Pete talks to author Ben Angel about his new book, Flee 9 to 5, and the many frameworks for success that it contains. They talk about personal branding, frameworks for product strategy and for Social Media Marketing Strategy among other topics.
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Flee 9 to 5 – Ben Angel
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Flee 9 to 5 with Ben Angel
Dom Goucher: Hi there, and welcome to this week’s show. Dom here. Sadly, Pete’s not with us this week. He’s been unwell all week, and before anyone asks, no, it has nothing to do with the VD Report that we were supposed to be talking about this week.
Instead of that conversation between Pete and I, what we’re going to do is move that until Pete’s feeling better. And this week, we’re going to listen to a conversation that Pete had with an author called Ben Angel. Now Ben has just released a book called Flee 9 to 5 [Get 6-7 Figures and Do What You Love], and what I want to do is just frame this for you because it’s really, really important.
As always, Pete has managed to find somebody who has a huge amount of knowledge on a wide range of topics. And as always, if Pete was here, what I’d be doing is saying to him that, yet again, he’s found somebody that, if I had seen his book on a bookshelf, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. It sounds a little bit me-too from the title, but really, it’s a fantastic book. It has so much content in it, so many varied topics, as you’ll hear in the conversation with Pete and Ben.
I just want to highlight a couple of things before you go into this, just so you’re on the lookout for this, and definitely have paper and pencil ready for this one because Ben goes through a huge amount of stuff. It’s not just his theory of, ‘it will all be great for you,’ and ‘you can leave your job and start working on whatever it might be the opportunity.’ But he goes through a bunch of frameworks.
And this is why it really fits in with us, with the folks here at PreneurCast and the Preneur Community. Because you know we love our framework, well, Ben’s got a bunch of frameworks. He talks about all kinds of things, including personal branding. He talks about a marketing model for creating products. He also even has a framework for social media marketing, and he manages to get all that into this conversation with Pete. So, get your pencils ready, and listen to Pete and Ben Angel.
[Pete's conversation with Ben Angel Starts]
Pete Williams: All right, Ben. So, before we get into the whole Flee 9 to 5 book, I want to talk about Sleeping Your Way to the Top [in Business] because I think that was one of the most engaging book titles of all time.
Ben Angel: Yeah, it was [inaudible] attention at the time when I released it, with that book. That book was me stepping out, I guess revealing the cheekier side of myself, to really establish myself in the marketplace. What had actually happened is I had met a colleague, James Tuckerman from Anthill Magazine, who you probably know.
Ben: He spoke at one of my networking events, and I proposed a feature article to him called Sleeping Your Way to the Top. Well, he published that article, and they had about five or 10 church groups, some business church groups, unsubscribed from his magazine because of that book. I thought straight away, well, all right, at least it’s getting some reaction.
So, I decided to write that book, but it was more about revealing a different side of personality in business that a lot of people are very much afraid to share. Back then, I still felt that there’s a lot of personality lacking from business books, and it’s that personality that ensures that people actually take away the lessons that they need to take away from it to get the results that they want.
Pete: Completely agree. Now, you mentioned the networking event stuff that James spoke at, and that’s where I first stumbled across you, probably 10 years ago almost, wouldn’t it be, I think?
Ben: Yeah. Thanks to Botox, I still look about 20.
Pete: To give some context to your background, networking was what you started doing a little bit. What was your background, and how did you get into that line of business?
Ben: I’ve kind of fallen into this. I grew up on a cattle and cropping farm in country South Australia, which is a completely different background to what I’m doing right now. But my very first venture in business was doing metal sculpture.
So, every single weekend, I’d go up to the shed, put all of this wire and metal together and create art out of it, and then go to Adelaide retailers [inaudible] by the age of seventeen and pitch it to those guys. So I did that. I was writing music and I was working in music stores, bookstores. Then I transitioned into personal development and life coaching, and from there, went straight into business.
I have no serious qualifications. I’m a high school dropout. I left at the end of Year 11. But I was incredibly lucky to have parents that had said to me, “Ben, do whatever you want to do.” I think that was the biggest blessing. Where I’m at in my life right now is kind of a combination of every single thing that I’ve done in the past. But at the essence, what I like to do is I like to create. I used to write music, I used to do the art thing. But now I create through writing.
