How do you come up with that standout product that you’re known for, the one that people equate uniquely with your company and your brand?
Doc Williams is in the business of formulating signature products for his clients, and in this interview he shares the steps and thinking that make up his process.
In the episode:
01:12 – How a parkour gym owner became a product engineer
03:38 – What if you don’t have an audience?
05:07 – The quick-winning sweet spot for product creation
06:34 – Three elements of creating a course
09:07 – High-ticket up front, with a step down
09:40 – An example of signature product success
13:08 – Do creators ever collaborate?
14:43 – Where the Chief Marketing Officer role comes in
15:33 – Is a partnership ever a viable option?
17:01 – The coverage so far
18:55 – What Doc’s got over other course creators
20:11 – Vital tips for the fired-up listener
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 721. And today, we’re going to be talking about how to create a signature product. And for that, I’ve brought along Doc Williams, who’s somewhat of an expert in this topic, having a brand factory of sorts helping people figure out what their brand is and how they can best strain that into a product that turns into money. So welcome, Doc.
Doc: Thanks, man. Thanks, James. Thanks for having me on the show. I’m super excited.
How a parkour gym owner became a product engineer
James: Well, you’ve got quite an interesting background and you’ve got an interesting foreground actually. Way back then you were doing stuff with ESPN. You were with the USA medical team. You had a, I’m not sure if you still have a parkour gym that became popular not just with people who want to jump from great heights and do little tumble rolls, but also SWAT teams. I’d love it if you could share a little bit about how you sort of came from that to helping people put together brands and products and content.
Doc: Yeah. I started back then just trying to figure something out. I think I just was always looking at trends, I was seeing what was going to be happening in the market. I was always just trying to jump on.
So I opened up a CrossFit gym and I was like, oh, how can I distinguish myself? Like what’s going on? There’s like, 10,000, and there’s like, one across the street from me. And we were in an equestrian, so we were in this giant abandoned horse-racing track. And I was like, these stanchions here, we could build something. And one of the members at the gym could build, and he did scaffolding. So he built the whole parkour gym.
And one of the American Ninja warriors lived down the street from the gym. So he was there. And the police department liked it, loved it, and I really liked it at the time.
But I kept feeling trapped. I felt like, you know, I don’t like brick-and-mortar businesses. I knew I wanted to stay in fitness and that industry, but I was like, I’ve got to do something else. I’ve got to do something online.
So I started writing, started blogging, and then I was like, You know what, I think I think I can start writing about CrossFit as a sport. And I started just contacting ESPN at the time, and I was like, Hey, I can write for you about CrossFit. No one’s doing it. Let me do it. And I kind of ran from there.
So it went from writing for ESPN, I was interviewing a lot of athletes at the time for stories. And I kept seeing that their websites were terrible, or they didn’t even buy their own name for their domains. And I knew they were going to pop because they were about to be at CrossFit Games. And so I was like, let me start building your sites. Let me start building your brand. And the thing was, they already had traction. They already had an audience. They just didn’t have a product. And I’m like, listen, I can see what’s happening in the industry, what people are asking you for. Let me just start building products for you, or services.
And one thing led to another, started working with athletes and started building their brands, and then their signature products, because everyone was copying each other, building ebooks and everything. So I’m like, let me build, like, courses. Let me do what your audience is looking for. Let me do that. It kind of went from there.
What if you don’t have an audience?
James: So let’s talk about that. How important is it to have an audience before you start creating products? Or can you start with no audience as well? Because I’m sure you’ve encountered that question.
Doc: Yeah, yeah. I think it kind of depends. I just transitioned from fitness only to all different types of content creators. I think when people are like, well, I just want to be a YouTube star, I just want to be an influencer, and they don’t have an audience, I’ve got a deficit. I’ve got so many things uphill battle. But even if they don’t have a following, if they have a connection to a following, or they’ve got friends and I’m like, can you be in front of their audience? I can sell it. But I’m like, if you’re starting from nothing, you’ve got to be a flash in the pan. It’s not luck. I’m not saying that. But you’ve got to have so many things in place for it to possibly work, versus if you’ve got an audience, it’s pretty much just listening and then doing it.
James: I want to come back to that listening in just a sec. But so far, we’ve got a few good parallels. You know, I came from an offline world and realized that it’s geographically limited, and wanted to get online, and discovered that lots of people didn’t know many of the things that I knew. So we had a very similar start. And just like you, I tend to work with people who have momentum, because it removes a lot of the variables. And I like this metaphor of a parked car versus one on the freeway. If you have a car on the freeway, you already know it’s got an engine and wheels and and fuel and it’s actually moving. And you know, it’s easy to change gears in that car and to steer it. If you have a car on the side of the road, it’s like, does it have an engine? Will it start? Does it actually even have fuel? Like, there’s so many things you have to go through.
