Dan Norris on Lessons From Growing & Scaling Numerous Online and Offline Businesses
In the podcast:
00:38 – Guest & Episode Overview
04:01 – On His Business Failures
08:56 – What Worked Well For His Business
17:57 – Applications of Compound Marketing In Online & Offline Businesses
23:43 – Stand Out & Build Your Brand
28:38 – Competing Against Big Brands With His Brewery Business
32:57 – The Importance of Story Behind Your Brand
38:58 – Alternative Ways For You To Build Your Community
42:42 – Dividing Your Audience Into Communities
47:16 – Mistakes That People Make On Their Business
52:57 – Learn More About Dan Norris
Guest & Episode Overview
Welcome back to another episode of Teach Traffic. I’m your host, Ilana Wechsler.
And today, I’m really excited to be talking to Dan Norris, all about his latest book, which has come out but Dan is no stranger to really the online marketing world.
He’s been around for a really long time; I kind of won’t go into his full bio. Most of you listeners may have heard of Dan, before.
I know I certainly haven’t kind of stalked him online for quite a long time, even though we never reached out to each other. But he’s done a million in one thing.
So welcome to our episode today, Dan.
Thanks for having me. When you say has been around for a really long time that makes me feel a little bit old. But that’s okay. Other than that, thank you! (laughs)
That does mean that I’ve also been around for a really long time because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to recognize somebody else who’s been around for a long time.
That takes one to know one.
Old recognize old.
All the internet years are like dog years in my view, you know?
We were both actually I think early members inside James Schramko’s community back in the day before you started WP Curve, I believe. I used to read a lot of your posts there.
So I’ve been fascinated to watch your evolution over the years and seen many things that you’ve worked on, as you very openly say some with huge success and some, you know, the exact opposite of the failures.
And I think you’ve really distilled a lot of your thoughts in your heart in your latest book called Compound Marketing, which I really want to dive in with you today.
So maybe, do you want to give us a quick helicopter view of your background? And how you kind of got here today?
Yeah. So when I was first in James’s group, I’m just trying to think it was probably back when I had an agency, I can’t remember how long ago I joined his group.
But I’ve been following him for many years, I had a very small agency, like a lot of online people did just building websites for people.
It wasn’t going very well, it took you to know, I was it took me a long time to exit that business, just because I kind of thought, you know, I kind of thought, well, this is my business, I’m going to keep going at it for as long as until it gets good. And it never, it never got good.
And I ended up selling it after seven years, for not much money enough to basically give me a year if I was financially responsible.
Probably a lot less if I wasn’t which I wasn’t, but gave me about a year to do something else.
And I use all that small amount of runway to launch a whole bunch of other projects, which also failed.
Pretty much lost all of my money. Ended up selling my house, there wasn’t really much left. By the end of that, I did launch another business…
While we’re sort of there? Because obviously, we got to get to your success stories. And I do want to get there.
Do you want to maybe touch on why you think those businesses failed?
On His Business Failures
Um, well, why did they fail? I just think that probably went just so many reasons that it just wasn’t a very good business.
It was very, very much the same as every other agency. I wasn’t really doing anything particularly interesting.
I wasn’t particularly good at building websites. You know, I, I’d learned out of books, I’ve never done courses on it. I wasn’t a designer.
I didn’t really know or care about design too much back then.
I didn’t have any way of marketing the business that was in a unique way. I hadn’t built up my own profile or audience to a point where I could get leads the way I get leads these days.
I, you know, I was working in circumstances that I found challenging I found challenging to work by myself. I found that lonely. working from home was hard.
It probably sounds like enough reason.
There’s way more I mean, there’s the basic reason of just about every business fails and and every other business I’ve done as far as well, other than to I think and when I say file, you know, I kept the going for seven years, but it was, it never paid me more than, you know, sort of a minimum wage.
And the wage was so up and down, it was, you know, you’d almost rather the whole thing just blow up and just drag on in that format for so many years, and also get, so I didn’t really let it die these days, I have a bad idea.
I’m pretty good at letting it die. But I didn’t know, I didn’t know that it was okay to do that back then, you know, I was always sort of like, persist, persist.
And these days on the opposite on like, if it’s not working for whatever reason, it’s almost like the reason doesn’t matter too much. There’s a million reasons why something won’t work.
But the point that it didn’t work is is the point it’s not, it’s not the reason, it’s just the fact that it’s not working, and you need to accept it and be able to kill it and move on, which was something I wasn’t really able to do at the time as I was in my early 20s, when I started it. And just learning a lot as well.
I’ve learned a lot since then. And yeah, these days kind of got to the point where I’m a lot more ruthless with things I spend my time on, if they’re not going as well as I want them to be going.
I think, you know, if any of our listeners are thinking of maybe their business isn’t going as well as they would like it to.
And I think the question for many people is, how long do you persist before you roll over and accept that this is perhaps a bad idea versus maybe I just haven’t given it enough time.
And it’s probably this gray area that is really unknown for many people.
It is just one of many of these really tricky, tough questions that can’t really be answered in a textbook, I think it’s just part of the deal with things and entrepreneurs.
You need to make these kind of really, really difficult decisions. And there’s no blueprint for how to make them.
I mean, there’s probably a lot of people who were in my position, we were able to build a good come time position with exactly the same idea and exactly the same circumstance.
And there’s probably others who would just immediately write it off, because it wasn’t going as well as they wanted to.
But the path I took was to just accept that it did, I wasn’t gonna make it any better. And I was going to try something completely different from scratch, which I did. And that completely failed as well. And then the approach I took after that was that I’m just going to try it again.
