A Rainmaker Case Study on Using the Access Approach to Drive Business Results

Robert Bruce and Chris Garrett join Jerod Morris on this week’s episode to discuss some real-life examples of what we discussed on last week’s episode.

In this 37-minute episode Jerod, Robert, and Chris discuss:

  • The evolution of the New Rainmaker strategy to sell the Rainmaker Platform
  • The power of repurposing
  • Why creating a logged-in course experience beats adding people to a simple email list
  • Why the access approach is essential to setting up marketing funnels that work
  • They key components needed to set up an access experience that works

Brian will be back next week, and we’ll be diving into the fourth episode in our five-part series on the necessary elements of the modern marketing website.

The Show Notes

A Rainmaker Case Study on Using the Access Approach to Drive Business Results

Voiceover: You are listening to the Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: All right, do you guys just want to jump right in?

Chris Garrett: Let’s do it.

Jerod Morris: Cool.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, no idea what we’re talking about. I know you said something, but …

Jerod Morris: Hey, Chris, you know what? We’re just going to try and recreate our Monday afternoon call for the Digital Entrepreneur audience.

Chris Garrett: You mean, get us fired?

Jerod Morris: Right. Brian’s gone, so let’s have a little fun out of the Digital Entrepreneur while he’s gone.

Chris Garrett: We’re going to talk about politics for an hour and a half, right?

Jerod Morris: That was my plan. We’re recording this on Super Tuesday number three. A lot of important things are going to happen today in the Republican primaries and the Democratic primaries.

Chris Garrett: Watch it, don’t say his name, don’t say his name.

Jerod Morris: Let’s give Brian something exciting to listen to when he gets back. Okay no, this is not politics talk, this is episode number seven of the Digital Entrepreneur. I am Jerod Morris, the VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and Brian is not here this week. But I have two very special guests with me to continue the conversation that Brian and I have been having.

We’ve been talking about the elements of the modern marketing website. Last week, we talked to you about the benefits of the access approach to online marketing. When Brian gets back next week, we’re going to be talking about using online courses as lead magnets. This is kind of an in-between-isode, to talk about both of those topics with two guys who know a lot about it.

The first gentleman is Robert Bruce. You know him well from Rainmaker FM and the earliest incarnations of the Rainmaker podcast. Robert, welcome to the Digital Entrepreneur.

Robert Bruce: Thank you, Jerod. I’m only here to talk about one thing today, and that is Donald Trump.

Jerod Morris: Toby, edit that. We are also joined by Chris Garrett, the chief digital officer for Rainmaker Digital. Those of you who have been inside of the Digital Commerce Institute or participate in our Q&As, you’ve gotten a lot of insight from Chris. He has a lot to share about this topic, so I’m excited to have him here as well. Welcome, Mr. Garrett.

Chris Garrett: Thanks for having me. I didn’t realize we were going to talk about Trump on this call. I didn’t come prepared for that.

Robert Bruce: Apparently, my first amendment rights are going to be taken away from me here if it’s edited out, but I’ll just keep saying it …

You know what I was thinking? Isn’t it about time that, like in my case, you just start calling me robertbruce.com? Talk about the master marketing stroke. Why aren’t children being named after URLs yet? I mean, just take it straight there.

Jerod Morris: That’s interesting. Wasn’t there that one guy who sold his last name? It was something SurfrApp, and he just sold the rights to his last name. But you’re saying, like when my child is born, just …

Robert Bruce: You get the URL and you just name him the URL. Now, if you can’t get a real name URL, you’ve got an issue.

Chris Garrett: Bob.info.

Robert Bruce: But you know, then you’ve got 20 years of preparation. See, this is where Garrett gets into the conversation saying that in 20 years, URLs won’t even be around.

Chris Garrett: I was thinking cruelty laws. Surely there are laws against that.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Robert Bruce: You’re probably right.

Jerod Morris: That poor child who has to have an underscore or a hyphen in her name.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, with a bad URL, that’s a good point. All right, sorry, just thought I’d throw it out there.

Jerod Morris: No, it was a good idea.

