology nor in marketing — he has an electrical engineering degree from the University of Nebraska.

Easy Problems and Quick Fixes

In our exclusive interview, Marshall shares with us some key elements to business success. Through his founding of the Evolution 2.0 Prize, he came to learn that “most people only try to solve superficial problems.” This issue can be applied to practically any profession. Most of us, if given a choice, would prefer to just solve the easy problems we encounter with quick fixes and just get on with our day. Marshall, on the other hand, suggests we should ask ourselves what the most challenging (business) problem we’re facing is that we actually have any chance of solving and then mount a campaign around that.

Digging Deep

Marshall likens asking the tough questions and solving complex problems to digging in a swamp. The bottom of a swamp, once you dig way down, is made of hard rock on which you can lay a foundation. In the same manner, repeatedly asking yourself tough business questions like “Why is my competition doing better than me?” and “Why can’t I afford the click prices in my Facebook advertising?” will help you get to the root of the problem as opposed to putting a band-aid on the issue. And when you get to the rock bottom of your problem, you’ll see that the competition starts to fall away. He reminds us that this is a necessary step because all of our problems are deeper than we think they are. 

Are Your Business Objectives the Right Ones?

Asking yourself a lot of tough questions about your business will help shed light on where you are and where you need to be.

And a lot of times you find out you’ve been putting your ladder of success on the wrong wall.

You may very well find that you don’t even have the right objective to begin with. Marshall admits it may be a bit of a painful process, but digging deep into your business issues will hurt a lot less in the long run than blindly plastering it with band-aids.

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Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai. There may be errors.)

Announcer 0:01
Welcome, this is the Change Creator Podcast.

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. Thank you for being here. And if you missed our last episode, it was with Drew Dudley — he talks about how to become a better leader that makes a difference in this crazy world and we know we need better leaders these days, right? So that’s an episode if you missed it, go back. Check it out. I think you guys are gonna get a lot of good nuggets out of that from Drew. This week, we are talking with the one and only Perry Marshall. If you guys don’t know Perry Marshall, he is the probably one of the most expensive and sought after business consultants out there.

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3.0 and we are in the depths of making this baby happen. And we have gotten so much incredible feedback from people. We are excited to roll this out. So we’re looking at a September, a late September-ish roll out, maybe mid September if we can keep things going as quick as they have been. And it’s going to be really cool guys powerful stuff.

So, the application of taking what we’re teaching around marketing and storytelling and strategy and all this stuff, and really applying it to build automated systems for your business.

So that, going forward, you have sustainable growth. So yeah, that’s exciting stuff. And you guys, check that out. There is a waitlist right now if you go to the Captivate landing page, you can get on the waitlist for the announcements. Alright guys, I don’t want to hold you up any longer. We’re gonna dive into this conversation with Perry and really talk about what he has going on and tap into that marketing expertise. 

Hey, Perry, welcome to the change greater podcast show. How are you doing today?

Perry Marshall 3:00
It’s a beautiful and very warm day in Chicago. And it’s there’s a nice big, bushy green tree outside my window. And it’s fun to look at it. So how are you doing this afternoon?

Adam Force 3:12
I’m doing pretty awesome. I’m in Miami, it’s also warm and the weather is nice, the sun is shining. So can’t complain over here, either. I don’t have a tree outside my window. But I do have some water! So let’s dive into what you have going on in your world today. I know that you’ve got you got a lot of incredible experience. And I just want to hear like what’s the latest right now? What’s going on?

Perry Marshall 3:39
Well, the absolute latest, which I would say is in some sense, a lesson in 80/20. I’ve had a project called evolution 2.0 now for, well, about five years, to the external world much longer than that for me internally. And, I organized a technology prize to solve one of the deepest problems in science. And something very interesting happened to me.

So as of about a couple months ago, it was a $5 million prize. We’re searching for the origin of the genetic code, which is really a very relevant problem to everything. Because if we could solve this, we would also actually have a real AI. Siri is as dumb as a box of rocks. Anybody noticed? Siri could not convince a six-year-old that it’s a real person for more than about 30 seconds, right? I think if we could actually we would actually have real AI if we could solve this problem. And so I had a $5 million prize.

