109: How Systems and Courses Can Build a Profitable Business with Greg Hickman

Welcome to episode 109 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks to Greg Hickman about building systems, building courses, and building a profitable business.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Natalie Eckdahl about her podcast and how she build a six-figure income. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How Systems and Courses can Build a Profitable Business

Shifting the focus in your business might be a scary step. But for Greg, shifting his business focus came via a challenge, and he learned that it was a necessary step for growing his business.

He went from focusing on mobile marketing to automation and marketing funnels. Now he helps other businesses narrow down their offerings and use trends to build out their systems. He talks about finding the right product to sell, tools he recommends for marketers, and how you can give your audience value.

In this episode, Greg shares:

  • How he got started helping businesses with their funnels and automation
  • How he knew how to make a shift in his business
  • How a challenge led him to his new business model
  • Why he helps his clients understand their problems
  • Why narrowing down your offerings makes running your business easier
  • How to not be a slave to your business
  • How to use trends to build your systems and automations
  • How to figure out a product to sell
  • Why you should go as premium as you can
  • The tools he recommends for marketers

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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode we talk to Greg Hickman from System.ly about building systems, building courses, and building a profitable business. Hey everybody, it’s Bjork Ostrom and you are listening the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today we’re talking to Greg Hickman, and Greg is the CEO of System.ly, and System.ly believe it or not, is all about creating systems for online entrepreneurs. Greg is going to talk about his story, how he changed from the mobile industry to focus really intently on a small niche. He’s going to talk about why that’s so important to really define your audience, especially as you get into creating content or courses for that audience.

He’s going to talk about his story, how he’s evolved, he’s going to talk about what they’re focusing on now, and also how they help entrepreneurs build a profitable business. Let’s go ahead and jump into the interview with Greg Hickman. Greg, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Hickman: Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, always fun to talk with somebody else who does a podcast because you know there’s not going to be any questions with like what type of mic to use. You’re not going to have to worry about weird background noises, so I can tell that you are a podcaster.

Greg Hickman: Yeah, I’d say I have a love/hate relationship with podcasting but it’s more so a love.

Bjork Ostrom: The hate would be what?

Greg Hickman: Well, I’ll just say, so I mean I’ve done multiple podcasts. I’m not currently doing one right now, I do want to have another one, but I think a lot of people, the hate comes from I think people do them too early and they don’t have the right expectations for what the podcast is meant to do for them in their business. Because having a podcast for 99.9% of people isn’t really a business. You need to have something on the backend, and I think a lot of people, for whatever reason still get confused and think that they’re going to be a professional podcaster.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting, because that’s actually some of the things that we’re going to be talking about today, this idea of funnels and things that lead into that. Previously had a podcast, so it was called Zero to Scale. Is that right?

Greg Hickman: Yeah, that was the most recent.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, so can you can talk a little bit about that? I know that you also had something you were doing before call Mobile Mixed. You had a few of these different things that you were doing before you were doing what you’re doing right now, which we’re going to get into, but can you talk about what you were doing before and how that led into what you’re doing now?

Greg Hickman: Yeah. I mean, I was essentially consulting in the mobile marketing space. I came from big brands and agencies, doing mobile, and I was trying to work smaller, mid sized companies that were interested in getting involved in mobile, primarily in the retail space because that’s where I had my experience. But as I was looking for information on the topic just to continue to learn, because I was so early into mobile that there wasn’t a lot of people talking about it. That’s when I started my own blog and podcast, mainly out of selfish reasons, to just connect with other people that I thought were doing cool things in mobile, with no expectations of what that was going to turn into.

If anything I just thought, “Well maybe this will open some door that I should be aware of,” that’s kind of why the podcast started in the first place. I think we got over 150 episodes or something of that, rebranded into Mobile Friendly for a little bit. But yeah, on the backend of that, I tried selling my own courses but ultimately I was doing services and consulting as essentially a freelancer. I just couldn’t break any … Like, I couldn’t break any real financial plateaus. The sales cycles were really long, dealing with mid sized companies and especially in the retail market. I just had to make a decision like, “Can I validate something else? If so, what is that going to be?”

Then, I did that with automation and marketing funnels which allowed me to talk to people and work with people that I really enjoyed working with that were a lot easier to close, and I got to the point where I’m like, “I should have done this sooner” but I didn’t want to let go of being “the mobile guy,” right? That was the hardest part.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, and that specifically, I think the point, that inflection point that I’d love to focus on a little bit with your story as we get into it is how do you know when to make that shift? Because one of the stories you could tell yourself is like, “Stick with a little bit longer. Adjust things, fine tune things, because eventually you’re going to break through,” right? You hear about those people that work really hard for eight years and then they’re an overnight success, when in actuality, they have those eight years and then something happens where it triggers and they fall into a greater success. Can you talk through how you intelligently and strategically made that decision to start to pivot away from the space you were in before?

Because I think a lot of people can relate. Even if it’s not the same industry, about thinking through this idea of like, “Do I stick with what I’m doing longer and maybe it’ll work? Or do I try something new?” How did you go about doing that?