And again and again until something works. And eventually, eventually, something worked. I don’t know, I don’t know that that’s the best way to do it. That’s the way I did it.
But I’ve just seen a tweet this morning from a guy who followed more the James Schramko model, which was when he was working, you know, he was building up this side income away from his work. And then he quit.
When that income replaced his income at his job. And I did the absolute officer Doug, I got a promotion at work. I was 25. I was getting paid more than half the guys I was working around had been there for years. And I quit a week or so later to do a business that I had absolutely no idea what to do.
I have never built a website before. I had no qualifications in it. You know, I went to my first meeting for a website with a company that kind of said, Yeah, I need your CMS built. I didn’t really know what a CMS was like.
I hadn’t really learned to do server side coding. This is before WordPress. And I said not only do I need to do the CMS build I needed done in ASP, which is a programming language that I knew nothing about.
And I said, Yes, I’ll do it. I made up a price. Actually, they brought I think they might have the price. I think I said like, we think it’s gonna cost about $5,000.
And I was like, Yeah, I agree. It’s gonna cost $5,000.
And then I went out and got a book on ASP and built. Probably the most insecure website at the building.
I really hope it’s not still alive. And I hope you’re not watching this podcast. But that’s that’s how I went about it.
And eventually that and I took that approach many times over the years. And eventually it worked out for me, but not to say that the only way to do it or the best way to do it.
Yep. Anyway, sorry, I interrupted you before on your backstory to focus on the lessons from failure, which I think are really important.
And I think too few people don’t really distill their thoughts on failures. And I personally think they’re really important as a way to sort of bled from the past to apply to the future.
But yes, you had a bunch of failures. And then you had a whole lot of success.
Do you want to maybe touch on what did work well for you today?
What Worked Well For His Business
Yeah, I have had some success. I think everything’s relative. I knew at the time, so I launched this WordPress support business called WP Curve. And it was out of desperation.
Like I only had a week or two left, where I was not earning an income. I was, you know, under a lot of pressure to actually get a job which was 100% justified.
I actually think I was one of your first customers. You know that….
Right? Thank You….(chuckles)
It’s okay. No, because I remember seeing your post that you wrote that you’ve launched a business in, you know, you got seven days left in Schramko’s group. And you explained what the business was.
And at the time, I was running a very different agency, actually.
And that was exactly what I needed. And yeah, so I think I’m pretty sure I was one of the first. I don’t know if I was the first but definitely one of.
Yeah, very good. Yeah. Well, thank you for that. And it was a new thing for me because I got a lot of people sign up from these groups I was in and but it wasn’t like a lot of people just signed up that week, it was I kept getting consistent sign ups because I built this recurring revenue model.
It was a very simple equation.
So it was just a business that really worked for the way my brain works like the agency thing, the up and down nature of it, not knowing what’s coming in next week to having to go out and sell like that just didn’t work.
For me, it never felt right. I just felt hit my head against the wall for years and years with that model.
But this simplified product or services model really worked. Well, the way my brain works. Like, for me, it was very motivational to think that I’ve got 10 customers this week.
If I grow that by 10%, every month, from now on, it’ll turn into a seven figure business in two years.
And it did, and that was you know, every time I was sort of thinking, you know, I could go get a website project for $10,000.
Or I could spend a week trying to get one customer. It was motivational to me to think well, all I have to do is get a handful of customers this week.
And that’s going to add to my monthly recurring revenue, which I can track every month. I know my exact costs, exact, perfectly predictable income. It’s such a simple and easy business model to understand and run.
And it just worked for me and it worked for people like you as well, having that service was a different idea.
And, and like I said, I’m not sure I would characterize it as massively successful now, like it still was a fit, it was about 1000 customers, it was doing about a million dollars a year, which is good.
But it’s way, way smaller than my current business. And it’s way smaller than a lot of other successful businesses.
So it’s not like it’s the world’s most successful startup.
And for me, it was going from absolute failure to something that was bringing in a really good income, and growing and a big turnaround for me, and also something that I was eventually able to sell to GoDaddy, which was obviously a big, big milestone for anyone to sell a business, let alone to sell it to a big American IT company.
And I think it’s a testament to you had an offer that converted really well, like you didn’t need.
I mean, I remember your website, as a very simple website, it was a very clear offer. And it just solved one really big problem for people, you know, and it was really simple.
And I think that’s where the genius was in the in the simplicity of it doesn’t have to be complicated for people, it can be just a flat rate, you know, and every month and you know, what you’re offering, I know what I’m getting, we’re customers know what they’re getting.
And it just converts and I think you can probably attest to the difference in sort of night and day having an offer that is solve the problem versus one that just just doesn’t sell your offer that converts is so critical.
Yeah. And it was a bit counterintuitive at the time as well like it like it didn’t, it didn’t seem like a big risk to me.
But to everyone else, it seemed like this was a stupid idea. Because everyone’s going to request way too many jobs.
And it’s going to cost you way too much money to actually fund this service every month, like it was almost too good of a deal. It seemed like too good of a deal to get an offer in your words. But to me, it was easily tested.
Like I’d learned the hard way that launching things and not kind of sorry, making assumptions before you launch things was not the way to go.
And I’ve done that time and time again with lots of different businesses. And this time, it was like I had no time.
I can’t, you know, I can easily test this theory, like if people think that this is not going to work Oh, no, within a few weeks, whether it works because I know exactly how much it cost me to support these 10 customers I’ve got and the end of the month, I’m going to know how many times they emailed me and asked me for support. And I can just divide those numbers.
