Pat Flynn Has a Master P.L.A.N.
There’s a great chance you’ve heard of Pat Flynn if you’ve spent more than five minutes researching how to make passive income online. We’re all about passive, recurring revenue at SamCart. For anyone not in the know, Pat Flynn is one of the biggest names and thought leaders in digital entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and lifestyle businesses. He’s been featured in tons of places including Forbes and Business Insider. His podcasts have well over 70 million downloads. He’s also an Amazon and Wall Street Journal best-selling author who turned down a CEO job offer worth over $100,000,000, because it would interfere with his lifestyle. He’s a family-first guy who wants to be near a beach (preferably San Diego) and makes no secret of it.
However, Pat Flynn's road to success wasn’t paved with gold at first. After getting a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley he began working as an architect in Southern California. In December of 2007, he began studying for the LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) exam. One thing that helped him prepare for the exam was organizing all of his notes, breaking down a lot of the dense material so it would be easier to grasp and organizing everything online, so he could access it whenever he needed to. He passed the exam after four months of studying. Then, on June 17th, 2008, Pat was laid off from his dream job. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to him.
Get Lemons, Make Lemonade
Pat had no clue that his personal, online study guide (now greenexamacademy.com.) would go on to get hundreds of thousands of visitors, millions of page views, and help thousands of people pass the LEED AP exam. In an interview with Business Insider, Pat states, “I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur ... I didn't realize it until after four or five people said, 'Pat, your stuff is so good, I would pay you for it.' That's when I finally took action." He made $7,000 in his first month of doing business online, $200,000 in the first year and $3,000,000 in the first six years. Back in 2016, he was making around $170,000 per month. Pat’s been hosting online courses teaching others how to make a living online for years and has earned millions through his income streams. One of his most popular books, Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don't Waste Your Time and Money, helps budding entrepreneurs realize if their ideas are good or not before trying to get them to take flight. Pat Flynn recently sat down with SamCart co-founder, Scott Moran, and they dropped a ton of gems during their conversation. Pat’s been a huge SamCart supporter and an indispensable advisor. It’s an honor and a pleasure to have one of the greatest digital marketing and digital entrepreneurship minds in the world in our corner. What’s really special about this video is that we have two masters sharpening iron with iron, but they’re the last people who would call themselves masters. They’re just two dudes who want to help people win. We’ll highlight a few bright spots in this post, but we recommend checking the video out from start to finish. As one of the YouTube comments states, “This was pure gold dust!”
Let Go of a Bad Idea
People are passionate about their ideas, and that’s great. However, ideas are a dime a dozen, even the ones with the most passion behind them, even the ones that appear to be foolproof. Being confident about your idea is great, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. “The truth is you can never be 100%. You can never know for 100%, but you can give yourself the very very likely chance that you will succeed.” It can be difficult to let go of an idea, or pivot when you figure out your business is going down the wrong road. A resource like Will it Fly can not only help you save time and money but headache and heartache as well. Sometimes that idea that makes your heart pitter patter is just not the answer, even though every fiber of your being tells you it is. It could be that your idea is great, but you’re not the right person to carry it out...right plane, wrong pilot. It’s better to find out if your idea can fly before you’re in too deep. If you need to make changes along the way that’s fine.
Changing Flight Paths
Some of the most successful companies in the world have had to pivot. YouTube started as an online dating site. Their slogan was “Tune in, Hook up”. Play-Doh was originally used to clean wallpaper.
Instagram started as a check-in app called Burbn aimed at people who liked to sip bourbon or whiskey and wanted to build community around that. It had photo-sharing capabilities. Even though that wasn’t the main component of the app, it’s what people used the most. Once the founders made some changes and relaunched as Instagram (Instant Camera + Telegram), it became the top free, photo-sharing app in hours. The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder used to be the Seattle Supersonics. The Detroit Gems of the NBL (National Basketball League) would go on to become the Minneapolis Lakers. The Minneapolis Lakers would go on to become the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA (National Basketball Association). Change can be good, especially when you consider that the Detroit Gems were purchased for $15,000, and the Lakers are now valued at nearly $5,000,000,000.
