Hi everyone, in today’s interview, we’re talking to Bryan Harris, founder of VideoFruit. His company helps create explainer videos, along with providing other info products. We’ll learn how he built a blog that has 20,000 visits per month and 10,000 email subscribers. He’s a very focused person, so we’ll hear some of his productivity hacks along with email list-building strategies to dramatically increase your email opt-in rate.
From a Mish-Mash Sales Background Evolves an Experiment-Turned-Business
In the 12 years before Bryan started VideoFruit, he worked as a salesman for a variety of different products and industries: from conveyor systems to lawn care packages to ballroom dancing.
On a whim, he started VideoFruit as an experiment to see if any of his traditional sales knowledge could help him write a blog and get people to read it, or sell some kind of product online. He started with a course on how to make cheap explainer videos, but once the course got some real traction, he started figuring out ways to turn his experiment into a long-term business – which is where the blog came from.
Over time, the blog started to overtake the service side of his business, and now he spends less time making videos for people and more time teaching and helping people with products.
Getting Traffic & Doubling Down on Content Upgrades
Right now, VideoFruit gets approximately 20,000 unique visits per month, with an email subscriber list of 10,000 people.
After being challenged to figure out his number one focus, Bryan figured out it was building his email list.
“Because traffic doesn’t sell,” he says, “email sells much better than traffic. If I was going to focus on one or the other, I was going to focus on the email list.”
Over a period of seven to eight months, Bryan experimented with 18 different ways to build his email list, and found that doing content upgrades worked the best – so that’s the one he focused on. With a goal of adding 75 new email subscribers per day, he figured that the page-specific opt-ins of content upgrades worked far better than universal ones: and that’s the juicy secret to all this.
The Juicy Details on Why Content Upgrades Work So Well
Bryan mentions a recent post he wrote that got 3,500 visits and 648 opt-ins for the content upgrade: an 18.5% conversion rate – one he thought was actually low.
Basically, a content upgrade is an offer at the end of your post that’s a useful extension of the content presented throughout the post. According to Bryan, figuring out the best content upgrade to offer isn’t about asking what can get you more subscribers, but more about asking, “What would I want if I was reading this post?”
He says writing a post can take anywhere from five to 20 hours, but the content upgrade usually doesn’t take more than an hour to create once the post is finished.
According to his estimates, if you have a relevant content upgrade available, a low opt-in rate would be around 10% – in comparison to the 0.5% some universal opt-ins experience.
Putting the Content Upgrade Strategy to The Ultimate Test: Monetization
“The ultimate test of it isn’t your conversion rate,” Bryan claims. “You ultimate test is: will people buy from you?”
The results are pretty telling:
“I’ve sold millions of dollars of stuff,” says Bryan, “but I’ve never sent one email and made $10,000 until a month ago.”
The secret here, he believes, is giving. He says it’s in human nature – business or otherwise – to naturally reciprocate when you’re given to. The reason the content upgrade works is because your giving away a useful blog post and a free, useful resource to help people without asking for anything in return except for their email address.
“It’s about helping people, and if you can find a way to do that via teaching, creating software, making videos, whatever – you won’t have a problem selling your service or selling your product when the time comes.”
How the Giving Concept Can Help You Land Contracts
At the time Bryan was getting traction with VideoFruit, his main focus was quitting his day job. He knew one of the quickest ways to do that was to get a service work contract, so he made a list of 10 people he followed online that he’d like to work with, including Neil Patel.
He did some research, and found that KiSSMetrics was one of Neil Patel’s businesses and that they used infographics as a key way of growing their business online. Rather than reaching out and asking for work directly, Bryan found one of their most popular infographics and turned it into a video for them.
After receiving an email from one of Neil Patel’s subscription lists, Bryan responded and gave the video to him as a token of his thanks for learning so much from him. Within 3 minutes, Neil replied by looping him into a conversation with some of his blog managers to figure out how to use his videos on a larger scale. He still has a contract with them today.
“Put yourself into a giving mode where you’re giving to people,” says Bryan, “and then an opportunity will present itself… Doing and then asking is extremely effective.”
Finding Talent to Support a One-Man Operation
Right now, VideoFruit only has one full-time employee: Bryan himself. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have contractors helping him make it all happen. As he moves along with his business, he prefers to take on more of the fun work while outsourcing the work that feels like a grind to him.
He says it’s less about the sites you use to find outsourced talent as it is the vetting process you use to narrow down your prospects. To find quality talent, he suggests narrowing your list down by having your initial applicants fill out a Google form, and then giving the applicants a small task to do for you – that way you can be a true judge of who will be the best fit.
“It isn’t just their finished work,” he says, “it’s communication between you, it’s response time, quality – several factors.”
Parting Words: Advice, Productivity, and Books to Read
Giving advice to his 25-year-old self, Bryan says:
The productivity hack that works best for him is creating a zero-based calendar for how he’s going to spend all the hours in his day before his day actually starts, combined with having a clear, singular focus of what the most important thing is to accomplish.
And if he could suggest two books to read, one would be The Book of Proverbs for high-level advice on business, money management and relationships, and The Ultimate Sales Machine for low-level, useful tactics, especially for people in a service-based business.[spoiler title=’Transcript’ collapse_link=’true’]
Eric: Hi everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Growth Everywhere where we interview entrepreneurs and bring you business and personal growth tips. Today we have Bryan Harris of Videofruit. Bryan how are you doing today?
Bryan: Real well. Thanks for having me on the air, Eric.
Eric: Yes. Great to have you. Bryan, why don’t you talk a little about your background first.