And I can work out if there’s actually any profit. Yeah, and make a few, you know, basic assumptions around, you know, if you hire more developers, there might be a little bit less productive, because my first developer was very good.
And you know, maybe clients would ask for more jobs at the start of the service. And you know, maybe clients wouldn’t stick around for years and years, maybe it won’t be six months.
And you can make some of those assumptions, but you test them at every step of the way and replace it with real information.
And the biggest thing, the biggest reason that business had not existed before, I think was because everyone, I’m sure other people thought of it, but people probably thought no, that’s going to get abused.
It’s not going to be financially viable to run a support service for that kind of dollar value each month, I think it was only $70 a month at the time.
But that was really easily tested and I knew within a month or two that I was going to be able to make that work and you know, I know Knew within a week whether people would pay me for the offer, which was an even bigger thing because the previous one I’d spent a year trying to work out what people wanted.
And this one within a week, I had more customers actually had exactly the same number of customers than I had for the previous one year with the other business. So I knew I was onto something.
And I think I’d like to go back to your question before about knowing when to give up, it’s, to me, it’s almost the opposite.
Like I always know when an idea is taking off. And it’s happened, it’s only happened to me three times. It’s happened to me with the brewery, but it didn’t really happen straight away, it took quite a while and then all of a sudden took off, happened to meet with WP curve.
And it happened to me with my books as well, to some extent, the book was the first book and the book sensitive, definitely sold more than any books I ever thought I would sell because I never thought I would write a book and sell a book.
So that went quite well as well. And it’s, it’s kind of obvious when something goes well. It’s not so obvious when it’s not going well.
Especially when it’s you know, it’s still gone. That’s the toughest one when still going and just you need to decide whether or not it’s going well enough for you.
It’s funny, I always find it’s quite similar to me running paid traffic for a living where, you know, people always come to me and say, “You know, I think my ads could be doing better like they’re going okay, and maybe they’re breaking even, they could be doing better” versus like, “I just have developed this snapshot over such a long period of time across so many different industries, that you can see the difference in conversion across the different industries”.
And some that just like you think what is going on in this industry? Like it’s just gone nuts versus others where you’re just pushing shit uphill, basically.
I mean, I think you want to find yourself in a position where you’re getting this natural traction. And we found that with this business with the beer, for sure. And I found it with the WP curve to a lesser extent. But still, you know, very much a situation that was way more growth than I’ve ever had with anything else I’d done before.
And growth was coming easily. And it was, you know, out most of our job was managing the growth like with, with the brewery, our jobs running the business, like we spend 99.9% of our time running the business and only a very, very, very small fraction of time, marketing, and zero of that doing anything paid.
That’s, that’s what happened, your idea really, really takes off and things are going well. So I think it’s obvious when it goes well, not so obvious when it doesn’t go well.
But I always knew I had some sort of expectations around what I want to achieve in business as well.
And if it wasn’t going towards that, then I was prepared to kill it and, and work on something that did have the potential to kind of become a bit bigger than anything I’ve done before.
Hmm. So I mean, for our listeners who aren’t familiar with your journey, you can probably get a sense that you’ve launched online businesses and our offline business with a brewery.
But really where your latest book comes into play is sort of this whole, as you’ve sort of touched on and alluded to this whole concept of Compound Marketing.
So I’m curious as to your thoughts on how you apply compound marketing to an online and an offline business.
And, you know, those four main components that you talk about in your book you write and sort of touching on that?
Applications of Compound Marketing In Online & Offline Businesses
Yeah, so I mean, it’s a phrase I made up, I don’t know if anyone’s called it that before. But I just was sort of reflecting on the fact that I’d written about content marketing before.
And I’ve talked about branding and storytelling, and you know, the importance of engaging communities and stuff, but I’ve never done it, I’ve never really sort of thought about how they all those things relate together.
And how really, they’re all kind of, in a way, the same thing. And I kind of went back and looked at my book on content, marketing and thought, like, it’s not really saying, it’s not really saying much other than creating a lot of content, and then systemize it if you can.
But what we do with our business now is very much around, like create a great brand, for everything you do, whether it’s your overall company brand, or whether it’s, you know, individual services are individual products. Like in our case, like we might be we’ve made, I think 100 years this year, already completely different, unique beers, most of them with their own custom branding.
Some of the money lasts a small amount of time before they sell out, sometimes hours. But we’re constantly launching products to our audience, people who are keen on them.
We’re telling stories about those products, and we’re kind of engaging that community and we’re putting out content at the same time.
That is sort of the type of content It just naturally flows as a result of having a business that’s engaging with all of these people.
In between all of those things, it’s enough to power, you know, to get us voted the number one craft brewery in Australia, for example, the other week and to get us, yeah, and to get constantly get, you know, the top five most votes in the biggest craft beer poll in the country and had the businesses exploding and growth and all that without paying for marketing.
And so I was sort of reflecting on those things. And also just thinking, like, Is there an idea here that I can write a book about because I enjoy the process of writing a book. And it is an idea that other people can benefit from.
And I thought there was enough in that, you know, to this, this concept that there are things you can spend your time on that is, you know, asset building type things, as opposed to just transactional marketing activities, which is really all you learn about in marketing school, it’s kind of all the different tactics you can employ as a marketer to, you know, get, get your product in front of the right people at the right price, and all that kind of stuff.