Pete: So the networking event, that was your first big public event that you’re doing in Melbourne. Is that correct?
Ben: Yeah, that is correct. I’d moved to Melbourne, didn’t really know anyone. At the time, I was quite arrogant and thought there are no other networking events around, which of course there were, but I decided to set up that business. So, some events would get 50 to over 100-plus people. It was those events that really put me into the forefront of some people’s minds. In that first year of running those events, I was then booked and hired to speak at 60 other business events around Melbourne.
Pete: That’s an impressive number.
Ben: That’s what kick-started the whole process.
Pete: Very cool, very cool. And since then, you’ve had the Sleeping Your Way to the Top book, and then there was CLICK as well, is that right?
Ben: Yeah, that’s right. So, CLICK is going to get rereleased in a couple of months’ time, as well. But then, of course, Flee 9 to 5 is the latest one that’s selling out at airports and it’s in Big W. It’s everywhere. It’s been an awesome experience.
Pete: Very, very cool. Sleeping Your Way to the Top, was that a self-published book compared to this one with Wiley, or was that first book with a publisher as well?
Ben: Yeah, well, the first two books were self-published. I’m working on a new product right now on how to write and sell a book. But the reason I self-published my first book is, I did have a publisher interested, this was back in 2009. However, they wanted to change too much. I decided to take the longer route in terms of just purely selling it myself. I didn’t put it in bookstores. It didn’t go online. It sold over $100,000 worth of copies, and that was purely to my own database.
Pete: So that, it shows the value of a database. Now, people can get that for free these days at BenAngel.com.au. But for those of you are listening, or walking your dog, or going for a run or something, what’s the essence of that book? It’s a catchy title, but what’s the biggest takeaway people get from that book?
Ben: I think that book is very much about personal branding and using marketing strategies that haven’t really been covered before. I think the essence of that book is that personal branding, to me, is self-expression amplified to influence and command attention. So, it’s not about changing who you are, it’s about amplifying certain traits.
Growing up on a farm, I love my own time, my own space. But when I get up on stage, that is the same person that you’ll encounter. A lot less swearing, of course, but that’s the same person that an individual would encounter if I was hanging out with my mates.
And that is really the essence, empowering people to be more of who they are, which is, when it comes to personal branding, that’s the scariest thing because personal branding is personal, putting yourself out there to be judged by the world. A lot of people try to manipulate the image they’re taking to market, which only ever, ever comes unstuck.
Pete: Yeah, absolutely. You see hear the stories, the wealth just magnifies who you are. If you’re a prick, you’re going to be more of a prick. If you’re a nice person, you’re going to be more of a nice person. It does absolutely just magnify who you are.
Ben: Absolutely. I’ll say on that viewpoint, I reveal pretty much everything in my books. I’ve got nothing to hide. So, if anyone was to try and attack me, I’d direct them to read a book for more gossip.
Pete: You’d support that. Now, one of the things that you do write about and mention in Flee 9 to 5, the new book, and also in other stuff you’ve done, is this concept of ‘agent of influence,’ which I think, just like Sleeping Your Way to the Top, is a very catchy little term. I think we should discuss that a little bit, about what is an agent of influence and what’s the point of it, and how does that map into the marketing of a business?
Ben: Yeah, so an agent of influence, to me, is someone that is willing to incite conversation that incites change. They’re very secure in the position of not only who they are, but the message that they want to take to the world. The agents of influence, to me, are the individuals like Anthony Robbins, Robert Kiyosaki, Tim Ferriss, even Bethenny Frankel from The Real Housewives of New York.
These are the individuals that are taking their expertise and knowledge, and they’re turning them into digital products and incredibly large brands. Now, with Flee 9 to 5, it’s not necessarily about building a brand to that size, for example, but it’s about having the ability to shape the world that we live in. Whether it’s in our local community, in the national one, or even on an international scale by being an online entrepreneur like yourself.
