James Schramko and Jake Hower (Jake is from flypat.com) provide insights on how the OTR or Own The Racecourse strategy has made it easier to transition traditional marketing efforts online.
In this episode:
- How the Own The Racecourse strategy can help you transition your business to an online-based marketing platform
- How to simplify your emails
- Gathering relevant information for your video updates
- The importance of understanding who your customers are
- Benefits of implementing a video marketing approach
- Increasing your business stats through the OTR method
- Executing an effective CRM technique and cutting down service time
- Getting the core idea and creating innovations that work for everyone
- Things that Jake found surprising after implementing this video marketing strategy
- How much leverage videos have to offer
- Expanding to other media elements and services
- Having more free time to invest efforts on other important things
- Jake Hower’s The Multi-media Marketing Show podcast
- The real beauty of OTR and tapping into the different marketing mediums available today
- How to overcome initial video production issues
- Zero negative responses and massive business leverage from OTR
- What would he do differently if he would start off with a whole new different business
- Which path did he take to find his way to discovering OTR
- You can draw in more reliable traffic through podcasts
- What to expect for 2013
- Some parting advice regarding the OTR strategy
James Schramko here, and today, we are hearing from Jake Hower, who runs a successful travel business using OwnTheRacecourse. So we’re going to find out how he implements it and also, how you can take the lessons he’s learned to implement OTR for yourself.
From traditional to OTR
Jake, tell me about your business because it’s not in the traditional Internet marketing space. Well certainly it wasn’t recently but it’s looking like it’s going that way. I’m really intrigued as to what’s going on there.
Jake: Absolutely James. That’s very true. I run a traditional bricks-and-mortar business here in Melbourne. It’s a travel agency. I bought a share, a 50% share of this business back in 2009. Now, the agency has been running since the late 1950. So I essentially bought a business which was running well and had an existing database of clients. And of course staff and everything that goes along with that.
Now what I wanted to do is that I wanted to, I guess, form a relationship with these people because I’d never spoken to them before and they didn’t know anything about me. The other thing is that they’ve never really been marketed to. When I come in in 2009, I extracted all of their data, emails, etc. etc., and then started to send them a monthly newsletter or something like that via email. We were getting really low open rates. I just wasn’t getting any user engagement.
Back in March, I think was when you may have started your videos weekly or every couple of day videos, and that really resonated with me so I went out to try and replicate that. Back in May, I started, which has become known now as the OTR strategy.
James: Yes. I think the original version, Authority Leverage product, which is me just sort of answering someone’s question. One of my students actually in SilverCircle asked, “How do I get so much content out?” And I went and recorded a little answer to that, just a short video and I published that. I think you got under that pretty quickly.
Jake: Yeah definitely. Exactly right. That’s the one that I did really base my experiment or my own implementation of it was Authority Leverage. And to this day, I actually still prefer referring to it as Authority Leverage rather than OwnTheRacecourse.
James: Yeah. Well that was the original. OwnTheRacecourse was the more formal, documented version, and that’s become really, really popular and I think because it does work in different industries. Were you sending out those HTML-style emails originally?
What email styles were used?
Jake: Yeah. Obviously, I’m big on testing and stats and all of that sort of stuff. So yes, it’s been really interesting. Since starting it in 2009, I’ve probably gone through 10-plus iterations of email styles, and I did started out with those jam-packed full HTML image-based emails. And then we went through a few different things to really where we are now, emails are essentially, “Hey, we’ve got some new news for you. Here’s a link. Go check it out on the site.”
James: Right. So I imagine a lot of normal businesses would still be using that HTML fancy email template. What advice would you have for that sort of business based on what you now know from testing and trying different strategies?
Jake: Well, certainly now, in my case, the email serves one purpose, and that purpose is essentially to get people to a page where they can watch my video. I found from my own testing that the best way to do that is to focus on getting people to click, to just click the link and email to the page. So I’ve stripped out absolutely everything else. The emails now have probably one or two paragraphs; just giving them a bit of an introduction to what will be included in the video and then of course asking them to click through. I think what’s very important is to focus on one message in your email.
James: Right. So have the most wanted action, I would call that. I watched your videos and a listener might think, “What could you possibly talk about in the travel industry for a weekly news update?” And I found your topics fascinating, ranging from the best seat in the plane to which airlines are flying, which routes, why you should wear the travel socks when you do a long haul flight, and all sorts of interesting things. Where do you get the ideas from?