But there’s another approach to marketing, which is doing a whole bunch of small investments in your brand, and in your people and in your community of customers and supporters. That ultimately, will end up compounding on each other and going up in value over time.
So like, if you are investing in, like your podcast, for example, you know, the first episodes are probably going to be seen by or heard by 30 people.
But when you’ve got 300 episodes, and you’re one of the best traffic podcasts out there, then you’re going to have this enormous asset that is just a marketing goldmine.
That doesn’t cost you anything further, really, you know, to run, as opposed to if you just never did that, and just only invested in, in paid strategies, and not and not like I said in the book, I’m not saying that a paid strategy shouldn’t exist, or they’re not good options.
But I think both can coexist or in the situation that I’m in unfortunate that this compounding stuff has gone so well for us that we haven’t had to do anything in paid marketing really.
I say to people all the time, you know, like that paid is important.
And it’s a critical part of your marketing. But it’s, it’s a, it’s an important slice of your pie. But it’s not the pie, you know, and it’s and it’s a great complement to what you do in other areas.
But it should never ever be the only form of marketing or advertising that you do.
I mean, people get their Facebook ad account shut down every second of the day, Google can change their terms and conditions overnight.
Which they have done, you know, such that you know you can’t do retargeting in the health space. I mean people ways, again, you know, so you’re at the mercy of these ad platforms.
And I never recommend anyone to do that, you know, and I definitely don’t recommend people to only run Facebook ads, which I just find so many people do and like, you really don’t understand it.
So as a paid person, paid traffic person, I totally can acknowledge the power in what you have managed to, to really nail I think, over the years and hence have watched your evolution of, as you say, building a brand, writing a story around a community in content.
Do you maybe want to sort of touch on the first one of building a brand, like, as somebody who doesn’t come from the marketing world, actually, I mean, I used to work in the corporate world in finance, I never did marketing at school.
And they will say build a brand. It feels quite vague to someone like me, and I feel very tangible. I mean, what exactly are you…How do you find it? How do you define building a brand?
Stand Out & Build Your Brand
Yeah, so I think there’s, you know, there’s enough content in the book where I talk about different ways of thinking about it.
But the main message in there is that this really is something that, that entrepreneurs at every level of, you know, business that you have is something that you really should care a lot about.
And that’s, that’s to me the main message, because to me, all the evidence I see suggested, entrepreneurs don’t give a shit about their brand and about design.
And, I mean, some do, obviously, you know, like the big startups in Silicon Valley that, you know, give massive chunks of equity that ends up being worth hundreds of millions of dollars to designers to design their logo and their interface. Those companies obviously care a lot about design.
But the sort of businesses that you and I regularly interact with, who kind of put up three logos on Facebook and asking their friends, you know, which one out of the $10 logos from the competition sites are the ones they should go for. Like that’s, that’s a disaster to me. And that’s, that’s something that needs to stop.
And I don’t see very many companies that are getting built, that are really like in the end.
When you’re building a business, you should be building an asset that you can sell and whether you want to sell it or not, it’s fine, but you should be trying to build something. That’s how I think about it anyway, trying to build something that’s worth something. And not just trying to build yourself a job.
Does sort of say, like taking a very long term approach.
Yeah and actual value, you know, things that make the company or the product or the brand more valuable.
Yeah, like you say longer-term, but kind of caring about the way things look and prioritizing things that are going to make the product sell at a higher price point, perhaps, or at least sell at a profit. You know, stand out from competitors, even with the WordPress support stuff, like, I think at the time, there was competitors around, but they’re all very, very basic offerings, like our, we paid I think $10,000 for some guy to design, like a nice looking brand and logo for us, the website we put a huge amount of effort into was the fastest loading website in the industry.
All the content to do with making it load fast was put out by us. The design of it was immaculate like it looked like, you know, it looked like the best offering.
And that’s why people were signing up for it. And you know, I love it. Like, if you go to a leading kind of modern tech companies website, it’s going to look like the best offering like you go to the Tesla website.
There are barely any words on it like that, like they don’t need words that build this brand so strongly, they don’t need marketing that every other automotive company is taking out ads on news.com.
And talking about their cars like Tesla doesn’t even have dealerships have just got a brand that people love and a product that is so good, that people talk about and they want to buy it and you go to their website, and it just shows you these beautiful images like that they’ve got a good photographer, and a good car designer, they like that they don’t need a paid traffic person.
And they don’t need a really good copywriter with big red headlines to say, you know, just Tesla solves this problem for you. You know what I mean?
Like, it’s to take care of the brand and the image and what it looks like. And I think there’s a lot that I remember when I read the Steve Jobs autobiography, I sort of like thinking, Okay, well, that’s fine for Apple, to care about design, because they’re one of the most valuable companies in the world where they are now anyway.
But I struggled to think like, how do I as an entrepreneur with no resources, embed that into my way of thinking, and, but I did do that, I found a way to do that.
And I still find a way to do it, because I think it’s important. And it’s another one of the questions like the one before about knowing when to give up? It’s not? How, like, how can a business with no resources create a product and an offering that looks every bit as good as businesses with multiple billions of dollars?
And I can’t give you the answer to that.
But I can say that that’s what you have to do. If you want to create an offering that people want to purchase. That’s what we have to do as a brewery.
Like when someone goes into a bottle shop, they don’t care that, you know, this is a brewery with three mates that are, you know, growing beer on a little Chinese system down and barely heads, like they look at the fridge and then choose the one that they want.
Yeah, you know, ask versus multi-billion dollar companies that are in the fridge alongside us.