Greg Hickman: Yeah. I mean, I’d say there was some intelligent thinking, a lot more unintelligent thinking, and then a whole lot of emotion. I would say the emotional part was actually kind of the unintelligent thinking, which was, “I’ve been doing this for over a decade. Should I just throw it all away? I’m not ready to throw it all away. I’ve built up this reputation as the mobile guy.” I would say I had only that dialogue going on in my head for a while, which is why I didn’t move as fast as I should have. It got to the point where on the Zero to Scale podcast actually, like if anyone listens to that or had listened to that, or dives into it now, around episode 30 or 40, you hear all this happen.

It came down to like, I couldn’t really break 7 to 8K a month in revenue in the mobile stuff, and so my co-host at the time, Justin, challenged me to explore something else. On a podcast he was like, “What would you explore?” I was like, “Well, I think I’d probably do something with marketing funnels and automation. I’ve been using Infusionsoft in my own business and I geek out on that, and a lot of people that I know use it, and I’d be able to work with people.” He challenged me to, “If you can get three clients in the next 30 days, you give yourself permission to think about the possibility of leaving what you have.”

I think it was really just that challenge, really, that sparked it for me. Because I didn’t need to go plan the whole business model, it was three customers which to be honest I didn’t think I was going to get. That was just the number we nestled in on and what’s the worst that happens? Nothing, I’m still in the same spot, or I do get three and then I have something else to think about. Like, I didn’t start thinking about what I would have to be thinking about if I got three. I just said, “I’ll think about that when I get three.”

I went out and said, “Okay. I accept the challenge” and I went out and I started hustling and reaching out to people that I knew that used Infusionsoft and would be interested in connecting me with maybe their audiences. Put together this notion of a beta program, so I wrapped a little bit of what they’re going to get for this price-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: … which I think I started, the first couple I sold at like 200–300 a month and then sold a few at 500 a month, that I basically went out and said, “I’m going to be supporting you with your Infusionsoft needs for the next three months.” Like, “I need a three month commitment. All I’m asking for is this price point” and based on who I was talking to, I was price testing also at the same time. I was like, “200 a month, 300 a month.” I really thought we were going to be the … What’s that? WP Curve for Infusionsoft.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, sure. For those that aren’t-

Greg Hickman: Kind of put my mission-

Bjork Ostrom: … familiar, WP Curve is like a service as a service where you have unlimited WordPress fixes for a certain amount. I think that site was acquired by GoDaddy. Is that right?

Greg Hickman: Yep. Yeah, yeah. Dan, yeah. Dan sold it, him and his partner moved on.

Bjork Ostrom: You had anticipated moving into that. Or, like that’s what you had wanted, or that’s what you feared?

Greg Hickman: That was the vision. That was the vision. I’m like, a scalable business model in and around this area that I like, supporting people that I’m interested in, and so I went out and started having these conversations. In six days I had seven customers.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Greg Hickman: I was like, “Okay, well a couple more customers away and I’m making the same amount of money as the mobile stuff, and this took my six days, not two years.”

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s the kind of thing where I would assume when you look back on it you’re like, “Shoot,” you’d start to crunch those numbers. “If I were to have started this two years ago, then think about where I could have been right now.” Point being, it never hurts to potentially experiment with something else if you feel like you’re at a plateau with your business. That’s one of the things I loved, a little snippet that I took out of what you said was it wasn’t like you said, “Okay, I’m going to wind this down and be totally done with it.”

You said, “I’m going to look at this as an experiment, almost. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to try, I’m going to hustle,” you said, which I think is a really important piece of it, but, “Worst that can happen, it doesn’t work out, we can wind it down.” But what you found is like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s a huge need for this.” I’d love to hear maybe some specifics around those first four or five different people. How did you come to make those connections and to work with those people? Were those people you knew directly that you were able to email and say, “Hey, here’s something I’m going to do. Would you be interested?” Was the trust already established there?

Greg Hickman: A handful were, and I’d say two of our first few clients I had already had a relationship with. The rest came from other people that I knew, even a few of the first two, referring me out to their audiences. As an example, Amy Porterfield is a friend of mine. Amy Porterfield has multiple online products. At this time, she was focused a little bit more on Facebook than she is now, but she had communities of thousands of people that she’s teaching how to build their list, and do all these things.

They’re using the same tools and she literally posted one message in one of her customer Facebook groups saying, “Hey, my good friend Greg, he’s doing a beta program with Infusionsoft support, helping you build out the things that you need. He’s only looking for a few people. If you’re interested in learning more, let me know and I’ll connect you.” I’d say I got three customers just from that one message and then a couple other people did something similar.

I got a couple quick wins and all of them came over the phone. I had talked them through, hear their needs, and I think my biggest takeaway for people that are listening that might be considering this is as I reflected on, “Why was this so much easier to sell than what I had been doing?” Like, the moral of the story is with the mobile stuff, I was so in love with the solution and not the problem.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you expand on that a little bit?

Greg Hickman: 100%. I was talking with retailers and I’m like, “Mobile is the answer.” They hear about mobile, it sounds like the hot thing, it’s the new shiny object like, “Here’s how mobile can help you do all these great things” but one, they didn’t think they had a problem with their marketing, two, they weren’t even using email effectively, three, there was still this huge misunderstanding and lack of awareness and knowledge of what mobile actually meant, and then there was me selling them on mobile. There was this huge gap between them not even having a problem and what I was trying to sell them.

