Creating a Brand and Online Courses in the Health Field with Mind Scientist Dr. Charles Parker from Core Brain Journal

In this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS we discuss creating a brand and online courses in the health field with mind scientist Dr. Charles Parker from Core Brain Journal. Charles operates in the field of mind science. They discuss building a brand in the health world and operating in a new field of medicine.

Having a way to tailor your message to your market is an important aspect of branding your product or service, because branding comes down to a very personal level. One of the big takeaways is creating product specific branding, and Chris and Charles go into depth on that.

Charles shares his story of how he got into mind science. He tells how he developed his interest and shares the knowledge he has in mind science, and how it relates to selling courses. Charles lectured doctors in psychopharmacology nationally for 20 years. He has a podcast and has done blogging on WordPress.

Chris and Charles get into how courses in the health field help to enlighten the patient on the subject matter they are at the doctor’s office to discuss. This allows the patient to be able to spot signs and progression of their illness, because they have the knowledge they gained through the course. The courses also help the doctors to stay sharper and be more educated when creating diagnoses. Courses in the health field help strengthen the feedback loop between doctors and patients and close off the traditional methods of the doctors just telling the patients what to do, with that being the end of the conversation.

The health field is changing, because consumers have subject knowledge about their illnesses. The newer way of operating in the medical profession has health care professionals much more willing to listen to the patient, and building courses in the health field to help educate consumers is helping to push this process forward.

Effective communication is another key skill to course building. Often when course creators make content they use language and terms not familiar to the general audience. So knowing when and how to break down concepts to help the consumer learn and when to take shortcuts with terms and ideas is important.

There are many opportunities for health-minded entrepreneurs to come together and create content in the health field. Chris and Charles discuss some of these opportunities and which ones are currently prime for the picking. They talk about functional medicine and traditional medicine, and different course opportunities in those fields. Each of those fields have different challenges associated with them, and they highlight some of those as well.

