Ryan Levesque is the CEO of The ASK Method® Company, #1 national bestselling author of Ask, and co-founder of Bucket.io. Today, he joins the show to share insights from his latest book, Choose: The Single Most Important Decision Before Starting Your Business. With plenty of entrepreneurial experience, Ryan will give his most valuable tips on how to launch and expand your business.
Listen in to discover the importance of asking the right questions and what Ryan says is a critical incorrect choice many entrepreneurs make that leads to failure. You’ll learn how you can teach something you are passionate about—even if you’re not an expert—and the steps you can take to ensure a successful business.
Learn how to successfully launch and expand your business with @askryanlevesque, author of CHOOSE. #entrepreneur #googletrends #marketresearch Click To Tweet
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On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:
- How to use the Ask Method to launch and expand your business.
- The single most important choice in your business.
- Ryan’s micro-commitment strategy.
- How to increase your opt-in rate on your website.
- Examples of how you can teach what you’re passionate about without being an expert.
- One test you can do to identify whether you should proceed with your business.
- How to receive a free hardcover copy of Ryan’s book and $200 worth of free products.
Key Resources for Ryan Levesque:
- Connect with Ryan Levesque: Website | LinkedIn | Book Website
- Amazon: Choose by Ryan Levesque
- Kindle: Choose by Ryan Levesque
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Brainfluence, where author and international keynote speaker, Roger Dooley, has weekly conversations with thought leaders and world-class experts. Every episode shows you how to improve your business with advice based on science or data.
Roger’s new book, FRICTION, is published by McGraw-Hill and releases May 17th. Dr. Robert Cialdini described the book as “blinding insight,” and Nobel winner, Dr. Richard Thaler, said reading FRICTION will arm any manager with a mental can of WD-40. To learn more or to pre-order, go to rogerdooley.com/friction.
Now, here’s Roger.
Roger Dooley: Welcome to the Brainfluence podcast. I’m Roger Dooley. Today’s guest has a lot in common with some past guests. He’s got a degree in neuroscience. He’s a best selling author. He’s even from Austin, which seems to be overrepresented when it comes to smart marketers. Buddy’s also unique. His first book “Ask” presented a simple but powerful way to combine market research with building a sales funnel, and he’s more than an author. He’s built multiple entrepreneurial businesses, and he’s the co-founder of bucket.io, the leading marketing funnel software for building quizzes assessments in segmentation funnels, and his new book is “Choose: The Single Most Important Decision Before Starting Your Business,” and before the show’s over, we’ll give your link to get your own free copy. Ryan’s got an interesting offer for you, and welcome, Ryan Levesque.
Ryan Levesque: Roger, it is great to be here. Thanks so much for having as a guest.
Roger Dooley: Ryan, I notice in the introduction to “Choose” that one of your influences was the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, and I think in both in recording my own podcasts and listening to other people’s podcasts, particular with entrepreneurs, there’s been no book more often mentioned as an influence than “The 4-Hour Workweek.” I know it really helped my own evolution as an entrepreneur. I’ve been an entrepreneur for decades before that, but it got me thinking differently. How did it influence you?
Ryan Levesque: You know, it was the first book that I actually listened to that opened my world, Roger, to … open my mind to this whole new world that I didn’t even know existed. At the time, this is probably 2007, I was working a corporate job. I was in Shanghai, China and I was working for the insurance company, AIG, and my job was basically opening up sales offices across the country of China, and I was living out of hotels. I was flying on an airplane every single week. I was married at the time. My wife and I, both from the United States, got married, moved to China, she decided to pursue a PhD degree in Hong Kong. I’m in Shanghai. We’re living this crazy by country marriage, and on one of our trips together we decided to take a trip to Malaysia, and we’re about to hop into the taxi and literally, on a whim, I went to audible.com and said, “I need to listen … I need to download an audio book. I’ve got a long plane ride. I need something to listen to.”
