But what good is a huge list if at least half of the names on it have no communication with you or your business at all?
If only there was a way to figure out which of those people were solid leads with a deep, vested interest in your products or services.
This is where building a tribe comes into play. When you build your tribe, you’re cultivating and connecting with like minded people that are more likely to purchase your products and services. Think of it as having your own, loyal following of Deadheads, if you will. When you learn how to attract and communicate with the right names on your list, you build a valuable following of quality over quantity.
Keith Perhac helps businesses increase revenue from their existing traffic by building authority and trust through their audience and customers. He also helps create online courses that add value to businesses and brands.
Rich: Keith Perhac helps course authors, product creators and self funded businesses increase their revenue from their existing traffic. And unlike most marketers, he’s also a developer, which means he understands about the marketing strategies that you need to grow and how to implement these strategies for your business. Keith, welcome to the show.
Keith: Rich, thank you so much for having me.
Rich: It’s my pleasure. So tell me, how did you find yourself helping people create online courses?
Keith: So I kind of fell into it. I’ve always been interested in design, I’ve been interested in marketing and I’ve always been interested in technology. Its kind of like the perfect triumvirate of skills that you use in internet based marketing.
So I was working at my day job and I decided to quit. We got acquired, I didn’t want to go to the new company and I asked one of my friends, “I want to get out of this, I want to get out of the rat race, I want to start doing consulting, I want to start doing projects that matter. Do you know anyone that’s looking for anything?”
So I got hooked up with Ramit Sethi over at I Will Teach, and he was my first client kind of on my own and I learned a ton from him about just how to market things and how an internet marketing business works. So how to build courseware, how to market courseware, how to talk to people, all stuff as I was kind of helping him develop the marketing messaging, the digital strategies we were using as well as funnels, opt in things and just all this stuff. So essentially, I think a lot of people who know Ramit Sethi, it’s this crash course into this whole different world of internet marketing and that was kind of how I got into it.
Rich: Very cool. So you talk a lot about tribe building, is that the same thing as list building?
Keith: List building and tribe building, while they’re similar, they are very different. List building is the precursor to tribe building, where the list building is just getting people on that list. A lot of SaaS companies do it, a lot of big name brands like Target do it. A lot of personality brands do it as well, Jeff Walker, Ramit Sethi, Jim Kwik, all these people they build lists because they’re just trying to get people on their lists so they can market to them. That’s the basics of list building.
Tribe building is taking that one step further. Tribe building is not having this list of people that don’t really care about you or aren’t really interested in your message or you. Tribe building is when you can use marketing in your messaging to get people on your list really excited about who you are and make them feel like they’re in this special community like they’re VIP’s in a special community just for them. That they are part of this group of people who think the same, who have similar goals and who are trying to raise themselves up beyond everyone else who’s not in the group. So that’s what a tribe is. If you think of the Grateful Dead, the Deadheads that would travel all across the country in order to follow the Grateful Dead. Or, they did the same thing with the McRib for McDonald’s, people would travel across the country to go find the next place that the rib was going. That’s a tribe, that’s a group of people that will follow you to the ends of the earth in order to support you, and that’s the type of devoted following that you really want to foster.
Rich: Now it’s interesting because you gave us two examples right there, Deadheads and the people who follow the McRibs. They seem like completely different tribes, but I’m guessing that after a really good Dead show that a lot of those same people have the munchies and probably want to go find the McRib.
Keith: Exactly, exactly. And that’s the thing, those are two very different examples – Deadheads and the McRib – but the way that they’re marketed to and foster that community, you can foster community around anything. You can foster community over what type of light bulbs you want, about what type of potting soil you want, you can go down into whatever niche you want.
I think I heard you snickering, it’s true. I’m in one of these neighborhood farming communities so we get together and we do little farming things but people are just overwhelmingly excited about some brands of potting soil because they’ll have the people form the company come down and talk about it and they’ll just get you excited about this potting soil – which blows my mind – but it works.
Rich: Absolutely, and I can understand that. When you’re building your own tribe, I can see how something forms around the Grateful Dead, I can see how something forms around the McRib or even the type of soil. I guess my question to you is, how do we actually create that and how do we put ourselves at the center of it if that’s actually the goal?