Getting content ideas
Jake: That’s a very good point. A lot of it comes from my knowledge. Travel is knowledge. I know you’ve given me a number of tips, which I’ve utilized in the weekly videos.
So it’s a combination of our own experience, what our travelers are getting themselves or submitting themselves to me, and also, probably the most important thing is essentially collating the news from the week, and then I’m taking out the different stories or the most popular stories over the course of the week to put into the news.
Certainly for me, it was a very, very hard thing to do initially because I had no idea how I was going to be able to generate the news myself because as you and most listeners out there probably know in your own industries, you’re seeing so many emails and so much news that it’s hard to decipher what’s relevant to your customers. That was very hard initially for me as well.
James: I guess you must have a pretty clear idea of who your perfect customer is. I mean a good case in point is I was watching your videos each week and I do travel at least once a quarter and I actually switched across to your service after seeing the videos over and over again because I had a strong sense that you are on the game and you knew exactly your way around the travel market. And I’ve got to say as a customer, and I’ve now done several trips, it’s been a really good experience for me as a customer. Do you have other people like me and has this video marketing news weekly approach change the way the business is attracting customers?
Jake: Yes and yes. That first point, I would definitely say you are the ideal customer in one of our markets and that’s business travel. In most cases, what we’re looking for is somebody who is potentially time-poor but understands the benefits of service. So in that respect, they’re willing to potentially pay a little bit more than what they could do if they were to get it themselves but they know that their time savings that they will actually garner from using us will fire out way any potential savings that make bargain doing it themselves. So our ideal customer is essentially you. Sorry (laughs).
James: Well, that’s interesting you say, the thing that appeals to even though I value my time, I’ve got a fair bit of time elasticity but there’s little things like when I get on a plane and I’m the only person in the whole cabin with no seat in front of me, and everyone’s looking at me like, “Oh, you were lucky.” I’m thinking, no I’m not. I just have a travel agent, and you’re probably booking your fares online trying to save 20 bucks. And I’m the guy who can stretch my legs right out with no seat in front of me for the next 12 hours straight. So it really does pay to get specialist advice when you can, especially in such a minefield of an industry, there’s so much information. You’re right. If someone can make it easy for you, that’s good.
Can you give us some sort of stats, like in terms of viewership or audience retention, or changes in your subscription base? What sort of things have you noticed since deploying your videos each week?
Stats since using the OTR method
Jake: Yeah, sure, sure. Just to frame that, so essentially, the majority of our customers are existing or referral-based traditionally. Or they’re calling in from the phone. We haven’t traditionally got a lot of business from our website. Since starting the OTR method, we’ve increased visitors to the sites by 120%. We’ve increased sign-ups to our newsletter by 430%.
Now these are relatively low numbers, but to me they’re very relevant because even though they’re quite low numbers in comparison to other niches, we’ve got a very high lifetime value for a customer. We’re getting say a thousand visitors a month. And from that, if we get just one customer, that’s worth to us, it’s worth over $1500 over the course of the lifetime of that client.
That is very, very important for us. The other thing I really noticed, particularly with our existing customers is that these videos have been really engaging, they have to really engage with the customers, I now get probably each week between five and 10 people who just respond to an email I’ve sent. They more make comments about what was it in the video or they may just even hit respond and just say, “Hey, how are you doing? How are things going?” That to me has been the real power of it because I’m actually getting to know my customers, and I think that’s priceless.
James: Yeah. I think it’s got to be one of the best CRM, customer relationship techniques that you could do is to stay in regular contact with your customers and give them information that’s useful. And also, it cuts down your service time. I imagine that you were able to leverage your answers when someone asks you a question and you put the answer in the next news, then everyone gets the answer, then you don’t have as many customer inquiries for the same question.
Jake: Yeah, and funny you say that because I’ve started even when I do get someone asking the same question, I even point them to the videos to watch. So that’s very true. It’s cut down that service time but it’s also educating our customers so we’re finding that myself and my staff is spending less time trying to convince people about why they should book with us or why they should be going somewhere. So that’s essentially done through the videos. So essentially when someone calls, we’re probably two or three steps down the sales process already.
James: Right. I know. In our case, we use a lot of online support through our Zendesk. And our team have created macro responses using links to our YouTube channel to the exact video or to our page on the site, which we embed the video with the exact answers. So we can put things like the top tips, or the mistakes that people often make when they’re doing some of the services that we provide.