Connect with Your Customer
You have to get to know your potential customer as much as possible in order to put yourself in an advantageous position. “It really involves understanding who it is that you're serving, and when you understand who it is that you're serving you understand the language that you're using and the problems and the pains that they have. You only create things based on what it is that you know people need help with and that in of itself will get you 90% of the way.” Having that knowledge can give you a leg up on the competition. “Most people who I know at least back in the day used to start businesses by just coming up with an idea in their head, building the thing and then kind of screaming and shouting from the rooftops hoping people would come in.”
People can begin to doubt themselves, or lose faith in their idea if they fail using this approach. A little more research and planning is key here. Taking an audience-centered approach can make it easier for you to recognize which direction you should take your business in. “When you choose a niche or a market to get into a lot of times people go, ‘Okay. I'm just going to build something for that market, and we'll go from there,’ but I think like when you fly a plane or drive a car for example you kind of want to know where you're going and where you're going to end up and potentially what hazards might be in the way should you want to go down that direction.”
Create a Market Map
One simple but crucial step to building any business is to create a market map. This will help you figure out your five P’s: Places, People, Products, Position and Price. Pat does this with a spreadsheet and admits that just getting the first three P’s is monumental. “Just that exercise alone is going to teach you a lot about the lay of the land with the space that you're trying to land your plane.” If you go the spreadsheet route, put each P in a column, and start filling it out.
- Places: Where does your target audience hang out online and offline? Are there certain websites, groups or forums where they might be talking to each other? Do they hang out at that coffee shop on Morton Street? Are they meeting up to go hiking in Maryland? You can learn a ton by scrolling through places like Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, SubStack and Twitter.
- People: Who are the people who are already operating in this space? These are the people and brands who have already gained the trust of the audience. Think about podcasts, websites, social media accounts, Linkedin profiles, etc.
- Products: What products are already on the market ready to serve the people? How much do they cost?
- Position: Where do you fit in this equation? Are you in direct competition with everyone else? Are you a complementary piece that can be useful to people already in the space? Is there a clear need that you can fill that’s not being addressed? Does your position make you think about your business differently? Is it encouraging or discouraging?
- Price: How much are people paying for similar products and services? What are they paying for? What are they not paying for?
Once you figure these things out you’ll have a much more clear vision of where your business will be most effective. You can always make changes to adapt as needed. We practice this exercise at SamCart just like Pat does. “Now you're not coming from nowhere. Now you at least have a map in front of you which everybody uses when they venture into a new space.”
Find Your Unfair Advantage
Once you’ve done your research, you might learn that there is no shortage of people already swimming in the pool you want to jump into. Here’s where perspective plays a huge role. People can interpret information differently.
You can look at it one of two ways. 1. There are a lot of people in this space already...there’s no room for me.2. There are a lot of people in this space already...there must be a reason. It looks like there’s a huge demand. You’ll want to figure out what makes you different from everyone else should you decide to go with #2. What’s your unfair advantage? People like Pat Flynn are swimming in a crowded pool, but he still finds success. “I'm not the only person to have a course for example about podcasting. In fact, there's now hundreds of courses about podcasting, but people now like the certain style that I have, and also I can find my unique position in that space. My positioning in the podcast course space is not just helping you get set up with the podcast, but it’s actually the marketing that goes behind the podcast and how to get it found, and that’s something that I know I have that’s sort of an unfair advantage, and you should know what your unfair advantage is, too.”
Make a P.L.A.N.
Once you get your five P’s in order and decide you want to move forward, the next step is to make a P.L.A.N. This is an additional validation process that looks at four things: Problems, Language, Anecdotes and Need. The goal is to get to know your audience as much as possible. Break out another spreadsheet. “This involves a lot of conversation, and I cannot tell you how often I meet business owners and entrepreneurs who have never had a real-life conversation with the person that they're targeting, and that just like blows my mind, because you can have one conversation that changes everything.” Pat takes time to personally speak to 10 new email subscribers every month via Zoom. “I don’t charge for them. I actually would pay to have those conversations from my side, because the information I get back is gold.” So let’s get into the P.L.A.N.
- Problem: What is your audience going through? What is causing people pain? Don’t ever assume you know what their struggles are. Get that information directly from them.