To learn more about Dr. Charles Parker you can check out CoreBrainJournal.com, which is his podcast where he discusses topics in the medical field with other professionals.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today we have a special guest, Dr. Charles Parker. His website is CoreBrainJournal.com. He operates in the field of mind science, and I’m really excited to have Chuck on the show because I wanted to help those of you out there who are in health or medical-related fields, and you’re looking to get into this whole world of online courses, or building a brand, or just helping people through the internet. You may have a traditional medical role, or you may be operating in some new field, or inventing your own, and when you do that, all kinds of questions come up, but transforming health and society is just such a needed thing, and there’s all kinds of people doing interesting things around the world. I mean, there’s never been a better time for people to connect with people leading those changes in health and offering new perspectives, and methods, and that sort of thing.
First, Chuck, thank you for coming on the show.
Dr. Parker: Thank you, Chris. I really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to talking to you. I’ve admired your work so much. It’s a real privilege to be here.
Chris Badgett: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, tell us a little bit … Like, what’s the elevator pitch of who you are, what you do, and what on earth is mind science?
Dr. Parker: Well let’s start with this one easy thing. I think the first thing we have to do as kind of a branding question that you’re asking me, and I think people really have to begin, if they’re going to do any of these kind of things that would put them with LifterLMS, or anything virtual, they really have to have a brand. What we do in psychiatry, mental health, any kind of the sciences, we tend to think more about that patient in the office, and how we’re going to work on that mind, and that body, and do something effective in that hour, but we don’t really think about the larger picture of what we want to contribute in our lifetime, what we want to do with other human beings. What’s our purpose? Those larger questions are almost embarrassing to ask yourself, because you don’t want to think of yourself in that monolithic way. You want to think of yourself as a real person. It’s almost, if you think of a brand, you’re thinking of yourself as Ford or something like that, and you want to be a personal guy, so you don’t want to be Ford.
I think branding comes down on a very personal level for human beings, because they have to have a way to wrap themselves around your message. That’s the way to start. Like, you asked me the elevator [inaudible 00:02:38]. They have to be able to say, “Here’s what I do.” I’ll give you a quick run on it. I’m strongly of the opinion that the current psychiatric practice in the United States and the country, globally, and the world, is woefully limited. That we’re in fact involved in a psychiatric fashion show, and it’s a game of appearances, behavioral appearances, and the science is woefully overlooked. Sorry I used woefully twice.
If you think about it, I think we’re in a Galileo mind moment right now, and that is, you know, back in Galileo’s time, the apparatus, the tools that they were looking at was, “Hey, the sun appears to be rotating around Rome, and so that’s what it is. The sun’s rotating around Rome, and Rome is the center of the earth.” Then you got this little tool, and if you look at it on Wikipedia, it’s remarkably inefficient and small, but he says, “Look through this doggone thing. There’s a whole universe out there, guys, that we’re missing.” Well, the guy just before him was burned at the stake because he was interfering with belief, and he was in a way branding what needed to happen with science, and he became the founder of modern science by using technology to understand what was going on with brain function. I stand on the shoulders of Galileo. He’s not a personal friend of mine, but I think that his ideas are very strong, and they’re applied today because we have so many really interesting new technologies, new ways of looking at the mind, that are really almost argumentative with contemporary psychiatry.
If somebody says, “Well, Parker, are you a psychiatrist?” Well, I am by training, but I don’t like to really call myself a psychiatrist, because that brands me into a whole field of people who are thinking reductionistically, overly simplistically, chasing labels, and throwing meds at inadequate targets. Me, I’m a comprehensive guy, and the reason I’m comprehensive is because that’s a middle ground. This is a long elevator speech, but it’s a comprehensive ground between psychiatry, traditional psychiatry, which I’ve been for years, and lectured nationally for 20 years in traditional psychopharmacology, and functional medicine. What happens in functional medicine, you go to a functional medicine conference, and they all think psychiatrists are full of it and idiots. They all say very negative things about psychiatry. “You know, those people can’t find a bean in a …” Whatever. You go to a traditional meeting, and they think, “Oh, there’s people talking about IGG, immunoglobulin, GE food sensitivities. Total flakes. They have no idea.” I’m between those two. I have my feet in both of those, because a lot of people in functional medicine aren’t that way. They’re into comprehensive thinking.
Then there are increasingly … I was at an American Psychiatric Association meeting about a year ago, and I was really pleased to hear them very frequently speaking about things like immune system dysregulation, metabolic impediments to the way medications are managed, and I think that my brand then, the way I’ve settled on my brand, which is the different brand, it’s an innovative brand, is I’m just going to be comprehensive, and I’m not going to do anything to anybody, for anybody, without data. I am absolutely against guesswork. I’m for data, and I’m going to do data until the cows come home, and I would train you. Like, let’s say if you were my patient, Chris, what I would tell you at an initial interview, I’m training you right off the bat to correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m going to listen to you. If I don’t get it right, you have to tell me I’m wrong, because the only way I earn any credibility is by getting it right, and I can’t know that it’s right or wrong unless you tell me it’s wrong, and I’m gonna do what I can to inform you, so you might have a guess about from your perspective why you think it’s wrong. That’s a long way of saying it, but that’s how I eventually thought about my brand, after not thinking about it correctly for a long time. I’ve been searching for it for many years.
Chris Badgett: That’s really awesome. I really appreciate you bringing that to light, and I think that’s one of the reasons we get along so famously, and probably the listener out there is probably really excited, because we’re both … I’m kind of in the part where I’m disrupting education, and I’m not just disrupting for the sake of disrupting. I just see a bigger … There’s more options out there. There’s more things that can be put together. There’s a more holistic way of doing things, and connecting people and ideas. Doing that in the health care field makes sense, so we’re in alignment there.
Dr. Parker: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: I think the mind science and that branding is really helpful. That’s really helpful and almost … This is the beginning of the interview, but I’m going to already go ahead and say that’s the big takeaway, because when you create a category, I don’t know if you created that word or not, but if you don’t have a way to describe what you do, and who you help, and in a way that people can really attach to, it’s either going to repel them or really attract them. That’s part of building your tribe. Otherwise, you’re just a needle in the haystack, and not everybody has to create a new category or something entirely new. You can just be the best at what you already do, but if you’re doing things a little differently, spending some time early on thinking about that category or what fields you’re integrating into one is a really great exercise.
My next question for you just has to do with, just give us the spread of what you do. Because I get the sense that you’re kind of a prolific guy. What I’m asking is, what kind of stuff do you do? Do you see patients? What have you done in your life? Do you see patients one-on-one? Do you still do that? Did you used to do that? I know you create content. You connect with other leaders in the field. You’re getting into courses. You have podcasts. Tell us all the kind of stuff you do, the layers.
Dr. Parker: I’ll do it quickly. To me it’s interesting, because I’ve had some pain along the way. I’ve had some bounces, and I think what happens for anybody out there, they have to look at, as Jocko Willink says in his podcast … Are you familiar with the Jocko podcast?
Chris Badgett: Yes.
Dr. Parker: He’s got this thing in there where a guy who’s been victimized or hurt comes in and he says, “I know what you’re gonna tell me when I tell you this.” And Jocko says, “Good.”
Chris Badgett: “Good.” Yup.
Dr. Parker: Then the guy says whatever it is, and Jocko says, “Good.” Because he’s actually saying, “You’ve got to reconceptualize what you’re doing, because the way you were thinking about it was limited. That is what happened to me. I was very interested from college years in psychoanalysis. I got interested in Freud when I read The Interpretation of Dreams when I was in college. My mother was a physician, so I said, “You know, I don’t really want to go out and deliver babies all day every day,” and I just love the intellectual stimulation that was associated with Freud, the mind science guy. I got into psychiatry, and I won’t tell you the whole story, but to make a long story short, I got very interested in psychoanalysis, and was trained by some of the best people in the country on psychoanalysis when it was the thing to do. My early years, I took seven additional years of thousands of dollars, studying psychoanalysis. I don’t consider a penny of it wasted.
Do I do psychoanalysis now? No. I paid a lot for a very remarkable experience with remarkable people. One of my training guys was the president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. I had some players that were serious, serious players, and they held my feet to the fire on the situation. I was in training with some serious, serious trainers, and it was very good. But what I ultimately found was the limitations of psychoanalysis in my everyday life with the people I was working with, because it was too lost in the imagination. I went to a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, and I’ll never forget, we were in like, whatever, the 10th floor up there, and the guys were all in black outfits, smoking cigars and pipes, all had beers. I was dressed a little too … You know, I had the coat [inaudible 00:11:22]. You know, I was looking a little bit too waspy, and they said, “We’re going to discuss now the subfunctions of the superego and how they talk to each other.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh. What am I doing here?”
Anyway, to make a long story short, I got out of psychoanalysis. I realized that I didn’t know anything about hospital psychiatry. Well, hospital psychiatry was just undergoing a marked renovation. I got all involved with that. I spent years doing that. Had some interesting and troublesome experiences there, because people were doing it differently than I thought it should be done. But again, that tightened me up. “I’ve got to do this right.” Then I actually improved that whole thing. Wound up consulting nationally for addiction medicine programs in a number of places. But then I was going along and I thought, you know, I was enjoying what I was going with psychopharmacology. I started lecturing. Every one of these was an attempt to understand the science better. Psychoanalysis was the best science. Hospital psychiatry, that whole science of group management, best science.
Then I got interested in psychopharmacology. It was the days of Prozac came out. It was like, “Oh my gosh. This is unbelievable.” We were using Elavil and Stelazine and working in a state hospital, and we had people … You know, I won’t get into the graphics, but seriously ill people. I was like, “Here’s a promise. If I know something about psychopharmacology, I’ll be able to do very well with this.” I trained and trained and trained, and wound up doing well with it, and as I said, I lectured nationally for 20 years. The good thing about that is they trained you with the best guys in the country every year, so you didn’t go out there and screw up. They want you to say it right, you know? What I found there was quite interestingly that even though I was doing what I understood psychopharmacologically should work, I’m in my office with a person who’s highly motivated and wants to get well, I like them, they like me, there’s no weird transferential or anything going on in terms of a bad relationship, but guess what? They’re a treatment failure on my watch, and I’m supposed to be an expert, and I’m lecturing nationally.
I said, “Okay. I’ve got to do something else.” Then I called Dan Amen out in California. Amen is the guy that’s written the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He’s got one of the big TED things, and talks about thousands of brain scans. I called Dr. Amen. I said, “Look, you need an office on the east coast, and I’m your man. I’ve been talking for a while nationally.” I went out and gave a presentation that he attended out in Newport Beach, and he decided that I knew what I was talking about and we started an office in DC, in [inaudible 00:14:08]. That was a privilege for me. It took me to another level. Again, another investigatory level of what’s going on in science, and then I realized where he was, and that was he was limited by his technology. He was going to stay with that technology, and I could see just in that brief period of time with him, and I’m grateful for it. I’m not running him down, but I mean, he had a lot invested in that technology, and that’s where he was going to stay. I could see that I was not going to grow anywhere there because in DC there were a lot of innovative functional medicine people.
Then I go, “Okay, well I’ll just go on out.” I really got very involved in functional medicine for a while. The upshot of this whole thing, I did all kinds of different testing until I finally rested with a new group of various tester people, but in the process, this gets around to the point. In the process, I had to find myself in each new reality. I had to identify who I was vis-a-vis that new reality. Was I making a difference in people’s lives, or was I somehow a treatment failure? Now, I was not really a treatment failure in terms of what I was telling the patients. I was helping them out. I could go in and read a brain scan and tell them about their arguments with their wife that they had not told me about. I got good at that, and then I got good at looking at laboratory results and saying, “This is probably what happens on Saturday afternoon.” Just looking through the lab results, I said, “Oh my god. That’s what it is.” But all of that didn’t really make me satisfied, so I left brain imaging and got more into molecular and cellular physiology, and that’s the future of psychiatry right now.
Now tomorrow, somebody could say, “Hey, Parker. You don’t know about …” Whatever. I just had a great interview on my podcast with a person who was really great. She was trained at Harvard and Yale on brain-derived neurotropic factor, which is brain fertilizer, for regrowing brain cells. It was such an interesting interview, and what was fun for me is she’s teaching me about BDNF and now BDNF can be enhanced to prevent Alzheimer’s through exercised. I had heard about it from its relationship with the microbiome. What I do with every one of these really cool interviews that I have with people is I wind up learning more, so I can see myself never stopping that business, because it’s a great opportunity for me, and then because I’m interested in what they’re doing, I give them an opportunity to talk to whomever, and they’re all pleased with what happens, and of course I’m learning from them.
Then along comes this guy named Chris Badgett, and I’m looking at him, and I’m thinking, “You know, this whole teaching thing is so much me, but I’ve never been able to find a format for it. I’ve never been able to actually put it in a package that the average person on the street … And Chris, remember this. For so long, I was really doing the B2B discussions. I was talking to the docs. Now, yes, I would talk to the patients, but my whole mission was lecturing docs. Thousands of docs, for 20 years, all over the country. I wasn’t talking B2C. I wasn’t talking to the customer. But this podcast has helped me talk to the customer, and that’s the transition to the actual training, because in talking to the customer, I realized through actually using other individuals that I do have a brand, and the brand is that process. That B is not talking to C, and I’m going to do everything I can in my remaining years to get B to talk to C, because if B is talking to C, C is going to walk in that office totally informed. They’re going to have an idea what they want to do, and there will be no if, and, or buts about it, and, “If you can’t do it, I’m going to find somebody that can, because I’m trained. I’m actually trained more than you are.”
I think that’s the way it should be, because I think as me as a professional, if somebody came in and said that to me, I’d say, “Let’s work together. This sounds great.” I think the average person, like, no, I can’t work with, because they’d be intimidated. Now, I think it’s changing. I’m not saying that everybody’s insecure like that, but there’s still an evolution that’s taking place regarding that participatory medicine relationship, and that horizontal respect for that person in the room, and really training them so that they can come back and really tell you what’s actually going on based on that science that you’ve taught them in the first place. That’s the long way around it, but that’s kind of what’s going on.
Chris Badgett: That’s good. That’s very good. I have some points to dig into with you. How long ago was the microbiome discovered? Do you know?
Dr. Parker: A long time ago, but they only recognized its importance recently, like in the last 10 years or so. I’ve got a tremendous podcast by this guy who says that Darwin was all wet because he didn’t understand the evolution and the real value of the microbiome in human evolution. He has a whole thing on meta-Darwinism, and he says, “Darwin’s out the window.” Because the way it actually happened, it wasn’t survival of the fittest by any means. It was the microbiome communicating effectively with each other that made the whole thing happen.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I would love to dig into that with you one day, but one of the reasons I bring that up is, especially now with how accessible information is and people, things change really fast. Could you give us some perspective for … How long has your medical career been that we’ve been discussing it? How much time has passed here?
Dr. Parker: 45 years. I’m 75. Yeah. I would say that the time between the brain scan, I did the brain scans from ’03 to ’07, four years, but those next 10 years is where I’ve just really been very busy, and thinking through who I am, and figuring out what my brand, who I am as a person for people that I’m talking to, and what I really want to teach. I mean, if a person is going to be talking to you and they want to do something with LifterLMS, they have a mission. They have a message. But what they do frequently, I don’t know if this is true for you, but I’ve noticed this in the podcast that I have, they don’t really rebrand themselves, or actually, pardon me. Initially brand themselves adequately, when they have a great opportunity to share a message with me. I think it’s remarkable that I’ve had 57,000 downloads in 86 countries, in less than a year.
Chris Badgett: And that’s your podcast you’re talking about now?
Dr. Parker: Yeah. That’s the podcast. I mean, to me that’s amazing, but if I were to come onto a podcast and had that kind of success, I’d want to have a pitch.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Dr. Parker: I want to know what the heck I’m talking about. Listen, I would say to you, Chris, “This is the deal, buddy.”
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Parker: “We’ve got to get this out.” But that’s only happened for me in like the last 10 years, because I’ve been … I think the thing that really helped me there was working on WordPress. WordPress, I started WordPress blogging right after I left Amen in ’07, so I’ve been doing that for a solid 10 years. I actually realized I wrote 46 … Pardon me. 460 posts. I slipped on that, but 460 posts. A lot of posts, a lot of opinion, and I realized that we were very busy. We had a very big list. I mean, for me it’s a big list. You know, it’s not John Lee Dumas’ list by any means, but it’s a list for me, because I’ve got thousands of people that listen to me when I hit that button.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Dr. Parker: I feel that’s a big responsibility. If I’m going to send something out, I’m going to be doggone careful about what I send out, because somebody’s going to use that down the road, and if I have somebody cross a little bit of a line in terms of talking to me, I’m going to get a clarification on that right now, because those listeners are out there wondering what the heck is going on. Anyway … Go ahead. Sorry.
Chris Badgett: I want to get into a little bit more of just your personal story. Like you mentioned, you kind of touched on legacy a little bit, and your mission, and what you really want to do, and really help people, and admit when things are broken. What is the driving … Where does your “why” come from? Why have you been so open to being a lifelong learner and just made this commitment to challenge assumptions, middle models, absorb new material as it arises in the field, and from practice? Like, where does this energy come from?
Dr. Parker: I can tell you something humorous, and it’s probably yes or no, and then I can tell you something real. The humorous thing is, I was reading. I have no idea why I got onto this book, but I’m an Aquarius. My birthday is on Groundhog’s Day. You read anything about Aquarians, and this is exactly my personality. You know, “They want to change the world. They want to do it.” Part of it is my birth order, in some kind of cosmic way. I’ll accept that. I’m not going to argue with that because it’s definitely been my deal. I think the other thing is, I had a great admiration for my mother. My mother was a family practitioner, and she had … We moved around quite a bit when I was a kid. My dad was in the military. He flew AT-6s and T-33 jets down in Malden Air Force Base. Then he was in the Navy during World War II. He was an aerographer’s mate out in the Atlantic on an aircraft carrier. Aerographer’s mate is a weather predictor.
Moving around a great deal as a child, I had the … Really, it was somewhat difficult as a kid, but I had an opportunity to meet a lot of different people, in a lot of different circumstances, and have to make adjustments to different schools. Then we also had the issue of, my father was an itinerant driver. We’d get in the car and we’d pack up from St. Louis or Dexter, Missouri, and we’d head down to Mexico. We’d go down, before Mexico even became a place to go, we’d go down to Mexico, because we could afford to go down there, and we would stay down in Tampico. We’d go to Mexico City, Guadelajara, and we’d hang out. That diversification of being on the road and meeting other people was definitely seductive for me. I mean, I just love it, and I loved it when I was out there doing the training.
I think the thing is, is it came to me, I liked just people. I just liked hanging out with people and having the experience of sharing things and growing together. It isn’t me doing something to them, and this is where I synergize with Danny [Aine 00:25:10]. He’s like, “This isn’t a one-shot deal where you’re training somebody. This is a mutuality thing that’s taking place here, and if you really conduct yourself appropriately, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn as well as to share.” Somewhere in there, I got off on that whole process, because I wind up … I love learning. It’s not me teaching. It’s my opportunity to learn, and so that’s really the end of it.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool, and I can definitely relate to that. I’ve had a lot of international experiences all over the world, and I was actually … I’m not a computer scientist or a business … I wasn’t trained in business, or technology, or marketing or anything like that. I’m an anthropologist, so I was trained in sustainable development and cultural anthropology. That’s what my degree is in. But I forget who said it. I think it was like Margaret Mead or somebody like that who said that you don’t perceive your own culture except from the context of another. When I was living in Nepal, or living in Honduras, or Peru, or traveling to Alaska, being in native villages, all these things, you start to become more aware of all the mental models and assumptions that are in place, in the place you came from, just because it has this wildly different perspective.
Dr. Parker: That’s right. That’s a good point. Very good point.
Chris Badgett: I appreciate what you’re saying there. The other piece in your story is just that entrepreneur drive to like see value and to challenge assumptions. It just seems like you’re just really open to that, and I think a lot of people get that wrong. The thing about creating value, like, “Oh, what’s this worth?” Or whatever. “How much can I charge? What’s my pricing?” But the real value is like helping the patient or the customer, like you’re talking about. If you’re helping … If you’re going B2B, business to business, the real value when you help that business is helping them help their customers.
Dr. Parker: That’s true.
Chris Badgett: That’s what it’s all about. Then just also, just that commitment to write blog posts and then create podcasts, I mean, that’s it. I mean, I’m up at, right now, somewhere around 150 podcasts. In my life, I’ve probably … I’m not as far as you. I’ve maybe done 200, 300 blog posts? I don’t know, but it’s just a commitment, and it’s a way to work out ideas, and it’s a powerful habit. I want to get into a question I get a lot from people who are in the health-related field, and this isn’t … Just disclaimer here. This isn’t medical advice, legal advice, or financial advice. We’re just sharing our experience. What does … In your experience, I think if you’re doing something online, especially in a teaching role where you’re taking money, how do you do that, in your experience, while staying above board and legal? Let’s say perhaps you’re juggling both. Perhaps you have patients in the office, you play by one set of rules, and then maybe you get a client, somebody you’re consulting online, or you’re interviewing somebody on your podcast, or you’re pushing out content. Where can people get into trouble, and how do you navigate those waters of legality, in your experience as a health care professional?
Dr. Parker: That’s a great question. I think the biggest problem there, one that I scrupulously avoid, is being categorically opinionated. Being so right. “This is what you must do, and if you do anything else, you’re going to be completely crazy. I’m telling you right now, do this.” I don’t think categorically anyway. I’ll tell you one thing. For you and your listeners, an absolute important book. You may have read it already. You sound like you have, but it’s the Alfred Korzybski Science and Sanity. That particular book changed my life. I should have mentioned it earlier, because I had a guy give me that when I was in internship in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A guy who you would never think would be passing on a really important piece of information. He had a Mark IV red Lincoln Continental. He wore green golf pants and a plaid jacket, and he had a pompadour hairdo, and he looked like Elvis Presley, and he was an internist. He was like a ladies’ man. He was flirting with the girls, but he was a good doctor. He’d come in the emergency room at two in the morning, and we’d be working on somebody, he knew what he was doing. But he just looked so plastic.
He said, “Parker, well I understand that you’ve written some poetry, and the way you think about things, I want to have a cup of coffee with you and talk about this person.” We went down, had a cup of coffee, and Korzybski had lived in his residence in Chicago in some apartment complex, and Korzybski lived a few either above or below him or whatever. He says, “This guy is unbelievable, and you would like him.” I read the book, and it was completely life-changing, because Korzybski’s whole pitch is that if we think reductionistically, we’re developmentally arrested. His whole thing is the field theory of general semantics, and the non-heuristity in field theory in general semantics. He says, “Aristotle started us going down the wrong path with labels, and we’re still stuck in it thousands of years later.”
Anyway, I got a little lost on that point, but I think the other thing is, back to what was occurring to me while you were talking, as I was thinking a little more deeply about the implications of what you were saying, and I think the other thing that a guy like you and a guy like me does this for is because it’s not necessarily … There’s a selfish motive. You do want to be constructive in the lives of other people. I definitely have a drive to do that, and I know you do as well, but there’s an innate curiosity that is … I’m just so curious, and I just don’t care. If I don’t know it, and it’s the least bit interesting to me, I’m gonna chase it down. That’s why I’ve been in all these other things. Then that’s satisfying to me to have a little greater sense of my own relationship with the order, with the natural order of things. “Okay, well, I can feel a little more comfortable about that.” You know? “I’ve got brain scans in my back pocket. I can talk about that,” metaphorically speaking.
Listening to your podcast, you have such a good understanding of training modules, and training tools, and so on. That’s been a curiosity for you, and you’ve obviously mastered it. I think the people that were listening to us, they need to say, “What is it that I really not only am doing, but what do I want to master? Who do I really seek to be in the branding? It’s not who I am, but where am I really, truly going?” That’s a different thing than an arrested … An arrested person says, “Who am I?” A person who’s in development says, “Where am I going to go? Where do I want to take myself? What am I most curious about?” Then that’s their brand. Because it doesn’t have to be that they have to be there. It’s that they’re going there and they’re determined to go there, and everything else makes sense after that. They will model that for others, because they’ll be a little ahead of somebody that wants to listen to where they are, who’s also on a curious trip, and they’ll have some fun with it because they enjoy that particular thing. Now, I found that with fly fishing for example. I was gonna do fly fishing before I got into brain scans.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Dr. Parker: I actually started writing. I was going to be an outdoor writer, because I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Fly fishing is enormously interesting. I mean, the layers, the fish, the flies, the etymology, the whole thing. I’m into bugs and collecting bugs anyway. I think that’s an example. I could use that as a brand if I wanted to, and seriously considered doing it. “Okay. I’ll be a psychiatrist who has a brand that where we go fly fishing, I’ll teach them about, through fly fishing, how to actually understand mind science.” That’s a little arcane, but anyway, I’m trying to put the two things together. That’s a little bit of another thought about the way to consider branding.
Chris Badgett: That’s really good. That’s really good. What about if there’s like some kind of governing body that you have to do continuing education for, or just like the American Medical Association, or avoiding … There’s certain things you can do in your office that you wouldn’t do online, or the worst thing you would want is some kind of malpractice suit, or something like that. In your opinion, how should a new person who’s thinking about adding value online navigate the waters of the legality or what their governing institution controls are?
Dr. Parker: Sorry. You kind of asked that before, and I got carried away with the other answer. The issue is really, in my mind, simple. That is not being too definitive in your answer, and always deferring to whoever their medical professionals are that they’re working with. If anybody gets on my YouTube channel and looks at the questions, then I refer them … A lot of times, I love Pretty Links, so I’ve got all my key playlists on a Pretty Link. I can just drop the Pretty Link in an answer and say, “Look, you’re having this kind of a problem and you just need to look at this series of videos, and out of that, you’re going to get some training and you’ll have a better idea of what to do next.” As opposed to me saying, “I know you as a person, and you probably have a bowel problem, and it’s messing with your meds.” I would state it in more general terms. You know, “It’s very likely there’s a metabolic impediment based on what you’re saying, and without correcting the metabolic impediment …” Which you have to measure the correct, you can’t just throw something at it. “Then with that metabolic impediment, you won’t be able to correct it, or you will be very difficult to correct.”
Now, that’s a general statement that has some higher degree of specificity without being completely specific. My thing, as a medical professional, is I don’t say anything specifically unless I have some data, and even with the data, I always say, “Sometimes the implication would be that this is a very likely …” But I never say, “That means that.” You know? I think that all we have to do is dance around a little bit and be supportive, but they’re looking for some direction rather than no direction.
Chris Badgett: Do you often say things like, “And, you know, do all this in consultation with your doctor?”
Dr. Parker: Yeah. I do. I’ll put a link to … They can consult with me. I mean, if you want to talk about it, I’d be happy to talk about it, but I always make it clear, you know, “If you’re consulting with me, I don’t really write for meds across state lines. I’m licensed in the state of Virginia, but you have to get somebody down in Texas to …” And then we get on the phone, I say, “Listen, I have a patient right now that I’ve been seeing on Zoom in Texas for … I don’t know. Probably eight years now, and she’s doing very, very well.” And the way it’s all worked is her pediatrician and I get along very well. I send the pediatrician a note. The pediatrician pretty well does what I say, unless they disagree. We go back and forth, but we manage it with due respect for the medical team that’s licensed and professionally hooked up in that particular state, so I’m not practicing medicine across state lines. Now, I think medicines are much more important to be careful about. You just absolutely don’t break that rule under any circumstances.
However, regarding supplements, if somebody comes in, you know, there’s no real control on supplements. I’m not taking a medical authority over if I said, “Give this a shot. Get back to me, and we’ll measure the results.” I don’t write for supplements unless I have a measurable target that I’m shooting at. It’s not like, “Hey, people do well when they take omega-3 fatty acids because it works.” I never say anything in a general term like that. My safety is being extremely precise and data-driven. Then I think anybody should do that. If you’re saying this, there are … And I think for example, psychologists talking about depression. Well, there are several ways to look at that question. Here’s one, here’s one, here’s one. “This requires that. This requires that.” Then the person is completely safe, because they’re not really taking an authoritative position with that particular presentation. They’re just trying to pitch in in the larger conversation somehow.
Chris Badgett: That’s really good. I appreciate you sharing your experience there around navigating those waters. What’s an example, if you’re comfortable sharing, like what kind of courses … I mean, you’re obviously an expert. You’ve been a speaker, a lecturer, and you’ve had patients of your own, B2B, and with the angle of really helping the end patient, and you’re a prolific content creator. When the online courses come into the mix, what’s the goal with those? Like, how do they-
Dr. Parker: I’ve had so many. It’s kind of ridiculous, because I’m having ideas about this all the time. I’m sure the people you work with are the same way. Like, “Oh my gosh. I have to nail one foot to the floor.” But it’s going to be easy for me to start with ADD. ADD medications, because it’s such a complete … You know, it’s terrible what’s going on out there. People are being treated inaccurately, inappropriately, misdiagnosed. I’m going to have a course where it’s going to do that, because it’s an easy way for me to start, because I’ve done videos, and coursework, and PowerPoints. I’ve got all that stuff. It’s just a question of organizing it into a course thing, and I’ve actually thought of two things in that regard, Chris. One would be having something just for patients so that they could take it and have a very clear idea of what they wanted to talk to their medical professional about, and that medical professional is increasingly nurse practitioners. Then I’m going to have another course for nurse practitioners and doctors, because the doctors I know from speaking with them, need some brushing up.
Now, when I was on the road, we brushed up a lot of people. We helped a lot of people think about it. There’s been a big kibosh thrown on medical speaking, so [inaudible 00:40:10], that’s in a way, it’s a benefit for me, because there are people who want to do it. They just don’t want to pay any money for it. They want dinner bought. “Buy me dinner, and you can teach me.” Well, I say if you want to learn, let’s get together and do it. I think ADD is an easy one, but I have all kinds of other ideas. It’s amazing, because if you look at what’s going on … I mean, I could talk about relationships until the cows come home.
You know, when I worked in addiction medicine, the whole word “codependency” was a … Codependency is as bad as ADD. It’s another word that goes nowhere. The whole concept of codependency if I were married to my wife, and I was an alcoholic, and she would be a codependent, because she’s codependent on alcohol with me. No, that’s not what the problem is. She’s dependent on me, and alcohol happens to be the problem, but she’s dependent on me. She’s not codependent on alcohol. She didn’t care about alcohol. The codependency is a misnomer in the first place, and then to say that someone is codependent, it almost has a gender-specific application, which is totally incorrect. I had full-on heroin addicts come in. I had a guy come in, he was going to prison for a three-state heroin operation. Very cool dude. Came in in his Mercedes. He’s getting ready to go to prison, federal prison, and he was a very cool dude. He was a lot of fun to talk to. He says, “Yeah, my wife gets the car.” The whole thing, and this and that, and the other thing. I said, “You know what you are, buddy? You got a big problem.” He says, “What?” I said, “You’re a codependent.” I’m messing with him, because he could probably … On the street he would have killed me, you know?
Chris Badgett: Right.
Dr. Parker: But he didn’t have the weapon, I don’t think, at the time. He got the joke. Because I said, “Look, you wanted to keep everybody happy, but you weren’t taking care of yourself, buddy.” He definitely got it, but that was not the cure, but it was something hopefully constructive for him. Again, we’re in the labels, and we’re into reductionistic thinking. I could do something on that as well. It would be fun.
Chris Badgett: Well, you know, the internet is just not that old. What it does, like what it did to bookstores, is it created unlimited shelf space, so you can have all these niches that couldn’t be in the Barnes and Noble or the small local book shop. Really there’s all this opportunity for niche content and niche ideas, and if we look at something like ADD for a second, and the thing with this, the websites and podcasts, like I can’t wait until cars just pull the whole radio out and just let me do podcasts in the car. I know it already exists. I just don’t have that kind of car, but that’s personalized, you know? There may be only 60,000 people in the world who care about what Chris says on LMSCast, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind being able to turn it on easily in the car without using their phone or something.
Dr. Parker: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: I guess my point is with this connection and the way people can now kind of do a lot of their own research, they’re becoming less … We’re talking about dependency. A little less dependent on the doctor, to like, “Tell me how it is.” People are going into rooms with doctors being well-versed in how cancer works and whatever is going on. Like, they’ve read the books. They’ve been to the blogs. They’ve listened to the podcasts. They’ve watched the YouTube videos. Just to bring it home for us, if you make a course about ADD, what does that do versus if they go, if they take their child or whatever to a psychologist? Where do the two pieces sit? Like, how are they different?
Dr. Parker: Okay, well let me address the first one and then the second one. The first one is, and we do this already. For example, my playlist at YouTube, I’ve got a playlist with all the specific playlists on it. I say, “Look, you just need to go look at this and read it, because if you do this, when you come back you’re going to be an informed consumer and we’ll be able to talk about this. But if you’re leaving, you can tell the chairman of the department of psychiatry at Harvard, ‘This is the way the stuff should be working, and it’s not working for me this way.’ And if he’s illuminated, god bless him. If he’s not, he’s wrong.” I’m that opinionated about it, okay? What happens is, I want them to have a constructive experience with whoever they’re with. Yeah, I’d like them to see me. That’s fine, but that’s not scalable.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Dr. Parker: What’s scalable is helping them have a good relationship with their doc, because if they have a good relationship with their doc, the doc is going to say to the next patient, “You know, you need to see this thing here, because this is going to be helpful. If you did that, it’s going to help me out.” Well, I just spend a couple bucks on it and get it down so that we can get on and drive that train. Then what I’m going to do on the side is train the doc on how to use it for a low cost, get him certified, because people should be certified to be writing for stimulant medications that are controlled substances, and right now anybody and his brother’s got an MD DO degree, and can just write for anything you want to. That is not the way it should be, because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Now, take it over to the second point you were talking about, which is slipping my mind right now, because it was a good doggone point.
Chris Badgett: It was the training versus going to the doctor’s office. Like, how does the course for ADD, which you’re saying it’s all about becoming an informed consumer I think, and then now when I go to the doctor, who’s hopefully familiar with the same research and coursework that I’ve been studying, but maybe with more medical details around it all, that experience is more to treat it, right?
Dr. Parker: It’s to treat it, and really educate the doctor. Now, some people, there are doctors out there that are … And this is what’s going on with the younger medical profession. The younger medical profession is more willing to listen than the older medical profession, because they’re aware of what’s going on with the internet training and this sort of thing. They’re happy to get some information. When I have somebody that’s out of state that I’m seeing, I tell them if they want to consult with another doc, I can’t write for the meds, “Don’t see a psychiatrist, because a psychiatrist is going to be threatened by me. He’s going to disagree with me. He’s going to tell you I’m all wet. ‘Don’t talk to Parker because his head is inserted somewhere, and I’m the man.'” So I say, “Don’t talk to a psychiatrist unless he sounds like he might be able to get along with me.” Because I’m not going to try to tell him what to do. All I want to do is be on the team. But I tell them, “Go see a pediatrician.”
Pediatricians are open, as are family practitioners. That’s all they do every day, is try to figure out what’s going on, in a very global, large way. They don’t have the … Their reputation is not stated on, “I’m the best guy in the world.” It’s like, “I’m trying to find some information.” They’re information junkies. That’s why they’re doing that. Then they frequently work out as a second opinion guy, and we can work with them on a team level, so that makes it more fun. It works out.
Chris Badgett: Okay. I have one quick question, and then one more big question. The quick question is, would you advise somebody to go after the B2B first, or B2C first, or put both in play at the same time, if they’re looking to start creating online courses, and training, and memberships around some kind of health issue?
Dr. Parker: I’m going to answer you in the way that I would answer on the internet, okay?
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Dr. Parker: Because I think it really depends on the individual. Some people, in my experience professionally, only want to talk to fellow professionals. Their whole identity is like, “I’m from Harvard, and this is who I talk to, and I’m in the club. Are you in the club? If you’re in the club, let’s do the Harvard handshake. This is who we are, and I don’t talk to anybody else.” They’re not into B2C, so I wouldn’t try to talk to them. I would say, “If you want to talk to Harvard, Harvard doesn’t know this. Talk to Harvard. That’s what you need to do, because you have the language down. You got the skills down. You’re a smart guy.” Honestly, I’m going to tell you right now, Chris, there’s some people I’ve talked to, and this is not saying anything negative about them. There are some really, really cool people out there that are Harvard … I’m using metaphorically, of course. Harvard people that want to talk to Harvard, but don’t have a system, so god bless them. They should go talk to Harvard. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Dr. Parker: That doesn’t make me right and them wrong. I can’t talk to them because I’ve already done something like that. I’m going in a different direction. If they have a transformational moment and they say, “Look, I want to change this thing on a global scale. I want to get down to the sea. I wanted to go into South Africa.” Well then they’ve got to go down to the customer level, because then they’re going to be … They’re on a much more global, scalable, “Let’s make this happen for everybody,” and I’m going to talk in terms that the average person can get. I’m going to set it up that if they don’t get it, they’re going to tell me they don’t get it, and I’m going to change it so they do get it. Then that’s its own kind of fun. Both of them are fun. There’s a lot of fun with both of them. I’ve really enjoyed … I have no regret whatsoever for the wonderful times I’ve had talking to my medical colleagues. I’ve loved it.
I can think of story after story where I’ve been in some kind of a funny situation. I’ll tell you one time I was in Waco and I was riding with a rep in the afternoon, and I saw the cows, and I was like, “These cows are so beautiful I could go out and hug a cow. That cow right there, I could hug that cow.” And so at dinner I brought this up. I said, “What kind are those cows?” I was describing the cow. I said, “I can’t believe you guys are in here and you don’t know what kind of cow that is.” Because I said, “I’m going to take one of those cows home. I’m going to stuff it and put it in my waiting room.” We got some laughs out of that, but that was fun talking to the guys. I loved that opportunity, and we had some laughs out of it. But I also enjoyed talking to the public, so it just depends on what your mission is, and who you are as a person, and that’s where you find what your branding is. You kind of practice and do what your mission is, and if you think your mission’s an academic mission, god bless you.
There’s a guy that’s really fantastic on an academic mission out in California, Steven Stall. I admire him a great deal. I’ve learned a lot from him. I think he’s one of the world’s preeminent psychopharmacologists. I want to get him on my podcast. That’s my secret mission, because he’s going to teach me again. He’s taught me a lot. I wouldn’t say to him, “Steve, you know, you should be talking to the public.” I wouldn’t say that. Nor would I say to somebody who’s like myself, I’m a street guy. I’m a practitioner in the street. I’m going to talk to street people because I know the pain that’s out there. I see it every day. There’s no difficulty for me to try to figure out what to say, because I see it and live it every day. Then it puts me on a mission there.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome, and I just want to really highlight what you’re saying there, and especially with all of your experience, one of your true gifts, and something for people to think about is, when you develop the skillset of talking like academic or at a high level to another professional, where you’ve got all the lingo, and you’re taking shortcuts with the terminology, if you can do that and you can also talk to the end person without being impatient and letting them learn, and taking all this, what maybe come from a complex body of work, but making it approachable to someone who’s not a trained professional in that field, that is an awesome skillset no matter what industry you’re in.
Dr. Parker: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s true.
Chris Badgett: Well, I kind of want to end it with like one big question. Some of the people listening out there are entrepreneurs. They’re looking to, let’s say, partner with health care experts, and attack big problems, or maybe they’re also the … They have some kind of specialty, too, and they just want to do it on their own. But I love talking to big picture people like you. I’m one of those, and I can zoom out to the humanity level, the global level, and that’s really fun for me, and I like doing that. If we were to look at where’s the opportunity, either what are some key opportunities, or what are some big problems that need solving out there in the health care world? Let’s just list some of those off, because as a parent, as a fellow human being, a guy with friends and family of all ages, I care about health issues, and if I were to lay out some of the … Let me just go first and lay out some of the big things I see on my mind. I’ve heard statistics that by 2030, 50% of the world population will be diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Dr. Parker: [inaudible 00:53:32].
Chris Badgett: I think there’s a lot of opportunity, like you mentioned, around the microbiome, in terms of health. And just general issues having to deal with toxicity and the environment. Addiction issues. Movement issues, like just people don’t move. I mean, the human body’s been evolving for a long time, but you’ve got to move it, and things are happening to people. Vision issues, like if all the screen time and close range focus. Those are just … I’m just spit balling, but those are some of the big opportunities for health-minded entrepreneurs and educators to come together and to work on these problems. What are some big ones that you see out there that really need addressing and are prime for the picking, or picking up the flag and joining forces and working on?
Dr. Parker: Well, it’s funny, Chris. You know, I’m listening to you talking, and I’m thinking about the people that I’ve just interviewed, because these folks need their own show. I mean, I just interviewed Joe Pizzorno on … He’s one of the top three guys in functional medicine in the world.
Chris Badgett: And what is functional medicine, for the uninitiated?
Dr. Parker: Oh, I’m sorry. Functional medicine is really … Let me just break it down real quickly. If you think about it, traditional medicine, for want of a better word, is acute medicine. You’re going to live or die. I’m going to save your life. I may have to cut your arm off to save your life. It’s acute, acute, acute. Even the immune system testing, IGE, is immunoglobulin emergency. If you eat that shrimp, you’re going to die, and that’s IGE. Now, I’m over in chronic illness. Chronic illness is more chronic. It takes place over time. It’s more subtle. It’s more nuanced, and it’s more … You have to dig deeper to see what’s not right in your face. If it’s not in your face, then it doesn’t exist to a traditional guy. What happens is the traditional guys, what happens is they fail to get the chronic illness piece, generally speaking. And they distrust laboratory testing that’s not LabCorp, whereas I myself distrust LabCorp, because LabCorp is good in several areas, but absolutely inadequate in other areas. Pardon me.
The chronic illness piece requires, as I said, nuances. Like I’m working with a guy right now, I don’t know if you listen to the podcast or not, but I’m working with this guy and he is a phenomenal guy. He’s a thought leader on molecular and cellular physiology. How the transporter proteins on the pre-synaptic nerve such neurotransmitters back up into the nerve so they can shoot them back out in milliseconds, and those transporter proteins have a rhea stat that’s modified by a thing called methyl groups, so if you’re over-methylated, these guys don’t work right because they’re shut down. If you’re under-methylated, they’re sucking all the neurotransmitters out of the … The whole methylation thing is like sitting right there, but it’s below the cell level, and you can measure it with a low-cost test. It’s amazing. But now the average person who’s a traditional guy says, “That’s hocus pocus. You’re talking out the back of a truck here, buddy. We’re not selling cantaloupes, you know.”
What you have is a split between acute and chronic. That is the main split between functional, and functional medicine does a great, great, great job of testing. What they do is, they disdain acute care. They don’t want to give anybody any psych meds, even though I’ve seen thousands of lives saved with good psych meds. They’re like, “You shouldn’t use psych meds.” Well, no, you shouldn’t use psych meds incorrectly. That’s the problem. Our psych meds are being used incorrectly across the board. That’s a whole nother thing, but the middle is somewhere in there. One’s really strong on all these micromeasurements, and the other one’s not. That’s the big difference. You said another question, though, that I was trying to [inaudible 00:57:52].
Chris Badgett: Some big problems or opportunities that in mind science or elsewhere in the health world, that really need … That are just prime for, you know, new training and thinking.
Dr. Parker: I think a big one, I had an interview. You were talking about exercise. A great interview with a very wonderful woman. It’s going to be published next week, on preventing Alzheimer’s. The whole thing was exercise, and they found that brain-derived neurotropic factor was actually enhanced by exercise. It’s documented, all kinds of research on it. If you do the exercise on a regular basis, you prevent Alzheimer’s. She has so much knowledge, she could easily do a podcast. Another one that I think should be doing a podcast would be some of these folks that are doing the … What am I trying to say? The seminars, you know, where you pay some money and you do seminars, and they have all these different people in. I forget what the terminology for it would be.
Chris Badgett: Like a summit?
Dr. Parker: Yeah, a summit. Summits will work. I think that’s great, but again, a summit is really talking down. It’s not talking with. Whereas we’re doing, we’re talking with each other. People who are listening to us are thinking, “I either disagree with him,” or, “I disagree with him.” But you know, in the conversation there’s no imperious discourse going on. We both have mutual respect for each other, and by definition, we have mutual respect for whoever is listening. Whereas when you get into the summit, you get into a little bit, like, “I’m going to tell you how it works. This is the way it works, and if you don’t do it this way …” Which is a little offensive. It’s not like we’re on a team. It’s like I’m learning from you, and there’s this imperious hierarchy, vertical management thing.
The deal is, this switch. I’ve been meaning to say this earlier, because it encouraged me that we would want to share this. The other difference between traditional medicine and functional medicine is that functional medicine is much more horizontal, and traditional medicine is much more vertical.
Chris Badgett: What does that mean?
Dr. Parker: Vertical in that, “I’m the doctor. You’re the patient. Shut the hell up. Nothing personal. Just do what I tell you to do, come back and tell me you did it. End of conversation.”
Chris Badgett: There’s no real feedback loop, or it’s not developed.
Dr. Parker: Yeah. It’s vertical. “I’m on top of you. You do what I tell you to do, and don’t give me any static.” I’ve heard this repeatedly from people. Now, what happens is horizontal is, “I’m telling you this. You tell me what you think.” We go back and forth. That’s participatory medicine. That’s the medicine of the future. That mutual respect is what’s going to make medicine acceptable. It’s one of the problems we have, is it’s politically unacceptable, because people are so vertical that they don’t trust medical professionals, especially with things like psych meds. Like, “I’m a doctor. Don’t ask me … I’ll tell you how it works.” Then they ask vague questions like, “Is it working?” “What do you mean?” “Well, you know, is it working?” “But you haven’t given me any criteria to figure out what the heck’s going on here. Why would you … What do you mean?” It goes back and forth. But if the vertical guy tells you what he means, then he’s going to lose his authority. You’ll be thinking like he’s thinking, which he doesn’t want you to do. He wants to think for you. That is not good, and that’s the end. That is going to be the end of traditional medicine. Thank goodness it’s ending, but that’s some of the differences.
Back to your question. There are so many people. Immune system dysregulation needs a podcast. It’s a major, major problem in chronic illness. Immunity could … A podcast could go on forever there.
Chris Badgett: I could have a whole podcast about inflammation, too, right?
Dr. Parker: That’s right. The same thing. I mean, just GI function alone could be a podcast. Podcasts on cardiovascular function and exercise. I mean, they’re probably out there. I don’t have enough time to watch podcasts and follow them, but yes, I think there’s a tremendous opportunity, back to sort of the mental health caring individuals. Talk about parenting. Now, I’ve interviewed a number of women who are coaches on parenting ADHD and special kids, so some of them are already in that quote-unquote market, but I mean, I think there are other things, like the whole business of autism spectrum, and what to do with developmentally delayed kids, and how to actually manage them. The difficulty of managing them through life. I mean, we’re going to have a whole … That’s a whole nother thing I’m going to do. I mean, that’s there. I’m telling you my secret. It’s out there. If somebody else wants to do it, that’s fine. We can work together on it. I mean, you can’t go too deep with that. Anyway, I think there are a lot of opportunities. I think it’s a pretty doggone exciting time, because the technology has completely changed the way we think about mind science. You just find what technology you love, talk it up, become a brand, end of conversation.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, Chuck, I really want to thank you for coming on the show. My big takeaways from this conversation is just admiring what you’ve done with the open-mindedness and the challenging of assumptions, and moving around to get different places of perspective while also staying committed to data and the science part, you know, double blind, placebo control, whatever. These aren’t guesses. Let’s figure out a way to test it, too.
Dr. Parker: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Developing your brand, and having a horizontal feedback loop so it’s not a top-down, “I’m the author. Listen to me. We’re done.”
Dr. Parker: So true. I have admiration for you, too. I think the way you handle yourself with your podcast, I love listening to your podcast. I get a lot out of it. Some of it’s over my head, in spite of the fact that I’ve done WordPress for years. I know that this is a whole new phenomenon in terms of … What are they called? Janis, what’s the second level from … You have a theme, and then you’ve got a …?
Chris Badgett: Plugins?
Dr. Parker: A child theme.
Chris Badgett: Oh, a child theme. Yeah.
Dr. Parker: I really don’t know how all that stuff works. I’m totally cool with plugins. Probably got a little crazy with plugins.
Chris Badgett: Most people do at the beginning.
Dr. Parker: Yeah. Anyway, I do admire you, and I wanted to make sure that I registered that, and I do look forward to working with you. I’m looking forward to our next conversation, and I’m going to get a little more into development before I take your time to go over it, but I’m looking forward to our next conversation, because the way you handle these conversations is exemplary. You do a great job. I think the way you handle the people like Danny Aine, who’s a hell of a good guy himself, I mean, this is what we all should be doing. I mean, this is horizontal communication at its best, and I appreciate it.
Chris Badgett: Well, thank you. That means a lot. Well, if you guys want to check out Chuck’s podcast, you can head on over to CoreBrainJournal.com, and there’s an episodes link on the menu. Just like Chuck’s doing, he’s really investing in his own education around teaching online, and sometimes it’s over his head, but I spend a lot of my free time actually listening to medical podcasts, and bio-hacking podcasts, because I’m trying to educate myself. I care a lot about health and nutrition and things like that, so I’m always open, too. I can’t wait to dig more into your podcast and see what some of this next evolution of the horizontal communication, the people who are teaching in that way, or challenging assumptions, are talking about. Where else can people go to connect with you and find out more about you?
Dr. Parker: Well, that Core Brain Journal is where we’re going to go. I have a … What I’m developing is Core Brain Academy. It’s not up yet, but that’s going to be the training site, and then I have a treatment site, which is Core Psych. C-O-R-E P-S-Y-C-H. The reason I don’t like Core Psych is because how can you spell it? But that’s where I did 460 articles, and by the way, anybody that goes over, I’m going to tell you right now, I’m embarrassed because I’ve got to change the theme. I had a guy I was working with. He put a new theme on the whole thing, and the fonts, the whole thing is a total mess. In a way, I don’t want to mention it, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of good videos over there that somebody might be interested in.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your experience with us.
Dr. Parker: Thank you so much, Chris. I enjoyed talking to you. Look forward to meeting you personally one day.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely.


