Category Archives: Growth Hacking

Why I Produced a Podcast from Scratch

My outline and notes from episode 1 with Michael Alexis

I love talking to people. When a good friend suggested doing a podcast to market my skills, he sold me on the following points:

  • You will learn a lot.
  • You will build deeper relationships with your guests.
  • You will improve at the art of conversation.

These aspirations were so motivating to me that I immediately started scheduling episodes and planning a show around these ideas.

This is how I planned and executed a 14-episode podcast featuring my friends and mentors.

Learning

Throughout Season 1 of Hacker Practice I interview creative people engaged in entrepreneurial ventures. I interview engineers and scientists and growth hackers. I interviewed my coaches and mentors, friends and inspiration.

These interviews have taught me:

  1. Novel marketing tactics for this podcast
  2. What Big Data is
  3. Breathing exercises for strength
  4. About this Haruki Murakami fellow
  5. How to build a nuclear power plant in my backyard
  6. How to find a technical cofounder
  7. A new method for learning complex topics from scratch
  8. The basic elements of photography
  9. To ask for feedback after every “no” in sales
  10. How steel quality is measured
  11. A new strategy for generating leads online
  12. A strategy for being more productive and getting fit at the same time
  13. How successful residential real estate investors consider investments
  14. Which hormones make you hungry
  15. and much more…

Further, the process of organizing, recording, and editing a podcast has taught me a variety of technical skills. I now have an understanding of basic audio recording and editing technologies. To be specific, Season One of Hacker Practice was recorded using Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype and edited on the open source audio editing suite, Audacity.

The show will be published and syndicated through Libsyn. I use the $50 / month tier because the show averages an hour and is published one season per quarter. You’ll find syndicated feeds on iTunes and YouTube as of March 15th.

The Craft of Conversation

Listening to myself interview someone has been like watching game film: Occasionally embarrassing, always enlightening.

How easily do you produce a concise question or decisive analysis?

If you’ve never recorded and reviewed yourself having a conversation, you probably have no idea.

Interviewing my friends and role models has given me an outside view of our dynamic. The perspective gives you a quantum of self-awareness otherwise impossible to achieve.

How many people really see themselves as they are? An easier question to answer is: how many people see themselves at all? The answer is probably close to 0%. Which basically makes self-examination via audio/video a power move.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly a meditative zen master. I’m saying that I’ve now listened to myself have 14 different long-form conversations with people I like and admire. In the process, I’ve begun to eliminate verbal ticks and conversational faux pas (“begun” being key here).

Relationship Building

The people I interview are my friends. I’ve done business with many of them. I respect each one of them for their accomplishments and character.

They have so much to teach me. Normal social calls don’t allow for the kind of invasive questioning possible in an interview format. Interviews can be like conversation on steroids. The act of being recorded engages you. It forces you to listen actively and question incisively.

It’s an intimate act. Both parties cannot emerge without having developed the relationship. This is why I interview people I admire and want to have long-term relationships with.

Because: friendships matter.

How I’m producing, editing and publishing my own podcast.

Here are the steps to producing your own podcast.

  1. Get convinced
    1. It takes some confidence to get started. Commit to doing at least 7 episodes or a season. I started off planning to record and release six episodes. Those six episodes quickly turned into a 14-episode season.
  2. Start scheduling
    1. Call the people close to you first. Everybody I interview in season one is a friend that I admire for some reason.
    2. Choose to interview people you’re comfortable talking to. My nervous ticks smooth out toward the end of season one because I get more comfortable talking to people.
  3. Record a test call
    1. Do a call with a friend that you don’t intend to publish. This is just to get the hang of the mechanics.
  4. Write outlines for interviews.
    1. This is optional. At first I wrote thorough outlines to plan our conversations. I quickly realized that they could be a negative constraint. Great conversations are often non-linear. Most people don’t learn in a strictly linear fashion. Outlines, however, are notoriously linear. If you stick too closely to an outline you will miss big opportunities.
  5. Start interviewing
    1. Use a checklist:
      1. Is your outline printed? Do you have pens and paper and water and coffee?
      2. Call the person. Is the connection solid?
      3. Do you have enough storage?
      4. Are both parties comfortable? What is everyone bringing to the conversation in terms of mental space? Is their expectation in alignment with yours regarding topics of conversation and duration.
      5. Phones and notifications turned off?
      6. Deep breath.
      7. Hit record.
      8. Few moments of silence.
      9. “Hello Michael, thank you for being on the show, how are you?:”
      10. When it’s done, take a few minutes to debrief. Thank the person again. And let them know.
  6. Packaging the recording
    1. Edit the podcast
      1. I add an intro and an outro and that’s it
    2. Take notes
    3. Find links.
    4. Write summaries
    5. Find pictures
    6. Send all materials to the guest for review
    7. Change anything they want changed
    8. Schedule the post
  7. Publishing the recording
    1. Use libsyn to syndicate to iTunes and Youtube
    2. Apple takes a couple days to review and publish your podcast.
  8. Post-publication
    1. Promote on social media
    2. Send to your email list
    3. Thank the guest again
    4. Invite them back on the show (about to start working on Season Two!)

