I love Twitter. It’s connected me with some pretty awesome individuals — people who get this social space and understand what it takes — not only to survive — but to succeed. A few weeks ago as I was preparing to present at the SOHO conference in Toronto, I contacted Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com. From what I’ve seen and read about this guy, he is helping define the way we all should navigate in this space especially businesses who are unaware of the immense opportunities as well as the potential pitfalls they may experience unless they follow the rules.
I had about an hour’s conversation with Alejandro. Below you’ll find some pretty rich advice from “the man himself”. I’ve tried not to create an “unplugged” script so you’re getting the essence of Alejandro — his energy and enthusiasm and love for what he does. This is Part IIa because I spent at least 5 hours typing out the script for about 20 minutes of the interview. Needless to say, it’ll probably run into Part IIb and c. Look for these follow-ups in the coming days. I didn’t want to leave anything out because everything he says is important. Please enjoy!
HJ: Tell me about Successfool? Why did you start it? What was the premise behind it?
AR: With my style of marketing and what I believe — it goes back 10 years to where I started in entrepreneurship. The thing about is that I was doing a lot of things online – like a lot of people who get into a niche because of a certain key word and there’s not a lot of competing sites. And I did all that but what ended up happening is that I got bored and started something else and was doing things that I wasn’t passionate about so. I had a mentor tell me last year, “Alejandro, you’ve got to find out what you’re most passionate about and find a way to get paid to do it”. This is a friend of mine who’s a passion coach and travels the world and speaks on passion. That really resonated with me because it totally made sense and I look back 10 years and I was doing things that were to make money vs. what I was passionate about. And for me, someone who was ADD, if I don’t like or love what I’m doing I’ll get really bored and I’ll quit it. And so I decided I’m going to focus on what I’m passionate about. And, and I’m addicted to people, connecting with people, connecting others, being very resourceful, communicating, speaking, inspiring, motivating. So I came up with this idea for Successfool that was based off of a book that Seth Godin wrote called, “Meatball Sundae” . And a lot of marketers who were fans of him didn’t care for that book compared to his other books but I’m the type of guy – if you gave me one nugget and it’s a really good one, I’ll use that and chew on it. And he (Seth Godin) said, “People are looking for an authentic story”. And this really hit me because I started to see how the web was shifting and before it all if I wanted to buy a Honda, I’d go to a Honda site or a Consumer Reports to look at reviews. If I wanted to find a church, I would go to a church website. But as the web shifted into the collaborative Web 2.0 – ie New Media, NOW people are talking to each other and this is where the authentic story came in. And if you’re transparent, real and authentic I really believe as the market heads in that direction, I believe people can associate with what people call the Law of Attraction and I believe that you attract who you are and so I just wanted to be true to myself. I started to look at Oprah’s business model and all she’s ever done for the past however many years is she bought on people and she extracted a unique, transparent, authentic real story. So I decided to be real and be myself. I’m not gonna be this guy in a suit and tie. I’m just gonna be who I was made to be and I just went out there and so started successfool.com. The reason I started that not because not only that it was a really cool brandable name in one word but because, one, Alejandro Reyes I lost it back in 2001 plus Alejandro is just a long name. But Successfool, the full aspect, is who I was growing up. Teachers, my mom — people called me a fool and so successfool was all about people –> sometimes as an entrepreneur you have to look foolish to your family, your friends and the rest of the world and do things that ordinary people aren’t willing to do. And so that was kind of the basis. It is who I am, it is my personality, it is my DNA and I wanted to go out there and share that with the world. On April Fool’s Day I went out there and started successfool.com with no previous posts, no Twitter account, no Facebook account, believe it or not and I wanted to do this social media experiment and spent no money on advertising and then just started the blog. And that’s kinda how April Fool’s started for me and that’s how Successfool.com was born.
HJ: Did you have any idea what kind of content would be on your site?
AR: Absolutely. So many people – and this is the problem with a lot of people especially with social media and the way the web’s going – want to do things perfectly. I’m on the other side of the spectrum from the analytics. Analytics are people who are anal retentive and need to have their systems in place. They need to have their I’s dotted and their T’s crossed. In the book of “Rules for Revolutionaries” Guy Kawasaki says “Don’t worry be crappy”. Everyone focuses on getting everything perfect and what ends up happening is that they put out their product, their service, their blog, their site and their idea is already passed up by the market. And so I said, “here’s what I want to do. I want to bring on people – because I have a lot of really cool contacts. I want to interview people on their stories of entrepreneurship; how they became entrepreneurs; how they went from that rags to riches story. And I wanted my site to be a place that wasn’t only about teaching the principles of success, the ideas and theories of success, but also house ideas of real entrepreneurship. So, I was flexible with the direction but I wanted to be collaborative and I wanted to bring in other people so it would mix up the voice; it would mix up the content and it wouldn’t be just one guy talking, writing or doing video. That’s how it started. But since then I’ve added video; I’ve added live view streams and I’m a firm believer in knowing where you’re going and knowing your end in mind but allowing your course to be flexible because what happens is that people get so attached to an idea and sometimes that idea may not work out and they ride that idea to the grave. And so I’ve been very flexible about where I’m headed and I’m kinda just like playing chess right now and I’m getting a better idea of the kind of content that I’m gonna do. I’m revamping my blog right now and focusing heavily on podcasting and video. But the content has always been about sharing inspirational stories of people living the internet lifestyle.