Event Based Marketing for Courses with Product Launch Expert Tom Morkes

This episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about event based marketing for courses with product launch expert Tom Morkes. They discuss Tom’s story of how he got started with product launch management and his company Insurgent Publishing. They also highlight strategical tips for event based marketing.

Tom is an expert in event-based marketing. He graduated from West Point and is an Iraq war veteran. Tom founded and is currently CEO of Insurgent Publishing, which is a creative advisory and consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs grow their businesses through large-scale book and digital product launches. He has helped many entrepreneurs authors and online brands. He has worked with some really interesting clients, including Andrew Warner, Jonathan Mead, Taylor Person, Dan Norris, and many more.

They get into some details of event-based marketing to take some of the mystery out of it, so if you are getting ready to launch your course or you are a teacher and marketing is not your strength, this discussion will be useful for you. Chris and Tom discuss actionable steps and strategies for launching your course. They also talk about modern marketing strategies for your course.

Having an event or launch around your product release is important to its success, because you want people to know about it. So if you don’t have something that generates interest or awareness, it will get lost. Tom and Chris discuss this type of event or launch in depth and dig into the importance of having awareness of your product in the marketplace.

Hosting a large a launch of your product can also spread hype for it fast and can be a great source of advertising for your product in its initial stages. You can do many different types of launch events, and Chris and Tom highlight some advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular ones, such as giveaways, challenges, and livestreams.

Challenges are one of the best ways to build an audience around your product, because people who are interested in participating in this challenge can connect with each other. And it is a good segue to selling them your course or product. Chris and Tom contemplate the value of bringing in experts to promote and sell your product. Tom tells how to find these experts as well as how to approach them and ask for a partnership.