Bryan: I don’t come from the internet online business world at all. I’ve been in outside sales for the previous 12 years. I’ve sold everything from door to door lawn care packages to multi-million dollar conveyor systems. About a year and a half ago I started Videofruit, just kind of on a whim and it’s taken off and done pretty well. I’m still trying to find my place in the world, but yes, I come from a very B2B background. It’s been interesting, as far as working with Videofruit, coming from a place that a lot of people I follow didn’t come from, just being in weird industries like conveyor sales, and lumber sales, and lawnmower sales, and ballroom dancing, and taking a lot of the skills, techniques, and things I’ve learned from that world, and bringing it over to this world which, a lot of times it’s the same thing, you just have your own different spin or take on it based on your own unique background. So, it’s been kind of fun, honestly, taking a lot of those kind of things and converting them into this world, but a lot of things are completely different online and that’s where Videofruit was kind of born as far as an experiment to try to figure out, “I know how to go sale a $500,000 conveyor system to one business, but how do I write a blog and get people to read it, or develop a product on that blog and get people to buy it?” That’s been really fun honestly; learning from people that are just smarter than me, or have done that, and implementing those things and seeing if it works and seeing what doesn’t work.
Eric: Got it. I don’t know why my video wasn’t showing, but here I am now. So, cool. Videofruit as a company, can you tell everyone what it’s all about?
Bryan: Yes. I wish I could really be succinct with that, but honestly it’s been an experiment. I just look at the whole thing not as a business, which it totally is, but more as an experiment because that takes the pressure off me to be—to seem like I know what I’m doing, which hopefully as time goes on I know what I’m doing a little more. But it started as a course on how to make explainer videos. There was no blog, there was no email list, there was nothing except the course about how to make explainer videos. I stumbled upon an interesting way to create explainer videos for really cheap. So, I made a course, put together a series of videos that people could buy and talked about that in a few Facebook groups and few forums, and I got a little traction. Once the course was out there and I was beyond that initial group of people that was in that sphere of influence, from just kind of existing and being online, I started trying to figure out ways to market it long term. That’s where the blog came from. I started writing regularly to try to drive traffic to the landing page for the course and over time the blog has overtaken the explainer video aspect of things. So, now I do substantially less service work for businesses and do more teaching and creating products that help people grow their business.
Eric: Got it. So you’ve gone—you had the course first and it sounds like you’ve gone into a little service, and now you’ve gone back into kind of creating courses and things like that, right?
Bryan: Yes. And that’s a little bit of the experimental process and something that I think is really valuable for people to not feel like they’re locked in to something. It started off as a product then evolved to very much a service business over the last year, which I think can be a very good thing for people that are just starting out because service work is the easiest way to start a business, creating a product, trying to start a blog, and get thousands of thousands of visitors, honestly, is extremely difficult. There are a lot of skills involved in that and some luck as well. But starting a service based business is substantially easier than all of that. So, that’s where I started, after I had the product, the thing that got me out of my day job into doing this full-time, was doing service work for companies like KISSmetrics and HubSpot, and businesses like that, creating videos for them.
Eric: Just FYI everyone, Bryan was the one that had did the video for Growth Everywhere too. It’s really high quality stuff if you guys take a look at the intro.
Videofruit, since you’ve been focusing more on the blog, what does the blog look like in terms of the ballpark of traffic, number of subscribers, things like that? Anything you can share there?
Bryan: Yes. Sure. I’m happy to share anything you want. The traffic is around 20,000 uniques [ph 00:04:43] a month. The email list just passed 10,000 subscribers, and that’s an interesting thing. I’m writing a blog post right now about this, and it’s about your singular focus in business because you can’t focus on, at least I can’t, maybe some companies with 800 employees can focus on multiple things. I think it’s even still a problem with companies of that size, but especially if you’re a one man shop, or a small shop at all. My singular focus, starting in, I think it was May, was growing my email list. My buddy Noah over at [INAUDIBLE 00:05:16] sort of challenged me on this. We would talk and he would ask me, “What do you have going on this week?” and I would tell him my list of 18 things I was working on. He’d say, “No, no, no. If you only accomplished one of those at the end of the week, what’s the most important one? Which one you’re going to be pissed at yourself if you didn’t get accomplished?” I started—at first that was a really impossible question to answer. I didn’t know the answer. I just started having to ask myself that question every day and eventually over a one to two week period I figured out it was my email list. The email list was the singular thing that I was going to be pissed if I didn’t grow, and was the singular single metric above traffic, because I know a lot of people with 5 times 10,000 as much traffic as I have that have substantially smaller list than I have and the only reason for that isn’t because I know stuff they don’t know, or I’m better than them in this stuff. It has nothing to do with the knowledge base or wisdom or anything. It’s all about focus. I was focused on growing a list because traffic doesn’t sell. Emails sell much better than traffic. If I was going to focus on one or the other I’m really going to focus on my email list. I started just studying, experimenting with 18—over the course of the last seven or eight months, I’ve experimented with 18 different ways to grow my list and I found one that works better than all the other’s combined, so I just doubled down on that trying to grow the list and come 2015 I’m going to focus on traffic trying to get it up because now that my blog converts extremely well I want to pump traffic to that to grow it even further. The email list has been a very concerted effort and I actually keep, I don’t know if you can see it over here, but I keep the number 75 on my board right there. That was my goal back in May, was to get 75 new email subscribers per day. That was the singular metric I had.
Eric: [Crosstalk] it’s like a startup. Sorry I interrupted. Go ahead.