Pete: So, that’s the concept. It’s a very good breakdown of the process someone needs to go through if they want to take their knowledge, become this agent of influence, and publish some digital products. There’s a lot that we cover in the podcast, which is very similar to the books. So people who enjoy the show will definitely get some benefit out of the book, but there’s probably two keen things that I would love to discuss that you focus on in the book.
One of those things is the ascension model, because I think this is something a lot of people don’t really get right, or aren’t really clear about in that they understand they’ve got to have a website, “I’ve got to have a blog, and I’ve got to create products,” the general high level stuff. But they don’t put a very clear framework or direction in their creation. I’d love to discuss the whole ascension model principle, because I think that is very important. We’ve discussed it on the show before but I’d love to sort of debate it and discuss it with you, Ben.
Ben: Yeah, well, there’s probably one step before that that we probably should cover quickly, which is called the EKP solution. And this leads directly into the ascension marketing model. But for those that are looking to turn their knowledge and expertise into digital products, you first have to define the EKP, which stands for Expertise, Knowledge, and Products. So, the very first step is to identify your area of expertise. It could be social media marketing, health, fitness, love, relationships, whatever it might be. We bring it back to the essence of what it is.
The next step is knowledge. What is the practical outcome from using this expertise? What are people going to get? I always start with the phrase of ‘how to X, Y, and Z.’ Say, for example, a social media expert, it could be how to grow your digital following by 10,000 within X amount of time. For a health or fitness coach, it could be how to lose seven kilos in seven days (although that’s probably not really healthy). We bring it back to, really, the essence of what we do.
And then the next step is the products, which is what is the format that we can share this knowledge in to help others and also derive an income from? So, it could be a book, it could be an audio program, it could be a blog that you might generate affiliate commissions off of by recommending other products and services. Then, what is the format? That’s the first step for me. Then, of course, we go into the ascension marketing model, as you mentioned.
What people don’t realize is how absolutely critical this entire model is to your business. I think, with online marketing where it’s at right now, it is highly competitive. But when you know what to do, you can get to your target market quite easily. But if you’re not clear on where you’re taking a customer from in your sales funnel, then whatever you spend upfront on generating traffic, whether it be via social media, it might not be a literal spend, it might be a time spend, a time investment.
Whatever you’re spending upfront, if you haven’t got your ascension marketing model in place, then you’re potentially losing tens of thousands of dollars in your business. I’ve even seen it with a New Zealand fashion design label I’ve been working with just four hours a month, advisory service. Their business grew by [inaudible] in six months because this is one of the aspects that we took into account.
Pete: That intrigues me, how you apply this ascension model to a fashion brand.
Ben: Yeah, what we do is, the first step in the ascension marketing model is always the lowest barrier to entry. So, you either give away something for free or something cheap. What we decided to do is we decided to give people a $20 voucher [inaudible]. The digital sales literally exceeded over $70,000 when it had been sitting around $15,000 a month.
Pete: Okay. It jumped from $15,000 to $70,000.
Ben: Which is a massive increase.
Pete: Huge increase.
Ben: Yeah. I was told, and later apologized to by the designer, because I was told at the initial start that, “My customers just don’t shop online.” She kindly ate her words, which was great.
Pete: Before we move on, really quickly, what were you doing to get those vouchers out there, because that’s part of it too, getting the word out about it. It’s all fine and dandy to say, “We’re going to give away $20 vouchers for people to use on our website.” But what were some of the things to drive the actual promotions of those vouchers, to get people to use them online. Was it Facebook ads and stuff like that?
Ben: Well, I always work in two aspects. The first focus I always have in a business is how do we convert the existing clients and get them to buy more, and one that works in conjunction with that is the second aspect, is how do we get new followers?
It’s always, how do we convert the existing customers, which is always where the instant money and the instant cash flow is going to be. So, we initially targeted the existing database. Then after that, it included quite a large publicity campaign, which was ensuring that the designer was in the marketplace almost on a weekly basis for several months.
When it comes to publicity, as you know yourself, you need a great storyline, you need to tie into something that’s currently relevant, but you also have to be willing to cause a bit of a controversy. And I think it’s that that can drive a business forward very quickly. But you do have to get over your fears of being judged.