Keith: Well I think you have to put yourself or something at the center of that tribe, otherwise the tribe has nothing to kind of go around. With the Grateful Dead it’s the band itself, the personality of the band. For the McRib it is the sandwich, although I think that it’s a marketing miracle that they were able to do that around around a sandwich, I wouldn’t really recommend that if you have a choice.
The obvious thing really to build your tribe around is yourself – for a number of reasons – it’s easy for you to be yourself. You don’t have to make yourself into something else. When you’re able to promote yourself in such a way that people are attracted to you and people come into this tribe, then those people – because they are attracted to you in that way – are going to think in similar ways to you, and you’re able to communicate to them both on a communication/tribe building level but also on a marketing and revenue building level.
It’s easy to understand what types of problems people have when you had those problems yourself. So this is one of the main things that I see. So look at companies that are doing list building, everyone does them right now. Kissmetrics does it – Google actually doesn’t, now that I think about it – LeadPages does it a lot. Look at in your own inbox which emails you get from companies and which ones you just ignore as a newsletter or a spam kind of thing, and which ones you’re like, “Yeah, it’s that email from the guy that I follow and really like.”
Rich: Yeah, absolutely.
Keith: And a lot of people notice that companies even now are putting the names of the person sending the email, or they have a special spokesman that is there email guy that is like, “I’m the head of marketing, I’m the guy who everyone’s going to connect to.” And that’s one of the strategies of building that tribe is having a single point of focus where everyone can kind of go around and attach themselves to.
Rich: So you think that a brand or a company that has employees would be better off sending an email – even if it’s an email newsletter – from an individual as opposed to from the company?
Keith: From many of the clients that I’ve worked with, yes.
Rich: So this is interesting because I get emails from Hubspot – I must have downloaded a hundred of their ebooks over the years – and very often when I get an email from employees I have no clue who it is and I’ve deleted it or I happened to have noticed right before deleting it that it’s from Hubspot. Where if it was from Hubspot, I think I would have opened it.
On the other hand, just recently I’ve been planning on sending out an email for Agents Of Change and we’re setting it up on a new platform and I notice the emails were coming from Rich Brooks. I was going to change that, but what you’re suggesting – if I hear you correctly – is that I shouldn’t send it from Agents Of Change, that I should send it from Rich Brooks.
Keith: What I like to do – and I will preface this by saying always test it because everyone’s audience is different – but in my experience with working with people either internet marketers or as well as enterprise, I’ve seen that transactional emails are best served as being generic. So when someone purchases it should be from Agents Of Change. When someone sends a support letter, they should send it to Agents of Change. When you want to send a marketing or tribe building email, when you want to make a connection with your list, then it should be from you @agentsofchange.com. So it should be just either from Rich Brooks or from Rich Brooks @AgentsofChange.
Rich: Interesting, ok. So I think if I hear you correctly, what I’m going to do is anytime somebody buys a ticket for the conference, they’re going to be interacting with Agents Of Change. But for the podcast where we send out a weekly update to say “We’ve just interviewed Keith”, in that case that’s probably going to come from me, and that’s going to feel more personal, because really I do want to build a tribe.
Keith: Exactly, exactly. And it gives you two things. First of all it gives you the brand name of the company, it gives you Agents Of Change as the brand name. But it also gives you as the person that spokeman, head front of the company. Are you on any of Kissmetrics email lists?
Rich: I have been in the past, I can’t say if I am right now. We recently changed our domain name at flyte and I got rid of a lot of email newsletters at that point. In part, every once in a while you just need to do that purge. I purged, I don’t know if I brought them back because Kissmetrics does have some of the most helpful blog posts and email letter versions out there, so I do love their stuff.
Keith: They really do. Do you remember who the Kissmetrics emails are from?
Rich: No, but if you told me his or her name, I might be like, “Oh yeah!”
Keith: It was Lars.
Rich: Oh yeah.
Keith: Actually I got to meet him at MicroConf Europe last year. And I would have not known who he was except every 2-3 days I get an email with his name on it from Kissmetrics that says who it is. I don’t think he went in there looking to build his own brand, but in a way he was also building his own brand with that. And that building his brand helped build Kissmetrics brand, because now I associate those to – and when I think of Kissmetrics – I now think of Lars. It felt like a more human connection than I have when my airline sends me an email, which instantly gets deleted.
If I get anything from my bank, anything from airline, it’s just like in the trash. That’s not even getting opened.
