How Foundr built a recognized brand to millions of entrepreneurs in 2.5 years (Part 2)

Vinay’s Note – In this post, the founder of Foundr magazine, Nathan Chan continues on from where he left off (see Part 1) to share lessons learnt including:

  • How he has succeeded in building a huge Instagram following in 13 months
  • His approach to customer acquisition and influencer outreach
  • His plans for Foundr

You have a huge social media following. What are your top Instagram tips?

We started on Instagram in November 2014. We’ve been on Instagram for 13 months and we’ve been quite aggressive on that channel. It’s been amazing for growing not only our business but our brand and certainly, our email database.

In the last 13 months, we’ve gone from 3,000 people in our email database to almost 120,000. A lot of that has come from Instagram and the way we’re doing it.

foundr instagram posts

Posts on Foundr Magazines Instagram account

I actually share our top Instagram tips in detail via an eBook which you can find at foundrmag.com/free. People can download it and it goes in depth on these tips.

The top tips that for Instagram are:

  1. Create compelling content that’s extremely valuable to your audience or your target market.
  2. Have a consistent posting scene.
  3. Do as much S for S as you can, (shout out for shout out or share for share). That is where you get other people to post your content, so you shout out their content and they shout out yours.
  4. Be very, very clear on what’s working and what’s not working. Test your content, test what’s working, what’s not working, test the kind of things that people like. Find out what people like, find out what’s interesting and just double down on it.
  5. Make sure you have really good aesthetics. Have amazingly designed images.

How do you approach content marketing and customer acquisition?

We have a few different strategies. To build our email list, we only send people to our landing pages. We get people to those pages via the Foundr site and Instagram. With podcasts, we send people to custom tailored landing pages that are done up via LeadPages or ClickFunnels.

With the Foundr site, what brings the most traffic in general is Instagram. That’s our number 1 source of customer acquisition, but then also we’re getting quite aggressive on content marketing, so guest posting and the content that we put on our own blogs.

Guest posting traffic is starting to lift our organic traffic and we get direct traffic as well.

For our email newsletter, we do it like you guys do it. That brings a decent amount of traffic as well every week. Our podcast and me doing interviews like the one we’re doing now bring in additional traffic. We also get traffic from people talking about us.

In general, Instagram brings the most traffic.

We’ve noticed you are a great networker and have been able to become a key player in the online marketing world very quickly. What is your best advice for building relationships?

Building relationships really comes down to serving first and asking later and making yourself an expert to the point that you become extremely valuable. This takes time to work out, do and build up. There’s certain things that I’m very good at. Almost to the point that I’m the best in the world.

I don’t mean to say it from sheer arrogance. It’s just that I know there’s not many people that know how to build an Instagram account as fast as us. There’s not many people that know how to get interviews with hard-to-reach people. There’s not many people that know how to build an email database as fast as us.

Making yourself extremely valuable can allow you to build networks really quickly, not only because you can help others but others are seeking you out because you’re an expert.

Making yourself extremely valuable can allow you to build networks really quickly Click To Tweet

Then you’ll also find as time goes on, people will seek you out. Like this week, one big online influencer got in touch with me because he heard that apparently people have been saying that he should get in touch with me. Now we’re going to catch up for coffee and then we’re going to become friends, then I’m going to help him out. I don’t expect anything in return so I think you have to be a very, very giving person and be there to help however you can.

Doing those things is a really good recipe for meeting new people and developing a really strong network.

How have you sought to build these relationships with influencers? Has that been a key part of your strategy or has it just been about building your personal brand?

It’s just something that’s happened over time. I’m naturally a very curious person and I naturally get excited when I see cool stuff.

For example, I think Seth Godin does cool stuff so I naturally get excited; I want to speak to him. It hasn’t been really a strategy. I just love the hustle and am always looking at ways to grow Foundr as fast as possible.

If I need to speak to somebody, I’m going to reach out to them or I’m going to get one of my friends to introduce me to that person. I’m going to find out how I can help them and it just works itself out. I haven’t been that strategic with it though.

I don’t really care about my personal brand. I only care about Foundr and if that means I have to connect with people or whatever, it will be for Foundr. Foundr’s number 1. I have no inclination for people to know I’m the best in the world at something unless it leads back to Foundr, that’s my number 1 thing.

How have you attempted to monetize your audience so far? What have you learned there?

We monetized our audience from the start with the magazine. The magazine’s a paid subscription based business model.

That’s allowed me to replace my income, leave my day job and that recurring revenue-type model is quite good. It works really well and I’ve found that having a combination of paid content and free content is just a brilliant way to build trust. 95% of our content is free and just 5% of it is paid.

95% of our content is free and just 5% of it is paid @NathanHChan Click To Tweet

You just want to get very, very good at making sure you’re absolutely everywhere. Get on as many podcasts as you can. Do as many guest blog posts as you can. Produce just ridiculous amounts of epic content.

paid course

Paid course from Foundr

When it comes to the magazine and differentiating ourselves in the marketplace to cut through, we go above and beyond with our content. We make our content so good that you could charge for it. For example the downloadable Instagram eBook cost us $4,000 to put together. It’s been downloaded like probably around 60,000 to 70,000 times in the past 4 months.

We could charge for that eBook, but we choose not to. When it comes to producing the content that we produce, we ensure that it is really good and that the audience gets a taste of the kind of quality content that we’re trying to produce.

We’re trying to position ourselves as a premium brand. So we try and produce really high quality, valuable, actionable, strategic, tactical-based content that is well designed. That seems to be a good winning combination for us at the moment.

What are your plans for building a business around the Foundr audience?