Pete: Yeah. I think that’s a hard thing for a lot of people. They want this publicity, but they want it to just be that friendly, happy little story before the weather, or just after the weather on the news show. That’s fine, but it’s not really going to drive the actual results you want. You need to have a key story that generally is going to be controversial, and that is where a lot of people get scared, as you said.
Ben: Yeah. One of the publicity campaigns for the designer, she came up with the idea that she wanted to give away a free wedding to a lesbian couple in New Zealand because they just approved of gay marriage.
Ben: I said, let’s take it another step further. We decided to run a competition to send an Australian couple out to New Zealand. We called it Come on Oz, Say I Do. We ended up giving it to a Melbourne couple, got the Herald Sun. The coverage even reached as far as Vogue India.
Pete: Oh, wow.
Ben: There were over, I think, 700-plus people at the fashion parade. It just absolutely blitzed. It even got confused in Marie Claire for the campaign that New Zealand was doing, which worked in our favor. They laughed about it when they found out. They didn’t care.
Pete: That’s very cool.
Ben: Yeah. So, it’s about thinking big. You don’t have to have a lot of cash flow, you just have to have the balls (if I can say that), to go, let’s just try something completely different that no one else is doing, and let’s just put ourselves out there.
Pete: Nice. Very cool.
Ben: That’s one of the first steps in the ascension marketing model, is ensuring you’re converting existing customers. What part of the ascension marketing model are they in, and how are you putting more people into it? They’re two questions that a business owner should be asking themselves almost every single day.
Pete: So, once you get through that first phase, and you’ve got that initial product out there that’s free or a discount, just to get people into the funnel, so to speak, then you want to send them to what you refer to as your principal product. Is that right?
Ben: Yeah, that’s right. That’s the slightly more expensive product. So, the initial step in the ascension marketing model is free or it’s cheap. It could be a book. I chose to give my first book, Sleeping Your Way to the Top in Business, away for free over a year or so ago now. That’s helped build my e-mail list. It’s about to hit 20,000 in the next month. That just exploded the e-mail list and reinvigorated the business overall, not to mention helped me boost my sales across the board.
The book, I had two lives of the book: one when it first came out, the sales that were generated when it first came out; and then a couple of years later, after they downloaded the free book, they were then upsold to various other products online. Just because you’ve created something in the past doesn’t mean it’s dead and gone. You can always reinvent it somehow in the future.
Pete: I completely agree, and I did something almost identical to what you’ve done with my first book with Wiley, which was nine years ago now or something crazy, eight years ago. The deal I had with Wiley was that they’d publish the book and, after a certain amount of time, I would get the rights back to it.
When I got those rights back, we created the audio version of the book and gave it away for free, which everyone who listens to the show knows about it. PreneurMarketing.com and places like that, you can get that audio version for free. So it’s that repurposing of old content as well. I know exactly the power of that.
Ben: Yeah, and the other thing that a lot of people don’t realize is, there’s a whole world of people out there that have never heard of us before. They’ve never been introduced to the first products in the ascension marketing model. I see it on social media all the time. It’s technically people giving away stuff for free, but they’ll put up one or two posts on social media, and you’ll never hear about it again.
If you’re growing your social media following by a few hundred or whatever it is per week, then there should be a least one post per week up on your Facebook page saying, hey, go download this for free.
Pete: Yeah, and this is a thing I want to talk about later, actually, because I know you have a great framework for the social side of stuff, so I definitely want to touch on that. The one final thing that I was looking at when I was reading the book was that in this ascension model, the final thing is this thing you refer to as ‘forward-looking.’ So, talk about that. How does forward-looking define the third level of the ascension model?
Ben: The forward-looking is the more expensive version of your suite of products. It’s like the Mercedes Benz, for example. That could either be high-level consulting services, or it could be digital products. It could be a major event. You’re looking at a higher price point overall. So, generally Step One in the ascension marketing model, for me, is free, or it’s under the $30 price point. Really, really low barrier to entry.