Rich: Absolutely. And I assume that one of the benefits of tribe building is the fact that you get the benefit of the doubt if somebody is in your tribe. I noticed the other day that there was an article about – I’m an Apple guy – I noticed there was an article in BusinessWeek about some new Apple programing language called Swift which I had never heard of, but apparently it’s taking the world by storm. And I’m like – this sounds stupid saying it outloud – somehow I felt pride because I’m an Apple guy and they’re creating this language that I had nothing to do with and it’s taking the world by storm. If it had been Google – which I also like but don’t have the same affinity for – I might have been upset because why didn’t Apple do the same thing.
So maybe some of tribe building is actually you building a personal relationship with a person or with a brand that you might not have otherwise. Would you say that’s correct?
Keith: Exactly. I would say that’s correct. And one of the nice things about a tribe is that they’re self reinforcing, especially – and this is very important when you’re building a tribe – is to give them a community in which they can talk to each other. So whether that’s a webinar where you’re talking and they’re chatting in a chat room, or whether that’s a Facebook group where you come and talk with them, whether that’s actually in live, personal meetings or conferences. Some place where these people can come together and meet and form that bond and solidify that bond that they already have, because their social structure is going to be stronger.
And when you do something like that you get also the people on the fringes that maybe they’re kind of in your tribe, maybe not and they’re just kind of testing the waters. But then your tribe has this communication and power and the people on the fringes come in and your tribe talks to them and your tribe is going to be your best proponent for success. Who’s the best people to convince people that you’re telling the gospel truth? It’s not you, because you’re just a guy, but thousands and thousands of the people who are also saying, “Oh yes this worked for me.” And that’s why testimonials work and case studies work, and that’s why you’re an Apple guy, right?
Rich: Yeah. Well you sold me on the benefits of tribes, a lot of people listening may not have put anything towards tribe building because they have been working on their list building and not their tribe building skills. So today if we decide we want to build a tribe where do we start, what are some of the first steps we can do to start building this tribe?
Keith: The first things that you want to do to develop a tribe is to start opening communication, whether that’s through email – ask questions, get some feedback – and then respond later to the entire list with real examples of people that gave you feedback. And this is starting very simple, this is just getting people to email you and then responding back to everyone picking out some of those great examples, or even some of the horrible examples.
This is going to not only make people feel like they’re not in a vacuum, because instantly when they see those great quotes up there they’re like, “Oh yeah, look at that. I think that way, too. I have a great idea that’s like this guy that‘s in this group.” So now you’re taking it from this flat list into this group. If you were one of the people that was picked to be in that email, then that’s even better. It’s like, “Oh man, he chose me to be a great example.”
So you’re building this tribe and then the interesting thing is the people that you’re like, “Oh, check out this horrible idea someone had”, you’re drawing a line in the sand of who is part of the tribe and who is not, And when you draw a line in the sand like that, you’re reinforcing to the people in your tribe that we think like this, and then we don’t think like this. And when we break it down like this it sounds so horrible, right. It sounds dogmatic and like you’re turning people against each other, but this is how humans really think, right?
Rich: Right, Well it does get to that tribe mentality, and of course that could be used for good or bad and I definitely see that as a marketing tactic out there where it’s not just what we stand for but what we stand against. I’ve seen a number of really excellent marketers kind of whip their tribe into a frenzy by doing that sort of thing, both in marketing as well as in politics, and sometimes it can be used to the extreme. But it is a way of bonding people, because sometimes the best way to bond them is to get them against somebody else, so I definitely see them benefits of some of that.
Keith: I don’t think it necessarily needs to be against someone or against an idea, but just to draw a line in the sand and say this is the type of people we’re looking for in this tribe. And then you’re also self segmenting for your marketing. By doing this you’re getting rid of the people who are not going to become customers, who are not going to be good customers for your product.
Keith: And a lot of people really want that huge list, they want that 500,000 person list. What I’ve really seen is that a really great 20,000 or 50,000 person list will outperform a 100,000 list that’s just random people.
Rich: It actually reminds me of an interview I did a while back with John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire where we talked about trying to identify your business avatar and really keep on narrowing and narrowing down that niche. And when you get to that one person – sure, other people will be attracted to it – but the more narrowly you focus, the more pure your tribe is and the more engaged your tribe is as well.
