In this episode:
03:07 – The celebrity gossip guy
04:35 – How to deal with haters
07:37 – Are you aimed at the right audience?
09:58 – Three ways to sell yoga (or anything)
13:04 – More on becoming relevant
15:57 – What is selling, really?
18:52 – Courses, coffee shops and YouTube
24:35 – A return to video
27:23 – Doing good work you love
30:30 – The power of entertainment
32:20 – When life gets weird
35:05 – Psychology and books
37:45 – Derek’s parting advice
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James: James Schramko here, welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 572, and I have no idea where this episode is going to go because I’ve invited a zany, crazy, wacky guest who is pretty famous for just speaking his mind. Welcome to the call, Derek Halpern!
Derek: Hey, what’s up, dude? Zany, wacky? I haven’t heard any of these words before. Is this an Australian thing?
James: It must be. But dude, do you gladly wear those labels?
Derek: Yeah, you know what, you could call me whatever you want at the end of the day, as long as you’re smiling when you do it.
James: I’ve got an ear-to-ear grin.
Now, we’re doing this on an audio format, but lately you’ve been on a video rampage, and I do want to talk about that today. There’s a couple of things that I’m interested in, and firstly, how this discussion came about.
We’re kind of Facebook friends, aren’t we? We’ve backed and forth a little bit. I’ve engaged with some of your conversations, which typically revolve around a coffee shop and something that someone has done in your nearby presence that you feel obliged to report on. Always very interesting. I wonder, how can one person get tangled up into so many side avenues of life? But then I realize, you’re probably spending a large amount of time in the coffee shop. And humans are fascinating, right?
Derek: Well, I’ll tell you exactly what it is. First, I’m in the coffee shop a lot. I work from my home office. I’ve had offices before, I just don’t like to have a real office. Right? It’s just not for me. And working from home drives me crazy sometimes, so I go to the coffee shop. So I’m there a lot. Now not only do I go to the coffee shop, the problem with me and why this always happens to me, is because I’m a little loud, you know? I kind of put myself into situations that I shouldn’t necessarily put myself into. And when I see someone do something stupid, I feel like I need to say something. You know what I mean?
James: I do, and it’s like, you almost typify for me that notion of a brash American. You’ve got a loud voice, you are opinionated, you’ve got a very strong accent, that New York thing, and it’s great. It like, burns a hole in your brain and from the time that I first encountered you online, you’ve always had a strong presence in whatever you did. So I’ve known you from SocialTriggers.com, and I think probably that’s where you got your most traction originally, is it?
The celebrity gossip guy
Derek: Well, most traction with my own name. Most people know this through storytelling or whatever – me telling my, sharing my story. But I started my first ever business was actually a celebrity gossip blog under a pen name. And that did almost a hundred million visitors. That was actually bigger than Social Triggers, from a reach standpoint. I just didn’t have my name on it.
James: And what was the decision around not having your name on it, and then doing something for yourself?
Derek: Oh, easy because I was making fun of celebrities everyday. Who wants to wake up in 10 years and be like, wait a second, if you google me, here’s me making fun of celebrities? You know what I mean? So I did it under a pen name, because I didn’t really care about celebrities. I still don’t. Even though I wrote celebrity gossip for several years, I didn’t actually care about the topic. I did it to make money.
James: And how do you feel about it looking back? Are you proud of that work, or do you feel there was like, you had a chip on your shoulder?
Derek: I wouldn’t say I had a chip on my shoulder, because it wasn’t really, to me, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I was just finding an opportunity online. I just happened to channel it into celebrity gossip. Now looking back, I’m not nearly as brash as I might come off, even though I’m always making fun of people on Facebook and in the coffee shop. I’m actually a nice person. Right? I don’t really like to make fun of people for no reason.
And some of the things you say in celebrity gossip as a blogger, especially, is just like, you’re not being a nice person, and that’s not who I am. In the end, I’d rather prop people up and help them become better people than tear them down. So I guess I’m not proud of it, but I am happy that I did it because it put me in this world of online marketing. I wouldn’t have gotten here without it. So I can’t say I’m disappointed.
When the tables are turned
James: Occasionally, you have someone saying things about you, these days, right? Because you’ve stepped in front of the camera, you’ve put yourself out there, and you’ve experienced it from the other side, where people are directly saying things that could hurt your feelings. How do you handle that?
Derek: Well, I am probably a unique case where I don’t really get my feelings hurt. Not online. I mean, comments for me coming from people are basically meaningless. It doesn’t affect me at all.
James: So you’re doing that thing where it only hurts if you attach a meaning to it?