The book on the front page of audible sounded interesting. I’d never heard of it before, and it was “The 4-Hour Workweek,” downloaded the book, and I remember that trip like it was playing … like it was yesterday. I just could not stop listening to the book. I was by the pool. I was by the snorkeling area at the beach, and my wife was like, “What is it with this book?” It was the book that opened my mind to this whole world I didn’t know existed, and it was the first domino that fell to introduce me to this world of building an Internet-based business, direct response advertising, and really started it all.
Roger Dooley: Ryan, we first met at a mastermind in Utah, and I think that was shortly after your first book, “Ask” came out, and since that time I’ve recommended it any number of times, particularly when people ask me how to determine what their customers really want. Now, I think there’s a goldmine of useful advice in there. I’m not just looking at the response in the survey, but the length of the response, for example. That’s a strategy that had never occurred to me. What did you find significant about how long a person’s answer was to a question?
Ryan Levesque: It’s a great question. My first book, “Ask” is all about better understanding your audience and understanding their deep emotional hot buttons, their needs, their wants and desires, and then how to communicate back to your audience in such a way that makes them say, “Oh my gosh, Roger. It’s like you read a page out of my diary. It’s like you’ve been spying on my dinner table conversations. It’s like you are able to describe what’s going on in my mind and in my life better than I can even describe it myself.” There’s a whole host of benefits that come from understanding your audience with such a deep level, but at the end of the day it helps you not only better serve that audience, but also better sell to that audience as well. One of the hallmarks of what’s come to be known as the ASK method, is to ask what’s called a … to run what’s called the deep dive survey.
We’re asking a series of very specific questions. One of those questions is an open-ended question, where you want people to tell you about their biggest challenge or frustration around the problem you’re looking to solve in your business. One of the key elements in asking that question is making sure that, number one, it’s an open-ended question, and then number two, that you can analyze the response length of that question. Now, why is it so important? Well, what I found, what thousands of businesses have found, is that all things being equal, when you ask someone about their biggest challenge, people that leave you long, detailed, passionate answers, disproportionately represent what’s called the hyper responsive segment of your market. The segment of your market that is more likely to buy a paid solution to the problem that you’re looking to solve.
I gave an example like this. Everyone has been … Most people, I would say, have gotten a phone call at some point asking you for customer service survey, right? So, “Hey, can you take a few minutes to tell us a little bit about your experience? Take this survey.” When we get calls like that, what do most of us do? We hang up the phone. We can’t be bothered. We don’t want to deal with any of that, right? But if you do get one of those calls and you do engage with it and hop on the phone and a conversation, chances are it’s because you have something that you want to get off your chest, something that you want to share. If someone asks you a question about something that you can’t be bothered to answer, chances are you’re not likely to purchase something with a paid solution around that problem.
But if you’re willing to engage that person, if you’re willing to get on the phone, if you’re willing to answer a survey online, you’re more likely to be a potential buyer for a product solving that problem than someone who isn’t. So we use response length as a proxy when we’re looking at open-ended survey responses, and the key, Roger, is you want to focus on the top 20% of your longest responses. If you get a 1000 people to answer the question, you want to focus on what those top 200 people have told you, and here’s the thing that scares most people. You actually want to ignore the bottom 80%. It’s Pareto principle. It’s 80-20th play.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. That’s such a great insight, and another thing that I actually use in some of my speeches, Ryan, is an example of what you call a micro commitment strategy, to get people to say at least … to start off by giving up their name and their E-mail address, which is really the part … the start of any marketing program. You’ve got to get people to give you enough information to recontact them, and people are resistant to doing that. Everybody gets too many E-mails and nobody likes to fill out forms. The approach you take and describe in “Ask” is series of very short, initially nonthreatening questions, that there is just one per screen where person answers a simple question and then goes on to the next and the next and so on. I actually did something. I found an example of it. I think it was one of yours, Ryan. It was something about tennis. It was a … What kind of tennis player? What’s your tennis problem? Or something of that nature.