And that’s it!

Conclusion

Starting a podcast like Hacker Practice hasn’t blown up my business. It hasn’t gotten thousands of downloads (hundreds though, not bad). It hasn’t turned me into Tim Ferriss or Oprah.

It has taught me a lot about conversation. It’s taught me about my friends and mentors and the work they do and what they find important. It’s deepened my relationships and strengthened my soft skills.

I’m glad I did it and I hope that this might help some of you do the same.

Good luck!

Peter Dunbar: B2B Sales and the Art of Conversation

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes!

Sales is really hard.

Technical people often discount the value of the work done in sales and marketing. They discount the value until they have to sell themselves or their product. Then they learn that sales is hard.

If you’re looking to improve your sales abilities, this is the episode for you.

Peter Dunbar is one the most engaging conversationalists I know. He’s willing to talk at length with just about anybody. He is fearless and determined and brings big contracts into any firm that he works with.

He’s also and avid hacker, but that will have to wait until part two.

Enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with master salesman, Peter Dunbar.

Links:

known.creative

Core dna

Reach out to Peter:

Email: peter@knowncreative.co

Phone number after the jump*

Notes

[3.30] Peter describes how he has been able to get work through the art of conversation (without presenting a resume)

  • Peter uses conversation as a problem solving tool to “hack” an outcome or a goal

[4.45] What hacking means to Peter

  • Hacking is a “lifestyle”

[9.30] Peter describes how an unforgettable conversation with his thesis advisor changed the course of his career

[11.15] Peter describes the relationship between software and hardware when developing the Pavlok wearable

[15.45] Why resourcing is the biggest challenge in building a new hardware product

[17.30] Why running a crowdfunding campaign to launch a new product without any traction is a big mistake

[18.45] How the art of conversation has allowed Peter to transition from engineering to sales

[21.30] Why it’s important to adopt a sales mindset of helping the customer succeed along with you.

  • How a conversation with a support engineer was the catalyst for Peter being able to close a sales deal for one of the world’s largest e-commerce consumer brands
  • Peter was able to engage the CXO level by pointing out that their marketing strategy was being stonewalled by poor website architecture, preventing them from being able to develop a best practice ecommerce platform.

[27.50] How Peter called into a radio station to pitch to the GM of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) while he was being interviewed on air.

  • This opportunity bias helps Peter take advantage of such situations

[31.30] Why the feedback loop is so important in improving your sales process, especially in the face of rejection

[35.00] Peter discusses known.creative, a digital agency in Boston, Massachusetts where he now heads up sales.

  • How partnering with Core dna – an all-in-one SAAS Digital Platform has allowed known.creative to scale and offer global enterprise offerings to companies, at drastically reduced development and implementation costs

[37.50] Peter shares his thoughts on the marketing agency model

  • Why it is most important to be able to show how your solution will drive a positive ROI for your client. E.g. There is no point “selling” a $50k website if it won’t turn a positive ROI for your client
  • The importance of being frank about business relationships and focusing on making money.
  • Building and sustaining a long term relationship is critical in enabling both parties to make more money

[41.40] Why many ecommerce companies are naive about threats to their online platforms and IP

[46.30] Peter explains why security for the SMB/SME market is going to be a huge growth market

[48.40] How the legalisation of marijuana in Massachusetts is going to drive a new wave of tech/digital opportunities in the commercial landscape (outside of recreation)

[51.00] Why updating your website and making the effort to have a great digital presence, is so important, in building trust and engaging your customer base

[52.00] Why known.creative uses its own brand and website as a testing ground for solutions before engaging customers

[54.50] Reach out to Peter:

Email: peter@knowncreative.co

Cell: +1 (207) 649-5037 – only if you want to have a conversation!

What now?

Give Pete a call. Thank him for his time.

Then subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. And leave us a raving review 😀

How to Get Shredded, Break World Records, and Write Killer Copy with Stan Dutton (003)

Stan Dutton has multiple world records in power lifting.

Stan Dutton overseeing a small group class

Stan Dutton is the co-owner of UpLifted Inc. in Boston. He was one of the top 20 165-pound powerlifters in the United States in 2014. He completed 300 hours of hands-on training at the American Academy of Personal Training and earned his Training for Warriors Level 2 certification. He is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo.

I met Stan Dutton while recording the CEO of my startup doing squats at his gym. For form. But that’s not important.

Stan and I immediately hit it off. Two young college dropouts trying to make it as entrepreneurs in the city of higher education (Boston). It was practically destiny that we became friends.