Derek: Yeah. If someone gives me some feedback, and there’s actually something there, something that I also believe, that would probably sting more. If someone’s calling me a scammer, I just laugh at those people.
James: How do you determine what you do feel sits inside your values and then what sits outside it? I get feedback from time to time on products, that’s a great example. If you’re in business, people say, “Oh, you should do this,” or “You should do that.” And I have to detach from some of them and say, well, that’s great but I don’t think they’re in a position of experience or knowledge to have that opinion. A classic case would be a family member commenting on a business decision. This happens quite a lot for entrepreneurs. They get someone who has absolutely no right to have an opinion on something expressing an opinion. So you discount that.
And then there’s people who probably are much closer, who you respect more. Is it on like, a sliding scale of who you respect or who’s opinions you feel are more important where it’s got more potential to change something in you?
Derek: Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve always been of the mind that if I put out something and it’s not my best work and there’s room for improvement, I’m not blind to it. You know? I know my deficiencies. And I’m very rarely surprised by someone else pointing out one of my deficiencies. Because if they’re pointing out a legitimate deficiency, chances are I’ve already thought about that myself. I’m not saying I’m all-knowing, but I’m just saying I’m aware of my weaknesses.
James: And sometimes I think you play it up. You do have fun laughing at yourself occasionally.
Derek: Of course! I make fun of myself. I mean, my Twitter bio for what, 10 years, has been, “I’m 99 percent useless, but that one percent when I’m not, I’m dangerous.”
And I have an employee, my videographer, actually, he’s been spending a lot of time with me because we’re doing that daily video on our YouTube channel. And he laughs because sometimes I have like, food that’s prepared for me in the refrigerator, right? And most of the time, it’s in this red container with a clear top. And then one day, the red container was not in the refrigerator. I’m like, staring in the refrigerator confused about where my food is. I have no idea. And he comes over there and starts laughing at me, and I’m like, what? He goes, dude, it’s just in the black container. Like, I was that guy, confused, looking in his own refrigerator, not knowing what he was supposed to eat because the red container wasn’t red anymore, it was black.
That is a perfect example of how useless I can be. But put me on a sales page, it’s going to be a great sales page.
Who is your audience?
James: So from Social Triggers, and by the way, I did your blogging course and it was very useful and it’s in some way contributed to what we have here at SuperFastBusiness.com, so that’s a heartfelt thank you. I paid for that course, I went through it, I found some really good points. One of them, which is a very important lesson, in that course you talked about who is your audience. I’d love if you would just briefly cover this phenomenon, where some people are actually covering the wrong topics because they’re aiming it at the wrong person.
Derek: Oh, dude, this is like, my biggest, this is the number one most requested thing people ask me about. Because when I made Blog That Converts, that course that you went through, I knew the power of the audience because I come from a background of just wanting to understand human behavior. And at the end of the day, I don’t care if you’re selling to consumers or to businesses. At the end of the day, you’re selling to human beings, right? And you have to know what makes these humans tick. That’s what Social Triggers was all about, understanding humans.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling to human beings.”
Now, I’ve actually been able to refine this into a very easy framework for pretty much anyone, whether you’re not good at selling, if you’ve never sold before, and it just comes down to this: when you’re trying to sell your product or service to somebody, you’re selling it to one of three types of people. You’re selling it to an informed person, an afflicted person, or an oblivious person. And the way this works is I’ll kind of explain.
The informed person knows about you, they know about your competitors, they know about your products, they know why your product is better than another product, but worse than another product. It’s an informed person – people who already know everything.
The afflicted person is the person that has a problem. They may be aware of you, they may know about your products, but the bottom line is they have a problem, they need a solution.
Finally, there’s the oblivious person. These are the people that are walking through life with problems that they don’t even know they have. And they don’t even know about you, they don’t know about your type of product, they don’t even know if a solution exists in the world. They just know that they have a problem and they don’t even think it’s possible to solve it.
These are the three types of customers. And knowing this for your business is the most important thing you can do when you’re trying to sell. Because a message that you use to convert an oblivious customer can work on informed customer or an afflicted customer, but what I can say is a message designed to convert an informed customer will never work on an afflicted or oblivious customer.
The yoga example
And I always give the yoga example. I don’t know if you know anything about yoga. I used to think yoga people were weird, so I don’t really know much about yoga, either. But let’s say I have a headline: Why I Switched From Vinyasa Yoga to Bikram Yoga. The person who reads that is someone who is familiar with yoga, they’re familiar with Vinyasa yoga, they’re familiar with Bikram yoga. They’re familiar enough in the community that they would be interested in that sort of headline, right?
