Ten Years In The Making is a weekly podcast on how to effectively grow a startup.
Adam Robinson: I want to ask a question that I asked earlier in a different way. So, your journey from 6 to 30 million, nobody on board had done that before, right?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Nope.
Adam Robinson: Like when you said, let’s go for it, right? One of the reasons, and granted, there were some other reasons also, but one of the reasons I had not done that is because I didn’t trust myself to do it. How did you get yourself, you, and your team at the time to trust that you had it within yourselves to go for it? Maybe it’s not a problem for everybody. This was a serious problem for me. I was like, I don’t know how to do it. So, like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: As sad and as silly as it sounds, we just never really thought about it, like…
Adam Robinson: That’s great.
Jonathan Cronstedt: The way that we, as a company, were oriented, it was so laser focused on the results that our customers are getting. It’s all we cared about. So, it’s like if you have one luxury as a bootstrap company that I don’t think anyone realizes as a luxury, you don’t have to play the SaaS metrics masturbation game. You don’t need to send a deck to SaaStr about your TAC to LTV and your cohort analysis, and you don’t have to geek out on all of the stuff that an institutional FP&A department is going to demand that you have.
You have the luxury of choosing a North Star metric that matters to you, that if you choose the right one, it takes care of all of the others. And for us, that was customer success. We knew if we built Kajabi heroes, nothing else mattered, literally nothing else mattered. We were bootstrapped as long as there was enough money at the bottom line to build the company, live the life, do the things. All we had to focus on was did we create more Kajabi heroes this month than we did last month. Will we create more next month? What do we need to build to create more of them? How do we need to support them to create more of them? It was an oversimplification that was so incredibly helpful because, unlike a lot of software companies, when we were that size, our FP&A department was Kenny and myself and QuickBooks.
And I think that we may have hired like an accountant at some point, but it’s not like we had a finance department of six people that were paid to do nothing but create charts. But we didn’t have it, so we didn’t have the luxury of like, oh, let’s major in miners here. And this cohort from the last two weeks of September, something happened, and it’s like, well, no, maybe like, I don’t know, maybe the bachelor was on and everyone was paying attention to that, I don’t know. But we just really stayed away from this deep dive rabbit hole into the craziness of SaaS metrics because it’s a business that’s so data-heavy, there is no shortage of charts, graphs, comparisons, metrics that everybody wants you to have. And if your business metrics aren’t enough, well then why don’t you get into OKRs and goal setting that has other metrics attached and whatever else.
It’s like there are so many ways that you can complicate this. We had the luxury of we were profitable and we knew that as long as we cared more about the customer than anybody else, we would win, plain and simple. And everyone’s like, “Well, how do you know there’s not a competitor? How do you know that there’s not a better product?” It’s like, well, if I’m living closer to my customer than anybody else, I’m going to know all of those things. I’m going to know where the threats are coming from. I’m going to know where the weak spots are in our offering. I’m going to know all of those things.
So, I would say, if you’re listening and you’re looking for how could I remove the complexity that right now I am trying to figure out how all of these spreadsheets fit together to form a cohesive business. Ask yourself, what is the only thing that matters? And if you could only focus on that, what it would do to your business? I guarantee you there’s one and I guarantee you that if you’re not dealing with institutional capital, you have all the flexibility in the world to just do that.
Adam Robinson: I think it’s interesting. I was going to think that SaaS people say ARR. I think it’s really interesting that yours was the hero metric. What was the threshold for somebody to become a hero?
Jonathan Cronstedt: When they made their first thousand dollars on the platform. And if you look at, again, choosing that right North Star metric, in our business, the moment that somebody became a Kajabi hero, churn was zero, literally zero. And it was because they were experiencing the type of success we wanted to create. So, for us, every gun was always pointed in that direction. Can we get them success faster? Can we get them success easier? Does that mean that we’re going to engage in creating resources and trainings that have nothing to do with our platform to get them success on our platform? Does it mean that we’re going to support more and in more areas than anybody else because it will help them speed up that journey? All of those things were born out of if we win here, we simply can’t lose. We might lose battles in all of these other areas, but we will win the war. And the war is, are our customers successful? It’s all that matters.
Adam Robinson: So, like the equivalent of that for my business is like ROAS, like these e-comm brands are just– it’s like they’re looking at channels, I’m just a channel to them. I can tell this first party data story all I want, like at the end of the day, it’s like, how much am I paying you? Am I making above and beyond what I could in any other channel? So, what we did when we really clicked into what I consider our product market fit thing, I knew we needed to learn how to sell annual deals, like have a big business, and didn’t really want to personally go and tell them, but the breakthrough for us, which I don’t talk about a lot, but this was really it.
So, what GetEmails was, was you put a pixel on your site and we resolved an anonymous website visitor that didn’t fill out a form to an email address. We priced it as a price per lead and it was kind of confusing. It was based on people’s US unique visitors. We kind of started people small, and then they grew. Every plan was different. It was all over the place. But it’s a very lucrative product. We did this bottom-of-the-funnel stuff, meaning expanding cart abandonment audiences. And I just can’t believe it took me two and a half years to think about this, so.