I took all those little questions, and I paste them into a form, into a single form and just showed what it would look like, and if anybody looked at that form, I’d bet 99 out of 100 people would just say, “No, I’m not going to fill that out.” Especially, first of all, it’s long and as you get a little bit deeper into it, the questions are a little bit more involved beyond the first one like, “Are you male or female?” Then at the end of course, it’s got the ask for your E-mail address, and so I think that very few people would complete that. But the sort of sequential approach really makes it far, far less threatening.
In fact, you know Ryan, one thing they probably haven’t heard of. A company that I know, it did some surveys of how people scan forms online. They actually were doing some eye tracking data and some other data, and what they found was that when people are presented with a long form, they will actually scroll down to the bottom, scroll back up and examine it that way. They’re very aware, A, that form is long, and B, if there are things near the end that look threatening in some way. They’re going to see them before they even start filling out the forms. Do you have anything to add to that description of your micro commitment strategy?
Ryan Levesque: It’s counterintuitive that asking additional questions can actually increase your E-mail opt in rate. So people always say, “But wait, if I ask more questions, isn’t going to drive my E-mail opt in rate down?” Well, we’ve tested this time and time again, market after market, and what we found consistently, is that when you start by asking a few simple nonthreatening multiple choice questions, ideally the first of which is a grease the wheels questions, a grease the wheels question, a binary multiple choice question that’s very easy for people to answer, is this, “Are you starting a new business or you’re looking to expand an existing business? Are you a man or a woman? The reason for asking is men and women tend to have different health challenges.”
Whatever the relevant binary multiple choice question is, just adding that question, counterintuitively, can actually increase your opt in rate, because you’re starting by asking that simple nonthreatening question, building up action taking momentum before you ask for the big hairy scary question; their name, their E-mail address, and gosh … God forbid you ask for someone’s phone number, their address.
Those are all things that come on the second date, not on the first date. For anyone listening to this right now, simple tip that you can use is if you’ve got any form on your website asking for someone’s contact information, a test you can run is, instead of asking for that right away, have a simple little button that says, “Click here to get my free PDF,” or “click here to get my free white paper,” or whatever it may be. Then have a little modal that pops up that says, “Question number one; which of the following best describes you? Are you A, B or C? Question number two; where would you like me to send the report? What’s your best E-mail address?” And by just adding that additional question, it can actually increase your opt in rate.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. Well, I think you’ve … Maybe there’s a couple things going on there, at least on the longer forms. You’ve got this sort of sunk cost effect where it says, “Man, I’ve already spent two minutes filling out these different fields, so I might as well get the information they promised to send me.” Then all … you’ve also got the Bob Cialdini commitment and consistency thing going on, where, “gee, I’ve agreed to answer all these other questions, some of which are getting a little bit personal as we went along, so it would be inconsistent to bail out now.” I think it’s brilliant. I think that that’s a great takeaway right there about how even just turning a very simple request for an E-mail address into a couple of sequential asks may outperform, and that, of course as with everything else we talk about here, it’s important to test because just because something worked on one person’s situation doesn’t mean it’s going to work on yours. But that’s really a great piece of advice, Ryan.
Ryan Levesque: Totally. I encourage everyone to test it. It is one of these things that we’ve seen a lot of success with, and the added benefit that we forgot to mention or we didn’t mention, is that in addition to getting a higher opt in rate potentially, you also have access to that additional data. So now you know if someone is a beginner or advance, if they’re starting a new business or if it’s an existing business, if they’re a man or a woman, or whatever data that you want to use, and you can then customize your messaging based on that information. Instead of communicating with people in a one size fits all way, you can then put people into what we call buckets, and then you can communicate with your different buckets differently. There are all sorts of residual positive side effects in addition to getting more leads for your business, and potentially getting those leads more cheaply.
Roger Dooley: Your new book “Choose” is kind of a … you could call it a prequel, and maybe a companion of volume two of “Ask.” Well, what’s the origin story of “Choose?”
Ryan Levesque: When I wrote “Ask,” “Ask” became a much bigger success than even my wildest highest aspirations. It became a number one national bestseller, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide, it’s been published in all these different languages in different countries, and with that came a lot of great success stories. People would reach out to me, readers writing letters, telling me how they used the ASK method to expand or launch a brand new business. I had people like Charlie Wallace. He told me he started from scratch and built a $2.2 million business a year following “Ask” and Jamal, who was making $17 an hour and grew it to half a million dollars a year, which was great.
