Last week, as a closure of the ActiveGrowth Podcast launch day, we held a live webinar to answer your questions about the podcast and the topic that we choose for our first three episodes: why you should quit chasing traffic and focus on getting your first customer instead.
Based on all the questions and feedback we got, we decided to record a 4th episode as part of the "Forget Traffic!" series.
We noticed that there's some resistance to the idea of going customer first (even though "get paid sooner!" should be pretty appealing) and we address that in today's episode.
We also walk through several practical examples and case studies on how the customer first approach can work even for the less typical business models.
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Shane Melaugh: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Shane Melaugh.
Hanne Vervaeck: And I'm Hanne Vervaeck.
Shane Melaugh: I'm going to start this podcast by doing something a little weird. I'm going to talk about video games because this is ... And yes, this is still the right podcast. We're still talking about the forget about traffic principle, the customer first approach. We did a live webinar where we got a lot of questions and feedback about the first three episodes on this topic, and I noticed something that reminded me of video games.
Here's the thing. In video games something happened ... I used to be an avid gamer I should say. I used to be an avid gamer. These days I'm basically too busy to play video games, but I still follow the news, because I think it's fascinating. One of the things that happened in the gaming industry is that many video games have become very similar in one thing, in that video games all have some element of progression. It's not just that you start playing a video game and maybe you follow to the end of the story and then you're done. There's always some element of progression, where basically you get some kind of reward for doing more, so you keep playing a little longer and you get a new item, you get a new whatever, a graphical thing. You level up. You get a new skill in game or whatever, and this has become part of ... Pretty much every video game these days has this element of progression built in.
They always try to design it in such a way that it basically never ends. There's always a next level to get to. There's always a next even better item to get to and so on.
Hanne Vervaeck: Okay. Everybody who's played Candy Crush, you can raise your hand now, because I think that was a very good example of having something to win, even if there was nothing to win.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. Exactly that kind of principle. Candy Crush is exactly the reason why this is in all video games, right? Because game designers figured out that this is one of the things that gets people addicted. You show someone like a little progress bar that's like half full and say if you keep going then this progress bar slowly gets ... Fills up more and more and at the end you get something. Even if the thing you get is totally worthless fake points, then it still ... It gets you hooked.
Hanne Vervaeck: Free candy.
Shane Melaugh: Yes, free virtual candy. Who doesn't want that?
Hanne Vervaeck: Free virtual candy.
Shane Melaugh: So even though that makes no sense, it's something that basically the human brain responds to. It gets you hooked. Now why am I talking about this? I notice that when we're talking about the customer first approach that it seems that ... Okay, some people are like, "Yes, this makes total sense. I'm taking action on this," but we also get quite a lot of kind of cautious reactions. Some people are a bit standoffish about it and are like, "I'm not sure about this."
If you think about it, that's a bit strange, isn't it? Because if you're an entrepreneur what we're talking about is an approach by which you get paid sooner. We're basically talking about an approach that compared to a lot of the other stuff in online marketing, one of the core elements here is that you get money, you get paying customers much, much sooner than if you don't use a customer first approach. Shouldn't that be super attractive to people? Shouldn't that be ... You know, everybody should be jumping on this, no? So why this skepticism?
I think one of the problems is like the history problem. We talked about this in a previous episode. We hear the stories of people who used an audience first approach, right, and maybe got tons of search traffic and made money like that, or they had an early Facebook fan page and they got millions of followers and they made a lot of money from that, so this kind of the audience first thing, this is in our minds. This is in the storytelling of business. That's one of the problems, but there's another problem. It's the problem of the sense of progression. I think that the audience first idea has a similar somewhat addictive factor to it, because it has a similar element of a sense of slowly progressing towards something.
Let me give you an example. I'll call this the selfie problem. If I tell you, or if you read a story about some girl takes a photo, selfies of herself every day wearing makeup, puts it on Instagram and for some reason she has millions of followers and she makes tons of money from this, sponsored stuff, so all she does is she takes selfies, posts them to Instagram and makes all this money. That's very relatable. You maybe read that story and you think well, I have a phone. I take selfies. I put them on Instagram. I'm halfway there, right? I can do this too. This sounds simple.