Jonathan Cronstedt: By the way, I don’t want anyone to mess that Adam just said, it took him two and a half years to figure out this piece of his puzzle. So, for those of you that are six months in, you’re like, “Oh, this is so hard,” you’re only six months into Adam’s two-and-a-half-year journey for that piece, so.
Adam Robinson: But think about how– it’s like you’re selling. E-comm customers were always some of our buyers. Now, we focus on all of our buyers. And why would it not occur to you? So, the problem that the card abatement thing solves is that you have to be logged in to a Shopify store to get paired to a first-party cookie to actually fire an email from Klaviyo. So, only 15% of people meet that criteria. There are people who are on your list and on a different device, and then there are people who are not on your list, which is what GetEmails was.
So, at one point, I was like, man, instead of just doing this thing at the top of the funnel, we should actually be doing this behavioral sh*t too. Like the ID tech would be incredibly– and then we got five people to do it. And nine weeks later, it was mind-blowing. It was less money, but the lift in terms of what they were getting and how quick the results came, like the top of the funnel product, the snowball takes a while to accumulate because it’s like you got to warm people up from being cold, and then they buy and then they buy again. And then the ROI six months later looks great.
This cart stuff is just automatic. And it was like 100% lift versus what people were getting already, and they can install it super quick. So, the first five people, it was just five for five, all 100% lift. So, I was like, man, what’s really going to make this thing absolutely crush is if we give people a 5x ROI on the cart piece alone, and then just throw the GetEmails in for free. We will end up charging people. We would have charged $7,500 a month, $2,500 a month. But they will never quit. There would not be a voice at the table that could even bring up a possible reason that they would quit, right? So, it’s just like there wasn’t a Retention.com hero’s program, but I was thinking the same thing that you were thinking. It was like, how do I give people a 5x ROI, no matter what, that is stable that they will never turn off of, and then just value stack a bunch of other sh*t on it?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah. And it’s so interesting to me how many people are in our universe that have just never looked at the foundational principles of marketing. And at the end of the day, and I mean, I’m open to being talked out of this perspective, but I think not only the most effective sales pitch any human being can make, and the sales pitch that I would say probably applies to almost every offer in the history of software is it’s always money at a discount. That’s it. If you are able to get an offer or get a position of I can get you $20 bills for $10, how many of them would you like? That’s it. It all comes down to that.
But what I think is so valuable about those true North Star metrics, so for your customers, it’s return on ad spend. For me, it’s the earnings from a Kajabi business. Once you have a– let’s call it a global metric that will grow your company, it gives you permission to exit the majoring in minors and do some things that you can’t measure that matter far more, that you all of a sudden start looking at, well, my Kajabi hero program had a cost of some T-shirts and some mailings. And if I had looked at that through the lens of, oh, well, we’re managing to the penny on this, that, or the other thing, oh, well, we shouldn’t do that because that’s money we could be spending on ads. And I’m like, yeah, but you don’t understand that. We’re not going to win because we’ve got the best ads. We’re going to win because we’ve got the most successful customers.
An ad, I can probably gain some efficiencies there. I can’t gain the efficiencies of an ad anywhere near as well as having somebody that brings 100,000 students through a platform that every single one of those students now is exposed to the opportunity that a digital online learning platform can bring to their business. No ad efficiency is going to do that. So, that’s where I think for anybody that has a company, if you can find those North Star metrics that you know you can just point to, it opens up those creative opportunities to engage with building that metric very differently than all of the charts will ever justify.
Adam Robinson: Totally. We have adopted, like this is governing everything that we do. Not only are we generating the customer's revenue, how are we showing them that? It’s a two-step thing with us. And it is superseding everything else. We’re doing crazy experiments to figure out how we can make that number higher or whatever.
Jonathan Cronstedt: And as well you should, because it’s literally the thing that’s going to get you the thank you letters and it’s going to get you the referrals and it’s going to get you all of the product decisions made for you because the only question you’re going to ask is does this improve their return on ad spend? If the answer is no, it’s probably the wrong decision. It’s almost one of those things you look at the way you’re solving versus the way Yotpo is solving.
Yotpo is basically asking how much can we charge in order to get the perfect number of we have the maximum amount of people paying us the maximum amount of dollars. And so, we’re just going to keep raising our prices until we start losing enough people that raising our prices doesn’t help. So, they’re waiting for that inflection point, and then they’re just going to hang out there. That’s not a sexy story. It’s way sexier to be, like, all I care about is making you more money than you ever give me in multiples. I will never focus on anything else. I love it, and I know you’ll love it if that’s how I’m playing.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, it’s like I might raise prices, but you’re going to be making more money, like rest assured.