Bryan: Yes. And that’s it because it’s easy. Like when I go to my Twitter feed today, I check it all the time, it’s like, here’s an article about “How copy bloggers shut down their Facebook page.” I’m like, do I need to shut down my Facebook page? Here’s an article about “How Seth Godin turned off the comments on his blog?” Do I need to turn off the comments on my blog? You get that constantly. Throughout the day you get emails from people with cool strategy and tactics and having that single goal simplified all that because all I had to do was ask myself, “All right, assuming that comments on my blog are getting me more emails subscribers—no, quit thinking about it. Focus on stuff that does. Will shutting down my Facebook page increase my emails subscribers? No, don’t worry about that. Save it for later.” By doing that it just simplifies everything. It’s like “All right, what will get me more email subscribers? What’s the hypothesis?” and then go test it and see what works.
Eric: Got it. You talked about one tactic that you use that really kind of doubled down on and you’re repeating over and over. Can you share that tactic of building the email list?
Bryan: It’s called a content upgrade. I stole this from Clay Collins the Leadpages. He’s the only person—I’m sure—the internet’s a big place so as far as the people the I track he’s the only other person that I’ve seen doing this and he talked about it, I think I heard it first on Pat Flynn’s podcast in May of 2013, I think, or maybe it was August. Anyway I heard him talk about it before I had a blot and he has a SAAS based business so they sell a monthly subscription product and they would give away, every time they would add a new template to their product, a template to create a landing page, they would offer that template for free as an html file that you could download, but the thing is it’s substantially easier to use the template inside their product then to take their html file and figure out how to use it and code it and customize it. But it was a giveaway they gave at every blog post that introduced a template in exchange for an email address. And he was just talking about how effective that was. I’ve never seen anybody use that in the teaching world, in the blogging world. Because Clay, they weren’t using it in a teaching context, they were using it in a SAAS context. I started using it—I think the first time I used it was October or November of last year and when I first started to blog, and my content and everything really sucked a lot back then, so starting in January of this year of 2014, I started writing really long blog posts for, reverse engineering what other people were doing. The first time I used it in that context was for a Gary Vaynerchuck post, where I reversed engineered how he used YouTube last year, and I think it was, 10X subscribers off one technique, and I offered, at the very end of the post, a unique opt-in bribe for that post. I think it was a checklist that would show you how you could do the exact same thing in exchange for an email address. That’s what a content upgrade is. It isn’t a universal opt-in, like an e-book, or something like that, that you offer as a pop up on every page of your site on the right hand side of every page. It’s a unique opt-in specifically for the blog post that your reader’s are on.[00:10:03]
Think about Pat Flynn for instance. He does this monthly income report every month and it’s one of the most unique pieces of content on line and I think maybe he was the first person that started doing that. Maybe there were other people, but he was the first person that I saw. But at the end of his post, read down to the end of his post, all of his monthly income reports, and there’s an opt-in bribe that asks you to enter your email address in exchange for an eBook about how to write eBooks. I’m sure that gets some opt-ins because there’s so much traffic to the site, but it’s not specific to the reason I came there. I just read his last post, I just looked at it, his last post in, what month, this October, so his September monthly income report was 5000 words. If you got to the end of that post you read 5000 words about how he made $95,000 last month. So, what’s on the top of your mind as a reader is, “All right, how can I make $95,000?” And specifically his number one income producer is the Blue Post Affiliate Commissions, so it’s really specifically, how can I make $58,000 at Blue Host Affiliate Commission. If he were to offer, instead of and eBook about how to write eBooks, which is a substantially smaller portion of his income, eBook sales, if he were to offer an opt-in that was “How I made $58,000 selling Blue Host Affiliate Sales.” his opt-in on that would be through the roof. In my experience it would be over 20% opt-in rate from that versus what I’ve seen on blogs of his size traffic opt-in, on universal opt-ins, are usually below 2%, he can bump that from 2% to 20% just by doing a specific opt-in for that post. That’s a content upgrade. It’s taking a normal teaching post and offering some type of advanced teaching off the back end, a check list, a video, a Q&A section, or resource guide, anything like that. It can be anything at all that takes that content and takes it to the next level that you can gate it with an email.
Eric: I love it. We’ve been doing content opt-ins on Growth Everywhere and I think one thing that might be interesting to the audience is that even though I do content upgrades more for like these videos, it’s not as in-depth as a 5000 word post, so my conversion rates are a little lower, 5-8%, that’s my hypothesis. Are you saying your conversion rates are up 20% when you’re writing a 5000 worder?