Of course it's an audience first thing, because the key element here is she has 5,000,000 followers and you don't. But then you're like okay, I have to post more selfies, I have to do the Instagram thing, and eventually I will be able to make all this money. This sounds great and it's something that ... Like I said, I'm halfway there. The vanity metrics, the metrics that show you how close you are to this goal are ... They're right there in front of you. You can see how many followers you have. You get notified when you get new followers. You get notified when you get ... When someone likes your image and so on, so you have this sense of slowly progressing towards this distant goal.
Why do we like that? It's because ... Well, if I tell you the alternative ... For example, one of the youngest billionaires in the world, possibly the youngest billionaire in the world is a guy who founded Stripe. Stripe is an online payment processor. If I tell you this story, then you're reaction probably isn't, "Well, I could do that. That sounds cool." You're like, "Oh, my God, online payment processing? How complicated must that be?" That's instantly clear that that's a complicated, difficult business, probably like a lot of legal issues as well as payment processing and stuff, like that is complicated. "I don't want anything to do with that, and I'm certainly not halfway there." But Instagram ... Posting something to Instagram, I can do that.
I think that the audience first approach is something that lets us put off in our minds ... We can basically say the complicated business stuff will come later or never, which of course isn't true, because if you are making millions from your Instagram account you better have a business set up and all the legal stuff sorted out and so on. Otherwise you're in trouble. But we don't tend to think about that, right? Like I said, you think I have an Instagram account, I already know how this works, I'm halfway there.
We can kind of tell ourselves I'm doing this, I'm hustling, I'm growing my Instagram following, I'm growing my audience, and then eventually sometime later I will get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I don't really have to worry about the implications of that and all the complicated stuff. I don't have to worry about that. I'll just keep making this slow progression, getting a few more followers, doing a little bit of something or other, some whatever, Instagram marketing technique, following whatever people do, and it gives you this sense of progression. That's something that gets people hooked.
I think in this sense, I think that's one of the reasons why we have so many people stuck in this treadmill of trying to do an audience first business, even though they're not really getting anywhere. They get the sense of getting somewhere and it's addictive.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think there's something else there, because actually if you go after the traffic first you have a valid reason to procrastinate. You actually have a valid reason to not do what you should be doing, because if you tell yourself like I first need 5,000,000 Instagram followers and then I can contact the brand and ask if they want to sponsor me, for example, then you're not doing the hard work. You're not putting yourself out there, because like the hard work is actually contacting those people and asking to give you money, and at that point you can be rejected.
The same is true if you think about putting out an eBook or an eCourse. If you're first waiting for those page views and you're saying like, "I need 10,000 page views first before I can put out my eBook and before I can start selling," then again you're procrastinating, but you have like this real reason to procrastinate somehow. You're giving yourself permission to procrastinate because you're working on something else, and that something else is building your traffic.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. It's quite simple. I mean this is a totally normal reaction. If you listen to the customer first approach and we're telling you here's what you do. You reach out to people directly and send a message saying, "Hey, get on a coaching call with me," and then you do the coaching call and then you go for the sale on the second call. You go, "Okay, let's continue doing this. I'm going to charge you $200 a month for this," pay attention to how that feels, because it probably feels like I don't know if I want to do that. It's like Hanne said, you can get rejected, it doesn't feel good.
Compare that to the feeling of I'm going to write a blog post, I'm going to publish it, and maybe I'm going to get some traffic later. It's like something you can kind of do ... You can hide away from the world and do that and be like I'm building my traffic, I'm building my list, and later I'll do the difficult stuff.
The first action point here that we have for you is examine your reasons for not going after customers first. Do you have a legitimate reason or is it just fear? Is it just that you're basically caught in this hamster wheel of trying to build an audience first or do you have a real reason to not do that?