But, I also got letters from people who said, “Ryan, I followed the ASK method to the letter, and it still didn’t work. What am I missing?” It bugged me, it frustrated me, it pained me to find that there are people following what I taught and were still not having success. So I started digging in and doing research. In fact, it was the biggest three year research project of my entire life; digging into what was going on, what was happening here. It all came back to the same root cause; the people that were following the methodology, but were still failing, were making one critical choice incorrectly in their business. They were choosing bad markets. So, they were following the process to the letter, and it’s sort of like … There’s this metaphor that I use in the book that I think is really helpful. It’s sort of like they decided that they were going to hop in the river, the river being the path that’s going to get them to their destination, their end goal that they set out for themselves in starting their business.
You can have the best boat or raft that money can buy, you can have the best crew in that raft with you, you can have the best equipment, you can commit to rowing 18 hours a day, but if you put your boat in the wrong river, or you put your boat in the right river but it’s facing in the wrong direction, it does not matter how hard you row. You’re never going to get there. That’s what I kept seeing; people following the process to the letter, but they didn’t know how to select a good market. In “Ask” I revealed the process I used to enter 23 different niche markets, generate over $100 million in sales across those markets. But what I didn’t teach, Roger, was how I selected those 23 markets in the first place. That’s what this new book is all about. It’s all about how to make the single most important decision in your business, which is not what you should sell, what you should create, what you should build, instead it’s who. Who are you going to serve?
That is the fundamental decision. That’s the foundation upon which everything else is built, and far too little time is spent on that decision. The conventional wisdom out there is that you should focus on your what and not spend time on the who. That’s why I felt compelled to write this book, to help everyone else out there who had been reading “Ask” and didn’t have the information to make this critical choice, and everybody else out there who’s thinking about starting a business, wanting to start a business, wanting to do their own thing, wanting to leave their corporate job like I did a decade ago, and start their first business, help them make that single most important decision before they start that business.
Roger Dooley: Well, yeah. I guess there’s couple of kinds of entrepreneurs. Some actually know what they want to do and maybe even have some kind of a plan for doing it, and then there’s the other group that is sort of, “Oh man, I want to do something other than what I’m doing now of working at this dead end job and trying to find a market, almost from scratch,” obviously has to have some compatibility perhaps with their interest and their knowledge, but it’s far from being well defined. I guess both groups can benefit from this, because you certainly described some market choices in there that would not be good simply because those markets are not growing or they’re staying or they’re stagnant or they’re declining, and when you go into a market like that, you’re doomed from the start, practically. I mean, certainly there are a few companies that have made money in stagnant markets, but it’s very difficult to grow under those conditions when you’ve got existing competitors who are fighting for whatever is left of the business.
Ryan Levesque: Absolutely. Roger, it’s … If we use the river metaphor, it’s … You can be in a still river that you put your boat in that river. You’re not moving unless you’re paddling 18 hours a day and busting your butt. You can be in a river that is conversely a white water rapid river, which is just going to overturn your boat, and people make that mistake. They put themselves in a river that’s either too still, too small, or one that’s too big, too rapid, or they put their boat in the middle of a vast ocean where they get swallowed up whole. What you’re looking for is the river that’s just right, the river that propels you forward in your business, but it’s not … the current isn’t too strong to overturn your boat. You want that river that’s going to take you to where you want to go, and to find that river, it’s a mix of analyzing the size of that market based on keyword volume for the market you’re going into, analyzing the amount of competition.
So you want a market that has not too little, not too much, competition. A big mistake I see people make is they go in one of two directions. They say, “I’ve got this amazing idea. I’m so excited about this idea,” and then they go online, they do research, and they say, “ah! Somebody else has already come up with this. I have to find something else.” Or they make the mistake of saying, “I have this amazing idea. I go online, I do the research. Nobody else is doing this. I’ve struck gold.” Both of those scenarios are equally problematic. If you go into a market … There’s a saying that one of my mentors taught me. He said, “Ryan, you know, pioneers get shot, settlers get rich.” What he meant by that was that you don’t want to be the first to market. If nobody else has succeeded doing the thing you’re thinking of doing, chances are that seven, eight billion people on the planet, you’re not the first person to come up with that idea.