But if you go over to the afflicted customer, maybe an afflicted customer just has back pain. And they’ve got back pain, and they always kind of turn their nose up to yoga, like I did. I always thought yoga people were weird, and they were way too happy, that they were clearly lying. And that would be me. But I had back pain, and one day my friend’s like, “Oh, you should try this stretch routine. Actually, I’ll do it with you.” And I met up, and they rolled out a yoga mat. And I’m like, “You tricked me. You’re getting me to do yoga today.” But they called it a stretch routine. So you might use something like, How A 15-Minute Morning Stretch Routine Helped Me Cure My Back Pain. Now You’re taking yoga out of the headline, to not scare off people who think yoga people are weird. And you’re just calling it a stretch routine, and talking to back pain as a problem. So now you’re talking to an afflicted customer.
However, what about the oblivious, the people who have back pain that don’t even realize there’s a solution? That’s where you want to use a headline like, For The Last 34 Years I Woke Up and My Back Hurt. Then I Realized, All I Had to Do Was This One Thing, Every Single Morning. Now, it’s like an oblivious customer who doesn’t know about stretching, who doesn’t know about yoga, all they want to know about is the one thing, now. And then you get them there. Does that make sense, how you talk to different types of customers with different messages?
James: Absolutely makes sense. And it really comes back to a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about on this particular blog. It’s understanding your audience, everything through the ASK methodology, we’ve had Ryan Levesque talking about, and I pretty much run all of my highest-level clients through that segmentation. And being relevant, I think, is probably the key point here, and not just starting with your amazing, wonderful idea or product and just trying to stick it out into the market and wondering why no one’s responding.
Derek: Yeah. I break it down in that format, namely because everyone knows the importance of being relevant. Everyone knows the importance of knowing their ideal customer. And they know how to say it. They know how to say, “Oh, I’ve looked into my ideal customer.” But very rarely do I meet people who understand the nuances between the types of customers, right? Most people think about a customer and say, “Oh, it’s a 25 to 45-year-old woman who’s affluent and she’s trying to solve this problem in her life.” And they do demographical data. When really it’s not about demographical data, it’s actually about how much this person knows or doesn’t know.
James: Yeah. Like, we’ve had Tom Breeze talking about the different types of people on YouTube where the researching mode, or maybe they’re in buying mode. In sales, we talk about the buying window. That’s probably the informed customer. They are right there looking, they’ve already done the research, they know they got a problem, they’ve even got a great understanding of what solutions are there and they’re just in that final little tipping point where they’re about to pull the trigger on a decision.
Narrowing things down
James: You know, a lot of us when we’re marketing, these days I think we’re using like a two-step sort of situation where step one is awareness. We do things like publish a book or general content, and then step two is we might just target the engaged people who have watched 80 percent of a video or downloaded a prior material. Now we can have a more informed conversation with them and we can trim off some of the waste that we might be doing and just going with that scattergun.
Derek: Of course.
James: I’m so glad you broke that down. One of the other examples I was thinking about, I think we were talking about someone who writes articles where they might blog about how to write articles instead of blogging to the customer who needs an article writer.
Derek: Yes. So that was a big thing, like freelance writers were doing back, and they still do it, which makes me laugh. Their business is offering freelance writing services to businesses. And then you go read their blog, and they’re like, “Here are five writing tips.” “Here are five different types of blog posts you can write.” And it’s like, everything that they were doing was attracting other freelance writers, not people who hire freelance writers.
James: It’s very important.
Derek: Very important.
James: Quite often with my customer, I’m saying to them, like, “Who is your customer?” And I’ll tell you where this comes up a lot, it’s in the education space when I have someone who might be a teacher, who’s selling to the education sort of market. And I’m like, “OK, is your customer the parent of the student, is it the teacher, or is it the school or the organization?” Like, they’re completely different customers. And it’s so easy to be aiming your content at the wrong person or making messages that resonate with someone who’s not the actual buyer. And I imagine this crops up in markets where you’re aiming for, like to sell toys – is the customer the parent, or is it the kid?
Derek: No, that is a phenomenal insight, that idea. Because at the end of the day, it just stems off the idea that there are different reasons why people buy your product. And sometimes it might be all three of those customers. And if it’s all three of those customers, each person needs a different message. The kid needs the message that they need to ask their parents to buy it for them. The parents need the message that this is better for their kids. The schools need the message that this is going to help them save money on their budget.
You know what I mean? Every person has a different reason why they buy, and you have to get super clear on it before you start trying to sell them. Because a lot of people that make this mistake, what they end up doing and it drives me crazy when they do this, is they start telling someone about their stuff and the person doesn’t get it. And they’ll just end the conversation. Oh, man, they just don’t get it, and they walk away. And it’s like, everytime I see this conversation happen, it’s like, yeah, they didn’t get it but it’s your fault. It’s not their fault, they’re not stupid. You’re stupid because you can’t make them care.