Jonathan Cronstedt: And then, I mean, it’s one of those things, too. It’s like, who wants to be the business owner? It’s just like you raise prices again. Let’s see who I– I mean, there’s no innovation, there’s no excitement, there’s no joy in that. I mean, it’s the most hollow existence ever because you’ll realize that, oh, the business dropped a million dollars to the bottom line. I probably won’t be any happier if it drops two, probably won’t even be happier if it drops five, but I guess you’d probably be really happy if you could point to all of the businesses that are now providing jobs, that are now changing the lives of their families. You now have different measurements, the different view that you have.
And I mean, for you, it is I know the follow-on effects of every business that I make better as a result of engaging with my platform. And I know what that does to the universe around me by making that happen. That to me is a whole lot more inspiring and exciting than, well, gosh, if I can just keep raising prices until I lose people, I’ll be rich, and they will hate me anywhere from some to a lot, like okay, yeah, it’s great. You’re going to be super rich and nobody’s going to want to hang out with you, or you’ll have to pay them too, like that’s it.
Adam Robinson: Right. And I’ll have to start off to have campaigns to try to win people over. So, on our last podcast, one thing that I love that you said was the two moats that exist intact today, which I think could be the same for D2C. I mean, China will just produce anything that you do are basically, the work in public and community. Am I messing that up? Or was that it? It’s like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: No, it’s completely true. I mean, especially in your industry specifically, we are watching so much of that devolution happen right before our eyes on Amazon. Amazon up until about– oh, no, let’s call it seven years ago or so, every brand category was owned by a recognizable, name-familiar, likely domestic brand. If I wanted a bike light, it was a Coleman bike light. If I wanted a radio, it was a Sony radio. Those were the brands. I would go to Amazon. I would buy a brand. I would get my Beats headphones. If I go to Amazon today, I’m going to buy a bike light or a radio or headphones, and the name of the company is not even going to be pronounceable. I don’t even know how…
Adam Robinson: Yeah, it’s like QTZROM. It’s like you buy a power strip and it used to be Belkin. Now, it’s like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: I mean, it’s one of those things. It’s just like, it doesn’t even make sense. It’s not a name, it’s not a brand, it’s not even pronounceable. And then it’s got 35,000 five-star reviews and we are watching that now there is such a race to the bottom and commoditization of everything because the walls that used to stop that from happening are collapsing.
Manufacturing in China is not new. Manufacturing in China has been happening forever. What is new is rather than shipping those products and having someone sticker them with a brand here and then listing them, or shipping the products here and then having a company repackage them or assemble them and then ship them with a brand. It’s now just some dude in China who puts five consonants on something, dumps it on Amazon, and sells it for the margin that used to be the margin that the guy that was branding it would have. That commoditization effect is only going to happen more.
So, the only hedge you have against that is who knows you, who likes you, and who trusts you because brands in many ways are now going to be people because the nameless, faceless brand that used to carry the credibility, now no longer has to carry the credibility because the credibility is the five-star reviews on Amazon. So, that [inaudible] bike light can compete with Coleman because they’re the same light made by the same factory. And one’s got 30,000 reviews because it’s $5 cheaper, and one’s got 500 reviews that are three stars because they’re mad that the cheaper one, they didn’t buy it, whatever. But you’re dealing with something that is so undifferentiated and commoditized that unless there’s a person that I’m like, you know what? I’ll pay a little bit more because I like Adam, or I’ll even pay just the same price because I like JCron. I’m not just going to go for the cheapest one that I don’t even know because it just feels to me. Like, if there is no connection and that’s where I wholeheartedly believe authenticity is a currency, it absolutely is, that if I know the person behind it and I know why I want to buy it, that’s something that really matters.
You look, there’s a new app out called Public Square, I think it is. And full disclaimer, I don’t know what anyone’s political affiliation is. This is a triggerable warning, so consider yourself warned. But the whole purpose of the app is you can buy from companies that represent the values and beliefs that you have. If you want to buy from a company that is super supportive of Greenpeace, you can do it. If you want to buy from a company that is super supportive of, I don’t know, domestic drilling on national parks, you can totally do that too. So, we’re moving to a place where who you are and what you stand for is very quickly going to be inextricable from a brand. The question is, will you be doing it purposefully or will it be done to you anyway? Is it happening for you or is it happening to you? That’s the only question.
Adam Robinson: So, have you heard of the brand Triple Whale? They’re early stages.
Jonathan Cronstedt: No, but it sounds fun.
Adam Robinson: It is a fun brand. I know these guys. They’re in the Shopify ecosystem. They’re $20 million ARR. They started a year and a half ago. Lots of growth trajectory. It’s very metrics for Shopify stores.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Got it.
Adam Robinson: They have their problems. It’s high churn or whatever. Shopify just put 25 million bucks in them themselves. But I know these guys well. I mean, the guy’s dinner with the CMO. His first hire was a community manager. These guys had an award show called The Whalies. They got 200 of the top– so they did a road show this year. They have massive investment into this community thing.