From a sales perspective, I had to go in, show them they had a problem which then they needed to experience that pain, then I needed to show them what mobile was, and then show them how mobile was going to eliminate that pain. That was a very long sales cycle. That was-

Bjork Ostrom: Because you have to like create the pain when they don’t currently feel that, and then be like, “And now that you feel that pain, I have a solution for it.”

Greg Hickman: Yeah, exactly. That was really hard, and whereas with the Infusionsoft stuff, it’s like people have known to have been challenged with marketing automation and building funnels. Like, it’s complexity, there’s tech, and that was something I just got. When I was like, “Hey, do you have tough time dealing with Infusionsoft? Do you wish you had help? Do you feel like you’re not using it effectively?” They’re like, “Oh, my God, yes. I frickin hate it, I need help. Please save me.” When I’m like, “Okay, I can save you.” They’re like, “Sweet, how much?” I’m like, “This is how much,” and they’re like, “Done, let’s get started.”

I’m like, all right, one call closes on almost every one of the first handful of people that I talked to, and I was off to the races. That’s where, one, I realized with mobile, I was so in love with the solution, not the problem, and the problem that I’m in love with now is I think it’s not even just like, “Hey, are you struggling with Infusionsoft?” Because we don’t work with just Infusionsoft anymore, we work with other tools, but, “Are you tired of living launch to launch? Are you tired of doing everything manually? Are you tired of hunting for leads and prospecting versus using automation to bring the right leads to you and leveraging systems and process that take a lot of the heavy lifting off your shoulders and allow you to grow a business that doesn’t depend on you and only you?”

I can solve that a lot of different ways, and right now marketing funnels and automation just happens to be the way. I’m still in love with the problem and we have other products and offering and services that we are planning for in the future, that still solve that same problem in a different way, that have nothing to do with Infusionsoft, right? Just from the things that we’ve done. That’s a problem that I can really always rally behind, versus loving mobile so much and trying to force mobile down their throat.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s a really big takeaway for people that are listening, regardless of where they’re working, is the thing that you’re focusing on, whether that be the content or the product or the proposed solution something that you’re really passionate about? Or, is it something that you’ve identified as a problem that exists within the market? That market might be food related, like a certain dietary need, it might be service related, like you’re doing on System.ly where you start to hear this pattern where people are really struggling with something and they want to find a solution for it and they don’t want to do it themselves.

We’ve done some interviews and conversations with people that have started service based businesses around like shooting videos for instance. What they realized is people really wanted high quality videos, in this case recipe videos, and they offered that solution. They were able to relatively quickly scale that up because there was this universal problem that people needed or wanted to have fixed. They didn’t want to do it themselves necessarily. I feel like that’s a huge, huge takeaway.

One last question regarding that process, was it kind of sad to let go of the previous podcast or Mobile Mixed and let that business go, maybe let the domains expire, whatever it would be? Or, did you have enough momentum behind it where you said, “You know what? This feels okay. I’m ready to make the leap?”

Greg Hickman: Yeah, that was actually the hardest part, is letting go of that over a decade of experience, right? I ended up selling the website to a mobile marketing messaging company that I was affiliated with in some ways. I use their software, I rep their software and they wanted to take over the blog, and the content. They didn’t take over the podcast but it wasn’t like a huge exit or anything. But it was nice to make a little bit off of that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, there’s value there and it’s nice to know that it lives on.

Greg Hickman: Yeah, it lives on and they took over ownership of all that stuff. That was cool to see it go to good hands, of people that believe the same things from a mobile perspective. But yeah, I mean it was definitely hard. I think it just got to the point where I’m like, “All right, this business that doesn’t even have a name yet is already making more money than this thing that I’ve been doing for the last two years. Do I care more about mobile or do I care more about having a business and a life and being able to afford that life?” Obviously as most people would, they would choose the having the business and a life. That was like, “All right, I’m not that in love with it.”

Bjork Ostrom: Easier to let it go than to hold onto it and be totally overwhelmed with what would be involved. I remember that for both Lindsay and I when we were left our jobs. It was a little bit different because it wasn’t a business that we were living, but we had both jobs that we really loved. She was a teacher, I worked at a non-profit, and it’s not like we were super anxious to leave that. It sounds like it was maybe the case for you as well, but there’s this reality that you can’t do it all and there has to be a point where you make that transition.

For you, that was transitioning to System.ly, so for those that aren’t familiar, can you talk about this idea of from a high level, what you’d go in and do and how you would help a client? Let’s say that somebody came to you, they said, “I know that I need to set up funnels, I don’t have a really good understanding of what it is. How can you help me?”

Greg Hickman: Yeah, so the answer to that question has changed a lot from when the business started to now. I’ll talk about the now. If you want to go reverse after that we can.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Greg Hickman: But basically now we work with entrepreneurs that are making decent money, that are trying to escape this notion of launches. You hear it a lot, like online marketing launches, launching your course or your coaching program or whatever. Escape from launches, escape from one on one freelance consulting, really that hunting and prospecting. We help them escape that by implementing evergreen, systematic, one to many, automated streams of revenue, either for their product or their consulting based business, or their agency, that help them automatically engage, nurture, and convert leads to a sale without having to get involved as much from human touch points. Building that engine, that marketing engine that does most of the work, that becomes predictable and you continue to iterate on that, to sell whatever their flagship offering is.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Greg Hickman: So, for a lot of clients, they come in and they have like 15 products and we’re like, “All right, which 14 are you going to get rid of? Which one are you focused on? Which one are you going all in on?” Because having behind the scenes, since we started as a service, supporting many entrepreneurs that either during our relationship went from low six figures to over seven, or low six figures to high seven, they all have a very limited offering and for the most part had a very core product, core offering, flagship offer that they leveraged pretty much almost to getting to seven figures, before ever introducing anything else.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Greg Hickman: So I’ve seen that focus and it’s something that we’ve been following suit. I mean, we’ve done a lot of different variety of custom projects and things like that and if you try to work with us right now or ask for done for you, we’d pretty much turn you down unless you were willing to pay like $25,000 plus for a project. We put together all of our expertise and packaged it in a way that gives us leverage and allows us to serve as many people as possible, that have had the same problem that a lot of our clients have had.