Robert Bruce: I’m trying to think, you know …

Jerod Morris: Robert, this is a safe space. All ideas are welcomed here.

Robert Bruce: Okay, thank you.

Chris Garrett: It might get edited out.

Robert Bruce: I don’t want to trigger anybody.

Chris Garrett: You said Trump, so…

Jerod Morris: Robert, here’s a question that I wanted to ask you. I wanted to lead off with it, because one of the examples that Brian and I have been talking about is what you guys did in the beginning with the New Rainmaker podcast and how that led into selling the Rainmaker Platform.

We’ve obviously been doing stuff with membership sites and with the access experience for a while, with My Copyblogger and some of the other things that we’ve done, but launching the Rainmaker Platform was something really different. It was a brand new product, it was off site. We were building new properties and a new SaaS application. There was a lot of new stuff going on, and you guys had a new strategy for us, which was to get into audio and start doing this podcast.

Can you walk the audience through just how that came to be? And the conversations you guys had? The big picture strategy there with what you were doing in the beginning with the New Rainmaker podcast?

Robert Bruce: Yeah, you know, for the main strategy, Brian thought it up. And I actually struggled with it for a long time, with the idea of launching what would become our main line of revenue, hopefully, from what was essentially a brand new podcast. At that time, of course, we didn’t know.

I got it, and I knew what we were doing in terms of the podcast and the content and all of that, but I had my doubts as to whether this would work based on how we had done things in the past. So yeah, the idea was, from the beginning, we start this new podcast … And anybody can do this, by the way. You can go register for free at Rainmaker.FM and go through the free course. We’ll talk about this later, but there are essentially seven episodes of that podcast.

We launched this podcast, put everything we had into it. We decided to do a couple of things differently, which were, in the beginning, more high-end production value. We wanted to move at least a notch or two toward kind of that NPR idea of things and see how it worked. But really, what we were doing was not talking about the platform, although we did do that too. Instead, we were talking about the things that you could do in your business and with your business via the platform.

And as those episodes went on and on, this bigger picture appeared of what could be possible with the use of the Rainmaker Platform, for instance, the objections to it and the ways that you could go with all kinds of different things in regard to the functionality that we were going to have.

So in one sense, it’s very simple. We started this podcast and we talked about the way to build a business. I think the main line we used back then was how to build an audience that builds your business. And that led directly and literally to the launch of the Rainmaker Platform. I think later we’re going to talk about what we did with that initial content.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and that’s what I want to talk about next, because that’s what has always been so interesting to me about that strategy. That you created this podcast and those initial episodes, correct me if I’m wrong, but those just went out as podcasts as normal through iTunes. And they were all freely available so anybody could just go get them.

When did you repurpose those podcasts into the free course and then require people to actually register? Instead of just opting into an email list, they actually had to register. And they got those first seven episodes plus three webinars as a free course.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, the timing is a little fuzzy to me. I’m not really good with dates and times and things, but generally what we did was we took the first seven episodes of the podcast, and then Brian did another three more intensive webinars, like you said, and we packaged those all up in really just a basic repurposing play.

We did not re-record anything, we did not do any special editing, so there’s some stuff in there that you’ll see if you go again and register and listen to that course. It’s all really, really great information. We didn’t overdo it in terms of reproducing it as a course, necessarily, but it’s all laid out in there.

Chris, on the back end, on the dev end, and all of our developers working on the actual functionality of the membership site and delivering courses in that way — that was all being worked on in the platform. Then we could demonstrate it. Rafal, obviously, designed that course.