The second step, for me, you’re looking around the $77 to $100 mark price points. The reason I use those price points is I’ve personally noticed that when I’ve sold something for $77, put the price up to $97, the conversion rate can drop by up to 15%.
Pete: Wow. Very good test result.
Ben: Yeah. It’s a massive drop. Obviously, you have to do all of your sums to work out how many more at the $77 price point you’d have to sell to balance out the $97 price point and the drop in conversion rate. So, you always have to do your maths. But beyond that, you’re looking at the $100 price point.
There is quite a barrier to entry when you go over the $100 price point. That’s when you have to seriously look at doing a very solid online marketing campaign. In the book, I talk about the ‘enlightened launch,’ which is based on educate, educate, educate, educate, then upsell. So, as long as you’re doing that process and you’re providing high levels of information, you can sell above and beyond that but, most importantly, you need to know your numbers.
Pete: I know that’s the case. And the big thing, too, from that, is that if you look at the numbers in isolation, they can be very — I was going to use the word very wrong, but you have to look at, if you’re going to sell a product at $77 and get 15% more people through the door, the maths might work out that, on that sole focus, you’re going to generate less revenue.
But when you look at the lifetime value of a customer, and you’re looking at things like, this person’s going to buy this product from me, but then they’re going to obviously buy the forward-looking services and products. Well, more people through the funnel can mean more sales in the forward-looking products. So overall, the business revenue can increase. You have to take that into account when you’re doing the maths, not just looking at the maths on that principal-product level. You look at it as the whole business, and how that affects and the flow-on effect.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. The other thing that people tend to get stuck with as well is they’ll run some Facebook adverts. They’ll run them for two days. They’ll go I haven’t got any sales, let’s switch the whole thing off. It’s been a complete waste of money. I give up. I’m going to try something else. Dramatic much, but it’s what people do.
You have to be willing to at least have a 30-day period where you look at those results over 30 days. Because if I was to look at some of my Facebook campaigns, say yesterday they were [inaudible] profitable, but then today, they might be 10 times the profit. It can balance out quite well. What I’ve found in the past is, when I was doing more trials of Facebook advertising, over a seven-day period, I’d get maybe a 350% return on investment. If I looked at it in isolation for, say, a 24-hour period, it would be minus that.
Pete: So, just out of interest, are those Facebook ads running to the book promo, or to the free download of the Sleeping Your Way to the Top in Business book?
Ben: Nothing to the free book, currently. However, what’s happening with the publicity around the new book, everyone’s going to the website and downloading the first book for free anyway. But that will be stepped up when I head to the US in April as well. The main Facebook adverts, they’re driving straight to landing pages of various products right now.
Pete: Very cool.
Ben: Yeah. So I usually look at cash flow and go, if I make this investment now, then I might get my return in 30 days. But if I make this one immediately, then I’ll get an immediate return today. I think it’s important that people understand the difference of those two investments in their business and do a mix of both. Otherwise, if you only ever do the marketing that gets you through today, you’re never building your account for the future.
Pete: No, absolutely. I completely agree with that. And you touch on that in one part of the book, I remember, where you break down the cost and return on creating some of these products you describe in this ascension model. I remember, in part of the book, you talk about here’s the maths of creating some of the products you did, one of them being that publicity product. You talk about how you created the different products in ascension model, what the costs were, what the returns were, and give people some real tangible understanding of what these businesses take to run and operate, which I thought was pretty cool.
Ben: Yeah. Thankfully, it doesn’t actually have to cost a lot.
Pete: Exactly. The beautiful thing of online marketing.
Ben: Yeah, that’s a perfect thing.
Pete: So, speaking of online marketing, let’s talk about this whole social media stuff. Because, again, what we talk about quite a bit here on the show and on the blog as well is the importance of framework, having something to just guide you and keep you on track through your marketing and your business growth.
One of the things you provide in the book is this social media schedule, which I thought was pretty cool. I’d love to get you to talk through that a little bit because for a lot of people, they’ve read Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, and they think, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to do these tweets and stuff.” But without a framework to tweet about, they end up just pushing out garbage that doesn’t help move the person or the follower into the direction you want. Whereas, you’re talking about this framework, which I think gives a lot of substance for people to use and replicate.
