Today I’m joined by none other than Ryan Moran. He’s a serial entrepreneur investor, author, and an expert at building online brands and then selling them for profit. If you want to learn how to build a six and seven-figure online business with your current audience, then this episode is a must.
Adam: What exactly is your greatest achievement? I remember we go back, what is it 10 years? You were not in the same situation that you are now financially, correct?
Ryan: That’s true. Although, are there many people who are in the same financial situation 10 years, every decade? I don’t know. So in terms of wealth creation, I’ve made 80% of my money building and selling internet brands and internet brands mean they sell stuff. A mutual friend of ours, Perry Belcher, 10 years ago said, “If I were you and I was your age, I would focus on selling stuff. Not hopes and dreams, not advertising. I would sell physical stuff.”
Not hopes and dreams, not advertising. I would sell physical stuff.”
I took his advice and that’s where I’ve made 80% of my wealth in terms of non-wealth things. I would say that the biggest accomplishment that I have as a person is I left my faith. That was probably the hardest time of my personal life, of really getting comfortable going against the grain of everything that I believed to be true and everything that made up my sense of purpose, my calling, and what I thought my meaning was as a human being.
When people ask what my greatest accomplishment is, I always kind of have to differentiate that. I think the biggest challenge I overcame was leaving the world that I believe to be true, but financially my biggest wins have been through building and selling companies. My biggest company had run rates between $11 and $12 million, then selling that to a private equity group, and I helped other clients have similar results. So from a financial and business perspective, that’s my biggest accomplishment.
Adam: I love that. Now in the entrepreneurial world, we meet a lot of people who, as you said, sell hopes and dreams, right? People are like, “I’m going to help you get rich quick with this seven-part system or you too can learn how to think like I do.” You can teach other people to think about that. But you are different, you sell actual physical things. What’s an example of maybe some of the products that you’ve sold? Where do the new ideas come from?
Ryan: Yeah. So the first couple of businesses I had, I built and sold a yoga startup. I’ve had a supplement brand, I’m probably best known for a sports nutrition company. I called it, Sheer Strength Labs. I’m an investor in it, I’m an investor in Outstanding Foods, I’m an investor in a food company called Flex, and I’m an investor in a beauty brand called Fox Brim. So I have a wide range across the board of the different types of businesses that I’m in.
The singular asset that I focus on is the audience. What that means to me is if you can’t build a business around a group of people, then you usually end up having a really hard time. The hack, if you will, the lever that you can pull is if you have attention you can send to any product or event or podcast, then you have the upper hand compared to everyone else. Whereas most people are going out and they develop a product.
They’re trying to figure out how to hoax or sell or manipulate people into buying the product. When you’ve got the audience, to me, that’s the real asset. I was sitting down with a very prominent podcaster last week who gets about a million downloads a day and looking at the numbers of what advertisers spend with him, it’s millions of dollars.
We’re their biggest salespeople. We have the audience, they have the brands, we bring them together, and create a great magic audience.
I asked why, and they say, “We’re their biggest salespeople. We have the audience, they have the brands, we bring them together, and create a great magic audience.” You have the asset. Where I really have specialized is going out and building brands around the audience because I’ve found that helps you get to the seven-figure level much faster, which gives you the runway to be able to create the systems, to take you to eight figures and beyond.
Adam: I love when you mentioned systems. One of the things I was talking about just before we went live here is you really have got it down to a system. I can’t tell you how often I see you post something. If you have a brand or a business or an audience that is of this specific criteria, then I know that I can take you to this other level. If you wouldn’t mind, just for a second, talk about what that qualification is? What would a brand or business have to do in order for you to consider working with them? What could you give them?
I can give you an example because we’ve got a brand that we’ve been building up on YouTube, which is a gaming brand. We’re sitting at about 25,000 subscribers on YouTube. Some of our videos have had a quarter of a million views. The channel itself had millions of views, would that qualify or would that be considered too small, or is that bigger? What kind of things could we expect for us?