Hanne Vervaeck: Up until now, we have been trying to come up with reasons not to find that first customer and we haven't found a real valid reason yet, so this is also a challenge. Please let us know in the comments on the show notes of this podcast what is your real reason not to go after your first customer. Like I said, we had trouble finding examples of how not to go after a customer first, so we decided to give examples of how it would look like if you take the customer first approach.
Shane Melaugh: With these examples, if you listen to the third episode in the Forget Traffic series, we talk about let's say the traditional or the classic example, where you build information products, so the goal is you're going to be selling courses and things like that. We talked through how to go from the customer first to that kind of business.
For the examples here, we really wanted to stretch this principle a bit, so we're really leaning out and looking for examples that don't seem obvious, that make you think the customer first approach doesn't apply here. Hopefully the examples we give you can help you see how this approach can apply to many, many different examples and business models.
Hanne Vervaeck: The very first example, if you haven't started anything online yet, you don't have your website, you don't have anything online yet, but you have this idea of publishing a recipe eBook, well, the normal approach, or what many people will tell you to do is you go out, you create a food blog. You then publish recipes and you go on ... In our example, let's say this is a vegan recipe eBook, so you publish vegan recipes and you start an Instagram account and you call it something with vegan in the Instagram account name and you start building an audience, right?
So you have followers, and then maybe you even do like an YouTube channel and you build up a list, and all of that has to happen before you're actually starting to create and to publish the book.
Shane Melaugh: Why is it better to do a vegan recipe book than just a general recipe book?
Hanne Vervaeck: We talked a lot about knowing who your customers are and knowing who your customers aren't and who you want to target, and it will be much easier to go more specific and sell a vegan recipe book rather than having like a normal recipe book that could sell to everybody but doesn't appeal to anybody.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. So the vegan thing, I would probably even go even further, like to vegan meals for families or something, basically having something more specific. Vegan is just like a very simple way to target a niche, right? It's just going to make it so much easier than trying to sell a cookbook.
Hanne Vervaeck: We've seen what the normal approach would be. Now what the customer first approach would look like is you organize vegan dinner house parties. For those parties you actually get paid. At those parties you cook the recipes that you want to put in your book and you test the best recipes and you get testimonials on those recipes. Why not? At the same time, you can start pre-selling the cookbook. This is a completely different approach, but you will get to the same results, having a vegan cookbook. The difference is that with the customer first approach you're actually already getting paid.
Shane Melaugh: Another example of this is something that we did in the real world, which is that when we were in Lisbon doing the Marketing Apprenticeship, the second one for Thrive Themes, one of the things we did ... We had a chef there and he basically just by hustling, just by going and talking to people, he found someone who had a small restaurant and he simply talked to the guy and offered to do a popup restaurant event there, so for a few evenings we had like a little popup restaurant there.
That's also an example of you don't need anything, I mean apart from the cooking skills obviously, right? But you don't need an audience, website, traffic, blah, blah, blah first. You can just go and talk to some people and you get the platform. Like you borrow someone else's platform basically and you get customers right away. The first thing you do is you cook for other people and they pay for the meals.
Hanne Vervaeck: Now the next example is a little bit out of scope, but it's one that we got on the webinar, as a question on the webinar, so that's why I wanted to address this in this podcast. It's how would I use this approach if I want to start a podcast?
The normal approach would be you record episodes, and you record a lot of episodes. Then you find friends with audiences that can promote you. Then you publish another 100 episodes and you wait until you have like 1,000,000 downloads, and then somebody will notice you and you will get a sponsor deal. At that point you can become a famous podcaster and get paid for actually talking into the microphone.
Shane Melaugh: Sounds good. Sounds good. What's wrong with this?
Hanne Vervaeck: Sounds good if your wife or your husband is really rich and they can pay for you basically. Now our approach would be first of all ask yourself what's the product that you are selling, because we want to sell something, right? Is the podcast the actual product? Is that the main thing that will make you money? How are you going to get money for doing that, like for being a podcaster? What's your plan on getting money for that?