“The responsibility for communication is on the person trying to make the sale.”
James: The responsibility for that communication is on the person trying to make that sale.
What selling actually is
James: You know, a long time ago, I had this understanding of what selling actually is, and it’s simply just a process of change from one situation to a better alternative situation. That’s it. And most of what we’re doing with our marketing and selling is helping someone be better off. If they think they’ll be better off, then the message has been received and understood and they’re now ready and armed to make that step. And you don’t need any heavy tactics for this, you just have to be relevant. And was it Zig Ziglar said something about, if you want to get what you want, help people get what they want?
James: So if we could just step out of ourselves for just a minute and be in that customer’s body and walk in their shoes, then you can actually understand what they need to see and what they need to hear and what part of the journey they’re at for what you’re doing to make sense to them to be better off.
Derek: Yes. And sometimes, they don’t even need to be better off. Right? That’s in a typical helping-style sale. Like, if you’re trying to help people be better off, you’re in like, the helping business. Sometimes it’s not even about that. Sometimes, it’s just about giving people what they already want. Just like Zig said. I think Eugene Schwartz said it in Breakthrough Advertising, he was like, you can’t make people want anything. You can only find what they already want and then show them how whatever it is you’re selling gives them that. Right?
“The only reason people buy is to be better off.”
James: Interesting. Yeah, well I think the only reason people buy is to be better off. I think we’re rather selfish. Whether that’s buying fuel because we need to get somewhere, or food because we’re hungry, or a training course because we think that it will help us make more money. I do think most things come back to that selfish desire to be better off.
Derek: What about a Snickers bar?
James: Yeah. Well, you…
Derek: I can’t say eating a Snickers bar makes me better off. It makes my butt jiggle.
James: Maybe, and that’s kind of scary. However, when you’re staring at that Snickers bar on the store shelf, the reason you reach out and grab it is you think, right then and there, that you will be better off, because it’s going to satisfy that sugar craving which is wired into our DNA. It stems back from years ago when we were out in the middle of the wilderness, and you see a pile of berries on a tree and you’re going to gorge on them. Your body says, yes, load up on this energy source because it could be a few days or weeks until we see this again. And that’s sort of explained in the book, Sapiens, as to why we have these impulses. But I think in that moment, you really do think you’ll be better off. Otherwise, why would you buy it?
Derek: Because it tastes great, and maybe I have a food addiction.
James: Right, so it improves your taste buds. Your taste buds are overriding your brain, saying yeah, your prehistoric part of the brain’s saying yes, I need this right now. It’s an emergency. Who knows when I’ll see another Snickers bar?
Derek: Yep. And you now what? Every time I see one I get one, because you’re right, when will I see another?
James: Oh, can’t wait to see that butt-jiggling video on YouTube. I don’t mean that, that’s kind of scary.
Courses, coffee shops and YouTube
James: So let’s talk about you and doing videos, and what happened with Social Triggers? Like one minute you’re like, conquering the internet, you’re making these great videos with expensive haircuts and purple shirts – I remember you were like the missing Wiggle – and cool outtakes, and it was all going along fine, and then there was a pause.
And then lately, I think there was a sort of a scenario where you went into courses, and software, and then you sort of went quiet for a while, and you were basically harassing people in coffee shops. And now, you’ve just exploded into the video market. And the last time I had a video expert for YouTube for the organic side of things was my mate Brian Johnson, and he was talking about the journey of going from 10,000 to 20,000 subscribers. But you’ve got a stack of subscribers in a very short period. I wonder if you’d talk about this metamorphosis. Why? What happened?
Derek: Great. Alright, so here’s the deal. I’ll take it right back from the beginning. I started Social Triggers in 2011. I scaled the company, we had a lot of employees, we built our first course, built a second course, built a software plugin, built another software, built up to 10 courses, scaled up to I think at one point, we had over 20 people including contractors working for us. Really built the company up. Revenue was growing, everything was going according to plan.
The reason why I stopped the videos was as simple as this: I got sick of talking about the same stuff all the time. I just felt like I had nothing else to say when it came to marketing. I felt like every video I would do was a video that I already did. And everything about it was stressing me out. So that was part of it, right? Where I felt like I lost my voice.