This is something that we do mostly as a passion project and we’ve not really rolled out any kind of branding. For somebody who’s maybe listening and they’re like, “I got an audience of 10,000 people, or I’ve got an audience of a hundred thousand,” what would they need?
Ryan: Yeah. So I have often positioned it as if you have an audience of at least a hundred thousand people. I know I can build a seven-figure business out of that very quickly, but my minimum is always 10,000. The real question here is what’s an audience? How do you determine whether or not that’s an audience? The way that I validate it is, if you say something, what is the minimum number of people who will pay attention?
I have a YouTube channel with 80,000 subscribers, but if I put a piece of content on there, if it gets 10,000 views, that’s a really good video. Whereas there are people who have 25,000 YouTube videos like you have in the gaming space and you could get a quarter million views. The metric that we track is not necessarily subscribers or even email opt-ins, it’s how many people are paying attention.
That comes down to how many people open the darn email? How many people watch the darn video? How many people come back to the site, not just find it on Google, but come back to it? That’s a much more interesting metric to track. When you say something, who pays attention, and do they take the action that you are intending for them to do?
Because what we ultimately want is for people to listen to our recommendations and we want them to buy the product we recommend. We want them to go to the websites that we send them to. We want them to buy the affiliate product that we’re promoting. You don’t do that by getting attention for a short period of time. We have to get them paying attention over a longer period of time in order to know that we can predictably get them to take that action.
How does Netflix develop successful shows?
Adam: It totally makes sense. What I love about this is I was reading a great article about Netflix the other day. I’m fascinated by Netflix, I think the way they do things is very similar to what a lot of online marketers do, but I don’t know if people realize it. Do you know much about Netflix’s inner workings, how they designed their TV shows and things?
Ryan: I don’t.
Adam: You’re going to find this fascinating. When they were creating their original TV series, the way that they did it was, they actually used illegal torrent sites to see which shows were the most torrented and which actors featured in the movies and shows that were most talented. Then they built a show around that. They found that most people were downloading illegally. Eventually, they invented House of Cards, political dramas, and political movies, and Kevin Spacey was turning up more often than not.
So that’s how they created their show, and I find it fascinating because I learned recently, I’ve got some friends in the film industry in LA and there was a show called Norseman that came out. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m now going to watch it after reading this article from a buddy of mine. What they did is Norseman knew you can get a show on Netflix pretty easily, but you can’t guarantee it’ll get watched. The way to guarantee that your show is watched on Netflix is if they put you in the recommended watch.
It’s a highly coveted space, and what these guys did was they ran a Facebook ad campaign to 20, 20-second videos showing highlights, and saying now featured on Netflix. They targeted people that had similar movies in the same genre. What this did was they spent $18,000 on Facebook ads in a two-month period and this translated to so many views on Netflix that Netflix reached out to them and asked if they’d be willing to come internally to LA and talk about ways they could sponsor other series and et cetera, et cetera.
Run Preview Ads to Test Your Audience
Ryan: So they essentially tested preview ads to see which ones would perform the best, knowing which everyone won the best, as in a Facebook ad would be the preview. They should run on Netflix in order to game into the recommended section. Is that right?
Adam: That’s exactly it. They were pushing viewers from that testing to Netflix. Anyway, the internal Netflix algorithm. Netflix is always looking at which things people watch the most, which prompted them to make it the suggested views. In fact, on our gaming channel, we’re doing the same thing right now on Amazon. We have an Amazon TV show called Battle Report where we play. It’s essentially one of our YouTube videos, exactly the same, but reformatted for Amazon.
We filmed it exclusively so there would be exclusive content. But when we first pitched Amazon, they were like, “Well, we don’t know if you’re going to get the right kind of view counts to be worthy of giving you your whole show on Amazon prime.” But they agreed to put one episode up as a test. We were like, “Hey, our audience is going to come.”
All we did was run some ads, made some videos, put them up on our Facebook and YouTube, and we started racking up, about a million views on Amazon prime to the point where Amazon said to us, “Not only could we upload the entire TV series, but we’d like to get in talks with you about season two and what you guys could do to make it better.”
