Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and this is going to be a really fun interview today. Today I’m talking with Paul Jarvis. Paul is an entrepreneur, and he is the author of the new book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business.
I’ve known of Paul and kind of followed his work for probably four or five years, maybe longer than that now. Actually, I’m a customer of his through some of the courses that he has taught over the years, and I will tell you, there are few people out on the internet that think more deeply about what it means to run a small service business and do it in a really intentional way, so I think we’re going to have a lot of fun today. I’m looking forward to the conversation. Paul Jarvis, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Yeah, thanks Steve. I appreciate you having me on today.
It’s going to be fun. I just finished the book last night. It came out, what, about a week and a half ago? Promptly got my copy on the day that it was released thanks to Jeff Bezos. I love the approach of the book, so I’m excited to jump into that. Before we get to the book, give everybody a little bit of a background on how, how you got to this stage of your career.
So I’ve worked for myself for about 20 years, but I didn’t … That was never the aim. I accidentally became an entrepreneur, because I was working for an agency, this was in the ’90s. I was working for an agency, I loved the clients, I loved the work, I didn’t love the agency, so I quit and I was going to go look for another job at another agency.
The day after I quit, I started to get phone calls from the clients saying, “Hey, Paul, we liked working with you and we liked you in the work more than working with the agency, so just let us know where you’re going to go next. We’ll bring our business there.” I got a bunch of those calls, and I was like, “Maybe I can just work with these people on my own.” I didn’t know anything about starting a business, but I did.
I guess I never looked back from there, because that was probably about 20 years ago, which is awesome, and also makes me feel old. Since then, it was mostly design and online consulting, and I worked with everybody from pro athletes like Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal to huge companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Mercedes, and then the latter part of the service, work that I was doing, it was with online entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, Cris Carter. Those sorts of really awesome and intelligent business people.
You started off in services. You’ve made now the transition to really a product-based business.
Just share a little bit with folks about what you’re doing now.
Going From Services to Products
Yeah, so nowadays I do a lot of things. I mean, I just wrote a book, Company of One, like you mentioned. Books is a fairly big focus of the work I do. I also teach a few courses, one for freelancing, one for Mailchimp. I also host a few podcasts. One podcast is Company of One like the book, and the other one is Creative Class with Kaleigh Moore.
I think those are all the … I have two software products … It’s bad when you don’t remember the things that you do. I have two software products, one is a privacy focused analytics business, and one is a WordPress course completion product.
That’s a pretty long list. That’s not one business, that’s a lot of little businesses, isn’t it?
Yeah. It is.
As you’ve built those businesses up. Starting from when you left the agency, I would imagine that it hasn’t been an exactly perfect straight line, upward climb to where you are now. What have you done as obstacles have been thrown at you, things have gotten tough, just to persevere and keep going?
Yeah. Especially at the start Steve it was tough, because I was really good at the job that I’d done. I was a really good at doing design and working with clients, but I didn’t know how to run a business. I knew nothing. I dropped out of university before that. I’d never taken even a single business course. I didn’t know anything about running a business. I failed so hard at the business side of things for the first probably couple years. I’m a slow learner.
It took me a couple of years to really get that dialed in. There were some times when I had one client who didn’t pay me, I think they didn’t pay me every month for six months. Then I realized I’d been setting this, I’d basically been telling this client that, “Hey, if you don’t pay me that’s fine. I’m going to keep working. I’ve been working for six months without a paycheck. Without getting paid by you.” Things like that, it was just really difficult to do that in the beginning.
Even in the moving the products, I think that a lot of times people think, if you want to make products you just go out and make a product and it does really really well. It took me, almost three years, three and a half, three years to move from services to products, because it’s slow bound. It wasn’t just all of a sudden like, a six figure product, and another six figure product. It was like, “I’m going to launch something, see how it does, see it does all right. And then work on it a bit and then relaunch it, and then work on it a bit and relaunch it.”