Ben: Yeah, and I think one of the catalysts for creating this framework was that, when I was completely on top of it and doing everything myself with this, the social media following at that time might have been 7,000 people on Facebook. But just from the posts that were going up on my page, it was generating anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 a week from that alone.
And then, I switched to Facebook advertising, and then I forgot to do all the things I was doing before that. So, the reason for the framework is for my virtual assistants to look at it and go, “Where are we going to fit this in our overall schedule?”
So, the seven-day social media posting cycle basically goes from Sunday to Saturday, but there are various host types that have to be executed throughout those seven days. As we know, inspirational quotes always do well online, and the way that Facebook works, and it’s almost changing every single day, is that if people haven’t engaged with your Facebook page lately, it’s most likely you’re not even going to come up into the News Feed.
But there are things that you can do, such as the inspirational quotes, to just get people engaged, whether it’s not your content or it is your content, where you at least want them interacting with your page on some basis to increase the likelihood that they will see your posts in the future. So, inspirational quotes, you might do those three or four times a week.
The second one, one of my favorite ones, is a product extract. So, product extract could be as simple as a one-sentence or a two-sentence tip on how to do something, with a line such as, “Find out more here,” or “Watch your free video here,” directly under it with a link. So, it’s directly promoting one of your products.
Then, it could be a picture quote. But it’ll be a quote from yourself, not from someone else. Then, potentially, in one week, you may have three links posted to various articles, a video blog post, or even an introductory offer. When it comes to social media, a lot of people, if they write a blog post, they’ll put a link up on social media once, and that will be it. The reality is that you need to try different times of the day to ultimately measure the success of your blog posts.
So, for example, for every 20 articles that I’ve produced in the last couple of years, I’ve always looked at the stats and gone, you know what, out of those 20, probably only five are ever really, really successful. We look at social media and go, what is the formula, what are the headlines that people are preferring for my business as opposed to someone else’s?
We do really have to look at the media and news to see how they’re writing headlines. I’ve noticed on social media, in the last month particularly, the headline formulas have very much changed. I don’t necessarily enjoy them, but I know they work. Some of the headlines are something like, this woman quit her job. What her boss did next was shocking.
Pete: They just very much stir — they’re click-bait headlines. They’re not headlines that necessarily match the article. They’re headlines that are just designed to get the click, aren’t they?
Ben: Absolutely. And I don’t discourage people from using them, necessarily, but if you are going to use that headline, bloody well back it up. I think there’s a Facebook group and company, I think they’re called Moviepilot. They had really, really high-quality content. And then they started doing this, and you should see the comments on their Facebook page. They’re literally destroying themselves right now.
Pete: So their audience, the engagement level is going backwards because the whole integrity thing, which you talked about earlier, has changed and shifted. It’s not in line with what the brand was and the position they were building originally. That’s affecting their audience and their community.
Ben: Yeah. The funny thing is, the engagement’s gone up, but it’s gone in a negative direction. It can be okay at periods of time, especially when you’re doing publicity campaigns and you know how to manage it. But when you’re getting hundreds and hundreds of comments on your Facebook and social media pages saying that you guys are full of crap, you’re using baiting headlines, you suck, you’re idiots, you’ve got to rethink that strategy pretty quickly.
The other thing that I always recommend with the social media schedule is always share links to other resources that are interesting and are also trending online, particularly within your field of expertise and industry. Client case studies, and from time to time, I would definitely encourage people to do Q&A sessions. A Q&A session is the, “Hey, guys, tomorrow, for the next 24 hours,” or whatever it might be, “I’ll be answering as many of your marketing questions as I possibly can within that period. Look out for details tomorrow.”
Then, in that formula, you also send out an e-mail to your database, driving people to your social media page to get that engagement back up, especially if not many people are talking about Facebook for this period. That’s a great way to reengage people.
Pete: I love it. So there’s a lot of different things people can be doing, and this is the one thing that I think you mentioned that is worth pulling out there, is that you mentioned the same formula for your VAs to use. I was having this session this morning with a consulting client, and talking about the whole virtual assistant world. The biggest thing, I think, for a lot of people is they think that hiring a virtual assistant is going to give them a system for success, and that does not happen.
