Transcript: Building a Content Engine | Brian Feroldi – DS512

Doug: Hey, what’s going on? Welcome to the Doug show. My name is Doug Cunnington. And today we’re going to talk about building a content engine. And I have my buddy Brian for all the on Brian is a financial educator, and an investing enthusiast. And he’s an author. He’s written over 3000 articles on stocks, investing, and personal finance for the Motley Fool.

And Brian’s best selling selling book, Brian’s bestselling book. Why does the stock market go up was published in 2022. Great book, highly recommend it. And it was written. to explain how the stock market works in plain English. And we’re going to get into the details of his content engine, which is absolutely amazing.

And we’re going to talk probably a little bit about his newly launched website, longtermmindset. co as well. So Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian: Doug pumped to be here. Thanks for having me, my friend.

Doug: And yeah, it’s, it’s good to chat with you. And we, you know, we create excuses to catch up by being on the show and doing podcasts, but we’ve been able to hang out in person a number of times.

I, I think it was probably a FinCon, but many of these events you’re actually speaking at and we cross paths and you’re a fun hang, so I’m glad we get to catch up.

Brian: I’ll take it. Awesome. Yeah. My favorite thing about podcasting is an excuse to talk to my friends.

Doug: For the people that don’t know you, can you give a little bit of like more background on yourself?

So like I mentioned, you’ve written for Motley Fool for a long time. You’ve written a book. It sounds like you have a writing background, but can you just kind of, you know, quickly, you know, in 90 seconds layout, how you ended up doing what you’re doing now and the path that you got there?

Brian: Sure. Graduated from college in 2004, had no idea about money investing the stock market.

So it was complete, complete beginner. But quickly became obsessed with the topic after I read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. And for whatever reason, I was just immediately attracted to learning everything I could about money, investing, and the stock market. Educated myself for a number of years that led me to follow a company called the Motley Fool fairly closely and I became a power user of the Motley Fool 10 years into my medical device career.

I was fired, which was awful and also the best thing that’s ever happened to me simultaneously. That gave me the gusto to approach the Motley Fool and see if I could become a full time writer for them, which they, they allowed me to do. I’ve been doing content creation essentially for the Motley Fool for about nine years, but about four years ago, four or five years ago, I started to work on building up my personal brand, primarily through social media and, uh, Twitter the pandemic supercharged That’s that learning experience.

And I’ve, I’ve been able to build up a pretty decent size audience across the the various platforms, Twitter slash X, LinkedIn, and YouTube being my primary, uh, my primary ones. And one thing that I’ve really focused on over the last couple of years is building up a financial education company and attracting potential customers through social media is a key way that I find a customer.

So it’s been absolutely pivotal for me to build the content, a content Engine that allows me to consistently pump out high quality content.

Doug: Was there a precipitating event that led you to think I need to start building my personal brand?

Brian: There wasn’t so, it was, it was more an accident. I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur.

I didn’t set out to start a financial education company. It was one of those things that just kind of happened for, for many years. I had had a Twitter account, but I never really took it seriously. And I didn’t really even know. How to grow on on social media until I would say the end of 2019. That’s when I kind of started to figure out, oh, I see all these other creators that I actually respect really putting time and energy into Twitter.

I must be missing something about it. So, but that really My interest in this was really turbocharged because of the pandemic. Like so many other people, it was my outlet to connect with the world. And I also had free time to put energy into it. Simultaneously, I signed a book deal with, uh, our friends over at the choose FI Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendoza.

And that also gave me a real big push to, to put more time into social media, because if you know anything about the book world, Marketing a book is a hugely important component of a book’s ultimate success. So that was a major reason why I started to put time into social media because I needed an audience for my book.

Doug: With generally you’ve described a funnel, right? Like, so you’re going to social media, you have your sales funnel. How are you monetizing? Obviously you have a book, you have some education. So if you could just spell out all the ways you’re monetizing.

Brian: Yep. So by my, my, my. I didn’t set out to monetize.

That was never an initial goal of mine. And if you know anything about books, books are a horrible way to monetize, uh, your audience, especially traditionally published books, because, you know, when it’s all said and done about 90 percent of the value, 95 percent of the value that a book creates through a sale is captured by , by others.

So unless you write a mega bestseller, seller. Books are a horrible way of a horrible business model for making money. So two years ago I got into the course game, specifically the cohort based course game. And my my target audience is individual investors, people that are managing their own money, know a little bit about the stock market and want to learn how to analyze companies on a fundamental basis.

So me and my business partner, Brian Stoffel. We have launched a number now. Three cohort based courses that are all aimed about teaching people how to analyze individual companies on a fundamental basis. So that is the lion’s share of revenue today. After we did these cohort based courses. We noticed that people really developed relationships with us over a two or three week period and some of them said, Hey, I really want to keep this relationship going.

So about a year ago, we launched a premium community. So after someone goes through a cohort based course, we offer them the option to join our premium community, which is essentially Ongoing continuous education, and we meet once a week for an hour, and we kind of teach additional topics related to understanding business analysis.

So that’s another. That’s another big chunk of our of our of our revenue. And we are currently in the process of taking these cohort based courses, which we’ve refined over a period of 22 years, which are fairly high ticket. Because of the live nature of them. And we are going to be turning them into hybrid courses where they have a self study component and a live component to them.

Doug: Great. And why did you do the cohort based versus a self paced? Would that be the alternative, right? A self paced standalone course versus meeting live for workshops?

Brian: That’s a fantastic question. Our initial aim was essentially to build a massive self paced course that had like everything we knew about investing in there.

