Tips To Starting an Online Business

Yesterday I introduced to you one of  my mentors and old friend Ryan Lee. He has helped thousands of people build successful fitness business and create great products.

For more about Ryan click here for to jump back to part 1 of this interview series.

Today, Ryan shares with us some tips for starting an online business.

Click here to listen to the call.


Craig : Let’s maybe take a review of the first five years online. You gave great advice on people about whether or not to quit their jobs but what about pushing the envelope and doing stuff? What should people in that beginner-intermediate stage be studying and doing and what risk should they be taking in order to have some breakthroughs?

Ryan: Great questions, Craig. There are so many ways I can go with it. I like for my clients and customers to be smart. It makes sense to find a market where there are demands and to model products that are working already. I know you used to work with Michael Masterson or he used to work with ETR and that he talks about finding a product that’s working and just finding a way to make it even a little bit better.

That’s kind of the philosophy I live by.  You see what’s working and you find a way to make it better.

But what I like to do, what I’ve always done, is get outside of my own industry. Where I had the biggest breakthroughs and I think where most of my clients have biggest breakthroughs are getting outside of your own industry. So for example when I was just primarily in the fitness world, I would always study direct mail packages that are selling beauty products. I said okay, what’s their headline? What’s their offer? Oh, they’re selling a newsletter for $39 a year. How could that relate to fitness?

So getting outside your industry is a big one. It’s really big because if you’re only, again using fitness as an example, if you’re only studying other fitness offers, your product is going to look exactly like theirs. You could look at what’s working. You could say okay, I see Crag is doing Turbulence Training. I’m in the fitness world. What’s he doing? What’s working for him? Okay, it’s the short body weight workouts. How can I maybe improve upon it? Although it’s impossible to improve upon Turbulence Training, as we all know, but let’s say hypothetically you can make the workout better.

Then you say okay, I want to do kind of a different version of it. Now let me start getting outside of the fitness industry. Let me look at other offers that are working. Oh wow, look at the way this guy does a membership site. It’s try it for free and build me later. Maybe I could take the training ideas and do a new spin on it with a billing system or deliverability. Maybe if Craig does a membership site, maybe mine can be delivered as a DVD of the month type program. That’s what I like to do. You find what’s working, you get outside of your industry, and you find a way to make it one or two steps even better. And then you just don’t stop.

You, the minute I met you all those years ago, I knew you were going to be successful because you just worked and worked and worked and you don’t stop because you really wanted it and you still want it, you’re still driven. You’re not resting on your laurels. You mentioned Alwyn Cosgrove, Zach Even-esh, Jason Ferruggia, all these guys who started all these years ago. They were so highly motivated. All I had to do was give them a little bit of direction and some information and they were off to the races.

About two hours ago I did a coaching call with a guy who has three black belts in martial arts and he’s never made any money online. He makes maybe about a $1,000 or $2,000 over the past few years and I said, “How motivated are you? Give me a scale, 1 to 10?” because I could hear it in his voice. He sounds so monotone. He’s like, “Well, probably like a 7 or an 8.” I said, “Well, you’re not going to make it.” If I were to ask you all those years ago Craig how bad you want it, you’re like 10. You wouldn’t have hesitated, even now. Craig, how much to you want to build your business? 10. There’s no doubt. So you need that drive. I can’t do it for you. Craig, you can’t do it for them. They have to be internally motivated. I know I’m going off on a little bit of rant.

Craig: It’s really great advice because I was going to ask you how are you able to pick and you could probably just, like a football coach can see a whole bunch of so-called great athletes out playing, he’ll be able to pick the one that’s actually going to make pros and you’ve coached thousands of people. You probably, like you just said with that guy, you know right off the bat. I was the same way when I was coaching Isabel De Los Rios. Come heck or high water, there was nothing stopping her from succeeding. Nothing.