So we had to find a way to make our product look every bit and be every bit as good as theirs without the resources. And that’s a near-impossible thing.
But that’s Welcome to entrepreneurship. It is near impossible.
All the odds are stacked against you. So what are some of the ways I guess that you’ve done it? So you said you invested in good design?
What did you do anything else to sort of really compete against, as you say, the giants in that industry? And there are giants in the brewery market?
Competing Against Big Brands
Yeah, well, we’ll just been being fanatical about how the product looks. You know, doing a lot of research working out what’s gonna look good on the shelf, the actual quality of the product, the quality, the ingredients, figuring out a way to have that growth without compromising the price.
Because if you like, there are some enormous hurdles that we’ve had to get over in this business and probably more than bigger ones ahead of us.
But one of them is, the easiest thing to do is to come in and sell your product as cheap as the bigger ones. So you know, so you compete on price effectively.
And it’s very, very difficult not to do that, because you’re going into every venue and they’re saying, Well, here’s this big company that makes a really good product that charges $240.
And you’re saying, buy your product for $290. But that’s what we have to do like to be in the position now six years after starting and be profitable, and have not run out of money. That’s what we had to do.
We had to present the product in ways that made people want to pay for it. Even though it was smaller and you know, more expensive than a lot of the existing companies and yet you have to find ways to make it stand out. You have to find ways to make it look good. You have to choose the right sort of products, the right sort of packaging. All of that stuff is critical.
Like for us a really big one. was putting it into cans and coming up with a design of the can that just looked nothing like anyone else’s. Yeah. And when we first did that our wholesale business went through the roof, we had this black can, this generic black cab that really hadn’t been done before, there’s only been one company that had done a can with a custom label that I could think of.
And so ours was very different, it was a really awesome looking Black can we have in here, we do.
And we use the strip labels so that we could order the minimum quality of cans, which is way more than we needed, but we could have a different colored label on each one so that our color range looks consistent, and we look like a much bigger company.
Because like all the other companies, we’re doing full labels, because that was the only productive way to do it, because you couldn’t order that many cans unless you can make that much beer.
And we, through a design, you know innovation of sorts, we kind of found a workaround to that. Or we used to workaround. There was another company that had done a version of that, but it looked different, and it’s something that everyone else did after us.
And you know, once everyone else did that, we had to do something else, and you have to continue innovating, and I’m constantly talking to designers.
And there’s lots of stuff we do like like we’ve had to get rid of designers that I no longer feel are right for us. You know, I’ve had to be really strict with designers, they’re getting all the source files.
So I know what we can do in-house what we can outsource, I’d have to get good myself and look after some design projects, because we couldn’t always afford like, not every time you can afford to pay designers.
Depending on the project, you might not need it. There might be ways you can design products and packaging that you can reuse on multiple products, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do once you start caring about it.
And you know, regularly talking to designers and using different designers and pushing the boundaries and all that stuff.
And we have spent a huge amount of time doing that, like I’m doing an article now on where our beer ideas come from. It’s amazing how many of the ideas come from just the design idea before the beer idea or even exists like someone might, one of the designers I’m talking to or me or someone else might just have a random idea for the way something should look.
And that will be enough to turn that into a beer that ends up going really well for us and you know, getting a lot of traction on social media and all that.
That’s just because I really focused on how it’s gonna look on the shelf.
Interesting. Wow, that’s fascinating to hear.
So you mentioned in your book, another pillar that you talk about is the importance of a story behind your brand.
I mean, that sounds pretty self-explanatory.
But what do you think, this whole concept of the story and the importance of story, and it’s all very well if you have a story, and you’ve got a great story attached to it, and you guys definitely do.
And I know I’ve certainly got an interesting story of how I landed up where I am.
But what I’m just thinking is if one of our listeners is listening and thinking, I don’t really have a very interesting story. You know?
The Importance of Story Behind Your Brand
Yeah, I think that’s a great question.
And I think there’s a couple of ways I’ll answer one is to say that I don’t like when people come in and say, “This is the blueprint, this is what you have to do. It’s going to work every time.” And I know there are other books on this topic that say exactly that, that you know, they’re basically saying, your business is going to prove overnight, if you do this storytelling shit, there is a possibility that you don’t have a good story and storytelling is not going to work for you. That’s that’s fine.
But someone was saying before about, you know, paid marketing and not having one channel, if you’re doing a bunch of things, and they’re working. That’s fine. I mean, you might not even have to read my book. It’s completely fine.
But I think that the other point I would make with storytelling specifically is once you understand that you very well may find there is something interesting about what you’re doing. That fits the topic of storytelling, but more importantly, which is something I haven’t really heard talked about too much, which I do talk about in the book, which is you can pursue different angles in your business that will lead to better stories.
So that one very small example I was just talking about the you know, design might lead to a big release, like our we’ve got a Facebook community that’s got I think three close to 3000 people in it who are real avid, it’s not like other Facebook groups.
It’s like, I think there’s over 1000 posts a month from members just or people sharing their beers and talking about Black Hops and buying merch we make for them.
It’s a really amazing engaging community of people. One of the guys posts in the group saying or what would we do if we wanted to suggest to you guys to make this festival that’s coming up.
And I said we’ll just reply to your own threat and tell me what do you think we should make? And he came up with this pina colada idea this guy’s mark is a big, like Starcraft superfan, the guy actually you worked in the industry.
And the festival was canceled because of COVID. But we just thought it would be for a whole bunch of reasons it would be a good idea to do the beer anyway.
