Turning a Passion for Teaching into a Business with Chris Do

Photo of Chris Do from Natasha Miller website - helping entrepreneurs grow their business

Are you a “creative?” The word isn’t limited to just painters, dancers, or musicians. A creative is “anybody who self-identifies as one who wants to invent better solutions for the world.”

That’s how Chris Do puts it. He is an Emmy award-winning motion designer who is the CEO of Blind. He is also the founder of The Futur, an online education platform with 1M+ YouTube subscribers that teaches creatives how to make a living doing what they love. Chris and I had a conversation for the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast.

The Early Days

Ever since he was young, Chris had a desire to be an entrepreneur. After going to school for design, he began his journey from being an employee to freelancer to successful business owner with his motion design company, Blind.

But success didn’t come easily. “The first two years were really rough. It was like, sleeping on the floor, working for $500. It was a nightmare. … A lot of embarrassing moments, late nights, all-nighters, everything you could imagine.”

Chris wasn’t an expert in things such as selling, bidding, numbers, and spreadsheets. There was a point where the business was struggling to survive, and he even had to lay people off. But his team did their best to stick with him. Eventually, things turned around, and Blind went on to work with major corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Sony, Nike, and the NFL.

Artist Vs. Designer

Something valuable that Chris learned in his career was the difference between an artist and a designer. “An artist has a feeling in their heart, in their mind, and they want to communicate and share this with the world, and that’s what they care about. … A designer, on the other hand, has a particular set of skills, and they’re trying to solve a problem that’s not their own.”

Often, creative entrepreneurs try to be both an artist and a designer at the same time, which can lead to trouble. “When you, as a designer, view yourself as an artist, then the client is getting in the way of your art.” Having an artistic vision is important, but you have to remember to put your client’s tastes ahead of your own.

Turning a Passion for Teaching Into a Business

Chris had a passion for teaching and he loved helping others. “I love teaching. I love sharing. I just love the feeling that it gives me when somebody’s eyes light up and they’re like, ‘Wow, I totally get it! Thank you very much!’” There was just one problem: he wasn’t sure about the best way to build a thriving, scalable business from teaching.

He figured out a smart way to turn his passion into a business. He founded The Futur, an entrepreneurship learning platform that offers free videos on YouTube as well as paid courses. Chris described how he thought of this idea: “We’re going to teach at scale, en masse, using dynamic and open platforms, 21st-century tools, and make an impact into the world. We’re going to pay it forward.”

Avoiding Sleazy Sales Tactics

Today, far from his early days as a struggling business owner, Chris is excited to take The Futur to new levels. But he doesn’t want to reach his business goals in a slimy, manipulative way. He’s seen a lot of those tricks, especially in email sales funnels. “You’re going to get put into a five-email soap opera sequence, and then they’re just going to pressure you and grind you to then sign up for something.”

That “something” is often a course that’s not as high quality as its creator made it out to be. “And then you buy this thing, and chances are, it’s a piece of crap. It is just regurgitated content from somebody else that they also took the course, re-skinned, repackaged, applied their personality sauce all over it. … That disgusts me.”

So what’s Chris’s advice on how to sell a course without being pushy and dishonest? First, you can hold small workshops and get feedback from your students. This lets you know what your audience wants and gives you valuable testimonials you can use when you launch your course. Chris’s strategy for ethically selling his courses and membership group is to let satisfied students spread the word. “I’m going to keep trying to educate and help people, and they’re going to go and sell.”

If a “creative” is anyone who invents better solutions for the world, Chris Do is an excellent creative. He consistently gives value and quality to his audience — and that’s always been the biggest key to his success.

Check out our conversation where Chris dives deeper into what he’s focusing on this year in his business and what challenges he’s facing now on the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast.

Transcript from Podcast

[00:00:00] Chris: The best way to cheat the system is actually give content that’s valuable to people to help others in their pursuit of their goals. And that’s the best hack I can give.

[00:00:08] Natasha: Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a digital course for entrepreneurs to learn how to scale and grow their companies and find more profit in their current revenue. To download the free Profit Finder Guide that I’ve created and also to put yourself on the waitlist for the course, go to natashamiller.co.

Today, we get to hear from Chris Do. He’s an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO of blind and the founder of The Futur, an online education platform, which I highly suggest you check out. We talk about running a business as a creative, how modern day marketing funnels need to be re-imagined, and what advice you’d give to anyone creating a digital course.