Chances are someone else has tried it, they failed, and there’s no evidence of it because it didn’t … it doesn’t exist anymore. So what you’re looking for is evidence of competitors who are succeeding in spite of themselves. You look at the most successful companies of our generation. You look at Google, you look at Facebook, you look at Apple. None of them were the first to market. Google was not the first search engine. Facebook was not the first social network. Apple was not the first to sell smartphones or MP3 players. They just built a better mousetrap. They found an opportunity that was demonstrating demand, and they found a way to do a better job through better marketing, through better products, than the preceding competitors in that space. That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for evidence of competitors who are succeeding in spite of themselves. There’s some very quantitative, as you know from the book, quantitative measures you can use to find that sweet spot of just the right amount of competition.
Roger Dooley: Yeah, I love how specific the … not just the tools that you recommend are, and you’re using free tools like Amazon and Google and Google Trends, which is great. Also, there’s quite a bit of specificity in terms of, okay, here’s a market that doesn’t have enough activity and here’s a market that’s got too much activity or it’s going to be very competitive. That’s really great. Ryan, you recommend focusing … Although I think these tools can be used for lots of different kinds of businesses, but you recommend focusing on selling education and expertise because of the high margins, for one, and the relatively low cost of entry.
They don’t require huge amounts of capital, which is good for an entrepreneur. I guess, although, some could argue, “Okay, well. Those same factors make it attractive for competition too, and how do I cope with the fact that there isn’t necessarily a huge barrier to entry in these markets?” I guess the other question that folks might have is, “Oh, gee! You want me to be a teacher or an expert? I don’t really feel like I’ve got enough knowledge to be an expert to tell other people what to do. I mean, I know something, but I don’t feel like I’m an expert.” How would you respond to those objections?
Ryan Levesque: Yeah. So the first one, selling education and expertise. That is a model that I recommend for most first time entrepreneurs, especially if you’re a bootstrapped entrepreneur. If you’re looking to build your business, if you’re self-funding your business either from your personal savings or you’re using credit cards, or you’re just starting from scratch, unless you’re raising millions of dollars of venture … funding or venture backed financing, being bootstrapped means that it’s important to generate cashflow quickly. For all the reasons that you mentioned, selling education and expertise, low overhead, high margin, you can sell a PDF, an E-book and virtually make a 100% profit on that thing. You don’t have to worry about import exports. You don’t have to worry about physical prototypes and building expensive molds for physical products in places like Asia. You don’t have a … Unlike a physical brick and mortar storefront, you’re not limited to a specific geographic location.
If the market in Austin starts changing, you’re not at the whims of the local economy, you can reach a global audience. If you have an existing business, that is one of these things, you can augment that business by adding an education and expertise element to create demand for what it is that you sell. If you’re a local stationery shop and you’re selling stationery, well gosh, you could produce a course, a training program, on hand lettering or calligraphy. If you sell software, you could offer training on the thing that your software helps and you can sell that training. There are all sorts of ways that this can fit into virtually any type of business that’s either existing or one that you’re looking to start.
Roger Dooley: One thing I realized as I was thinking about that, Ryan, even though you think, “Well, gee! A physical product has greater barriers to entry. People can’t just do it over the weekend.” What we see now, particularly with Amazon, that when somebody has a good idea, they’ve got a better idea for a backpack or an exercise device or whatever, it may be a great idea. They may even be able to get a patent on it or a design patent or a trademark or copyright. But inevitably within a very short period of time, as soon as it starts to achieve some kind of success, it gets knocked off. Often, the people who are knocking it off are in China or some other country, and they’re … it’s very difficult to get them to stop selling.