We’re just going all in on that one solution, and if they don’t want to go through that program with us, then it’s not a good fit. It is hard, but I already see the benefit of it makes marketing easier, it makes saying no easier, it makes saying yes to the right things easier, and thankfully we have some recurring revenue, have had recurring revenue, to be able to make this significant of a change. That’s what we’re helping people do, is like how do you focus on one thing? Use that to get to a million, and build all the systems that support that where you’re not a slave to your business.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Why do you think that is? Why do you think the pairing down of offerings allows people to more successfully grow their business?

Greg Hickman: Oh, man. So many reasons. One, obviously there’s a lot of noise and everyone talks about productivity, right? Why do people talk about productivity and routines? Because people need them to stay more focused, because really they’re just trying to do too much. Like, “We need all these hacks and systems and software to keep things in front of us” when really it’s just like, if you remove most of the stuff that’s in front of you, it’s pretty easy to stay on track, but you need systems and discipline and accountability and all these things to stay focused on one thing. One, focusing all on one thing, you actually get more of it done more effectively.

If you focus on one thing, solving one problem for one market, marketing becomes a whole lot easier. The biggest thing we see with people that come to us that have multiple products and things like that is overall, their communication is just so generic that they’re not really speaking to any one person or one pain. They’re trying to talk to too many people and we’ve all heard the saying, “If you try to please everybody you please nobody.” Well, the same goes with marketing. If you try to target everybody, you target nobody, you know? Literally was on the phone the other day with someone who was like … I was like, “Who do you help?” They’re like, “Online entrepreneurs.” I’m like, “That do what?” They were like, “Oh, we help them with their digital marketing.” I’m like, “What aspect of digital marketing?”

They were like, “Oh, well we kind of do everything.” I’m like, “You’re not for me. You can’t help me, because you don’t even know the pains that I have. You just do everything.” I think you really do need to get specific and we’ve just seen the results in our own business of getting specific, and the acceleration that our clients have when they get specific and focus on one thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting.

Greg Hickman: It doesn’t mean-

Bjork Ostrom: Go ahead.

Greg Hickman: Go ahead.

Bjork Ostrom: I was going to say-

Greg Hickman: I was just going to say it doesn’t mean … Sorry.

Bjork Ostrom: Same time.

Greg Hickman: It doesn’t mean … Yeah. Like, one market doesn’t necessarily need to be one type of person and for example, you don’t need to go after just hair salon owners, right? Like, what is the problem that hair salon owners that maybe a bunch of other businesses also have, that no matter what they do, as long as they have that problem, you can solve it? You can go either persona type focus, or you can go pain/problem type focus. Pain/problem type focus is what we go after. We have a lot of people that are selling courses that are tired of doing launches, we have a lot of people that sell services that are tired of doing one to one and they need a more systematic way of delivering something.

The things that we can do can target course creators and/or freelancers, consultants, and agencies. Like, some subtle differences in how we fulfill on that, but most of it, it’s 90% foundational and framework, and 10% customized, based on who they are, but they all have the same problems, so they really are missing the same pieces.

Bjork Ostrom: In your situation, as an example, looking at what you do, can you talk about how that’s changed? Because even in hearing you talk about your own business, it’s really specific, right? It’s like using funnels and automated marketing for people that want to, the phrase that I heard you say is like, “escape the launch to launch process” and dreading that idea of like, “Okay, I have something and I need to launch it” all the time. That’s a really specific focus. What does that look like for you, the evolution of System.ly? I think people can learn from that and apply it to what they’re doing to figure out how they can refine what they’re offering to their readers or followers.

Greg Hickman: Yeah so evolution, the cliff notes version is we tried to be the WP Curve of Infusionsoft with unlimited supports at various price points, based on number of requests per month. That was a disaster. We very quickly learned that we need … A lot of the stuff is custom, so we decided to go premium. We started working with fewer clients, paying more, and that was mostly for probably the better part of a year. Actually, close to a year, retainer based packages, essentially from 1500 up to like 3500 a month. Then we started introducing one-off projects that we normalized what we did during the recurring payments and we kicked off relationships with one-off projects that for the most part again, like after supporting a lot of people, you start to realize you’re building the same things over and over again.

We’ve probably built, while many of them were the same structurally, we’ve probably built over 500 live webinars in the last year, and maybe half of those were … Maybe like a quarter of those were evergreen. A lot of people are doing webinars as a part of their launch, but then we also started doing a lot of automation to help automate the delivery of someone’s course, or streamline the delivery of their service or coaching package. You start to see trends, so we made those as one-off packages. So it’s like, “All right, I know you might not be willing to commit to a three month recurring relationship because you can’t see all the scope behind this one project, which happens to be a webinar, so for 8500, we’ll build out your webinar funnel with you.”