And when I met the community guy, I know what the word community means, but if you told me, “Adam, go build a community around Retention.com,” I wouldn’t know what the plays are. And I kind of still don’t. I’ve talked to him. I’ve talked to some other people. I don’t know what I would do. I would go hire someone is what I would do now.
But what I wanted to ask you is let’s say you are a brand that has created a new novel soap, right? And you are of this mindset that the moat around this is going to be a community. Is there a playbook or either sort of a short term or a longer-term orientation? How would your behavior be differentiated, like over-indexing to creating community versus not?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Let’s have some fun.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. What would you do? It’s a bar of soap.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Let’s start with the premise, though, that in my opinion, the only defensible position ever is culture and community. That’s it. Because at the end of the day, anything can either be bought, anything can be built, anything. You have a budget, you can buy it, you can build it. Plain and simple. So, culture, community, the only two things that are actually defensible.
So, what kind of soap do I have? Why is this soap unique? Is it all organic? Is it vegan? Is it entrepreneurial, enabling a disadvantaged community that all got together and are making the soap? Is it designed for people with problematic skin? Why is my soap cool?
Adam Robinson: Just pick one of those. Problematic skin.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Let’s go ahead and let’s go with problematic skin. So, I have a soap that is designed for people that maybe are experiencing eczema. They might have acne. They might have a skin condition where they’re just very sensitive to any synthetic ingredients or scents or any type of additives to it. So, I would absolutely say a community is going to be hugely powerful because, number one, you have something that solves a problem. And whenever anybody has a problem, the desire to engage with others that have actually solved it is extremely important.
I want to know that there are people out there that have already solved the problem I have. So, that connection solves the certainty of the solution, but it also solves the need for understanding that I’m also normal, that I’m not the only one experiencing this, that there are others out there that are dealing with this challenge. And it also gives the ability for this soap company to be mission-driven, not just soap-driven.
So, mission-driven is you’re going to look your best and this soap is how you are going to look your best, but it doesn’t stop at soap. So, you’re going to use the soap. The soap is going to really help with the skin, texture, complexion, all of those things. Super cool. However, now that you’ve got an entirely new canvas on your face, what type of makeup are you going to want to use? What type of moisturizer and toning regimen, nighttime, daytime, sunblock? All of those things come into play.
I may use those as expansion products, and it may be an area that I can mine for those insights. I may choose to just be the soap guy, but it doesn’t mean that my universe is not going to want to also connect and talk about and share their stories of, yeah, I never did well with Dove because the moisturizing cream always irritated my skin. I now use Adam’s soap, and Adam’s soap is unbelievably good. It has solved all of my soap issues. But I also noticed that I needed a better sunblock to use, and I found that these three irritated. But the moment that I found this sunblock, now I’m super pumped. So, when you look at what just happened, they got value and you fulfilled the mission of helping them look better, feel more confident, feel better in approaching life.
Adam Robinson: But where is this happening is my question. Is this a Facebook group thing? Are you getting…
Jonathan Cronstedt: It ultimately depends on your appetite for either an open or closed community. So, the effortless friction-free everyone’s attention is already there, you do your Facebook community. However, with Facebook…
Adam Robinson: Is that what you did at Kajabi? How did you guys do it?
Jonathan Cronstedt: We did that at Kajabi. We actually now have a new community module on Kajabi that people are able to build their own bespoke communities, which I think you’re going to see a lot of the pendulum swing back that way. Facebook, when they originally came out with groups, they said they would never run ads in groups. They’re now running ads in groups.
So, I think that you’re going to see a lot of people now want to move their communities elsewhere. But whether it happens in a closed group on Kajabi or elsewhere, whether it happens in an open group on Facebook, whether it happens in an old school forum, which some of you may remember what those were, wherever it’s happening, you need to have something where your people can gather and talk about your product. Because if you’re not controlling and facilitating the conversation, it’s happening without you.
Look at Facebook groups, look at any brand that you care about, odds are you’re going to find unofficial groups either about that brand specifically, which is normally people that are just in there to bitch about all the things they hate about the brand and it’s an unofficial group and that’s why they do it. Or there’s going to be an official group that’s facilitated, awesome, best practice. Or if there’s not an unofficial or there’s not an official, there’s definitely a group that is surrounding the need that your product fulfills.
So, it might not be Adam’s soap, it might be eczema. And people with eczema are talking about how they’re dealing with it, everything that they’re doing, or acne or oily skin or dry skin or previous skin cancer challenges, whatever the hyper-specific area is, there will be a group that is talking about that. So, if you’re not engaging that community, you’re missing out on what that community can do for you, which is a massive amplification of your brand and your mission. But also, one of the only moats that your business will ever have, which is either the culture or the community, and they actually both intertwine.