The quick-winning sweet spot for product creation
So you found your sweet spot. I wonder, do you have a sweet spot of the type of product you’d like to recommend for people? You mentioned before, often people want to go out and copy someone else’s ebook, and you favored courses. When it comes to courses, is there a particular type of course or structure of course that is your sort of hammer that you love to go and replicate as quickly as possible as your quick win?
Doc: Yeah. You know, that’s pretty interesting. Basically a course that’s almost like a DIY plus, like a done-with-you style course, I found that’s kind of like the sweet spot, because even if it’s the one-to-many style where it’s group coaching along with the course, I find that they can iterate a lot quicker because they’re putting out the product, but they’re constantly getting feedback from their target audience that have already committed to buying something.
“When it’s a done-with-you service, people are more engaged.”
And now, making different iterations of the same course or their marketing funnel or even an additional course, it’s so much easier, because you’re getting people that are giving you feedback. I don’t know the percentage anymore, but I remember Teachable used to print for theirs how many people would buy courses, when it was just course, and then they wouldn’t complete them. It was just, I mean, it’s so overwhelming. But I find that when it’s a done-with-you service, people are more engaged, you get the people that are on those weekly calls. And now if you’re recording that, you can repurpose that content and you can get better on your messaging, how people are using natural language, and then I can quickly iterate on the funnel that they have.
Three elements of creating a course
James: So there’s three main elements that I think you’ve become specialized in, right? One is developing the course, you know, figuring out what brand and what people are going to take to market. Then there’s the content process of pulling little bits out of it, getting it everywhere and boosting that course, like driving the machine. And then of course, the thing that goes with all that is you’ve had to become a little bit immersed in all the tech and the challenges that are involved in actually doing both of those things.
I’m constantly having these conversations. We do a lot of work with one of our partners who creates software, 10XPRO, that basically makes it very easy for people to have their own sort of private version of what some of those sites like Udemy or Teachable have. So that’s helped a lot on the tech. We do get a lot of influence from people like Gary Vee, and hints that we should be creating a lot of content. People see a lot of my content. You’ve got it down to a fine art with teams and systems and structures.
When it comes to the course itself, and designing that course and the brand, I really want to go solid on there, because I think that’s where people get that “Aha” moment. It’s like, Okay, so I’ve got a bit of an audience; I might be reasonably specialized at something. They start asking questions like, after we get past the tech and so forth, it’s like, what do I actually create? Let’s say we want to do a done-with-you. How much are we going to charge for this course? And how long will the course run for?
Doc: Yeah, yeah. You know, I’m just really big on testing. And you just go higher than lower and saying, like, Hey, first I’m like, Well, what is your time worth? What’s going on with this? Usually, we run around in the spot of close to $700 to $750 per month, at least, but, you know, up to $2000, $2500 per month, depending on their specialty and how they’re known.
“How much is that pain worth that you’re solving?”
But the other thing is just like, how much is that pain worth that you’re solving, that you put out into your audience to test that number? And what I find is a lot of people, they shy away from it, but it’s like, throw out a big number. See what people say. If they say no, just ask why, and then go from there.
Before, I used to do like, Hey, we’re going to do market research and see what other people… But it’s just like, it’s a hot mess going down that route. And then it’s too much. If you’ve got your audience, they love you, they’re bought into you, let’s run with that and see what happens first.
James: And how long will that run for?
Doc: Usually, it runs for two to three months. The reason we’re doing two to three months, usually by the end of month two, if you do it right, people in your audience are always like, saying like, what am I going to do next? And now in that last turn, you’re telling them, hey, here’s the next program up. Either it’s going to be more exclusive, where it’s going to be a higher price point, or they’re just going to go into another phase, like a one or two version of the class.
High-ticket up front, with a step down
James: Do you ever have a step down? Quite often I put a more expensive product up front, and then there’s a step down with continuity.
Doc: Yeah. Yeah, that’s perfect. Yeah, yeah, definitely. And the step down is like, hey, you’re already great. You already love what we’re doing. Here’s the rest of the guide where you can do it, you know, DIY kind of style, or, hey, this is just the membership to be in, the ecosystem to be in connection with everyone.
James: Like a club.
Doc: Exactly right. It’s an exclusive club, and they love that because they love your brand. And, you know, they feel special and it’s low maintenance for you. And yeah, yeah, I love that style.
An example of signature product success
James: Could you give a couple of examples of what kind of signature products you’ve developed for people? You don’t have to name names, but like, what kind of industry or type of category are they in and what did they deliver and how much do they charge? I think useful examples would be really instructive for our audience.
Doc: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I’ll give you a couple of different ones. Like, one was, it was a client for, it was called the Flexible Dieting Lifestyle. So his name’s Zach. He’s an influencer in IG, and he just had recipe guides and he was crushing at that. Like, it was a $45 product, and they could be getting just so many sales, just recipe books, which was great. But they always saw that they just were up and down with sales all the time throughout the year. And I was like, so what was going on? What was your audience asking? He’s like, well, they really just want the fundamentals of learning how to eat properly. I was like, Okay, let’s do it.
Well, originally they tried it once, but they just tried to do a running gun of like, using LearnDash and just throw it up. And they were just like, yeah we’ll do it lifetime for like, 100-something. I was like, Listen, let’s go back. You restructure it. We really put value on top of it. We’re going to make it a premium product where it’s going to be $1,000. And we’re going to launch it only like, semesters, because this is University, FDU. We’re going to make it like it’s a real school, and it’s prestigious, and everything like that.
So we redid the logo, got a bunch of testimonials that people that went through a bunch of his programs. And then we launched it. And then we launched it at a thousand dollars. And just with IG, he was selling that thing through DMs. Just sold 17, real quick. And then from there, we learned what was going on, how people approach it. And then we refined it to only open it like semesters, but then turning it on evergreen from his website and everything like that. So they have to apply using an application, they’re segmenting themselves, they’re talking about their biggest pain points, and then we built out the sequence that then gave them access to the course.
James: Yeah, fantastic. And what sort of delivery was required from the expert’s point of view? Does he have to show up? Do you have to do things? And how do you switch from doing that live to evergreen? Is it simply a case of just recording it?
Doc: Yeah, so for him, what we did was we recorded everything ahead of time. And we promised that he was just going to be adding things to the university per semester, so it wasn’t on him all the time to be showing up. He was on IG all the time, so people were used to him messaging versus him showing up in person and hearing and everything. So just him messaging and being in a small group on IG, or being in an exclusive group, they love that kind of relationship. And then from there, he then had moderators of the group saying, hey, and through content, people understanding who these people were on his team, and then they were doing more of the heavy lifting. Then he just focused on the high points of adding to the course, adding more videos. But, you know, one of the strict things that Zach was talking about, he’s like, I do not want to be held to be there every week on webinars and everything. I was like, Okay, well we need to structure.
James: Says every expert ever. It’s like, the very first thing. They’re like, just so you know, I don’t want to have to, like, show up or actually do anything or talk to anyone. It’s like, Okay.
Doc: That’s right. We went through something that I’m like, do you know how much money I could be making you if you just were to do that? He’s like, No, no, you’ve got to find a way that they’ll still feel valuable, that I can do what I want. I’m like, okay, whatever. And we did it. But yeah.
Do creators ever collaborate?
James: Do you ever end up helping people get, like, sub coaches or community managers or assistants helping people through the course, or collaborating with other experts in the marketplace and bringing their IP and just like… For example, when I run my live event, I bring in experts and they help me create the content at the live events. These podcasts – I’m leveraging the expertise of other people and we’re sharing good intellectual property, and the audience really likes that as well. Like, the course creator doesn’t have to provide 100 percent of the intel, right?
Doc: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. So when it comes to like, managers or anything to do with their own audience, usually we’re just doing a call to action from their own audience. And once they’ve already bought the course, or already seen results, and they’re passionate, they love the brand, and they know the right kind of messaging and everything, and it’s easier to bring that in versus if I’m training someone that has no context of what this business is. So, you know, usually I do where I have a set of like, call to actions, how do you vet the people, what would you do? And I usually have one of their CMOs do all of that or one of their assistants.
The other one for partnerships, I have something kind of like, it’s a PR tour, but it’s similar like a band of how they would do it, but I have the influencer write down who are the people they can collab with, people they know, people they don’t know. And then we rate them based on tiers. And we’re like, okay, we’re going to target these people, we’re going to have this release. And that way, it stays fresh, how they’re sending their signature course, because now they’re cross pollinating with the other audience, when we’re promoting the signature product and everything.