Well, I get this email out of the blue from an Oxford professor who goes, Hey, you don’t know me, but blah, blah, blah, bottom line, you know, me and this other professor would like to have you come to the Royal Society in Great Britain, and talk about your prize and host a media event.

And after I picked my jaw up off the floor, because the Royal Society’s basically the most prestigious scientific organization and old, I’m like a Yes, sir. I’ll be there. And then I flew into action. And, and I went to all the backers that had turned me down before. And I got a couple more to come on board. And it enabled me to raise my prize to $10 million. And it got ran in the Financial Times two days later.

So why am I telling you about this? Well, I guess the first reason is because you asked, What does this have to do with the average entrepreneur? Well, I want you to think about it like this: I have an electrical engineering degree from the University of Nebraska and I do marketing consulting for a living.

And about 10 years ago, I was so distraught at certain things in science that I decided to write an evolution book. And the question is, how does a guy with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering who does marketing consulting for a living, get invited to the Royal Society? Okay, well, believe me, it wasn’t because of some wacky publicity stunt. Or, I know some trick I came up with on LinkedIn or any, anything like that at all.

Okay, here’s what it was, what it really was. I identified a very, very basic fundamental problem that nobody has solved. And I came up with a new way of skinning the cat, that was completely legit. That’s how I got to the Royal Society, like, well, 10 million real dollars by real investors and a properly defined definition of the problem, and relationships. So like, along the way, I get the leading geneticists at Harvard Medical School on my judging panel.

And, and so I’m a complete outsider in that business, okay, I’m not, I’m not a credentialed scientist. But and here’s what I found, what I found was that the average typical rank and file scientist wouldn’t touch my project with a 10-foot pole. And it’s not because they didn’t think it was interesting. But it was because I was too much of an outsider. And they couldn’t, you know, most of them can’t really take risks.

The ones that did take interest in did play ball were the Titans, actually, they were the big guys who are bulletproof. And now, I think there’s actually a very deep lesson in this in and here’s what it is, most people only try to solve superficial surface-level problems, right? And so, like, if you look at any profession, I don’t care if it’s scientists or chiropractors or injection molding machine makers or podcasters, or anybody, okay. Most people, they’ll only tackle the easy problems.

Adam Force 9:02
Yeah, yeah. tends to happen that way.

Perry Marshall 9:04
And then they’ll and they’ll collect a paycheck. Right? Um, I think your mission should you choose to accept it is to look around you. And ask yourself, what is the biggest, baddest, deepest problem that I have any chance of solving, and that I actually have some idea how you might go about doing that. And then mount a campaign to actually take it out.

Adam Force 9:35

Perry Marshall 9:36
Now, this is not like quick and easy advice that you can do in like three hours. Okay. This project, I’ve actually been working on it for 15 years. 10 years, in earnest in the form that it’s become now. Okay, but again, how many people do go do anything at the Royal Society? And I’m not bragging. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Okay? I just say, when you deal with really, like when you go to the roots of things, or I like to say the bottom of the swamp, where you like you touch, like, it’s not, like the bottom of the swamp isn’t swampy at the bottom of the swamp, like, there’s granite, down there.

There’s limestone, like, there’s cement, it’s like, there is a solid rock bottom. When you get to the rock bottom of problems, you’re in a whole different playing field, and you have a whole lot less competition. And, and that is so different from the usual advice that people are giving. I think that’s what we should be talking about today.

Adam Force 10:58
Yeah, I agree. 100%. And do you have just based on your experience, and you know, I know, you have a lot of experience in the marketing consulting world and all that kind of stuff, we could talk a little bit about the 80/20. But based on what you’re talking about, and taking on bigger problems, just the thought process, because I think you’re right. I mean, there’s a lot of people that have taken it at the surface level, and they say, you know, what’s the easiest problem, I could solve the itch and get a paycheck.