Keith: Exactly. And the whole thing about tribe building where it differs from list building is I see list building as kind of the shotgun approach, you just want everyone, you want as many names as possible so that when you say this is for sale that it just goes out to everyone, it’s the power of the masses. Where tribe building is really collecting and cultivating very important communication with the people on your list, so it’s no longer just everyone. It’s very specific to the people on your list who think in the same ways that you think.
And this gives you two improvements. First of all it increases your conversion like you wouldn’t believe. And second of all it allows you to produce and sell products that are more tailored to your group. If I’m selling a product for everyone on the internet there’s no product that’s going to sell well. But I know that if I have a list and a tribe of design freelances – for example – so people focused on freelancing and doing design, I can make a very compelling offer and very compelling communication and very compelling story to that group because I know exactly who my target audience is.
Rich: Yes, absolutely. So what I think I’m hearing is, one way of looking at the difference between tribe building and list building is it’s a quality versus quantity sort of thing. We do want our tribe to be of a certain size, but really we’re looking to attract the right type of people into this tribe who will ultimately be the kind of people who will want to buy from us and engage with us.
And the other thing I’m hearing as we go into this product development sort of phase, that the narrower the product one of the things that we learned is the narrower the niche the more expensive the product can be. So if you’re trying to build something for everyone, yes, it won’t sell and it’s got to be inexpensive. Where if you’re doing something that’s very specific – like a product that’s only for plastic surgeons or lawn care specialists – they’re willing to pay more because you created something that’s exactly what they need.
Keith: Exactly. There was a client of one of my friends and he was a lawyer. He was producing documents for people who were starting businesses so he had a very generic sales page. It was all the documents you need to start your business, all the forms and tax stuff and everything, and it wasn’t selling very well until he came up with the idea of marketing this to specific segments. So he made 20 different landing pages with the specific documents you need as a dentist to start your practice, the specific documents you need as a freelancer. And the documents are pretty much the same, but because he was self segmenting and because the people coming to that page saw that this was something that was tailored directly to them, he was able to sell them at a higher price and with much better conversion.
Rich: Absolutely. And I’ve thought about doing something similar with flyte where I would put together a web marketing ebook kind of thing – because there’s not any of those out there – but if I took the same idea and said let’s do web marketing for plastic surgeons, lets do web marketing for pizza parlors. And it doesn’t have to be that different, and can be only 10% different where I give specific examples that might be good for a pizza parlor as opposed to a plastic surgeon. But then I could charge more and it would be more valuable because when people think you’re talking to them they pay more attention.
Keith: Yes, they do.
Rich: And when they spend more money they’re more likely to actually do what they’re supposed to do which means they’re more likely to have success which means they’re more likely to tell their friends or buy more products.
Keith: Right. And you touched on something very important there. One of the biggest benefits of having this tribe is not only that they’re easier to have a communication with but when someone is part of a tribe, man, they want to talk to everyone about it.
Rich: Yes, absolutely.
Keith: Your existing customers, your existing supporters are your biggest source of marketing information, they’re going to be your biggest salesmen. Ask anyone what their favorite band is and I’m sure they’ll go on for a good 20-30 minutes. Ask anyone what their favorite store to shop in is and I think most people don’t have an answer, right? Or maybe I’m out of touch.
Rich: I’m sure some people do, but if it comes with free shipping I’m probably going to buy it there.
Keith: I think I’d be Amazon if I had to choose.
Rich: So let’s talk briefly about, we’ve got this tribe and now we’re thinking of creating an online course. What’s the pathway between having this tribe and creating something of value to them that ultimately they’ll want to buy?
Keith: So this goes back to the niche that you have, this goes back very specifically to what type of people are you talking to, what type of people are you selling to. And then that kind of goes into what kind of course can you build. So the type of course is going to be very specific to they type of audience that you have.
We actually do courseware so he first SaaS product I ever built was called Summit Evergreen courseware for people that were creating online courses. And one of the things that we saw doing that was that first of all people want communities. Another is they need time to experience the courseware. So what a lot of people do is they’ll have this product – it’s a .pdf – and you download it for maybe less than $50 or $100, and that’s pretty much the limit that you can get with a .pdf. So then you add in some video, so you have a .pdf and then you have 100 hours of video and that’s great, you can probably sell that for $500-$600.
Then you add in some templates and stuff like that. Let’s go the design route, so we’re talking design freelancer, so you add in some photoshop design templates and a making of and you put this stuff together and that’s a good amount of information that you can purchase and you can get some good revenue off of that. But what if you were to take that all and when someone buys that they have kind of this “lump” of information and they’re really excited about it when they buy it. But what’s the completion rate look like on that?