To learn more about Tom Morkes, you can check out www.tommorkes.com.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello and welcome back to another episode of [inaudible 00:00:04]. My name is Chris Badgett and today we have a special guest, Tom Morkes from Insurgent Publishing. How’re you doin’, Tom?
Tom Morkes: I’m doing great, Chris. Thanks for having me on.
Chris Badgett: Really excited to have you here. Tom’s an expert in event-based marketing. If you’re getting ready to launch your course or you’re a teacher and marketing’s not really your strength, we’re going to get into some really interesting details of event-based marketing and take some of the mystery out, give you some actionable steps or strategies to think about in terms of launching your course and doing modern marketing. I want to tell you a little bit about Tom, Tom is an amazing guy. He is a West Point grad, an Iraq War veteran, the founder and CEO of Insurgent Publishing, which has people that he’s helped include Johnathon Mead, Andrew Warner, Jeff Goins, Taylor Person, Dan Norris. They do some great entrepreneurial authors and online brands. He has a really interesting history with really interesting clients.
Insurgent Publishing is a creative advisory and consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs grow their businesses through strategic, large-scale book and digital product launches. Tom’s client projects have been featured in major mainstream media outlets, leading television networks, and top rank blogs and podcasts. He has consulted on books that have hit the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon Best Seller lists. He’s led the marketing and promotional effort that generator over $450,000, setting a Kickstarter record for the most funded non-fiction publishing project and has done multiple six-figure course in digital product launches. That is quite the résumé, Tom. That’s awesome to be a part … It takes a village sometimes to launch a project. If someone’s bringing in the special operator for the product launch, you’re the guy. Tell us a little bit about your sweet spot of, where do you come in and what do you bring to the table?
Tom Morkes: That’s a great question. If somebody’s hiring me or my team for that and we’re beyond advisory or coaching/consulting type of thing where we’re actually delivering a service for this, we offer a couple core things. Obviously there’s the consulting advisory piece, and then we offer a few other additional services for people who are inquiring about them and depending on our bandwidth. One of them is launch management. A lot of people will work with somebody, and some of these names are pretty big and will generate hundreds of thousands in a one-week period. These are pretty big and takes a lot of planning and a lot of prep and a lot of time and attention to make sure these things go off the right way. We do launch management to make sure that we hit our timetables leading up to some sort of launch or event.
We do affiliate management, that’s probably the biggest thing my people want to work with. My team in particular, we know a decent amount of people in this space. That’s the cool thing about doing these kind of events, the more we do the more partners we get, the more my network grows, the more people we are able to work with in the future. The nice part is, it’s a constantly … In terms of a business model for me, it’s nice ’cause I feel like I’m constantly generating more value for the people we work with, just through that nature of doing this work. Each launch is bigger and better than the next. At least, that’s what we shoot for.
Then we offer a couple other things like copywriting and paid ads. Basically, somebody would come to me if they’re like, “I have this platform, I have the product, and I have an audience but I want to reach a broader audience. I want to sell way more. If you could help me get more leads, get more traffic, get more opt-ins, get more sales,” that’s where we come in. Typically, we don’t really work in that capacity if somebody’s just starting out, not a good fit. There’s just too many variables. Typically we work with somebody who has something established and again, typically they’ve already sold it and so it has proof of concept. You don’t want to go into something like this without proof of concept, especially when you’re bringing out partners which we can dig into and get in more depth if we want to, a little bit.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s just do a little bit of educational piece for if there’s anybody out there who’s not aware of what a quote, “product launch” is in the digital space. For me, I can’t even remember what year it was, it must have been 2008 or something in there. If you’ve been into internet marketing for any amount of time, you would have come across Jeff Walker’s product launch formula. I think, in the same way that Tim Ferriss’ four hour workweek book, it’s like a key moment in time for a certain group of people, like, “Oh, okay, this person gelled all these ideas about this type of thing.” Jeff Walker did that for the product launch formula and he really opened the eyes to a broader market of how to launch an online business or a new service offering or a digital product or program. Jeff walker taught the steps to go through it. It was really good and he had a $2000 I think course on the back end of it, but even just his launch by itself was super educational in terms of for the uninitiated to really understand modern marketing and sideways sales letter and all these things. How would you describe a product launch and how has it changed, or what’s it like today compared to how it was 10 years ago in the digital space?
Tom Morkes: I’ll start by saying I can’t compare it to 10 years ago because I’ve only been doing this for maybe three or four years now, so it’s tough for me to get that much perspective on it, but I can tell you in that time I’ve seen things evolve and change. I’ll start with, your first question is, “What is the product launch?” I guess I would define it as, you know what, it’s strategically releasing a product. Product launch or any kind of launch. Any time somebody says, “I’m launching ‘x'”, they’re just releasing it, right? Just like any other thing gets released and I say strategically because when you release something, you want people to know about it. If you don’t have something that generates interest or awareness, it will get lost. You see this thing in the self-publishing space a lot. For example, some people write a book, put it out there, then it’s like they hope somehow sales will happen inside Amazon. That’s not how it works at all. Literally never, ever, it works that way.
You have to create the buzz, you have to create the awareness, and you have to get the traffic coming to this even if you’re using amazon or somebody else’s platform, right? That’s the idea, that’s why people want to get on other people’s platforms, typically, and they realize, “Hey, actually it’s not like that.” You put a course on Udemy, you’re not going to get sales through Udemy, probably not at least. I don’t know, maybe you do. But you probably have more command and control over your own platform if you do it through your own platform. I don’t even care where your thing is at, we do a lot of launches with books on Amazon, courses on Udemy, it doesn’t matter. The point is, what you have to be able to do is generate that traffic, create that buzz and that interest and get people aware of it and then get them to purchase. There’s a process that you use to do that, so that segues into what is it, the product launch formula.
I think Jeff Walker doing his thing online where he found this very simple way to un-aggressively or not aggressively lead somebody through a series of steps like emails. Typically he does email marketing and video-based marketing. Emails and then some video, and then have an open cart sequence where things are available for purchase. Again, it’s just strategically releasing this. Some people, they take that formula and they do this multiple times throughout the year. They re-releasing something, but again, every time it’s just a release of something. Books, digital products, could be courses, could be any kind of service. Maybe not really service, I don’t know if that would … Maybe it would. Typically, you’ll find it in the product space like at in-person events. Bring that to another aspect of it, so what we’ve done, we’ve now done this four, also including services and stuff like that.
We don’t always use that product launch formula as is. I backed my way into it, ’cause I didn’t know what that was while I was doing all the stuff that I was doing. I was learning on the fly, doing my own things, working with other people, learning from maybe other people who have learned from that. That’s how I got my hands dirty in that space, then I got the book. I read it, I was like, “Oh, okay. Cool. I’m pretty much doing all the things right, it seems like.” I kind of stumbled backward into it. I guess now, what we do is, and I guess the way things have changed is just that. I think it still works. It absolutely does ’cause it’s the fundamentals. It’s the fundamental marketing strategy. There’s going to be people who have a pain, a problem, and they don’t know about. There’s going to be the people who have the pain a problem they do know about it, right? There’s going to be the people don’t know, have the pain, don’t know about it.
These three groups, these three categories, the idea being when you put somebody through a systematic series of emails or something like that, they’re going to become aware of that problem, they’re going to realize they actually have it and they want a cure or solution, and then you’re going to lead them through that and say, “Oh, there is a cure and solution. Guess what? It’s mine. Here it is,” and it’s released. That’s why these things, when I say like you mentioned that we do event-based marketing and online event-based marketing, it needs a good way to look at that. I’m still working on the wording behind that, but the idea is how do we get people actually interested in that? That’s the thing, if you just put it out there nobody would care even if you use the product launch formula. Nowadays I think that’s the biggest evolution of the last few years that I’ve seen, is the need to be able to get people’s attention early on and get them opting into something interesting.
Typically we’ll do that by doing multiple types of lead magnets. We cater and craft a lot of our copyrighting and messaging for individual partners audiences like if we bring partners on. Then we essentially, we kind of break that. That’s the big thing, I think. We look at multiple points of entry into this sales funnel is what it ends up becoming, and that’s where the event is, it’s what people to be coming to this. If it’s a summit, it’s book launch, you don’t want to just release the book. There should be some steps leading up to it. How do we make an event out of it? Can we do a challenge? Can we do a competition? Can we do a giveaway? How do we use these different things that actually get people’s attention? Get them paying attention, and then lead them through the sequence of events which I think is a little different than what he discusses in his book. He talks about that specific step-by-step sequence of emails, if what I can remember. It’s been a minute since I’ve read it. I think that’s kind of what I’m seeing change a lot. It’s just the way we generate that traffic and get interest and get awareness. There’s been a lot of improvements in the way we actually get more sales. We can get into that, if you’re interested, too.
Chris Badgett: Totally. Let’s talk about what are some examples or categories of events? You can do webinars. You could have a live event. You could, like you said, do some sort of giveaway or special promotion. List it out for us. What are some types of events?
Tom Morkes: Some of the ones we worked on would be basically everything you … I’ll probably go through it and touch on some of the things you already mentioned, but summits are a big one. Virtual summits, individual training like online webinars or training. Livestream events, Livestream is very popular right now, it’s a great way. You can create an event around some sort of Livestream or series of Livestreams or something like that. Challenges, so, this is great in the health industry. You run up “21 day green juice challenge” or something, I don’t know if that will kill you so maybe don’t do that. Don’t take diet advice from me, but you do some sort of challenge that leads in. People are like, “Okay, I’m going to take this challenge,” and then guess what? At the end of it or during it, you’re essentially subtly and then maybe not so subtly toward the end selling something that’s related to that. That’s the whole idea. Challenges are a great one.
Giveaways are okay, I think, if they’re really targeted. I think that’s the problem, though, if you give away an iPad and you’re selling software and how to make courses, you may have a pretty low conversion rate from people who opt-in to get that free iPad to then using your software. That’s the idea, so that works really well but we have to be consistent with what it is to generate the interest. That, I think a lot of people want a shortcut, like, “Oh, I’ll give away prizes and that’s how I’ll get people interested.” That’s not good idea. You want to start with the audience first. Then there’s creating. Within those different aspects, there’s ways that we create interest around different types of products that are being launched, like a book. With a book, I might do something like maybe I would do a challenge that leads into it or maybe we would do a series of Livestreams leading up to it. Maybe we do some sort of, who knows. Maybe it’s an email series. Again, in that case then we’re driving people to that. They’re entering that launch funnel or launch sequence. It’s built in and around an event. I think I covered most of the ones that we’ve done. We’ve done product launches, we’ve sold all sorts of products using those kind of tools.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. Let’s walk through a hypothetical course builder’s sales and marketing funnel. If I have a course on, let’s go health and fitness, some kind of kettlebell training for … I’m just thinking like for people over 40. What could a generic starting point of a sales funnel look like? I’m launching my course in the Spring and it’s the middle of Winter right now, and I’ve got three months of runway. What should I do?
Tom Morkes: Sure, tough question. Taking that into consideration, that’s a really tough timeline.
Chris Badgett: Is it too short or too long?
Tom Morkes: Typically I would do six months out for something like this. The thing is, we want to get tens of thousands of people into this, not hundreds. Sometimes it takes a little longer. Give me six months, and we can work this out.
Chris Badgett: Okay, you’ve got it.
Tom Morkes: Sure, so we were six months out. I think number one is, you know the product and you know the target audience, over 40, right? It’s a kettlebell course, like to teach you how to use kettlebells, that’s the idea?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Kettlebell, get back in shape after 40 with a kettlebell. No gym membership.
Tom Morkes: Perfect. I know I don’t really care about anybody under 40 for this product, so I’m definitely not going to do any kind of event that would … I don’t want to necessarily say no to them, but essentially I do. I really don’t want anybody under 40 coming to this. Or, at least, way under 40. 20 year olds, we don’t really care about so we don’t want to speak to them at all, number one. You know your target audience, you know what the product is you’re going to sell. Kettlebells, but ultimately there’s always that, “Why?” Okay, [inaudible 00:15:11], etc etc. Whatever. The thing is, the unique thing here is probably that kettlebell.
A couple things you could do, one is if you put together … Some of the examples we already mentioned, a challenge. I could put together a challenge for people, a 40+ challenge or for men 40-60. I’m guessing more men would purchase a kettlebell thing than women, I have no idea. I’m not in this market. If we do it [inaudible 00:15:39], ignoring that we just say the challenge would be a seven day, or maybe it’s a 21 day challenge, for 40-60 or something or 40+ to get back into shape. To get ripped and get looking like they’re 20 again. You’re going to put them through a challenge and the challenge is that people are gonna do something each day and they’re gonna update this Facebook group and let them know. What you have to do is, “Here’s the basic program you’re gonna follow. Each day you’re gonna be active for 30 minutes, you’re gonna do one of these weightlifting [inaudible 00:16:12] whatever exercises.” The idea being somebody is going to see that, hypothetically, somebody’s going to be sharing somewhere, somebody else is going to see it, they’re like, “Okay, I’m over 40. I’m kind of out of shape. 21 days is gonna let me get back in shape or at least get me started. I’m gonna take that chance, there’s gonna be a support group.”
Going through it, you have to give them some sort of process, help them to attain some sort of results. At the end of that, chances are they come out with some good results, but that’s the perfect segue into saying, “Here’s how you take it into the next level. You’re at this baseline, but kettlebells are things that are going to bring you to the next level.” It’s a specific. You go general to specific. That would be one example. Another way you could cut it is running a virtual summit or type of Livestream series. You could bring together experts in weight loss for people over 40 or for strength gain over 40. It would be like, “Over 40 fitness summit,” and you have somebody on it who’s specifically about losing weight over 40. One specifically for men, one specifically for women. Maybe there’s weight training for over 40 [inaudible 00:17:17] bulking, or whatever it is you just cut it up. Get 6-12 people and do something like that, you could pre-record the interviews, they don’t have to be live. The point is, that’s what you’re promoting and sharing.
Again, the reason people will get compelled by the challenge of this is they’re free. It’s free entry. That’s the idea, it’s free entry into this. That’s what makes people’s ears perk up and that’s why people will attend. “Okay, it’s free. I’m going to join this. I’m gonna take a chance on this.” It allows you to get your face in front of them and your voice and that you’re the coordinator, you’re the person putting all this together. Even if you leverage experts, which is a great way to build your … If you’re kind of a no-name, which I was so I get this, [inaudible 00:17:53] talking down to anyone, but if you’re not very well known, that’s great way to also benefit from the social proof of having these experts on. [crosstalk 00:18:04]
Chris Badgett: Let me ask you a question.
Tom Morkes: Totally.
Chris Badgett: How do you get experts, what’s in it for them to come to your virtual summit if they’re already got it going on? Why do they do that?
Tom Morkes: The really big names, typically they have to see that it’s going to be worthwhile. On their end, usually it’s going to be you’re doing something for them. Behind the scenes of everything that you see is people making deals. For the big name people, I don’t even honestly touch them. I don’t really want to work with them because of that. That’s a huge limitation. They’re gonna want to take way more from you than you’re gonna get from them, that’s just the way it is. Unless you have a personal connection or a personal relationship with them, typically you’re not going to get those bigger names unless you’re giving up something really big. I don’t know what that is. What I always look for is who are those B-listers, so to speak? I don’t know if that’s a negative thing, but who’s somebody like me who has maybe a website, a platform, an audience of maybe five, ten thousand subscribers or fifteen to twenty thousand, something like that. Who’s an up-and-comer or who has a really established niche or established presence in a certain niche?
I say who are these people that most people don’t quite know about but they have their own following? They do have their own audience. There are people actually who specifically respect them and follow them and learn from them. Those, I think, are the money makers for you in terms of running an event like that. Not only one, they’re going to be interested in having a spotlight on them, but two, they’re going to be easier to work with and three, they’re typically going to be able to promote or share. Again, the bigger names you might be able to land a bigger name by making a very relevant approaching them the right way. If you have some connections or an intro, obviously that’s the money maker right there. Barring all that, I always assume the person starting from scratch doesn’t have the connections, doesn’t really have a ton of money so the person’s bootstrapping. You want to focus on the people I just described. People who have a presence but aren’t so big named that they’re going to ignore you. You’re looking for the people who are going to reply to their emails, reply to their own emails. They haven’t outsourced that to somebody else. They don’t have a team of people in front of communication coming to them. Those are going to be the people you want to bring on. It helps.
The thing is you’ll find this in any space, fitness too. You’ll find the people who do have some sway in the industry who are bigger names. Maybe not the biggest, but bigger names. They can be swayed, again, either by reciprocation like helping promote something of theirs. I guess you could pay them, typically I’ve never done that, I’ve never seen that done, but I know it does happen. There could be a fee. Then there’s the affiliate component to it, which is compelling for some people and not so much for others. The idea being that when I have the conversation with partners and bring them on as speakers or even if they’re not speakers but they’re going to be promoting one of our events or products or something like that, we’re going to give them a cut of the profit from their leads, that kind of purchasing. If they push 100, 200, 300, 400 opt-ins, they get 5-10% of thats purchase and that turns out to be ten grand, they’re gonna get a percentage of that. 30%, 40%, 50%. The inner marketing space is always higher, but in health you could probably do it lower. In certain other industries that’s not quite as tapped out, you do a lower percentage and people are very interested in that. It’s a huge market.
Affiliate marketing is the way to go. In that case, if you’re bootstrapping and trying to get it off the ground and don’t have a huge budget for paid advertising or something like that. That’s how I would cut that one.
Chris Badgett: Let’s talk a little bit more about affiliate marketing and recruiting affiliates. Let’s just use the same example. If I’ve got my specialized, niche, kettlebell training but I’m newer to internet marketing, how do I find affiliates? Not just find them, but get them to trust that them investing their time in my course is going to be a good idea?
Tom Morkes: I’m going to give the basic overview and then talk about the more detailed way to actually … There’s something to be said for actually finding and identifying and connecting and there’s a different sort of actually getting them to say yes and promote. I’ll start with the first part, which is the research and recruitment piece or the research and outreach. Research, you need to know the target market. You need to have some sort of idea of the demographic. In this case, over 40 looking to get back into shape, looking to lose weight, perhaps. Who’s going to be great for kettlebells? Possibly more male audiences, but that’s kind of irrelevant. What else. That’s like fathers and parents, fathers and mothers who want to lose weight, get back in shape. Parents who want to get back into shape, lose weight or build muscle or whatever it is. Those are the basic ones I’d start with, right there. You have that.
What I usually do when we do market research for clients then we’ll break it down to marketing protocols. Say your number one protocol for this is going to be obviously, the general one is anybody over 40 looking to lose weight. Then there’s the over 40 looking to gain weight, you know, gain muscle mass or something like that. Then there’s where we can splice it and say, “Okay, there’s specific women’s type of fitness,” or something like that. Or there’s certain types of exercise, like Crossfit would be another vertical. What about over 40 Crossfit? What about over 40 marathon runners, maybe they could use kettlebell training? Maybe they could, I have no idea.
Going with this, that’s how I start to break out this marketing verticals. You have to have some sort of intimate knowledge of this or when you do the research I figure that out as we go and look at it deeply. When we break this down, we have 10 verticals it could be. Then I’d go through a very simple process: Use Google and I search the term and then “+ podcasts” or the term “+ blog.” In the first few pages of Google you’re gonna get the key players in the industry in terms of bloggers and podcasters. That’s where you start. I put together a list of that, I say, “Well, podcasters are super easy one,” ’cause they want to, again, unless it’s the biggest names, podcasters are usually really open to good guests and stuff like that, good content. Bloggers, too, in the same space, depending on what they do. You could also search “+ YouTube channel” or something like that. There’s another space where fitness would probably be the most … You’d probably get the biggest bang for your buck in that industry.
Then I find it, I find these 10 blogs, these 10 podcasts, these 10 YouTube channels. I compile their information, first name last name of the person who’s running it. We don’t care about corporations, we only care about actual bloggers, podcasters, individual soul where there’s a name behind it. We don’t want the generic anything, that’s useless in this context. You only go with blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels where there’s a specific person, a specific name behind it. You’re looking for those personal brands. I’ll find their email addresses and then I’ll find them on Twitter. Then I recruit them. That’s the overview, what I just gave you. Now getting to the details of how do you get somebody to say yes? This is a process I’ll-
Chris Badgett: Let me ask you-
Tom Morkes: Yeah, go for it.
Chris Badgett: Before you go into that … Do you care if they’re already an experienced affiliate marketer? What if they have a great blog, but they’re not affiliate marketing yet? Do you not care or do you-
Tom Morkes: That’s way better. I prefer that.
Chris Badgett: For them to not yet be doing affiliate stuff?
Tom Morkes: Yeah, to not be spoiled. ‘Cause then they’re like … chances are they haven’t been doing that. This isn’t the case across the board, but if they have not been doing that but they’re open to it then chances are, especially if they have a platform, they’re making money somehow. That is not through affiliate stuff which means that their list is probably more highly engaged, they probably have a really good connection with their audience. Not always, just cause you’re an affiliate marketer doesn’t mean you have a good connection with your audience but I think those people are the best.
Those platforms are less inundated and here’s the key thing ’cause this is the nature of affiliate marketing: If I’m going to promote somebody else’s thing, it’s going to go out to my lists. They’re going to see it, and I’m gonna be promoting this other person. If I’m going to somebody’s platform or outlet, it’s personal blog and he doesn’t do affiliate marketing well that’s great ’cause he probably hasn’t promoted a lot of other people’s stuff. That means my whatever it is, my event, my challenge, my summit, my course, my product, is going to get more aware. He’s gonna be a better [inaudible 00:26:19] of interest ’cause people won’t be used to it. It’ll be a pattern change, pattern interrupt if you will, ’cause they won’t have seen it a lot. I think those are the best. I don’t think you should care if somebody’s actually done affiliate marketing or not. Just go after the person who has a good audience.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. Let me ask a really fine technical detail, how do you find somebody’s email address?
Tom Morkes: I use a lot of different tools. One of them that I’ve used is Ninja Outreach. Plug in a website and you can pull it up. I go to tommorkes.com, I think it will find my website on there. I could probably find yours, Chris. Possibly [inaudible 00:26:51] your website. There’s a lot of tools out there like that. I could probably go through a hundred. There’s so many. You just ask Google, “How do I find people’s email addresses?” You’ll find software that does it for you.
Chris Badgett: Right, okay. Well, back to what you were saying. We’ve located the affiliates now, or the potential affiliates. What’s next?
Tom Morkes: You either know these people or you don’t, right? Now let’s [inaudible 00:27:17], one lead is easy so I’m not even going to talk about it. [inaudible 00:27:20] This is what I’m doing, this is why I think I’ll be a good fit for your audience. This is why I think you should be a part of it. If you make a good case and they have availability on the calendar, chances are it’s going to be yes.
For cold leads, like colds, platforms you’re interested in but you don’t know them, I like to go through a process where before I ever ask them anything I want to get to know them honestly. This takes a long time, hence the six month lead time. I want to find them on Twitter, I want to follow them on Twitter. I want to start re-sharing their stuff on Twitter over the course of a week or two. I want to engage with them on Twitter once or twice, comment on some things. I want to sign up for their newsletter or their podcast or their YouTube channel. I want to comment on those things for a few weeks. I want to then engage with them and let them know. After I do that for a week or two, I’ve re-shared, I’ve tweeted, I’ve left comments on their blogs, on their podcasts. I’m on their newsletter. Even better, if they have lower-priced products that you can purchase ’cause you don’t want to spend tons of money for this, but if you can spend $10 on something that they have, that’s great. Then let them know, “Hey, I just purchased this. It was great, I really appreciate it.”
That’s the simplest thing. You want to start making sure they see your name enough where they start to notice it. Takes about nine times, I think. There’s some science behind it. Think about nine impressions is what you want to give somebody. Positive impressions. You want to share nine times or be positive nine times in front of them before you ask for anything. Then what I’ll do is shoot them an email and I’ll say, “Hey, I’m from,” if they have a newsletter. Again, I really don’t want to go after people who newsletter anyway. I want to go after people who … That would be the prerequisite for me, typically. I want somebody who has an actual newsletter, because then they know the value of email marketing, they understand how profitable it can be and they’ll get the most value out of this promotion. If they have an email newsletter, I’m signed up for it, I’m going to reply to one of those, comment on it, say, “Hey, I appreciate this email.”
You’ll be surprised, if you’re at this level you’re not at the corporate newsletter level but you’re at the personal brand level, most people will see that email and they’ll respond to it and they’ll be super positive about it. It’ll be something that means a lot to them and they’ll notice you. It’s so simple and so many people don’t do it. A lot of people reach out to me through a contact form. Which works, but it’s like, “Man, take two seconds, sign up for my email list, respond to one of my emails, and I’m going to see that and recognize that you’re on my list. I care about you a lot more.” That’s way better. If I get a positive response from that, they’re like, “Thanks, whatever, awesome.” After that, what I’ll do usually, maybe if I have a week later, two weeks later, something like that, I’ll approach them and say, “Hey, we talked a little wise back,” kind of reference the things you’ve done ’cause people are busy. Then I’ll say, “I see that you focus on this topic with your audience and that you’re selling x, y, or z,” or something like that. Focus on them, their audience, how they do business and make money, but also focus on the value they give to their audience.
There’s one or two ways I’d approach it: One is, and I kind of just guess, but I always like to go the audience route. If these people are doing this, chances are they’re passionate about it. Chances are they really care about their readers, their listeners. They just do. If I can approach and say, “Hey, I’m one of those people that you care about,” you don’t say that, but, “I’m one of those people, I’m in your audience. This is great work that you’re doing. I want to say, you know what I thought would be awesome for your audience would be this summit. They’re going to be teaching this topic, I think your audience would get a huge amount of value out of it.” If I’m doing a summit then the easy thing is, “And I’d love to have you speak. Would you be interested in speaking? If you’re interested in it, let me know and I’ll get you more details.” That’s an easy selling point. For those people who are in that middle ground, they want more eyes on them. That’s why those summits can be super valuable from a list-building perspective.
If you’re doing a challenge or something like that, it might be the same thing. It would be like, “This challenge I think would be great for your audience. I think they’d get a huge amount of value out of it ’cause you talk about x, y, and z and this challenge will help them do x, y, and z,” or something like that or make it better. You just connect the dots for them, that’s how you present it. You want to make sure this email has a single call to action. “Let me know if you’re interested in more details,” or, “Let me know if this is of interest, I’ll get you more details.” Then you can get a yes or no. If you get a yes or no or a maybe, yes or maybe you’re awesome. No is great too, ’cause then you know you don’t have to pressure them or anything like that, it’s fine. There’s no harm, no foul.
If you get a yes or I’m interested or a follow-up, let’s get more information, then I go through a follow-up process where I try to get on a call, try to talk through the project, then I try to lock-down dates and times on that call. As soon as you get somebody on a call, they’re receptive, they’re gonna be ready to actually help you, and they’re gonna have time on their calendar right then and there to do it. You just do things through email, you’re never gonna get on somebody’s calendar. I’d like to get on a call. All of a sudden you realize this is quite a bit of work. It takes a long time to do this. It’s so powerful, it’s so valuable. You’ll be able to leverage this partnership and this relationship for so long. That’s how you’re coming it at, you want to create value for their audience.
I always think in the back of my mind, “How do I help this person who’s going to help me? What can I do for them?” That’s maybe an addendum to this. How do you provide value? Maybe the way I approach before this is I would have them on my podcast if I have a relevant podcast. Get to know them first. Then I’ll do the next thing. Maybe I could blog about them first and do the extra bit. You have to give, give, give, and then I think you can ask for something like this. That’s the best way to have a relationship.
For that launch that you’re doing and then ongoing. These people, partners of ours … I’ve worked with partners that I’ve worked with a dozen times now. That’s awesome, it’s a great feeling ’cause then I can help them make sure they make money from these things, that they’re successful. I’m always trying to look out for what would their audience truly appreciate, so I get to know them and I can bring them opportunities and I can simultaneously find opportunities for them to get exposure, too. I like to hook up the partners I work with and say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’re interested in this but maybe you’d like to speak at this event.” Or, “Hey, have you been on this podcast? Maybe I can make and intro to you.” That’s a huge value, you know? Most people don’t take the time of day to do it.
Chris Badgett: That’s really awesome. I like what you’re saying there, just about value, because this whole thing and product launches and event-based marketing, it’s not about manipulating people or pressure selling. It’s about creating value for everybody. Even to the beginning of this episode you were talking about you like to work with people that they already need to have some traction. They already need to have a pilot or some proof of concept. There’s no reason to recruit affiliates if you don’t have proof of concept. What that means, if you have proof of concept, is the course or the product or whatever, it has value. That’s good for the end user. Now it’s a marketing sales execution game. Then like, “What’s in it for you? What’s in it for your affiliates? What’s in it for all the other people who helped support the launch?” As long as everybody wins, that’s really the name of the game. Like you mentioned the fact that a lot of your partners are with you 12 times again, again, and again. They’re not going to keep coming back if there wasn’t value there or they didn’t enjoy the process. That’s really awesome.
Tom Morkes: That’s the thing. That’s the key, I think. Not only is this personalization, ’cause most people don’t personalize. They want to hire somebody from God-knows where to spam people’s email inboxes this generic pitch that makes no sense. I’m sure some of them succeed. In the context of at least what I do and what my team does and for the people we do it for, it’s like relationship-driven marketing, for the lack of a better term. I don’t mean that as a catch phrase, but I literally mean we know our partners. I worked with you, Chris. I know you. We’ve connected, we talked, we spoken a few times. There’s that relationship that’s there regardless of any kind of promotion or anything like that. That’s the thing. That takes a lot more time and is so much more valuable though. It’s like the 80/20 principle. It’s going to take me way more time to do this, but I’m going to get 10x in the long run if I do it right, if I take the right steps and you’re in it for the long-haul. I would make a note here, I think a lot of people get greedy and lazy and they don’t want to put in that time.
They want the quick fix, they want that … I published a book on growth hacking, but they want that growth hack to get immediately to the next step. I do love growth hacks by the way, but you use that in lieu of the hard work of building a foundation and building relationships, you shoot yourself in the foot in the long run. I’m a big proponent of get that base foundation, make sure you can sell your course to your own students. You find a way to generate interest and leads on your own for your course and sell them, get some sort of base [inaudible 00:35:30] to say, “Okay, I’m gonna take this up a notch and bring in partners, bring in promoters and stuff like that. The last thing you want to do is have them push traffic your way nobody buys. Then they get just a bad experience. It’s a bad, bad thing. Don’t do that. Make sure you can actually sell your own course before you start looking for other people to promote it is the only caveat I would give to this.
Chris Badgett: That’s a really good point. I love how you’re saying about relationships, if I’m teaching somebody or working with somebody on my team in a sales capacity, I always go back to the fundamentals: Inbound, outbound, and relationships. The three types of sales. Inbound’s basically content, outbound is cold outreach prospecting, and then relationships is what you’re talking about here. Maybe a prospecting thing start turns into a relationship. I think in this digital age and this solopreneur, work from home, outsource your life thing, that whole relationship component is not … It’s almost like a scarce resource in the world of the internet. To actually consciously invest in it, I’m not trying to get these affiliates I’ll never meet and whatever to promote my thing and hopefully they make some money. It’s about building up long-term relationships and always having an eye out for where’s the mutual value or where’s the win-win. What makes sense to collaborate on, stuff like that. I think that’s really awesome.
Tom Morkes: [inaudible 00:36:54]. Totally. I think you always come back to the [inaudible 00:36:59] audience, it’s always going to be a win. Even if that [inaudible 00:37:02] isn’t the right fit at the time or they’re too busy or whatever. But you never, I mean out of the hundreds, maybe close to a thousand at this point, interactions I’ve had with potential partners and stuff like that, maybe one or two of them have gotten upset by me trying to have this conversation. The vast majority, even if it’s a “No,” it’s a positive no. I think that’s the big thing to take away. Don’t be scared. You will get those outliers that are just ridiculous and we [inaudible 00:37:28], whatever. But if you do it with a [inaudible 00:37:30] effort of being a purposefully looking to create value for somebody else’s audience, that person gets upset, that’s on them. The point is most people won’t. Even if they say no to you, they’ll still be appreciative of the fact that you took the time to learn about them and learn about their audience and what they’re doing. It’s really powerful stuff.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Just to close it out here, can you give the listener, the course builder out here who’s looking to step into event-based marketing what’s a really important first step or first thing to think about? After that, just let us know where people can find you on the internet and connect with you, Tom.
Tom Morkes: The number one thing is, “What is that product you have that you’re going to sell and who is it for?” If you can get those first two things, then you can leverage these online event-based marketing tactics or strategies or campaigns, however you want to define them. You need to know who the target audience is, you need to have your product that you know it addresses that target audience’s pain or problem. Real fundamental stuff. If you know those things, then you can leverage those in a big way. Know that and then I’d say the other big thing to think about that is, once you know that it’s like that process I went through with you as an example, which is a good one. Really thinking through it deeply, if this is the person I want to impact and I want to improve this person’s life, there’s an archetype here, there’s an [inaudible 00:39:02] type of person, that means that person, even if they’re not aware or say they are aware of the pain or problem, how do I get their attention?
There’s probably a million other people trying. If you have a real business, chances are there are other businesses competing. That’s the nature of business. You have to understand that other people are already competing for this person’s time and attention and money. That’s where you backward plan off of that and say, “Okay, these kettlebells over 40 years old.” I think the average person would say, “Oh, I’m going to look at kettlebell blogs and podcasts.” I would say that’s the opposite of where you want to go. Since you’re going right into … It’s not that it can’t work, it’s great. Maybe you can find one or two where it’s appropriate because of maybe the way you train kettlebells or something like that. Otherwise, you’re going to enemy territory. It’s not a good thing.
You want to think in these marketing verticals, these tertiary markets where it’s still that avatar, but they don’t know about what it is that you’re doing and why you’re doing it. They’re that demographic, but [inaudible 00:40:01] or they maybe know of it but they’re not really into it. You’re going to these Crossfit or, I don’t know maybe Crossfit would, but marathon runners or spartan racers or whatever it is. That’s how you want to lead them into it. I think it’s understanding the market, understanding your [inaudible 00:40:15], and then backward planning from there and saying, “Where does this person exist online? Who do they listen to? Who do they follow?” Specifically, a person who hasn’t [inaudible 00:40:21] the thing that I’m going to be selling here, kettlebell thing. How do I get in front of that? That person. I think that was the one thing which was like three things I just said, but hopefully that’s clear enough for somebody to start making moves on it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Before you get into where people can find you, I just want to say that that is … It’s surprisingly overlooked, people often try to swim right in with the sharks. For me, as a [inaudible 00:40:47] of technologies for teaching courses online, but if I find people like [inaudible 00:40:56] or Frank [inaudible 00:40:56] who are teaching more strategy and content for launching courses in more of the business side, it’s like, we’re not competing but we share the same audience-
Tom Morkes: Complimentary.
Chris Badgett: There’s nothing gives me greater pleasure than to help the people that follow me from a technology provider to help hook up with some content providers who have some strategies and some other tools to help them grow their project. If I went and found other learning management system online course things, it wouldn’t make sense. I like your point, it’s surprising how often finding that adjacent person who has a non-competing business with the exact same customers is like literally critical to success in my opinion.
Tom Morkes: I’d say one thing and then … I’m losing my voice here, I need some water. I’ll say this one thing ’cause you brought it up, here’s a great example. [inaudible 00:41:56], if I were to try and market and promote that, obviously the immediate very simple to understand, to figure out, is maybe anybody with a blog or podcast who talks about teaching and education online. Online course and typically people who are teaching how to create online courses and things like that. That would be the low-hanging fruit, but probably not … Maybe it works decently well, but also probably one that all your competitors are going after. For you, I see it as then, and I think you’re already doing this, I’m 99% sure you are, but it’s then saying, “Where are other industries where education is a component or could be component and how do I get in front of those?” What about mom blogs or something like that? Stay-at-home mom blogs or something like that, maybe you want to educate on those. Whatever it is. Then seeing if I can get in front of their [inaudible 00:42:42], how they can teach their stuff online and make more money from it. Those are the kind of things.
Tertiary, right? You can probably get the most bang for the buck because there’s probably less competitors in your space going after them. That’s the big thing for me, I always say I’ll go for the ones that are competitive too and see what happens, but typically we get our best results from people that are like one or two removed, but they’re still appropriate, if that makes sense.
Chris Badgett: That makes total sense. Awesome. Well where can the people find you, Tom?
Tom Morkes: Just go to my website, it’s www.tommokes.com. That’s tommorkes.com and you’ll find everything that I do right there. Sign up for the list if you’re interested in this kind of marketing and stuff. Yeah, that’s it. You want to get in touch with me, go there. They’ve got everything from there. I reply to all my emails. Sometimes it takes me a week or two, I get a lot of emails, but I do reply. If you’re interested or have some questions about something, shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you.
Chris Badgett: All right, well thanks for coming on the show, Tom. Really appreciate it.
Tom Morkes: Chris, thank you so much. It was a pleasure.