Then if your plan is for example to get sponsors, okay, get them from the very first episodes. You could make like a special package deal that nobody can resist. You go after your local bakery or somebody who can be interested in the topic of your podcast, because of course you chose a very niche topic, right?
Shane Melaugh: Of course. Yes.
Hanne Vervaeck: We agree on that. Still we're not trying to talk to everybody. We're trying to some very specific target audience. What you will do is from day one, even before recording that very first episode, you go out, you hustle, you put yourself out there, and you get that first sponsor. Of course I'm not going to say that's going to pay you as much as if you had already 1,000,000 downloads, but doesn't that beat like having to record 100 episodes first? Even if somebody pays you $20 for that first episode, that's still so much better than doing it for free, and you're getting in the habit of getting paid from the very start. You get over that imposter syndrome of having people say like, "Oh, but I'm not good enough to get paid yet," and all that kind of stuff.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, and this is ... I think what's important here is that you're not going to get [inaudible 00:17:37] or whatever, one of the big sponsors that you hear everywhere.
Hanne Vervaeck: We're really thinking a lot on [inaudible 00:17:43] actually.
Shane Melaugh: It just seems especially silly. I mean-
Hanne Vervaeck: Okay, Blue Apron, just to give you another one.
Shane Melaugh: Just one of these sponsors that you hear on all podcast, and then the big ones, because again, that's the story we hear. It's like, "Oh, my God, this podcast, they get a billion downloads on ever episode, they have these big sponsors, they make all this money just for talking into a microphone. I want that." Well, you're not going to get those big sponsors right away. The key is really to find someone who can benefit from getting a bit of exposure on your podcast and is willing to exchange a small amount of money.
That might be ... You know, maybe you're promoting a blogger in your niche who doesn't have a huge audience but who does have a little bit of a budget and is like, "Oh, yeah, if you mention me on your first 10 podcast episodes I'm going to give you 50 bucks for that." Again, it's the same thing. You basically have to reach out to people. You basically have to get on the phone with people and make your pitch and make a case for why they should give you money.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, it always comes back to that same point, right? Where it becomes difficult is the moment that you actually have to ask money from somebody. That's what the customer first approach is also like teaching you to do from the very start, is like getting used to asking for money for what you're actually doing and getting comfortable in doing that.
Now there is another possibility, and that is that you want to start a podcast to actually promote another product. So you could say, "I want to do a podcast around fishing because I have an eBook on fishing." I was trying to find something more specific than fishing, but I don't know anything about fishing, so I'll probably say something really stupid.
Shane Melaugh: Cape Cod fishing, we did a website review on it, Cape Cod fishing. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds specific.
Hanne Vervaeck: Okay. So you can do a podcast on that type of fishing, and that would be to promote then your own eBook. In every episode you would say, "If you want to learn about this topic, you can check out my website," blah, blah, blah, and basically make your own sponsored ad in your podcast, right? In this case, this would be a platform to sell your existing products. In that case, like we're not against it, but you have to make sure that your product is ready, that it is on sale, and that it's already converting when people arrive on the sales page, so that people already buy it before you're actually starting that podcast. Because if not, you're doing the same. You're actually just building an audience, but instead of blogging or on Instagram, you're using the podcast as your fantasy metrics and the downloads of the podcast as the feel good type of rush that you get from building this audience first.
Shane Melaugh: What's also important here is why do we insist that you should do the product first and get customers first is because you have to ... You have a limit to the amount of time available. Of course you can say well yeah, I'm going to build the product and I'm going to do this and I'm also going to start the podcast and build the podcast and so on, but the simple fact is you can't do everything all at once.
In the beginning you're focus should be on getting the customers, getting the customers first. Then once you've got that ready ... Once you've got that thing ready, where it's like I have a product, I've proven it in the market even if I've just got like five customers or something. Then I can start my podcast and I can focus on the podcast actually.