Bryan: There was one I did two weeks ago. I’ve been doing them a little less often, my blog because I just went through a big product launch, but one of the last ones I did, I’m pulling up that data right now. I think that post got around 3,500 visitors over the last two or three weeks. Of those 3,500 visitors 648, I think it is8, opted in. Let’s run the numbers on that, 648 / 3,500 is 18.5% opt-in rate on one blog post. Honestly that’s a little low. I thought it was going to be higher than that. I’ve seen anywhere—like normally 10% would be low, the opt-in just wasn’t good, or the hook wasn’t good enough. If it’s below 10% it’s usually something to do—it’s not the actual bonus because people—Its like a subject line of an email. You’re open rates aren’t bad because your email was bad. Your open rates are bad because your subject line sucks. The open rate has nothing to do with the email itself because people haven’t read the email. It has everything to do with open rate—with the subject line so you’re content upgrade—or, your overall reputation because if you say one thing and do another that’s going to affect your brand overall. But as far as your first ten go, your first ten emails, or your first ten content upgrades, has nothing to do with the upgrade itself, but it’s all about your hook and how well you bake it into the post or the podcast or to the interview or whatever. If in the middle of this video you make a plug for the upgrade you’re going to have on the back end of it you’re open rates and your conversion rates are going to be much higher than if you wait to the very end of the video because the people watching at the end of the video are going to be less than the people watching the beginning. Even if it’s a great video you’re doing good to get 50% of the people that started to finish, and if you’re calling for actions at the end you’ll have 50% of the people that started actually watching it that even have a chance to do it so you’re conversion rates are naturally going to be lower. There’s several things you can do to increase that. You can have a callback at the very beginning, which I do regularly, you can have some soft calls to action throughout the blog post, more of an open loop that gets them reading until the end, and then have another hard call action at the end. It’s just stuff like that, having good hooks, and asking yourself—not asking yourself the question of, “How can I get more emails subscribers?” But asking yourself the question; what would I want if I was reading this post. After you’ve spilled everything you know into this post ask yourself; what else do they need, could I show myself doing what I just described in this post and just record it and offer that as a bonus, because people love that kind of stuff. If I just went through 3,000 words on how to set up a content upgrade [INAUDIBLE 00:15:07] that’s kind of confusing, honestly. Even if I do a great job at describing it. But what I would want if I was my reader would be for me just to watch you doing it. To put the camera over my shoulder and just show you how I do it. That’s very valuable. If you have your hook written right and you present that to the reader well, your conversion rate will be high.
So, the upgrade has to be good, yes. You’re hook has to be good and you have to do a good job of showing it throughout the post.
Eric: Got it. These 5,000 worders, let’s just say the 3,000 or 5,000 worders, how long does it take you to finish one of these. Then on top of that, since you prompt questions, how long does it take you to do the content upgrade?
Bryan: The post itself, it’s taken me a shorter amount of time now, honestly. When I started writing the really in-depth post in January I would spend 15-20 hours on a post and still occasionally do—I don’t think of it as how long does it take me to write it. I really ask myself, what needs to be written, and then I write it until it’s good. Now, probably my average time is five to eight hours on a post. I’m working on one right now that I’ve been working on for two weeks and it’s about a giveaway that I did in showing people the results of my giveaway and then I think there’s seven different ways I promoted it and every detail of how they can do it. So if somebody has an email list of 500 people you can run a giveaway and get 2,000 subscribers on the back end of that. So, I go through every step of the process. I bet my total time on that post is going to be over 15 hours, but that’s fine. It’ll do extremely well. For the post itself anywhere from 5-20 hours just depending on how well I’m flowing in the post. For the content upgrade I just try to spend less than an hour on that. But I don’t make the content upgrade at the beginning I make it at the end and I just go back through the post and usually by the time my 3,000 word post that took me 20 hours is written, my mind is overflowing with different ideas of what I can do to for the content upgrade. I have a list of eleven different content upgrades and types and how you can make them. If people want they can go to videofruits/contentupgrade, and there’s a little list there you can go through and it will help you. It really teaches you how to do them in less than 30 minutes from start to finish, setting up the tech side and everything, and gives you 11 different types that you can make in under 30 different minutes. The content upgrade shouldn’t take you a ton of time. Posts should be the majority of your efforts, the content upgrade should be the appendix on the end of it.
Eric: It’s more of a convenience thing. I think almost all [INAUDIBLE 00:17:45] emails is a way of kind of almost thanking you, right?
Bryan: Oh yeah, and it’s—the email thing is interesting. All of this has been a bit of a hypothesis for the last 10 months. It’s converted better than anything I’ve ever seen on any platform, and I’ve worked with some pretty big names that had a lot of high traffic and consistently has performed at a really high level over time. The ultimate test of it isn’t your conversion rate. The ultimate test is; will people buy from you. It’s great, you have an email that’s a 10,000 people for online, will people pay you money, like if you have a product are people going to buy it from you? Because that judges the quality of the list. You can [INAUDIBLE 00:18:26] and have a 100,000 people tomorrow, but the conversion rate is going to be extremely low. My test, I guess it was about a month ago, I launched my first product since the explainer video course which I didn’t even have an email list at the time, but I launched my first product a month ago and really part of it was I hadn’t created a product in a while. This product needed to exist, but kind of my selfish number one intent of the product was to gauge the email tactics I’d been using, specifically the content upgrades, to see if it was pulling in quality subscribers that were, that liked me, that wanted the product, that would pay money, and it validated. It did extremely well. So my goal is to sell 100 copies in four days, and the list I sent it to was a subset of the main list so it was 6,500 people, and it sold out before my deadline. That was really, honestly, the true validator of the technique overall, was to see if people would pay for it.
Eric: So 100 was the goal and you hit that way before the deadline, is that correct?