And a a guy named a Goggin, who is the co founder of a company called Maven actually reached out to me and said, Hey, are you interested in building a, a, a course company? And I said, yeah, absolutely. Actually, yes, I am. He said, have you thought about doing cohort based courses? And my initial reaction was, no, that sounds terrible.

Why would I want to devote my time to something and have it be a live component to it where I can build this thing and just kind of sell it once forever. What he said to me, uh, cohort based courses offered a number of positives that self paced courses did not. The thing that was most attractive to me was that you could actually s you could actually launch a cohort based course faster than you could launch a self paced course because you could actually Build the course and teach it simultaneously.

I mean, it’s, it’s a lot of work because we were essentially building the lessons as, as the, um, up until essentially five minutes before we were about to teach them, but we liked the fact that we could get started much faster than we could with an online based course. The second thing we really liked was that the feedback.

We received from online courses was immediate, right? If we taught a lesson in a cohort based course, we could see immediately if the lesson was landing, if anything was confusing about it. And that really helped us to refine the course and really simplify the material and make it far easier to, to, to understand.

And then what Goggin told us is The smart thing to do is teach a course as a cohort based course first. You can charge a premium price for it. You can get started quicker. And you can refine the course much more rapidly over time. Once it gets to the point where you have gone through several iterations, it’s going to be dramatically better for the students after a couple of live experiences than if you just launched it on your own.

And then, once you have the process down, then you take the course and you turn it into a self paced course, or in our case, we’re going to go with a, a hybrid model. So, it was really about the, the, the speed. of getting started, the fact that we could build it as we go and that the long term plan was always to turn it into a self paced course that convinced us to try cohort based courses first.

Doug: Beautiful answer. I’ll highlight one area there. I had a couple people that I coached and highly encouraged them to do a live workshop cohort based course at first. They, they thought, Oh, I want to develop the whole thing first. So of course you could imagine, right? It takes time and money and editing and.

Two months to put together a course. And then they eventually realized like either the offer was wrong or the price was wrong, or the audience was wrong. Like some, it didn’t sell basically. So they just burned all that time where cohort based you put up your sales page. If people don’t buy it, you just do it again, refund the money, do it again, and you’re good to go.

So I love that. And the hybrid is what I ended up doing. So the way I placed mine, Brian was I had. So I did launch a workshop first, so went through all that. You know, five minutes beforehand, you’re like finalizing the slides. And then I ended up having the base package with just the self paced course.

And then I had an advanced, the middle package was a course plus some advanced lessons, plus it also had workshops, uh, office hours is what I called it each week. So there was a little bit of the cohort based, and then I can continue to get feedback and then the advanced. Was like some one on one coaching.

So just with a price anchoring, you know, I ended up earning more money because more people bought the middle tier than the highest, or, but it, but it spread it out and gave people options. So that said, do you have different tiers with the way you sell the cohort based courses?

Brian: No, we, well, we, we, we have two tiers, if you will.

So with our cohort based courses, this, the selling price for them is anywhere between 800 and 1, 200, which is obviously a premium price tag. And when we’re doing our marketing, you know, when people don’t buy, we say, well, why, why didn’t you buy? And as you can imagine, the number one answer is. They didn’t want to commit that much money to something, especially people that live in international markets.

We actually have a pretty sizable audience from, from India, right? English speaking, very hungry for education, really likes what we’re talking about. And that because of just sheer currency and income lated status is just way out of the ballpark for us. So one thing that we have done. When we are launching these cohort based courses is we do allow people to buy the replays to previous courses that we’ve done at a substantially reduced price.

So the average selling price of our live courses is about 800 bucks as part of the selling process. If somebody indicates interest. Too expensive for me. We do sell the replays of the course for 300. Or if they’re in an international market, we actually knocked that down to 99 to help kind of, um, buy that.

Now we don’t advertise that up front. That is something you kind of discover through going through the, the, the sales process. We think the best way to learn from us is the live courses for a variety of, of reasons. But You’re far more likely to, to finish the course. If you do it live, there’s, you get, you get live instruction.

You could ask questions if you’re confused. There’s a way to interact with the teachers. It’s just a superior way to learn. However, given, given the price point, we did want to offer the replays for people that are interested in self study and, and, and, and that price is a massive barrier.

Doug: We can keep going on and on about the core stuff, but I’ll ask one more question, then we’ll move on to building a content engine.

So. Where are you hosting the courses and the community and all that stuff that the tech stack can get complicated or Maybe an all in one solution isn’t best in class and everything I use Kajabi personally because it has most stuff and it does most things well enough. So yeah, what are you guys using?

Brian: So our tech stack is obviously a mess, given that the I heard you on a podcast, The Art of Selling Online Courses, and I remember you saying that you had a mess of a tech stack, and things kept breaking, and then you kind of switched over to Kajabi. And when I was hearing that, I was like, God, should we have just done Kajabi from the beginning, from the get go?

But our tech stack is fairly complex. So the sales page to our live course is on Maven. Right. Maven maven. com. The course itself is actually taught using just zoom. The replays are delivered through just YouTube. So we just put up with the videos to YouTube, mark them private and sell essentially the links to those private videos.

And then the course, the community of the course is run through a platform called circle, circle. com. So I, I believe now we, we have a fairly complex tech stack like you had just hinted at. Our goal is to simplify our tech stack moving forward. Maven was absolutely instrumental in helping us to get off, off the ground, but we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve kind of outgrown our need for them.

And we have the tech stack basics we handle on, on our own. I look at Maven. Very similar to the way that you look at Substack. A whole bunch of writers that I know start on Substack because it’s incredibly easy to to, to get started. But a lot of the more successful creators eventually graduate out of Substack because of the, the fees that, that are in involved.