When you register at Rainmaker.FM, it’s a free registration. You go in and you can see all of this displayed out, and what that is, again, is the first seven episodes of that podcast plus three webinars that Brian did. What this is, at this point, is an actual demonstration of what the Rainmaker Platform can do. You’re in there experiencing this content and this free training course, and you’re going through it, but you’re also in an environment which is, in real time, delivering the experience of the Rainmaker Platform to you. That was the idea.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Chris Garrett: It also told us what we needed to add to the platform to make it easy to do these things. A lot of it actually worked as education for us because it was a real thing rather than a hypothetical. It was a real use of our features. It also tells us that it’s really important to use your own stuff. It’s called dogfooding, eating your own dog food. I was saying, “How do I do this and how can I make this better?” And so it fed back into the platform as well. It was a demonstration of the platform, but it improved the platform too.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I mean, there were myriad reasons why setting it up this way was so smart for us, and really necessary in a lot of ways. What I want to ask you, Chris, is for most of the people listening who want to create a course and kind of set up a funnel like we did … because that’s what we were doing here. People signed up for that free course, then there was an autoresponder email sequence that went along with it. So as the lessons got dripped out, they got emails with the lessons. And then interspersed in that autoresponder, there were calls-to-action to the platform.

Obviously, there were lots of reasons for us to do it, just from learning more about the platform, improving the platform, using it as a demonstration for a platform. But this idea of requiring a log-in to create this access approach, and then using an online course as a lead magnet, even if you’re not developing a SaaS app. If you don’t have a learning management system that you’re trying to improve, this is a tried-and-true, a smart strategy. Why does this approach work so well and why is the access part of it so essential?

Chris Garrett: I will tell you now that if you just change your existing email opt-in form into a registration form, it won’t work. That confuses some people because there are people who say, “Well, doesn’t it add friction? Doesn’t it give you a barrier? Won’t it lower conversion rates?”

We always refer back to the My Copyblogger free member library over at MyCopyblogger.com, where we had a 400% increase in conversions. Some people say, “Oh just changing it from an email opt-in to a registration increased conversions.” No, it wasn’t just changing the form that increased conversions.

There’s a higher perceived value when you actually justify the registration, when you tell people what’s on the other side and what the future outcome is going to be of signing up. That’s the big difference in terms of the conversion. If you don’t give people an incentive, if you don’t tell people exactly what they’re going to get and what the experience is going to be like — make it easy, explain it, and then tell them what to do and show that it’s going to be valuable — you’re not going to get an increase in activity and action. You’re going to probably just confuse people.

Robert Bruce: I think you can argue too that creating that natural barrier of registration can be and is a really good thing, although it is not necessary or optimal for all digital businesses. Like you said, Chris, you’re not going to get the kind of activity and drive and numbers that are so impressive, that so many people talk about online.

But what you’re getting when you create a barrier like that or even a simple registration is the people who really, really want to be around what you’re doing. And ultimately, they will hopefully want to do business with you. Instead of high numbers, you’re getting high quality in terms of the type of people who are actively seeking you out and have probably come through word-of-mouth, which of course, as we all know, is the most powerful marketing there is.

Chris Garrett: They’re more serious because they’ve taken the extra step. Actually, it’s custom something, even though it’s not custom financially, it’s custom ‘a little bit of effort,’ so they value it higher and you only get the serious people. It filters out the people who would just put an email address in just to get rid of the pop-up form. People do that, you know. If they can’t find the ‘close’ box on a pop-up, they’ll just put their email address in, thinking that’s how to get rid of it. In this way, you’re filtering out the wrong people. They know what they’re signing up for. They have a little bit of a hoop to jump through.

But also, it feels higher value. It has a higher perceived value from the start because you’re registering as a member for this thing, and “Look at all the things that I get.” They know they can have it in the future because it’s not going to get lost in their email. It’s not just going to get foldered away somewhere, it’s going to actually be somewhere that they can come back to. They can reset the password if they forget it. It’s going to persist, and hopefully, you’re going to add to it or there’s going to be something substantial there. It’s not just ‘sign up and get this crappy video.’

Robert Bruce: Yeah, I echo that. Your log-in experience allows for a much more rich media delivery, and, as you say, so does keeping it there in a place that’s always going to be there.

Jerod Morris: It does, and what you guys are saying begs the next obvious question. Chris, I’ll direct this to you first. How do you decide, then, what you’re going to give away in, say, a free course or a free registration, and what people should eventually pay for?

Because you can make something really, really compelling for a free registration, but sometimes people fear that they’re giving too much away. And sometimes people are giving too much away. But I think for the most part, people probably underestimate how much they should give away for free. How do you make that determination for what you can give away for free and what ultimately needs to be held back for some kind of paid product or paid registration?