A Course Creator’s Journey and Pro Tips with Christina Hills from Website Creation Workshop

This LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about a course creator’s journey and pro tips with Christina Hills from Website Creation Workshop. Christina teaches people how to make websites using WordPress, and today she tells a little bit about her story and where she got started.

Christina worked for George Lucas’ company Industrial Light and Magic and had a career as a special effects person. She stopped doing that when she had a baby. Christina has been teaching online for 10 years. Before she was teaching WordPress, she was teaching people how to set up shopping carts for online stores. This was before easy shopping carts when you would have to hire a coder to build you a shopping cart secure server.

She became an expert in 1ShoppingCart, and she would provide her customers with the code they could put into their website so they had the shopping cart. She found many people would say they could not do it because it was too complicated, and they had a poor relationship with their web designer.

After hearing of the difficulties people were having, she decided to run her own class on how to use WordPress, because then her clients who knew how to use WordPress could install the shopping cart easily. She eventually dropped her Shopping Cart Queen website and persona. Chrisina now teaches WordPress to newbies who are afraid of the complexity of this technology.

Chris and Christina talk about the four pieces of course building: constructing a community, having expertise or whatever it is you are going to teach, creating the course content and the strategy around the curriculum and engagement, and the delivery system and technology of selling it. They discuss how Christina has gone about managing these general steps to course creation.

Christina shares a story of someone telling her she sould get into selling diet supplements. She did not believe in them, but she decided to give it a shot. She ultimately did not make money with it, and what she was selling did not feel right. She learned that if it’s not you, it won’t work when you are selling something. If a product’s message does not resonate with you, then you should not try to sell it, because it is likely you will have a poor experience with it.

Refining and honing in on your process can be a difficult thing to do sometimes. Christina believes the best way to do this is to communicate with your customers and get to know them. This will allow you to find out what challenges they are facing, and that is the best way to figure out what you need to change or modify within your course. Christina learned that her expertise lies with having a style and way of explaining things for the non-technical person.

Providing incentives for completing parts of your course is very valuable for beginners, because they feel like they are accomplishing something and that keeps them engaged. Reminding your customers of their end goal with a course can also add a lot of value and help with them finish your course.

To learn more about Christina Hills you can check out websitecreationworkshop.com or find her on Twitter @christinahills and Facebook.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMSCast. My name is Chris Badgett and today we’ve got a special guest, Christina Hills from websitecreationworkshop.com. Thank you for coming on the show, Christina.
Christina Hills: Thanks, Chris, for having me.
Chris Badgett: Well, we’ve met before. My business partner actually met you at a WordCamp in Los Angeles I believe, but you help other people come online and you’ve had quite the online journey yourself. Can you tell us just a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Christina Hills: Okay. Well again, my name is Christina Hills and I’ve been teaching online for 10 years. Let me just tell a little bit about my story. The way I got started, before I was teaching WordPress I was actually teaching shopping cart setup. My first business I was the Shopping Cart Queen, and I helped people set up their online shopping carts. This was before Stripe and all those other easy shopping carts. This was back when you had to hire a coder to build you a shopping cart secure server. There was a system called 1ShoppingCart, and I became an expert in that. I decided to niche as the shopping cart expert. One of the things, one of the problems that people had was they wanted to sell online and they needed a shopping cart, but also they had a problem with the website integration. I’d say, “Okay, your shopping cart is set up. You know, here’s the codes. Just copy and paste his HTML to you website,” and they would like fall down. “I can’t do it. I don’t like my web designer.” All the kind of crazy website stories we hear all the time. Either they can’t do it, the tech is too hard, or they don’t have a good relationship with their web designer. Common, common story.
Then I decided to run this little class. Hey, why don’t I teach them WordPress? Then if they know WordPress they can get their shopping cart connected. What happened is I discovered that creating the website was way more creative than doing the shopping cart part. I mean, it’s not that interesting. You set it up, you put a Buy button on and you’re done, whereas creating a website, that gets into sort of who you are, what your message is, design flow. I know you’re really big on design flow. There’s a design flow for your course, but there’s also a design flow for how your website is.
I was teaching the class. I taught it a couple of times. My WordPress training got bigger and bigger and I eventually dropped my whole Shopping Cart Queen website and persona. I think it’s still out there, but I don’t do that anymore. I just focus on helping people build their websites with WordPress because WordPress is easy. Not only is it easy to use, but it’s so deep. WordPress is this deep ocean that you never hit the bottom of it. There’s always more you can do. That’s how I started teaching WordPress and I’ve been doing that for 10 years, mainly to newbies who are afraid of technology, mainly to those folks.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, I really want to get into your story and your journey, and the people listening, you guys can learn something along the way as we kind of unpack certain experiences you had, lessons learned, doing things the hard way, where you’ve found success with your students. But one of the things we talk about frequently on this podcast are the four building blocks for a successful online course project, or learning platform, or online school. It’s very rare that all of these qualities are in one person, which means in my experience from what I’ve seen, a lot of times people end up partnering on project or hiring freelancers or other businesses to help out with the various pieces. But from my perspective, these four pieces are community building, having an expertise or whatever it is that you’re so great at that you’re going to teach, the instructional design piece, the packaging of the course, creating the course content, the strategy around the curriculum and engagement, and then the fourth and final piece is the online course delivery system, the membership site, the learning management system, the technology stuff to actually launch it, sell it, and actually deliver the training.
Let’s go back to that first one. What have you learned about community building? How do you build community? How did you build your email list? How do you get people to resonate with you or just naturally attract them? What’s your experience with community?
Christina Hills: Community building, you’ve got to sort of … Are you talking about community building for people in the course or community building for people before they’re in your course? Because there’s the people sort of outside your world that are on the peripheral and then they come into your world. I see them kind of as two different things.
Chris Badgett: I’m talking about more people who aren’t necessarily in your course yet and how you position yourself also in your general industry. I do think in some ways the people who are in your course, they become a more inner circle part of your community. But how did you get going? How did it all start? How did the Shopping Cart Queen … You were probably doing it for yourself first and then somebody asked you, “Hey, can you help me?” That’s one person. Now you have this big audience. Tell us about it.
Christina Hills: Before I was the Shopping Cart Queen I was a web designer. Actually and then before that, so my background is in special effects for film and television. I worked for George Lucas’ company, Industrial Light and Magic and had a great career as a online special effects person. But then I had a baby and I quit that. I was like, “Okay, now is the time to be an online entrepreneur working from home.” I started out as a web designer building websites for people. Then I discovered the shopping cart and got into this I better niche idea, so became the Shopping Cart Queen. Then I sort of outgrew that in a way. I outgrew that, but I did build a list. I built an email list of people interested in getting their shopping carts set up.
Chris Badgett: How’d you do that? Through blogging or-
Christina Hills: I know it kind of sounds- I set up an opt-in box, put it on my website. I started going to conferences. I think that would probably be the first way I got it going. I would go to a marketing conference, introduce myself as the Shopping Cart Queen, had an opt-in box on my site for I even forget what it was, a free report, and I also did live teleseminars, which now people do webinars but back then it was teleseminars. It sort of built slowly, kind of word of mouth. Having something that people wanted to be a part of, which was a teleseminar. This podcast is in a way a version of that. It’s an event. You and I are doing an event right now and people are listening to us. Having an opt-in box, holding frequent teleseminars, having a report, and then getting out there and networking with folks. It just sort of slowly built, and then getting referrals. I was teaching a shopping cart course. Before I was teaching WordPress I was teaching a shopping cart course, which now when I talk about it it sound so boring like, “Why would you sign up for it?” But you have to remember back in 2005, this was sort of the big thing back then.
How did I build the community? I had a community of people interested in shopping carts. The very first time I taught my WordPress training I had 23 people. I had 23 people sign up. I think the best way to create a course, this is in my experience, the best way to create a course is get a group, run your course, survey them, what was good, what was not good, retweak it, run your course again. Kind of reiterate that until you get it to the point when you’re like, “This is rock solid. Maybe I don’t need to teach it live. You know, I can have it in my members area and videos, et cetera.” You just kind of slowly build and your reputation builds, and you get better at teaching each time you do it. When I say “teaching,” teaching could be live on a webinar, teleseminar, or in person. Or teaching could be you’re recording your videos and you’re putting them in your members area, because that is teaching and people are consuming it, but they’re consuming it on their own time. Did I answer you question?
Chris Badgett: Absolutely.
Christina Hills: Okay, good. Okay, good.
Chris Badgett: I just want to highlight a few things from your story. One of it was that you were going to conferences. You were getting out of the building. You were doing things live, even if it was remote like the teleseminar. The other thing you touched on was it was built slowly and it started with one person, and then maybe 25 people in a room. There’s no magic bullet, and then it’s referral. The fact that we’re connected now, it’s because you were at a conference that my business partner was at a conference, both getting out of the building.
Christina Hills: Exactly. Exactly. Right.
Chris Badgett: It’s easy in the online world to try to build it all in a vacuum or whatever. Nothing wrong with work from home. I know you’re really into it as a mom. I’m into it as a father, but I still get out of the building and go to some conferences. I even just started a local Meetup just to see what might happen, and I go to some WordPress Meetups and things like that. Then the other thing you touched on was the continuous improvement with your first version. I like to say that the launch is really just the beginning, it’s not the finish line. It’s a commitment, and when you commit to that continuous improvement, lots of things can come from that.
Christina Hills: Right. Well, here’s an important point that I want to make about expertise, which comes from a lesson that I learned early on. Most of us have an expertise from whatever, college, corporate life, whatever. Whatever your expertise is, you want to pick something you’re interested in and passionate about. Don’t pick something just because somebody else tells you, “Hey, there’s a lot of money to be made in X.” Because it’s not going to resonate with you and that is going to come through. Now, you might say, “Hey, I want to do a course. I’m going to create this course. Let me find another person who’ll be the expert and the spokesperson.” There’s nothing wrong with collaborating like that, where maybe you get together with a doctor. Doctors don’t know online and technology and they don’t know marketing, but you’ve got the doctor with the expertise and you build a course around that. There’s nothing wrong with that health and wellness. But if you’re doing it yourself and if you’re the teacher, guru, whatever you want to call it, make sure the market and the expertise is something you’re passionate about.
I’m going to tell a story. Early on someone said to me, “Hey, you can make money with diet supplements.” I’m like, “Diet supplements, I don’t believe in it. I don’t use it.” “No no no no. You’re going to make a ton of money. You’re going to make a ton of money.” “Okay. All right. I guess I’ll go into diet supplements.” I spent a whole month full-time working from home not making money on this whole diet supplement thing. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t resonate with me.
Then what happened is we had launched and then all of a sudden the FTC changed a bunch of rules about selling diet supplements online and I was so happy. I mean, my husband announced this to me. He’s like, “Wait a minute, the company we’re affiliating with, the FTC just came down. They changed all the laws and they’re shutting their doors.” He thought I’d be upset because I had poured all my time into this, and I was so grateful. I was like, “Thank you, God. I didn’t want to do this. It wasn’t me. It didn’t resonate.” It was a lesson learned: Don’t go into something you’re not interested in, passionate about, you’re not doing yourself. That is a good litmus test for being successful online. I don’t often share that story because I’m kind of embarrassed, but it was an important learning lesson that just because somebody else says, “You’re going to make a lot of money doing X,” if it’s not you, it won’t work. That’s been my experience.
Chris Badgett: I love that, and thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I think it was Jim Collins’ book Good to Great he wrote about the hedgehog concept where there has to be passion overlapping with market demand, like the opportunity you describe. Then you have to be able to serve that market. You could probably serve the market. You had the skills, it was a hot market, but there was no passion. It’s a good litmus test like you were saying.
Christina Hills: Right. Right. Right. Right, and another thing along these lines to ask yourself, “Would you read a magazine about the topic and would you go to a conference about the topic?” If you wouldn’t read the magazine, you wouldn’t go to the conference, it’s not your market. Do you like those people in that market? Let’s just take two different markets, like CPAs. CPAs, there’s one type of person, and health and wellness people is another sort of type of person. Think to yourself, “Are those people people you want to be around?” If you’re passionate about health and wellness, awesome. You’d love to go to conferences, you’d love to read the books, you’d love to read the magazines. If you’re passionate about taxes and tax laws and having numbers all line up and things that CPAs like, you’re going to be good at that.
That’s my point. Yeah. That’s your litmus test. Would you go to a conference? Would you read a book? Would you read a magazine on the topic? Saying to myself, “No, I don’t want to be around diet supplement people,” helped me get the clarity now that I bring into what I do now, which is the creative endeavor of building a website. Because building a website is not just about the website. A lot of it is there’s a lot of self-discovery that people go through when they create their own website. They have to get clearer on … Because I teach mostly to solo entrepreneurs, not agencies. The solo entrepreneurs who’s quitting their corporate job and deciding to go online to start their consulting or coaching, or their health and wellness, or whatever, there’s all kinds of people, they get clearer on who they are, what their message is, what visuals they want to put forward. I like it. That’s why I’ve been doing it for 10 years.
Chris Badgett: Me too. When I got into the web design and WordPress and all that, I was actually living in Alaska. I was running sled dogs. I was managing a tour business. I’ve always been one of those guy-
Christina Hills: Wow.
Chris Badgett: … who follows their passion, and I couldn’t describe it but when I started getting into WordPress, I first just had to build a site for a piece or property that I was trying to sell actually. That’s how I first discovered WordPress. I just got really interested in it, and I discovered the same thing I think you did where wow, this whole web thing is pretty powerful, really interesting. There’s a lot of self-discovery, and it’s a very creative thing. I would lose hours of my life in self-teaching myself WordPress through all these YouTube videos, which I’m glad you’re here now and have a structure around helping people. I discovered a passion for the online world and that’s why I’m still here after starting to do work online seven years ago. I’m still passionate about it. The more I meet the community around it, especially in the niche I’m in for the online educator, they’re great people. I love working with them and it’s fun, but that fuels the fire for me to continually develop my expertise. It’s not hard because I’m passionate about it.
Christina Hills: Right. Right. Right. Another litmus test is the Saturday morning test. You’re laying in bed, it’s a Saturday morning. Are you excited to jump out of bed and take action on your business or on the course you’re creating? If that excites you, if you pass the Saturday morning test, you know you have a good idea and a good market to help serve.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, let me ask you some lessons learned becoming an expert. As you tried out different things you figured out that you needed to have passion. That was really important if you were going to pursue excellence in an expertise or a given field. What have you learned along the way in terms of becoming an expert as somebody who can help especially the solo operator new person? Just developing your own expertise, what would you advise the people out there? Most people are sitting on lots of wisdom, but what have you learned about working with your expertise?
Christina Hills: The number one thing you can do to refine and hone in on your own expertise is to communicate with your customers, like get to know them, because they will help you refine how you’re teaching and what it is that you do. Also when I started out, I didn’t start out as I’m a teacher for newbies. I didn’t start out that way. I just started out as I’m teaching WordPress. I discovered like your community will tell you what you’re good at, and I discovered that I’m really good at teaching WordPress to newbies, that that was really my expertise because I have a style and a way of explaining things that breaks it down for the non-technical person. I’ve had people who sign up for my class and they’re a little too tech advanced and I’m not good for them. But that came from talking to people and getting the feedback and hearing where they needed help. Really just talking to your customers, whether it’s on the phone, in a chat, in an email, however, in a survey. However you want to communicate, that’ll help you refine the delivery of your expertise.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s transition over to that third pillar, which is the instructional design. One thing that people struggle with is the curse of knowledge or teaching to beginners. That’s a strength for you. Why do you think that is, or how did you develop that ability to work with beginners?
Christina Hills: I think what I do, and I do this all the time, is put myself in the mindset of my customers. I’m always trying to look at things from how are my customers seeing it? When it comes to designing your curriculum, I find it’s good to do it in phases, meaning you design something, your curriculum. You put it together, then put it aside for a while, and then come back to it and look at it as if you are your customer. Then you’ll see everything that’s wrong with it, but if you stay too close to your course you can’t see it. Maybe your course has like six modules. Work on a module, put it aside, work on the next module, then put that aside. Then come back to the first module and you’ll look at it and you’ll go, “Wow, this doesn’t make any sense. Nobody’s going to understand this.”
You can then refine it, because we are experts in what we do and our community is coming to us for our expertise, but when you’re an expert, you know how people have that jargon problem where they’re an expert and they’re just speaking jargon and then their customers or their students, clients, whatever term you like to use, they’re not understanding you because they’re new to the expertise you want to impart. It really helps to become a good teacher to put things down and then come back. I don’t know, to me it becomes fun. It’s like I put something together, I come back and I’m like, “Wow, no one would understand this. I need to give a little bit more context for this concept I’m about to teach.” That’s how I’ve found what’s made me a really good teacher is putting things aside and then coming back. That’s why I like to do things in phases. Otherwise you might be listening and you might have been working on your course for months and months and you haven’t gotten it out. The key is to get it out even if it’s not perfect, because your audience will tell you what parts are good and what parts you need to change. Getting out of perfectionism is super, super important.
Chris Badgett: That’s fantastic. Well, let me get your input on an instructional design tool that I use to help experts if they’re like, “Well, I don’t know how … Give me a starting point for the curriculum.” We teach three or four different types of courses you can do. One is called a resource course, which is like basically a library of material or lessons that can be taken in any order. In my opinion those are the most dangerous courses, especially for a new expert because there’s literally no end to it, but it can be very cool too. Then there’s the process course, like this is very step-by-step. Like if you’re going to build a website in a week, here’s step one, step two, step three. It’s a very step-by-step process and it really should be taken in order. Whether or not you have drip content or not, there’s a process here.
The third kind is called a behavior change course. If you’re trying to help somebody become a morning person or end some kind of bad habit, there’s a way to teach that that may not necessarily be step-by-step, but it just has a certain way about changing a behavior. Then the fourth kind is just a hybrid. It’s like a combination of some of all of those resources, process, and behavior change. What’s your style, and if you are doing how to do things, how do you clearly define the starting point and what they’re going to be able to do at the end of the course? What’s your style for instructional design?
Christina Hills: Okay. Great question. I have two courses. I have my beginner course, Website Creation Workshop, and then I have an intermediate course. My beginner course is step-by-step, “Do this, then do this, then do this, then do this, and go in order.” My intermediate course is a little bit more I like to compare it to Netflix. You join Netflix, there’s a library of stuff and you just pick what you’re interested and there’s no order to go in with Netflix. What I find is people prefer the step-by-step, especially beginners. They prefer the step-by-step. When folks get more advanced, intermediate advanced, then they like the, “Don’t tell me what to do. Let me go in my own order. I want to go in my own order.” I think everybody listening to us needs to think about for what they’re teaching, what would work better?
But I find people, lazy’s not the right word. People like their hands held and they like to know, “I do this, then I do this, then I do this, then I do this.” They love if they get kind of a prize or they see the status bar that they’ve finished a module and now they can go on to another module. That sense of completion through the phases, if you can work that in they will be more successful. Like if they can check a box or see a status bar that says, “Complete. Now you’re ready to move on or take a quiz.” There’s lots of different ways to do it but I find the step-by-step works for them, because for some things you’re teaching people just need to do it, even if they don’t fully understand it. They just need to do it. Like getting on a bicycle, you just have to do it until it becomes part of you. For me with WordPress for beginners, a lot of them just have to do it. Just, “Here, publish a post. Just publish a post. You’ll see the results after you click publish.” I find step-by-step works the best with those little triggers of satisfaction as you go along. For beginners I think that’s better.
Chris Badgett: That’s fantastic.
Christina Hills: Now, I’ve never done behavioral ones so that’s pretty interesting concept. My course is not like that. But I’m wondering now … maybe I should incorporate it in, some behavioral changes. That is interesting, because part of being successful online is coming up with good habits, practice and habits. That would be a behavioral change.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. I personally like the hybrid where it includes a little bit of all that. I just want to highlight what you’re saying. For the beginner, and sometimes in a lot of industries and niches the beginner’s market is huge. There’s a big business opportunity, and if you’re kind of new to teaching, it’s easy to start with a step-by-step course. “Okay, you’re going to start here. You’re going to end here. Trust me and just follow the process, and if you do the work and go through the steps you’re going to be able to do what I promise you you’re going to be able to do in the marketing.”
Just from having been around a lot of online courses myself, here’s a little professional tip in describing your course that beginners really like, which is just the phrase “step-by-step with no step skipped.” Because nothing frustrates a beginner more than going through a process course where you make the promise, “I’m going to give you a step-by-step system, I’m going to hold your hand through whatever the process is,” and then if you don’t 100% deliver on that or you make an assumption or squeeze in some jargon without explaining what it is, you’re skipping and people don’t like that. That’s one of those things I think if you have a feedback loop where people are giving you feedback about what they like, what they don’t like, people don’t like skipped steps in a process course.
Christina Hills: Right. Right. Also in a process course, the more you can keep them focused on their end goal, so you have to keep reminding them what is the end goal of this? What are you going to get at the end? Are you going to be a better bowler because you’ve learned these bowling techniques? Are you going to get a website? As people are going through what they’re learning, what is the outcome you’re promising that they’ll get if they do the work? They have to do the work. If they do the work, they’ll get this at the end and what will their life look like when they accomplish this thing that they want that they bought your course for? The more you can remind them on their end goal, that will help them through the struggles they may have, or the learning the jargon that they need to learn to get to the end goal. That really helps, which is sort of different than like a Netflix. There’s not one end goal in a Netflix type of course. I guess the end goal for Netflix is you’re relaxing because you’re enjoying a movie. Different courses are going to be different. The step-by-step, I would say that is my favorite.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I like how as a course creator you did the step-by-step and then you’re like, “All right, but I’m also going to do the intermediate level resource course Netflix style,” and that allows you to really relax. When you’re building the step-by-step course and you’re like, “Oh, I’m kind of getting a little advanced here,” you can just move it over to your resource course that you’ll create later. That helps the first-time course creator really stay focus, and yeah.
Christina Hills: Well, this brings up an awesome point which I want to tell everybody. Don’t put too much into your course. That’s what I did. I put way too much into my beginner’s course and that’s why I pulled it out into my intermediate, because if you put too much into the course, well they won’t buy a second course from you, but also they’ll get too overwhelmed and they won’t complete the course. Because you want people to be able to complete your course. My beginner’s course is all about getting your first website up. Once your first website is up, now you’ve got a whole bunch of other things you need to do to market your website. But by having it all together, for some people they couldn’t get through it. It was too overwhelming. People will be happy with you as a course creator if they feel satisfied like they were able to get it done and accomplish it.
I like to compare it to People Magazine. People Magazine, not very highbrow, but you buy it, you can read it, and then you can be like, “I read a magazine.” It’s a silly comparison, but there’s this like little satisfaction of, “I actually read this magazine,” versus some other magazines which are too dense and then you’re feeling guilty, “I never finished the magazine.” It’s a simple comparison, but don’t put too much into your courses. Make them attainable. People will be happier. As experts we’re like, “Oh, but there’s so much more they need to know.” You have to balance that with what’s going to accomplish the goal of the promise? Can they get through it? Will they feel happy? Then they’re happy, they tell their friends, they give you testimonials, you get to make them case studies for your course, so don’t make your courses too complicated.
Chris Badgett: Well, that’s a gold mine of tips and tricks and lessons learned. If you’re listening, I encourage you to rewind and listen to this section again about instructional design. The last piece is working with technology, creating a membership site, online course delivery system. You and I have an unfair advantage because we’re technologists, and we work with the tools and our stuff involves the tools. We’re very much in the insider community of building an online platform. For us, what we found is you either have to do it yourself or you have to get it done for you by a freelancer or another company. At Lifter LMS we have some done-for-you services we offer to help that person who is like, “Nope, I’m not going to get into the technology.” I always respect it when somebody tells me like, “Look, I got to tell you straight up, I hate computers. I don’t want to try to figure that part out.” I’m like, “No worries, but you got to get some help then,” because that’s just one of those ones that some people can’t do.
What’s some advice you have for somebody who’s like, “All right, I’m building community, I’m building my email list. I’m getting out of the building, I’m going to conferences. I’m getting pretty sharp at my specialty, my expertise. I’ve got an idea how I’m going to structure my process course or whatever kind of course I’m going to make.” How should someone approach technology and where’s the eject button that they should look out for to be like, “You know what? You’re better off just hiring somebody to help you”?
Christina Hills: Well, I teach people to be do-it-yourselfers. I’m a little biased. Let me tell you why I think it’s important to do it yourself. Now, before I answer that, there’s nothing wrong with someone saying, “Hey, I’m new to this. The tech is hard. Let me hire someone to get it set up,” but I think the goal should be that you’re updating it and managing it yourself. Unless you have a huge budget. If you got a huge budget, you got tons of money, then that’s another thing. You can just throw money at stuff. But what I find is you have an idea for your course, you put it together, but until you see it online in your members area, you can’t fully judge it. That’s why if you can do it yourself it’s better because you’ll put it together and then you’ll see, “Wow, wait a minute. I have to move this around,” because things need to go from your head to paper, and then paper online on the computer on your website. Once it gets up there you’ll see it with new eyes.
I’m a big advocate of doing it yourself because as a course creator, you’re going to need to make adjustments. If you have to outsource that, you give it to them, they turn it around in a few days or a week, and then you look at it again and you make adjust … “Oh wait, no this needs to change.” Then you tell your oursourcer, “Please make these changes,” and you have to give them a reasonable amount of time. If somebody can turn something around in 24 hours, that is fast. You’ve got an awesome person. But it takes time for people to turn it around. If you have a big budget and a lot of time that’s okay, but I’d rather be like, “Hey, wait. Wow. I put these modules together, but now that I’m seeing it, I think I really should swap these two modules. That makes more sense.”
I’m an advocate of doing it yourself, or hiring someone, let them set it up, and then learn how to move things around. But I think your courses will be better if you can do some of the tech. Unless you’ve got a full-time person sitting right next to you and they’re your tech. I know you’ve got an audience of different types of folks listening, but for me, creating a course, I consider that my art form is creating a course, and if I couldn’t do some of the tech, then my hands would be tied behind my back. I have people working for me, but the main how the course is coming together, it’s all me.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I really agree with what you’re saying there. It’s really good to do it yourself if you can, even if you think you’re not a technologist, because the very act of being inside the course building and seeing what tools you have might trigger ideas like, “Oh, I can actually make the lesson more engaging because I can do this achievement thing here,” or you know.
Christina Hills: Exactly. Right. Right.
Chris Badgett: The same way, just think offline. If you’re in a classroom, like imagine designing a course and you’ve never been in the classroom, and you get to the classroom and you see like, “Oh, I have these laboratory instruments over here, I have this whiteboard, I have this screen that I could project things on.” You might actually design something completely different than if you were just sitting at home with pad and paper.
Christina Hills: Right. Right. Right. I want to make, because I don’t want to lose this thought about creating online courses. This is a hot market right now. With the way the world is changing, a lot of people are doing college online, which I could never imagine before. Chris, you teaching people about creating online courses is very topical in the world we live in now because more and more people are doing it. Not you, Chris, people listening to us. What’s going to separate you from somebody else creating an online course? Make yours better. Make yours more engaging. Make yours more successful. That will make you be the cream rising to the top.
Chris Badgett: Well said, Christina. This is Christina Hills, websitecreationworkshop.com. Where else can people go to find out more about you and what do you have going on online that people could check out?
Christina Hills: Okay, well you can go to websitecreationworkshop.com and see. I’m always teaching new classes, so just go to the website and just look on the sidebar and see what’s coming up. You can find me, I’m on Twitter @christinahills. I’m on Facebook. Just look me up on Facebook. I’m sort of all over the place reaching out for folks, but my main website is websitecreationworkshop.com.
Chris Badgett: Awesome.
Christina Hills: I’ve got beginner classes, intermediate classes. I’ve got a class on creating graphics too. I love course creation. I think it’s fun and it’s fun to see the result of when people are successful. My other tip is when you’ve got successful students, capture their successes. Take a screenshot or a photo of them, or get a testimonial from them right when they’ve just completed your class, because you’ll get the best testimonials then. The great thing about testimonials and case studies is they kind of market for you, if that makes sense. People want to know, “If I take this course, will I be successful?” Often people forget to collect those testimonials, and so you want to get them while they’ve just had their awesome success.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, Christina, thanks so much for coming on the show and thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Christina Hills: Oh, you’re welcome. Well, you’re welcome. Thank you, Chris, for having me.