So that’s one tricky thing that those platforms are gonna have to, to to figure out. So our tech stack, we’re trying to simplify and our courses will be hosted on a platform called Circle As, and that’s where our community is as well.

Doug: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah. I mean, I would encourage you to check out Kachabi just because it does have all the, all the stuff that you’re talking about.

And I mean, the fact is it’ll be a pain to migrate whatever you do, it’s going to get fucked up. So like, just as long as you know that there’s going to be some stuff that drops, but like your audience and the people that are impacted is smaller now than it will ever be. So it’s like, even though it’ll be bad now, it’ll be worse later to migrate.

So it’s like. Just pull the band aid. How many email subscribers if you’re able to share? If you’re not, that’s okay. But I’m just curious, like, the scope.

Brian: Yep. We have 100, 000, 100, 000 new letter subscribers. Yep. And we are, we’ve become very aggressive with kicking people off our, our, our newsletter. So we have, we’ve been hovering right around a hundred thousand for a couple of months now.

And that’s despite the fact that we’re adding thousands thousands of new subscribers every single month. But we are aggressively culling our, our herd to meet, keep our open rates as basically high as we possibly can. So we’re consistently hitting 45 to 50% open rates by culling out the the, the lower end.

So we’ve kind of, we’re, we’re happy with a hundred thousand. We’ll probably stay there for, for, for a bit. And then probably kick into a next phase of growth. Once we are very comfortable with the quality that we’re at.

Doug: Man, that’s an astounding open rate for, you know, the market that you’re in and the competition.

Really amazing. Okay. So let’s, let’s jump into the content engine portion of it. It sounds like like many of us, you know, you try to get people on the email list from, from various places talk about your overall following and then how the content engine fits together. And then we’ll kind of dive into little pieces here.

Brian: Sure. So the first platform that I really started to pay attention to and put effort into was, was Twitter slash X. So I started to really put effort into creating content that was I thought would attract the audience that I wanted in, in late 2019. Um, and, and back then, I did not have a content engine at all.

I was essentially tweeting things that came to me. I was sharing things that, that, that, that came to me. I was doing everything in the app itself and that worked for a while, but I quickly kind of built up a backlog of content that I knew worked. And I started to slowly get into recycling kind of the best content that, that I have.

So, I was exclusively effectively. On Twitter from 2019 all the way up until 2020 2022, and I was doing everything manually through through the app. So by tweeting consistently, I mean this is every single day, multiple times a day for a period of years just by using the analytics in Twitter, I had a pretty big repository of tweets that I knew worked.

Formats that I knew worked, threads, Twitter threads that I knew worked, and images that I knew that I knew worked. About a year ago or 18 months ago I, I’ve, I’ve tried several different scheduling systems. The one that I currently use for Twitter in particular is called HypeFury. Hypefury is an absolutely fantastic platform if you are on Twitter because you can load all of your content into, into Hypefury and then schedule out your, your a week’s worth of content using pre filled in buckets, these things called recurrent posts.

So, 95 percent of the stuff that comes out of my Twitter account today, is essentially content that I’ve already shared with my audience over the last three years. And it’s kind of like the best of content that I have, but because I’m using hype fury and there’s several hundred pieces of content to kind of shift through any time, it does not look stale.

It does not look, it does not look formula formulaic. So having that As a core content engine really helped me to to get my Twitter to the point where it’s basically an autopilot at this point, one of the thing that hype fury does for me is whenever a content, whenever a piece of content that I create hits a certain level of engagement.

So for me, that’s 500 likes on an individual piece of content or more. That’s when it automatically plugs. Some lead magnet that I have related to that content. So for example, if I share an infographic that I’ve made related to accounting and it gets to 500 likes right below that, it’ll say, if you like this, you’ll like my free accounting ebook that I have.

Click here to get it. And that if they go through that process, get some on my email list.

Doug: Okay, so initially when you post it, it won’t have the lead magnet in there, but Hype Fury, I guess it knows what bucket it’s in or the category and then it understands like, okay, this bucket has this lead magnet that is associated with it, something like that.

Brian: Yeah, I can even share my screen if that’s helpful.

Doug: No, you know what? A lot of podcast listeners. So we’ll just Gotcha. We’ll just talk through it. That’s a

Brian: good point.

Doug: Okay, super awesome. So Hypefury does that. Before you were using Hypefury and you were doing most of this manually, like how big were you able to grow your following on Twitter specifically?

Brian: Oh, probably 300, 000.

Doug: Okay.

Brian: 300, 000 followers on, on Twitter at that point. And I experimented with other tools such as like buffer dot com, which was essentially taking what I did on Twitter and auto posting it to, to Instagram and LinkedIn and and Facebook and all that kind of stuff. That worked, that worked okay.

But hype fury does many of those same things, but instead of posting everything, you can set it up so that it only posts content that reaches a certain level of engagement. So one thing that I really like about Twitter. Twitter is a wonderful testing platform. If you tweet something and it absolutely bombs that is perfectly fine, right?

Not everything that you put out there will be, will be a winner. So it’s a great place to try and test ideas because you can tweet so often. And then you take the best ideas that you have and then you use those and you adapt them for, for the other for the other platforms. So one, one wonderful thing about Twitter.

Doug: Perfect. Okay. So you have You know, big Twitter. Follow What do, where are you at now? Currently in 2024. Like

Brian: 540,000 or something like that.

Doug: Okay. That’s crazy. And, and when you, when you set out, did you have any idea, like any artificial limitations where you’re like, ah, if I can get a hundred thousand, obviously we get used to stuff, right?