Bryan: Yes. And I had all kind of problems with payment processor stuff so I probably would have sold out—I think I sold out in three days and it was supposed to sell out in four days, so yes, it was sold out and did well. I don’t know what your question was now, but—yes, the ultimate validator isn’t how big of a list that you can get. That’s my goal, but kind of an underlying piece of that is quality. You have to get quality people and the content upgrade, I feel like, makes people be more committed because you’re just giving it to them, you’re giving, you’re giving, you’re giving, you’re giving, and one day, eventually you’ll ask.[00:20:00]
We have a next door neighbor, her name is Charlotte, and her husband died three or four years ago. We’ll do stuff for her occasionally just because—like her garbage cans were out the other day and she was gone on vacation so we pulled her garbage cans in for her. She needed a lawn guy, so we got a guy to—things—this stuff people do, like natural stuff that, if you’re neighbor’s lying in the middle of the street bleeding you go help them, kind of stuff. We give, we give, we give, if one day we had some guests over and we ran out of milk, if I called her and asked her for milk she would run the milk over. Not because I asked her to, not because any of that, but because people naturally reciprocate when you give to them. That’s kind of the motto I’ve tried to lead with through this service work. That approach got me the KISSmetrics contract. That approach has always produced dividends every time I’ve used it whether that’s directly with the person I approached it with or not and it works for the blog as well. It’s just like; give like crazy and then ask for something occasionally and people—Like I had people’s multiple emails that were, “Hey, I don’t know what you’re selling, but here’s some money because I want to buy from you.” Some guy Googled the name of the product before it was even out and somehow it found a sales page that it was ungated and the order form and ordered it before it was even available to watch. People just wanted to pay me because they’d gotten so much from me over time. Again, nothing about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s about just helping people. If you can find a way to do that, be it teaching, be it creating software, being it making videos, or whatever it is, you won’t have a problem selling your service or selling your product when the time comes.
Eric: Cool. Let’s talk a little about that KISSmetrics contract. What did you do exactly to get that contract?
Bryan: The explainer video course was preselling in May and I was at a day job, and this kind of comes back to the number one focus again. My number one focus at the time was quitting my day job. It wasn’t a revenue—I guess it was a revenue—It wasn’t creating a product, it wasn’t offering a service, it was like; what’s the quickest way I can get out. I had validated the product by preselling it to 15 or 20 people and then I was creating it. It was going to take me a little while and even then I knew once I had the product created I wasn’t going to be having a ton of sales because I hadn’t figured out traffic, I didn’t even know email list was a thing, none of that—and this was a little less than a year ago, or a little more than a year ago. I didn’t actually know any way to actually market it sustainably long term. But I knew I could offer creating videos for people as a service to people and I had a B2B background where I knew how to go out and get a contract with people. I combined those two things together; I can make a video, I know how to get contracts. What I did was made a list of five people I would like to work for and I would want to offer a video for. That was people I followed online already so I was fairly familiar with what they were doing and it was people that had money. That meant that they were posting on their blog at least three times a week and if they had a product they were selling that was successful, so they had income coming in from it. I’m not pitching to a mom blog that was posting three times a week and interview books, like she’s not really making money off the blog; not that any mom’s blog do—a lot of them do insanely well, but the ones I followed weren’t. Neil Patel was somebody I followed on Quick Sprout for a long time. Honestly I never ever read the KISSmetrics blog, but I knew he had Quick Sprout. I followed him. He was the first person I pitched and I just waited till he, I think he was at the time he was sending emails out about three times a week, he was posting on his blog three times a week. I did a little research on KISSmetrics, found that one of the most popular ways they grew their business was by making infographics. They would make an infographic, post it on their blog, and then go out and share it with other people and that would get a lot of traffic from it, so now they magically get sells on that. I didn’t even care about all the technique. I just knew that infographics were important. So, I went to—they have an archived infographic page on their site, and found the most popular infographic they had and it was one on, I think it was the psychology of color and it was from 2010, so it was pretty old, three, four years old at the time, and had thousands and thousands of shares. I just took that infographic and turned it into a video. It was an infographic video which at the time in KISSmetrics I think had two videos on their whole YouTube account, and this is a really popular blog, basically ignored video. So, I turned it into an infographic video, waited until Neal sent out one of his blog posts, just replied to the blog post, said, “Hey Neil, I love your work. Just wanted to make this video just to say thank you. Attached to the video of one of your popular infographics.” In less than three minutes he responded back, “This is awesome.” and then copied me back into a thread with a couple of their blog guys to talk [about] how can we team up in turn. That turned into me making in person videos for them for the past year and a couple months. It’s been 13 or 14 months I’ve been making videos for them. But the interesting thing about that was I initially approached them about doing these infographic videos and we were going to turn all of their infographics into videos, but we turned out making these in person explainer videos, where it was me on the camera talking. I had never made an in person video in my life before, like a professional video where I was teaching something. I’ve never written a blog post and never made a video like that. They just said, “Hey, we would kind of like to turn these blog posts, some of our popular blog posts into videos. Can you do that?” I said, “Yes” and then figured out how to do that. I’d never done any of that before. That’s a good lesson in just make it up as you go. You don’t have to have all your crap together. Just present yourself in a way that—put yourself in a giving mode where your giving to people, then opportunity will present itself. I’ve taken that exact same approach with future video contracts and it’s just works extremely well because I’m not asking them if I can make a video for them. I just made the video and gave it to them. That’s a completely different dynamic than approaching me and saying, “Hey Bryan, I do SEO. Can I do SEO for you? It’ll cost you $300 a month.” There’s so many questions, so many easy ways I can say “no” to that; versus if you send me a 35 page report and say, “Hey, I’ve analyzed every blog post you’ve ever written and I’m going over and realize you have ten posts that have gotten 500 shares and you got 15 back ones where you never did anything. What I would like to do for you is to take those and apply these seven techniques for you and my estimated results is we can get you another X number of traffic from that. Here’s a report showing you everything you need to figure that out. It’ll cost you $300 a month.” I’d say “yes” to that instantly because you’ve taken away all the “no’s”, you’re not a yahoo, you’re in an industry that’s filled with a bunch of yahoos with SEO and you’ve done your research, you know who I am, you’ve read my stuff, you’ve found a pain point with me, and you’ve really made it easy to say yes. You approach service based contracts with that approach and your success rate is going to hit the roof. The guy that’s doing the content upgrade for you uses that exact same approach. That’s what he does. It works extremely well. That technique is extremely effective.