Not least of which it’s going to be an awesome story after we do it because we can say, you know, this guy in the community came up with this idea it was supposed to be for this festival. The festival is on tonight. But guess what? It’s canceled. But we made the beer anyway.
And that’s what we did. We made this beer anyway, we did a live call with people in the group. And it’s a cool story as a story where we’re not the kind of the hero of the story.
We’ve got someone in the group who is the hero, he’s come up with the idea, all we’ve done is he’s gone and made to be, you know, we’re looking for ways to make anyway, that’s what we do. Yeah. And we came up with the core design.
And we launched it as if it was a festival beer for this festival. And that’s one full story that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t do that.
And there are many, many examples like we brewed a beer with Call of Duty, which ended up being a massive news thing, we’re on all kinds of news platforms and whatnot.
And we didn’t do it for the money, we didn’t make any money doing it, you know, we did it purely because the opportunity arose, and I knew it would be an awesome story.
And we’ve been from day one, we’ve been looking to cultivate these stories. So we didn’t have to pay for marketing because we had no money.
And because we’re in an industry where the margins are so tight, that you need to find a way marketing doesn’t cost you a fortune.
And you know, we’re the first brewery to launch by crowdfunding, we’re the first brewery to launch to close an equity crowdfunding round, we’re going to be the first brewery to do a buy-sell round with equity crowdfunding stockholders, we’re probably going to be the first brewery in Queensland to launch a barrel age beer specific taprooms, things like that we’ve done where we’re the first, which means it’ll be a cool story.
Which, you know, it’s good to be the first from the point of view of getting there first.
But the best thing about it is, it’s just another thing that is a newsworthy thing that you do, that you choose to do for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is, you know, it’ll become a good story, and we’ll give you some marketing fuel that you’re not gonna have to pay for.
And I’m constantly looking, I’m constantly thinking, you know, what’s an example where we can be the hero in a story? What’s an example with the product can be the hero where customers can be the hero? And where can you use these stories?
And previously, as an entrepreneur, I never really considered storytelling at all, I just, I kind of thought it was like one of those, you know, wonky marketing sort of words, like, tell your story.
And I was like, I’m just a dude who started a website business. So it doesn’t seem like as much of a story here.
But when you kind of dig into how powerful they can be, and how you can chase different angles, stop paying attention to what the press is writing about, you know, that kind of stuff, and how they phrase things, what gets people’s attention. That’s all storytelling.
And that’s all ultimately good kind of asset building marketing that you can do for your business. Because if you’ve got press around being the first Brewer without funding, guess what, whenever you do equity crowdfunding, you’re going to be the first person that people think of when they’re writing stories about that.
And when there’s a new platform to buy and sell shares, for equity crowdfunding, there’s never been used in the country before, you’re going to be the company that people think of when they want to do an article on that, or when they want to partner with a company to do that because you’re a person who’s been put forward as the kind of first.
And it’s not the only way to get a start to get a story.
But if you are looking for those opportunities, that though, the value of those will build over time.
Yeah. And I think it really ties into the fact that your next pillar of the community is that you have a vehicle to tell your story to rather than just relying on, on paid to tell us to get your story out there.
You’ve created a community, as you said, a Facebook group of 1000 people that you’ve got a vehicle to have a platform to tell your story to, which is why it is probably so important, but I’m sure many of our listeners don’t have a Facebook group.
What are some, I guess, alternative ways one can build their community, I guess, though maybe an Instagram following or even a Facebook page following.
Alternative Ways For You To Build Your Community
Well, I mean, I didn’t have a Facebook group until I started a Facebook group either. And it’s not. It’s not like I paid for this, this community of people that support what I do. It’s, you know, I’ve barely even done any kind of paid marketing.
It’s, it’s always been, you know, how do you create content that people care about?
And how do you create an environment where people feel like they’re part of something and feel like I had that?
Actually, the person really noticed it happening.
It was happening with you know, James Schramko has a community that dynamite circles, another one I was in, I put together my first Facebook group for my first book, the seven-day startup, and I really noticed that that group became like this really cool group of supporters for me.
That was the first time it happened. That group ended up growing to a massive group and ended up shutting it down when it came to like 13,000 members because it just got out of hand and it wasn’t it was no longer a valuable community anymore to anyone.
But, you know, I think to answer your question, it’s not so much where the group happens.
Hands-on over Facebook groups have been good to me. But like I said before, you have to be very cautious. putting all your eggs in one basket, especially that basket is Facebook, that’s a scary thought.
But with our business community, groupings are everywhere, like we’ve got, we’ve got three taprooms, it’s going to be four very soon.
So we’ve got a really cool community, you can do so many things in person at the taproom.
We’ve got investors, we’ve got 600 of them now that are grouping themselves to care about all kinds of different types of content that the average beer drinker wouldn’t care about.
That’s a community that I can get to a whole bunch of ways over email or, you know, tagging on email, in person at events, or zoom calls a whole range of different ways.
We’ve got our public social media accounts, of which there are many now we’ve got taproom accounts because those guys are interested in different content than our normal Black Hops account.
So there are ways you can go about it. And I think, you know, I’ve always tried to follow where the traction is that that’s always been the message I’ve tried to fight. And if there’s no traction, it sucks. Because I’ve been there too.
Sometimes it takes a long time to build up. And sometimes it doesn’t put up and I’ve been in all of those situations. But very much a big lesson has been followed where the traction is it for our business, Instagrams have been a really big one.
I think we’re up to and not to count follower numbers, because it’s pretty meaningless. But I think we’re up to like 27,000 followers, but we’re also the engagement is super strong, and Instagram that the images we put up there, cool and different community on that is really good.