Chris Garrett: I always say there are a couple of large categories of what you should give away. The one that’s unusual, that we don’t really talk about much in this context, is you can test your audience with free content. You can see what they really like and want from you and what they need you to provide them so that you can solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.

Before creating a paid product, before going down the line of a full course or getting too deep into it, you can test your particular slice of the market to see what they respond to. You should be giving away webinars, ebooks, videos, even just testing with blog content to see what they respond to.

The problem with just a blog article is they can like it, they can share it, and they can comment, but that doesn’t really give you a big idea of what they’re going to eventually need you to create for them as a product. But something closer to the product would be webinars or something like a small course, like we’re talking about with Rainmaker.FM. It wasn’t a huge undertaking. It was already a podcast, and we packaged it up.

That can test the market and say, “Okay, this is something people don’t just sign up for, but they actually consume and take action with.” Now, free content, when you register for it, you can actually see what they do, so it’s another bonus for you as a site owner. You can see what they actually consume. What are they downloading? What are they responding to? What are they actually consuming and taking action with?

Jerod Morris: Chris, what’s the difference between being able to see that in a logged-in experience of a membership site versus the stats that you get from basic email marketing? Is it that much of a difference? Is it that much better for the business owner to be able to see that stuff?

Chris Garrett: Yeah, the problem with basic stats like your Google Analytics or email system is you can see if they click on an email, you can see if they do a page view, but it’s hard to connect the activity to a human being. Whereas if they’re logged in with a user name, you know who they are. You know the progress of that person, regardless of device.

I am the same person logged in regardless of whether I use my phone, my iPad, my laptop, my desktop computer or whether I logged in from the library or am on vacation. Whereas Google Analytics finds it very hard to tie all those visits into one visitor who is a human being.

So you get a lot richer stats, but also, with the stuff that we have built into the Rainmaker Platform and some of the other marketing automation technologies, if they’re logged in, you can actually apply tags and information to their user account. So you can say, “Jerod has viewed this video for more than 30 seconds. Jerod took this quiz. Jerod completed the quiz and passed that quiz.”

There’s a lot of stuff that we’re adding which builds on all of this, that’s going to make it even more rich, and obviously, you can then do automation based on those things. “Everybody who passes this quiz gets module two.” You can’t really do that very well with any other way than registering and logging in.

To answer the original question, the other side of what you should give away and what you should sell is, it’s really good to give away the what and the why, a little bit of the how, but you should definitely sell the detailed step-by-step how as a course or as a deeper, more detailed book or video series. Because the free stuff should be inspiration, it should give them some tips and some quick wins so they know you can help them, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with detail.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and when we look at the New Rainmaker course — and Robert, I want to ask you about how that asset has evolved — ever since that course came out, we’ve talked about how this is good enough to charge people for, and we haven’t. A lot of the reason for that, I think, is because it had a bigger business purpose, which we’ve talked about. And Chris, I think as you just described, it does a lot of what you want a free course to do.

What I found really interesting about that, Robert, is how that has evolved. Because originally, that free registration also built an email list, obviously, because everybody who registers is on an email list. And when we first had the platform ready, that email list was a big part of how we launched. And now, that list has really evolved since it originally was built. Can you talk a little bit about how it’s evolved and how you can do that? As your business changes, as things evolve, these assets that you’re building, they can evolve too.

Robert Bruce: In the spirit of the 2016 presidential race here in the United States, Jerod, I’m going to not answer your question, and I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about … One thing real quick before I go there is that Garrett is obviously the expert in this kind of stuff, and I have nothing to add to what he just said.

But I would like to go back around to this idea of repurposing. I think this is super, super important in many different ways for people doing stuff online in any serious way. One thing that we don’t understand, and it’s really hard to wrap your head around, is this idea that when you put a piece of content out online, even something, say, that gets shared and gets spread around really, really widely, people actually don’t see or hear that piece of content.