The On Demand Gig Economy for Course Builders with Mike Hayes

In this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS we discuss the on demand gig economy for course builders with Mike Hayes. Chris and Mike dive into Mike’s amazing story of how he got to where he is today. They also discuss the difference between a gig and a job, and why the words ‘on demand’ are important.

Mike has had an interesting journey from his history in broadcast and radio. He also worked at NBC for ten years in New York. Mike has interviewed and worked with people like Oprah Winfrey, Steve Wozniak, and Tony Robbins. Mike also spent a half day with Steve when they were launching Apple in his house. Through spending all of this time with these entrepreneurial minds, Mike decided he would be interested in doing something similar.

The on demand gig economy is the new way the economy works. The economy used to be based around finding a stable job, and large corporations had all of the power. In the gig economy, the focus is shifted to providing value. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr have become major sources of short-term employment or gigs.

Chris and Mike talk a little bit about the rise of the entrepreneur in 2008 when the economy crashed. During this time the economy was riddled with problems, and the people who focused on solving problems instead of looking for security were the ones that would survive and thrive. Ideas like Airbnb and Uber became bigger than Hilton.

Clear communication is a critical part of success in the current economy, because everybody is marketing online now. So being able to communicate what it is you can provide is necessary. Chris and Mike discuss how having the right presentation and distribution is what energizes people and brings life to your product or service. You can also use your course as an introduction or marketing for a suite of products and services you provide.

Mike views online courses as the near equivalent of infomercials in the old economy, because of the way courses have the ability to provide enough information to people. Your course can serve as your distribution as well, because you don’t have to distribute it on the marketplaces. You also have to find out who your audience is and advertise to them on platforms they use.

To learn more about Mike Hayes, you can check out gigmarketplaces.com and his Facebook page.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’ve got a special guest with us today, Mike Hayes. How are you doing Mike?

Mike Hayes: I’m wonderful, because I’m here with you, Chris, and I’m delighted to be your guest today.

Chris Badgett: Thanks so much for coming on the show. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and getting to know your ideas and what you’re doing out there in the world. Mike is a big proponent of helping educate people on the on-demand gig economy and what that looks like today, what the new economy’s all about, and how to work and exist and succeed in the changed world out there that is the on-demand gig economy. And we’re going to get into that. We’re going to get into Mike’s story and how he sees some things trending that he’s kind of seen before, and there’s some emerging opportunities from his history in broadcast and radio. But before we get into the nitty-gritty and your story, can you just tell us at a high level, Mike, what is the on-demand gig economy?