We had a couple different packages like that, some of which we still sell to this day, but much higher price point, and we introduced a course/consulting offer in February of this year, as a beta. We brought 25 people in on a beta, which was like a group experience of helping them build-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: … what we believe is the foundation that is needed to do any of this. Take all of our experience, put it into a step by step, “You need to have these X things in place.” We pre-sold that, put a bunch of people through that, did a second version of that, and now we’re on the third iteration of that which now, we have probably maybe 8 to 10 recurring clients that are left that are still there, our legacy clients we’ll call them. We don’t take any more of those. Everyone comes in through this program that we’ve created. It’s called “Funnels That Scale.”

It’s an eight week workshop, and then there’s continuation packages off the backend of that, but that is our 100% focus. If someone comes to us and they’re like, “Well pay you 25K to build XYZ,” and we know we can knock it out of the park, we’ll probably entertain that right now, but probably not for much longer.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: It’s kind of like that balance, right? The balancing act of anyone that’s done service and is trying to streamline their service, you’re going to hit a point where you’re going to have to sacrifice short-term revenue for long-term leverage. We’re I think just over the hump of making that transition.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. You hear that a lot with software businesses where they do work for other companies but then they’re like, “We know we want to create something in-house,” but like you said, you have to balance that where you lean off of the relationships, the service based stuff, in order to focus on your own thing. But you can’t do it too quick, because then you won’t have any revenue to support your theme and to build. It seems like a similar kind of idea of streamlining the services you’re offering to clients in order to build your own thing.

Specifically with this product and the clients that you work with, is it primarily courses or like educational type content that these people are delivering? Or, is there other type of products that people are offering?

Greg Hickman: For the types of people that are coming to our program?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, coming through your program or clients that you work with on the retainer basis. What does that look like? And/or what do you feel like your expertise is in? Would it be information type products?

Greg Hickman: Yeah, so we deal with primarily coaches, consultants, I’ll say agencies, just to wrap up any sort of service provider. It might be a solo service provider.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: Typically the coaches, authors, like the influencer expert, those are the ones creating either a coaching program or a course. Like, the fulfillment, the thing that they’re selling is either a course, a consulting or coaching program, and/or what I’ll call product ties a service, which is essentially what System.ly was. Like, we solve a specific problem for specific people and we have a specific way and process for how we deliver it. That’s contained, not like 100% customized bespoke boutique. It’s like, “Hey, we build webinar funnels. We build this automation, and you can pick from one of these packages.”

I’d say packaging and coming up with a scalable system, monetizable offer, sometimes we have to work with clients on that. Sometimes they come to us with that already. Like for example, we have a client that we’re working with right now that arguably one of the largest boutique, social media and content marketing consulting agencies that’s out there. Works with like Fortune 100 brands, 500 brands, and multi book best selling author, and a lot of their audience are not their ideal client, but need their help. We help them.

They have a formula, they have a best practice, and putting it into a structure that allows them to deliver it more one to many, along with the funnel to help them pre-sell it, fulfill on it, et cetera, is a perfect example. Like, that’s one person who they had the service, it was just way too hands on, way too high priced. They wanted something more one to many, that gave them more leverage, wasn’t necessarily “trading dollars for hours” and that didn’t require them to travel around the country as much as they currently do.

Another example is a … Who should I pick? Another one is a client who is an expert in their own area of paid traffic, and they have a digital training course that teaches people how to build effective Facebook ads. They actually have one program that targets online marketers and they have one program that targets local businesses, and they do launches and evergreen campaigns to continually sell these programs. We didn’t have to help them package their offer. Like, they already had their-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: … course, they knew their audience. They just needed the automation to help them more predictably sell it and fulfill on it.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting when you talk about that. I think back to a podcast episode we did, it’s episode number 56 for those people that are listening. You can get there by going to FoodBloggerPro.com/56, and it was an interview with Meghan Telpner and she’s in the niche that we’re in, but what she did is she has it’s like a nutrition academy, so for people that want to be nutritionists. That’s really her focus and it’s almost exactly like you’re saying, where had multiple product offerings and then really paired down and focused on this. So, for those that want to hear a really good example in the food niche, that would be a great episode to go back and listen to.

One of the things that I would love to hear from you, Greg, is for the people that are listening to this podcast, the vast majority of them are really good at the content creation side. They’re good at creating content that brings in a lot of people, but not as focused on the backend side of things, so on the funnel or on the product offering. So, if people are looking to step into that, to take their first couple steps into being intentional with building that out, and taking some of that traffic that they’re getting the engagement, the followers, and then not having to rely on ads or sponsorships, or that type of income, what would be the first steps that they should take?

Greg Hickman: Yeah, so I mean first, getting clear on what it is they’re going to sell. Obviously if they … I’m assuming these people already know and have a good idea of their market. They’ve been creating content for that market. The best way to I think come up with what that offer is, if you don’t currently have a course, or you don’t currently have a service, I’d start looking at what is the most engaged content that people have been engaging with. I’d ask your audience, “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” You could do that through multiple emails, some surveys. You could do some Facebook live Q&A sessions. Do the work to talk to your audience, and really understand them.