Brian: I know, right? Yeah. When, when I first started the idea of getting to I, I, I vividly remember when I crossed like 10,000. I thought that that was just a ridiculous number of people that were paying attention to my, my, my Twitter account when it doubled to like 20, 000, I was like, what is happening here?

But yet you’re, you’re absolutely right to, to, to your point. You just get used to numbers, even like ridiculous numbers after a while.

Doug: Has it accelerated in growth or has it just been sort of consistently growing over time? Any big spikes or bumps?

Brian: Yeah, so I had a couple of big spikes, namely in 2020, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

One reason why is that my category that I, that I talk about is, is, Investing, right? That, that is the thing that I talk about. So, so many people because of the pandemic invested for the very first time. And when you couple that with the extreme bull market, that the the bubblicious valuations that stocks had during that timeframe, Interest amongst the general public in investing was at like a, a probably a 20 something year, year high.

It reminded me very much of the, the. com craze and how, how interested just the general public was in investing. Now, since I had been investing and buying individual stocks for 20 years, I think a lot of people naturally were gravitated towards my content because it kind of scratched that, that itch for them.

So growth during those periods was very rapid. Ever since Elon took over Twitter, it’s been much more muted. He has adjusted the algorithm far more than I’ve seen elsewhere. And I think when you combine that with the general decline, uh, in interest, uh, in, in investing, my growth rate has, has slowed but I’m still adding thousands of new followers each week.

Doug: And talk about how you, I guess, spread to different platforms. So I know you’re doing a lot of work on LinkedIn these days, but you’re present in a lot of places. So can you talk about that? And when you started, obviously, like, I think people sometimes, Spread their focus and they’re like, Oh, I got to do all this stuff.

And so they’re just, I mean, you did a hell of a lot on Twitter and I assume you focus pretty hard. So yeah. Talk about just migrating over. And when, when you were like, all right, I’m going to add complexity to this.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. You said it really well. It’s so, if you get into the content creation game, it’s, you see people that have been doing this for a while and you’re like, they’re on Instagram, they’re on LinkedIn, they’re on Twitter, they’re on TikTok, they’re on YouTube, they have a podcast, like they’re everywhere, therefore I have to be everywhere and you spread yourself so thin.

I think it’s a much better idea, especially when you’re first starting out, to focus on one platform And really stick with just that platform until you gain some meaningful traction for yourself, until you build a content engine, until you understand how the algorithm and the audience reacts to specifically that platform and what platform you pick totally depends on what type of content you like to create.

If you’re a writer. The best places to be are Twitter, LinkedIn, and, and Threads. Threads actually become a viable alternative right now. If you naturally like to consume video, well, Instagram and TikTok are obviously the places to be if you like shorts, and YouTube is the place to be if you like long form content.

But I think it’s very important that you start with one content one platform and specifically to go with a discovery platform, some platform that has discovering new people built, built into it. Podcasts and email are wonderful places to build long term relationships. Terrible for discovery, awful for, for discovery.

So you need to have something, some nature of the the platform built in that has discoverability built in. So I focused exclusively on Twitter for effectively the first two, two and a half years of my content creation journey that allowed me to create a database of content that I knew worked with the audience specifically on Twitter.

Then when I started to branch out into other mediums, I had, I had idea in mind of what content worked well, what didn’t, and at least gave me a starting point so that when I took on a new platform, I wasn’t starting from zero. I was starting from a. A higher level. Don’t get me wrong, my follower count was still zero at the at the very get go.

But at least I knew far more, I was far more educated about how to create content than starting from scratch.

Doug: Where did you go next? What was right after Twitter?

Brian: Yep. So we went, I, I, I went right from Twitter. The, the next platform we choose to, uh, doc was, um, I took out a business partner. His name is Brian Stoffel, and we went right to YouTube.

The reason that we went to YouTube was partially related to my role at the Motley Fool. So. At the, when the Motley Fool during, during the pandemic, they started a live stream and it was essentially a 12 hour per day live stream that started March of, of 2020. So they had 12 hours of content that they needed.

They needed to be created on, on video. So I jumped at that opportunity. I was not comfortable behind a camera or talking to somebody. I was just used to writing at that point, but it was a wonderful training ground for getting comfortable with being on video. Now, as that process went on, Uh, as that program evolved over time, the Motley Fool gradually paired that down to a much more manageable number.

And as a result of that, a segment that I had done for about a year kind of got cut, right? It just, it just didn’t make the cut. So me and Brian Stoffel, my business partner that I was doing these segments with, we were Basically took that exact same concept and took it to YouTube. And because we were still in the, in the pandemic slash GameStop, WallStreetBets world our YouTube channel quickly gained a lot of ground and we grew fairly quickly because it’s also focused on investing in the stock market.

So we’ve been doing YouTube videos now for about, about three years, but that was the platform that we took on next.

Doug: Got it. That’s awesome. And I mean, You could build, I mean, it’s a totally different audience over on YouTube as well, and the way you have to present the information, obviously from like a written format, or I guess there is some small component of video on X, but I mean, mainly it’s shorter post.

I mean, it could be longer, but what, what was the biggest difference or challenge taking some of the topics that you knew were good? On X over to you too.

Brian: Yep. So the, the topic was actually the easy part because we knew the segment that we want to have. We effectively showed people how to research a stock using SEC filings from scratch, the same way we did.

So they were, they were mostly live streamings of of our, our long things of us reading through SEC filings and filling out our investing checklists. The content was ironically enough. The easy part for us. What was challenging was learning how to actually upload videos and stream to YouTube in a professional looking way.