- Language: What are the actual words and phrases they’re using to describe their problems? Pat keeps these in a list and uses them to talk back directly to those people.
When you use the same language as other people it creates a sense of comfort and familiarity. Some refer to this as “mimicking”, “mirroring”, “parroting”, “restating” or “copycatting”. This is used in sales all the time. When it’s done well, it crushes. Restaurant servers might use this technique for better tips. Counselors and therapists might use this technique with their clients to establish clear communication. It can be done with body language as well (just don’t mimic anything negative). You can do the same when writing emails or writing copy to create a winning sales page. If you want to dive deep into this subject check out Of Chameleons and Consumption: The Impact of Mimicry on Choice and Preferences. It was a collaborative research project between researchers at the University of Maryland, Duke University and the University of Amsterdam. It was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
- Anecdotes: What is your audience’s actual story? Put on your journalistic hat. Ask questions, and get the details of what they’re really going through.
It’s one thing for someone to say they’re in debt. However, it’s another thing to say that their car was just repossessed; the electricity was cut off, and they got a three-day notice to vacate their apartment two days ago. The first scenario is cause for concern. The second is downright terrifying. Paint that picture to draw people in. Storytelling is a huge part of business. “The reason these stories are important is because it provides context, and it provides a realness to what it is that you're doing.” The entire TV and film industry wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a story to tell. Sports are better when competitors have a storied rivalry. Who doesn't love a good story? After you’re done reading this blog post, scroll back up to the part where we tell part of Pat’s story. It’s easy to say that Pat is a successful entrepreneur. If someone is featured in a blog post or gets to hop on a video with one of our founders, there’s a good chance they are successful entrepreneurs or are well on their way. However, we purposely chose to include some of Pat’s origin story to make him more interesting, more...human…more relatable. Sure, there were some shiny words and phrases thrown in like his 70,000,000 podcast downloads, Forbes, Business Insider, best-selling author, CEO job offer worth over $100,000,000, etc. Those things stand out to people. We also added details about Pat that were aimed to bring you along for the ride. We spoke about his education, professional ups and downs—including dates and timeframes. Adding those details makes it easier to visualize Pat's obstacle and the passion and dedication he needed to get back up after he got knocked down. And now the man has his own conference. A great anecdote makes it easier to root for people and want to support them as much as possible. Getting a sale is great. Getting a sale with an order bump, an upsell, a follow on social media, a share of your content, a testimonial and word-of-mouth recommendation is freaking amazing! We took the same storytelling approach when we wrote about how Maurice Bowman went from homelessness to $1,000,000 on SamCart. He’s just one of many SamCart Success Stories. So, you’ve got your anecdote down, but you can’t have your P.L.A.N without a...
- Need: What does your audience believe is required to solve their problem? Maybe they have an idea. Maybe they’re drawing a blank.
By this point, you’ve learned a ton about your audience. “That’s where you then start to build something, or create something like a prototype or in this case a course outline that you can go back to this person, and say, ‘Hey. How does this look to you? This, based on everything we talked about is what I feel is the right plan for you.’”
Let’s recap those five P’s.
- Places: Where does your target audience hang out online and offline?
- People: Who are the people already operating in this space?
- Products: What products are already on the market? How much do they cost?
- Position: Where do you fit in this equation?
- Price: How much are people paying for similar products and services?
Let’s recap Pat Flynn’s P.L.A.N.
- Problem: What is your audience going through?
- Language: What exact words are they using to describe their problems?
- Anecdotes: What is your audience’s actual story?
- Need: What does your audience believe is the solution?
Once you have all this mapped out, then you can give yourself a better shot at winning. Sometimes when people realize their ideas are off the mark after doing this research, it can take the wind out of their sails. Pat quotes digital CEO, podcast host and business coach James Wedmore, “You either get the result you wanted or the lesson you needed. There is no failure.” Remember that quote. Take a screenshot. Write it on your board. Put it on a sticky note. ..whatever works. It’s better to know ahead of time if you were going to go in the wrong direction before setting off on your journey. Check out Pat Flynn's book, Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don't Waste Your Time and Money. Learn from one of the best in the business, and save yourself time, money and headache.
P.L.A.N. on Selling with SamCart
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