Adam Robinson: So, selfishly, I’m flipping this back to me because I haven’t done this yet and I really want to. Actually, Triple Whale, I got into their Slack. It’s like all of the parts of an e-comm business. It’s CRO and ad spend and email marketing, like, whatever. They have all of these brands in there, and then they have agencies who are subject experts moderating the conversation. And of course, they’re winning business by doing it because they’re building authority in there. Amazing execution. It’s very live and very thriving, but we have a thousand customers. Like, what do I do? Do I just grab influential people, ask them to contribute? Is it a CS motion?
Jonathan Cronstedt: No, I think you’re in a bit of a different universe. So, if you were saying, I have a consumer product and I’m going to build a large, broad-based community, that’s a different approach. I think your goal is community but in a different kind of way. So, what I would be doing if I were you is I’m part of YPO. I’m also part of a group called Tiger 21.
So, YPO is basically a global organization, 25,000 people. If you’re a CEO or a president of a company that’s north of $15 million in revenue and north of 50 employees or certain other measures of corporate complexity, you qualify and you can join. And what that group is, is that group is basically bringing together people that have a common set of either challenges or interests. So, for YPOers, it’s how to be a better leader, how to be a better parent, how to be a better, wholly focused individual, whether it’s health, mental, physical, whatever, all of those needs are in this community of like-minded individuals.
So, in your case, you have the opportunity to bring together the top-performing e-commerce brands on the planet and have them work together, share best practices, connect with each other, share talent, share agency, share tools they’re using. I mean, you basically can almost create a peer group that hopefully has recognition and reward in some sense and significant value add because they couldn’t gain access to that group on their own, otherwise. And they also all speak a fairly common language of they’re all working with Retention.com.
Now, where this in your case gets a little bit complicated potentially is if you have direct competitors that are literally going after each other and they’re both using your service in order to hopefully grow their business. Those are the nuances that you would want to figure out how to navigate and work with. And that’s what I mean, like the nuance of facilitating it. Like maybe you end up with a few different groups and the groups that you have are of a certain size with no competitive elements.
So, you’ve got group one that’s working together and there are no competitors. You have group two. Some of the competitors that would have been in group one are now in group two, group three, group four, and so on. But your whole goal is to basically facilitate that you have a brain trust of a group of people that all have similar goals, that all have similar challenges in the marketplace, that are all confronting them on a daily basis. The group think and synergy that takes place there is hugely valuable. The question is how to facilitate it, mine it, and execute on it.
But I definitely think that there is an opportunity for creating bespoke focus groups, accountability groups. Maybe it’s even something as simple as just kind of like subject matter-specific message boards, like maybe it’s a Slack channel where you can talk about leadership, you can talk about agency recommendations, you can talk about software plugin and platform reviews. Someone’s like, hey, just got my renewal quote from Klaviyo and they want a billion dollars. Did any of you negotiate better terms? Yeah, I did. Tell them this is what you got, this is who you got it from. And tell them to stop being lame. Just that peer sharing of, oh, yeah, did anyone hear about the thing? Yeah, I tried that thing. Totally doesn’t work. Bullsh*t pitch. Don’t even try it. It’s that type of stuff that I think fast tracks growth of every business because it’s all in your way.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Where do I even start, though? You know what I mean? You see what I’m saying? It’s like I love that idea.
Jonathan Cronstedt: I would survey your users. Just literally drop an email to them or, I mean, if you really want to have some fun, send out some direct mail or some sh*t and literally, be like, hey, guys, one of our big initiatives this year is serving you better. We want you to get more value out of your relationship with us than any other provider. Here are some of the ways we are considering trying to amplify the value we bring you. Do you want A, B, C, D? All of the above? None of the above? How can we help you more?
Adam Robinson: I mean, I love that. I love that posture. And I also love that these guys at Triple Whale open my eyes to what is possible. I associate community with companies that are like Kajabi. You’re $100 million of ARR. Of course, you have community people doing community things, right? But it’s like, there was a decision on some day at some time that this would be a priority in what Kajabi was doing and…
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah. For us, it was we found that recognition drives revenue, helping people be cheered on in what is typically a very lonely journey with a lot of screen time, with a lot of friends and family that think you’re involved in some weird scam because nobody makes money online. Being able to send somebody a T-shirt and say, “Hey, we’re in your corner, we’re excited, we’re proud of you,” is truly one of the happiest inflection points in the business. I still look back on that fondly as the day that the brand became something far more than just software.
Adam Robinson: And when they became heroes, you would send them a T-shirt or something?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yep. Started out as a T-shirt. It now has probably a dozen different revenue milestone-specific swag that now comes in custom boxes. And I mean, the theater of opening it is super cool and exciting. And I mean the program has grown far beyond whatever we initially anticipated it would be, which at the beginning was just a T-shirt.
But I would say the recognition portion is super exciting. You go back psychologically, I mean, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “My life as a general changed when I realized men would die for a blue ribbon.” The ability to be recognized, congratulated for your efforts, and elevated in a community of your peers cannot be overstated how exciting and energizing that is for human beings. So, I think building the recognition component in is an absolute must across the board.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, I mean, I just…
Jonathan Cronstedt: And then the community piece, if there was a misnomer, I think people view community as a very large word, like community is I have a giant, thriving, vibrant group of thousands of people that are all talking and interacting and whatever else.