And, you know, part of what we’re all about is, is getting into systems thinking and taking on bigger and larger problems that are solving real social issues. So it does take a different mindset. And I guess, you know, if it’s something that you’re passionate about, and it aligns to your values, you might have more motivation around it. I’m wondering if you have thoughts around, you know, just approaching those larger problems and the thought processes around it?

Perry Marshall 11:49
Yeah. So first of all, I just want to point out that when we’re talking about getting to the bottom of the swamp, this doesn’t just have to be gigantic global issues. Okay, this could be the immediate problems that are on your desk right now, in in the course of you know, what came up this afternoon at work. It could be that, but what I’m talking about is that you actually get to the root of the problem, instead of putting a bandaid on it. So right. So let me give you like a marketing example, that anybody listening to this can understand. So. So you say, Hey, you know, I’ve been advertising on Facebook, but the clicks are too expensive. And I can’t afford to do this anymore. And so then, somebody says, Why?

Adam Force 12:46

Perry Marshall 12:48
Well, because I’m not getting enough click-through rate. Oh, okay. Well, so we go fix that by writing better ad copy or having better pictures, and then we get a better click-through rate. And then, oh, you know, I still actually have great ads, and they have a quality score of nine. But I, but I still can’t afford the click prices. Why? Well, maybe then the next answer is you’re trying to sell $20 ebooks in a market that’s selling $5,000 Mediterranean cruises.

And the economics of the cruise companies are way better than yours. So there’s no way you could do that. Right? And then and then we go, Well, why are you selling ebooks? Why don’t you sell cruises? And you go, Oh, well, like that’s too hard. Right? Or maybe, maybe then you start selling cruises because you work out a deal with some company but some other company is kicking your ass. And, and they can pay twice as much as you can. And you go, Why? And it’s because they have a back end. And they can afford to acquire a customer at a breakeven or even a loss and not making any money because they’re going to make money three months, six months, 12 months down the road. And then you say well, why can’t we do something even better than that?

And where it’s going to usually end up taking you is — Well, you know what people, we need to design a fundamentally better, more appealing vacation than everybody else’s Mediterranean cruise. And your real problem is you’re just a look alike. Like you’re just like everybody else. Okay, so you, you can go through all these layers, right? You can read a whole book on Facebook advertising. And then you can fix that part of a problem. But you still have a problem. Like, and that might not fix the problem at all.

Because you’re trying to sell $20 ebooks and your competition is selling $5,000 cruises, and there’s no way like ever that your economics whatever, keep up with that, right? And, and so and so if you ask “why” five times, you’re probably getting pretty close to the actual root of the problem. And what I find, what I find is true is when you finally start getting to that why number four, or why number five, most people don’t even want to go there. They’re starting to cringe. They’re like, Oh, my word. Like, is that what we’re going to have to do?

And a lot of times you find out you, you’ve been putting your ladder of success on the wrong wall. Like you don’t even have the right giant objective to begin with. And then what happens is, is there’s all these shallow people going around and going, Oh, well, you know, I’ll get you 10,000 clicks to your website for only $179. You need me, right? And like, that’s, you know, if it ever works at all, it’s only a band aid, and it probably isn’t even going to work anyway. But then desperate people who don’t really want to fix their real problems, they’ll fall for it. And this happens just all the time. Right? And so if you ask why five times you will probably get to the real answer.

Adam Force 16:38
Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I love that you brought it up. And it’s such an important exercise. And it’s actually something a small piece of something that we take people through in one of our programs as well. And, you know, you mentioned that people cringe. And in our, you know, members, like private group, we ask people to share certain things so they can get feedback, and people are afraid to share their five “whys.” They don’t want to share it. That’s your point. They’re uncomfortable with how deep it goes, you know? It’s a common thing.

Perry Marshall 17:07
So yeah, you know, all of our problems are a lot deeper than we then we think they are. And but again, when when you go after the deep problems, so for example, you know, I got famous in the marketing world for Google ads, and I would have all these people come to workshops, and they’re like, okay, so Perry is going to fix my Google ads.