In my experience, you will actually make much more progress like this than if you're always doing a bit of both, if you're like today I didn't have enough time to work on my product, but okay, I recorded a podcast episode and then eventually somehow in the future this will pay off.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah. Eventually somehow in the future, I think that's the one you have to watch out for, right? Each time that you catch yourself saying like, "Oh, but this is going to pay off somewhere later in the future," you have to ask if that's the best way of spending your time today, at this very moment.
Now I found another example, and I thought this was amazing and one of the best examples that I found for saying this is not possible, the customer first approach is not possible. Then I saw this example and I was like holy ... Wow, holy cow. This is actually possible. I'm taking about a tattoo artist with no experience. The normal approach, and how even I was like this is a hard one, would be to never get started out of fear of not being good enough. How could you get that first customer as a tattoo artist?
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, without like ... How does that work, without like going to prison maybe where people might be more willing?
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, or without like ... I don't know, is pig skin kind of similar to human skin or is that like-
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. I mean that's a real question. Like the first person you tattoo, how did you get that person to agree to do this?
Hanne Vervaeck: I think that's why many tattoo artists also tattoo themselves. Okay, but one thing that I ... And this actually something that I saw happening, so I didn't invent this example at all. It is to actually offer a tattoo for free. I saw this happening in a Facebook group, of somebody saying like, "Hey, I'm just starting out. I finished my internship, but now I have to find real humans to tattoo, and I'll do it for free."
At that point, you can ask for referral and then start with maybe a discounted price if you're still not comfortable asking a full price for your tattoos, and at the same time you build up your portfolio with real clients. So you get experience, you see what works, what doesn't work, and those people can then actually bring you in paying customers.
If you wonder if this works, like I have a friend who just got a free tattoo from somebody who's learning how to tattoo, so yes, people actually are willing to do this, are willing to get a tattoo for free, or are willing to have like a discounted price even though they know that the person isn't very experienced yet.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. This is actually kind of similar to the idea of the free trial coaching, where we also recommend that you give people a free thing. You say here's a coaching session for free. Of course with tattoos it's a little bit different, but it's a similar approach, and I think that is a legitimate way of using a free offer, using something that you give away for free as a way to build your audience or to build your business, because as you've heard we generally advocate like getting paid, right? You should be confident about what you're worth and you should make sure that you get paid for your work, but I think this kind of approach, giving a freebie like that, that is a good way to start. With tattoos, I think it's a good example, because getting someone to pay you for a tattoo if they know that you've never done it before is probably a bit of a hard sell.
Hanne Vervaeck: Slightly. Now back to the eCourses, eBooks and information products, imagine you want to launch an evergreen eCourse funnel for a graphic design course. The normal approach would be to buy a ton of expensive tools, to spend several months learning how to set up those tools and how they all work together and how to make sure that nobody can game the system, and then you would also have to spend months in developing like this whole eCourse, and at the same time you would be blogging, and then you would hope and pray to get money the moment that you launched that evergreen funnel.
Shane Melaugh: In this example, the thing that I see a lot of people get stuck on is ... That's why we call it an evergreen eCourse funnel, is that ... Is this technical stuff, where you're like it has to be evergreen and automated and it has to have this launch sequence and marketing automations and an auto-play webinar that looks like a real webinar, and so on, and I have to have all this technical stuff and all of that needs to be in place so that I can start selling. That's another rabbit hole that people fall down, where you can basically spend forever trying to set this up.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah. For everybody that doesn't know, like evergreen just means that it's recurring, so people have the impression that it's like a real launch, but it happens on auto-pilot for everybody who joins your list or whatever. This is typically the kind of stuff that does need a lot of technical knowledge to set it up and a lot of tools.
Now if you follow our approach and you still ... Like in your mind you still have this idea, right, of having an evergreen eCourse funnel for your graphic design course, but instead of doing everything we just explained you start by doing graphic design coaching. You start by teaching people how they can do their graphic design and then you get paid to do so, so people actually pay you to be their teacher.