It’s been a slow progress, and it hasn’t been … Like you said it hasn’t been just in the direction of up to the right kind of thing. I don’t know … I think that resilience is probably one of the most important things, because I think things don’t always go right, and it’s really difficult for things to always go right all the time. Resilience, and Dean Becker studied resilience, and found that resilience is actually more useful in business than education, training and experience.
It kind of makes sense, because a lot of people who work for themselves, a lot of entrepreneurs need that. It’s not something you are just born with, it’s something that you … Which is good, because I don’t think I was born with resilience. It’s something that you can work at. It’s something that you can build up as you go. It really just is three things, it’s accepting reality, you don’t control everything. It’s having a sense of purpose, because even if things go wrong we still have a direction to move. It’s the ability to adapt, because as things change we have to as well.
I love that way that you’ve condensed that down. What really as I’m listening, I’m frankly shocked. You didn’t make the transition from services to products in a weekend? That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? I read an article, 10 ways to do it tomorrow. I appreciate you sharing that, because I think for a lot of people who are in business, particularly if you are in the first decade of a business … I’m on business number two, and the first one went longer than a decade, and this one is about to hit a decade.
You get to that point where you’ve seen a lot of different things kind of happen to you and realize how the game really works. I think sometimes it can be really difficult, especially now, you look around … I mean, everywhere you look, all the marketing that’s being thrown at us is, how somebody woke up on Monday morning, and by Tuesday they were making seven figures?
I think there is just a nuance to wisdom of just doing a thing for a long period of time. That’s not what sells easily either. I have a business that sells the hard way of doing things. It is I think a more honest way to do things, and it is I think a better way to do things. You don’t get the nuance of wisdom of running a business from reading three articles on medium. You get it by focusing on it for a long time, it’s not a decade, but it’s definitely not a week or two.
How … I know you are not big on social media, in other words you are not a big participant on social media. You do a lot of things in your business to kind of stay focused. The big fear I hear from folks is that if they disconnect from all that stuff, somehow their business is going to come crashing to a halt. I’ve watched you over the last four or five years as someone that’s been on your list. You are very focused. How do you maintain that?
The Unexpected Benefits of Staying Off Facebook
I mean, I’m focused on my customers. I don’t need to talk to my customers on social media. I don’t care if we are having … They don’t even have a Facebook account, we are not having conversations on Facebook. We are having conversations on … I’m focused, I guess because my focus is more on retention than acquisition of customers. I don’t need to go onto platforms like that to grow, because my business is already at a size that’s enough. I just need to focus on talking to the customers that I already have through things like you said, my weekly newsletter.
When people email me from that I read it and I reply, and I can manage that easily, because I don’t need to look at Facebook, or LinkedIn or Instagram or anything like that. I can focus just on the things that matter, I don’t even think those platforms matter that much. I don’t think it’s hurt my business that I’m not on Facebook. I don’t think that people seeing well-manicured pictures of my life that isn’t actually real on Instagram, it will make more or less people buy a book or a course from me.
I would rather just focus on the people who are paying attention. They are paying attention through my mailing list, and through the communities that I built through the products that I sell. Those are … Yes, it’s not those things are public. The public doesn’t see the emails that I get and the replies that I send. It doesn’t matter. I’d rather build relationships like that than be using a tool that somebody else owns, especially for nefarious reasons in some cases, where they are selling data.
I’d rather run my business with a focus on the people who are paying attention, and just pay attention to those people. That’s always served my business well. For 20 years it’s served my business well.
You said something that I think is really important, and I don’t know if you noticed it or not. You said, “I don’t think this has hurt my business.” The first thought that jumped into my head was, “Well, who is the judge of that?” Of course, you are the only judge of that, right?
Yeah. Exactly. Success is personal.