God, I look back at my early videos and they’re just garbage. The video quality is terrible, I have a headset on, the lighting is very poor, the camera quality isn’t good, so learning Just the technical side of how to set yourself up so that you can make high quality video. That, that was like an 18 month long process and a lot of trial and error along the way.

Doug: What camera are you using right now? I’m just curious your, your tech setup now. It’s it looks great for the people that are just listening, but you know. That’s

Brian: a great question. It’s a, I think it’s a Sony. It’s A-D-S-L-R. Okay. It’s A-D-S-L-R and it’s put into a a teleprompter. So I’m looking at at a computer screen right now, even though it looks right at at you.

And the DSLR has a fancy lens on it. I don’t know the name. Okay. Of, of of either. Right now I actually have a the editor from my YouTube channel actually is a high school kid that lives in my neighborhood. That’s how I found him, and he loves. This technology stuff. I leaned on him on him heavily to help me create my my, my home, my home office.

But yeah, now I, once I got all this set up that, that you see here now is making video is, is, is fairly straightforward.

Doug: That’s cool. Yeah. And I mean, it’s a big, obviously like we’re doing this professionally, right? So like we, I have a nice DSLR, I have like just a permanent setup. So I just like turn it on.

And ready to go. Like before we hopped on, I was here like, I don’t know, like three minutes before we started recording. So it’s so, it’s so easy, but like, once you, once you know, you’re going to do a bunch of video, it is so much better to just have like a permanent setup in your office.

Brian: So absolutely the, the, the bar for making high quality.

Video content is 10 times higher than it is for making high-quality written content.

Doug: Okay, so you moved over to YouTube created about, I mean, you’ve done probably hundreds of videos, thousands of videos at this point. You guys produce quite a bit. What, or I guess, how does, how does this work? You’re, you’re repurposing content.

Do you have any other metrics where you’re like, this worked well, this didn’t work well, this didn’t work well, but I think it’s still a good idea. Do we need to change this to an infographic and maybe the format’s wrong, but the content is good. So how do you, how does this all work? Because once you find something.

You’ve tested on X, then you could propagate it out across your whole platform because some people are just going to be on LinkedIn. They’re not going to be on YouTube or X or whatever.

Brian: Yeah, that’s what you just said actually really surprised me when I first first learned it. So it turns out that consumers tend to really like using one specific app and they don’t tend to use many other apps.

So when YouTube channel I probably had. 200, 000, 150, 000, something like that, Twitter followers, and I thought, oh, it’s gonna be easy to port those Twitter viewers over to YouTube because I use Twitter and I use YouTube, therefore everybody does. The answer there is no. People that are on Twitter, People tend to really like Twitter.

People that are on YouTube tend to really like YouTube. People that are on Instagram tend to really like Instagram. So, porting a user or a follower from one platform to another is far more challenging than I would have thought that it would have been. But to answer your question now we have we currently have two paths that we, that we have created.

A third, a third is coming. For going from discovering Us, me and my partners on social media into getting them into our ecosystem and and, and hopefully getting them to buy a, one of our courses. So one path that we have relates to accounting. So we teach people how to find, read, and interpret financial statements through a, through a course that we developed.

That’s one was our, that was one of our cohort based courses. So. I have a whole content engine that we’ve built that is specifically related to teaching people how to understand accounting. So that includes tweets that includes infographics, that includes threads, that includes videos, that includes eBooks.

So all kinds of content that we create, and then we share that content on the platform that it’s most appropriate for. So LinkedIn right now, for example LinkedIn really favors. Infographics and slideshows. That’s like the platform that has been blessed by, by that by, by, by LinkedIn. So I almost exclusively share those infographics, the accounting infographics on LinkedIn.

Video is obviously exclusively for, for YouTube. So we have some videos that we’ve done on how to read a cash flow statement, how to read an income statement, et cetera. And those live on, on, on YouTube. And then I have tweets and threads about accounting that live on, on, on Twitter. So the, the, we try and match the medium with, with the platform, but all through all of those platforms point the audience towards the same thing, which is my, which is my lead magnet slash landing page.

We bought a domain called Financial, and if people land on that page, they just give me their email address and then I send them a free infographic accounting ebook and give them a free five day course on how to read financial statements. If they get through that process, then we try and sell them, upsell them to buying one of our our self-paced courses that teaches people how to read financial statements.

So. That, that’s, that’s accounting. And then you can take that exact process, carbon copy it with with valuation. So how businesses are, are valued, but the exact same process just related to valuation.

Doug: Perfect. How many different lead magnets do you have?

Brian: We’ve tried a bunch. I think we have seven or eight at this point.

And the conversion rate on them ranges from the low thirties to one of my lead magnets converts almost at 60%. So we are, we, we are, you know, we’re tinkering around with them, but my main lead magnet that we have is an ebook. It’s an infographic ebook and it’s a free email based course that’s currently converting at about 58%.

Doug: Wow. Do you find that certain mediums or platforms? Convert at a higher rate in which one? So what have you seen that this would vary between niches and industries and such, but yeah, how does it work for you?

Brian: Sure, so I don’t have great metrics from YouTube. I think we, we have some decent metrics from YouTube, but I do know that the, the highest converting platform that I have is actually LinkedIn.

If somebody clicks a link from LinkedIn they convert at a, at a, about 3 or 4 percent higher rate than they do from Twitter. I don’t know the exact numbers off of YouTube, off the top of my head, but I think the highest converting platform that I have is LinkedIn. Thanks again.

Doug: Okay. Any insight why that is?