James: That kind of makes sense. You know, I used to do a daily video, and I just felt like I had nothing else to say for a while there, even though I had a strong discipline for it, and it was growing my business really well… We actually took a year of just doing infographics and articles without voice or audio. Sometimes I’d read them. But I also had this common objection from my customers saying, well what if I don’t want to go on camera and I don’t want to film stuff, how can I grow my business? So I needed to prove a different concept. But I can really relate to this concept that you just felt that you wanted to shift gears. You’d reached the end of that journey.
Derek: Yeah. And you know what? That’s like what was weird is I felt this coming in 2015. And I didn’t know what to do, to be honest with you. I just didn’t know how to create more content again, I just kept doing what I always do, which is create courses. Create and sell courses, that’s what I was good at. And we got to 10 courses. Come 2016, I started to feel like I needed to experiment creatively. So I actually launched a comic strip. And I did a couple of comic strips, and that was fun, but it wasn’t really where I wanted to go. I was looking for a creative outlet of some kind in 2016.
During this process, I still was creating courses and selling courses. And later in 2016, I was like, you know what? I got to get back to the art agin. When I got into this business, I got into this business to share ideas. I got in this business to share my passion. I got into this business because I wanted to be able to change hearts, change minds. Whereas now, I noticed that everything I created was related to a product I had to sell.
And it was like this vicious cycle where it was like, you know, you were creating all these courses, now you need the free content to support the growth of these courses and everything just become very sales-ey. Even though I wasn’t launching any more in 2016 or 2017 than I was in 2015 or 2014, it felt like more to people, because everything was connected to eventually selling something.
James: So you felt compromised by the burden of building a system. Is this because you were hanging out with friends like Marie Forleo, who built a big system around videos and selling courses? Did you feel that peer group pressure?
Derek: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that was it. I just kept wanting to grow the business. And I knew the best way to grow the business was to create comprehensive courses. And the reason why I believe in comprehensive courses, so if I go back to 2015, right? I used to do one video every single week. And every week I released a new video. So this week it would be about discounting. Next week it would be about persuasion. The week after that it would be about writing copy.
And it just felt very disjointed. And I felt like one video wasn’t going to change anyone’s life. So I started to create these series of content. Like this month, we’re focusing on course creation. And we would do a bunch of free content around course creation, then eventually we’d sell a course on how to create courses. But I was doing, like, themed months. And I was doing themed months because I felt like one piece of content wasn’t enough to move people into a real, lasting change.
Derek: But what ended up happening was the themed months were always linked to a product I was selling. So even though we were still creating free content, it felt like I wasn’t, because I felt like it was just launch content.
James: I guess this is one of the reasons I’ve been doing community for like, eight or nine years, because the courses are great but having a peer group and a coach can really help people get lasting change with high frequency and accountability.
Derek: Yes. So you are definitely having a name for coaching, and I know a lot of people that have told me that they love working with you and basically singing your praises, so that’s always great to hear. But with me, even though I come off as brash, I’m a brash New Yorker, I’m loud, I’m as introverted as it gets. And I actually don’t like talking to people. Not that much, anyway.
James: It’s good. It sounds like all the great comedians and actors. A lot of them are quite reserved behind the scenes.
Derek: Exactly. So I don’t like talking to people, and it would always frustrate me to have to do that. So I was focused on themed months to make change for people.
James: So how did you end up in this video? Did you start that journey with Instagram, or Snapchat, and then go on to YouTube?
Derek: I’ll tell you what happened.
So I felt like I was in this up and down, I felt burned out, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to keep myself happy for the content creation. And it showed. My content wasn’t that good for a year and a half or so, if I’m being honest with you. So I felt this way personally. But I spoke at an event. I keynoted the event, everyone loved my presentation. Everyone came up to me after the speech. And usually after you give a speech and you kill it, people are coming up and telling you how good you did, right?
Derek: People were coming up. “Derek, so glad I get to meet you. I really liked your presentation, but, you know, those coffee shop stories on Facebook are really hilarious.”
And then another person came up. “Derek, your presentation was good but you know, those coffee shop stories were really hilarious. I really like those.”
And then I started to realize something. No one was talking to me about what I said. No one was talking to me about my email content or my courses, even though we were selling a bunch of them. Everyone was talking about how I made them feel with a six-sentence rant about someone doing something stupid in a coffee shop. That opened my eyes a little bit.
James: It’s very Seinfeld, you know? You’re in a similar location, you’ve got a zoo in front of you where you live, of humans, a human zoo. I’m sure I commented on Facebook saying, I’m looking forward to the coffee shop series. Because I think people go to social media to be entertained, and blow off steam or get lost in a trance to remove themselves from the pain of normal existence.
James: And you’re basically providing Facebook’s wet dream. You’re creating engaging content that keeps people coming back and discussing and hooked into that machine so they can sell ads, of course. And that’s what they want. And it makes sense that you found your way onto another content center as well.