Ryan:    I could tell in about ten seconds. I just know and there are some people, instantly, just the energy, what they say, how they say it, I’m like you’re just going to succeed. Unfortunately, you can usually tell the opposite as well. Now there are times when you might misjudge people and you think that they don’t have it in them but they do but I think for the most part, you just have to have that real fire. You’ve got to have that desire and you have to obviously be smart about the market.

I am a big proponent of being in one thing and doing it really, really well as opposed to another guy I did a coaching call earlier today. He showed me his sites. He had six different websites. One was How to Have a Better Marriage, one was How to Stop Sweating, literally, all these different unrelated products and he’s making no money because it’s so disjointed. He’s all over the place and he can’t really lay his groundwork in one place. He’s not known anywhere. He’s hopping from one thing to the next. I think that’s the death of you. You can do multiple markets.

Craig:    That’s a great point. That’s a really great point and now the person, if he really got deep into that stuff, I bet you there’s a lot of people looking for that, but he’s not going to be able to do it if he’s just all over the place and doing a whole bunch of things.
Ryan:    Yeah, he’s all over the place. He’s hopping from one thing to the next. He’s under that falsehood of if you create one little niche sites and it makes you $500 a month, all you have to is create a thousand of them and you’ll make 500 grand. You know as well as I do, Craig, that’s not reality. That’s not how it works.

Craig:    So you know those people and guys like us, where do you direct those people who have a bit of  burning desire but don’t know the action steps to take? Like if that guys had said he was an 11 out of 10 today, where would you have directed him and told him to put his next action steps into place?

Ryan:    The next action steps, I like building and there are really two schools of thoughts. There’s one who says you create one product and you spend all the time and effort and money on one. Like a really good video sales letter, you hire a professional copywriter and you put aside five or ten grand and you test. You do some media buying test, you do some ad drops, and if goes good you ramp it up. That’s really one model. That’s like what Mike Geary has done and even Jeff and Isobel.

Then there’s the other side. Most people are going to fall on the other side where it’s a little bit more a grind. It’s a little bit more taking your time because they don’t have the money and they’re not good copywriters and they just don’t have the skill set to do that. So the other side is create a blog, start putting out content, start connecting with people, start interviewing with people, start building a real portal, and then from there you could create products because you’re built your audience, you built your fanbase. Then it’s easy to sell. It’s the early to rise method. Social Media Examiner has done it. You look at big names in the world of business like Tim Ferriss. That’s what he started. He didn’t start with a product right away. It took him a year or two till he even wrote the book.

So there are really the two schools of thoughts. It just depends on where you want to go but for most people, I say start with the blog. Start creating the content. Start seeing what people really want and then just give it to them. Because this guy, the marital artist said, “I’ve been spending the past three months working on my product.” I said but you have no traffic. You have no fan base. You don’t even know what they want yet.

Why are you creating a product that you think they want but you’re not sure? Even if it takes you another three months to create it, now you’re at zero. Now you still have no traffic. Now you’ve got to start getting traffic. I said you could do traffic and product simultaneously but you’ve got to go out and you’ve got to start pressing the flesh.

Like you when you first started, Craig, I remember you networked like crazy. You met everybody. You interviewed people. You wrote for every site. You started writing for magazines. You kind of followed the blueprint.

Craig:  Yeah, absolutely, and I think you make a great point there. You can do this networking online. I think it’s really important that people get out to live events but there are fewer and fewer good ones these days. I was going to ask you how do you network online and you just pretty much answered it, by writing articles for other people, interviewing other people like what we’re doing now is fantastic, and just being involved as much as you can, helping people as much as you can. That’s really great. Then you’re right about you just have to pick that topic that’s something that you’re really going to be able to put that content out on. Not five or ten topics but just that one topic and get going and you’ll get feedback as you go along.