Stan and his partner Nathan were running a Training for Warriors franchise location when I met them. Stan impressed me with world records in powerlifting and constant enthusiasm for life and business. He’s also a genuinely nice guy.

Now, Stan is undergoing a transformation. I feel very fortunate to interview him in the midst of transition.

In our talk, Stan tells me about his philosophy of fitness. He teaches some breathing exercises that helped him break world records in powerlifting. We talk about creatine and copywriting. He shares about the latest developments in his career.

I tell a story about poop.

It’s an exciting time to be a top-flight personal trainer. The zeitgeist around diet and exercise is constantly changing and Stan is right at the edge of what normal people can engage with.

Find out how Stan gets crazy results with ordinary people in episode 003 of Hacker Practice:

Notes

[2.10] Stan discusses being the personal trainer for the CEO of Pavlok and how he met Justus.

[5.20] Stan describes his philosophy on fitness:

  • An empathetic approach without having to a stereotypical “burn them down” trainer and rather “build them up”
  • Built on a foundation of integrity
  • Stan puts the “fun” in functional fitness.
  • Train for consistency and focus on having fun in the process.

[10.30] Stan gives tips on how he would go about training up Justus to become an elite level athlete in only 6 months.

  • Train to your genetic physical strengths
  • Intensive training needs to be supported with longevity training

[15.00] Justus shares a story about how he broke 2 hours in a half marathon after taking a poop!

[21.30] Stan shares details on the records he broke including lifting 3 times his bodyweight as well as the importance of breathing exercises

  • Stan explains how he uses specific breathing exercises to enhance his lifting capability
  • Proper breathing is fundamental to a great posture which is critical to effective and efficient powerlifting.
  • Breathing needs to occur through your diaphragm. You want to feel like you are breathing through your stomach. Your collarbone should remain relatively stable if performed properly.

[31.00] Discussion on Stan’s preferred protein supplements and common misconceptions around creatine

  • Creatine, monohydrate for strength and mass building
  • Creatine essentially gives your muscles extra energy to be able to max out repetitions. The cells will draw in extra water to enable this process which can cause dehydration. So it’s especially important to be vigilant of hydration when using creatine supplements.
  • Stan shares how taking too much creatine as an adolescent resulted in severe nausea, loss of appetite and the beginnings of dialysis.
  • Taking hormones can result in Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)

[40.00] Pros/cons of fasting

[42.30] Stan says why he thinks college is a waste of time and explains how getting hands on experience, has set him up for success in the personal training industry

  • Not going to college taught Stan how to deal with uncertainty in business relationships

[48.00] “At one point a degree used to be a differentiator…now not having a degree is a differentiator”

[49.15] Why suffering is the best thing that can happen to someone because it forces them to grow and change

[51.00] Stan describes his tips on writing epic emails and copy

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action
  • Learn how to be empathetic and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Remember, people buy from people.
  • Stan suggests Paul Mort as a fantastic resource for writing quality copy

[58.50] Stan describes specific tactics for selling high value coaching services

  • The power of specific personal examples and sharing vulnerability with clients

[1.04.00] Why having a personal coach will help you become a better version of yourself

[1.08.00] Stan describes the “black swan” event that turned his life upside down

[1.15:30] Stan describes his latest venture – busyguyfitness.com an online platform for busy professionals to complete workouts in time constrained environments

[1.18.40] How Ryan Holiday’s, Ego is the Enemy helped Stan reframe his decision to work as intern and take a “pay cut”

How you can get in touch with Stan:

Instagram: @standutton165

Website: busyguyfitness.com  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StanDuttonTraining

Conclusion

If you enjoyed today’s episode please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!

Michael Alexis: International Investor and Philanthropist on Growth Hacking, Mastering Craigslist, and Surviving Chinese Parasites (e001)

Michael Alexis (left) and myself (right) in Georgetown in the Cayman Islands

My first ever podcast features investor and philanthropist Michael Alexis. I’m so glad to start with Michael because we are good friends and he is a master at making people feel at ease.

Michael got started in adult life as a lawyer, but quickly moved into startups and investing (but not investing in startups). Now he is a growth consultant for some of the highest performing startups and an international investor with stakes in places like China.

Michael and I worked together at an award-winning startup and have since built a relationship around challenging one another to do better everyday in life and business.

Our discussion revolves around investing, growth hacking, marketing, security, startups, business, ethics, life hacks, and risk mitigation while gallivanting in foreign countries (travel is a favorite past time for both of us).