I was just going to say, I feel like my business, it has enough revenue, it has enough customers. It does well. I love the way that it works. I also love the freedom that I have, because I don’t have to make it epically huge. I’m happy with where my business is at. I’ve been happy with where my business is at for ages. I don’t make as much as Elon Musk, but I also don’t work 80 hours a week like he does, and sleep on a couch in my office, because I can’t go home like he does, or be afraid to take vacations, because the last two times he’s taken vacation, his rockets have exploded, and he doesn’t have in his hand the difference between causation and correlation.
I don’t need to stack myself up against other business people, because I don’t have the same values as them, I don’t have the same goals as them. I don’t have the same drive to be everything as they do. I just want to have enough. I just want to have a comfortable life, and a bunch of customers that I really like to have, and talk to, and engage with.
I want to come back … We are going to take a quick break. I want to come back and I want to talk about this idea of enough. That’s central to your new book Company of One. I want to dive into the book. There are some fantastic lessons in there. We are going to be right back with more from Paul Jarvis.
Welcome back everybody. This is Steve Gordon. I’m talking today with Paul Jarvis, author of Company of One. Paul, you’ve left off with this idea of enough. You talk about this a lot throughout the book. I think this is a critical concept that for most of us growing businesses, there isn’t some infinite scale that awaits. Most business just aren’t going to do that. You’ve approached this from a perspective of defining what enough means. You want to talk a little bit about that, and your perspective on it?
Yeah. I think that … First I think defining enough is different for everyone. I also think that enough is the counterbalance or antithesis of unchecked growth in business. I think that more doesn’t always mean better. If you look in the thesaurus, more and better aren’t synonyms of each other. I think that it’s difficult, because when we start a business we have to have growth. We have to go from nothing to something.
When More Business Growth Doesn’t Make Sense
We have to grow, we have to be growth focused, we have to adopt a growth mindset at the onset, because we need to go from zero revenue to some revenue, or need to from zero customer to some customer. It serves us, and it serves us well in the beginning to focus on growth. This is where I think a lot of times things go astray is if we never consider growth, making sense until it doesn’t, if we never consider that growth can stop, or that growth can be evaluated, then we are never going to stop that focus that we have in the beginning that works in the beginning. That if we go from nothing to something that’s good.
If we go from no revenue to some revenue that’s amazing. If we never stop to consider like, maybe this is enough for me right now. Maybe this is enough for my business. Maybe my business generates enough revenue with enough customers for me to be happy and have freedom in my life. Then we are just going to keep chasing growth. We are going to keep running towards it. It’s like running towards the horizon, it feels like we are making so much progress, we are sweating, we are running, we are going full out, but we are never getting there.
You can never run to the horizon. It feels like we are making progress while maybe we are not. I think sometimes business growth absolutely makes sense. Sometimes business growth just means more stress, more responsibilities, maybe even more expenses, maybe even more risk. I think unless we question it, unless we think like, how much is enough? How will I know when I’ve reached it? What will change when I do? Is enough right now good enough, or do I need more? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes just no.
It’s interesting, as I was reading the book. At the beginning of the book you talk a lot about this idea. I found myself just in my own head struggling with this concept, because I think there is so much pressure in the business world about I got to get to the next level. That’s talked about a lot, it’s promoted as the thing to do. I had to get into the book a little ways, and it finally hit me what you are really trying to communicate was that, it’s not about whether or not you should grow, it’s really about making a conscious decision about whether or not you want to grow, and what does it mean?
Exactly. A business like Airbnb, it doesn’t make sense if one person was running it and they had two properties available. That doesn’t make sense, for a business like that it doesn’t make sense to be a one person shop, but sometimes it does. I think a lot of times we start a business, and we run a business, and if we are lucky enough for it to succeed, we don’t consider the lifestyle that that business is going to give us. We don’t consider, “Maybe if I started Airbnb, it has to be a bunch of people, it has to a lot of properties. It has to have a scale or this volume to succeed.
For somebody like me, if I looked at that business, and I looked at, how would this business growing to its organic right size affect my life? I would be like, I don’t want that. I don’t want to have a ton of employees in offices around the world doing that. That’s not a product that I would ever want to build, because that would give me a lifestyle that I don’t actually want.