What are they actually struggling with? Like yes, they might be enjoying your content, but what are their pains, what are their problems? I’d look for trends. Definitely a little bit of an outbound effort and engage, maybe spend a couple weeks trying to get some information, but if you’re really good at content marketing and people consume your content, you’re already more ahead than most people.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: It’s like garner that information and I would then put together a loose package or outline of how you’re going to help solve that problem. Maybe it’s a course, maybe it’s a coaching program. I would get less connected to the delivery mode than the what is the A to Z result and how do you get them there? Once you realize what they’re trying to achieve, if you’re able to show them a step by step way, you might decide that, “I want to do a done-for-you service,” or, “I want to do a live workshop that I only need to do one day.” Or maybe it’s a live weekly webinar that people pay for and you take them through a four week program.

It depends on what your solution ends up becoming based on what they tell you, but ideally you want to package some sort of result that is going to solve or alleviate some sort of pain or challenge that they currently have, which they’re going to tell you. Then, pre-sell it. I would do a webinar, I’d explain, I’d teach, I’d maybe talk through the challenges that people have been sharing and, “Look, it actually comes down to these four key pillars” and I’m actually looking for 10, 20,” whatever number is going to be your validation number based on the size of you are audience.

“I’m going to take people through an eight week program, it’s completely beta, it’s not even created yet, it starts on X day, and because you’re going to be one of the charter members or early bird members, you’re going to get this amazing rate and I’m going to teach you everything I know. I’m going to support you and I’m going to be looking for feedback on how I can improve. What can I be doing to modify and take this to market?” And get however many people you need in this. This is exactly what we did with our Funnels That Scale program earlier this year. We got 25 people, I said, “These are the areas we’re going to cover. That’s as much as I know.”

I actually chose not to do it live, because what they said that they wanted was pretty inline with what I thought that they needed, so what I did was I recorded content each week, released the content that they could consume on their own, and I was available for weekly Q&A calls. It’s like part training, it’s part consulting, and we actually even did part done-with-you, because we had prebuilt automation that we were able to give people, depending upon which tools they were using, some templates.

They gave me feedback on, “This is where we were getting stuck. This is where I could have used more help.” We reshaped it, now going on the third time, to continually cater to the feedback that we’re getting. I’m not waiting around to try to spend 20 grand on ads and launch it. I went out, got … Actually my goal was 10 people. No, my goal was originally 20 people at $1000 to get into the beta, with my ultimate goal of getting it to selling it at like 5K, and probably beyond that at some point. We ended up getting, after selling the first two or three people at 1000, I was like, “That was so easy. Let me test, let me pressure test 2000.”

I ended up selling the rest of the people at 2000, so we met our revenue our goal to validate and move forward. If you say, “Hey, I’d love to be able to” … Validation to me means 10 people at 1000 each, that’s $10,000. Put a stake in the ground and that’s what you’re hustling to get to. Then you go create it, right? You don’t have to go spend all the time creating it first. I think that’s the biggest mistake people make, and if you have the audience, go get as much information as you can, hop on the phone if you have to, put together an outline, and sell people on the outline as this early bird experience. They’re going to get extra access to you because you’re trying to iron it out.

Danny Iny, a friend of mine, calls it “co-creation.” Let them build the thing with you and it takes all the pressure off of having to go heads down, build this thing, and then you’re going to quickly find out if what you’ve packaged is the right thing. Because if no one’s buying it, you’re clearly not solving a problem. Don’t do it for free, because that doesn’t show us that people are willing to give you money, so find the right price that makes you feel validated based on what you think you can eventually sell it for, and so on. Then, come up with that. I think the people that have an audience already see such quick wins.

Like, we had a guy come through our program, he teaches people how to sell … Sorry. He teaches people through selling online courses, teaching them how to use Microsoft Excel, okay? So like, not sexy at all, right? I didn’t even know people still used Microsoft Excel. I’ve been Google Sheets for five years, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Greg Hickman: He posted in our group not too long ago, “I hunkered down for five hours, I implemented, followed the step-by-step webinar funnel that Greg told me, I promoted it to my list, and we did 43K in sales, our largest launch ever. It worked. I just focused for five hours, I followed the process, and I’ve now done my largest launch ever.” Guess what? He was one of our beta customers, he only spent 2000 with us. Even still, if I charged 10,000, if someone comes through our program and this is eventually where we’re going, like, “Look, we’re giving you systems.”

He can go reuse that same system over and over and over and over again, and keep generating more money. We’re implementing these systems that continually give back. That allows us to raise our rates, but anyone can be doing this, right? Like, they don’t have to build a whole thing first.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think back when you talk about that, some of the pricing stuff, there’s actually a podcast episode we just recently did, 105, with Randle Browning from Teachable. She was talking about, I was like, “How do you go about pricing your content? Like, if you’re going to do something educational, how do you go about pricing it?” She said, “What we’ve noticed is that oftentimes the price correlates to the transformation that happens.” The example that you gave it’s a really good example of somebody having a really big transformation that’s totally worth it in their business, and it makes sense for them.