Derek: Yeah. So that’s what happened. People just wanted that content. I was like, you know, if I think back, the number one reason why I started video in the first place was because Marie Forleo told me, she’s like, Derek, you’re a good writer, but you are a character. And you need to be on video. This is why I started video. I stopped doing video, I lost it. But then I start looking at these coffee shops and everyone’s like, “Derek, you’ve got to get those on video one day. You got to just film this stuff, because everyone wants to see you interact with the world.” And I was like, how am I going to make money from that? How am I going to make money, this was my thought, how does that help me with the business? How does that help with the business?
Well, in 2017, I felt really burned out on this type of content. And I just wasn’t having it anymore. So I said, 2018, I don’t know if I’m supposed to curse here, but I just said, “Screw it. I’m just doing a video every single day.” And that’s what I did on YouTube. We’re recording this on January 24th, I’ve done 24 videos in January of 2018. That’s more videos than I did all of last year.
Was it the right move?
James: And how’s it going?
Derek: It’s growing quickly. I mean, I started with a base on YouTube. I didn’t start from zero. I already had subscribers on YouTube. But what I can say is this: the views on each video, you know, I get one or two or three thousand views a video every day, so it’s not big view numbers. But what I will say is that I feel the community coming back in a very strong way.
People are messaging me again, there are people I haven’t talked to in a couple of years who are reaching out to me. They’re commenting on the stuff. We’re getting hundreds of comments. I think just the beginning of this year we got 2,000 somewhat comments on our stuff. The views are coming, we’re adding tons of new subscribers. We crossed four million views for the first time on our YouTube channel. And I could feel that this is the right move. Even if I don’t know how it’s going to actually make me any money. Does that make sense?
James: It does. Well, bloggers are famous for this, creating cool stuff they feel good about and not necessarily knowing where the money’s going to come. However, I will say that obviously, you’ve had financial acumen many times in the past and been able to set up various ways to make money, whether it’s courses or software. I think based on your journey, it’s most important that you do good work that you feel fantastic about.
And you probably have a good wrangle on your cost of living in your living situation because of your foundation. So that gives you the situation where you have less compromise than perhaps some other people have. And when you’re in a situation of less compromise, you can tap into that creativity. You can pursue things that tick more of your other boxes.
I mean, I wrote a whole book about this called Work Less Make More, which is on Amazon. And that whole concept is that you really can focus more on things that you want to do and say no to the scripts that other people have said is the way you’re going to have to live your life, you know? Go to university, get a job, get married, have a mortgage, a dog, couple of kids, work for the man. It just doesn’t have to work that way. So I’m tremendously excited for you.
And I know that whatever you do in the next steps, you do have backing. I mean, we missed you. And it’s good to see you back. And when you do dip a toe in the water with something that people can buy, I think they will vote for you with their wallet, in the same way that when I just published this book, I’ve had people come out from the woodwork and support the book, buy the book, join my membership because they read the book, and it synchronized with them. So they were all just sitting there like an iceberg, under the surface, that just emerged from nowhere, just when I dipped a toe in the water.
So I think the exact same thing will happen for you except in your case, you could probably expect an even more profound impact because you have most likely a much bigger audience than I have, and you’ve been creating such a body of work that gives you that instant crowd. So who knows where it’s going to go? But I think it’s pretty exciting.
Derek: Yeah, man. I’ve always been a firm believer, if you want to build a great business, build an audience, figure out what to sell later. And that’s what we’re doing this year. We’re going to blow our audience up, and we’re doing it on YouTube.
The entertainment factor
And one of the things that’s interesting that we’re finding is, right back to the coffee shop stories, right? People weren’t talking about my content or my courses, they were talking about what entertained them, right? Something crazy that made them laugh, and then maybe a soft lesson.
And what I’ve found is that we were doing a lot of content videos, right? We have a video where I talked about how I made $500,000 from one blog post, and it’s an hour and 24-minute presentation that we uploaded and people love it, it’s getting shares, it’s got a lot of views. It’s high, it’s very content-driven.
But do you know what has the most views? Not from a view count, but from the watch time. They watched like, 85 percent of the video, and it’s a 13-minute video. And it’s a video about how I did like a CSI episode to find a fraudster in my company. Basically, a purely entertaining video about finding fraud. That’s the most-watched video.
The second most-watched video was where I hired this company to come to my house and give me an IV to help me stay focused.
James: Straight out of an episode of Billions.
Derek: Right. That and then the third one was like, me talking about my favorite books, but the first six minutes is me talking about a story with my dad and how he used to beat me at chess and I used to hate losing chess so I started reading books to try and get better at chess and then you watch me play chess with some chess hustlers in Manhattan. Like, these are the videos that are resonating the most. Not the content videos. So I thought that was super weird.