Adam Robinson: Yes, that is how I view it.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Maybe connection is a better word than community, or maybe value add is a better word than community, because really, community is a vehicle, it’s not a destination. And the vehicle is meant to say, how do we unlock the value of this many people working to do something similar and fast track everybody that is a part of that together? So, I think it’s an African proverb. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. You have people engaged in the same process effectively that are all trying different things, doing different things, solving different ways. And they all have value to give to others that are on that same journey. How you make that accessible and valuable, that’s the question. It is valuable. How do you make it accessible? It is impactful. How do you make it energizing and engaging? So, that’s where I think it’s much more of a foundational question than it is a delivery mechanism.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, I love that. I went to this really interesting networking dinner. It was a guy who was in War Room a couple of years ago. I was at the Easy Pay Direct. Guy is Brad. He’s like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: Oh, Brad Weimert, yeah. Yeah, Mr. Mohawk.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Mr. Mohawk, what’s up? And this guy named Tim was like, “Come to my dinner on November 9th. Bring your wife. I promise you, it’s four hours long, but it will be awesome.” People love them or whatever. So, I’m like, “Cool, I’m in.” He sends a form. Helen and I both fill out the form. We show up to the dinner. It’s one hour of cocktails from six to seven, and then we sit down, and from 7:00 to 8:30, it’s a very structured conversation that they figured out what everybody did and how the conversation would be most interesting. Awesome.
There is an intermission, and then they’re like, “Now is what we call the big ask.” And by this time, you feel like you know these people, right? They did intros and they made sure that everyone contributed in the topics that they brought up. So, the big ask, you get to say what you want more than anything in the world, and then the rest of the table for six minutes, each person, you’re not allowed to give advice. You’re allowed to say, “I want to introduce you to X,” person or content. There’s a note-taker, Nadia. So, it was like, dude, it was f*cking unbelievable. So, I was like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: By the way, that’s a community.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, that’s why I’m bringing it up. I was like, I want to get in front of every big Shopify store with my story. Somehow, I’m willing to do anything. I’ll knock on doors, I’ll hire BDRs, I’ll f*cking fly around the world, whatever it takes. I’ll sponsor any trade show, so.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Do you know who you need to reach? Do you know who they are?
Adam Robinson: I’ve talked to other CEOs of big shop fly-offs. It’s basically like 50% BDR, 35% HD partnership, and 15% event. This is where Klaviyo…
Jonathan Cronstedt: So, this would be one where if you look at what you’re trying to create, there’s no doubt about it, like the Chet Holmes Dream 100 campaign. So, you pick the group of people that you’re like, I must be in front of these people all the time. And they go on your buyer die list, and your buyer die list is I am going to mail you exciting, unique, and thoughtful things in the mail every month until you buy or die. Like, today, and I think this is something in software that we all get. So, we have a big blind spot too, is it has to be an email, it has to be a cold outreach, it has to be a text, it has to be a relationship or a channel.
At some point, if you send something to somebody three, four, five, six months in a row, long after everybody else would have quit or the three-step mail sequence would have died off, the timing will be right that they will eventually be like, man, this guy’s been mailing me sh*t for a year. I got to just talk to him. Or gosh, you know what? We do need the thing he has or, oh, we need a thing. Oh, the only person I’m thinking of is this guy that keeps showing up in my mailbox. It’s very much that.
There’s a company, and he’s actually a guy. I think he was in War Room for a bit called Giftology, and they wrote a book on the power of gifting. And it’s literally how do you show up unique, differentiated, and thoughtful on a consistent basis and changes the game. So, it’s like if your audience is accessible, that’s the way…
Adam Robinson: There are only 14,000 of these stores. There’s a top tier of like 250. And then there’s the middle tier of 5,000. And there’s a bottom tier of 2,000.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah. So, the 250, if I sign one of those, it changes that quarter. So, that 250 is the group that you show up in bespoke well invested and differentiated.
Adam Robinson: Right. Totally.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Five thousand below that gets the same approach just with a different budget assigned, and then just repeat until buy or die.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, yeah, I love that. I love all of this. Man, well, I’ll say one more thing about that dinner because whenever people start talking about this idea of community, there’s always like, you’re trying to foster connection in problem-solving in the community without expecting anything in return. And I was like, man, if I can harness because (a) I know these brands would be solving all of their problems. Every single person, if it were brands, they would leave that table. I mean, we didn’t have anything to do with each other and we were solving each other problems in a major way.