Eric: Oh yes. Just to give the audience a little more insight on that, Dave has spent actually 20 minutes and made a really high quality videos, I think he include a pdf with it too. He’s like, “Hey, here’s what can be done with your blog.” It’s just really well done, it’s really polished, and that’s what really impressed me. It’s exactly like what you did with Neil. I totally agree with that. It’s all about giving.
Bryan: It isn’t an internet marketing technique. Don’t think about it like that. Think about it like if you’re a handyman and you’re trying to find work, and you come to my house and say, “Hey Bryan, I would like to clean your gutters for you.” It’s like, “All right. Do you have insurance, are you bonded?” I don’t know what all you’ve got going on; versus, this would be kind of weird so maybe this isn’t the best scenario, if I came home and my gutters were clean, you say, “Hey, I cleaned your gutters for you. I’ll clean your gutters for you every three months, it’ll cost you $20 bucks a month.” Well, heck yeah, that’s cool; number one, why were you on my roof—But you know it’s the doing and then asking, is extremely effective. I mean you have to do quality work. You can’t do crap work an expect results. Assuming you’re doing good stuff, assuming you’re hitting pain points, just do it and then ask.
Eric: Yes. Totally. Great. I want to change gears a little bit here. You talk about selling $500,000 conveyor systems. What are some lessons you learned from selling super high value products like that?
Bryan: That’s a good question. Lessons I learned. One example, this was, I think this was a $150,000 sale to some guys up in New York, I forget the name of the company now. But they actually had reached out to us, they saw our website, and felt we had some products they could work into a system. Conveyor systems are really –when I started selling conveyors, I knew nothing about them at all, I just knew how to sell, and they’re incredibly complex. You don’t think about it, but if you walk into a Walmart distribution facility, or Amazon where they ship this stuff out, or UPS; those places are engineering feats. They’re really impressive. So, when people call up and say “Hey, I saw you had these six pieces of equipment listed on your website. I’d like to buy them from you.” it’s the start of a big conversation, “All right, what are you using them for, how are you using them, will this fit, have you engineered the wholes system out?” Going through this process with this customer, they were calling about this equipment, I think it was about $20 or $30,000 worth of stuff, and we started asking questions. It was apparent that they had no idea what they were doing. After the call, after I knew their end results, we started with the end results, after I knew what they wanted to get, after I knew the end result of what they wanted; they wanted to move some pallets along this conveyor system and to start and stop them based on the pallets in front of them, so they needed some intelligent conveyor that would know how to do all that, I put together this power point presentation and recorded a screen test of it. It showed exactly how it would work along the way.[00:30:14]
Even me, knowing what I was selling, it was hard for me to wrap my brain around how it would actually work. So, I just showed them. I showed them how it would work via this simulation thing that happened to be a power point in Fantasia. I put the power point in my hit play and it was this animated really hacked together thing, I showed it to them and then I just recorded the process and talked through the whole thing, “All right, if you’re going to set a pallet here it’s going to run to the very end and then this photo eye it going to hit it and it’s going to stop. But then if you put another pallet on the very end and it’s going to go all the way to the end of this pallet and if you pull the one off the end, this one is going to go forward, but the ones on the very end—basically we don’t want pallets running off the end of the conveyor. We want them to stop, but we want the entire conveyor belt to fill up with pallets without the end one moving.” But that was kind of hard to explain in a 15 minute phone conversation without us getting completely lost. So, we hung up the phone, I spent the next three hours putting together this thing in cinema video and they immediately came back with a PO for the order. I guess the lesson out of that was showing and not telling. That kind of goes back to the pitch thing we talked about earlier, but I wasn’t giving them the conveyor. I was just showing them how it would work and that worked in building sales. I’ve done models of how changing out this one beam, which is a $30,000 up sale for us, changing out this one beam would make the house look better and would make it hold more load in the second story. This showing thing has always been kind of throughout the selling process for me. Probably a second thing is patience. The higher level the sale the longer it takes. A lot of salesmen, from my experience, just give up way to soon.
Eric: What’s the sale cycle like for a product like that usually?
Bryan: Conveyor systems? The biggest conveyor system I sold, it was probably an eight month sale cycle.
Bryan: Sometimes it’s really quick. Like one sale, I still keep up with a few buddies that work there, they just sold a $10 million system—a perspective a little bit, the salesman would get paid 10% commission on that.
Bryan: That’s a million dollar sale and those just don’t come up. But that took probably four to five years. Like from the very first conversation to end of sale cycle was five to six years and tons of free work, tons of engineering work and bidding things out and all that. It can be a long time. There was another point I was going to make and I forgot now.
Eric: No worries. Let me know if it comes back up. You wrote one blog post about how you outsource critical tasks at Videofruit. Can you explain?
Bryan: I don’t remember the exact post, but I’m going through that right now. One thing that I’ve done the last month or two is trying to have more fun with business just overall. Every job I’ve ever had has been a grind and it’s been something that’s been kind of interesting and fun and it paid well, but I could never say I really had fun with that, like it was a good time. I could easily go back and do more stuff that’s a grind, but at Videofruit it’s supposed to be fun. I’m doing my own thing. Its way more work than I’ve ever done, but I enjoy it. But am I having fun? Every Friday at the end of the day can I really say I’m having fun? So, anyway, over the last month I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I’ve been trying to get back to doing things that are fun. I enjoy teaching, that’s cool. Service work, less fun, so I’ve been getting away from doing that. It’s an experimentation process. But one thing I found that I really like doing is building software. That’s really fun. I can really enjoy it. It’s cool sketching something out on a piece of paper and a month later or a week later having that thing live in real life. So, I want to start building software again, nothing massive yet. I have some ideas of some cool stuff I could build, but just light weight stuff, light weight tools, and things that can help people grow their business. So, I’ve been getting back into outsourcing because I don’t want to code that stuff. But I really enjoy designing it, roughing it out, the high level engineering of how stuff’s going to flow, kind of get a user experience out of things. My process for that is—I don’t know what part do you want? The hiring process or the management process, or the QA process?