James: I’m not surprised, because they’re all stories. Was it you sharing a story about being taken to crack houses or something as a kid?
Derek: Yeah, that was a big hit, too.
James: And then there was one about when you could pay just a little bit extra for a removalist to put everything in a box and you were shocked at how little extra it cost.
Derek: Oh, dude, that was a good story too. It was so little. That’s a good point.
When life gets weird
James: When I’m out and about in life and I see these weird situations, I usually think of you. Like, that’s the branding you’ve got. Like when I see someone do something stupid, which is 100 percent guaranteed if you ever go to an airport, people just switch on stupid mode even when they get to the car park. Like, they walk in front of you, they are oblivious to their personal space, they try to go down the wrong lines and get rejected by the customs.
Derek: I made a scene just recently about this, by the way. I was literally just in an airport, we’re getting off a plane, and this lady and her husband, they like, walk off the plane, they get to the door, and they just stand in the doorway. And I’m sitting there, I’m seeing them stand, I’m walking up and there’s no one in front of me, and there they are standing there. And I’m moving and I’m sitting there like, oh my god, oh my god, I don’t know how to stop, I’m going to blast into them. I’m going to hit them! That’s what I’m thinking to myself. And I finally get there, I’m like, what do I do? And at this point I’ve worked myself up because I’m already mad, I’m already frustrated. I didn’t say “Excuse me,” I’m like, “Move.” And then at this point, my videographer’s with me, he just starts laughing. I was like, listen, I know you probably think I’m a d*ck right now, but really, they’re the d*ck for standing in the doorway.
James: Sometimes you’re just helping them out, giving them a bit of an education. I was waiting at a baggage carousel for my surfboard, because I normally don’t ever check luggage, but you just can’t if you have a surfboard, they’re not going to let you carry that on. And some very small person just barged me out of the way to get their thing. And before I could even think, out of my mouth, I just said, “Really?” I just looked at them and held my hands like, “Really?” Like they’re that desperate to get their luggage that’s on a thing that goes around and round between now and for the rest of eternity, and they just had to barge me out of the way? I’m like, it’s just outrageous how weird people get when they get this high altitude.
Anyway, even my robot vacuum cleaner, which is called Bruce, it’s got a mind of its own. I’m thinking of making a video about that for Instagram or something, because no matter what time we program it on its dashboard – we want it to go at 1 o’clock – it wakes up at 8 o’clock at night or nine in the morning. It’s literally got a mind of its own, and I think this is the best metaphor for systems in your business. You can get a system which is going to take the work out of it and do stuff for you, but there’s always going to be little niggles that sometimes you spend more energy making the system work than not having the thing at all, like this lie of simplicity.
James: Bruce, yeah. Bruce, my robot vacuum cleaner. He is a beast.
Derek: And what happens when Bruce gets a mind of its own, and like, starts eating your food?
James: I’m on a podcast and he just wakes and starts going, I’m just going to do the vacuuming now. I’m like, this isn’t a good time, Bruce. I got to hunt him down and hit his Home button and send him back to his base. I don’t know what time zone he’s on, that’s been the trick.
Psychology and books
Anyway, there’s so much fodder in everyday life that you could turn into content, and I think what you’re doing well and one of the reasons you’re here on this call is I just wanted to talk about how you took that information. And I think from Social Triggers what you did brilliantly there is I don’t think you’re a psychology expert, I’m not sure, but you were certainly accessing papers from experts and just reporting on them. Is that right?
Derek: Well, I majored in English and I would have had a major in psychology in school, but really, just because you study something in school doesn’t mean you’re qualified. I would say that I’ve read a ton about psychology, but I’m not a psychologist, right?
James: A lot of my friends have done psychology degrees, and they usually end up in human resources, or my most extreme example, a friend of mine is actually a Forex trader, and he uses that mindset muscle to help him make good trades on the stock market.
So you did have a good foundation, and then you just expanded and leveraged the reports that are out there that you could get freely available or to buy, and then incorporate them into some really useful content.
Derek: Yes. That was the goal, right? I always was a researcher. At the end of the day, I mean, if you look at my home office, I’ve got probably a thousand books here. And unlike some people that just buy books for show, I actually read them all. You know what I mean? I’m sitting here bumming out about last year because I didn’t read that much, and I’m like telling everybody, Yeah, I stopped reading. Then I took an inventory. I read 14 books last year. And I’m sitting here telling people I didn’t even read. I thought reading a book every two and a half weeks was not reading.