[00:01:23] Chris: While growing up, being a first-generation immigrant, I’ve always had this desire or at least this need internally, to go and figure things out to make money. And growing up with relatively little, it’s always like the present that you didn’t get for your birthday or for Christmas. So that started that fire inside of me.

And unfortunately, both my parents were busy doing work. I don’t have entrepreneurial role models. Things like, my world didn’t even exist, so I’m just trying things out. So at first it was just like buying candy for my uncle who owned a liquor store. So I could buy that wholesale and then sell it to my friends in junior high school.

And that went okay, but I’m not really going anywhere fast. So I tried and it failed in many different ways. I didn’t understand the things like profit margin paying yourself. And so at the end of the day, I looked in the checking account. My mom’s, “Hey, there’s no money there. Actually, you owe me money.” I’m like, “How could this be? I’ve worked so hard.”

And so there was always this desire to go out and start a business. It wasn’t until I went to school, study design, had a real skill in my life that then I could turn that into something. And at the earliest opportunity, I quickly transitioned from being an employee to being a freelancer, to starting my own agency.

And the first two years were really rough. They were, it was like sleeping on the floor working for $500. It was a nightmare. But eventually if you stick it out, you do learn how to be an entrepreneur.

[00:02:39] Natasha: And I heard you talk recently about not knowing or not discovering or thinking of yourself as an artist, you felt like you were a designer. And I think people not in your industry wouldn’t be able to really distinguish between the two. Can you talk about that a bit?

[00:02:56] Chris: For me, it’s very clear as a practitioner and as an instructor and a person who advises other designers, I tell them there is a big distinction between an artist and a designer. An artist has a feeling of the heart in their mind, and they want to communicate and share this with the world. And that’s what they care about. And they’re not really at the behest of any particular person. They just make and that fulfills their creative being. And oftentimes it’s met with financial hardship. The classic image of a painter or a potter in a studio, barely making ends meet with crazy hair and that kind of stuff, that is typical and it is accurate sometimes.

The designer on the other hand has very specific, like in the Liam Neeson voice, a particular set of skills. And they’re trying to solve a problem that’s not their own. A client comes to you and says, I need a signage for my store. I need to design a menu that works for my customers. I need an identity that reflects who I am. So here, you’re using your artistry, you’re using your skill and it could be artistic, but you’re really trying to solve someone else’s problem. The conflict that exists and why it makes such a clear distinction between these two things is, when you, as a designer, view yourself as an artist, then the client is getting in the way of your art.

And this is the attitude a lot of designers have. No, you don’t understand. You accepted money to do a job. Go do that job. Try to make it artistic. Try to serve the client with all the things you know how to do, but don’t pretend like you’re an artist. It doesn’t work. And so that’s very clear to me. So when a client calls me and the reason why we have really great clients who love working with us is because I hold their needs above my artistic needs.

That’s very clear to me.

[00:04:34] Natasha: Are you able to, and are other great designers able to put aside your own artistic feel and endeavor? Can you design something that’s completely not within your style and that you wouldn’t particularly care for?

[00:04:48] Chris: I would say if you’re a really good designer, you would be able to do that. That the breadth of artistic or design styles and expressions that you have is quite wide and deep. I wouldn’t say that that means that you don’t care for it. It’s just, it’s not in your lane.

When I was making commercials for a living for like over 20 years, clients would come to us and say, this one needs to look a certain way because that’s who the demographic is, that it’s true to our brand voice.

And it would be really weird to try to make, say, Coca-Cola looked like Apple. Or Apple look like NBC. It doesn’t make sense. And there you’re failing the creative brief altogether. So then I have to step out of my own zone of comfort and say, okay, look, we need to study this aesthetic. We have to put our finger on what makes it what it is, and then be able to do that as if we were the original authors of that kind of content.

So in that way, we become a chameleon and are able to serve the clients. Now I wouldn’t do something that I just feel like I don’t believe in. That’s a whole different issue in itself.

[00:05:46] Natasha: I was just thinking as you were talking that this has got to be very similar to interior designers and architects. It’s a question that I appreciate you answering and hopefully, and when you get to a certain level, you’re able to do that for your clients. And I think that’s an additional skill that you learn.

[00:06:03] Chris: Yeah. What you’re talking about sometimes, and you’re right. Architects actually do have a very defined style and aesthetic. Interior designers have that too. And so it becomes one of these things where you have to ask yourself, do I want to just be hired to do the one thing I want to do?