Eric: It’s a whole other conversation isn’t it? I think we’ll provide the most utility, where do you go to find talent for these specific things?
Bryan: Sure. I have a list of sites. There’s no magic spot. I just hired a guy yesterday and I used Elance for it. One of the products I sell is called the contractors rolodex and it’s a list of all the contractors I use. I have a few programmers in there and they were all booked up and the one I usually use doesn’t do Chrome extensions, which this new thing I’m building is going to be a Chrome extension, so I just wound up hiring a fresh guy. I went to Elance for that. I posted a job ad on Elance, Odesk, and there’s a couple of others that I know the names of, I have a whole list of them. I just click through and I’ll write the ad and go to six or seven different sites and publish the ads in all the different sites. Any of the regulars. It’s less about where you post it and more about what your vetting process is as far as finding quality people. You can’t go and read the 4 hour work week and think you can post one ad and hire one guy to build a $50,000 piece of software for you, and it’s going to be any kind of good at all, one, because you don’t even know what you’re doing. If it’s your first thing to ever do, first piece of software to ever put together, you don’t even know the questions to ask, you don’t know anything about it to direct them at all, and if you’re trying to find the cheapest person, and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s not going to work. I can tell you right now you’re completely wasting your money. So, start extremely small and slowly build up to more complex stuff or else you’re going to waste a bunch of money and think the guy’s an idiot when really you’re the idiot, not him.
Eric: Let’s give one example. You talk about the vetting process. What’s one thing you do to make sure that they actually know their stuff?
Bryan: Give them a small job. At the end of the day you can have Skype conversations with them, you can see their portfolio, they could have done a job that’s almost identical to yours, all that’s great, but ask them to do something. Ask them to do a small job. For instance, if you’re trying to hire a writer, that’s something I found to be extremely, probably like the hardest thing to hire for is a writer, maybe it’s because I’m pickier there or something. It’s way easier to hire programmers and designers, and everyone else, but writers for some reason is really hard. I’ve gone through that cycle several times without finding anybody but I’m going through it again here soon. I put out a few ads and I’m starting to get candidates. What I ask them to do is, “I want you to write this article. I’m not going to pay you. The top three I’ll pay you X number of dollars for, and the winner I’ll pay this amount of money for. But if I’m get 50 applicants I’m not going to pay all 50 of you. So, I’ll go through a three tier process. First I’ll open and fill a job ad out, then I’ll ask them to fill out a Google form and just ask them basic questions about themselves, their Skype ID, their email address, who have they worked for, a couple samples of your work, and honestly I don’t pay much attention to much of that at all, but anybody that takes the time to fill it out, and the whole purpose of the second step is just to give them 15 minutes or so of work that will be informative to me, but that is in no way the determining factor. Anybody that takes the time to fill that out I’ll send them an assignment. I’ll describe it and be fully transparent with them and tell them, “Hey, this is what I’m doing. I’ve had 55 people apply and the only way I can know who to hire is for you to do some work for me. So, if you don’t want to do work, no problem, no worries, no hard feelings, just drop out now. But if you do, here’s what I need you to do. Here’s an outline of the post, here is the overall the theory of what I want you to teach, and here’s a few samples of the tone and style that I want you to have. Write this and turn it in within three days.” Then I look at the finished post and see which one looks the best. It’s the showing thing again. It’s easy for somebody to tell you what they can do, but if they show you what they can do, that is the determining factor. I give them a small sample job that they do for free and I only award the people that do the best job on it. That will tell you who’s the best. There’s a lot of factors on who you hire. It isn’t just their finished work. It’s communication between you, it’s response time, quality of work, there’s several things that come into play and the only way you can know how good that’s going to be is through actually working with them.
Eric: I love it. A lot of the people in the Silicon Valley world talk about a trial week and talk about giving them just a homework assignment. I do the same thing too and it’s feasible. Some people can interview really well and some people will just suck at the work. So, I totally agree with what you’re saying.
Bryan: I could give [INAUDIBLE 00:38:58] resume and it matters zero because the only thing that matters is; can you do the work, are you a good fit. And getting back to the core focus, if that’s your one focus thing, can you do the work, then focus on the work. Don’t focus on what they’ve done in the past. It doesn’t matter at all.
Eric: So, what’ one piece of advice you’d give to your 25 year old self?
Bryan: Oh man. It depends on if I go high level or low level. These are questions I have a hard time answering, but let me tell you one thing that has just blown me away recently. That there isn’t a college degree in how to build and profit from an email list. That you can’t get a degree in an email list. That is just crazy. It’s the single—well I don’t know, there’s a lot of business models—it’s the single most effective sales tool I’ve ever seen.
Eric: And you’ve been in crazy sales. You’ve been selling high volume products.[00:39:58]
Bryan: It’s insane. You can send an email and make $10,000 and not have a clue to what you’re doing and have a product that’s really too broad, which is what my product was, it’s just nuts. And I’ve sold millions of dollars of stuff, I’ve never sent an email that makes $10,000 until a month ago. That’s just nuts. That’s just crazy.