What I like about your implementation Jake, is that you have taken the core idea and you continue to innovate, and I think is somewhat like the arms race between Russia and the U.S. You’ve created some good innovations and everyone in the scene doing OwnTheRacecourse videos is able to see what you do because you quite often share behind the scenes as I’ve been doing. We’ve been talking about camera equipment and audio equipment and the process for editing and transcribing and creating custom images. And also you’ve innovated things like the related posts with images, etc. So I like that you’ve contributed back to the core idea and made it better for everyone.
Can you tell me what have been the biggest surprises as you’ve been implementing this strategy?
Jake: The biggest surprises. Yeah. That’s a tough question. OK. This probably has been the most surprising thing for me is that how easily you can get really high quality content. I would suggest that regardless of myself being on the camera, the actual quality that we’re getting it to be produced that is, is similar to a local news station or something. And that’s using equipment that’s less than a thousand dollars or less. That to me has been really surprising and of course how quickly you can get this content up and out there as well. That’s also been very surprising.
Each episode is probably taking me 30 to 45 minutes of my own time. But it’s producing four or five pieces of content. And that’s incredible. I can’t believe how leveraged that is.
James: Yeah, I think you’ve been excited about that to the extent where you’ve now start at branching out into related podcasts and services even to help other people with their editing. Can you tell me about the expansion there? Obviously it’s something you’re passionate about.
Jake: Yeah, it is. That’s probably the key. It goes a little bit deeper than OTR, but essentially I’ve got such a fantastic team here in the travel agency that my time here has been freed up substantially and it’s allowed me to focus on some other things, which I really enjoy. And I do, I love this. I love marketing and I love producing content. Now that’s something that’s relatively new to me. Certainly, this would be my first try in producing content, these initial videos. I love it. That’s exactly where I’ve gone with the podcasting. It’s fantastic talking to such high caliber people and that’s been really fantastic that I can focus on some other things, which I really enjoy.
James: Well tell us the name of your podcast in the multimedia arena.
Jake: Yes, yes. So that’s The Multimedia Marketing Show. I guess the premise of that show is to bring on experts in different fields, or experts who are producing awesome content in different aspects of media. So the videoing, the blogging and the podcasting. We had you on it with Dan Andrews and Dan Norris the other week, and it was an awesome episode. Obviously, the goal is to help others get out there and produce awesome content.
James: Yeah. I highly recommend anyone implementing OwnTheRacecourse to check out Jake’s podcast because you will get some good tips and there was that incredible content smack down where we compare text, and audio and video. And of course, the beauty of OTR is that you really are doing all of those things and tapping into each of the strong medium, whether it’s Google, YouTube or iTunes. I mean you want to be in all of those. And you can be just by creating one core piece of high quality content.
I love that you’re making great quality videos. You’ve taken on some demons. From memory, you were a little bit nervous when you started out going on camera. At times, you’ve stuttered or whatever, but you’ve just gotten past that. Can you tell me the mindset tricks that go on there?
Jake: What really caused that, it’s hard to really pinpoint because it’s tough for me to put myself out there. It’s quite embarrassing and certainly to be on camera is very embarrassing for myself. I think it all just clicked. And that was around the start of May where I just stopped trying to produce perfect content and just decided that probably the biggest spur for me was improving. And so to actually get content out there, for people to review and to comment on, to laugh at even, that has been the biggest spur for me to actually improve.
So that was a big demon. But I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but it just clicked at some stage, where I just said, “Listen, I’m producing content that is 95% better than my competitors. Even if it’s not perfect, I just need to get it out there.”
James: Well, let me ask you a couple of questions here. Just in case someone’s listening, thinking that they’re nervous, how many people have responded to you negatively?
Jake: It’s zero.
James: OK. I was hoping that would be the answer. And secondly, how many of your competitors in the travel industry are putting out weekly news videos?
Jake: Yup. Again, absolutely zero. And that I think is key because what we’re doing, I’m 6 months ahead of our closest competitor because I’ve been producing 6 months’ worth of content. But I think more important than that is you could probably multiply that times four, because the OTR strategy is effectively producing four or five pieces of content. So you could say I’m 6 months x 4 ahead of my closest competitor. So we’re talking 2 to 3 years ahead of our competitor.