And so here’s a perfect example. So I had a guy. He was he was in the car shipping business. So if you want to ship your car from Dallas to Los Angeles, on a truck, then these are the guys you call. And so he had taken our Google Ads courses and gotten reasonably good. And then he signs up in this program. And I think what he thought was going to happen was we were just going to get better and better and better and better and better at Google ads. Right?

And on the first coaching call, it said, Okay, so, Michael, the name is Michael Strickland. Michael, why should I buy car shipping from your company instead of any and every other car shipper or broker out there? Because there’s a ton of them? He’s like, uhhhh… He didn’t really have any answer. Okay. And I said, Okay, dude, you’re living on borrowed time, I’d say you got about six months to figure out a really good answer to this question, and lock it in place. Otherwise, somebody is going to eat your lunch, and they’re going to replace you, they’re going to outbid you, you’re going to drown you’re going to be out of business. And so, so we went through a whole process that we call definitive selling proposition, where we started asking the systematic methodical attacking these questions.

Alright, so what can he do better than everybody else? How? How can? How can he have a guarantee? What kind of guarantee would we do? And what we ended up with was, we created this, this guarantee, so if you go to ship a car direct com, which is his website, you’ll actually see it’s got a picture of a blue Ford Mustang in the gloves. And the white gloves of somebody holding it in his hand. And it says, if your car experiences any damage, we pay the insurance deductible. We guarantee that your car gets there safe.

Okay, now, all by itself, a guarantee like that is only sort of interesting. But see this is this is where it actually kicks in because he was a broker, like he’s not a shipper, he finds the shippers, yeah, this means he’s got to get shippers that aren’t going to damage his cars. So now he’s got to have an internal rating system for all the different shippers. And he’s got to based on all his his previous experience.

And so what he did was he created a system where all the different car shipping companies, there’s a private bidding system, where every time a job comes in,  they can all see that it’s come in and they can bid on it. And they rank prioritize the ones it’s kind of like Yelp except internal to them, right? Well, only the five star guys ever get a job. Maybe once in a while a four star guy might get one. But none of the threes or twos are ever going to get any jobs. Okay, well, that’s actually called network effect, because he has a way of matching consumers to vendors with the knowledge that is not available in general marketplace. And the bigger his company gets, the more that knowledge he has, and it just snowballs. And this is how he became the number one car shipping guy in the industry.

Okay, and remember, he started thinking that his problem was Google ads. And what we did was we said, Why, why, why, why? And you can follow it all the way to Oh, well, now now we have a private ranking system for all these trucking companies. And they all have scorecards and stuff. And that’s why, like, that’s why you should buy for me, it’s not even because I have a sexier Google ad. Right? It’s like, look at all my testimonials. And then you look, he’s got all these stars and all these reviews. And it all feeds itself. Right. And that’s because he asked why, why, why, why, why? And, I mean, believe me and some of these coaching calls and some of these questions that we would be asking each other, it got to be nauseating and granular and, and you know skullduggery to, it’s like, well, how do we build this thing out to the nth degree? But he’s got it built out. Yeah, it’s a really valuable business.

Adam Force 22:30
Yeah. Wow. That’s a great example. Just to show the depth because you’re right, that differentiation, especially today, and I’m curious to get your perspective on something, which is, you know, you have your business differentiation, which is powerful for the beneficiary, right for the for the customer.

And I’m curious as today as people are going through these processes, you know, to talk about differentiation, which is the founder, like, look at Blake Mycoskie, with TOMS shoes. And there’s a major differentiation that nobody can copy or steal, which is his founder and origin story, the reason that TOMS started and the value the value is it aligned to so his, which he guided all the decision making for TOMS. So he’s in Argentina, saw all these kids in poverty, no shoes on, that kind of thing. And nobody could steal that story from him.

And I’m curious if you’re seeing an evolution in companies and how consumers are interested in people who are doing good business, and they want to know, who is this person? And can I trust them? And do I want to do business with them and buy their products?