James: Well, you probably read 14 books more than the average American.
Derek: That’s what I’m saying. Whereas in years past, I was reading a book and a half a week. So I slowed down, and I feel like I didn’t read at all. But for me, I’m a firm believer of why learn how to do something and fail, when you could just go see what someone else did, and just borrow from their experience, right? So I just read biographies, memoirs and autobiographies all day. That’s all I read.
James: Oh, I love those. And any sort of documentary. Because that’s like a history lesson combined with a case study and it’s actual, practical, it’s not even just theory. It’s like, this stuff happened. I even like movies where they sort of dramatize stuff like that, for All the Money in the World and that sort of stuff.
James: Question – where can we find your YouTube channel, because it would be pertinent for us to send people there to see what we’re talking about?
Derek: Yeah. It’s YouTube.com/derekhalpern. Let me double-check if that’s right.
James: Yeah, you should. I’ll wait for that.
Derek: Yeah, it’s right.
James: Well done! Well done! I imagine you’re not looking up your own channel that often. It’s like when you have to remember your own phone number.
Some parting advice
James: Question – of all the things we’ve discussed, as we sort of come to a close here, we’ve moved around the table a bit, but we have talked about the different stages that customers are at, who we should be aiming our content at, a little bit off that sort of entrepreneurial burnout phase, changing gears, switching between total commercial right through to doing stuff that makes you feel better. What do you think would be your parting piece of advice for someone listening to this who is wanting to make good content and has either tried it and failed or is about to embark on that journey – what medium, format or tips would you say, having done it all? You’ve written stuff, you’ve recorded videos, you’ve put them on multiple platforms – what’s the bullet point cheat sheet?
Derek: Yeah, I’ll tell you this right now. Right now, people are not opening emails like they used to. Your Facebook reach is not getting distributed like it used to. Your YouTube reach is not being distributed. Your Twitter reach – everything is not being delivered. Your content is not reaching your customers as easily as it used to. And part of this is because of the platforms changing the rules. Part of this is because your customer is being overloaded with content.
And if you want to win in 2018 and beyond, the most important thing you can do is really focus on building out a vision and building to community that aligns behind that bigger vision. Because at the end of the day, even if you only have 10 people on your email list, if you know those 10 people by name and you know them really well, and they show up for every piece of content and they know that you’re going to put out a video every week on Mondays, it doesn’t matter if your email makes it to them or not. They know where to find you.
One of the reasons I’m doing a daily vlog on YouTube right now is because I feel like I need to teach people where I’m at. You know? For years, no one knew where I was, because I wasn’t making videos, I wasn’t doing this, I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t going to events. But now everyone knows, I do a video every single day. And if you don’t know what I’m up to, the second you think about me, where’s Derek? Oh, every day there’s a new video. You know what I mean?
You got to teach people how to find you, build a community, connect with them individually and realize that at the end of the day it’s not about the size of your email list or how much money you make. It’s about how many lives you touch and continue to touch, to a point where they don’t even have to be on your email list, they just think about your domain and type it in.
James: That’s great advice. It’s what I call a list guarantee. I’ve been teaching people for the last five years, don’t just get them on your email list, you know? It’s part of this Own The Racecourse concept, let them subscribe to your channel and your page and your Twitter.
These days, I’m putting more effort into Instagram because I’ve started using that as a consumer, and I wasn’t interested in it before. I’ve deleted Snapchat off my phone, I never really got into that at all. And I sort of bypassed the whole Periscope thing. And I do think that Facebook, Amazon and Apple, they’re kind of on this global domination thing. And Google, of course, because they have Google and YouTube.
“People know where to find you.”
If you can just have a little position on those places, at the very minimum, like you said, I like that, people know where to find you. That’s great parting advice.
Derek: I think Instagram is big too, by the way. I waste all my time on Instagram.
James: Right. well, I think if you’re going to create good content, you need to consume good content. I think in my case, like I have a couple of thousand books too. Reading those books probably helped me write a better book, and I would say all the Netflix series that I’ve watched have helped me start to develop better structure around stories and be more engaging, and that’s what all these content providers want from me. They want my audience to come back. They want them to keep consuming because they can grab them while they’re there and make some money from it.
Derek: Yup, exactly.
James: Been awesome having you come and talk to us. I know it’s a rare treat. You don’t often do the audio appearance thing, and I know you stopped speaking from platforms quite some time ago for a while, there. So thanks for coming and sharing. I think we’ve had some pretty interesting discussion. I’m going to call this episode 572 – How to Win in Marketing with Derek Halpern. It’s been great having you here.
Derek: Hey, thanks for having me, dude, it was a lot of fun.
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