Right now, we’ve built up this massive community, so the next big step for us is to service that platform. We’ve got a good growth engine in place to keep the business moving forward in terms of reach and building our email database.

Now, our biggest focus needs to be having more product, so we’re just going to create more product and help our community in more ways. We’ve found courses to be quite powerful from a revenue building standpoint. They’re very scalable because they are a digital product, just like software, but require less work in terms of maintenance. We will look to just scale up all the courses and keep serving our audience however we can.

If they want more help and they want their hand held through the process, we can help with online video courses and membership sites. Right now, the online education industry is a multi-billion dollar space. I think we’re better positioned than anyone else to be able to really tap into that in a big way.

We’d already tapped into entrepreneur education but we were doing it for free, so we now have some paid educational courses too.

With the courses, would they have to be a registered member of Foundr or is this a separate offering?

If you’re on our email newsletter, you will find out about some of the courses depending on what you click on and what you read. For the most part, you’ll be able to access them and pay for them via our website. We have a product page right now; we just don’t have that many products. That’s what we’re working on changing and that’s a big part of what’s going into the business.

We’ve just got to build a product suite now. We’re just going to really build our product suite, get those funnels cranking and work on those funnels. Yeah, I think that will hold us in good stead.

If we were to comment on the biggest things that stand out about Foundr, it would be your ‘proof’, with people like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss on your mag and the quality of your design. Have these focus points been deliberate? How important is social proof and design in building a brand?

They weren’t deliberate when I first started the magazine but they have been now for sure. Not only because these people are my heroes and I want to speak to them, but they’re also everyone else’s heroes.

tim ferris cover

If you want to become an influencer in your niche or market, you have to align yourself with other influencers. That is how you actually become an influencer yourself.

Think of it like Oprah. When Oprah first started, everyone used to watch her TV show because of who she spoke to. As time went on, more and more people started watching Oprah’s TV show because they wanted to see what Oprah had to say. She wasn’t an influencer; she wasn’t a celebrity when she started out. But by purely aligning herself with influencers, she ended up becoming one.

We’re using the Oprah strategy and it works really well because it builds trust. If our magazine didn’t feature well-known people like Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins, why would you trust what we have to say? Why would you be interested? Why would you care?

We use the Oprah strategy and it really helps build trust. @NathanHChan Click To Tweet

When it comes to design, if our website and our magazine looked like crap, why would you trust us? If you’re a decent brand, you’re going to have good design. For example, if Airbnb started out with a basic, not so professional looking design for their website and stuck with it for the past 10 years, you would have doubts about it. You would wonder if they were legit and probably wouldn’t part with your money.

With good design, it’s not so much about the look, it’s about how you can make that person feel.

What we’re trying to do with our content or anything we put out there is to make the design so good that people get excited. We want to hear comments like, “Wow! This is like a blessing, this is awesome.” That’s the strategy.

Would you say that design also plays a key role in having people share your content?

People would not want to share content otherwise. They’re not going to tell their friends about your brand if your stuff doesn’t look good. It’s really hard to describe, but there’s just so much weight in great design. Not to the point that you can have a lousy product and still sell, but if someone comes to your website or sees any of your collateral content, people will believe that you must be legit, you must do cool stuff if you have great design.

Of course you have to have a great product and provide a ton of value. But great design is so powerful in terms of just building trust. What we’re very good at is our ability to create an amazing story that people want to talk about. We create a lot of trust and just blow people away, so that there’s no questions asked.

People want to tell their friends that these guys have some cool, valuable stuff when it comes to entrepreneurship. They say “Oh, do you read Foundr?” or “Do you listen to Foundr?” or “How come you haven’t heard of Foundr?”

That’s what we are striving for.

We also know you are very good at really honing in on best practices, whether it be finding the best software or finding the person to learn from on any given topic. How do you approach this and what can others learn from your approach?

I think the answer to that question just comes back to networking. I’m always speaking to people, just finding out what’s working relentlessly.

For example with email marketing, I spoke to so many different friends and people that I know.

Asking questions like, “What email marketing solution are you using? What are people using? Who’s your Infusionsoft consultant if you are using Infusionsoft? What does this person’s funnel look like?” I’d go through that person’s funnel, try to work out what they’re doing.

Here a few tips when it comes to best practices:

  • You want to speak to as many people as you can.
  • You want to speak to people that are crushing it and doing cool stuff, and learn from them.
  • You want to be serving first and asking later to build that relationship with these people to find out what’s working.
  • Then, you also want to be testing stuff because it’s 1 thing for someone to tell you that this works really well; it’s another thing to actually test it.
Speak to as many people as you can and always be testing @NathanHChan Click To Tweet

What has been your biggest takeaway in business since you started Foundr?

Probably the harder I work, the luckier I get. That’s the only way I think you can make it work. People are lazy, they just don’t want it bad enough.

The harder I work, the luckier I get @NathanHChan Click To Tweet

What lies ahead for yourself and Foundr?

I have a big focus on building our community and getting it to span not just the million mark, but into the tens of millions. I really want that ripple effect to take place to promote the way we’re promoting entrepreneurship and helping, serving and equipping entrepreneurs.

That’s a big focus, just trying to help as many people as we can. I’ve already hit my goals for 2015, so I’ve got some big lofty goals for 2016. I haven’t written them down yet.

Long game picture, be serving tens of millions of people across our platforms which has a ripple effect, which has tens more or hundreds of millions of people. Right now, I’ve got my eye set on a building a $10 million company in revenue per year.

About

Vinay is the content marketing manager for WP Curve. Follow him @wpcurve

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