Perry Marshall 23:40
So I think there’s a yin and a yang to this. I think the Yin is, is that your own story is the most unique thing in the world, and nobody can steal it from you. And that is a great start. And the Yang is on the back of that story. You need to build a business system, that eventually nobody else’s really great story can overcome because of what it’s intrinsically able to provide. So I don’t know whether Michael had a great story for his ship a car business,

I don’t recall that he really did. But he was a little smarter than everybody else in some respects. And he had gotten ahead of everybody else. But then he had to turn that guarantee into a shipping network. And now and so now he has both sides. So it’s kind of like, you know, there, it’s like, you might need a temporary moat around your castle just to keep the cowboys and Indians out. Right. And it’s made out of plywood. And that might actually be okay, for a little while. But eventually, you need bricks. You know? And stones and moats and everything like that.

Adam Force 25:06
Yeah, I think that makes sense. And, you know, if you don’t have a great, you know, authentic origin story, then you need a great product story.

Perry Marshall 25:14
Right. So, right, right. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Although, yeah, your own personal story, certainly. And, and I find that, you know, and really transactional products, these, these stories aren’t such a big deal. But when when you get to highly considered purchases, or if if they’re going to be following you for a long period of time, your personal story becomes more important than the particulars of your product.

Adam Force 25:45
It’s true. And I’ve interviewed people where even you know, small companies who are having a big impact, they will have customers that say, I’m so excited when I buy your product, because I’m proud to be part of the story. I’m proud of, like, what you stand for. And so people are really into, you know, trying to make good decisions that they they’re happy about like that.

Perry Marshall 26:05
That’s right.

Adam Force 26:07
Yeah. So I know, we’re going to be closing out on time real quick. But you know, man, you got so much I could pick your brain on between Facebook and the 80/20. We didn’t get to tap into too much. I’d be curious, like, you know, you know, will will, as far as Facebook goes – you know, you kind of mentioned this, it’s kind of like the tactics don’t matter if you don’t have like a strong foundation so that if the strategy is broken, that that actual, you know, the differentiation we’ve been talking about here, and you know, what really makes you stand out? If that’s not there, then all the tactics won’t matter. Right?

Perry Marshall 26:43
That’s right. That’s right.

Adam Force 26:45
Yeah. So do you have any insights just to close this out — and I’m gonna let you go — just on Facebook marketing, because everybody does want to win on Facebook, including our team and we have certain successes with things starting a sales funnel with like, certain free downloads, right versus just trying to sell a product directly. So any any top level advice for the small budget, starting entrepreneur who wants to get small wins through Facebook?

Perry Marshall 27:14
Well, so I’ll give you a quick tip. And then and then a larger strategy. The quick tip is that I think almost all pay per click now starts with remarketing and retargeting and and you start with that. And you think of it as your inner concentric circle the bull’s eye, and then you go,

Okay, so how can I expand this retargeting out a little further like, well, it could be retargeting people for five days instead of three days, for example, or two weeks instead of one week. And then how do I go to the next step? So that’s, like, just a really quick tactic. The strategy is everything in online advertising is 80/20. It follows 80/20. So it with with one minute to go here, I’ll just tell a quick story. A week ago, I had beers with a friend of mine, not exactly from my business world, and he’s getting ready to spend $206,000 on a two year MBA program.

And I said, Hey, have you read my 80/20 sales and marketing book? And he goes, I have it, but I haven’t read it. I said, Look me in the eye. I looked him in the eye. He looked me in the eye. I said, this book is as valuable as a year of MBA school. And he goes — he’s got a PhD from Cambridge already — and I said, he goes, are you serious? And I said, I’m serious. This book will totally change your life. We sell it for $7, including shipping at sell8020.com. If you go buy it, you’ll find out why. If you understand 80/20 at a deep level, you’ll be able to figure out almost any Facebook problem at a level of principle. So, I must go. It’s been great. Great talking to you today. Thank you for having me on.

Adam Force 29:06
Pleasure to have you, Perry. I appreciate your time and expertise and keep up all the amazing work. Good luck with everything.

Perry Marshall 29:12
Thank you, thank you.

Announcer 29:13
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meeting intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai