“Whatever product or service you have, lead from the front with something that’s going to allow people to step into your world” -Nathan Chan
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How long have you been an entrepreneur? Whether you’ve been at it for years or months or maybe only days, my guest this week has some great insights and advice.
Nathan Chan is the founder of Foundr Magazine, a digital magazine focused on entrepreneurs and business leaders in the world today. He’s telling me the story of how he got the idea for Foundr Magazine and then got it off the ground and into its current digital form.
We’re also getting into the benefits of having a celebrity or well-known figure support your company, and how to ask these people to get involved. It can be scary, but asking is the hardest part!
Nathan’s sharing his Instagram expertise on how to gain momentum and knowing which users prefer which social media platforms. He’s talking about how to see where you’re getting traction before you go all in.
We’ve got so much for you in this episode, I hope you enjoy it!
“The higher the ticket item, the more communication, the more trust and rapport that needs to have already been built”
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- Pay attention to what your clients are saying they want. Foundr readers kept asking for a print version, so Nathan decided to try and launch a book.
- Look for recognizable figures to support your company to raise the credibility and authority of your brand.
- Lead with something free or promos that will allow people to see the value of your brand and what the benefits of your products are before they have to seriously invest.
- Find the gatekeeper. There’s always a go-to person who knows how to contact the person you need, either a publicity person, or an assistant or someone who knows how to get to who you need.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Just try contacting people and letting them know what your ask is. Don’t expect to get what you want, but try asking. You never know what’s going to happen.
- Test ideas to see if they get traction. Try posting on different social media sites to see where your followers are and where they get excited.
- Pay attention to product distinctions. Do you have products that fall into different price margins and value categories?
- Make sure that your audience knows about all of your products. Just because people follow you online doesn’t mean that they know what all services and products you’re offering.
Kim Orlesky: Thank you so much for joining us today. We have a very exciting guest. Today we have Nathan Chan. At the age of 25 with a passion for entrepreneurship and people, Nathan created Foundr–a digital magazine that he started in 2013 and is now the top ranking digital magazine on iTunes. It’s also released in the Google Play Store. Since then, he’s interviewed and connected with some of the most amazing and innovative entrepreneurs and business leaders in the world today including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, Tim Ferris–and that’s just to name a few of them. He’s a podcast host, contributing writer to entrepreneur.com, and offers courses in how to dominate Instagram. His newest project is a coffee table book titled “Founder V1.0” and it will be released on November 16th. Thank you so much for joining me, Nathan.
Nathan Chan: Thank you so much for having me, Kim. That’s a really nice introduction.
Kim Orlesky: Awesome. Well, let’s get started here. You’re so young in order to start an entrepreneurship journey. I talked to a lot of people that started in corporate and eventually decided that they didn’t want to work in that life anymore. What kind of inspired you to decide ahead of time that that wasn’t really something that you wanted to go after?
Nathan Chan: Well, I did start corporate. I did corporate for about for or five years, actually. So I went to university, a part of university I had to do an internship at a company for a year. I did an internship at this accounting firm which was really exciting. I learned about timesheets and logging your time and dealing with clients, and public practice. I was working in IT doing IT consulting, and I did that for a couple of years, actually. I had that job for a couple of years when I was 23. Then when I was 24, 25, I moved to another job in IT with a travel company. I ended up working there for a few years as well. Along the way, I decided first of all that I wanted to change up my career and actually work in marketing. So I went back to university while I was at my job, studied part-time, and finished a degree. Couldn’t find a job in marketing. No one would hire me. Went through three different job interviews, even at the company that I was at. The company that I was actually working in–just no one wanted to give me a shot. In the end, I just was so frustrated, and just really wanted to chase work that inspired me and chase what excited me. That’s kind of how I landed doing what I’m doing today.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. I mean, digital magazines, right. A lot of people say that print is dead. What made you decide that you still wanted to offer a magazine format but completely digital?
Nathan Chan: Three reasons. Scale, cost, and literally, I felt, and still do feel at the time that it’s just the way the world is moving. However, it’s kind of–I don’t want to be too contradictory because it’s kind of funny that we’re launching a print project. Now, does that mean magazines will still be relevant on print and digital? I think both now more than ever. I think everyone thought this big way was going to come with digital magazines. [inaudible] let’s be like [inaudible] hasn’t really that strongly. A lot of people still read print magazines. A lot of people still ask us, “How can we get the magazine in print?” So we’ve just created a best of album series which is a print project which is the Foundr V1.0 book. But yeah, to answer your question, at the time, the App Store just released this thing called the Newsstand about five years ago. It was there, initially, to help publishers. And still to this day.
We have 25,000 monthly readers of the magazine. But it’s definitely not the number one thing where a lot of people are going to read and consume magazine content. I still believe that there’s a big, strong presence in print. And I think there will be. The more and more I look at it, I think the relationship changes as well, I think, with the physical product. That’s something that we’re looking to have experience from a brand point of view with how will people perceive the Foundr brand once they can hold it in their hands. [inaudible] Foundr in their hands. So yeah, it’s hard to say, Kim. But at the time, it was really just–it felt right. [inaudible] coming, it felt right that I wasn’t going to do print because the first print run would’ve cost me a lot of money which I had none. And just scale.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. Is there any intention to eventually turn Foundr magazine into a print version?
Nathan Chan: Not sure. I can tell you this, though: we are going to do probably like a rehashed edition of the brands and issue and make it like–let’s see how it goes with the book. Because the book is quite an expensive exercise. It’s a lot more of an expensive exercise as opposed to just a print magazine. Because this is a hardcover book–we’re going to get it die-cut. So if you see the cover with the faces on the front cover–they’re like circles–we’re actually going to cut out those circles. So when you open up the front cover, you’ll see the faces on the second page. So this is like a really expensive exercise–well, anything’s a branding exercise, and there’s not really much margin in it. There will be a lot more when we get the campaign funded, but Kickstarter there’s hardly any margin. Hopefully, if we do get it funded on Kickstarter, we will be able to go evergreen on it and we can charge a lot more. Like a book like this, we could charge easily anywhere between $60 USD to $100 USD. On Kickstarter, we’re charging $40AUD to $50AUD which is like $305 USD or $45 USD. So yeah, I think we definitely will depending on how we go with this project. Definitely, we’ll do a rehashed revised version of the brands and issues and [look?] to print it and do [first?] class shipping. Also, it’s a bits and pieces, I think there’s something very special about how holding something in your hand–I really want to just see how that goes. How it would play with that piece.
Kim Orlesky: And the brands and issue was actually quite pivotal for Foundr magazine to really get to that new tier. I know that was something that you really worked on in order to get the interview for that. So tell me about how that actually happened and how that kind of really changed the entire magazine.
Nathan Chan: Yeah, I’d love to. What happened, Kim, was before we got Richard Branson to say yes to be on the front cover of Foundr, we’re kind of struggling, I’m going to be real. The first issue of the magazine had not even a successful person on the front cover because no one would get back to me with [inaudible] niche. Yeah, I think when Richard Branson–the brand’s issue was issue #8. When that came out, that was a really pivotal moment for us because what allowed us to do was erase that credibility and authority of brand. I did counter-intuitively what most people said to do was everyone said that, “That’s your best issue.” I would make sure that’s one of our best issues. And what we did was we actually made it free. We didn’t charge for it.
We’re a subscription-based business model. It’s $2.99/mo., $21.99/year. What we decided to do was actually just make it free. Wherever anyone saw it, they could get it for free. That was the taste tester. That was what we led with from the front. I think that was one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned still to this day is always have–whatever product, whatever service you have, lead from the front with something for free or some sort of free [inaudible] or something–not a premium business model but something that’s going to allow people to step into your world, to step into what your beliefs are, what your brand’s all about–get a feel for the content, get a feel for what they can expect. If they want more, and just kind of [inaudible] [whiskers?], right? The mass will only feel from its [whiskers?] with the [inaudible]. It’s kind of you give a little bit. [inaudible] a little bit.
But it’s going to be great. It’s going to be amazing. But try making it best. And yeah, and I think that’s always been a really strong strategy. We’ve utilized that in a big way now. Like 99% of our stuff is free–[inaudible] the podcast, the blog, all the ebooks–we have 20 different ebooks on any topic you could ever imagine, and they’re really comprehensive. We spent thousands and thousands of dollars to design them. Beautifully designed. [inaudible] a lot of free stuff. It tends to spread the word really well.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. That’s actually a good point because I work within my community, within the tribe that we created. We do often talk about offering something for free, but it has to be the same level as the products that you actually charge for. Nobody goes to Paris to order a Big Mac type of idea. The idea behind that is by offering that premium side of it for a reduced price or a free price, you’re starting to bring people in. But it still took a lot of work in order to get to that interview, right? I mean, one of the things that we often talk about on the show as well is going for those big asks. When you went ahead and had to get Richard Branson within your scope and within the actual magazine, how did you actually go and approach that?
Nathan Chan: We revealed the whole process, super [depth?], like 6,000-word blog post. If you go to foundrmag.com/getinterviews–but I’ll walk you through some of it now, Kim. But the first thing we did was we found the gate keeper. I think that’s the biggest piece is there’s always a go-to person. That gate keeper has actually changed in the sense that the go-to person reach your brand’s PR person–he has many different PR people. At the time, we found someone that we tracked back from his publisher. So he published [inaudible] all these different books [inaudible] Random House. So I called up Random House and tried to find out who’s the best person to speak to to interview Richard Branson for our magazine. On the phone–it’s a magazine, we’re legit, people go to our website. I think that’s a really strong ask, if you have a magazine. That’s a really strong ask when you have a magazine.
And then the next piece of the puzzle was, I guess, asking. Like you said, there’s big ask. I didn’t know what happened [inaudible]. When I got [inaudible] back on to the phone of the head of PR–Richard Branson at the time, this was three years ago–when I spoke to her, she was like, “Please understand we get this kind of request at least 10 times a day.” I called her up, that was a key thing. I followed up, that was another key thing. She never got back to me. Had to call quite a few times, leave quite a few voicemails. When I spoke to her, it didn’t sound good. I didn’t think it would happen. I sent a really good e-mail and played on the fact that his first business venture was, in fact, a magazine. And just yeah, he said yes, and we kind of took it from there. But we have big asks, too. Like I’m not going to [inaudible] with this new book that we’re launching, Foundr V1.0.
And it’s not by me, it’s by the brand. I guess I asked if we could get Sir Richard to write the Foreword. No joy. So we constantly–seeing what we can do, seeing what we can ask, see what could work out. But yeah, no joy on asking to write the Foreword. So yeah, these are just things that, I guess, we have to always do and push your comfort zone to get to the next level, right? To get your business to the next level.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. I notice a lot of entrepreneurs and people that will typically make those big asks. They’ll do for the first time, and they almost sit on their laurels. They’re like, “Okay, well now that I’ve made it–” Whereas you used it as momentum to get you even further in through the company, and be able to get even bigger names–like including Arianna Huffington. I saw Gary Vaynerchuk on recently. Daymond John. Was that used as the momentum in order to get that way or did you actually–knowing that you’re able to get Richard Branson on, you actually built that confidence within yourself?
Nathan Chan: It was both. Only just the confidence. I don’t do the pitching anymore, but yeah, it was both. It was the confidence plus also the momentum. I think when we started pitching up to that, having Richard Branson on the front cover, that’s all we needed to just show people– “Okay, this is what we’ve done. This is who we are.” It just brought a whole ton of legitimacy to the brand which really changing game, and also built my confidence to be out to go and pitch the world. We still do struggle sometimes, Kim. This is the interesting thing from our perspective. You might [inaudible] inside look, inside take is a lot of people still do traders like major amateurs. A lot of people still do say no even though we have reasonable-size audience. I’m not going to name names but we have pitched many people, where they still don’t get back to us or they say, “Yeah, not interested.” But they would do interviews with bigger publications than us.
But I think we have quite a close relationship with their audience. And it’s a lot more of a grassroots kind of brand, but yeah, plenty of people still say no, Kim. So I guess the moral of the story is even though you think you made it, you have. Even if you’re the biggest in the world, there’s people that still say no, that seems people that don’t understand the value prop. If we’re the owner [inaudible] Entrepreneur Magazine, of Forbes, or [inaudible] Company or an equal fortune–you know what, [inaudible]. We’re just not that household name brand yet. So we still do struggle sometimes. But the interesting thing, I just wanted to say, sorry to interrupt, but the interesting thing is I want to be able to do experience another brand–they only remember the big interviews. They don’t remember all the outlets which is interesting. So you only need a few people to remember and associate your brand with [inaudible] entrepreneur. Which is something that’s interesting.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. That’s a really good point. I mean, we can easily leapfrog ourselves with these bigger names and fill in the time or the content with things that will just work for us. When you launched your magazine–I know you guys were [inaudible] bootstrapping phase. One of the things I found really interesting was you decided on Instagram as the segue or as the social medium to actually promote it. Why did you choose Instagram, and how do you feel that that kind of changed the momentum shift?
Nathan Chan: With Instagram, it was a few reasons that it felt right. But I didn’t know until I tested it. Because what happened was the magazines on the App Store–like the App Store on the Google Play Store. The magazine is for mobile and tablet devices. [inaudible] content on Instagram is on their phone. You actually literally can’t photos from your computer. Everyone is on their phone. And anyone that read the magazine is on their phone. So that [inaudible] kind of felt quite right, but then also–it’s funny looking back. We’ve been on Instagram for two years now. Closing in on 1M followers. Looking back, there was no accounts like ours. Please keep in mind Instagram has been around for six years, at least. I think 2012. Yeah. Maybe 2010 or 2011.
So maybe five, six years it’s been around. And two years ago, there was no account like ours that post motivational, integrational, [inaudible], tips, quotes. There was a couple–and I did work with them–there was a few, maybe a handful, but there was hardly any. Now, there’s a lot in this space. But there was hardly any of it. Not that it baffled me, but it was kind of a younger kind of space as well which is our target market. We definitely don’t discriminate, but we do have a lot of people that follow the brand that are in between the ages of 20 to 35. That’s our biggest segment. Yeah, it was really, really interesting to see that there was an audience there that were on mobile devices. It just kind of felt right. But I didn’t know, and I wouldn’t have continued to push through it unless I tested it–get traction.
So without traction, I get a couple of posts and did a few things my friend shared with me, Jake, who really [inaudible] really, really well because he’s the person that really taught it to me and got me excited about it. From there, I saw how Google Analytics spiked in a couple of days, and made a couple extra hundred dollars. I was like, “Okay, we are onto something with this Instagram thing.” And I used it to really grow the brand. Not only just in terms of subscription-based revenue, but also in terms of word of mouth and just people knowing the brand and making an impact in this space. Still to this day, we’re kind of like a pioneer or market leader to anyone that really wants to understand it utilize Instagram as a growth channel. So that’s kind of how that all started.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And you still teach Instagram courses. Is that right?
Nathan Chan: Correct. So we do have a few different courses now. But yeah, Instagram is a big one that we are quite known for. Because we have so many successful students, and we are quite good at it ourself with our brand. Yeah, we’re really going to double down on the whole courses page. We’ll teach eventually 100’s of courses [inaudible] to people.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And that actually [inaudible] in really nicely because then that sort of bring into that multiple streams of income. I mean, running a free digital magazine or at least having the free issue, you have the piece that you put the monthly subscription. The online courses–where else do you see Foundr magazine or at least the Foundr brand starting to stretch out as well?
Nathan Chan: We got a recurring membership site. I think that’s going to be the core of the business. We’re really, really going to, I think, push really hard for that. I think [inaudible] have something very special and amazing that we’re building there. There are quite a few membership sites out there, and we haven’t really–to be honest with you, Kim–really nailed it. Like, nailed the positioning, nailed the differentiation, and nailed it. But I know we will. It’s just not a focus. It is an amazing community that we’ve built both behind the membership site [inaudible] the club. We’re still working on it. We’re still working on mastery. It’s been tricky, that one. But then we got the book coming out, hopefully that gets funded. Which is our physical piece that can be–I think it’s all about that product [inaudible]. So you’re once a level entry, anything between $1 to $10 to $20, $30, then you want something that’s between $50 to $100. Then you want something that’s between $100 to $200, then $300 to $500, then $500 to $1,000, then $1,000 to $2,000. Can go higher if you wish. But I think having that [inaudible]–and we’re building out this product [inaudible] of courses whether it’s physical products–that would be an interesting [inaudible] with this book, with other subscription from the magazine, plus also the club, then also other courses, ones-off purchases. But then also, I think, there’s a big opportunity in terms of advertising. We haven’t even touched that yet. And then also events.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And those are actually really good [inaudible]-in. We talked about the marketing side of it. How do you see kind of when you wanted to get into more sales or you’re kind of in that portion where you’re actually having to ask for a sale or ask for some larger dollar fares. How do you find that that’s going to fit into your model?
Nathan Chan: Yeah. With full transparency, Kim, we’re still working it out. I think it is difficult to–it’s not that it can’t be done, but I’m not gonna lie, we have faced some challenges where I think from my intuition, most people know the brand for producing great content. People know the brand for doing interviews like with the Richard Bransons or the Tony Robbins or the Gary Vaynerchuks or the Arianna Huffingtons. If there was a stand-up piece around the brands where I [inaudible] content and those interviews. Now when it comes to making that switch from good free interviews, good free content to premium content whether it’s courses or [inaudible] items–we haven’t nailed that part yet. There’s a few pieces that we have the puzzle we haven’t nailed. And we know for a fact that one of the best ways is via webinars, and also emails.
They’re the two pieces that allows to sell high-ticket items at scale. I think we need to also get better at retargeting and paid acquisition. Because I think, to sell the higher-ticket items, you need a combination of e-mail–like the sale sequence is much stronger. And it is much more evolved. The higher the ticket item, the more evolved, and the more the qualification, the more trust a rapport that needs to be built. So for this book that we’re launching on Kickstarter, I think with the landing page, the video, the brand story, and just getting as many people as we can to spread the word, it won’t be that hard of a sell because it’s only about $40, $50 one book. But the higher-ticket items, the best people to buy those higher-ticket items are in the existing customers that have already bought the $40, $50 or the subscription, the magazine subscription, or any of the recurring product, or anything of a lower ticket because if they’ve got value and they trust, it’s an easy sell. Do a higher-ticket item, and we’d definitely see that crossover.
But we [inaudible] to convert someone cold or if they’re warm, or if they just know the brand but they’re not a buyer or not a customer, I found a combination of e-mail, webinars, and we really need to double down on retargeting. Getting very, very good at Facebook ads. I think there’s something very special that you could utilize Facebook ads and PPC to truly scale. Because here’s the thing, Kim. We have a reasonable size audience like you know, we haven’t even done Google AdWords advertising, and we just don’t [inaudible] 150,000 people just [inaudible] e-mail list–we have e-mails of 250,000. We just sent-up retargeting list of 150,000. This is all matched up with Google accounts. We have a retargeting list on Facebook of 250,000. These are just people that have consumed or come to any of our pages with Facebook [to match their?] profile in the past couple of months.
So we have a reasonable size audience, but a lot of [inaudible] audience don’t know about any of that products. That’s the kind of connection breach that we’re working on building and working on nailing. I think it’s going to be a combination of product [inaudible], it’s going to be a combination of automated e-mail marketing campaigns, and it’s going to be a combination of, I guess, maybe just getting out there and showcasing that we’re a hybrid between just media and education. Also, I think one day, it’s going to be–I think the clearest way to do it–this is me thinking 2 to 3 years from now–is just having found a premium. Like this [founder had this founder premium?]. The words say itself. Foundr premium. So that’s the premium content. When you go there–you own a subscription, you get access to all these different things. Unless you [inaudible] complicated, you don’t have 20 different products that people can buy. Like I think, 2, 3 years from now, I think that’s the way to go. But we have [inaudible] yet. We won’t do it yet. I think it’s just kind of finding out, testing what works, building that product [inaudible] that eventually bump [inaudible] to one kind of offering, I think. I think. Who knows? Yeah, that’s how we get people to buy high-ticket times–through e-mail, webinar, and retargeting. But when you do [inaudible] retargeting.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And I love the fact that you have been so transparent. But we are still kind of figuring that out especially as entrepreneurs. We go through iterations of what our business model looks like or what we’re possibly going out there to sell. So one last piece of advice for any entrepreneurs that are listening to you. What would you tell them about whether they want to start a job creating relationships or kind of getting those very first few sales?
Nathan Chan: Yeah. I think getting the first very few sales–for us, we [inaudible] first sale the first day we launched. We made $5 on the first day on the App Store. And two people subscribed. The reason that we did was because we’re on a marketplace–we produced the product in a marketplace where there were buyers. Like App Store’s one of the best place for buyers because everyone has a legit credit card, everyone is desensitized to pay for apps. Like it’s not low-ticket item. I think there’s a strong differentiation between someone that’s interested in buying stuff, and then someone that’s just interested in free stuff.
I think if you want to get your first few sales very quickly, you either get on the phone, speak to people, find out what they want, find out what their biggest problems, challenges, desires are, frustrations, really understand them, listen to the language they’re using, and use that in your copywriting, understand their objections for what’s holding them back, and make sure that whatever it is you’re selling whether it’s online or offline, you handle those objections. And try and build as much trust as possible. And yeah, quick [way?] or easy way to sell is sell somewhere where there’s already buyers and a marketplace. Like Amazon. I hear some crazy stories people are selling physical products on Amazon. They get sales in the first day, too, you know. Same as the App Store. You just have to really understand that sales process which I know that you share really well with your audience, Kim.
Kim Orlesky: Thank you so much, Nathan. Where can people find out more about Founder V1.0?
Nathan Chan: If you want to find out more, you can go to foundrmag.com/book. Or you can just go to foundr.com. Yeah, you could find out more about the brand. But that lead will take you to the Kickstarter campaign. [inaudible] support. This is the best of the magazine in the past 3 ½ years worth of content. It’s the greatest hits album, really. So if you want to get the best of and you’re not familiar with the brand, that would be a great place to start.
Kim Orlesky: Thank you so much for your time today, Nathan. I really appreciated you joining us today.
Nathan Chan: Thank you so much [inaudible], Kim. I really appreciate your talk, too.