Brian: I think when you’re on LinkedIn, the, the, the mindset that you are in when you’re on LinkedIn is professional. It’s courteous. And that’s, I’m here to learn and I’m here to, to connect. So just by the nature of the platform itself, like, like one thing I love about LinkedIn is the amount of like hate comments that I get or trolling that I get on LinkedIn is one one hundredth.

Of what it is on basically every other platform, because nobody goes to, when you’re in LinkedIn, you’re, you’re there because, you know, your employer might see there or future, a future employer might, might see there, right? So there it is. That alone is such a natural filter for, for people acting and behaving kindly.

So I think when you’re using LinkedIn, you are just in a different mindset completely than you are when you’re, when you’re on X, when you’re on x slash Twitter, you’re naturally in. Combative mode. And you know, you’re expecting political stuff. You’re expecting like outrage stuff. So you’re much more willing to kind of hit back verbally speaking.

But I think just the nature of the mindset of people when they’re using linked in naturally gets them towards. I am here for education. I am here to connect, and I think that helps the conversion rate.

Doug: This is pretty tough to follow through your funnel, but do you know if the LinkedIn, so the LinkedIn people are converting to the email list better?

Do you know if they convert to customers better as well?

Brian: That’s a fabulous question. And I don’t have the analytics to back that up. Yeah, we still, we still suck at analytics and diving deep into, into audience analytics. So I do not have, I don’t have data to find that out, but that is something I hope to find out in the near future.

Doug: Okay. Yeah, that would be super hard to track. And then the other thing is like, you’re, you know, you’re big fans. And, you know, even if someone is mostly active on LinkedIn, they might occasionally watch a YouTube video. So there’s a lot of overlap. And once someone is engaged with you, as you know, they’re, they’re going to follow you in a few different places.

And that, you know, that builds it. the relationship further. Maybe they hear you on podcasts or whatever. And you know, there’s no way to track that. Like you don’t know all the different touch points. So, okay.

Brian: Yep. One thing I have found though, is that when we look at our highest paying which are in our premium community.

People that make it all the way through there. A disproportional number of those people watched one of our live webinars. So we have found that live webinars give us a wonderful chance to teach, to, to show off. Our teaching style, spend basically an hour of time with somebody interacting with them and kind of showing off our, our our chops and attract people that naturally want to connect with us over, over video.

So we, we think that we plan on putting a lot more time into webinars over the next 12 to 18 months specifically because not, not because it gets us a huge amount of. volume, but the volume it does get us, I think is very high quality. Interesting.

Doug: And you know, I failed, I didn’t test webinars a lot, but it didn’t tend to help me out.

I, I rarely converted anyone from a webinar, you know, part of it could have just been a small numbers of attendees. So I didn’t, you know, run a bunch of ads and have whatever, 300 people on a webinar. But, and I think the interview you heard with me, Brian, I, I mentioned I, I got a bunch of YouTube videos and podcasts.

So people usually have connected with me that way. So I was like, ah, they probably don’t need to see me. But what you mentioned with a webinar, like you’re actually like going through and teaching something. So people are getting value right then. And they’re like, Oh, if you could do that for free in a webinar, like what value are you going to bring when?

I’m actually like a paying customer,

Brian: right? Yep. Exactly. So one nice thing about what you have with, with a podcast, podcasts are an unbelievably strong medium for building a relationship with an audience. Like something very intimate about being in somebody’s ears. And when I’m listening to podcasts, I’m I’m mowing my lawn.

I’m cleaning. I’m driving. I’m doing something where my body is engaged, but my mind is free to wander. And just by nature of podcasts themselves, I’ve listened to some people talk on podcasts for hundreds. of hours. So I really develop a very strong connection to people on, on on, on podcasts. So podcasts and YouTube just because of the nature of the length that you can spend with a creator and you can hear their specific voice, wonderful platforms for building relationships with them.

It’s just that, as you know, building a podcast, getting podcast listeners is incredibly challenging.

Doug: It’s so hard. Yeah. Let’s see. Let’s go back to sort of like the, the pure content engine. How are you organizing all of this content? Cause it sounds like you probably have hundreds, if not thousands of individual pieces, and then if you take.

You know, one post that did well, and then you, you put it into the native format of another platform. So how are you organizing all this stuff?

Brian: Yeah, it was a nightmare, right? It’s an absolute chaotic nightmare to do, but I’ve tried several different methods for doing so. The one that I am currently using is called is Notion.

So I switched over to Notion about a year ago. Notion takes a whole bunch of time to get set up and to get used to, but now that we’re using it, I. Absolutely. I absolutely love it. So in our notion we have we went one where tabs in our notion is our content engine. And in there, I basically have two main tabs.

One is short form content, and that short form content could include tweets. It could include single pictures. It could include Infographics, it could include shorts, so I have a short form content, and then I have a long form content, and the long form content includes Twitter threads, it includes slideshows and it includes, it includes ideas for for YouTube YouTube videos, so as a general thing that we do, We post a lot of short form content primarily written in image based then we see what short form content performs Well, then we take that short form content and we convert it into long form content.

So long form content is typically on that same platform So if a tweet does well, I try and turn that tweet into a thumbnail thread, or if a an infographic does well, I try and turn that infographic into a slideshow. And if that does well, that gives us that gives us enough proof that, okay, we should devote even more content into this.

So should this be a long form blog post? Should this be a, a, a YouTube video? So that’s generally the flow that we’re going for, but it’s all organized and tracked in Notion.

Doug: For the people that don’t know what Notion is, can you Maybe tell us other tools that do different pieces of it. Like it’s the notes app that does like extra stuff.

Brian: Yeah, it’s kind of like, it’s, it’s basically Google sheets, but way better organized and you can actually put you can actually put links in there and have videos. You can put videos in there. You can put images in there. Google sheets is still a major part of my business. We use it all the time for tracking things, but notion is just It’s laid out better and it is a database.