A founding member of Shopify Plus was at the f*cking table, and I had been talking to him for 30 minutes, not even knowing this, about data and this business he’s starting. And I had a whiteboarding session with him and he introed me to 40 people, right? He basically ruined my November and December with intros that led to intros that led to intros. That’s part of what started this fireball that’s occurring right now. And like I just…
Jonathan Cronstedt: What an as*hole.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Rabah, dicks, you motherf*cker. So, I reflect back on it and I’m like, if I can figure out a way to systematically give that to this community, everybody left that dinner we were buzzing. You go into a dinner like that and you’re like, I’m dreading this. And it’s 10:30 and you’re still there 30 minutes afterwards talking to the people at the table.
Jonathan Cronstedt: So, it’s almost like, I think what’s hard for people that want that is I think that they believe that this system can be done in a way that isn’t work. But it’s like when you think about what happened, it was a system, but it was a lot of work. It was a system.
Adam Robinson: What these guys loved doing.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah, it was a system of, okay, here’s how we’re going to facilitate the conversations, here’s how we’re going to create the environment, and here is how we make sure that when it gets to this, everyone is like, I’m going to give you the best I’ve ever met, the secrets that I’ve got. Here you go. And it sometimes is just work. If cold email through LinkedIn that was sh*tily written and copy and pasted work, everyone would be rich.
Adam Robinson: Totally.
Jonathan Cronstedt: And we all have those moments where it’s like, wow, someone showed up really uniquely versus somebody showed up just kind of meh. So, I think that there are a lot of those opportunities to bring exactly that energy. And in your case or in businesses, if there are trade shows, for me, it is I’m going to send the most over-the-top FedEx invitation with my cell phone number to the greatest dinner at the greatest restaurant available in that town. And I’m only going to do it for 12 people. I’m going to do it for a size of group that it’s like I’m not going to be the guy at the nightclub for 500 poppin’ bottles and buying bar tabs. I am going to be the guy that buys that French Laundry for 12 people and has a dinner. That’s where I think it’s who is your audience? What are they looking for? If everybody’s trying to get them to the afterparty, be the person that gets them to the perfect dinner or the perfect lunch or the perfect experience. I mean, curating it is all of the battle, for sure.
Adam Robinson: Right. Well, that’s probably a pretty good time to end it. Dude, I loved talking to you.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah. On that note, I got to start planning for dinner for sure. And you couldn’t have time to better my– my beautiful two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is right now looking at the window, like, “Hi, Dad, what are you doing?”
Adam Robinson: I just love talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on for this extended episode.
Jonathan Cronstedt: My absolute pleasure. Any human being that says that the mission of their company is to be the highest return on ad spend model for all of the businesses they serve, how could I not want to help that guy? And I mean, you already said at the beginning of the call, you’re the attractive one. So, I mean, I’m also very easy on the eyes during this video podcast. So, great mission and good looking. You could do worse on a Tuesday afternoon.
Adam Robinson: I’m never going to hear the end of that.
Jonathan Cronstedt: No. No, you’re not. No, you’re not. I am a guy that it’s so much easier to find a new audience than a new joke. So, yeah, this would be the one I hold on to.
Adam Robinson: Well, thank you very much. Do you have a title for the book yet? Is it called Billion-Dollar Bullseye or not?
Jonathan Cronstedt: It’s going to be Billion-Dollar Bullseye.
Adam Robinson: I f*cking love that. That’s so great.
Jonathan Cronstedt: If I was to give you the brief view of what it is in my mind that I’m in the process of fleshing out, it is basically an operating system that as a business owner, you know where to focus at any given time and that if you’ve not nailed certain areas to ask other areas to be a supplement or surrogate or support for those areas is unfair and you’re not going to build a billion-dollar business. You might build a million-dollar one, you might have some cool stuff happen, but if you’re not seeing the multiplicative effect of exponential versus additive, if you’ve got a– let’s just call it number two, two to the seventh power, if you remove one of those multiples, the business is only half as valuable.
So, it doesn’t matter which area you screw up, you miss one, the business is worth half. You miss another one, the business is worth half of that. So, it’s really that relentless level of you can’t afford to miss any of them. But the good news is, if you’re just willing to be objective about it, you won’t miss them. But I think just we as business owners, we’re afraid of that intensity, we’re afraid of that willingness to be like, yeah, you know, it’s the product that got us here, but maybe my baby’s ugly and we’ve got to fix it. So, it’s that type of a book. It’s definitely not going to be the happy-go-lucky– I don’t know that it’s going to be any…
Adam Robinson: Anybody can do it, it’s so easy, right?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah, it’s going to be like it’s my answer.
Adam Robinson: You just have to meditate, right? And then it all happened for you.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yeah. Gratitude journaling, do that. No, it’s very much the book of like I spent two years thinking and drinking with everybody asking me how did we do it? And I kept just saying, “You just got to work really hard.” And then I realized, you do, but you got to know where to apply that. And so, my goal now is to say where to apply it. By the way, it still takes all the work. So, good news is you just can raise the certainty if you were to apply it.