Ryan: That is the hack right there. I mean the fact that when you can get the attention of groups of people on demand, the world comes to you. We could spend the entire time talking about Donald Trump. We could do an entire podcast talking about just the 2016 election. The real magic to that election was he had an audience.
He had a reputation and a brand, then he leveraged that to continue getting attention in the media, which is the name of the game. If you want the world to come to you, if you’re pitching a TV show or you’re pitching something on Amazon and you have the audience, you can use that as the leverage point to get the rest of the world talking about you.
But most people are coming at it with a product-first mentality and I don’t think we get what we want in the world until we know how to sway the audience to come our way.
That’s how you win or at least how you have a shot for your product to stand on its own or lose on its own. But most people are coming at it with a product-first mentality and I don’t think we get what we want in the world until we know how to sway the audience to come our way.
Can you remember Hilary Clinton’s Campaign Slogan? That’s why she lost.
Adam: I love that. We’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve got to talk about it again. When you say the “Donald Trump thing”, I often ask people, especially people that are anti-Trump. I’m absolutely fine with your political views, whatever they may be. I never really share mine, but I’ll always say to them, “I’ll be impressed if you can remember Clinton’s campaign in the 2000s. Most people can’t, they can’t remember her phrase, and they can’t remember the campaign.
I say to them, that’s why she lost it. It wasn’t believe it or not, anything specifically that Trump did, except that he stuck to his brand and stuck to his campaign. He ran the audience. Many people loved her. I would argue, there were people that loved her more than fans who loved Trump. But her campaign wasn’t in place, she didn’t get her branding, and she wasn’t running an audience. So I agree with everything you just said.
Ryan: Yeah. I think we can officially say that the internet and internet audiences have now not only built companies, but we’ve swayed elections too. This is just the direction of the world, and if you’re not good at communicating to a group of people or to one specific person, I don’t know if it’s possible for you to end up getting what you want.
How do you grow an audience of 10,000 to the next level?
Adam: All right. Let’s say somebody’s got their audience at 10,000, they’ve got their 10,000 subscribers or followers or wherever they are and every time they make a piece of content, they get at least 10,000, maybe 25,000 responses. How do you go about helping them? How can they make money? I know a lot of people that have big audiences that don’t make any money whatsoever. They’ll phone me up and they’ll be like, man, just had another video break a million, but I’m struggling to pay. What do I do now? What do you do?
Ryan: So my background has always been in physical product brands or just internet brands, that means stuff obviously. When it comes down to it, I think a lot of what we call influencers struggle because they have no idea what to sell. They end up selling t-shirts, mugs, and the random knickknacks then wonder why they can’t get ahead. That’s because the question of what to sell is the wrong question. The right question is who is it that I’m targeting? Or who is it that I’m serving? Or who is it that I’m speaking to? That’s the starting point.
The question of what to sell is the wrong question. The right question is who is it that I’m targeting?
If you’ve got 10,000 similar-minded people within your focus of control, then you have a good idea of who that person is and what their behaviors are. The next question we ask is what are the three to five products that they already buy without us having to sway them in any specific direction?
If you are speaking to gamers and we’re not selling games, per se, we just say, “okay, what is in common with other gamers and how do we serve them?” If we’re talking about video gamers, then we’re talking about chairs and headsets and we’re talking about magazines and subscriptions.
We’re talking about online subscriptions and we can make a list a mile long about the things that that group of people already buy. Since I’m in the physical product world, I usually default to that. I like food brands, supplement brands, CPG brands, snack brands, and drink brands. I like that kind of stuff.
I would usually default to that type of thinking where in my skillset, in the food, beverage, and snack world, could we work into that specific audience. That would be my specialty and other people are going to look at the information products world and say, okay, to this specific person, what are they going to end up buying?
One of the things that really flips it in the mind of the entrepreneur is when they stop thinking about the product first and they start going after the people because it’s really easy to sell to people when you know what they want.