It is a database, a table to it. So think of if you’re familiar with spreadsheets, it’s, it’s that, but better with Notion.

Doug: Okay. Got it. I know a lot of, a lot of my friends use it, but I saw that it would take a lot to, to set up and everything’s running fine here. Right. It sounds complicated. So I was like, I’m just going to keep going.

Brian: I mean, starting from scratch on any picking, picking a product like that as a major decision, because I have hundreds of hours of my life devoted to, to notion. And as you know, when you’re just starting out with the system, there’s so many things you have to learn how to do. So learning any system or any platform, uh, takes, takes its time.

So that has to be a really strong, compelling reason for you to do so.

Doug: You mentioned you have a video editor, um, someone in the, the neighborhood who, who could do it, but what’s the rest of the team look like? It sounds like there could be quite a bit of, you know, graphic design and other pieces. So do you have some VAs helping you out in various areas?

Brian: Yep, we have two virtual assistants working with us. I could very much see us Hiring more over time. So I have my own virtual assistant and she primarily helps me with organizing Notion posting content to to social media creating Infographics, then we have another virtual assistant that helps my operations guy His name is Brian Withers and she also helps me with To organize notion.

She does a lot of manual tracking of how certain data and content performs. She helps with with customer, she helps with customer support. And then I have a, a third business partner. His name is Brian Stoffel. He is primarily focused on course. Course creation and course modification. And then that guy, Brian Withers, who’s my operation guy.

He is also our community manager. So he essentially handles all of the operations and scheduling for our premium community.

Doug: When you guys were getting started, did you very clearly. assign who was responsible for what. So there wasn’t, I mean, what happens is like there’s duplicated work and then there’s work that falls through the cracks.

So did you guys figure that all out? It’s like, Brian, you do this, Brian, you do that, Brian, you do that.

Brian: That is a, that is a great question. The general way that we share, share tasks is my primary role is front end stuff. So I am responsible for content creation and social media, all sales and marketing effectively is what I own.

Brian Withers is responsible for operations and the communities. He’s responsible to making sure everything works, everything works together and the right thing gets to the right person at the right time. And Brian Stoffel is primarily responsible for the creation of the products and the courses that we sell.

Now, those are just the big buckets. All three of us do things in each of those micro areas. But the people that we have are really, Focused on, like doing and are passionate about their particular segment. So that’s how we distribute work.

Doug: And I expect you guys saw that in each other. You knew like someone’s going to handle operations.

You want to do front end stuff. You speak at a bunch of conferences and you’re on these podcasts and stuff. So was it pretty clear? And you saw like, we have good owners for each one of these that we want to do that kind of work.

Brian: Yeah, pretty much. So Brian Stoffel and I started this business. We both liked, we both liked writing.

We both, we all three of us love investing. So we all shared that all shared that in common. My Brian Stoffel himself was a middle school teacher for a number of years. So his background is in, is in teaching. When I worked in, in the medical device world, my role was sales. So my background is sales in, in marketing.

And then our third guy. Brian Withers, his, he, he is a, an engineer. So his background, he loves living in databases and connecting things together and making them making them work. So it wasn’t necessarily intention that we developed three people that had three different areas of expertise, but it’s more of a happy accident that it turned out that way.

Doug: Very good. So we’re coming towards the end. I went to ask if there were any. Any mistakes you made along the way? Cause it sounds, I mean, you, you have all this very organized, you have. You know, hundreds of thousands of followers. You have a thriving, you know, course business, you have the funnels set up.

You have a crazy email list with a high open rate, but what mistakes did you make along the way?

Brian: Oh, tons of mistakes. Like it is so funny to see things from the outside, right? Everything I’ve said probably sounds good. We have made so many mistakes. We have wasted so much time. We have wasted so much money.

pursuing things that didn’t work. Case in point, one particular failure that we were really excited about was just purely related to not understanding our, our audience. So in 2022, uh, we have developed a following of people that are individual investors. So these people are our stock market investors.

Those are the people that find us and typically follow us. Well, we had the idea of launching an email based course that would help people to get their financial life in order. Order so they could become a financial investors. So we spent months of our lives organizing this course creating this course, we decided to sell it for a very low price of 99, which we thought was like impulse purchase.

We blasted our out out to our audience and we sold like eight. Right for like 99 something like that. So it was a complete Absolute flop for us and it not it was actually a really great product that we built But the thing that we got wrong, it was we built a product for a general audience Not one for a group of investors.

So we went backwards way too far in in our journey So not only did we have to effectively scrap that project and scrap months worth of of work but that was such a a terrible failure because all three of us thought that it was going to be a home run for, for our audience. So that, that was a very painful lesson that we learned about building the right thing for the wrong audience.

Doug: Okay. Well, and that said like, Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently for that project? What, what, whether it would be like totally different product that actually matches the audience that you’ve built over the years, or what would you do?

Brian: Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly it. So we’ve I love talking with other creators and one creator that I super respect suggested to me that we build a general course about stock, the stock market.

So forget about individual stock selection, just build a course that is just for people that are. Interested in the stock market, people that no, no, no, nothing. And we thought deeply about that. We’re like, you know, I think that could be a great idea, but that is an entirely different audience than the people that we, we, we have.

So rather than going backwards that far to people that need information about the stock market in general, what we’re decided to doing is to go one step, one step backwards, not 10 step backwards. And we’re going to be, we’re going to be building a course called introduction to stock market. Picking and of course, that’s really designed for beginner stock pickers because those people are far more interested in Following us than people that are interested in the stock market In in in general, so so we’re being slightly selective with the advice that we get from from people And we’re really trying to think about Who follows us, what do they want from us and what products can we spend our time building that will actually resonate with us rather than spending all this time and energy building a general purpose, a product that we think would fall flat.