HJ: Why do you think Successfool has done so well? Has it been your approach to driving traffic or do you think the content you’re providing is what’s drawing people?
AR: I think it’s a bit of everything. But it is the content, it is the idea, it is the personality but it’s a bunch of different things. And there’s not ONE thing someone can say that was the instigator – there’s just been about 100 different things that I’ve been able to do like connecting and having connections to influencers on Twitter and Facebook talk about me. The strategies that I teach and talk about are strong drivers. But also having my brand so close to my passion and my DNA — and when you’re passionate about a specific thing or topic you have endless content. Why? Because it is inside of you. And I know you’ll be talking to a small business group and hopefully they’re passionate about what they do or at least they know a lot about the products or services so the content can be endless. If I wanted to talk about golf, which I’m not a huge fan of nor know nothing about, I’d have to find some good writers and do a lot of research outside of who I am, internalize it and create a blog. I believe that if you’re passionate about a topic, it’s already inside of you so all you have to do is collect your thoughts and put it all down on paper. And so I think that’s what’s helped me the most. I’m a firm believer that you have to be posting 3 times a week at minimum because you have to show some consistency and when you’re passionate about your topic it’s going to be much simpler to write than it is to write about something that you don’t really care about and you’re just trying to make money out of it.
HJ: In the social media space, authenticity is always at the forefront. Selling is the worst thing that you can do straight off. It’s about creating relationships. Why, in this space is it so different than traditional advertising. Why is the premise about sharing and collaborating first and selling is last? Why should marketers play in this space when they can’t sell right away?
AR: I’m going to address something you said first –> about not selling. That is something that I loved from my market. People have got to know their market especially those in small office/small business. And I know my industry and if you can do something a little bit different and you can disrupt that community that you’re in I really believe that kinda helped me out. My industry will say, “I’m gonna send an email out or I’m going to post to a forum and point you to a lead capture page and then I’ll start selling you my offer later through email marketing or I’m going to send you to a site that has an offer on it. It’s very Me, Me, Me, Me, and traditional internet marketing from marketing greats of past ie copywriters, gurus — that stuff has worked in the Web 1.0 area and now that’s shifting. So I’ve added a lot of value and selling was at the back of my mind ’cause I have to put food on the table so I did this crazy experiment. I said I’m gonna go out there and provide tons of value to people’s lives. I’m gonna make people lives and their businesses better and a lot of my friends, who are marketing folks, some do well or don’t do well, they say to me, “I can’t believe you don’t have an offer”. There were people following me (on Twitter) asking me what I was selling. And I didn’t have anything on my blog – and still don’t – where I’m directly selling something. So when someone comes to my blog, they are getting me. They’re getting content; authenticity. They’re getting a real story and a real person that’s genuinely interested in their well-being, their future, and their business. And people online don’t really care how much you know and there are a lot of people, I promise you, that are a lot smarter than me who are better copywriters, SEOs. But I don’t believe that anybody can outvalue me because I have a true convinction about providing tons of value because what happens is a lot of reciprocity – the law of giving and receiving – comes into place. So, selling up front on social media for people who are entrepreneurs or are in small businesses, be aware that you will almost get blacklisted — not like on a search engine — but blacklisted in the minds of people. And I’m a huge advocate of people’s minds and I believe you can create these little apartments or these little mansions in people’s brains with your name/brand in them because that’s really all you have online: who you are. And when people think of successfool.com, do they think of authenticity, do they think of fun or do they think of someone whose gonna sell me something? And so the way I’ve positioned my business is to provide a lot of value and on my live shows. I don’t pitch anything. But when I promote something in the future it’s most likely directly related to something that I’m up to, what I believe in and I most likely will not take an affiliate commission because I want people to know that I’m providing services that I believe can help enhance their business vs. me trying to make a dollar. So that’s what’s really helped my blog and a lot of my friends who come from the internet marketing community who really sell, sell, sell — I need to sit down with them and deprogram them. Most of the time in social media you have to be willing to get the short end of the stick in a lot of circumstances and to really raise your value and brand along with your trust and credibility because with social media everybody is talking to each other and if you’re known as the person who sells, sells, sells then someone might unfollow you on Twitter or remove you from their friend list because they know everything you put out there. The updates you put out there are all about you. It’s gonna be about your links and has to do with you making money and people will blacklist you out of their mind. They will tell their friends and this will create a negative word of mouth campaign online that you don’t want to have. I’ve seen it. The thing about social media is timing. One day in social media on the internet is equivalent to three weeks to a month offline. It’s very fast-paced and people will forget about you in a week if you have that sell, sell, sell mentality.