And that’s perfectly fine if you do that. If you do postmodern, deconstructive as architecture and that’s all you want to do, and you’re happy doing that, then you will become well-known for that. And the client comes to you asking you for your particular signature style.

[00:06:33] Natasha: You’d probably be more successful financially if you just stayed in that lane and became known for that one thing.

[00:06:40] Chris: You might be. And the problem there is then when styles and tastes change. You’d be only SOL at that point. So you bank heavily on that. And we see artists of all stripes, experience, and success levels have their peak. And then when that style is no longer interesting, they don’t know what to do and they can’t rebrand themselves.

I’ve seen it happen firsthand two design studios who came up under us and then surpass us in terms of the profile, the budgets, and then hit that zenith point and then just crash and burn. And you don’t hear from them ever again.

[00:07:15] Natasha: Because they weren’t able to change and change with the times and the design phases?

[00:07:20] Chris: No, not necessarily. I think they can change. But what happens is the perception of them doing a very particular thing cannot change. And that’s the problem.

[00:07:29] Natasha: Yeah. They’re pigeonholed.

[00:07:30] Chris: They’re pigeonholed. Like they’ve been cast as a certain type.

[00:07:33] Natasha: So you have a company called Blind and a company called The Futur. There’s so many things I want to ask you about both, but one let’s talk about.

You’re a designer and you’re very good at what you do technically creatively, but that doesn’t mean that you are set up to know how to, and like running a business. Those two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. So how did you navigate those waters? Because you started as a young person and how did you navigate those waters and how is it going?

[00:08:07] Chris: Yes. So when I’m early in my career, I start my company. You do what you do. You’re scrappy and you do it through brute force. It’s not elegant. It’s not pretty. It’s very wasteful. A lot of embarrassing moments, late nights, all nighters. Everything you could imagine is part of that. And this just about learning your craft as a professional. I’m not even talking about sales, marketing, and negotiation and pricing.

Those are all different skills that you either figure out or you go out of business. Luckily for us, after struggling for a little bit, I was introduced to someone. Her name’s Karen and Karen is a producer and she inadvertently taught me how to bid. So she came into the studio and she says, “Okay, what’s the project?”

And then she whips out this Excel spreadsheet. I’m like, oh my God, this is how you bid? And you’ll laugh at me. But the way I used the bid was like, I would feel it. It was just like, let me see how much did this cost and what are the phases look like? And I’ll just write up some stuff. And I feel like the client can afford $16,000 and it was like not attached to anything.

[00:09:06] Natasha: It’s pretty typical by the way of a new entrepreneur.

[00:09:09] Chris: What else can we do? We don’t know. We don’t know what we don’t know. So she breaks out this five page Excel spreadsheet that it turns out is an industry standard. And just, I didn’t know, cause I was just too stupid to know. And then she starts putting in.

Okay. So here are the deadlines. Here’s a team that you’re going to need. So she’s pre-visualizing, like who we need and then building around that. And that number came out to be a really high number. And I was thinking, oh my gosh. So not only do I have to pay or hire all these kinds of people, I can also mark it up.

There’s a profit margin was like, that’s a profit margin. I thought I was profitable. And then you can charge for the workstations and the software you’re using. So basically everything it takes to actually produce a job. She put it together and she left it with me. We didn’t get the job, but I got something valuable.

[00:09:54] Natasha: Did you know about the words “cost of goods” and “overhead” at that time?

[00:09:58] Chris: No, not at all. But despite that we were still successful, we made money. I was able to pay off my student loans the first year of business, because there’s something that I don’t know if it could be taught, it’s called tenacity. You just got to go for it. A little bit of self-confidence and a little stupidity go a long way.

[00:10:13] Natasha: So for Blind, you had to hire people, fire them had to have some human resources. There’s development, there’s sales, there’s marketing. Did you and, or do you work in that capacity for Blind or The Futur at this point?

[00:10:30] Chris: Yes. Yes and yes. The rule that we had was we’re just a little bit ahead of being illegal.

“Look, we have business. We have business license. Okay. We made some money. Let’s get the business license. Oh my gosh. We’re going to have to file taxes. Okay. We have some money. Let’s hire an accountant.” So we’re just a little bit ahead of just breaking laws, I think. And that’s the way we did it for a long time.