A lot of times business owners don’t think about … In best case scenario, if this thing does well. If this thing succeeds, what’s that going to look like? How will the growth of this thing required affect my happiness, or how I want to spend my day or my purpose for doing business in the first place?
Well, and not thinking about it leads to what we all have heard talked about, which is where as a business owner you are both the jailer and the inmate in a prison built for one. You are trapped in this thing. I think that really comes from not having intentionality about what it is you are really building. I think there is lots of different ways to grow a business, and you can certainly grow for revenue. You can grow it for size, and impact. You can grow headcount. You can grow freedom for the owner.
There are all kinds of different ways that you can create growth that is meaningful and will help you achieve whatever goal it is that you have. What I love that you are bringing to the front of mind here is just be clear about what you are growing. You talk in the book about the fact that the title is a little bit of a misnomer. You are not talking about a literal Company of One. Can you share a little bit about how you see this concept of Company of One, how it plays out inside of the business, what it really means?
Yeah. And like you said, it’s not meant to be literal. My business isn’t even a one person business. I have usually about four, or five freelancers that I’m working with. Two or three partners that I have in different businesses. It’s just like Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week. Nowhere in the book does he say you work four hours and you are done, see you. Company of One is more of the mindset or the philosophy in terms of maybe you can make something work in its smallest form possible. If you can make something work at one, if you can get profitability to happen without scale, then maybe you can scale.
It’s a freedom to grow, not the, well, I am successful, there I grow. I think the thesis of the book is really arguing that the byproduct of business success isn’t growth, it’s the freedom to choose when growth makes sense, because it absolutely does. Sometimes you do need to go from one to more sometimes. Not always and it shouldn’t be just a given that, or I’m successful. It’s got to grow. That’s what you see in business books, and on medium posts, and in the news is like, growth is always good.
Throughout the book I cite tons of studies where growth is actually the worst, rapid growth, unchecked growth, unintentional growth is the worst thing for business. It’s like the leading cause of business failure.
The Dirty Secret of the Inc. 5000 List
The study around the Inc. 5000 that you share in the book. I was frankly shocked by that. I had no idea that the numbers would be that dramatic. I think you shared somewhere in the neighborhood of about 80% of the Inc. 5000, which are supposedly the 5000 fastest growing companies in the country were either out of business or acquired or significantly smaller after, what about, five years?
Yeah, five to eight. There is like 76% of businesses on the Inc. 5000 list, five to eight years later had either gone out of business, sold for pennies on a dollar or been acquired at a ridiculously low rate. Not because the market’s change, or not because they had made bad products, but because they had chosen to put growth above profit.
Most of the time it’s hard to focus on profit and growth at the same time, because growth requires expenditures. Growth requires forsaking profit now in the hopes that profit happens later or that profit happens at scale, or volume. That’s a risk that a lot of businesses take because they think, “That’s the way that you do business.” For myself and for pretty much every single story in the book, it’s like, no, you can’t focus on profit. Basecamp is probably the best example of a business that has always been profit focused and profit driven as opposed to growth driven.
Yet their numbers have increased, but their numbers have increased based on them focusing on profit, and not based on them saying, “We are going to spend,” I think over the course of their life, and I think Basecamp is about 20 years old, or so. There is only two months where they spent money on something like paid acquisition. They just try for the sake of let’s see what happens, for experimenting. I think that was good, and they didn’t actually … They spent 140, 150 grand a month on Facebook and Google Ads for a couple of months.
They found that their vanity metrics increased, like maybe the number of the hits that they got on their landing page increased, their revenue didn’t increase, their customers didn’t increase, if they did get new customers, they churned out a lot faster. They abandoned it, which I think was probably smart on their part.
In focusing on profit, it means you are focusing on retention over acquisition. It means you are focusing on how you can have good margins where you are at, instead of hopefully having good margins after you hit 100,000 customers or 1,000,000 customers, or something like that.