Adam Robinson: That’s what I kept asking you about the Santosh thing. Like, I think he makes me feel so good because I have this confidence that he knows exactly where to apply it at exactly the right time. You know what I mean? And that was what I had, zero confidence in myself. Like, look, I’m sure I could have gotten there, but this dude, we’re going to get there sh*tloads faster, just epically faster, which that’s my journey. That’s my journey, right? It’s like…
Jonathan Cronstedt: That’s the value and that’s the impact of having somebody that’s already been down that road. And it’s one of the reasons why when you see people that are successful, what made them successful is not normally the first thing because it’s the learnings that come out of those things that then make that path self-evidently visible. So, of course, you would do this because I already did that.
Adam Robinson: Well, man, I mean, this is one of the things that I enjoy most about this founder brand stuff, like somebody– the guy at Triple Whale was like, “You should just start a podcast now.” Because I was talking, if I had to pick one thing, which should it be first? He was like, well, LinkedIn is there’s like a whole of content creators, but Rabah was like, “Dude, the podcast thing has just got so many things that come from this good.” I love doing it. It’s like I could sit here. Anybody that gets on this podcast, dude, last week, I interviewed a dude named Moises Sanchez, who has been to jail, had two attempts on his life, been here and back to Mexico four times, dead broke four different times, $50 million roofing business.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Yes, I love the story.
Adam Robinson: I’m like the American dream, bro, like incredible.
Jonathan Cronstedt: And what I don’t think people understand, the thing that makes podcasting so amazing, especially if you do a video, it is the one thing that can go all places. So, it’s like, congratulations, you got a podcast. Now, transcribe it, it’s a blog post. Now, transcribe it or put the video on LinkedIn, put some video clips on YouTube, video clips on Twitter, it goes everywhere. It’s not like, okay, I’m going to do this 50 times a day. It’s I’m going to do this one thing and it goes everywhere.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. And that’s the one thing that I actually feel like I’m missing with our current strategy. It’s like I’m making so much content now that the right content manager could literally have a 24/7 Adam network. And it’s not taking me that much time to do it, which is amazing. Baby steps. Dude…
Jonathan Cronstedt: Love it.
Adam Robinson: JCron, thank you so much.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Thank you for your time, Adam. Always a pleasure and can’t wait to stay tuned and have a ringside seat to Retention.com’s meteoric growth.
Adam Robinson: Any time you want to come back, you are such a welcome guest. When’s the book? When do you think the book is going to be?
Jonathan Cronstedt: Oh, man, boy, I hope soon. I’m going to guess three to four months, give or take, probably say six because there might be seasons there where I’m just like, I’m going to just do nothing again.
Adam Robinson: Well, come back on in Q3 and give us some feedback.
Jonathan Cronstedt: I’ll be ready.
Adam Robinson: All right, man.
Jonathan Cronstedt: Awesome. Take care. Be well.
In Part two of my interview with Jonathan Cronstedt, we dive into how he built the “Kajabi Heroes” program to supercharge growth for what would eventually become a company that’s valued at $2B.
In addition to step-by-step advice for building your own community to land referrals and create loyalty, you’ll also hear about …
✔️Creating “North Star” business metrics based on your own goals and values.
✔️Strategies for getting in front of your must-have clients.
✔️How to scale beyond 8-figures by taking a customer-first approach.
Key Takeaways with Jonathan Cronstedt
- How do you trust yourself to make the scaling leap when it's time to "go for it?"
- The most effective sales pitch any human being can make.
- The value of having a non-monetary goal to guide your company’s growth.
- How brands can use authenticity as a moat against mass commoditization.
- How building community around your brand can create separation from your competitors.
- Where do you start with building a community?
- Using Napoleon Bonaparte's logic to build customer loyalty through recognition.
- Why connection is more important than community.
- Taking the "buy or die" approach to getting in front of your ideal prospects.
- Tailoring a community experience for your ideal audience.
Jonathan Cronstedt Inspiring Quotes
- “If everybody’s trying to get them to the afterparty, be the person that gets them to the perfect dinner or the perfect lunch or the perfect experience.” - Jonathan Cronstedt
- “When you see people that are successful, what made them successful is not normally the first thing because it’s the learnings that come out of those things that then make that path self-evidently visible.” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “Community is a vehicle, it’s not a destination.” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “The ability to be recognized, congratulated for your efforts, and elevated in a community of your peers cannot be overstated how exciting and energizing that is for human beings.” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “Recognition drives revenue.” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “We’re moving to a place where who you are and what you stand for is very quickly going to be inextricable from a brand. The question is, will you be doing it purposefully or will it be done to you anyway?” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “Authenticity is a currency.” – Jonathan Cronstedt
- “It doesn’t matter which area you screw up, you miss one, the business is worth half. You miss another one, the business is worth half of that. So, it’s really that relentless level of you can’t afford to miss any of them.” - Jonathan Cronstedt
- Jonathan Cronstedt
- Follow Jonathan Cronstedt on LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Frank Slootman
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