Every time we made some money, we would legitimize the business by hiring someone else to do something for us. So I had to deal with all those kinds of things. I had to hire people. I had to fire people. I had to lay off people when all the money ran out. I’m like, shoot, I’m sorry, friends. We have no business. I can’t pay you anymore.

And that was it. There was no HR person guiding me through the process. And now luckily, I treated them like I would just regular people and we had a conversation about it. We made sure there was plenty of runway. So I gave them like a month and a half notice. Okay. You’re still paid for it.

You can go get a job. You can do anything you want. And my friends are crazy. For that month and a half while we had no work, they would literally show up to work. Cause it’s all paid for. We’d sit down and we play board games, we were playing Taboo, we were playing Pictionary and it was the best time. We’d go out to have like tacos together.

And it was like, okay, we have no business. So the phone’s not ringing. I don’t know how to make the phone ring. I don’t know anything about marketing. So it was like, I was just waiting for somebody to call us out of the blue.

[00:11:45] Natasha: Wow. That’s amazing that your friends stuck around. Says something about the culture.

So getting right back to the, sort of the heart of the question, you’re a designer. Are you designing and working in your business day to day, or are you able to work on it now as a visionary?

[00:12:06] Chris: I learned this really early on, and this is part of like maybe I described it as being lazy. So when I got a project, I tried to hire people to do it because, hey, I don’t want to work by myself. But I was thinking it’d be better use of my time if somebody else could do 80% of the work.

And I can just art director, creative director onto that 20%. So even at first year I was calling up, my former roommate from college I was like, “Hey, you’re not doing anything? You want to do some work with me?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” So I just got paid a certain amount, which was more than what I was paying to do the work. That worked out for me just fine.

And so I was already sitting there thinking, okay, I need to manage this company. I need to go and figure out where the clients are. I need to figure out systems and protocols. And so that was really natural to me.

[00:12:49] Natasha: I heard you say recently that you feel that you have left and right brain and equal parts, which is unusual. But I do know that it’s really hard for artists to have to activate that other side of the mind.

So let’s talk a little bit about Blind, what it is, and then really focus on The Futur because I feel like most of your time and energy currently is in The Futur. I could be wrong. You can tell me right now.

[00:13:14] Chris: So Blind is emotion, design production company, and post-production company. We make commercials and music videos for some of the biggest brands and bands in the world. And it’s what has sustained me for the last 20 plus years.

But in 2014, I started to make content on YouTube about the behest of a friend. And I have to say I did it very reluctantly. He’s “let’s make some videos on YouTube,” I’m thinking, I’m 42 years old at this point. This is not for me. This is for teenagers and I’m sorry to say this, but I thought it was for a bunch of amateur hacks and wannabes because what professional has time to go onto YouTube and make videos for what purpose?

I couldn’t figure it out. But luckily my friend, Jose, was like super insistent. And he says, you can do this, we’ll do it together. And over the course of the next six months to a year, I started figuring out, oh, this is teaching. It just happens to be on a video format. So I just need to learn how to teach this way.

Now, at that point, I’d already been teaching for over 10 years. So it wasn’t like I had to learn how to teach. It was just learning how to teach on camera and just be comfortable with my face and my voice.

[00:14:14] Natasha: No feedback, that is challenge. But you’re probably a pro at this point.

[00:14:19] Chris: I’m okay with it now.

[00:14:21] Natasha: You’re really doubling down on The Futur. And that seems to be maybe where your heart and soul is right now.

[00:14:28] Chris: It is in 2018, December, 2018, during a staff meeting, Matthew Encina wanna buy a creative director. He said, “Shouldn’t we just focus on The Futur? We’re teaching. We feel good about what we’re doing. And if we do a really good job, I think we’re going to be as profitable as we are as a surface design company.”

And he really challenged me. So I had said to the team, look, there’s a big gap of from where we’re at now to where we need to be, to keep everybody’s job here. I think there were like 10 or 12 people who worked for me at that point. How are we going to do this? So we put our heads down and we got to work. And that was the last time we took on client work.

So I’m thrilled and grateful that for the last two plus years, we’ve not done a single piece of client work anymore.

[00:15:10] Natasha: Wow. So Blind still operates, is that correct?

[00:15:15] Chris: Technically, I guess.

[00:15:17] Natasha: But The Futur is really teaching, creating content, et cetera, et cetera. You’re focusing on content marketing, building community, personal branding, social influence, and making money doing what you love.

Can you talk about that? I think that really does encompass what you’re doing with The Futur.