I know a ton of teachers, for instance, that teach in normal elementary and high schools, and are great teachers, way better teachers than me, and they’re making $30, $40, $50, maybe if they’re a principle they’re making $100,000 a year. I mean being paid extremely well. They can take that exact same skill set, teach online, build an email list, and make 10X that.
I guess the thing I would tell 25 year old Bryan is; 1 – just experiment with a bunch of crap because that’s the only way you’re going to find what makes you happy and what gives you joy in doing. 2- Use an email list to sell. Figure out how to build an email list, pay attention to people that are doing it, try to figure out how to do the same thing with whatever makes you happy. Not everyone wants to—I’m in the internet marketing space which kind of rubs me the wrong way right now even though I know it’s valuable and it’s really just me being selfish and teaching myself, but you can apply the email list, how to build an email list and sell from an email list in any market that exists and do better probably than what you’re doing now.
My old technique was; make a list of people a hundred people in your market and do a cold call. That works, but what works better is having them come to you because it flips the context of the entire relationship and makes them want to pay you versus going in an trying to convince them to pay you. That’s a completely different dynamic.
Eric: Yes. Love it. And you know I’m nowhere near the 10K mark so there’s a lot I have to learn from you and we can talk about that later. What’s one productivity hack you can share with the audience?
Bryan: I come up with a zero based calendar. I got this—we were on the Dave Ramsey plan before I quit the job and we were trying to pay off our debt and 47 months, $18,000 later or $80,000 later we paid off our whole debt. But we did that every month having a zero based budget. What that meant was, every month before the month began you wrote down every dollar you were going to make, every dollar you were going to spend, on paper, on purpose before the month began, and at the very bottom was a zero. Even if it was below $200 at Old Navy, make that as a line item, spend $800 on Auburn Football tickets, you just have to admit to what you’re doing. You can blow it, you can do anything you want to with it, but just admit to it and at the very end make a zero. I use that same tactic for productivity. It’s called the zero based calendar. Every day, before the day starts, on paper, on purpose, before the day begins, I write down what I’m going to do every hour of the day. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it goes exactly like I plan. Sometimes it doesn’t. But every day I have to admit to myself to what I’m doing. It’s interesting. If you combine that singular focus, 75 email subscribers, with being intentional with every minute of your day it makes you ask the question when you look at your calendar before the day starts, do I have anything even planned that works towards 75. Does anything on this paper, that’s my number one most important thing, am I actually doing anything towards that and if not let’s cancel some stuff, let’s get off the mastermind, and lets go spend two hours on building the email list, writing stuff, researching stuff, putting a game plan together. I have a more structured system now, but the baseline of it is; every day before the day starts I align my goals with every minute of the day and make sure every minute is taken up—and if stuff happens, stuff happens. If I need to move stuff around I move stuff around. I’m not 100% holding to it, but I have to be intentional about it and that’s caused my productivity to go up substantially and to spend time doing the things that—working towards the goals I want to work towards and not getting sidetracked with all the other crap.
Eric: Cool. I think we’ll have to share that as a content upgrade. Just kidding. That’s something we’ll have to share with the audience so I’ll get a little more details from you afterwards.
Bryan: You can go to zerobasedcalendar.com which is where I’ve taken the blog post and wrote about that and kind of describe the process.
Eric: Okay. We’ll drop that in the links for sure. What’s one must read book you’d recommend to the audience?
Bryan: That’s a good question. I’ve got two. The first one would be one you’re not expecting at all. If you’re not religious at all, I don’t give a crap, read the Bible. Honestly, don’t read any kind of crazy translation. This is kind of like–this was written for kindergartners and I’ve been going through it the past month, and I’m a Christian, so that’s something I do anyway, but I never really read it regularly, so whatever your religions is, who cares, read Proverbs. There’s 30 of them, read one every day. It’s the most fricking genius book ever read. It’s just smart stuff. There’s a dude named Solomon, who the Bible says it the smartest guy that ever lived. If he exists or not, who cares, but he says some really smart stuff and a lot of it is about business, a lot of it is about money management, and a lot of it is principles of how you should treat people in business and in life. All that stuff makes a massive difference. That’s one that people probably don’t want, but read anyway. Even if you haven’t, even if you’re not a Christian, go read it. The second one, I just read this recently, I don’t know if it would be a top book, but it’s one that’s that in my mind right now and it’s called the Ultimate Sales Machine. I forget the guy’s name—
Eric: Jeff Holmes.
Bryan: Jeff Holmes. Yes. It’s a really tactical book. There’s a lot of stuff that’s high level out there because that stuff’s easier to write and you don’t have to know what you’re talking about. I used to write high-level stuff, but it’s the most tactical sales book I’ve ever seen. Especially if you want to get into service based business, or you want to quit your day—if you’re number one goal is to quit your day job and the easiest way to do that is start a service based business and go read the Ultimate Sales Machine and just do what it says. It’s extremely good. Extremely tactical. So, high level, read Proverbs; low level, Ultimate Sales Machine on tactics.
Eric: I love it. So, Bryan Harris. I think there’s a lot more to talk about in another episode. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Bryan: Thanks Eric.
Eric: This is Bryan from Videofruits.com. Make sure you check out his explainer video. Bryan, thanks again for joining us.
Bryan: Thanks man.[/spoiler]
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Eric Siu (@ericosiu) is the CEO at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that focuses on paid advertising and content marketing. He contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and more.