That’s just one of our accounts, we’ve got a bunch of them. That’s been really powerful. For us, it was kind of a surprising thing to me.
Because my Instagram was a bit shit like my personal one, which is quotes and stuff and had quite a few followers.
But it’s just a bit of a shitty content experience. It was I put up a quote to get a bunch of likes, I don’t know, didn’t seem all that meaningful.
But for the beer stuff, it’s really good engagements really good. Everyone who likes crappiest seems to be on Instagram, it seemed to time really well with when Instagram took off.
Facebook group has been really good to us as well, Facebook native page has been really good to us. Emails have been massive to us. And it’s one of those things that just never dies.
I was talking to James mentioned James Schramko. Before talking to him about this last week, it’s still probably our most powerful way of getting to people even in this business that seemingly is an old school manufacturing business, you know, but it’s just it’s still so powerful.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a massive fan of email, I think and all these people who say emails are dead. I mean, it’s just the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard like emails are an awesome way of building a relationship with your audience. And I’m a massive fan of it.
Dividing Your Audience Into Communities
It’s so easy now to think like a lot of the messages in this book are like how can you?
How can you not only choose marketing strategies that compound over time but how can you also use these various four platforms and compound against each other?
So if one of them is a community, how do you divide your audience up into different communities and create content for those audiences or create brands for those audiences, so you’re kind of multiplying on multiples.
And that’s something you can do really easily with an email like I’ve got just if you want to dig into the tactics, and I’m not really up on all the online marketing stuff these days, because online is a very small fraction of what we do.
Having said that, we still do hundreds of thousands of dollars a year online and maybe even approaching. Yeah, it’s a fair bit.
It’s more than I’ve done online before WP curve, but it’s a very, very small fraction of our business. So online, and we don’t have any marketing stuff.
So it’s not like we’re doing heaps of online marketing. But just a real basic setup that we’ve got. I just set all this up myself, it was a convert box, which is a little plugin on the website. It gives you nice little neat ways and gets people to opt-in. I don’t like interrupting people, I don’t like popping stuff up over the top of the content.
But this is a nice way to give people a really valuable lead magnet on a particular topic. And then they go into Active Campaign, we get tagged with that topic.
And then when you have something interesting on that topic, you can email just those people. And it’s a very easy system. I’ve set up certain purchases in WooCommerce on our online store and get automatically tagged on Active Campaign.
So that all happens without me having to do anything. And then if we want to say run, lets me run a tour. My admin guys can just go into Active Campaign, send an email to anyone who’s interested in the tour.
I don’t have to do anything. They’re not trained in online marketing. It’s very simple. They just go in, choose that segment, send the email, and all sudden, you know, you’ve got the tour booked out with no spend. And that’s supremely powerful.
And I think when you go to this direct to customer, like most about most of our businesses, selling, you know, to the major retailers or to wholesalers or distributors that send it not directly to the customer.
But we do have a big chunk that is direct to the customer. So my relationship with investors, all those sorts of partners are all direct with me, there’s not anyone in between the online customers are all direct.
The tapper in customers are all direct between all of those groups, there’s an enormous amount of power you can have by targeting or reaching, I don’t like the word targeting, say reaching those people.
And yeah, email is a great way to do it in person. It is a good way to do it on social media is a good way to do it.
And then just treating different pieces of content for different audience members separately, I think is a really good way to do it too.
And just acknowledging that what might be interesting to investors might be completely different to interest, interesting things for people to come here for a beer.
And, but you can still do both without interfering with each other without blurring the message with a little bit of basic technology.
Yeah. And I think what you’re really talking about is, is really this concept of relevance, right through segmentation.
Because people want to feel like, you know, that you’re talking to them about what they’re interested in.
So as you sort of, say, segmenting people as per the interest so that you are, you know, only talking to people about topics that they specifically are interested in, and then they have a nice experience, and they do open your emails, and then they become advocates of your brand. And it all kind of flows from that.
I just wanted to ask you, what do you what, what are the some of the mistakes that you see other businesses make when it comes to really, you know, I guess, taking this helicopter view in growing such an asset, you know, because as you say, I think that’s a really, really different.
And I guess some, what’s the word like? It’s a, it’s a refreshing approach to hear you talk like this because I think too many people focus on the minutiae, and the tactics, as opposed to standing back and having a real helicopter view of actually, you know, you’re investing this time, build something that’s worth it.
Invest in, as you say, building a brand through good design, and just doing good in the world.
And so, yeah, I guess what mistakes Do you see? Do you see people make that in their own businesses that you have sort of learned through your experience of building an online business? And now offline..
Mistakes That People Make On Their Business
It’s a good question, I hesitate to think of things in terms of mistakes, just because I know I’ve done a lot of things that have worked for me that might not work for other people and vice versa.
To me, it’s a bit of a different way of thinking about things and I know, like, I have been around for quite a while. So it’s taken me a while to, to even accept that this could be a legitimate way.
You know, if I didn’t have my own success during it, I think I would still really doubt whether or not this was a legitimate way to spend your time as an entrepreneur, doing things like obsessing over your brand, and really engaging with people and you know, creating loads and loads of content, and trying your best to create as good a content as you can and be as transparent and give away as much information as you can like all that stuff is, is pretty uncomfortable for most people.
And it’s all very uncertain.
And I’ve gotten used to the idea that business is very uncertain. And that’s a challenging thing for some entrepreneurs to get their heads around.