The whole idea of a virtual assistant is to give you scale on a system that works. So, having something like this social media framework that you can then give to a virtual assistant, that is the system that they can scale for you. That is a really important thing that you just brushed over. A lot of people don’t have that clear distinction that, “I have to give my virtual assistant systems so they can scale that,” and this is the type of system.
Because saying to a virtual assistant, “Go and manage my social media campaign,” means nothing unless that person has experience running a social media campaign successfully through a system they can bring to you as an employee, and as a team member. But the issue there is, some people with experience, justifiably, cost you more to have.
Most people are trying to go to these virtual assistant worlds to get things at a discount, getting that geoarbitrage scenario where you can hire someone in the Philippines at a much cheaper rate, which is a very effective way to grow a business. But you have to be very aware of how that’s going to fit into a system and where the scale comes.
Ben: Absolutely. Look, it’s the case. I sacked a VA at Christmas. I give people more than the benefit of the doubt. But I see a lot of people, when something’s not working, they let it tend to drag on for a few months. Be willing to have those tough conversations at the start of every single week, and at the start of every single day, before it gets to that point, especially for people that are starting out. They just allow the issues to go on for too long, and they find themselves in a really awful situation.
But like you said, when it comes to VAs, my VAs know very specifically how I like to work with them. From the outset, I always say to them, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. The issue with the last one was that that literally just threw me problem after problem, expecting me to solve it. It’s like, “Wait a sec. I’m hiring you to help me solve my problems.”
Pete: Yeah, exactly. You’ve got to be very clear on the outcome you want. How you start is how you finish, I think, applies here too.
Ben: Exactly, and we have to support them. They don’t know our businesses straight off the bat. They might have great, fantastic organizational skills. But what I look more for in a VA is, are they willing to use their initiative and troubleshoot issues for me before they even get to me?
So it is sending them things like the seven-day social media cycle and getting them to prompt us as well, and say, “Ben we’ve got the seven-day social media cycle. There are gaps in that plan at the moment. Can you get us some more content that we can use or can we source it from somewhere? Can we speak to a copywriter? What can we do to make sure that it’s in place and working?”
Pete: Yep, and I completely agree. Now, one thing I want to talk about before we finish up our conversation today is just the actual book process. Because you’ve gone through and you’ve written three very successful books right now. You touched on it earlier that you’re in this process of putting together like a course on writing books.
What can you share with us today before that course comes out? I’m just really keen to hear about your creative process, and how you’ve gone about writing books. I know for a lot of people who listen to this show and are going to read Flee 9 to 5, part of this, that intro product that you spoke about, can be a book, as you touched on. So what are some tips around that?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. When it comes to book writing, people throw out a whole heap of excuses. The very first protocol for me is basically, what is the outcome? Do I want immediate sales from this book and immediate revenue, which would mean I would go down the self-publishing route? Or, do I want to build a larger profile and have larger distribution networks to fill my funnel? But that does mean delayed income in the future. So I think first of all, we have to make that decision.
Second of all, we do have to get into the right mindset and go, “How am I going to motivate myself on a daily basis?” Not many people know this about me, but I tend to do visualization activities pretty much every night before I go to bed, just to set myself up for the next day. When it comes to writing books, I will, if I’m feeling a bit stuck or not in a great head space, I’ll spend 30 seconds getting myself in that head space by doing visualizations of seeing myself writing, going nuts, drinking coffee and eating whatever, and just visualizing the content flowing out of me and not having to think about it.
So I’ll visualize that. I think the next thing for me, as well, when it comes to books, particularly non-fiction, we have to write for the media in mind. Any headlines in the books should almost read like a press release statement. What I’ve found by doing that is, whether you work with a publicist or you do your own PR when your book eventually comes out: A) it makes it easier to get publicity for it, but B) it makes it far more readable and engaging for your audience. And I think, finally, is have a template. I map everything out in an Excel spreadsheet before I even start to write.
Pete: Oh, nerdy. I love it. Nerdy book writing through Excel, I love it.