The other thing I want to go back to that I think is really valuable that you said, and want to call this is out, is as people are trying to search for and process through, “What is the thing that I’m going to be able to offer the people?” Maybe it’s just that 1% or 2% of people that follow along with what I do, but that premium offering, is you said first find out what the problem is, and you don’t need to figure out how you deliver that. Because once you find the problem, what you’re doing isn’t first figuring out how to deliver it. You figure out the problem and then say, “What’s the best way to solve this problem?” That’s probably going to look different depending on what the problem is, so figuring out what the best communication tool is-

Greg Hickman: Yeah, and it’s going to look different … Right. And it’s going to look different based on your bandwidth, or your style, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Greg Hickman: Like, you might come out of it and say, “Okay, the best way for me to get someone this result is a two day workshop, in person. Yeah, I know I can do it online, but version one is let me get people two days in a room, and when they come out, they have this thing done.” That might work for you. Maybe you’re really good in a room, right? Maybe you are doing all of this stuff on the side still and you can’t even commit to delivering this on one live call a week you can’t get the time right. But at night, you can record shorter videos and release the videos each week, so and then maybe make yourself available through email support or whatever.

But whatever version one is, I can guarantee you it’s not going to be what the final product is going to look like, and as you do it, you’re going to continue to find that there’s ways to, ongoing, optimized, systematized, and streamline so that you can create more leverage in your business where again, it’s not one to one. That’s where a lot of the gains were made, and I will touch on one thing that you said that I want to make sure I’m stressing it. It’s not as … Well, actually, I take that back. It is possible I think in every industry, and I’ll argue people whatever industry, especially the health industry, because those people don’t charge enough.

Everyone has a more premium offer than they think, and if you’re just starting to monetize, it’s going to be a whole heck of a lot easier to monetize starting with something premium and higher ticket. When I say high ticket, because everyone has a different definition, I mean over 2000, ideally over $2500. Because you’re going to be able to reinvest it back into business for when you want to scale, right? This is why I get fearful of people that want to launch their first monetization effort with a $27/month membership, because after you fulfill on it, after you have to take that to market and use ads, at some point you’re going to want to be able to use paid traffic.

You’re going to have almost no margin left, so it’s going to get a lot harder for you to ramp up because you have no money to higher more people or invest in systems, or invest in advertising to scale, because there’s no profit. Having that higher price point, while you get to work with fewer people, more intimately, you get cash flow faster so that you can reinvest into scale. One industry that I constantly see that is the test of this is fitness for whatever reason, but I do know that there are fitness people charging premium, and doing really, really well. So I know it’s possible, but there’s just I think a lot of people selling the same thing in the fitness space. That makes it harder, so they feel like the only way they can get in is by having a $27/month membership.

I challenge people on getting as premium as you can, at least over … If you’re doing a course, like at least $1000. You have a $1000 course in you. Maybe it’s not your beta, maybe your beta’s 500 or 750, but get it above 1000, ideally get it above 2000 if you can. The selling strategies are completely different for below 2000 and over 2000, so you have to take that into account, but you’re not looking for … You’re going to be doing a lot of manual things in the beginning. You’re not ready to go evergreen until you’ve validated everything, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Greg Hickman: And then you go evergreen. A lot of people automate too early, but if they have the audience, man … People come to us and they think that traffic is the problem. When someone comes to me and they have a good offer, it’s unique, they’ve validated that they’ve been able to sell it. They’re just not good at selling it, and they have a list, or an audience. Oh man, it’s like gangbusters. Those people see results, like in the first few weeks of working with us, and they’re like, “Holy crap. Like, this is amazing. We’ve already 3X’d the ROI of this program.” It’s like, “Sweet.” Those are the results because they have it right there. It’s just like sitting in front of them.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s one of the things I’ve thought about a lot, so we have Food Blogger Pro and we have the membership site, and it’s almost exactly like you said. I’ve thought about this a lot with how we structured it. When we first started in 2013, it’s and still is today, a monthly membership site, and I think that in terms of purely revenue based results, that we would have been able … It would have been a more profitable business if we started it as like exactly like you said, where it was a high price point offering that we did, maybe once or twice a year. We still do a launch, but we still have it at that price point then. I think you’re absolutely right, that it would be more profitable if it was that higher price point.

Greg Hickman: Yeah. I mean, how long has it been available now?

Bjork Ostrom: We’ve been doing it for almost four years.

Greg Hickman: Yeah, so I guarantee you also, four years ago there was a lot less people doing it that way, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Greg Hickman: Which you were, at that point most likely still pretty unique and had a differentiator. Now, everyone knows about the membership model, everyone wants to have in their business, I just think now it’s with the amount of competition, you were able to get to where you were at because of timing also.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Greg Hickman: But like there’s so many people offering the exact same thing now, how do you stand out to make a huge impact where you now have the money to reinvest and grow your business, and take it away from being this one man membership show?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I remember listening to this podcast called This Week In Startups. It’s an investor in the San Francisco Bay Area. His name is Jason Calacanis. He talked about this idea with any group of people, there’s always these subsections where you’ll have people, whether it’s a business or an individual, that has the budget to put back in at a larger number than what you think they probably would. It makes sense to reach all of those different markets, whether it’d be people that are just getting or just free content, or those really high price point premium offerings, as well.

From a business perspective, it only makes sense if you’re able to create something that is an equal value exchange for whatever it is that that person is giving you. I think it’s a good point and really important to drive home. Especially important to think about like you said, flipping that upside down and saying, “If you’re getting started, maybe think about starting with that, and then backfill from there,” as opposed to starting with the things that are potentially hardest. I think about what we did with an eBook, so we have a food photography eBook.