It makes for a calmer business. When you are profitable month in and month out, it just makes life easier. You don’t have as much to worry about. There is no shoe that’s about to drop. Let’s talk for a minute about attracting customers and growth, because you address that in the book. You actually, you talk with a few business owners, maybe it was even on the podcast that you built around the book, who have in the past gone down that rail of fast growth, paid acquisition. Trying to do all of these great things to generate their growth, and they’ve pulled back from that.
I think the study was it’s five to eight times harder and more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing customer. It just feels like, in business basically there is two options to sustain a business of course. You can either one, make continual or consistent money off of the same user base, or continue to attract more and more users all the time, and that’s the case where it costs a lot more to do. It takes a lot more time, it takes time to build trust and rapport, and get attention from new people constantly.
Where, a lot of people in the book, and my own business included, I like the audience that I have now. I like the size that my audience is at now. I would rather just continue to make things for them, for them to buy either repeatedly like a software subscription or new products every year or two. I know my audience, I talk to them every single week. Every time I send out a newsletter I get 150, 250, 300 emails. I have a direct connection with my audience, I can get to know what they are working on, what they want from me, what they are struggling with.
I can make things for them, and it’s easy to make things for them, because I know them, because I understand them, because I can empathize with them. When it comes time to sell to them, it doesn’t need to be this grandiose sales pitch, and this like 18 emails sequence thing. It’s just like … Usually I talk about the things that I’m making. Sometimes like the book for years, in advance, because it takes a long time to traditionally publish a book. I’ve been talking about it with my mailing list for probably about two and a half years now, which is a long time.
When it comes time to sell, it’s not like I don’t have to have this spiel to sell. It’s just like, you know that thing that we’ve been talking about for a little while? Well, it’s available now, and if you want to buy it, great, here you can buy it. If you don’t want to buy it, that’s cool tool. Get the next thing. It’s not that big of a deal either way. It has become so much easier to sell when there is a relationship and rapport and a cadence of communication happening, where it’s just like, “I don’t really need to sell. I just need to mention that, the thing that we’ve been talking about. It’s available. Do you want it? Cool. No? That’s cool too.”
It just simplifies the whole process, and you don’t have to hard sell anyone. You’ve got to be of all the people selling things out on the internet, you’ve got to be the antithesis of the hard sell. You’ve built a successful mailing list … I want to touch on that a little bit because to make all of this really practical for people. If they are thinking about, what are some of the really down to earth things I can do to stay small and stay scrappy but at the same time expand my impact without expanding maybe my physical footprint of the business? I’m going to guess that you would say your mailing list is probably one of the most critical things for you to be able to do that. Would that be accurate?
Yeah. Scale without growth. That is basically what a mailing list is. It takes me just as long to write an email and send it to you, as it does to write an email, pop it into Mailchimp and send it to 30,000 people. There are not many other things, and most of those people are going to open it and read it. Whereas if I posted it on twitter, the only platform I’m on. I think I have 20 or 25,000 followers on there. Like five utmost will probably see it. Maybe one of those five people are going to click on it.
There is no other thing like bang for buck that has this scale without growth where I can … I don’t need to hire people to … My mailing list grows by 1,000 people, I don’t need to hire another person to manage those people. It’s just, I just pay like 30 cents more, or $1 more on Mailchimp and those are good to go. Things like that I think are really beneficial when you are running a business that wants to challenge growth. Saying like what can you do to reach possibly more people, if that’s what you need to do without having to do a lot more work to do it, or without having to hire, or spend more to do it.
For me it’s always been my list. All roads in my business lead to and from my mailing list. That’s where 95, 96% of my revenue is generated through emails. All of the other things, it’s barely a sliver in the pie chart of all the other things like social, or anything else like, it’s all the sliver that’s incomprehensibly tiny in the chart of the revenue that I’ve generated, probably for the last seven-ish years has all been mailing list related and email related.