At the same time, by working with those people one-on-one you're actually going to learn what works and what doesn't and how do people learn and how do you explain stuff, so you're actually getting better as a teacher while you're doing that, and you can create your eCourse on the same time. So you're doing this one-on-one coaching and in the meantime, with everything that you're learning from there, you create your eCourse.
You launch that eCourse when it's ready, but you do that without any fancy gimmicks. There are no automatic timers and price changes at the end of the launch. You just ... Like you sell your course and you don't use any expensive tools, and from there you can learn and improve and you can get feedback from real customers who went through the course and who can tell you what worked, what didn't, and you can make your course better.
Once you've sold a few thousands of dollars of that course and that you know that it works and you know that it's like a very good course and people are super happy once they buy it and once they follow it, then you can think about investing in the tools and putting everything on auto-pilot, and you can start working on you second project. But with this whole thing I just explained again from day one through the coaching you're getting paid, and you're getting paid to develop your eCourse and to make it better.
Shane Melaugh: A point about this one is that it will be tempting in this example to say well, it's much easier to just do graphic design as a service to get paid, right? I'll do graphic design as a service for people, so they pay me to design their websites or their logos or whatever, and I use that money to pay my bills and work on the eCourse on the side, but it is much better to do what Hanne suggested, which is to find people who will pay you to teach them graphic design skills. It may be freelancers who want to do the freelancing that I just mentioned.
The reason this is important is because those are going to be your actual customers. Those are the same kinds of people who will pay you to teach them graphic design ... Are the same kind of people who will buy a course on how to do graphic design, and it's much more valuable for you ... Even though it might be more difficult to find these people and you'll have to basically be smarter about whom to target and how to target them, how to reach them, but it's going to be much more valuable to you to actually be teaching these people, coaching them, getting feedback, seeing their questions, and also learning from them their use cases, like what are they trying to learn this for? What are their end goals? That will help you make a much, much better product, even though it might be easier to finance your product building in a different way.
Hanne Vervaeck: I don't really agree that it would be that much more difficult to find somebody to teach them graphic design as it would be to find clients for your ... Like as a graphic designer, because the key would be just to be specific, right? It would be like I target digital nomads who want to be able to live anywhere in the world through designing websites for clients. Well, you just found your target audience, and I'm sure that if you brand yourself that way you could find people who pay you to show them how to do graphic design.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, for sure. The reason I brought this up is because I think what we're familiar with is you go to Upwork or some place and you hire graphic designers, right? It's something that I think is much more of an obvious to us like top of mind. Again, the problem is that ... I agree that you can definitely find people that will pay you for the coaching, but you have to do a bit more. You have to be a bit more creative. You have to do a bit more hustling to get there, so it's just another example of like be wary of taking the easy way out there.
Hanne Vervaeck: That being said, coaching idea, at one point I really wanted somebody to teach me Adobe Premier for video editing. I didn't want to go through an eCourse because I needed only specific stuff, and I couldn't find anybody who wanted to teach me Premier. So yeah, just saying that this is actually ... There can be a real demand for this type of service.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. Sure. Complicated but popular tools are ... Always spawn great business opportunities, because you can help people make sense of them. Another example comes from my background, and this is ... The situation is that let's say your a martial arts trainer but you don't have students, you don't have a location, you don't have a gym or a dojo or anything and you want to get started.
I'm using martial arts trainer as an example because that's what me and a friend of mine did a few years ago, but the same would apply to like a fitness coach or other kind of physical training stuff. The normal approach would be that you say okay, I want to have my own dojo or my own gym, and you kind of look at what this is costing in rent or maybe I can buy a location, or how much do I have to save up? How much money do I have to have to be able to start this, because I have to get the place, I have to get the equipment, all this?