In certain ways, yes, other people can develop these kinds of intangible products, but you’re probably not going to find a whole bunch of people from other countries doing that, simply because that’s not where their expertise is. If you read any of the sales copy on many of these knock off products, you can see that communication in English isn’t really their strong suit.
Ryan Levesque: You know, Roger, that’s the one thing that people … that’s harder to knock off than almost anything else, it’s your personality. There’s only one Roger Dooley in the world.
Roger Dooley: Thank goodness for that.
Ryan Levesque: Some say … Whenever I say that, my wife’s like, “Yeah, there’s only one Ryan in the bank in the world, and the world does not need another one.” No, but it’s true, right? Your personality, which represents the sum total of all your life experience and your upbringing growing up, and the way in which you speak, the way in which you look, all of these things, it is virtually impossible to knock that off. When you inject your personality into education and expertise, it allows you to own that unique space, and people are either going to love you, they’re going to hate you. I mean, there are people, Roger, that follow your stuff and probably listen to every single episode of your podcast, they’ve read every word that you’ve ever written on your blog, they own multiple copies of your book, and they have been a student of yours since you’ve been teaching.
Then you probably have other people who listen to five minutes of a podcast episode and say, “This is not my guy. He’s just not my guy,” and that’s fine, right? We all have this opportunity to be ourselves. Now, the second question that you asked is what if you don’t feel like you have any expertise? Well, this is what I’ll say, “To the fourth grader, the fifth grader is a genius.” Think about that for a second. When we were kids, you were in fourth grade, that fifth grader … and I see it all the time. My kids, my oldest son is seven years old, and he’s in a Montessori classroom, so it’s really seven, eight, nine year olds, all in the same classroom, and gosh, you’d think that these nine year olds, the third graders, walk on water.
I mean, he comes home, and it’s … Everett can do this and Enoch can do this and Augustus can do this and all of these things, and you think, “Gosh, he is worshiping these kids. If only he knew how wrong they were about the world.” Right? The point is this, you don’t need to be a PhD level expert in your field to be able to help people in that area. Oftentimes, the best way to learn anything is to teach it. You will accelerate your growth. I learned this when I … at Brown where I studied neuroscience and later taught neuroscience as a teaching assistant in neuro 101, the entry level neuroscience class. I taught a section for two years in that class, which meant that I taught a weekly review session, basically taking people through the content.
I learned more about neuroscience teaching for those two years than I did with any of the other classes that I studied for. Because, there’s nothing that prepares you to learn about subject matter than knowing you are going to have to teach it to somebody else. It can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding if you’re the type of person who likes to learn, if you’re the type of person who likes to grow, and I talk about this in the book. There’s really … There’s four … I found that there are four types of entrepreneurs in this world.
The first is passion-based. For people that are really … they really have a love for something, right? They have a love for orchids or fishing or guitar or watercolor painting or something like this. They have a hobby, a passion, a love that they would love to find a way to make their vocation, that they’d love to find a way to build a business around this thing. Those people are really drawn to moving people towards something. They want to move the world toward the thing that they love.
Conversely, you have mission-based entrepreneurs, and these are people who typically have a course that they would die on the hill for. This is … They have something in this world that they want to … they want to rid the world of something, and I share the story of Christy Kennedy in the book. She had a … she has an autistic son who was bullied as a young boy, and she made it her mission in life that she wanted to eliminate bullying from elementary schools in the United States. So she built this entire business, that’s a traveling assembly, that’s been to something like 10,000 schools around the country, all about educating teachers, students, and administrators about how to eliminate bullying from their schools. So she’s mission-based. She has this mission, and she is going to die on the hill for this mission. Mission-based entrepreneurs want to move the world away from something negative.
You also have opportunity-based entrepreneurs, and this is the most classic sense of entrepreneur in the most traditional sense. Opportunity-based entrepreneurs are people who see something in the world, and they say, “How is it that nobody has solved this? How is it that nobody has created a product or a thing that addresses this challenge?” Example I shared in the book is Dana Oberman and her husband, Michael, had young kiddos. Kiddos came home from the hospital, not sleeping through the night, nobody’s getting good sleep in the house, and you’ve got young kids, you remember those days, and they said they looked into some research online, none of the information on there was helping them get their kids to sleep through the night.