[00:15:34] Chris: Yeah, The Futur exists in this perfect sweet spot between I think two or three overlapping circles. Like my Venn diagram. I love teaching. I love sharing. I just love the feeling that it gives me when somebody’s eyes light up and they’re like, wow, I totally get it. Thank you very much.

And that makes me, like you can’t put a price tag on that. Unfortunately, schools do put a price tag on it and it’s very low price tag. So that’s the big problem, right? They, I hate to say this, but take advantage of the spirit of teaching and teachers. And so you could barely scrape a living doing this stuff.

And if something were to happen to you, you would be financially devastated. Okay. So that’s that part to it. There’s this other part to it, which was, I know how to make commercials and videos. I know how to create something that’s super high polished that somebody like a Sony or an Xbox would want to have on their screen.

So I have those skillsets. I love entrepreneurial. I just didn’t know how to make a living doing the teaching part. So it was an either or I can go make money selling my services to corporate buyers of the work, usually ad agencies, or I can go and teach and help students, but just starve. So this overlap was the future, which was, we’re going to teach at scale in mass using dynamic and open platforms, 21st century tools and make an impact into the world.

We’re going to pay it forward. I’ve learned a lot of things have failed a lot. I want to share that with the up and coming person or the late bloomer career switcher. We serve those two communities really well. And so there’s all kinds of people who have gone down the path of straight narrow. And then there was this creative child that was never allowed to flourish.

We’re there for those people. And they’re saying, I own a barbershop, or I draw logos for living. And these videos help me to have a conversation with a prospect and to be able to price my work fairly and to see value in myself. That’s why we exist.

[00:17:25] Natasha: You call your students in your communities, creatives. Now again for people outside of design and graphic design, who are you referring to?

[00:17:37] Chris: Yes, so I have a much more broad and expansive definition of creatives. And I think it’s Nobel Laureate who said this, is that Herbert Simon? I may be screwing this part up, but he said to design is to devise a course of action that goes from an existing condition to a preferred condition. And so if you want to just make things better, you’re a designer and you’re a creative and this could be an accountant.

It could be an attorney. Mostly people identify as what you would consider, like the traditional art fields, like graphic design, web design, UX, UI, those kinds of things.

[00:18:14] Natasha: That really is intriguing to me because as I look through your site and it’s such a joy to do, because it’s beautiful, everything’s beautiful, and I’m looking at your courses and I’m thinking, is this for me? So what is one student that really doesn’t, in my mind, would have fit into that creative thing? Do you have accountants taking your course?

[00:18:37] Chris: Not that I’m aware of yet. Let me just think though.

[00:18:39] Natasha: You will, after this podcast.

[00:18:43] Chris: I do need to separate a couple of things out here.

The kinds of videos that we make on YouTube now over 800 videos that we’ve produced are for a broader market, because I love reading the comments like “I’m here and I’m not even a creative and I’m going to benefit from this.” This is wonderful because we’ll talk about mindset, how to have that conversation with the inner child, if you will.

And we find this to be problematic within creative people, especially. And so they’re my tribe. I speak to them, but the market is bigger than the target. So I speak to a very specific group and I encourage everybody who wants to speak to an audience, focus on a few people and you hit a lot more than you think.

And the courses that we make are in an effort to try to replicate the kind of education that I got from going to a private art school. And so it’s going to be very tailored for this creative market. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a few things in there that are going to hit the accountant, but it’s not necessarily designed for them just yet.

So the videos are free, are designed for anybody who self-identifies as one who wants to invent better solutions for the world. But the courses we have, because of the limited resources we have, it’s not broad enough just yet. I find that there is a need for just about any kind of person to understand who they are as a person and their personal brand.

And that seems to be a pretty hot topic. And the extension of that is how do you communicate your personal brand once you figure it out to the world on these different platforms. And this is where I think I’ve had some success. Obviously, there’s still a lot to figure out on these different platforms. And so I can speak about it in a broader, more holistic way versus like here are 10 Instagram hacks and how you can cheat the system. And the best way to cheat the system is actually give content that’s valuable to people to help others in their pursuit of their goals. And that’s the best hack I can give.

[00:20:33] Natasha: So I want you to teach me and teach the listeners about putting your knowledge and to coursework. So let’s just talk for this podcast into digital. I’m creating an entrepreneurial masters class. What are things that you would tell me? Definitely do and definitely do not do.