So you save up, and you save up for a long, long time probably. You work your job and you put some money to the side every month. You slowly save up and at some point you're at okay, now I can afford the lease, I can get the equipment. You do all that, you build your gym, and then you probably print some flyers or something and then spread them around and hope that you get some students. Of course this is a huge risk, because maybe you don't get any students but you still have to pay rent and you spent all this money.
Here's our approach, and this is literally what we did. We started by doing training events and training weekends outdoors. We did this during spring and summer season. Actually we did some in winter as well for the hardcore people.
Hanne Vervaeck: Just for the sake of it.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. We simply invited people from our extended social circle, so from other people we trained with and basically just word-of-mouth, just word-of-mouth, these guys are doing this. In the beginning we did a couple of these events for free and then we started paying for them. And simply through the network, again, so after a few free events a lot of people knew that we were doing this, they had come to some of these events, they were enjoying themselves, they got interested in learning about martial arts, and so then we were ... We started charging for some very specific courses.
We did, let's say, a defense against knife course or a mace training course, or like a pepper spray training course, and we still did them outdoors, so our paid courses were still happening outdoors. We'd just go to some park or some free space somewhere and do this. We started to get paid before we ever had a gym, right? It wasn't even the goal to get a gym at that point.
Hanne Vervaeck: Actually today this is easier than ever. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the website meetup.com. You can actually very simply post your meetup over there. I'm pretty sure that for you it was even more difficult, Shane, to find like the people in your extended network, whereas today I've seen it before, people who are just like hey, we're doing a yoga course. It's in this park. It's at this time. You bring your own yoga mat and it's 10 euros for a yoga session.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, for sure. I mean we did this ... It was practically pre-internet. It wasn't really pre-internet, but we didn't have all the social networks and things at the time when we started this. For sure this is way easier now than it was then. But even without that, it was still possible.
A next step for us was to get really small locations, like tiny little gyms that we could rent for some evenings. We also made a super-specific offer. For a while we did the training and vetting for a security company, for a small security company or their personnel. They would basically send us people that had applied and we would do a training with them to teach them some stuff, but also to see are these people suitable? Can they work as bouncers or security guards? We also trained the staff. We taught them self-defense. We taught them how do you drag someone out of a club when they're making trouble, but also how do you deescalate and communicate and all this kind of stuff.
I think that's also two elements that again we're repeating here, but it really worked. If we would have just said, "We teach martial arts. Come here to learn martial arts," like that's a difficult sell. But going to a small security company and saying, "Look, we can train your staff for their specific tasks," this was a company that had a lot of bouncers and security guards in clubs, "So for that specific environment we can teach your guys how to communicate with people in this loud, noisy environment, how to coordinate with each other," and like I said specifically, how do you drag someone out of a club, right? That kind of stuff. It was much easier to sell to a small company with this specific goal than a more general offer.
The interesting thing is though ... I was only involved in this for the first two years or so. After that, I moved out and I got really busy with my online businesses, but my friend whom I started this with is still doing this. He kept doing this kind of as a side gig for a long time and now he's starting to do this full time. Eventually ... Now we're looking at probably there's going to be a gym at some point, and because we already have the product, we already have an audience, we already have all this experience and we already got paid for it, it's now actually much easier, and I like this example because most of this happened without even having a website, right?
A website and all that online marketing and all that stuff will become important later at some point, but this is like an extreme example of customer first, because we literally had no traffic because we had no website or the longest time. Also, this is an example that could be transformed into kind of an information product business or something like that. Of course anything where you're doing coaching, teaching people, there's always some potential to create information products, books, video courses and things like that as well.
Hanne Vervaeck: We've just gone through these examples and those were the examples that we had to think a little bit about how to do the customer first approach, but like I said, we couldn't find anything where it wasn't possible to do so far. Please challenge us. Let us know what is your business and why you think the customer first approach will not work for you, and I'm sure we can find a way to make it work.
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Alexandra is a traveling marketer. When she is not editing podcast episodes or writing blog posts, she's out there exploring a new city. She's the creator of the Morning Mindset daily mindfulness journal.
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