Doug: Got it. And you’ve made so many other mistakes along the way, so we don’t have to highlight them all. But yeah, you know, we do need to point it out because like you said, you’ve been doing this for a few years. You’ve been. Working online for many years and writing and creating. So at this point in time, you have a huge platform, but it took a lot of iteration, it took a lot of mistakes.

And at this point in time, you have a lot of things organized, but it wasn’t all. Sunshine and roses and all that.

Brian: Oh, it’s very much the old analogy of jumping out of the airplane and trying to build the parachute before you hit the, before you hit the ground. Yeah, absolutely. Doug and, and, and we should also say the three, three partners that I have, we’ve all been, Content, creating content online for more than a decade.

It’s just that a whole bunch of that experience was creating content for free on private discussion boards through the Motley Fool. And then we became paid writers through the Motley Fool. And then we were getting paid to create content. So we all didn’t just start from scratch. Even when we were posting in 2019 and 2020, we’d been creating and writing content for years at that point.

So we had built up that, that muscle that muscle, a memory. So yeah, if, if from the outside, if from other people’s perspective, looking at me and they’d be like, wow, it’s really impressive what he bought built in a short period of time. And he’s really organized. It’s like, first off, no, you’re not seeing the sausage as it’s being made.

But two, we actually did a whole bunch of content creation for free for years before we even started to get into this business.

Doug: As we were wrapping up, let’s talk about longtermmindset. co. You mentioned it to me right before we started recording. So what’s this project all about?

Brian: So what this is going to make maybe some people laugh, but we have had this business now for, for quite a while.

We’re going on three years and we’ve never had a corporate company website during that, that timeframe. I mean, it’s almost like comical to say that out loud. So there you go. We literally just launched a, a corporate website, longterm mindset. co in February of this year. So, so two months ago and, and one aspect of the content creation world that we have sucked at so far is essentially SSEO.

So that is something that, that I am. Very new to, to learning about and really started to get ramped up. So thankfully I have friends like you that I can pick their brain and they can get me up to speed really quickly. So this is something, this is a major thing that we’ve put a lot of time into and we’re trying to build traffic for it.

Doug: Got it. All right. So it really serves as like the, the, the website portion of the overall business. Is that right? Yeah.

Brian: Exactly. We actually had a business coach meet with us about six months ago and she did a quick review of our website. And one thing that she said to us is it’s really hard to give you guys money.

Like if I am into you, I don’t know how to give you guys money. And I was like, That’s a really important observation that you have. And she was like, I can’t believe you don’t have a website. And I was like, all right, well, that just bumped it up from priority number eight to priority number one. So it’s, it’s so funny how, when you get fresh eyes looking at your business, things that things become so obvious.

Doug: So just, yeah. I’m curious. So before someone had to follow you on some platform, sign up for your email list, they would enter your auto responder, and then they, that’s how they would get the offer. There was no way to, or it was much offers

Brian: were really, were really exclusively on maven. com. That was the only way that you could effectively buy our course and give us money.

So we were pointing our traffic to Maven, but that wasn’t a website that we owned or we maintained, or we did anything like that too. Moreover. There’s an open and close window for maven. com. So you can only sign up for the course during these really short periods when the, when the course is open and then we close it down.

So if you were in one of those other periods, there was no way for you to effectively give us money, let alone a website that we could send people to to give us money all you know, all year long or 24 seven. So, so that was a major mistake that we made.

Doug: All right. Interesting. Okay, well, as we’re wrapping up here, I will, I’ll let you give sort of the final word and then I’ll let you mention all the places you want people to follow you, which we’ll put links in it so they can follow you.

They could find it really easily, but there’s a lot of stuff that people can do, and it could be a little bit overwhelming, especially if they’re starting from square one, how should someone like prioritize where they put their focus and eventually branch out if they’re, if they’re thinking, Hey. I want to kind of follow in Brian’s footsteps here.

Brian: Yeah. So, so my area of expertise again is really about social media. So I’ll, I’ll harp on that for a minute because figuring out how social media works is a very tough thing. It’s a very tough thing to do, especially if you’re, you have a background in, in blogging or niche sites or SEO or any of those things, it’s completely different.

Uh, skill set. So when it comes to social media, the thing that you really have to get into your mind is I am here to, first and foremost, provide value to the other people, to strangers that are on this platform. That has to be your mindset. My initial mindset when I got on Twitter was, I am here to extract people off of Twitter and to get them onto my platform.

If you do that and you go in with that mindset, you will fail. You will absolutely fail. So the first, the thing you need to do is. Pick a platform, make sure that platform has discoverability to it, so some way for strangers to interact with your content. Consistently put content out there that will help people natively on that platform, whether they, whether they click on anything that you want or not, and just focus on helping people find it.

natively on that platform first. Once you do that, and as you build traffic and get to know, then and only then should you think about helping people get off that platform and follow you on a more private basis. But pick a platform, focus on helping people natively. If you do that, you will have far better results on social media than you would else wise.

Doug: Where can people find you, Brian?

Brian: Well, I’m on most social media platforms, but I’m most active on Twitter slash X LinkedIn and and YouTube. And if you want to check out this website that we’re building, it’s longtermmindset. co.

Doug: All right. Well, I’ll link up for all that stuff so people can get to it really easily.

And thanks a lot, Brian. Hopefully we’ll catch up soon.

Brian: See you, my friend.