[00:20:53] Chris: I’m going to combine a couple of different things I’ve read from the book Superfans, from Teach and Grow Rich, and probably most importantly, The Workshop Survival Guide. So this is an amalgamation of all these different concepts that I’ve learned that are practiced and have refined. So here we go.

The first thing that you want to do is, I don’t think you should release a course. I’ll tell you why. Because when you release a course without testing it, without seeing real students take it, it’s just an exercise in you speaking.

And so real learning happens in the messy places, and it’s not what you think. You would probably wear this. You have the curse of knowledge. You forgot what it’s like to not to know the thing that you know. So you’re teaching at a level to a person who’s just like you. And so it all makes sense and everything clicks and then the course goes out, nobody buys it. Nobody cares.

So the way to do this is to try to run really short workshops, where you can get real time feedback with a tiny group of people. And the workshop’s going to be like your kickstarter of your class. If not enough people sign up for it, maybe it’s not titled. Maybe the learning outcomes aren’t clear and it’s not tuned into an audience. That’s what I would do.

So I want to beta test and prototype my course via workshop. So the simple thing you can do is create a one page outline with five learning outcomes at most and teach a two-hour class to 10 people and get feedback throughout the entire time. Repeat this for as many times as you need to in order for you to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.

In the meantime, you’re collecting wonderful testimonials. You have sample product of the things that the students were able to create or achieve in your class. And this is great fodder for your sales page. So now you’re doing the work and this is the wonderful stuff, right? And so if you do it this way, especially if you’re a new teacher, you’re going to build an audience and now you have parts and pieces.

You have stories to share, and you incorporate that into the lesson plan. And I think that’s how you become a really effective teacher.

[00:22:44] Natasha: It’s so great that you put it in such a synched little package. I think it’s perfect. One of the questions I try to ask everyone I interview is, do you know the industry benchmark for profit?

And so you have two companies. One in the design industry and two in the education digital course industry.

[00:23:04] Chris: I do not know. I don’t work like that. I try and make products that people want and when they don’t work, I ask myself why. And I either reinvent it or I say, let’s just chalk that up as an expensive learning lesson and let’s keep working on this.

[00:23:17] Natasha: So right now in your core business, which I’ll say is The Futur for this question, what is one challenge that you’re really struggling with or dealing with right now in your organization?

[00:23:28] Chris: We talk about this all the time. We’re not very good marketers. So we went from learning how to markets create a services to a very small group of people, which I think we got really good at, but now it’s like one to many and it’s retail model and it’s a very different business.

And so we see people who are very good at building awareness that connects to a product. And the teacher in me is just like my desire, my main motivation in life isn’t to build funnels, it’s to teach. And so oftentimes we’ll teach something and there is literally no course, nothing to buy from us previously. I didn’t care. And there’s a price to not caring about that kind of stuff.

So the rest of my team, everybody who’s on the line to try and make this company profitable and to grow, they’re sitting there thinking, Chris, we need you to focus on this. So 2021 is my year focus and I’m working on it. And I will port back to you at the end of the year to tell you how we’re doing.

[00:24:17] Natasha: Okay. I’m going to hold you to that. This is great. This really leads into my next question, but I want to give you a tip. You may know this person already, but I highly suggest you look into Eric Sue and Neil Patel. Yeah, just brilliant marketers, really good guys. And I think that one of the lessons that entrepreneurs have to learn is you can do the things that you’re really good at, and then you have to outsource, delegate the other stuff.

So you don’t want to market and you don’t want to create funnels. Totally cool. Hire someone who does. And then hopefully they’ll do it in line with your culture and with how you want to be presented because you don’t want to be out there known. I know you well enough just by taking some of your courses and watching your YouTube and stuff, you are not going to want a big ugly in your face marketing fund.

[00:25:09] Chris: I have to tell you. Okay. So maybe we can get into a, kind of a conversation or discussion or debate about this. I feel like I know what those funnels are. I see them all the time and I investigate them and I study them and most of them make me feel gross. I know that they work and the creative person in me is always asking this question, is this the only way, or is this the way?

Because it’s the default way and it’s the way that’s most convenient. And as much as respect as I have for everybody in that game, it feels like really not horribly inventive and not genuine. And it applies all the same principles. If I were to describe to you a marketing funnel, I could describe one and it would describe all of them.