Now, of course, many will comment, many will share, all of that. You know, there’s that aspect to it, but generally, people really don’t see that thing the first time. There’s this idea in advertising of the power of seven repetitions. Sean McCabe, who was just on the Unemployable podcast — I think that just came out today — he has a great article and podcast episode about the power of seven. If you go to seanwes.com, he talks about this concept in depth, the power of seven, the power of repetition.

So that means repeatedly sending your stuff out, which many people are against, myself included. I’m not comfortable doing it, but this idea that people don’t actually see it, especially when you get into environments like Twitter — you know, email and RSS are a different kind of thing — but certainly in what has come to be popularly known as the social networks, stuff goes by and people don’t see it.

There’s the repetition aspect of it, but there’s also the repurposing aspect of it, which is, we literally did those seven episodes, packaged them up, and put them into this free registration, behind the wall. And they’re sitting there, the very same episodes that we had out publicly for a couple of months beforehand, and people register for the free Rainmaker course, and they experience it either again or really for the first time, all the time.

I think that’s really important for people to understand, because we have this sense of, “If I publish something and I put it out, great, everybody saw it, and on to the next thing.” That’s really not how it works. It’s really not how to powerfully get through to people.

Jerod Morris: I’m glad that you made that point, especially as we’re talking about these elements of a modern marketing website and we’re talking about the benefits of the access approach and using an online course as a lead magnet. I know, because I’ve talked to people, and a lot of them get intimidated at what the content creation part is going to be.

It’s possible that you already created the content that you would need to create the online course that you can use as the incentive to get people into your logged-in experience. Now, you may need to update it, and maybe you have ideas for something new that you can create, but if you can use this power of repurposing, it can really help you work smarter, not harder, which is huge. Time is valuable for all of us. I’m glad you doubled up and made that point.

Robert Bruce: Sorry I didn’t answer your question. To briefly, quickly answer your actual question, I’ll say that it’s evolved a bit and it kind of hasn’t evolved at all. We still have that same free course in there. When you sign up to register at Rainmaker.FM, you’ll see that there. What is happening now, though, is we are also pointing towards the Showrunner course, which is actually a paid course within the Rainmaker.FM environment.

A lot of things are going to be changing over the course of the next year in terms of how that works, but when you register at Rainmaker.FM, you get the free course. You are also put onto the email list, which you’re notified of. It doesn’t just happen without your okay. That email list has become and is becoming more important to us.

What was initially the New Rainmaker podcast email list has become the Rainmaker.FM email list, the weekly newsletter. In that newsletter, we send out the best stuff from the week, and it’s really simple right now. We’re going to start expanding that with some more content as we go along.

It’s evolved, and it hasn’t. I mean, what you see as the registration over at Rainmaker.FM now is carried on in a lot of what you guys are doing over at DigitalCommerce.com. That’s, I think, the real story.

Jerod Morris: Chris, as we kind of wrap up here, you’ve seen so much of this and you’ve done so much of setting this up for yourself, these logged-in experiences. And you talked a little bit earlier about some common mistakes that people make in feeling like they can just turn it into a registration and it’ll work. Are there any other mistakes that you see people making consistently when they’re trying to do this that maybe you can point out and help people avoid as they set out doing this on their own?

Chris Garrett: I think one of the biggest mistakes I see experienced people make is going from this idea of giving stuff away and being generous to having a scattered approach where each individual piece is valuable, but it doesn’t make sense as part of the whole.

You need to have a flow from what you’re giving away and what you’re writing about through to the stuff that you sell. And that has to fit into your prospects, goals, and problems. As we said before, it has to solve a problem or help them achieve something. It has to flow instead of, “Try this and take a look at that and sign up for this,” and it all being good, but not making sense and not fitting together.

I think we’ve done a good job, as Robert’s just said, of leading from one thing to the next. You get some ideas, and the New Rainmaker list certainly helped a lot of people get their head around some really key concepts, but then it led naturally into the first launch of Rainmaker.

We didn’t even put it on Copyblogger.com, the initial call-to-action. We just sent it to this list to say, “Hey, do you want to check this thing out?” It made sense to people. And now as well, we lead people to DigitalCommerce.com, but then we lead people back to the Rainmaker Platform. It has a flow, and that means you can see progress, you can see if everything you’re doing is leading to the next step.