HJ: So, you come to a point where you’ve thought you’ve given enough value and have built a sufficient amount of trust. At what point do you think it’s appropriate to start selling?
AR: Selling is your ultimate goal. That is your end in mind ie to be in a position where you’ve created enough value to gain contracts through coaching, consulting or creating products. So I knew when I created Successfool that I needed to eventually generate revenue. So for me this is where it all started – April Fool’s Day. I believe that you have to have awareness. I played quarterback in high school for a couple of years and wasn’t the greatest athlete but the one thing that quarterbacks have to have is awareness of your surroundings. And I believe that people that are aware of their community — of their followers, of their friends – online will be the ones who win because it’s NOT a timeframe. This is what I feel — it’s more of an intuition when it happens. There is no exact timeframe. For me, I was just pumping content, not even thinking – to be honest with you – about what I was gonna do next so when I did that call with Michelle MacPhearson – and that’s how we connected, right? – and my blog was all about success and it was all about interviews but Michelle was noticing how I was marketing or offering that content to people. And so many people were following it and talking to me that she wanted to interview me not about my blog BUT how I was relating, connecting, growing my blog traffic, my followers on Twitter. And what ended up happening – in about 20 hours of promotion – (and at the time I had only hundred followers) we had 400 people register for that webinar, over 200 people showed up and the coolest thing was that (usually on webinars about 15 minutes into it you lose about 50% of your audience) we held about 90-95% of people throughout that call. I got about 30 emails, 100 adds on twitter, a bunch of direct messages from people, a few voice mails. The next day I told Michelle and my friend Justine about it and told them, “Look at what’s happened? This is absolutely insane” and they both said, “People want it”. People sent me emails that said, “Show me what you do” ,”How do you do it?”, “I need this for my business”, “I love what you say”, “No one’s talking about it”. And I kept getting that message.
Michelle was aiming to create a coaching program based around teaching people what you do so that’s exactly what I did. When I started Successfool, I had no clue how I was gonna monetize it, and I talked earlier about being very flexible with your blog or your site. And so I started creating this program called Social Marketing Rock Stars and it was all about becoming the thought leader or as I call it, the rock star of your community. Most people marketing online will find a keyword, they’ll find the market, they’ll do the whole demographic targeting based off of searches and behaviours and meet the need based on numbers. I met the need based on what people wanted most and it was based on what people needed vs. what people were searching for. People sometimes search for things that they really don’t need so I was out there in the trenches talking to people and I created a course probably 45 days into my blog and the cool thing was I didn’t have this big list of 20,000 people but rather around 300-400. So, I started promoting it and 6 other people ended up promoting it as well. They didn’t want an affiliate commission. They didn’t want a kick-back. They just wanted to do it based on the relationship I created with them. Normally within internet marketing, people will ask, “What’s your affiliate commission?” Is it 30% or 50%. Give me that affiliate link and I will promote it for you. That’s based on sending it to 10,000 people and I can make a couple of grand doing that. But the people that promoted it – it started with 2, then a couple more heard about it and said, “I wanna do that for you as well”. So, I was giving away free content and my friends thought I was crazy but I ended up making a little over $10,000 with zero advertising. I had money to advertise but I didn’t do it. I didn’t create any link-building campaigns or anything of that nature. But the thing is, the way people talk about you online is they link to you so everybody started talking about me and this coaching program and within 4 months (120 days), I received over 17,000 backlinks to my site and I haven’t done one link building campaign. I probably Dugg it a couple times and Stumbled. It goes to show if you’re interested in people first, not the algorithms, not the page rank — if you’re genuinely interested in people, they will tell you what they want;they will tell you what content to blog about; they will tell you about what videos to make; they will tell you about what products and services they’re willing to pay for –> if you just have your ear to the floor. And that’s what I did. I was responding to everybody. I gave out my phone number to people on my life conference call and now everybody and their mom wants to promote my coaching program.
More to come……stay tuned in the coming days.