You can hear our conversation here:

  • Michael helped Pavlok win the Shopify contest. (1:55)
    • Have a great team + a great product idea
    • Best Practices = Average Results. Test assumptions by challenging existing models
    • Michael discusses specific conversion results.
    • “Build the email list and prioritize getting people on it over prioritizing the sale right away.” – M.A.
    • Trade email address for price information on low-price consumer products.
    • Simple, single column websites can convert 3X better than “flashy” bootstrap-style websites.
  • Michael talks about his investment thesis [15:30]
    • Why he is an Investor / Philanthropist hybrid (hint: Building wealth is not the end-goal)
    • Why he invests in projects that pay dividends and NOT STARTUPS
    • Why he is willing to lose everything.
    • Michael’s ideal emergency fund lasts for years
    • Why Michael invests in competitive markets (because the model is proven)
    • Better Marketing + Better Service = Winning Strategy
    • Why startup employees should be open to equity compensation even though they likely won’t exit
  • Michael talks about the podcast he convinced me to start (31:30)
    • Risks are low
    • Networking opportunities are high
    • Are podcasts the new blogs?
  • What would you do to market Hacker Practice (36:20)
    • Write up guest posts based on the content. Try to get 8-10 posts out of each interview. [For this episode: Growth Hacking, Drastic Changes, Simplicity as a Philosophy]
    • Interview high profile people and retarget ads at their followers (on top of native promotion)
    • Think about SEO: use transcripts and notes etc to capture long tail [POTATO MARKETING]
    • Multiple Win Scenarios
    • Why you should start a podcast
  • Experiments I should try on the podcast [46:30]
    • Connect with someone for intentional practice. (PEN TESTING, NVC, DIFCON)
    • Make a sale on the podcast.
  • What Michael would ask Mr. Big Data, Jesse Anderson [50:00]
    • How did Jesse teach himself complex skills?
    • How did he acquire his big, impressive, clients?
  • What single critical system should I develop to make the Podcast awesome?
    • Have a great process for ensuring that you have an ongoing flow of guests.
  • What does Michael think of 2-factor authentication [54:50]?
    • Most people should use it. Especially for email + banking
    • Using 2 factor auth is difficult across many accounts
  • Other security measures everybody should do[56:45]
    • Make passwords difficult (long 8+ characters)
    • Diversify your passwords
    • Use a password manager (like LastPass, Michael and I both use this)
    • Encrypt your computer and external hard drives.
  • What’s the worst Black Swan event that’s happened to Michael? [59:45]
    • He picked up a vicious parasite in China
    • How to mitigate the risk of terrible sickness in China:
      • Don’t eat from sketchy street vendors (China is especially bad)
      • Look for hygiene markers
  • How does Michael manage Celiac disease that could kill him? [1:50:50]
    • Cook at home. Some restaurants that claim to be gluten-free aren’t concerned with cross contamination because they don’t take the risks of Celiac seriously.
    • Eat the same things every day.
    • Over-communicate the seriousness of your food allergy.
      • As a side note: Seems like there is no such thing as over-communication. Great teams talk more than you think they should.
  • How Michael makes money sleeping on great mattresses [1:08:15]
    • Good mattress = good sleep = high performance
    • Buy a Tempurpedic mattress on craigslist, negotiate the price down
    • Use the mattress
    • Sell the mattress on craigslist when you’re done at a higher price using superior sales writing and copywriting skills.
    • Negotiating heuristic for Craigslist: offer 20% off posted price, accept 10% off.
  • How Michael stole Groupon’s business model for fun and profit [1:14:30]
    • Steal models that are “hot”, resell them on Craigslist.
    • How he improved his programming skills and made money at the same time.
    • Repeat
  • Michael made a podcast because of the Mixergy podcast (see link below for Interviewing your heroes)
  • Michael talks what he learned working with Ramit Sethi [1:22:30]
    • Ethical Persuasion: If your target customer had all the information available, would the buy your product?
    • Reminds me of Simon Sinofsky’s great question: “Am I inspiring you to act, or manipulating you to act?”
    • Create a product that is totally aligned with your audience’s interests
  • Copywriting Resources and Tactics [1:28:10]
    • You should read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (LINK BELOW)
    • Name dropping works. Soundbites work.
    • Read and re-read everything you plan to publish. Reconsider every single word.
    • Headlines should convey benefit and target market: “Learn Practical Copywriting Tactics from the Masters”
    • Subheader should say HOW you’ll deliver: “This 8-week video course includes ____”
    • WHY > WHO > HOW
  • Michael advises me on my blog strategy [1:38:55]
    • What’s the goal?
    • Systems for blog promotion
      • Syndicate the material everywhere: Medium, LinkedIn
      • Post to aggregators: Reddit, HackerNews, GrowthHacker
      • Post to social: FB, Twitter
  • How does Michael cultivate respect and relationships? [1:43:20]
    • Be authentic and honest with yourself.
    • Be truthful even when it’s to your detriment. In the end, it won’t be.
    • How I improve client relationships by applying honesty to my detriment
    • How I talk to girls by being honest
  • Michael says: interview people who do big things that most people have never heard of.

Links

 Conclusion

If you liked this episode, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!