When all you do is have the scattered, ‘ooh shiny,’ distracted approach to content creation, you don’t know if you are actually progressing anything or if you’re just distracting yourself and making more work for yourself.

So that’s the big problem I see with experienced people. And if you’re just starting out, don’t overwhelm yourself. Get the basics in place, get those foundations in place, get some sort of a call-to-action that leads people to sign up to your list. And get the people from your list to understand the problem you’re solving, where you’re going to take them, and what to do next. Get fancy afterwards, do the advanced stuff afterwards.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, well, we have come to the end of this episode of the Digital Entrepreneur, but I would like to give each of the candidates now 30 seconds to sum up their main argument in favor of using this access approach to online marketing, combining it with online courses as your lead magnets for building your registration. Mr. Bruce, I would like to give you the floor first.

Robert Bruce: I’d like to thank the listeners for this opportunity for me to be here. My strategy for making this work for you comes down to two simple words based on the experience that we have had over the last year, and that is: it works.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Mr. Garrett?

Robert Bruce: That’s not very compelling, actually, sorry. Let me think about this for a second.

Jerod Morris: I thought you were going to say ‘make marketing great again.’

Robert Bruce: Yeah, I know. Sorry, I blew it. It needs to be more of an emotional appeal. I’ll work on it.

Chris Garrett: I thought Robert was going to say, “People asked me about this and we’re going to make it great. Don’t worry, we’re going to make it great.”

Robert Bruce: Well, I’m already fired, so I might as well go for it.

Jerod Morris: Right.

Chris Garrett: Well, that’s repurposing, this podcast is going to be repurposed in our performance appraisal.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Mr. Garrett, your final thoughts as we lead into next week’s episode, really digging in more to using online courses as lead magnets? Your final thoughts on why people need to be doing this?

Chris Garrett: Well, the first thing is, you need to stand out from all of your competition. Everybody else in the market is trying to get the same email addresses. So what are you going to do that’s different? And how are you going to take that initial attention and really engage them, really help them get some results that they can see with their own eyes? So that you don’t have to just say, “Believe me, it’s awesome. Believe me, we’re going to make it great.” They can see for themselves that it’s great and it works.

To me, there isn’t another option that works as well. It helps you differentiate and it helps you get real results for your prospects so that they’d want to be customers. They’re asking you, “How can we go deeper, how can we take this to the next step?” That’s the position that you want to be in. You don’t want to be just getting people onto a list that they’ll just tune out of or they don’t really participate with. You can really help people with it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you can. Well, if you want to take your digital commerce education to the next level, definitely make sure that you go get your free taste of Digital Commerce Academy. As I’ve been telling you in these last few episodes, you get free lessons from Brian’s course on building an online training business, and you also get some free lessons from Tony and Chris’s course.

And Chris, do you want to give folks just a brief overview of what your course inside of Digital Commerce Academy deals with? Obviously, there’s the paid version inside of the academy, but for those folks who do the free registration, if you go to DigitalCommerce.com/Register, you will actually get three free lessons in Chris’s course. And you can see how we’re doing exactly what we’re talking about here on this podcast.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, and the three lessons tell you the basics of everything you should be thinking about when creating funnels. And that’s those sequences that take people from being mildly interested through to really believing you can help them get ready to take the next step.

Jerod Morris: Yep, so go to DigitalCommerce.com/Register and get those free lessons. You’ll also get three incredible case study webinars with Nathan Barry, Danny Margulies, and Brian Gardner. All of them are a must-watch for anybody who is a current or aspiring digital entrepreneur.

We’ll be back next week. Brian Clark should be here. We will move on to the fourth element of these essential elements of the modern marketing website that we’ve been discussing. We will dig in more to using online courses as lead magnets. Chris, thank you. Robert, thank you. It was a pleasure having you guys here today.

Robert Bruce: Thank you.

Chris Garrett: I approve this message.

Jerod Morris: All right, and we will talk to you all next week in another brand new episode of the Digital Entrepreneur.