They started diving into the medical research, they started diving into the academic research, they experimented with a few things. They were finally able to get their kids to sleep through the night, and then the friends of theirs started asking, “How did you do it? Can you help us?” They started helping one person after the other, and they realize, “Hey, there’s nobody that is teaching this.” Now, nearly two decades later, they’ve helped something like … I don’t know, few hundred thousand parents around the country through their sleep sense program. They’ve been on Good Morning America, they’d been featured all over the place. Now, they never … they weren’t born with this passion or this mission, they just saw this opportunity that nobody had solved something, and they wanted to jump on it.
The fourth and final type of entrepreneur is the undecided type, and that’s actually where I was, Roger, when I first started my business. I knew I wanted to start a business for myself, I just didn’t know what, and when we’re in Asia, gosh, we looked at teaching Chinese as a second language to English speakers, we looked at starting a cupcake shop, we looked at setting up an import export company, we even looked at creating scrabble tile jewelry using origami paper and scrabble tiles, which kind of led us to the first business that we actually did start. But there are many people out there, I think, that know they want to start a business, they just don’t know what business to start. For that group of people, which was exactly the boat that I was in, I recommend starting with a practice business.
What I mean by that is don’t get hung up on this idea of having to figure out what your life’s vocation is going to be, where you’re going to spend the next 25, 30 years of your life doing. It’s okay to just start something as a practice business to learn the process of launching something for the first time. Because the skills you acquire in that process are things that will transfer to your next business, whatever that may be. For me, one thing led to another and before I knew it I was in 23 different markets, and the skills I learned in every single one of those markets were things I was able to take to the next business and learn from the mistakes, the failures, just as much as what went right.
Roger Dooley: I’d encourage folks to maybe not aim for 23 right away, but I love the idea of starting even with the idea that, “Okay, this is a test thing and to learn the ropes, I’m not going to invest too much capital in it. So I still have some powder dry for the next one.” When … As you were talking about the expertise issue and people feeling like they don’t … they lack the expertise, I think that probably everybody, even folks who are themselves considered to be experts, suffer from imposter syndrome periodically, and look at other people and say, “Wow! That person is really smart. I’m amazed that people listened to me at all.” But I think that oftentimes it’s a matter of style. It’s a matter of communication. I know that I’m never going to be the scientists that many of the folks whose knowledge I write about are.
These folks spend their lives in really elite laboratories conducting amazing research. But I think that in some cases, perhaps I can communicate things in a different way than they can and that provides its own kind of value. I think, just as you’re talking about the fifth grader being a way ahead of the fourth grader, I think that everybody brings something unique to the party, and just because you aren’t currently a recognized expert doesn’t mean that you can’t, in your own way, help others learn about that topic.
Ryan Levesque: Absolutely. I could not agree more. Being able to take your disparate experience and bring that to the table and be a bridge, right? It’s … To be an expert, in many cases, is nothing more than being a learner teaching other learners.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. Before we go, Ryan, I wonder if you can just give our listeners a little bit of a taste of how you might use free tools like Google and Amazon to identify potential markets or evaluate whether something is a good idea? Obviously, that’s what the book is about, so you can’t quite do the whole book here in the next a couple of minutes, but I think that would be an interesting takeaway.
Ryan Levesque: Yeah. I’ll touch on one thing in particular that I think might be interesting for your readers, and it’s a technique using Google Trends. In writing this book, I mentioned I embarked on the largest three year research project of my life and one of the things that I looked at, Roger, was I looked at every single one of the businesses I started that was successful. I also looked at every single one of the businesses I started that failed or didn’t really ever take off. I then looked at all of my students’ biggest successes and their biggest failures, and what I was looking for inspired by the work of Jim Collins, were the common threads. I was looking at, what was it that made the failures fail and what was it that made the successes succeed?