Mike Hayes: Certainly, and anybody who’s been struggling with marketing, as many of us did over the years, I’ve made more mistakes than anybody and to still be in business, especially with the emerging media and the way things have changed. We finally solved that, and we solved it when we finally discovered that we were doing a lot of marketing in the wrong place and that things had changed, really, to a different playing field. And what that is is in the past, and I’ll kind of explain how we got here, because in the past we had careers. And in those careers we worked for a company like I worked for NBC for 10 years in New York. That was a career path with a corporation.
And then things started to change and we went to more jobs and people started only staying with companies two or three years, and now things have changed again, and those jobs have been renamed as gigs. And so that’s kind of where things have changed. It’s gone from the incumbent economy, careers and then jobs, into the on-demand gig economy. And the reason all of these words are very important, Chris, especially for this group are the words on-demand. So that, of course, is on-demand and now in the gig economy and how you can use it. Now, you were going to ask me about my background, but let me make crystal-clear first that it’s very important that people understand gig is not gigawatts or gig-this. Sorry about that. Let me just turn this off. This is live video, so I’m going to shut this off and I will be back in action here. Yeah, there we go. Sorry about that, folks. My apologies.
So, a gig, you know how in technology we go back to the past to find words that apply to the present and we redefine those words. That’s all it is. It’s just a job, it’s a way to make money. It’s a new way to make money, and with that not only has come the redefinition of jobs, but also marketplaces for those jobs. And that’s where the real opportunity is for course providers and how it’s really going to change the whole course business. And that’s what I hope to discuss today, is to help people who have courses and they’re either struggling to get them really launched at the level they want to get them launched at, or they are already successful and they want to go from one level to the next level, and I’ve been there done that. So that’s what I’m here to talk [inaudible 00:03:57] you about.
Chris Badgett: Can you give a little more detail around the difference between a gig and a job and why the words on-demand are important and how that’s different today?
Mike Hayes: Yeah. Actually, what I would recommend so people understand this is not just Mike talking out of his hat is to google the term “on-demand gig economy”. The reason I say this is because it actually comes up in a Google search two ways. Often it will be either gig economy, and that will come up. Or it’ll be on-demand economy or it’ll come up on-demand gig economy, so you never know. There are a little bit different parts of it, but what’s important to discover when you google it is, folks, you’re going to see some eye-opening news from the major media all the way to academia, like MIT Sloan Business School, Harvard MBA Business School. Everybody is saying, “This is the biggest change.” Like Robert Reich, former labor secretary, says, “This is the biggest change in the workforce in 100 years.” Okay?
So this is a real sea change, this is a huge shift, and we all work in the umbrella of the economy. It’s bigger than marketing. It’s bigger than courses. Nothing surpasses the economy under which everything operates. So if you’re operating under the incumbent or the past economy the things you’re doing are old hat and they’re just not attention-getting, they’re not working, it’s not the way the world is really functioning today. And so if you shift, wow, and you really understand the new rules, the marketing and media and small businesses, solopreneurship, et cetera, that it’s operating in the on-demand gig economy, now you have your bearings. “Wow, I was playing baseball on a football field and now I’m in the right place.”
So I want you to google it, and that’s one of the key points, is awareness about it. There’s so many new opportunities, you’re going to be thrilled. If you’ve been struggling or lost you just maybe needed a little reorientation. There’s some new things to learn. There’s a transition. I call it a transformation because you do have to kind of transform your thinking a little bit, but there’s some great information, but it is dramatic information, truly. And it’s not from me, it’s the whole world, and it’s global as well. So I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew that, and where did it come from?
Okay, we lost about nine million jobs in 2008, so things had to change right there, people were struggling. And entrepreneurs like us, like your audience, we’re problem-solvers. So when we see a problem, find a need and fill it all of these entrepreneurial minds got us thinking about new ideas Airbnb and Uber. And that kind of launched it, but then all the creative minds and money people saw this and saw that, wow, Airbnb is bigger than Hilton. So all of the sudden they started to pour money into supporting the on-demand gig economy, looking at it. And the marketplaces that already existed started to grow and expand and develop and add new things into these marketplaces.
So that’s kind of the background, but I want to make sure I’m clear. So, please, Chris, ask me any of the questions about that, that we had careers, they become jobs where we earned money through often we turned over our economic security to companies who would hire us and pay us. And now gigs are really solopreneur, self-employment, freelance jobs that we either create ourselves or provide to major companies to hire us to do a function, maybe temporary. Like, my partner Chuck would hire various marketing talent and pay as much as 150 thousand dollars a year if you want to work for a corporation. My you’re a life coach, maybe you want to work for yourself. Maybe you want to get new clients, maybe you want to work part-time to get some financial freedom or some extra money. Or maybe you’re in retirement and you want a side gig. Okay? So that’s why I launched Side Gig School, Side Job School, so there’s the job market, and now we’re in the gig market. And to clarify, everybody knows what a resume is, right?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Mike Hayes: It’s a description, review, a presentation you would send off to a company. So let’s concentrate on those two things, one, a resume and, two, a company who would receive it and then hire you to do some work. So let’s change that resume to online multimedia presentation. So it’s a market place, a little more visual and presentation to it. And then instead of a company it’s a marketplace where the company can go to the marketplace and find you, or the public can go and find you because they need a life coach or business coach or something. So, does that clarify it?
Chris Badgett: That definitely clarifies. And I just want to highlight the fact that you’re doing a great job guiding us into this new economy. And for a lot of people out there sometimes we may be operating with the same mental models of how we think the world works and what’s going on. But what happens in the background is reality shifts and changes, new models apply. And you’re really shining the light on some of these transitions that have happened or still happening and how to change and benefit, get unstuck or just benefit further by understanding the new game, so that’s really helpful. Before we go deeper into gig marketplaces and the on-demand gig economy, I want to hear a little bit more about your story and just kind of your career path, your job path, your gig path and how you came to be a guide, if you will, into this new world of the on-demand gig economy.
Mike Hayes: Okay. A quick story. It’s kind of funny so I won’t dwell on it. But I literally was sitting at home one day in Michigan and decided there was more to life than just sitting on my butt on the couch. And so I literally went out, put my thumb out, hitchhiked to New York, walked into NBC in New York, 30 Rockefeller Plaza and said, “I’d like to apply for a job.” And the gal says, “We don’t have any jobs.” Then I said, “Well, I trekked all the way here from Michigan. Let me at least give you a resume.” And so I fillied it in…actually, it wasn’t even a resume, it was an application. I filled it in and slid it through the window. I’m literally walking out the door, Chris, and I hear the gal say, “Hey, you graduated from Eastern Michigan?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I graduated from Eastern Michigan. Come back in here.” She hired me to be an NBC page, which is harder to get into than Harvard, truly, if you look at the statistics. So it was just a miracle from taking an action, you know what I mean?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Mike Hayes: Instead of whatever. But I took an action. I did something, and I got hired, and I spent 10 years at NBC. It’s kind of like that was when my real education started. So they put me through a training system, and I was there for 10 years and I became a documentary director, and I traveled every major sporting event in the country and the world for NBC Sports and News. I did a million things, worked with Johnny Carson, created the Johnny Carson talk show game and that’s when I became an entrepreneur at heart, okay? And I never wanted to need the big guy again for my success, so I loved entrepreneurs and boot-strapping things.
So I spent a lot of years there, I learned a lot. And then I went on to CNN and at CNN I created a show called Keys to Success because, again, my entrepreneurial spirit. And I knew the media would allow me to reach out to the biggest names in entrepreneurship. I’ve interviewed Oprah Winfrey, I’ve interviewed Donald Trump, Steve Wozniak. I spent a half day with Steve when they were launching Apple and at his home, and literally hundreds of the top entrepreneurial minds in the world. Two things happened, one, I caught the bug and I wanted to become an entrepreneur after talking to them. And, two, I decided to use my knowledge of the media to help make the media affordable to the small and medium-size profit-oriented business or entrepreneur.
And so I took everything that I learned from them and I started working as a publicist. And then I discovered the television infomercial industry, it was just starting, and I got a call by guy and asked me if I would produce a direct-response commercial for this guy named Tony Robbins. So I actually produced one of Tony Robbins very first TV direct response commercials back in the day. But I was in the room with 60 other people when they started the National Infomercial Marketing Association, that’s what it was called, back in the day, 60 people. And I saw it grow from that all the way to where it is today which is a 350 billion dollar industry, okay?
So to see that and, then, what happened was we had the big crash in 2008 and the digital world really took off, okay? So everything that I had learned changed. And I think one of the first things that really happened in the on-demand gig economy in the digital age was the media was affected first. So first I started tracking what I called the big media shift because it was like the canary in the room. That [inaudible 00:14:56] wow, this is really being affected. And so I saw it early-on because of that.
Then I saw everything else shifting too following along like dominoes. Everything started to fall and adapt and shift and change. And I realized, man, all of the sudden everybody in the world thought they were a marketer and all of the sudden it was so difficult to really clarify and communicate with people. And I thought, “I got to dig deeper,” because I was trained by NBC to observe and report as a documentary director. So I used all of those skills to really look into it and really drill down. I wanted to get to the core of what was happening. And then all of the sudden I discovered that this was a shift towards something. And all of the sudden Airbnb and all of these other sites and then UpWork and Fiver and Freelance.com, Freelancer.com, but this was really becoming a big thing. And then when I started talking to people about it all of the sudden, “Holy cow, I got to know about that, Mike.”
So all of the sudden it was like instead of being in a place where everybody could do something all of the sudden I had unique information. You know what I mean? That I knew where we were and so many people didn’t. Then all of the sudden I went, “Whoa. I got to run with this. This is fun. This is awesome.” And there’s so many opportunities in it that I really decided to make it my mission in life. And I don’t say that lightly because that’s part of a key to success is when you can take something you’re good at and really have enough passion that it literally becomes a life’s mission for you. That’s when you really are happiest and maximize your success. So, basically, that’s kind of how I got here. And there’s a lot that I brought, now, from my history to the present in the on-demand gig economy. Is that?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I know, at least a lot of the younger generation or the younger world, they don’t have as much perspective and experience. Things shift and they don’t necessarily know how it was before. I grew up in a time when phones were attached to walls and they had a cord on them. But I have friends and colleagues who grew up with the internet. I didn’t really use the internet til high school or college or whatever. So, to have deep perspective is really valuable, and you can do things like pattern recognition and drawing, seeing trends and similarities or you get that hunch like, “Wait a second. I’ve been here before. This is kind of like that.”
And I know you started seeing things related to being a producer and being around the infomercial space with online courses and on-demand gig economy, so can you help a lot of people watching this and listening to this, I’m sure they’ve seen like Oxiclean or whatever the popular infomercials that have been out there. But how do you tie-in what you were seeing there in the media to what’s happening today?
Mike Hayes: Okay. Let me try and start at the bull’s eye there. There’s people probably have courses or probably have tried posting on Upwork or Fiver and maybe they didn’t get hired. And that’s what I understand about, is that it’s words. There are words that you post, and those words either get you hired or don’t get you hired. That’s a presentation. And where my miraculous lightening bolt hit me was I had a guy call me once and said, “Mike, I’ve spent $100 thousand trying to market this product and it’s just not selling and I’m ready to quit, I’m beside myself, can you help me? And I said, “I don’t know,” but I listened to his story.
And I realized he was using words to describe his offer that were reducing the value of his offer in the mind of the recipient. And, literally, I changed one word. I’ll tell anybody this story who wants to contact me what that one word was and how it came about. He went from a self-described miserable failure to a $200 million success story. One of the biggest hits in the history of the direct response industry. And that’s when I realized that it’s about the words that you use to describe something. Are you maximizing and energizing the offer? Because there are offers I see out there that are like Dracula, they suck the life out of you, the de-energize you, you know? And there’s some that are like, “Wow. That’s great. I really want to learn about that.”
So when you have the right presentation, it really comes down to two things, just presentation and distribution. So what I realized is that if you have knowledge and experience about how to define something and describe it in a way that energizes people and brings life to it. That can make the difference between a failure and building an empire. It literally comes down to being that simple if you understand it. You can’t describe anything and make it valuable, but you can change something, and then the distribution.
And I would look at these marketplaces and I would look at the offers being made. There was one more part, a modern study by Go Daddy and a company called Alignable. And what they learned is that today people want to find a free or affordable way to test a new product or service or before they buy. So that’s when I realized, “Okay, so what these marketplaces need to offer is a way to test a gig or try a gig or learn more about before they hire somebody from these gig marketplaces.” Okay? And so that’s when I realized that my background in presentations would be very important to explaining it to people, helping them understand it, what kind of presentations do people what. Today with mobile, and look at the growth of Audible with Amazon. When they bought it, it’s gone to 70 million users or something like that.
People like audio because they can listen to it on the phone, they can exercise, it’s mobile. So that’s a great way to tell your story, you have to have the right story. And then I thought, “Gee, I could use my background as a NBC News interviewer and documentary interviewer and [inaudible 00:22:05] to interview people about their story and bring it out of them and turn it into an audio book that becomes their presentation on the gig marketplaces. I was telling you a little bit earlier about the marriage of the presentation and the marketplaces, but before I go into that I want to turn it back over to you to see if I left out anything, if you have any questions that I could clarify for you before I explain that.
Chris Badgett: So just to reiterate the main points, if you were to compare and contrast certain pieces of the infomercial space with the new economy, what equals what today?
Mike Hayes: That’s a good question. Let’s think of a presentation, and I thought the course is the perfect presentation because now you’re providing value. It’s like Baskin-Robbins. They have the little pink spoon where, “Hey, you want to taste this ice cream?” Okay. So it’s a way to get a little taste of you from you from your heart. I always say that 3,000 years ago the human voice was the best communication channel. The human voice is the Buddhist tool. You have Martin Luther King, you have the Sermon on the Mount. So the human voice is the best way to change a person’s heart. That’s another reason I’m a big believer in the human voice and audio.
So what you have is you have in the past we’d work with commercials and infomercials. And infomercials were a way to provide information that would be enough to get you go buy the product. So I look at these courses as the modern equivalent of the infomercial. If you’re a, let’s say a life coach or a speaker, whatever, let’s say a life coach, you can give enough information so that they’re buying your course, but maybe that course upsells them into your coaching program or your retreat or something else. That’s the perfect way that the direct response industry has worked for decades, all right?
So you have two things, so that’s your story. If you make it good enough that it is a purchase now you have a revenue generating self-liquidating advertising. Instead of paying for advertising it’s a profit center. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t get any better than that. I used to spend three to five thousand dollars a month in USA Today classified ads. Now it’s free, okay? So that’s beautiful. Then the distribution. Now, if you look at the marketplaces as though they were the cable TV networks where we used to run these infomercials and pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month to run them on air so people could see it because they can’t hire you if they don’t know about you or your presentation.
It’s really that simple. So the analogy is your course is, ideally, your story [inaudible 00:25:20] infomercial or [inaudible 00:25:23] if it’s going to be effective, right, and then your distribution. Instead of running it on air run it on the marketplaces. Run it on Fiver, run it on Upwork, run it on whatever one is the ideal marketplace for you. You wouldn’t run a maybe a man’s product on Lifetime cable TV back in the day because women were watching it. You have to find the right marketplace for your message, too. But, really, that is the key. That was the light bulb moment for me. I saw the analogy there. I always say it, I’ve made more mistakes than anybody has a right to and still be in business. So, kind of been there, done that, I know what to do and I know what not to do.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s really brilliant. And I’d like to say that the true power of the internet is not the access to the information. That’s cool, but it’s really the connection, and these marketplaces, like, the ability to offer a service and literally deliver it to a client. I’ve had a lot of clients in Australia, of all places. I live on the other side of the Earth, and you can do that now. You could not do that 10 years ago. Distribution and then the true scale of the web, the internet and also just the connections that can be made are really mind-blowing when you think about that, and that is the new economy.
Mike Hayes: There’s one more part of that, too. Back in that day, you mentioned Oxiclean, if they didn’t like it, they returned it. You had to deal with shipping and handling a physical product, pay for the shipping and handling, and then handle returns too. Now with digital information products, now there’s no shipping and handling so you can send it globally. There’s no wait to worry about the FedEx or UPS distribution. It’s absolutely free and it’s just absolutely brilliant. So when you see those things and understand where you are you get your bearings. If you know where you are then you work your way out of a confusion by getting your bearings. So if you’re confused you’re probably in the incumbent economy. You’re not current, and so it’s time to learn a little bit more, create some awareness, get your bearings, know where you are and start to operate accordingly and you’ll see things really turn around for you.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Just to brainstorm with a listener out there who may be very aware of online courses, but they’re kind of intrigued by what you’re saying about upselling or positioning courses as part of a product suite or an offer suite. What are some ideas that a course creator could upsell into in the new on-demand gig economy?
Mike Hayes: To me the other most important word, more important than technology, is creativity and open-mindedness, adaptability and taking action. A good story can overcome almost anything. It’s like a computer program, it’s garbage in, garbage out. If you have a lousy story, I don’t care how you deliver it it doesn’t make anybody buy anything. There’s no [inaudible 00:28:56] to their head, “Buy this course now, [inaudible 00:28:58].” You can’t do that. So, if you have a great story you can distribute it anyway because it’s a great story, it’s going to compel people. So, first you have to have a great story and then you have to distribute it. So then it’s creativity. Creativity’s free. It’s in your brain, okay?
But, the other thing is I think the human skull is something like seven centimeters thick or something, I forget. But if you have a great idea but it’s behind that skull nobody can see it. It’s great, it could be a multi-million dollar idea and nobody knows about it. It’s locked away. So you have to unleash it. You have to pull it out. Digitize it into a story so that people can see it, get it. And then distribute it globally, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that. That’s news.” Something that is attention-getting. And the beauty is about working digitally, if you have the right information, if you have the right strategy, if you have the right attitude, which is a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. So there are going to be some people watching this and they’re just in a fixed mindset, they’re just, “Oh, this is the way I grew up and I can’t adapt.” That’s fine.
But, those people that are in a growth mindset and can adapt and adjust, the beauty of this new approach as opposed to look at the investment. When you invested in a commercial you spent a lot of money. When you invested in an infomercial you spent a lot of money. If it didn’t work you were really deep in debt and what were you going to do if you made a mistake, redo it? Not many people had the cohones to go do that, okay? So you have to be really, really careful.
When you can work in the digital age and it’s so cost effective that you can afford to make mistakes, get feedback, and go out with the attitude, “Folks, I’m here to super-serve the super-interested. So if you’re really interested in this topic I’m your guy. Today’s the day, this is the place. I’m ready to super-serve you, and I want to listen to what you have to say. My attitude is if I don’t have a chapter on something you want to know, you tell me what it is. I will not only produce it, I will produce that for you even if you are the only person on the plant Earth that wants that information I will produce that chapter for you.” That’s super-serving the super-interested, okay?
So that’s a key, is to be able to learn, listen and then deliver so you can create a bootcamp. Actually, you can even pre-sell a bootcamp before you even produce it, so that’s a cool thing to get at least some of the cash upfront and listen to your market and then produce it over the next six weeks or six months, and listen to them. And if you’ve got the goods that you can deliver the key, which is a transformation, okay? People buy courses for the transformation that it will give them, not for the course.
They might have a good intention, “Oh, that will help my life,” when they buy the course. But, really, what’s really going to satisfy and make them happy is when you are delivering a transformation in their life that will either give them what they want temporarily or even permanently. And what’s going to give you the most personal happiness is when you can take that mission, that commitment, I should say, to get them that transformation and change their life and turn that in to your life’s mission. Then you can really achieve true personal happiness and financial success and all the other things that go with that. But those are the key.
So, it’s really one of my key mentors taught me, “Mike, you are successful the moment you make a true commitment to your success. Not a half-baked commitment, a true commitment because that means you will do whatever it takes to be successful. And so you’re successful the moment you make that because now it’s just a matter of time. And my attitude is if I have a low-cost way to go about it and I can do it effectively I can’t fail unless I quit, and I don’t quit. So, you take action, you move forward and you see what happens. You get off of your couch, you go hitchhike to New York. No, I’m only kidding. But you take some action. It’s action. That’s why I called my show where I interviewed Oprah, Donald, I called it “The Keys to Success In Action” because oddly enough the people who take action succeed, and those who don’t, don’t.
Chris Badgett: That’s so true. I like to call that trade in a person batteries included. So if you have batteries included, you’re not waiting for permission. You have a bias towards action. That’s the biggest competitive advantage there is out there. And you’d be surprised what doors you knock on that you can get into simply for taking action.
Mike Hayes: I love that, batteries included, Chris.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Mike Hayes: That’s great.
Chris Badgett: You’ve given us so much value here and I know the listener really appreciates it. I’ve seen what you’re up to at sidegigschool.com, so if you’re listening to this and you want to see Mike’s course that he does a deeper dive on the on-demand gig economy and goes into more detail. I highly recommend it. But, Mike, I really want to just thank you for coming on the show and sharing your passion and your wisdom and your commitment with us. If people want to find out more about you and more about the on-demand gig economy where else can they go?
Mike Hayes: The easiest place is just go to gigmarketplaces.com, join us on Facebook. We’ve got some really exciting things going on. Aside from the peer-to-peer networking they can do, getting feedback about their presentation from their peers. That’s a huge part of it. The Facebook group is free, so you can’t lose unless you don’t join. And secondarily, because of my media background, I’ve got connections. We’re doing contests and giveaways, helping people achieve as featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN. We’re going to have contests because I know how to help them get that status that they can then post on with their picture and their course and all these great logos around their course that shows they’ve got credibility. So we’re doing some really exciting things that are going to help people with their courses, gigs, get upsells and have a lot of fun doing it. That’s really key. Just go to gigmarketplaces.com.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Mike, and we’re going to have to do it again sometime.
Mike Hayes: I enjoyed it. Thank you.


Finding Product Market Fit and Selling Online Courses to Professors with Justin Wilcox from FOCUS Framework

The topic of discussion in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is finding product market fit and selling online courses to professors with Justin Wilcox from FOCUS Framework. They discuss Justin’s journey in creating his book, and they dive into the power of blogging.

Justin is the creator of FOCUS Framework, which is a workbook series on how to take away all of the overwhelm and confusion of figuring out how to start a business. It allows you to easily navigate questions such as, “Who should I talk to when I’m starting a company? How should I price my products? How should I do my marketing?”

Blogging is a very powerful form of media for many reasons. Chris and Justin dive into the details of how blogging can help you find business opportunities and how it can help you strengthen your skills. Chris shares the story of how he made his way into the LMS world through blogging. It also allows you to explore the cutting edges of an industry.

Justin started around 2010, and he tells his story of finding out through his failure with product creation how to create a good product. Through this process he learned what questions needed to be asked in order to create a successful product. He also shares his secret to what makes a product great.

Using experiments to test your customer base in a certain area is very valuable. Justin has found a lot of use for the false door experiment. As he explains, he offers a solution he has not yet developed to a certain problem in order to see if customers are really interested in finding a solution to that problem. This allows him to take a poll of the potential audience to see if a project is worth pursuing.

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in business is creating a product and then finding out that there is no desire for it in the marketplace. So running tests on a market before diving in is an absolutely necessary thing to do. Justin found a demand for a book through his market tests. And he ended up writing a book, even though he did not originally think he would do that.

Selling your content to professors is also very valuable, because with them come their students. In the United States most schools will buy individual copies of content for each student. So if you are able to sell your product to a professor, you can almost always get all of the students, too.