I think one of the challenges that people have with that is that, I mean, it’s … Yes it scales, but if you don’t show up on a consistent basis, you don’t get the benefit out of it. Certainly you could show up once a quarter, or once a year with the mailing list.
Or if you have something to sell, which is what most people do.
Or do what? I’m sorry.
Or only show up and email people when you have something to sell them.
That’s usually a bad idea. There is something magical I think about that medium that allows you to create relationship. The relationship comes from the consistency of showing up.
I’ve never missed a Sunday in six years other than when I take scheduled breaks. It’s called The Sunday Dispatcher for a reason, because if it’s Sunday you are going to get an email from me unless I’ve told you in advance, I’m not sending emails through the Christmas holidays or something like that, because people are busy than anyways. I show up with a regular cadence that builds trust and rapport with my audience is reciprocated by the ones who find value in the things that I do than buying those things.
I think the really interesting observation that I’ve had from watching you, now I’ve watched you … I’ve been on your list probably five years now. Just watching all the way through how that works. You are really focused on being very straight and very helpful. What people are hearing through the audio here, through this conversation is exactly what it sounds like when you get one of your emails. There is that authenticity to it.
Yeah. I’m not smart enough to be somebody else on writing is kind of what it comes down to. I also don’t feel the pressure to be somebody I’m not. I don’t need to put on airs to be, this is an email that I’m selling something, so I have to act a certain way because I’m trying to sell something. It’s like, no. I’m just going to be. That’s the biggest compliment I get as a writer is that people tell me, “You write the way you sound.”
Being Who You Really Are Pays Off
I’m like, “Good. That’s the point.” I’m never going to pretend to be somebody I’m not. It always just rubs me the wrong way when I see other people with audiences who put themselves above their audience. Why are you doing that? That just doesn’t make sense. Does it make you feel good if you do that? I would rather just be like, I’m just a person doing the same thing as everybody in my audience. I’m in the trenches working just as hard as everybody else, and I’m just talking about it.
The only difference is I’m talking about it. It’s not that I’m better than anybody, I don’t want to be better than anybody. I just want to be the same as everybody. I think that helps build that relationship. I’m super available to my … It’s funny, I’m only super available, I say I’m super available than I think of my contact page. My contact page on my website doesn’t have any contact information. It says, pretend I’m dead. You’ll find information about me somewhere else.
My newsletter which goes out, normally I have 32, 33,000 people. That goes out from my personal email. If somebody replies to that, it goes to me, I don’t have an assistant. I don’t have robots reading and replying to emails. I’m 100% to the people who are paying attention. I’m not available to the people who are … When I have an email address on my website Steve, I would get so many pitches. I think somebody sold my email address that I was a reporter because I write for every business publication.
I’m not a journalist. I’m only covering things that benefit me on these publications. I’ll get pitched so many times. I’m just like, if somebody wants to get in touch with me, they just need to be on my list, because then they are paying attention, and they’ll probably going to be cool anyways.
To me that’s a huge takeaway for folks who are listening who a lot of people on our audience, they are not professional marketers. They are doing their thing every day serving the people that they serve. A lot of the times they look at, all the things that, all the advice out there for marketing, and they think they’ve got to go be something other than what they really are. I think that can be a really dangerous thing. The one threat … I’ve interviewed now over a hundred people on the podcast. All of them usually pretty good at creating an audience, and showing up in this way.
The thread that runs through all of that, is that the people that are the most successful are doing exactly what you are doing. They are showing up just as themselves. They are trying to bring forward the latest email headline, hack or something. They are just showing up, they are being themselves, and then responding to the people who are paying attention.
Yeah. I think intentions shine through whether we want them to or not. If my intention is just to hustle and either turn or burn my list. I guess people are going to notice and people aren’t going to like it. Whereas, if I just show up as me then the people who are interested … That’s where I have a swear word in my welcome email, because I don’t swear often but sometimes the swear word slips in and it’s authentic, and it’s actually the way that I speak.