One of the things that really flips it in the mind of the entrepreneur is when they stop thinking about the product first and they start going after the people because it’s really easy to sell to people when you know what they want. We just look at their behavior to know what they want. Whereas most people are trying to develop a product and then hope that it fits in or that they can craft a sales message to this specific person. They hope it fits in and that to me is the backward aura of operations.
Adam: I love the way you’re thinking about it, it’s big. We’re huge on surveys in our companies, we do a lot of surveying to find out what people buy and what they want. But I think there’s something true about what you said: “when someone loves something they’ll buy the same thing over and over again, just different versions of it.” I see that time and time again with our own research. They’re already buying it and they want every potential version of it that they can get.
Ryan: I think this is especially true in food brands. It’s easy for us to look at our own behavior, and for me, it’s like, I eat protein bars. If there’s a new protein bar, I want to try it. I don’t know why I’m just kind of interested in that sector. For some people, it’s energy drinks, people will try different types of energy drinks.
There is definitely a propensity for us to buy multiple variations of the same thing when we love something, just because it’s new. You get that dopamine kick because you want to be first to market among that group of 10,000 people.
You sit in that position as the leader of those 10,000 people, being able to lead the next action of that group of people. So if you are an entrepreneur and you are trying to make money, then your job is to provide that for that group of people. I have a friend who, a student actually, who sells knives for, is it Fortnite gamers? Forgive me. I’m not a gamer Adam, but…
Adam: Yeah, Fortnite is a hundred percent a thing.
Ryan: So are knives a thing in that game?
Adam: Weapons are in general, so.
Ryan: Okay, all right, cool. So I have a student, his company’s called Elemental Knives and they sell custom knives for Fortnite gamers. It’s so specific to that audience, it’s just so specific that people eat it up and his audience is incredibly niche and incredibly targeted. They’re just releasing new items to that specific group. That’s a business. I work with a lot of Amazon sellers and a lot of Amazon sellers are selling the widget. They’re selling the candle, they’re selling the fly swatter, whatever the random thing is.
They’re obsessed with the idea of how do I sell more of these? How do I sell more and more and more and more! That’s not how you build a business. You build a business by getting one person to take multiple actions over and over and over again. You and I both know that once you get somebody to say yes once, it’s easier for them to say yes again and again and again. It’s the first that’s the hard one.
Yes, building brands is getting them to pay attention to you or to open the email or follow you on social media, or watch the video. Then it’s to subscribe and get engaged and share. Later it’s to buy and then it’s to buy again and again and again, and that’s how brands are built. That’s how scalable sellable brands are built.
Okay, how do we go get more people to put through the rest of this process?” Whereas most people are saying, “I have my thing. When do I get the world to come and buy my thing?
So your job becomes “Okay, how do we go get more people to put through the rest of this process?” Whereas most people are saying, “I have my thing. When do I get the world to come and buy my thing?” You don’t get the world to come and buy your thing until you are focusing on specifically the person and how you serve them. Otherwise, you’re kind of at the world’s mercy rather than the opposite.
Adam: I freaking love that. I think that’s such a big thing and it’s so true, selling to the same person over again is so much easier than finding new people. If you’ve got something that already sells to new people, they’ll slowly come in, but having a sequence of things you can sell people really is where most of the money is made.
I absolutely love it all Ryan. So, we’re moving on towards the end. I don’t want to take too much of your time, but let’s just say someone’s listening to this. They don’t have an audience yet. They’re wondering, how do I get an audience? Is that something you help with? Or do you specifically need people that have an audience to work?
It’s my opinion that you end up building an audience when you are focused on serving a specific targeted group of people
Ryan: We can talk about it, but specializing in building the audience is not something that I enjoy doing, mostly because I think most people are trying to hack attention rather than operating from a place of service. It’s my opinion that you end up building an audience when you are focused on serving a specific targeted group of people. That’s how we end up creating the change that we want to see.
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