Where the Chief Marketing Officer role comes in
James: You mentioned CMO – what size businesses are you seeing actually having that role in their business? Like, obviously, some people are starting out with nothing, and then you go through to, you know, bigger revenue companies. And clearly, like, if the expert’s a golfer or a tennis star, they’re not going to be doing most of their direct marketing stuff. So where do you see that role starting to appear?
Doc: You know what? That’s a good question. Usually somewhere, I see it just with the influencer space and smaller, like between five or 10 people, that’s when I usually see it. Or they get that, you know, that marketing manager, and then they usually turn it and because they’re so small, they’re like, okay, they’re our CMO. Like, they switch over.
Doc: But that usually seems like the sweet spot, and that’s when we’re like, okay, now we can really start killing it, when we have that size of the company.
James: Perfect. I’ll just mention, that’s a Chief Marketing Officer, for anyone wondering, what’s a CMO?
Is a partnership ever a viable option?
I want to ask a peer-to-peer question: when you’re looking at this sort of work, do you charge a fee for service, or do you ever look at partnerships? Because I do a blend of both.
Doc: You know what? Yes. So I want to do partnerships in the future. I’ve tried it a couple times. But I find that it’s really hard to find the right type.
“Got to have filters.”
James: Got to have filters. Got to have filters.
Doc: Yeah, I’ve tried it and either I’m like, Oh, I see so much potential, but…. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t perfected it the right way. I find that either I hit it, like, when I do partnerships they’re like, not as motivated as me, and I’m always pushing. I’m just like, this is not going to work. I haven’t found it. Or they’re big enough, and they’re like, why would we do partnership? We’re just going to pay you this allotment, we’re not going to do a partnership. And I’m like, yeah, that makes sense. I’m totally fine with that. So I go with services. Partnerships, there’s something, I think, like you said, I’ve got to have a better, just a sequence to make sure I do it. And then finding the right personality to do it. I’ve been close a couple of times, but it just didn’t align at the time.
James: Yeah, definitely worth another conversation. I’ve been building my portfolio over a couple of years of partnerships. One way to really help that, and I mentioned this because a lot of people who are listening to this have the wherewithal, the marketing chops to actually carry this out and they’re constantly seeing opportunity, but one way is to start with the idea of you want to go into a particular area and then to look for your talent, rather than waiting for who just walks in the door and seeing if they might be a good partner or not. But you definitely need some good filters.
The coverage so far
Really good topics here. Just a quick sort of recap where we’re at. Some things I love that you’ve said – you’ve talked about segmenting people on the way in, that really helps conversion doesn’t it, when they’re super, highly, contextually involved and everything they’re seeing is the right message for them at the right time?
You’ve mentioned an application process. That can really also change the positioning from you auditioning to the customer to them auditioning to you.
You mentioned starting at higher price points. You’re a man after my own heart. That’s the easy win, isn’t it? Just go straight for the high ticket. A lot of people, when they’re approaching a course, they’re like, I’ll start something for $29 a month, or… I mean, you mentioned something before that I find rather horrifying, and that’s you know, people offering a low-ticket lifetime program. It’s like, what else is there to sell after that? And when does the lifetime end? Is it the person’s lifetime? The program’s lifetime? What if they want to put another program out in two years from now? They’re going to have a mutiny on their hands. Like, it’s a keg of Gelamite.
I like that you’ve got some evergreen leverage in there. And I like that you just start, and you test things and see what people are responding to. And most importantly, and I think you just kind of just glided it in there, but I want to emphasize this because I know this is the hottest thing right now across the board for converting, especially high ticket, and that is having a conversation. If you can bring that conversation into the process of selling, it takes you away from the old crunch them through a webinar or push them through the no-player-control video sales letter or beating them over the head with ads over and over. Like, if you can actually start engaging people in a conversation, the trick is it really makes it about them. And having that interaction separates you from just about every push marketer on the planet, because now you actually care about the customer.
What other little golden tricks have you got up your sleeve there, Doc?
Doc: Oh, man. Okay, that’s a loaded question. About segmentation, how I do it? Or what else would you like me to talk about?
What Doc’s got over other course creators
James: What do you think you’re doing differently or better than most of the people out there who are slapping together a course and sticking it up on Udemy?
Doc: You know what? I don’t know when me or the people I work with, it’s just that I think I care a lot more than a lot of people that put out courses.
James: Yeah. I’ve always thought that was my secret weapon, like, a massive dose of empathy. I mean, when you said it before, you usually want the success more than the person you’re working with, I’ve found that my entire life, whether it’s every job I’ve ever had, I outperformed anyone else in the same role because I just wanted to get the result more than they did. One of my bosses actually said, “James, you know what your problem is?” I said, “What?” He says, “You care too much.” You know, like, I would really take it personally if someone didn’t buy from me, and I’ve really worked hard on finding the right solution for them and they couldn’t even see it. So I dedicated myself to making sure they can see it as much as I can see it. Hopefully you’ve got a release or something you do outside of work that helps you deal with some of the toxin that you must be drawing in from time to time.
Doc: Yeah. Yeah, it’s that balance. It’s that balance. Yeah, a couple of different things. Either I would always pick up a sport or pick up just something that I could just focus on, something that’s totally different, so I could balance myself. But you’re exactly right. Exactly right.
Vital tips for the fired-up listener
James: Yeah. It’s a challenge. So what else do you think is really important? If you’re going to listen to this and you’re like, fired up, okay, I’m going to go out and I’m going to start offering a high ticket, short, high-touch, high-value program, and it’s going to be my next move, what are some of the considerations that need to be thought about? You know, I’m sure you have a process of taking an expert and figuring out what their audience are trying to buy from them.
Doc: Yeah, yeah. So there’s a couple of things. So basically, I do an audit first of what are they doing, right? So how are they even segmenting their audience or even finding out what their audience wants from them? Usually I find influencers, they’re just like, I just talked to him and whatever. I put out posts. I’m like, Okay, so we’re going to do a data mining session of all of the content people are giving you the feedback.
So Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers, that’s how I started learning how to do copywriting. So I take that same approach of data mining, but we’re doing it for a brand holistically, how people are doing that. We listen to what people are looking for. And then we just write down, okay, with the influencer, like they’re asking X, Y and Z. Let’s look at your current products. This is what you’re offering – does it line up with what they’re asking for, and saying these words to what is in your product suite? And 99 percent of the time, it doesn’t line up, or it doesn’t exactly line up.
So we’re like, Okay, well, that’s the first clue that we need to relook at what you’re going to be doing. And then we segment, okay, based on what they’re looking at, based on their pain, can we quantify if you solve one of these problems, how we would change their life? We go through that process of quantifying it. And then we say, Okay, here’s the rank, the top three different products that we could test to go to market to solve this problem. Then from there, it’s just experimenting.
“Objectively look at: are you providing what they’re looking for?”
So I think if someone wanted to do it today, if you already have an audience or you have access to it, you’ve got to just get inventory and copy and paste the exact phrasing of what people are saying about what they want from you. And then honestly, at another time, take the time with someone else, not yourself, objectively look at: are you providing what they’re looking for? That’s the first step.
James: One of the great tools I picked up from doing Ryan Levesque’s course was the tool TagCrowd, where you just paste text in from your site, your forum, any kind of discussion, even a Facebook group. And it just pulls out a word cloud of the most commonly-used phrases, and they’re big hints as to what your course might need to contain and the exact words they use. It’s all about relevance, right?
Doc: Yeah. So it’s that one, and then the second part is really having goals of, how do you want to connect with your people? Like, what level do you actually want to give to your audience? So that way, when we create that signature product, you can’t come back and be like, Oh, man, this is terrible. Like, this isn’t what I wanted. Because I’m like, listen, if we’re building this signature product, this is months and months of work. I cannot have you coming back to me six weeks and be like, burn it to the ground and restart. We’re not playing this game. So I need to know your best day, how do you want to engage with them? You need to tell me all these things. And then we build out the testing and the process, because I know your goals and how involved you want to be, and we know these are the people giving you the feedback. Now let’s go inform something. And it’s not necessarily the same format as everyone else, but let’s just see what your audience says and reacts to, and then we just build it and plug it in from there.
James: Beautiful. What a great framework. And it’s a common theme. Like, when I get copywriters or anyone who’s seriously going well in business, they always talk about doing that homework, that hard work in the beginning.
Well, it looks like my baby’s up, so it’s time for us to wrap. Doc, your website, it’s BrandFactoryInc.com. And you’ve got a whole bunch of cool information there on how to spread your social media content, about your signature program and tools and so forth.
I just want to say thanks for coming along and sharing on this episode, 721 of SuperFastBusiness, and I’m sure we could have many conversations. It sounds like we’re extremely aligned in the way we operate, and I’m really grateful for the share.
Doc: No problem. Thank you, James. Thanks for the time and thank you for having me on the show, man.
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