James: In my case, I was definitely not the first person to be putting out regular video content in the Internet marketing space. However, it’s been around for a number of years but not everyone does it yet. You can still stand out and differentiate by having a good show and that’s the key point. I think it’s the fear that holds people back that they really shouldn’t be so worried about. And I don’t mind more people coming into the market because it’s more places for us to share ideas; it’s more places for people to get value. It’s better for the community as a whole to have a higher standard. So I think this is good stuff.
Just a couple more questions, Jake. What would you do differently if you’re going to start off tomorrow? If we went out, if we bought a furniture removal company for you and you set up in the shop, what would you start differently from tomorrow?
What would you do differently?
Jake: The frequency I think would be the key thing for me. I’m now doing two videos weekly and now into the different markets that we serve. And that evolved over the course of the last 6 or so months. I’d get out there and I would be doing it, doing more of the same stuff really. I’d probably add in the podcasting as well or try to intersperse the video updates and podcast with some longer podcasts. That’s really what I’ll do differently. There’s nothing that I did which I was really embarrassed about I would say. Yes, I’ve improved the quality of the production, so better equipment. But if I didn’t have access at equipment, I’d still be doing it and I don’t think that would be wrong. So yeah, that’s pretty much it. I would be just going full bore into it straight away.
James: I’m also interested in the path that you took to find out about me. Do you remember?
Jake: I do, yes, very clearly. I think, it must have been 2008 or 2009, I reckon I was one of the first listeners to the Small Business Big Marketing show. And so from there, I enjoyed that, and so I followed Tim Reid across from Small Business Big Marketing to Freedom Ocean. From there, the step was into FastWebFormula 3, the live event, and entered your previous forum and across to this one. So very clear and I know exactly where it was that I fell into your funnel.
James: Right. So it’s another vote for the power of the podcast. That’s really important for listeners to know that this podcast, even though they do take time to organize and they do take the energy to put together and it appears as though it’s almost a charity in some cases, especially if you are watching other people complain about how much effort goes into them and no reward.
My tips is that podcasts are great for traffic and they work best if you have some kind of product or service that you can lead people to that they can then experience. So in this case, you came from a free podcast, FreedomOcean, into a paid event and a paid community, and of course you’re a customer of mine and I’m a customer of yours too, which is great. So we both have something that people can buy attached to the podcast. And that’s an important point that I would like listeners to take on board.
So what does next year look like for you? At the time of recording this, we’re right on the turn of the year. What does the horizon look like?
What’s for next year?
Jake: Yeah. So I think in terms of OTR, we’ve got that strategy, that’s under control now. So that’s become a habit. That will just continue on a weekly basis. Now and into the future. I think from the travel side of things, I’ll be adding a podcast or an educational series of sorts. Maybe it’s going to be a webinar, but I think that’s going to help produce extra content for the site, but that will be certainly important on that side. And of course on the other side is I’ll be working on, as you say, just the services and the products that I’ve been able to create in the last 2 to 3 months. And I’d help other businesses get their strategy, their video, and their OTR strategy in place as well.
James: Fantastic. All right, so if we want to check out your travel OTR strategy, what’s your site?
Know more about Jake’s strategy
Jake: The best place to go would be to flypats.com and you’ll be headed across to the blog there and you’ll be able to see everything; everything we’ve produced since May.
James: It’s good information for travelers. And I’m going to ask you for some parting advice for our listener. If they’re considering OwnTheRacecourse, is it a good course for them to get a hold of? What would be your best piece of advice for someone who’s considering this strategy?
Jake: Yeah, definitely. Yes, go out and get the course. There’s a heap of information in it. Hopefully, it’ll allow you to implement very quickly. I think the biggest barrier for me to enter was around mindset. So I think my best advice would be to, even if you’re not ready to publish right now, just get yourself in front of the camera. Try and shoot some episodes. Use evergreen content so you can use it in the future. If you don’t feel comfortable sending it out to your clients, send it to your mom or send it to your wife. Just get used to producing regular content. Get into the habit of recording weekly. Then once you feel confident, then you have content build up already. But certainly, the biggest thing for me was just getting comfortable in front of the camera.
James: That is a nice tip. Thank you, Jake. Well, I really appreciate you sharing this. Hopefully, we’ll be able to catch up with an update from you and see how the developed strategy works with your new shows next year. Have a great year.
Jake: Thanks, James. And thanks for having me on the show.
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