If people are going to be offended by one little thing like that. It’s just like, you can find somebody else. There is a lot of other people. I understand if you are offended by that. I’m offended by things that you are probably not. I just try to be as real as possible. I think my welcome email also talks about how I was so happy that somebody signed up, I went and got their name tattooed on me, which I’m covered in tattoos from basically my throat to my toe. That’s on brand.
I just want people to definitely talk about growth and passion, and motivation, and all of that in the welcome email too, but I want people to see, this is exactly who I am. This is exactly the type of person that you are signing up for. This is exactly the things that I talk about, and the way that I talk about them. Determine right now if this is a good fit for you. If not, there is a massive unsubscribe link for you. This is no hard feelings if you click it.
I want people to see like, are you in the right place, or are you not? Because I know I’m not right for everybody, I know my message and the way that I talk. My personality, is not a good fit for everybody, and 100% happy with that. I don’t want to be so watered down that I’m like a mass market type of person. This is why I don’t do television. It just wouldn’t work out to water down my message in a way that would reach the volume or the scale of that. That benefits me. It’s funny that the email that generated the most revenue.
The one email that generated the most revenue that I’ve ever generated in my business was an email that ended with. I was going to have a buy now, it was for a course that I was selling. I was going to have a buy now button and maybe an arrow pointed to it, because that’s what you are supposed to do. I was looking at it, I was like, this isn’t me. This doesn’t work. I swapped it out with a picture of my pet rats, and I’m like, if you want to buy this course click my pet rats. That was the … Nobody else could do that. It’s funny, because we could copy anybody in terms of a product that they have or the execution that they have, or the content that they have.
It’s incredibly hard to copy somebody’s personality. Especially, it’s impossible to copy somebody else’s personality authentically. I think that’s what the differentiator is for a lot of people that do all right, is that they just have a personality that just that group of people are happy about, and happy to hear from, and happy to learn from. It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely the right people.
How to Make Sure You Don’t Become a Commodity
Well, to me that’s the ultimate answer to commoditization. We work with businesses in all kinds of service disciplines, and the common complaint that comes up, and it’s come up for the last eight years that I’ve been in this business is that, you don’t understand. It’s all price driven, it’s all about commoditization. I’m sitting there shaking my head going, “No, you fool. You’ve decided to put yourself there.” Use the single best thing that you have that’s unique, which is you.
Lean on it hard, because when you do people will respond to it. I’m sure you get this all the time. I know we do. Our model is that we do done for you services for, marketing services for our clients. Earlier this week I talked with a couple of potential clients. We always ask them when the sign up for an appointment? What is it that attracted you to this? The longer we’ve been in business, the more often that answer comes back, because I just really like Steve’s approach. That’s just because I’m showing up. It’s not that I’m particularly brilliant, but I get to show up like this and have conversation with really smart people like Paul, and you guys get to hear my voice and you think that. This is it, this as good as it gets. I’m sure you see that all the time.
Sure, and I think that that differentiation through personality is how you compete at the top market. Commoditization and competing on pricing is how you compete at the bottom of the market. It’s harder to compete at the bottom of the market, because it’s so like, “This course list or this could be delivered faster.” It’s really high and it’s like a numbers and volume game. It’s hard to compete there. I don’t actually know how to compete there.
If you look at the highest end product, in any niche, in any market, anywhere. Those things have the most personality. The Porsche brand has much more personality than the car manufacturers that sell cars which are cheaper. I did a survey of my mailing list. It was probably two or three years ago. I asked probably the most important question that I’ve ever asked my audience. Totally unintentional too, it was not like me being smart. I was just like, this is just a question I’m curious about. Let’s throw it out there and see what happens.
The question that I asked was, “Why did you buy from me?” Everything that I sell, there are variants of it online. There are a million freelancer courses. There is 13,000,000 probably business books on Amazon. There are so many examples of products that I sell that lots of other people sell. I was like, “Why me? Why did you buy from me and not somebody else?” The only answer that I think I have probably got, it was statistically relevant. It wasn’t like two people replied, I think I got 25, or 3500 replies. And the answer from everybody was because I was the one selling it. Because I was the one that they wanted to hear from, I was the one that they wanted a take on a topic from.