Ben: I’m a big nerd, literally. Sometimes, it can take a couple of hours. I know my second book, it only took a couple of hours to really map it out, and I ended up writing that book in a 30-day period. That ended up being over 60,000 words, and it was easy to write because I knew where I was going at every single point in time. In the writing process and the creating process, I literally have a checklist that sits next to my laptop that says if I get stuck, these are three things that I do.
Pete: Nice. Which are?
Ben: I wish I could remember them all. I think the first one is the visualization. The second one is, refer back to the Excel spreadsheet. And the third one is, if I’m stuck, it’s because I haven’t done the proper planning, so I might need to do some more research.
I always have three things that anchor me to get out of that head space and keep moving forward. But even with Flee 9 to 5, that book, I was traveling and working in between New Zealand, Sydney, Brisbane, I was renovating my apartment, which I’ve sold, and I’m living out of a suitcase right now, which is a lot of fun, before I head to the US.
That book was written on planes, trains, in various hotels, at the beach. It was written everywhere. So, it really is about having a solid structure that supports you no matter what you’ve got going on in your life.
Pete: I love it, Ben. Very cool. Well, let me ask you one final question, which is the question we ask everyone who comes on the show and that is, what’s the one question I haven’t asked you that I probably should have? It throws everybody, don’t worry.
Ben: Yeah, that is a hard one. What’s the one question? Hmm… How do I consistently make money online? That would be the one question.
Pete: There you go. So, what’s the answer?
Ben: That would be knowing your figures, having a good marketing strategy, and tracking it almost every single day. But the other thing is, and probably the essence of all of it, is having a really strong brand in the marketplace. Don’t create a me-too brand. My new website cost less than $200 to create. I created it myself because I love creating, but also for the fact that I know, if I’d got someone else to do it, it would have probably cost me 20+ K.
But you need a strong brand. Even with the new website right now, there’s an image of me that I have my shirt off, and there’s masking tape over my mouth with limited edition written on it with one eyebrow raised, which was — at least I’d had Botox the day before. That’s the lowdown after that photo.
But the reason that I decided to put that image out there was to get people to say, “Who the hell is this guy?” I wanted people to really query the image and go, “Maybe we should start paying attention to him.” It’s been that stuff that also scored me a cameo appearance on The Real Housewives of Melbourne, good reality TV.
Pete: I know. I love it. Very cool.
Ben: Which will be coming on air in — I think it’s Episode Five that I appear in. You’ll see me in the background at some of the events throughout that. You’ve just got to be different. At the end of the day, we’re each our own worst critic. We don’t have to listen to every man and his dog about what they think about us. I really don’t care.
Pete: Yeah. Absolutely, mate. Well, BenAngel.com.au is the best place to go for people to find out all about you, the books, download Sleeping Your Way to the Top in Business for free, and on social media, as well. What’s the handle on social media?
Ben: Yeah. If they literally just type in “Ben Angel,” they’ll find me on Twitter or on Facebook. Or if they go to the website, they’ll find the links up on there, too.
Pete: Beautiful, Ben. Well, the book Flee 9 to 5 is in all good bookstores right now, online, at airports, as you said, in department stores like Big W. It is everywhere, and that is, as you said, one of the benefits of going through a traditional publisher like Wiley.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely.
Pete: Very cool. Thank you for your time.
Ben: No, thank you, Pete. It was awesome.
[Pete's conversation with Ben ends]
Dom: So, I think you’ll agree, Ben was a really interesting chap. Lots to talk about, lots of different things. He’s got a lot of interesting experiences to share with us, and as I said at the beginning, lots to take notes from. I’ve been writing through it all myself for a few more note-taking sessions, and a great book too.
We’ll have links to everything in the show notes, as usual. If you’re liking what we’re doing with these author series, Pete’s getting all these conversations with these authors and having interesting conversations, do let us know. So pop over to PreneurMarketing.com, leave us a comment below this show, or leave us an audio comment by clicking the little button on the side of the screen as you visit. Or you can, as always, leave us a comment over on iTunes, on the main podcast page.
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