We launched that a few years ago. It went really well and it was like, “Oh.” It was kind of one of those early indicators of like it’s possible to create content to build a business online, and then just recently started to do workshops. Almost exactly like you said, a two day in person workshop. Lindsay was a teacher and so she loves the idea of being in front of people and teaching and engaging with people in that way, but it maybe would have made more sense from a business perspective to start with those, because then like you said, then you have some of that initial margin that you can invest back into the business and then potentially grow a little bit quicker. I think it’s a really good takeaway and a really important point for people to here.

We’re coming to the end here. One of the things that I would love to hear you rattle off, Greg, is if you were to start from zero, what are some of the tools that you feel like are most valuable from a marketing perspective for people that are building businesses online?

Greg Hickman: Like software tools?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If I told you you have to have five … Let’s say five to seven, so like a list of your favorite tools as a marketer, what would some of those be?

Greg Hickman: I’d say if you’re just getting started, definitely the first thing I would get is ActiveCampaign.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s what we use, yep. We love ActiveCampaign.

Greg Hickman: Yeah. We use both Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign, but for people getting started, ActiveCampaign is a great place to start. Super affordable and gives you tons of flexibility from just your regular email to automation to even your CRM if you end up maybe closing people over the phone, which if you’re doing some of these higher ticket things, you’re going to be doing. I think that’s going to be a core foundational piece of your business. You definitely want that.

Obviously I’ll just say … Actually, I don’t even think you need a website to be honest. I think you need a landing page tool. You need a landing page tool that allows people to opt-in, so pick your favorite one. Leadpages, ClickFunnels, Unbounce, Instapage, whatever. They’re all very similar, they’re all going to do the same thing. Check out the features, benefits. They’re are all similar. For the most part have similar price plans.

You need a landing page tool and then a way to accept money. Like, the only three things I think you need. Outside of that, it’s your time to, if you don’t have a product, I’d say put together this loose outline of what you’re going to be trying to sell, and go talk to people, right? Go into Facebook groups and ask questions and give value, and demonstrate your authority and expertise. You’re going to create conversations, and some of those might become customers. You can then tell them about your program.

You can probably get … Like, I can do all of those things right now … I still do those things right now. I’m selling our program on my personal page and going into groups and just adding tremendous value, and people are like, “Wow, that was tons of value. I’m going to go learn more about Greg,” and then they message me and they’re like, “Hey, I see on your profile you talk about here’s how you help people. Can we chat?” “Yeah, sweet. Here’s my application page. You can go apply, we’ll hop on the phone.” Then I sell them on the phone.

I didn’t use a webinar. All I did was share, add value, and strategically drive people into a conversation with me. I know people that have gotten to like 50K a month just doing that, right? Because they’re so clear and they become clearer on their offer, on who they’re helping, the problem and pain they’re solving, by doing that. Like, I challenge you to write four posts a week on your Facebook page or your business page, just adding value. Demonstrating your authority. “The five things that I’ve seen successful businesses do,” like, “Here’s my daily routine, here’s this, here’s that.”

You’re going to attract people that are going to want to work with you, and that’s the grind, the hustle that I think a lot of people are missing. To get started they expect, “I’m just going to pay for traffic.” It doesn’t work like that, especially not anymore, depending upon your market. If your market is underwater basket weaving, you’ll probably do pretty well with ads right out of the gates, but if you’re in the make money online, if you’re in the health and fitness space, it’s so over saturated and competitive that you need to have all these other foundational pieces dialed in first.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s amazing.

Greg Hickman: Know your offer, know your message, and have ways to get people onto your list and close them.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Greg Hickman: And have them give you money, so Stripe, that’d be my last one.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yep, great. We’ll link to all those in the show notes, the ones that you’ve mentioned so people can check that out. Greg, super fun to chat with you, really appreciate it. I know that people will take away some of these high level, really important concepts, and be able to apply them to their business, to their blog, and it will have a big impact. Last thing, where can people follow along with what you’re doing? If people are interested in working with you, where can they find out more about what that would look like?

Greg Hickman: Yeah, so I’ll say two places. One, we have a private Facebook group. If you Google, or not Google, if you on Facebook search “No Leads Left Behind,” you can request access to our private group. About 1300 members right now and I’m doing exactly what I just said, sharing tons of behind the scenes stuff. At least you can start learning and connecting with awesome people there. We also have a free webinar where I break down our framework, and that’s just at System.ly/webinar.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool, and we’ll link to that as well. Hey Greg, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Greg Hickman: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It was a good time.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks. All right, that’s a wrap for this week’s episode. Greg, thanks again for coming on the podcast and thank you to you, wherever you are, listening to this podcast. We couldn’t do it without you. We’re going to continue to release these each week as a free podcast, but if you have a minute, one thing that we’d really appreciate, the one exchange that we would ask for on this podcast is to leave a review or rating. What that does is that allows us to show up higher when people search for certain things, it allows us to have some proof, some social proof that listening to this and following along, and it just makes a really big difference.

If you do that, hey drop me an email, [email protected]. Let me know, because I would love to respond back and say thanks. Thank you again for tuning in. Make it a great week.

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