It’s not just like my personality is the best. It’s anybody, whenever somebody buys from somebody else, and not somebody else, it’s typically if we are competing at top of market, then it is that personality. It is that, I feel a connection to that person. I feel a connection to that brand. I feel a connection to that person’s personality of way of sharing, because the way that I share, the way that I talk about things, the way that I express myself is different from other people. That’s like I said prior to this. That was very hard to replicate.
People can try to replicate that, when I was doing websites for living, one of the clients that I had, I think I mentioned was Danielle LaPorte, and she’s like ridiculously famous and popular in her industry. People would always come to me and say like, I worked with her for 12 or 13 years. People would always come to me and be like, potential clients. And they are like, “Paul, I want you to design me a site like Danielle’s.” Because they saw that hers was successful. My answer was always no.
My answer was always, “One, I don’t want to, but two it’s not going to serve you because you are not Danielle. You are you.” That’s what people think like, “Oh, if I just have something like this other person, if I just pretend I have the personality of somebody else.” It doesn’t work like that. I’m not going to say yes to things like that. Nobody would say yes to things like that.
The word that popped into my head as you were describing the response you got back from your list on that question is relationship. Really what they are telling you is, I’m buying from you because I have a relationship with you. Whether they’ve ever met you or not. They feel like that they have that. That’s the power of the things that we are talking about today. For those of you listening, this stuff is not that hard to do. In terms of the technical skill or the level of intelligence that it takes. It’s hard because you have to do it consistently. It’s like any relationship that you want to create with your life.
Whether it’s with your spouse or have a good relationship with your kid. If you are not there on a consistent basis, showing up in their lives, good luck, you are not going to have a relationship with that person. They are going to go-
That’s so true. That’s why, it was probably one of the smartest things I did in my business was named my mailing list The Sunday Dispatch, is because it forced to send out emails on Sunday.
You go to do it every Sunday, right?
Yeah. Six years now. I think it’s November 2012 I started. It’s been consistent. People see that consistency and people see, “Paul cares so much. Paul cares about this list so much that he’s writing me something every single week. He doesn’t miss weeks.” I don’t only send emails on Sunday when I have something to sell. I send emails on Sundays because that’s a relationship that I’ve established with those people. They like that and they trust that, and it builds out rapport to make them want to buy if it is in fact something that they want to buy from me when I’m selling something.
I know we are over time, and sorry I’ve kept you long, but it was a great conversation. I think it’s going to be really beneficial for everybody listening, particularly if you take some of these ideas and begin to take action on them. They don’t work unless you take action. Paul, first I want to give you a little of a plug. I think for anybody that is looking to figure out how to communicate with their audience, you need to go get on Paul’s mailing list, and do that at this website pjrvs.com.
I’ll also tell you if you use Mailchimp you need to buy his Mailchimp course, because he’ll tell you how to actually make Mailchimp work for you. Beyond those two plugs Paul, where should people go? I highly recommend they get the book. I just finished reading it. It’s probably one of the best business books I’ve read in the last year or two. You’ve done a great job. Where can they go and find more about you and the book, and everything else?
Google Paul Jarvis. Google my name. My URL is pjrvs.com, which is impossible to remember, but luckily, I’m apparently good at SEM not on purpose. If you just google my name you’ll find my website. Like we’ve been talking about, my mailing list is the best way to keep in touch, see what I’m working on, and to have conversations with me.
Absolutely. Go do that as soon as you … If you are driving, as soon as you park the car. Go google Paul Jarvis, and get on his mailing list. You’ll learn a ton from it. I think you’ll be able to take those ideas and put them right into your business. Paul. Thanks for being here. Great talking with you, and congratulations on the new book.
Yeah. Thanks Steve. I appreciate it. This was a lot of fun.