To learn more about Justin Wilcox, you can find him on Twitter at @Justin_Wilcox. You can also visit FOCUS Framework.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett. Today we’ve got a special guest, Justin Wilcox. He’s the creator of the FOCUS Framework. He also has a blog called Customer Dev Labs. He ended up building a course, and we’re going to get into his journey and how that started, where he ended up. First, Justin, thank you for coming on the show.
Justin Wilcox: My pleasure. I’m super excited. I am a big fan of LifterLMS, and so happy to contribute to your awesome community.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, I ran across Justin, I think in social media, and then we hooked up for a call. I realized he had a ton of value for you guys out there, the course creators, and teachers, and the entrepreneurs. Justin has a really unique take on finding product market fit and running tests, and experiments that trend towards a successful outcome. We’re going to get into that. But first, can you just tell us what exactly, or in brief, what is the FOCUS Framework?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, sure thing. FOCUS Framework takes all of the overwhelming mess of figuring out how to start a new business and brings down into a series of ordered experiments. For any of your listeners who are familiar with The Lean Startup, the idea here is that we want to identify the hypotheses that are making up our business model, and then we want to systematically test each one of them. There’s a lot of great theory out there about what was missing was a lot of practical advice on how to actually implement that theory.
That’s what focus is, it’s this workbook series that just breaks it down into 40 individual exercises that help people actually figure out, ‘Hey, who should I talk to when I’m starting my company? How should I price it? How should I do my marketing?’ Then just lays it out step by step on how to do that.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s really awesome. I think there’s a lot of power and wisdom in what you’re doing is that you’re not just talking about good ideas and why they’re important. You’re really getting into the how-to, which is often lacking in a lot of educational content; both online and in classrooms.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: You have a book. You have an online course. That online course is out there in many different places. We’ll get into that later, but where did all this start? Can you tell us about your journey? What was the seed that started you on developing this knowledge that makes up the focus framework? Then how did it evolve to where you are today?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. The seed is planted in this beautiful, amazing technology that I built as part of a start-up that no one cared about. It’s a huge failure. My seed, this focus grows out of a big pile of failure. I left Microsoft as a developer. I started a company, and like I said, built some awesome technology that no one wanted. As I was trying to figure out what happened, like how could something that I worked so hard on have possibly failed in such a colossal way? I began to fall into these theories around customer development and lean start-up. They were really insightful. They’re basically built on this premise that customers don’t buy products. Customers buy solutions to problems. Just that thinking and understanding really shifted where I was putting my energy, and helped me understand that I was doing it wrong. I’d put all my energy into this product, into this thing that I thought the world needed; but it turns out, that didn’t solve a real problem for the world.
Chris Badgett: So did you try to fix the thing, or start over, or were you just doing a post-mortem, trying to figure out what just happened?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, it was a post-mortem. It died. It was over.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Justin Wilcox: I was trying to figure out what … how do I change it for next time; because I knew I still wanted to start a company. Now, when I started reading into this stuff, this was, like I mentioned before, just a ton of great theory out there; but I didn’t understand how to apply the theory. That’s basically where the customer development labs blog comes from. It’s just me trying to figure out, ‘Okay, well, there’s this great theory about how getting out of the building, so we shouldn’t be inside the building thinking about it. We just need to get out of the building, go talk to our customers. Our customers give us the ideas.’
So I was like, “Okay, well, how do you do that?” The blog just explores that and how to go do that, and that was really born out of … I went to a networking meet-up, and there was a panel.
I tried the same advice probably a couple dozen times, and advice that someone asks, “You know, what should I do getting started?”
Someone on the panel said, “You just need to go out and build something, and see how the market reacts.” I just knew that didn’t work. It didn’t work for me. It didn’t work for so many people.
After a while, I was like, “I have to start sharing at least what it looks like when you try to apply this customer development principles so that other people can kind of see what that looks like in the real world.” Yeah, so that was the genesis. That was the start of the blog. Then after that, the blog turns into a series of speaking engagements, and I do quite a bit of work for new emerging startup communities around the world; then, mentoring of start-ups.
Then along the way, I actually changed and pivoted my original company. We found product market fit by doing something completely different, by not worrying about features and awesome products at all. We ended up just documenting the hell out of our product so that it can meet a higher security bar. That’s what our customers wanted. They wanted to go get Department of Defense contracts, and so to get that, they had to have a higher level of security. To get that, we had to add even more documentation about our security. It turns out our customers didn’t want more features, they just wanted more documentation.
Chris Badgett: Wow, that’s interesting. Well, how much time went by from the start-up that failed to evolving this methodology to going and speaking and consulting on this?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. This has been a long journey. The start-up died in … I want to say 2010-ish. Yeah, 2010-ish. Then, we’re seven years later now, and now I’ve gone on all this stuff. It’s taken a long time to evolve all of these things, and put these pieces together. Yeah, for sure.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Yeah, I think that’s something that’s often overlooked is just the timeline. There is no … and it may appear like overnight success or whatever. I think it was 2012, I was writing a blog post about how I was creating an online course, and a lot of my blog posts, they didn’t get much interest or whatever, but that one exploded.
I’m like, “Oh, there might be something here;” but here we are, it’s many, many, many years later. I was already 100 blog posts deep before I got to that one.
Justin Wilcox: Wow, wow.
Chris Badgett: I just want to emphasize that in my opinion, blogging is not dead. It’s a great way to workshop ideas and explore the edges of something.
Like you mentioned, you were hearing some good theories and stuff; but you were like, “How do I do it? How do I do it?” You started taking leadership and exploring that yourself. It’s a journey. It takes time.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah man, no, it totally … As far as blogging’s dead, I don’t know if anyone’s saying that or if they are, I don’t think they understand the power of it. I’m going to start a new initiative here, in terms of curriculum development, and I’ve just been working with my partner on this. We’ll literally start another blog, probably next week; because there is so much value in providing value and solving problems for our customers. That’s how we generate connections, and ultimately how we can solve problems in a financially sustainable way, through courses or through whatever it is. Yeah, blogging is just an amazing to connect to customers and solve the problems.
Chris Badgett: Well, let’s talk a little bit about that transition from consulting to online courses. There was a book in there, too. What order did you go in, and how did that play out?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. My world starts with this blog, and I’m really doing a bunch of advising and mentoring, like all for free, and just because I love the community and I want to understand their problems. I didn’t have any plans on building a business around serving early stage entrepreneurs. This blog was getting more and more traction. It started off with ‘No, I didn’t have any audience,’ and then eventually, it was getting 100 visitors a day just from simple blog posts that I’d written up. Then, after that, I thought, ‘Well, what if I could find some financial consistency through this blog, and if I monetize that?’ I did what’s called a false door test. This is one of the normal experiments in any sort of MVP or minimum viable product, or lean start-up processes.
The false door experiment is where you say, “Hey, here is a solution to a problem, and it’s behind this closed door.” Then you just measure how many people try and open that door to gauge interest in that thing. In my case, I had this blog. I had some traffic coming up, and I just added a little banner bar to the top.
I said, “Hey, I’m offering a video course in how to find product market fit. Click here for more information.” Then I just measured how many people clicked that button. Behind that false door was nothing. It basically “Hey, thanks for your interest. We’re trying to test demand for this video course. If you’d like more information, please enter your email address below, and then we’ll tell you about it.”
I split test this false door; so split test meaning I had one version that was ‘Hey, a video course,’ and I had the same thing, ‘Hey, I’m going to write a book about testing or finding product market fit. Click here for more.’ Then, I had one for, ‘I have a mentoring … some sort of mentoring, one-on-one mentoring for finding product market fit.’ I just measured what my audience wanted, and it was clear after this that my audience wanted a book. I had no intention of writing a book at all; but my audience said they wanted it.
I said, “Okay, then let’s go on to the next phase,” which was not which modality do people want to learn. It’s how much do they want to pay? Are they willing to pay enough for this book, that it’s worth my while to build. After that, I had the bar up at top that said, ‘Hey, I’m writing a book.’ Then after that, you clicked onto a page that was basically a pre-order. Like ‘Hey, here’s the book that I’m going to write. If you purchase this, you’ll get a discount.’ Then, I did a bunch of A/B testing on pricing. What ostensibly started as an electronic book … For electronic book prices, I started, I think $39 for my first test, and ran a bunch of experiments and found that at $99, it actually converts better than at $39. This thing is like a tome, I knew it was going to take a lot of work.
Anyway, so I just experimented with that until I had … Eventually, I had 75 pre-orders before I ever wrote a line of it, so that I knew that there was real demand for it. It was basically just a series of small experiments to determine whether or not there was … what there was demand for, and if there was enough demand to make it worth my while to build it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I just want to underscore the importance and the efficiency of doing things that way. In terms of the false door test, and preselling, you can save yourself … The biggest, most classic mistake is to lock yourself in the creative cave and go build this thing, the course, the book, the consulting practice, just in a vacuum and then … You could be making a huge error, and wasting a lot of time, or charging the wrong price.
Just to go over the false door test again, I think there’s a lot of different ways to do that. You were talking about measuring clicks. It’s got to be measurable. You could do clicks. You could do opt-ins. You could have people fill out some kind of application. You could have a phone number for people to call. You could ask people to send you an email or whatever. Can you think of any other false door test ideas that you’ve seen out there?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, it’s all about we got to connect the dots between where you are right now and what your ultimate goal is. I call that defining your victory. You have to define your victory. For some people, this is about impact. I’m building an organization that we want to have impact. I want to teach X number of people. The thing you need to measure is what’s going to … What am I going to measure to determine if I’m actually impacting people. If you’re testing that, you might want to test, do I get their email? Then, if I wanted to measure impact, how many people actually read my follow-up emails to them? That’s the measurable … That’s the metric that matters. If it’s monetary, a monetary goal that you have, then you want to measure can you actually sell something?
As far as the false door test, it’s basically just pick something, any metric that you can measure that’s going to help you get to what I call your currency test. Your currency, that’s the big one. You’re collecting. Eventually you’re trying to identify your funnel and optimize that, during your offer test, or your fake door test. Eventually, you’re going to sell the thing. Can you actually get the people to read the thing, or can you get people to take your course, or can you get them to give you money?
Chris Badgett: How was it that you were able to be open minded enough to challenge your assumptions? Perhaps it was because you came from a start-up failure. Lifter LMS is actually not my first software product. I don’t know if I’ve said this on this podcast, but I know what it’s like. When you come back around that second time, sometimes you’re more open to having your assumptions be challenged, or whatever.
Justin Wilcox: Yes.
Chris Badgett: How was it for you? Why didn’t you just say, “All right, I’m doing a book. It’s going to be a $20 eBook.” How did you be like, “But wait a second, maybe there’s this … I have elasticity in the format, and the medium, and the price.” Where does that come from?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. It absolutely comes from my failure. This is a pattern I see over and over, and over again; that the methodologies that are … in focus, or whatever frame we’re going to use, lean start-up customer developer; they are emotionally difficult to do. The fun thing is to build a thing. It’s fun to write software. It’s fun to write a book. It’s fun to build a course. The problem is that I have been down that road, and I have built far too many things that people don’t want. Eventually, you learn that the only thing more fun than building a product is building a product that people use, right?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. It’s a lot more fun.
Justin Wilcox: It’s a lot more fun, right; but it does take more work. It’s more emotionally difficult to do that work. It’s through this agony of failure that I’ve learned that it is better to take the time to run these small experiments than it is just to sit in your creative cave, and just build something. I’ll tell you, I promise you. I would have never picked book. I would have never thought that people wanted a book. I would have thought they wanted the mentoring first, which was the least highly converting. Then, I would have thought the video course. I would have picked book last. I would have been totally wrong. I would have spent a bunch of time building out something that no one wanted, and I certainly wouldn’t be talking here with you today if I had not run this experiment.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s pick up the thread on the story from ‘Okay, it’s going to be a print book,’ and then what happened next?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. We were going to have … I knew it was going to be an electronic book, and then I tested demand for a print book because print books are way more expensive. Again, here I found that at 299, it’s actually five workbook series; and so workbooks are just more complicated and expensive to build. I found at 299, it was actually worth producing those books. Then, I ran a test for a video course. The same sort of deal, false doors, measuring and testing different price points.
Then once I knew I had something, … it was sort of at the phases where pre-orders, having written nothing, then I wrote the whole thing. Then, gave it to everyone who pre-ordered. That took about … I think it took a year to write the whole thing. It takes a long time to write this thing. Then, I was selling during this time, and then I gave it to people as I as selling it. After I had it, then I ran basically a crowdfunding campaign for a nicer version of it. One that was like a-
Chris Badgett: Why’d you do that?
Justin Wilcox: I ran the crowdfunding campaign because the crowdfunding campaign is an incredible way to … get an entire community behind an initiative. It’s basically like a month-long marketing campaign. I had already … This is a really fascinating technique. A lot of people recognize the value in crowdfunding because it helps you test and run an experiment. You get to understand, ‘Should I build this or should I not?’ If you wait until the crowdfunding campaign to actually run your experiment, then it means you’ve missed out on all of the actual marketing bonus that comes with a crowdfunding campaign. You could be trying to sell the wrong thing. I optimized my message and everything before the crowdfunding campaign. Then, I ran the crowdfunding campaign to ostensibly go and get-
Chris Badgett: And scale?
Justin Wilcox: What was that?
Chris Badgett: To get scale, to get more scale?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, to get more scale, and also to get a nicer version of the book. I needed to pay for just higher quality printing. I needed to pay for a nicer website, and all this kind of stuff. Yeah, we had this whole big campaign, like a 30 day campaign. Also, I had … Throughout this time, during my blog, I had never emailed my subscribers about my book. I had all the pre-sales were just from people coming to the landing page. I had basically been waiting to actually sell the book to my audience that I’d built up over time. I think at that time, we had probably like 10,000 subscribers, 12,000, something like that; until the book was done. Once the book was done and finished, and a crowdfunding campaign was ready, then I started emailing all the subscribers I had built up. I was doing that crowdfunding campaign that I actually, …
I said, “You know what? About half of the people who are pre-ordering ‘Focus Framework’ are actually entrepreneurship teachers. So they’re consultants, or they’re people who are teaching in medical communities, like a community outreach and community support. Or, they’re university professors.” So I thought, “Let’s just see what happens if I host a little online workshop for people who are teaching entrepreneurship.” I hosted this, and it turns out one of the people who was in that course wanted to use ‘Focus’ in his university, in a course he taught for his entrepreneurship course-
Chris Badgett: So another way to say that is perhaps it as kind of B-to-C, business to customer. Then you started to realize it was kind of B-to-B, or B-to-teacher, or B-to-T, whatever you call it.
Justin Wilcox: Right, right.
Chris Badgett: You started attracting a different … There were different segments in your audience.
Justin Wilcox: Exactly, exactly. This is something that I work with entrepreneurs all the time on, that we have to … Basically, you niche to win. Of course I knew there was so many people that I could help with it, a practical guide to finding product market fit; but I was really, really narrowly focused on early stage founders who were reading my blog for practical advice.
What happens when you niche and you solve a real problem for a small group of people, instead of other people who have similar problems, they will start finding you. You don’t have to cast this big giant net to get everyone all at once. You solve one problem really well for a small group of people.
Other people find you, and then from there; like this university professor, he said, “Hey, will you build a curriculum version for me?” I was intrigued, and eventually it was like, ‘Yes, this is a great idea.’ It just turns out, that’s an entirely different segment, and it’s arguably much bigger than the one I was focused on. I wouldn’t have known that if I had tried to sell one version that was a curriculum at the beginning, and one version that was for accelerators, and one version that was for founders. I had to solve the problem really well for a small group of people before I could actually attract the attention of other markets.
Chris Badgett: I’m familiar with the concept of the beachhead market, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is a classic business book. Can you lay that out? What is the beach head market, and who was it for you? Then, can you just tie that into your story?
Justin Wilcox: Sure, of course. Of course, yes. The beachhead market, … if you’re familiar with the curve in ‘Crossing the Chasm,’ it’s one of these normal distributions. It starts off with this very small group of people called the early adopters, who are going to be the … I have a slightly different … What I think is kind of more practical definition of that beachhead market, and I’ll describe it here. People can look up what ‘beachhead market’ means. To me, an early adopter is someone who is actively trying to solve a problem. Remember at the beginning, we talked about someone who … Customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems.
Chris Badgett: So for you, it was the early stage founder, right?
Justin Wilcox: Exactly. It’s my early stage founder. That’s my overall customer. My early adopter is not just any early stage founder. My early adopter is the person who’s actively trying to solve the problem, ‘I don’t know how to do lean start-up.’
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Justin Wilcox: That’s a very, very small segment. All early stage founders … If you think about it, who even knows about lean start-up? It’s like this many people, all right. Who has read the book and then tried to do it on their own, and actually failed, and doesn’t know how to do it? It’s like this group of people. It’s like a tiny, tiny group of people who are trying to solve this problem. By solving their problem really, really well, like we talked about before, you get brand awareness and people start trusting you.
You get authenticity, that like, “Oh my gosh, this person solved this problem really well. Maybe he can help me solve some other problems,” and you can branch out from there. That’s what I espouse all the time, is you’ve got to find the people who are already trying to solve the problem that you want to solve. Then, solve their problem. Don’t try and be everything for everybody.
Chris Badgett: Let me just ask you that question, in terms of the lean start-up, how did you find the people that failed? How did you find that? How did you find those early adopters?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, great question.
Chris Badgett: Or was it just from your writing and your blog that grew organically through search?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. It’s the same answer. It turns out that I was … I was having a problem. My problem was great book, I got it, too. Great book, but how do you do it?
Chris Badgett: Right.
Justin Wilcox: The blog, Customer Dev Labs, was me seeking a solution to that problem. It turns out other people were also seeking solutions to that problem, and so they found me because I was trying to solve that problem. It became one and the same. My channel was basically a channel of early adopters looking for solutions to this problem, and then all I did was offer a better premium solution to that problem; a visible blog.
Chris Badgett: Gotcha, gotcha. Well now that you started attracting these other markets, we have professors becoming interested in you, keep going. What happened there? Tell us why that’s so much more … because it’s not just the professors who would buy one book, right?
Justin Wilcox: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. This has been really fascinating. You should know, I am not a professor. I did go to college, but that’s my only experience with higher level education. Getting into this market is incredibly difficult, unless you’ve done this kind of groundwork. It turns out this market is really fascinating, because you can get … If you get one professor to agree to use your textbook or your resource in their course, then you ostensibly have one buyer for every one of their students; at least in the United States. It’s different outside of the United States, but in the United States, it’s … very common for a professor to have 20, 30, 50, even 100 students in their course. If they think that you’re providing a valuable resource, then you can sell your course, your course, your textbook to all 100 people in their class.
I’ve actually just started this entire process over again, after that one professor, started all over again. Then just this week, we met our what was called a success metric for our currency test. We started this process all over again. We did false stores, and we did a bunch of interviews. We did false stores, then we did currency testing. We just did our success metric. It looks like we’ll be doing the exact same thing again with a larger curriculum version of this entire thing going forward.
Chris Badgett: How do you conduct interviews? How do you do that?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, this is super, super important. It’s like the most important step that I’ve found in enabling me to find product market fits for myself, and what I coach everyone on. Okay. The goal of the interview is to identify the problem your customers are trying to solve. Once you know their problem, you can start building the marketing copy, and you can start building your feature set. In other words, it doesn’t go the other way around. We don’t start with a feature set, and then we try and market it to our customers. We start with the customers, use them to build our marketing copy, and use that marketing copy to go build our feature set.
How do we go figure out their problems? We have to do these interviews. These interviews are very special kinds of conversations where you will not talk about the thing you want to build at all. It will be an entirely empathetic conversation in where you are listening to them and their problems.
Chris Badgett: Why did they even allow you in the room? What’s in it for them to have the interview?
Justin Wilcox: Yes, yes. Great question. Why would they waste their time talking to some stranger?
Chris Badgett: Right.
Justin Wilcox: Remember when we talked about you got to find the people who are already trying to solve the problem? These people who are actively seeking some solution, if you go off and say, “Hey, I see that you’re trying to solve this problem over here. I am also trying to solve that problem, and I’m trying to build a solution to this. Can I talk to you about the problems that you’re having, and solutions you’ve tried?”
Chris Badgett: Well, yes.
Justin Wilcox: Not everyone … Yeah, not everyone will be. They’re far more likely to agree than if you just walk up to some random stranger, right? Or, trying to email, cold email. If I tried to email a thousand start-up founders, I’m not going to get any conversion rate. But, if I find the founders who are going to lean start-up meet-up groups, who are buying other books and leaving reviews on Amazon for other people’s books, and I target those people in specifically, I know they’re trying to solve a problem and so they’re more likely to give me their time. That’s how you get the interview.
Then, once you have the interview, there’s just a very specific set of questions you’re going to ask like, “Hey, I see you’re trying to do this thing. What’s the hardest part about doing that thing?” Then you just listen to them, and you ask them, “Okay, so why is that hard?” What you’re listening for there is the emotions that come out, because ultimately like we said, people, customers buy solutions to problems. Their real problem is the emotion that comes up for them. When you can understand the emotions that are associated with the problem they’re having, that’s your marketing copy. In my case, are you overwhelmed trying to find your product market fit? ‘Overwhelmed’ is the word that comes up over, and over, and over again.
I build my marketing, and then once I know that ‘overwhelmed’ is the problem. The way to solve ‘overwhelmed’ is to break a big crazy complex process into individual steps. There’s my feature. My feature set comes directly from my conversations with my customers.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I think this past two minutes here is really at the heart of what entrepreneurship is. That process you described is the talent, and it’s the unique ability. It can be trained. It can be learned. If you have fun doing that kind of thing, that is the signal that you’re an entrepreneur.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. I like to think of entrepreneurship as just the French word for solving problems.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Justin Wilcox: It’s such a great place to be. If your job is to solve people’s problems in a financially sustainable way, what better job is there in the world?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think there’s a lot of people out there who prefer to go into a certain world and execute on a certain task, or work with certain materials. Like you said, you have to go in there, totally detached from what it is you think you might build, and really be a vessel for understanding the problem. Then, you get to go be creative and build the marketing, and build the thing.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s really fascinating.
Justin Wilcox: It might be worth talking just a little bit because we were talking about the optimal way to build a company, where you start with the people you want to serve. You talk to them, but so many people already have an idea that they’re working on right now.
A very often, frequent question I get is “Okay, yeah. Fine, that’s the way you should do it, but I’ve already started, and I’m trying to sell this thing. And like, what do I do now?” If you think it’s worthwhile, I can just speak just briefly on it … Okay.
Let’s pretend we’ve built a course or built something, and no one’s buying it, or not enough people are buying it, or we don’t know how to get people to buy it.
What I’m going to recommend there is that you take this thing you’ve got and you peel a layer of the onion and say, “Okay, what problem does this really solve for my customer, in my customer’s own words?”
I can’t say something like, “Oh, you know what? The ‘Focus Framework,’ the problem it solves is that there’s not an actionable resource for applying lean start-up theory.” That’s not the words my customers would use. I have to reverse engineer it and say, “Oh, you know what the problem is that-”
Chris Badgett: When they’re overwhelmed at the bar, what would they say to a friend?
Justin Wilcox: Exactly. Exactly.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Justin Wilcox: It’s just like, “Oh my god. I’m not doing anything. I’m being lazy, you know? Like I’m not getting anything done because I’m overwhelmed.” That’s exactly right. What would your friend tell another friend at the bar about their problem? I like that. Breaking down to that level, so now you know that you have a hypothesis about the problem they’re going to solve. Now you’re going to ask yourself, who is already trying to solve this problem? What steps are they taking to try and solve the problem that you can observe?
Remember when I said I can target people who are reading and leaving reviews about books on applying lean start-up? Just because someone reads lean start-up, doesn’t mean I can find them, right? I don’t have a list of all the people who’ve read this; but if someone-
Chris Badgett: You can look for those one star reviews.
Justin Wilcox: Exactly.
Chris Badgett: Like, “Hey man, how do I actually do this?” You’re like, boom. Google their name.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. Exactly, find their name, then contact them. If they’re talking about it on Twitter. They’re like, “Oh, there’s nothing actionable on Twitter,” then I can find them. These are what I call externally observable behaviors. It’s a behavior that someone does that you, as an external observer, can actually see and target them to actually go and have your conversation.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely.
Justin Wilcox: That’s what I recommend. If you’ve already done it, then go find the externally observable behaviors, try and interview them. Then with their interviews, then build back out. Redo your marketing, and then if you need to, change your feature set.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, let me ask you a question for the course creators out there that are chomping at the bit. They’re like, “Wow, that sounds really great. If I can sell to one teacher and get a 100 customers through their students, and then leverage that trust to get into more departments around the US, or the world, or whatever.” What are some advice you have on getting to that one teacher first?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Or should you be so good that they find you. How does it work?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. Exact same principles apply. You need to find the professor who’s actively trying to solve a problem. Don’t go to the professor who’s had their course, and he has their textbooks, the same ones for the last 10 years. What’s been fascinating in this journey so far, everyone we’ve been working with who’s been willing to have a conversation with us, and sign our letter of intent, has been an associate professor.
Chris Badgett: What does that mean?
Justin Wilcox: An associate professor is someone who is, I think there’s three different levels. There’s an adjunct, an associate, and then a full professor. The associate professor is someone who’s not tenured yet, but has enough control that they can create their own curriculum, and design their own craft, their own class. They’re not tenured yet. Something really amazing happens when you get tenured. You stop having the same incentives to create a really interesting impactful course, as you did before you got tenured. That’s just goes speaks to my point of about you got to find people who are trying to solve a problem. These non-tenured professors, part of the way you get tenure is by having really great reviews from your students. How do you get great reviews? By having a experiential, engaging course, which is why they want to use our curriculum.
Whatever your university professors world looks like that you want to target, you got to find someone who’s actively trying to solve a problem. That’s what we’re doing now. You should know, though, that other people have realized how powerful this market is, and you are not going to be the only one trying to solve this problem. The people who I’ve talked to, they get inundated with these conversations all the time. What’s really helped is the person who was working with me, he has a lot of credibility in this space. He’s been able to help guide me and point to the right people. He’s been giving me some basically social cover along the way. That combination, like I said. Half the people who are buying the book ahead of time were also teachers in some form, so just having credibility in solving a problem in a really great way for a small market can get you some credibility with these professors.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I really like that idea about if that associate professor read the bar, they might say “Oh, I don’t want to just use whoever came before me’s old curriculum. I need some cutting edge … I need something fresh. I need to get some raving students.” It’s the same process, exactly like you’re saying.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s really cool. That’s really interesting and really keying in on what that professor wants and needs in their career, and they’re looking for tenure, or whatever. Perhaps they’re a little hungrier. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Why not go find a hungry horse and offer them a glass of water? That’s really cool. Well, let me just ask you just a couple quick tactical questions. That is for your book, what’d you use to publish it? Is it self published? Did you find a printing press? Version one, version two, what’d you do?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, so it’s all self published. I’m an engineer, which is … for better or worse, I ended up rolling my own platform using WordPress’ software to … because I knew I was going to have a digital version. I thought I was going to have a mobile version. I knew I was going to have a print version. Anyway, I won’t dive into that.
Yeah. I built my own platform. It turned out that the platform … It’s not good, because I built it myself. When I was looking sort of for the second version and especially when I made this jump into the curriculum space, I was looking for something … I was looking for an LMS, basically. Something that was searchable that had all of the exercises that I could put in, extensible, in that I could write my own code, and all that kind of stuff. That’s when I came across Lifter; which like I said, has been awesome. I love it. I use that for all of the curriculum versions now. Eventually, I will move the entire electronic version, which is on a standalone HTML site. I’ll move that also over to Lifter as well.
Chris Badgett: Cool. What about the print book? Was that CreateSpace, Amazon, or what’d you use?
Justin Wilcox: Okay, so-
Chris Badgett: Like if somebody wants to create workbooks that they send in the mail.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Where do they go?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, yeah. I’ll have to dig up the name of this place, but there’s … I could show you this hack. I’ve got these five workbooks here; because I’m a low volume printer, I’m not going to get thousands of these things made. You got to find a way to get … They’re like small workbooks, but there are five of them. This is number three. This is number one. You can’t get customized small versions. I found this printer who lets you basically count, even though the content of these is all … different, because they have a same number of pages, it counts at one print job. Does that make sense?
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Justin Wilcox: Instead of having five different print jobs, it was just one print job that happened to have five different versions. That cuts down on the price a lot. I can get you the name of those guys. Basically all I did is for the shorter workbooks, I just stuffed on note sections at the book, so that they’re all the same pages so they’re as long as the longest workbook. Then, they’re filled with notes to make up the space.
Chris Badgett: Do they print on demand, or do you warehouse a stash of them?
Justin Wilcox: I warehouse a stash of them. Amazon fulfillment services, or fulfillment by Amazon, by the way, is awesome. I totally love them. I recommend them super highly. Basically all I did was I had all the books published, and then I printed out all these … I laser-cut these boxes, and then I had a book building party. I had a bunch of friends come over. I brought a bunch of food, some drinks, and then we all just assembled books. We did 100 at a time, so I’ve done it twice. Then, I take all those books and ship them off to Amazon, and Amazon does all the delivery/fulfillment.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. What software did you use to create the workbook content?
Justin Wilcox: Which content?
Chris Badgett: The workbook content?
Justin Wilcox: That was just WordPress. I put it all in WordPress, and then I wrote a little app to download it from WordPress, and put it into HTML. Yeah. Don’t do it … Yeah, we shouldn’t even answer this question; because it’s not a good … Unless you’re a developer, you don’t want to do it. It was HTML. HTML converted into PDF. PDF converted into in design.
Chris Badgett: Now you’re going back to the web, right?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The web’s the big one.
Chris Badgett: Okay. I see, I see. Cool. What did you use for the crowdfunding? Was it Kickstarter, or Indiegogo, or what’d you use?
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. I wrote my own again. Why not? Why not just do everything myself?
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah. No, it was a WordPress site. I wanted some very specific things on it. I wanted to be able to AB test during the crowdfunding campaign, because I’m … This is what I do. This is what I love, this experimentation optimization. Kickstarter won’t let you AB test on their page, so I wanted to build my own platform to do that. Yeah, Kickstarter is a great place to go. Tilt, they just got acquired, so we’ll see how long they’re around; but Tilt is a great place to go. Tilt lets you run your own crowdfunding campaign on your own website. I’m sure there are WordPress plug-ins for it now.
Chris Badgett: Awesome, awesome. Well Justin Wilcox, ladies and gentleman. I want to thank you for coming on the show. If you want to check out Justin’s blog, you can head on over to CustomerDevLabs.com. Over there, there’s some links over to the ‘Focus Framework,’ so you can see what he put together there. Is there anywhere else you want to send people, Justin, if they want to connect with you and find out more?
Justin Wilcox: Those are the best places. My blog, subscribing there. You can follow me on Twitter. I don’t do much, but I’m Justin_Wilcox on Twitter, if you want to catch me there.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate what you’re saying about really getting out of the building, but not just … That’s a good idea, but how do that, and how to really focus on the problems, and building solutions for problems-
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Going about things that way.
Justin Wilcox: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Thanks for coming, and we’ll have to do it again some time.
Justin Wilcox: I would love. To everyone out there who’s starting a company, I’m wishing you the best of luck and help on your journey. If you need help on your journey, just let me know. I’m really excited for what you’re doing, and I’m happy to help.