The reason is – and it’s the same when you go to college – they don’t just give you a textbook and say, “Go at it!” Every day, every week you go to classes and you go through a bit at a time, so what we’ve really found is that online learning should be similar, online courses should be similar. You take that content and you break it up into a 6 or 8 week course with all the video, with all the templates, with everything and you turn it into this learning process. And that does 2 things, First of all it gives very solid structure to the course, it also makes people that since it has a structure they can’t skip ahead. So what we noticed when we were doing research is with .pdf’s people would skip things that they didn’t think applied to them, so they’d skip 2-3 chapters. And they’d go to chapter 5, which built in chapter 2, but they haven’t read chapter 2 so they got lost and they got angry at the book and said, “I spent all this money and I’m not learning.”
So helping them and kind of forcing them through it as a time lapse course and making sure that they’re going through each one increased the retention and increased the amount that people were consuming the content and also increased the amount of satisfaction that people got out of the course. And that reduces refunds.
The other amazing thing from doing a course is a simple psychological one, which would you pay more money for. Would you pay more money for a 300 page .pdf with 5 videos to download, or would you pay more for the 6 week course with 6 hours of video?
Rich: It sounds like the course would be more valuable. I would pay more for it.
Keith: Exactly. Even if it’s the same content. The courses are generally the same thing but it’s the idea of the course and the idea of this lesson plan that makes it much more valuable than simply a .pdf or a data download.
Rich: Well I definitely like giving things to people in bite size pieces over time so they can digest it. But I also like the idea of giving them a workbook kind of approach where they have to actually – they can’t just read the book and be like, “Oh, that was interesting, let me move on to the next book” – but instead they actually have to do something with is as if you were in a lab back in high school or college where you’re actually experimenting with what you’re learning.
Keith: Right. And that’s one thing that we had built in to Summit Evergreen that we had as well. First thing is people want to have homework just like the labs where you have to complete things and you have to be able to see that you were able to understand the lesson. And then be able to look at that 3-6 weeks down the line when you’re like, “Oh yeah, now I know this but back then I didn’t.” And to be able to see that growth is really powerful.
And the second one is of course to have that community. So when people are in this community and are signed up for this course to be able to go into a private Facebook group or to be able to go leave comments or go into a bulletin board system or something where they have this community of people around them that are going through the course at the same time and think similarly and that;s part of the tribe, to be honest.
Rich: Right. So we continue that tribe mentality and feel by creating an area where they can talk to each other and to which we can also contribute as well – which is probably not a bad idea since it is our tribe – but they can see that other people are struggling with the same thing, having the same successes and also that definitely empowers people. I know from putting on and attending live events, when you get all those like minded people in a room there is a level of energy there that you just can’t get elsewhere.
Keith: I live out in the middle of nowhere Japan and the highlight of my year is when I go out to conventions. So maybe 3-4 times a year I’ll book a month or so just to go out to conventions. It’s honestly just being in that community, learning from other people who are in that tribe, it’s the highlight of my year.
When you really think about it a convention is the pinnacle of building a tribe. If you were able to hold a convention and people come to it that you don’t know that are not your immediate friends, you’ve really reached that pinnacle of building a tribe because you’ve convinced people to spend up to $1,000 for a plane ticket, for a hotel and for the conference itself to come and travel and be there with you.
Rich: So we barely scratched the surface on online courses but we are coming towards the end of the time. I know a lot of people got excited about the tribe stuff and they’re going to want to learn more about some of the ins and outs of putting on online courses. Where can we send them, Keith, where would you like them to check you out online?
Keith: So if you’re looking for online courses I do recommend Summit Evergreen. If you’re looking for tribe building and just want to talk about this stuff – I love talking about this stuff constantly – you can find me on my site keithperhac.com. Just get in touch with me through there and we can set something up and start talking about that.
Rich: Fantastic, Keith. We’ll of course have all those links in the show notes so be sure to check them out. Keith, thanks very much for coming by. The tribe building conversation was awesome and I learned a lot.
Keith: Thank you very much, Rich, it was fun.
Follow Keith on Twitter for some great information and tips.
In this show, Rich referenced a past podcast interview with John Lee Dumas which discussed finding your business’s avatar.
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