In that process, I started looking at the keyword search volume of all my successful businesses and all of the failures. What I found, Roger, was fascinating. What I found was that in these businesses, which were selling education and expertise, for this specific type of business, every single one of my successes, the keyword volume fit within a very narrow band, meaning that the markets, the targeting, the niches, were all of a very specific size. Every single one of the failures was either way outside that size range or way below, in terms of its size. I then extended that search to my most successful clients and my students, once again looking at the failures and successes. The successes all fit within this very narrow keyword volume. It was one of the things, Roger, that we debated, internally for months, if we were going to share this, if we were going to reveal this with the world, because what we stumbled on we felt was like a pretty big discovery and we decided, after all, to share this.
In the book we share the actual keywords of the most successful businesses and compared them to the failures, and it’s a tool that you can use, it’s a process you can use with a free tool called Google Trends, which you mentioned, which you can just find it. I think it’s trends.google.com, and you can type in these keywords, and then you can type in your bullseye keyword for your business, and you can see how it stacks up against these. Is it in the range? Is it way outside or is it on the fringes? That’s just an example of one of seven tests that I walk people through, in the book, to identify is your business a green light, a red light, or a yellow light? Should you proceed? Should you stop? Or if you’re going to proceed, just proceed with caution.
Roger Dooley: It’s a great insight. What I like about the methodology you’re talking about, Ryan, is that it’s general enough to apply to many different kinds of businesses and markets and entrepreneurs, but the advice itself can be a very specific and actionable. It’s not vague. You’ve got some real hard numbers in there to use. In fact, I’ve been playing with that a little bit myself. Your book is … will have launched yesterday, assuming the publisher and Amazon and everybody are in sync on this, and my book “Friction” is coming out in about two and a half weeks.
In trying to figure out … Well, if I’m describing the book, I didn’t use this to create the content for the book or even the idea, but in terms of how I describe the knowledge in the book, because you can describe things in many different ways, looking at the kinds of terms and using Google and Amazon and Google Trends to analyze the different things that I could talk about, that tells me what might resonate most with the audience. So, great stuff. Ryan, how can our listeners find you? Also, why don’t you tell them about the offer that you have?
Ryan Levesque: Absolutely. You and I were chatting, and we wanted to do something super special for your audience, and what we decided to do is this, this book, “Choose,” I would love to just gift you a free copy of the book if you’re listening to this right now. A free hardcover copy of the book, I’ll ship it to you anywhere in the world. All I ask is that you pay a small shipping and handling fee just to cover the shipping, and when you do that, we’re also going to include over $200 in free bonuses, and I know many of your listeners, Roger, are big fans of audio books. We’re going to include the audio book version of the book “Choose” for free. We’re going to include a resource, the top 25 most lucrative niches for 2019. If you’re looking at maybe figuring out what type of business you might want to start, a really valuable resource there, and a mindset training I did when it comes to launching your business with 17 psychological hacks.
Roger and I both have backgrounds in neuroscience. My degree’s in neuroscience, and so I talk about 17 mental hacks you can use when it comes to launching your business to overcome that fear of failure, that imposter syndrome that we were just talking about, that self doubt that we all face, that you can use to help you get over the hump, and the link to use for that, I believe, is choosethebook.com/brainfluence. So that’s choosethebook.com/brainfluence.
Roger Dooley: Excellent. Well, we will link there, and too, any other resources we spoke about on the show notes page at rogerdooley.com/podcast, and we’ll have a text version of our conversation there too. Ryan, I’ve wanted to have you on the show since we first met, and I’m glad we’ve finally had an opportunity to do this. Thanks for being on the show, and next time we’ll have to do it in person.
Ryan Levesque: Absolutely. Roger, thanks so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of Brainfluence.
To find more episodes like this one, and to access all of Roger’s online writing and resources. The best starting point is rogerdooley.com. And remember Roger’s new book, FRICTION releases May 17th. Bestselling author Dan pink calls it “an important read” and Wharton professor Dr. Jonah Berger said, “you’ll understand friction’s power and how to harness it.”
For more info or to pre-order, go to rogerdooley.com/friction.
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