And so there’s a part of me that’s maybe the designer or the artists now, who feels like I think it’s, I’m just going to say-

[00:25:57] Natasha: You need to hack that. I agree with it. In my opinion, it’s a psychological sort of balance of art and science. The people that know how to create these funnels that really convert have studied it. They know what to do, what not to do.

It is not eloquent. It is not pretty, there is very little design or experienced design. So it is right for an overhaul.

[00:26:23] Chris: Maybe I’m crazy because 99 out of 99 marketers are going to say, this is the way to go. And I’ll be the one marketer out of that group to say, I think there’s a better way. Look, I’ll describe it to you.

Let’s do it right. Let’s do it. And then you ask yourself, everybody who’s listening to this, map it to an experience you’ve had recently, it will go something like this. I’m an author, an influencer. Here’s all my credibility. I’ve done XYZ seven, eight figure business. I’ve helped XYZ do the same. Look at me.

Look at me. Now, if you just reach out to me, I’ll give you a free gift. Okay. A gift, okay. Sure. Which is going to get in, get your email. And as soon as you give them your email, you’re going to get put into a five email soap opera sequence, and then they’re just going to pressure you and grind you to then sign up for something, another free webinar.

And in the webinar, they’re going to promise you five things that are going to drastically change your life, which you need no skills to do. You need no money. Any fool with a finger and a credit card can do it. And you’re like, really? Okay. And then you attend this one-hour webinar, which is 90% selling you the entire time of the problem, making you feel the pain.

And then the promise of act today, because this thing that was, this price is actually half or one third of that price, but only for the first 30 people who act today right now within the next hour. And so that’s all it is. It’s squeeze. Squeezing the customer, all the psychological sociological triggers that make you want to buy. And then you buy this thing and chances are, it’s a piece of crap.

It is just regurgitated content from somebody else that they also took the course, re-skinned, repackaged, apply the personality sauce all over it. And that’s what you buy. That disgusts me.

[00:28:00] Natasha: You know what, you just really did encapsulate the whole industry. So let’s break this down. Do you, or have you found yourself on the recipient end of the funnel and taking action after you’ve been sold to that way? Or are you so disgusted by it when you see it you’re like, no, I’m not doing it?

[00:28:22] Chris: I have yet to fall prey to any of these things. Cause I have a little bit more self-awareness than not. Only times we’ve purchased that is to actually go through their funnel and study it, to see what all the parts and pieces are. I have my team into these things.

And I said, come back with notes, tell me why you did what you did. Tell me all the triggers that they did and they do. And we want to learn from that. So to me, that’s not even about the course itself, but just the study, how they sell to us.

[00:28:51] Natasha: I actually do that too, but I will have to admit. I do get suckered into a great funnel.

And I will say this, I did go through a funnel, not really knowing I was going through a funnel. This is before I learned how to do it. And this person that was teaching a course actually did a launch and she did a $9 million launch. But I will say that the modules, the content were excellent. But it’s not always that way.

They were pretty, they were beautiful. Not really my style. Visually, that was fine. I appreciated that they took the time and the content and the information was excellent. But in this course, Chris, I learned exactly mechanically how to create a funnel and how to get people to do what they’re going to do.

I haven’t launched my course yet, so I haven’t taken part in that, but there are parts of it that make me feel like ooh. So I’m going to take this as a challenge, even though you’re not challenging me, to fix it for me. And then I’m going to watch you fix it for you.

[00:29:54] Chris: And I’m doing it right now in real time. I really am. Would you like to know how we’re doing it?

[00:29:58] Natasha: A hundred percent.

[00:30:00] Chris: Okay. So it was determined earlier this year by one of my creative directors that we need to really grow this subscription group that we have. Yeah. Some people will consider a mastermind. I’m not sure I will put that label on it. It’s a support group and the price of the group is $150 a month. And he said that you look, we need to grow this from 300 people to 2000 people.

And if we can do this, it is proving the business model is going to work. And he’s like, “Chris, you’re very passionate about it. You spend all your time talking to people in the group. What are you going to do?” So I’ve thought about this and here’s my crazy business plan. I’m going to lay it out for you. And it’s working.

I have a decent size social media following. A million on YouTube, over half a million on instagram, 300,000 on LinkedIn. But I don’t sell, I try not to sell. So it’s like, how do I do this in a way that feels good to me and good to everybody? And so I think in a way, I would like to say, if I can share genuinely what we’re doing, and if you’re interested, just sign up.