Because you as an entrepreneur, you’re kind of a self-starter, you’re someone who’s going out on their own, you’re going to make your own destiny, and you want some certainty around if you want to do something that’s going to work.
But my lessons have very much been the opposite of that.
And more, more, more sort of, on the level that is, you know, it’s this is a different way of thinking about going about starting a business and about marketing a business that you won’t really read in a textbook.
You write really, really University, and you won’t get too many experts to tell you that these are good things to do, because there’s not much money they can make from you.
In doing that. It’s you know, it’s not it’s not like unless you’re kind of talking to, I guess, people who can help with the content.
But a lot of the time with content marketing, it’s more of a mindset thing. It’s not really to do with executing the content. It’s just like, we have this problem all the time where it’s like, I’ve written this blog post, but it’s so revealing about the business you kind of feel uncomfortable to release it.
By but that’s what content marketers do. And it’s, that’s when you got this mindset, that’s what you do.
And so I don’t think it’s a mistake not to do that. But I think it is a different way of approaching things that people could.
To me it feels like it’s probably not spoken about it. I don’t, I don’t know. I’m an outsider here.
I certainly haven’t written the book as you have, but to me, it feels like it’s not really spoken about because I think it’s probably very difficult to quantify and measure and there is a gray area and people are desperate for attribution.
And I personally know that from running paid traffic and I kind of take my approach to paid traffic like you do the business with a very high-level view with multiple platforms and the put the ad platforms plays to each other, I kind of came up with this concept called the Paid Traffic Puzzle where the puzzle components are connected to each other.
And there is a gray area of attribution at MIT people don’t follow a linear path, just like this doesn’t follow a linear path. You know?
That’s very true. And you kind of want that when you’re investing in paid traffic, you want to see, like I put this money in, this is how that person got to me.
But really, it’s just so complicated. It’s so complicated to think, you know?
How, how many times in how many different places? Do they need to see something? What do they need to see? At what point have they seen too much that your brand’s diminished? It’s a really complicated thing.
And there are different products as well. And industries, it really comes down to how big of a problem you’re solving for someone?
Versus Is this something discretionary? Or are they just feeling, you know, they want to be part of the Black Hops community because they see the community there is a, there’s a massive gray area when it comes to that, that is just, yeah, so I think that’s also probably why people don’t talk about it, because people want certainty.
If I put in X dollars, I’m gonna make Y out. And then it becomes a no brainer investment, as opposed to who knows.
Yeah. And I think there’s also a bit of negativity around it, I feel as well, like, I know, when I used to create a lot of content, there was this thing called a blogger, which is the people who created blog posts.
And, you know, it’s sort of, you know, there’s always been these experts with like sales entrepreneurs who were like, you know, this is all just bloggers blogging, about blogging.
And it’s, you know, that they’re trying to manufacture an audience without having a product, they got nothing to sell them, and all that. And that’s one way of thinking about it.
Another way of thinking about it is like, these are people that are creating something, they’re putting something out into the world without really any certainty around what’s going to come back.
There is some magic there like, like, like, sometimes when you do that things go really well for you. Sometimes when you do that, things don’t go really well for you, which is the uncertainty.
And there’s a fine line between just constantly doing something that’s not working, and then finding that magic.
And that’s, to me, that’s almost one of the good blends to sort of embrace these blurry areas, where, you know, if that uncertainty wasn’t there, this would be the most popular way to market a business that ever existed, and everyone would be doing it.
And that would suck because I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. And I’d have to find something new. So I embrace that uncertainty. And I think it’s, I think it’s actually a good thing.
And I did for a long time, try to quantify content marketing, figure out how, you know, hey, can measure the impact of a post and you know, how much money you got from that blog post, and I just, I no longer care.
And I mean, I don’t believe it’s possible. If it is possible. That’s cool. That’s for someone else to figure it out. But it’s, it’s not something I care about at all anymore. It’s a whole different mindset now.
Yeah, that’s awesome.
I’m mindful of the time and I know you’re a busy guy.
So before we wrap up, where can people find out more about you and your latest books and your series of books?
You’ve got quite a few books out.
Learn More About Dan Norris
Yeah, well, um, I mean, I don’t really do anything personal brand-wise anymore.
I am. I’m doing these interviews, which I just thought be fun because I tend to release books, and then just forget about them and move on to the next book.
But I thought this time would be nice if I did a couple of interviews. So I think I’ve done five or six. But that might be enough.
For me, for your audience for a while, they don’t need anymore. If they want more, you can get the book on Amazon.
And the audiobook, whenever audible decided to publish it. I’ve already released it to them, it takes him a little while but all my books are on Amazon and audible.
And I don’t really put stuff on social media too much anymore. But you can follow Black Hops with a lot going on if you’re into beer.
Cool. And for our listeners, your book is called Compound Marketing. You can find it on Amazon.
Dan, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Lovely to meet you.
Even though as I said in the beginning, I feel like I know you from afar, even though we’ve never chatted. And thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day.
Now, thanks for having me. Thanks for being an early customer and part of the story. It’s Um, yes, they have not turned out the way I thought it would. But it’s pretty cool to be here after all these many years and talk to an original customer that kind of kicked the whole thing off.
No, not just me. I mean (chuckles)
There weren’t that many early on. I think it was only 10 in the first month or two. So yeah.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much. I will make show notes available and we’ll put a link to your Amazon product or your Amazon sorry, book in the show notes.
And yet people can download the transcript of this if they like at TeachTraffic.com so thank you so much, Dan.