That’s about the hardest sales pitch I’m going to do to you. No funnel, no nothing. So what we do is we try to create content around the people in this private community, in all places like on YouTube and Instagram and now on Clubhouse. So you get a sense of the quality of the people and the quality of discussions and who I am as a human being.

And so now we’re getting a pretty sizeable uptick in terms of people who want to sign up. No funnel, no squeeze. I’m going to give generously. And sometimes when somebody is like, “You know what? That was super helpful to me. I think I’m going to be able to close this job.” And then what I say to them is this, “I’d like to ask, but you’re under no obligation degree, but if you win that job, would you consider signing up for this group?”

And they said, absolutely. That’s my sales pitch. So give first, be open and transparent about what the heck we’re trying to do, and let intelligent people to decide if this is right for them. No pressure, no sales. That’s how I want to do it.

[00:31:50] Natasha: And where are you with that group and numbers?

[00:31:53] Chris: Right now we’re at 410. So our goal was to get the 450 by the end of March.

I think we’ll hit it within a few days now. Between four to six new members a day.

[00:32:05] Natasha: It feels to me, this word comes to mind or this word combinations, intellectual marketing.

[00:32:10] Chris: When there’s a great restaurant ’cause since you brought up the restaurant. They don’t have to do this whole funnel marketing, cooking, high pressure sales thing.

You get a good Yelp review. Okay that helps. You see a line out the door. You have to make reservations. One second. I’m really curious. Now, what is that new joint down the street? Everybody’s buzzing about it and it just happens organically. They don’t have to pay you. They don’t have to do anything because the food is good.

Start there. So I think like the same thing with schools, like Harvard doesn’t have to get you into a funnel. And so I think the trapping here is with a course that you took, I even think I know the course that you took.

[00:32:44] Natasha: Oh, I’m sure you do because actually, I don’t mind saying the name. It’s Amy Porterfield. She’s very transparent about the numbers.

[00:32:53] Chris: Yes. So the problem here is that the Amy Porterfield world who can craft a really amazing course and uses the same kind of funnel marketing system and we know what they are. Unfortunately for the average person now, that there’s 10,000 people doing the exact same thing, it starts to become very difficult to pick out the good from the bad.

And so it all mushed together. That’s the part that I don’t like. So if we can celebrate the success of the people that are inside the program, a course, a workshop, whatever it is, and shine a light on them, they’ll do the best selling for us. And so if you can do that and they’re not. And so here’s the crazy part too. Pay for testimonials and they’re professional people who give testimonials and it’s so gross.

[00:33:38] Natasha: Yes. I didn’t know that I’m a little naive and gullible. I had no idea.

[00:33:42] Chris: Yes. There was a person. His name is Steven, he runs a channel on YouTube called Coffeezilla, and he goes and bust internet scamming marketing funnel schemes all the time. Oh, look at this person’s testimony was pinned at the very top. And he goes, look at this here’s 17 other testimonies that this person gave even in the same day, that’s all they do.

So they know that this is what this person does and they don’t care. It’s like he broke it down. I was like, look how perfect this testimonial is from beginning to end. It almost feels scripted. And then you’re like, oh shoot, that’s the problem. I’d rather come from a place where, you know what, I’m going to keep trying to educate and help people.

And they’re going to go and sell. I was in a room for five minutes earlier this morning and the person who was hosting the room in Clubhouse had said, “Oh, Chris is here. I did one call with him at 30X, my business.” That to me is marketing. Earlier you had asked me, is the kind of content and the courses and the things that we’re doing for broader market?

I forgot one thing that we’re doing. I find that there is a need for just about any kind of person to understand who they are as a person and their personal brand. And that seems to be a pretty hot topic. And the extension of that is how do you communicate your personal brand once you figure it out to the world on these different platforms.

And this is where I think I’ve had some success. Obviously there’s still a lot to figure out on these different platforms. And so I can speak about it in a broader, more holistic way, versus like here are 10 Instagram hacks. You can cheat the system and the best way to cheat the system is actually give content that’s valuable to people to help others in their pursuit of their goals. And that’s the best hack I can give.

Chris just taught us what to do and what not to do when it comes to launching a digital course, and also how to reframe the typical marketing funnel, and what it’s like to run a creative company. To find out more about him and his projects, go to the show notes where you’re listening to this podcast.

For more information about me, go to my website, natashamiller.co. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved this. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, please leave a review where you’re listening to this podcast now. I’m Natasha Miller and you’ve been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

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