Ryan:  Absolutely. There are times when I’m like okay. I know my audience is going to love this product. If I have a certain idea for selling teaching people how to build a certain type of recurring revenue or a certain type of program and then I’ll do one or two blog posts about it and it’s like silence. There are no comments. There is no feedback. There is no one getting excited and then I’ll write about something else and all of a sudden everything blows up and everyone’s like, “Oh my God, I love that” and there’s passion about it. I’m like okay, I’m glad I didn’t spend the next month creating a product on something that no one was really excited about.

The more you interact with people, the more you really get a pulse of what’s happening in your marketplace. That’s why I created this whole world of teaching fitness professionals how to build their business and now it’s beyond that. Now I really teach anyone in any market but the only reason I did that is because the trainers were asking. Otherwise, that wasn’t my thought. I didn’t think okay, I’m going to be an internet marketer. There was no such term back in ‘98.

I love fitness. I got my Master’s in Exercise Physiology. I love training people. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. It was only until people started telling me that, “This is what I want. Teach it to us” and I loved talking about it, then I made the shift. Kind of like what you’ve done, although you’re still doing a lot in the fitness world as well.

Craig: Yeah. I was going to ask you how have you kind of made your transition? Is it basically you’ll write something and then the response just kind of pulls you in that direction where you’re like hey, I can help a lot of people out here, and then it’s just gradually pulled you over into helping people in such a wide variety of industries, not just the fitness industry?

Ryan: Yeah. That really is essentially what happened. It was blog posts. It was comments. It was discussion forums and enough people saying it. Then when I transitioned over to some of the marketing stuff, I created a site called Personal Trainer: You and that was the first thing. I’m like okay, if you guys really want to learn about business, is not for that. Personal Trainer You is. Go here and join that. And a lot of people joined. I’m like okay, well people want this. Let me now create a premium product.

I like to start small. You kind of test some things. You see what works instead of going all in and risking it all. What I don’t recommend is you put something out there, you think people are going to go in one direction, and then you shut everything down. That’s risky. I think you could kind of hedge your bets a little bit and do both at the same time.

You’ll see. I mean your passion is really going to pull you in a specific direction as well. I find that a lot of people, you included, start out in a specific industry, have success, and you get so excited about the world of business and marketing, you then start teaching other people how to have success in the same market. It’s happened to guys like us in the fitness world. It happens to people in everything like Matt Furey with the martial arts then started teaching business. It just happens over and over and over again. It almost seems like a natural transition.

Craig:    Yeah, one of the hilarious things about you is that you always have so much going on so you’re always moving from one project to the next. Now tell us about how that works because it fits your personality.

Ryan:    Yeah, I’ve tried. Believe me. I’ve tried to just do one thing and just stay focused. Okay, this is going to be my one site. This is it, and I’ll do it for a month or two, and I’ll lose my mind. Physiologically, I just can’t do it. I want to, believe me. I want to because it would kind of make things easier for me, but I just can’t. It doesn’t feel natural to me. It just feels wrong.

The most excited I get is when I’m creating a new product and I’m in the flow. I can’t wait to wake up early and go to Starbucks with my laptop and start working. There’s nothing, obviously besides spending time with my wife and my kids, there’s nothing else that gets me more excited. Look, I’m going to sound arrogant but I think I’m one of the best in the world at that, in terms of being creative and getting stuff out quickly. I love it. I live it. I love being in a fast-paced world, maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker and it’s in my blood. I just found it works for me.

There are other people who could never do that. I mentioned Mike Geary before. I can’t see Mike creating 75 different products. I just don’t think that’s his personality. I think he’s one product and focused on the media buying and that works great for him. I just can’t. I’ve tried. I just can’t do it. I stay within the same kind of markets but I’m just always creating new stuff.

Craig: Okay, very cool. And then it’s just whatever the response to your content just leads you to the direction that it takes you, and you come up with the product idea, and you implement it quickly and away you go?

Ryan: Right. Like I just came up with this idea two weeks ago about doing this live streaming event. I saw the model working in a different industry. I adapted it for the world of online marketing. Two weeks ago, I’m like I’m going to do my own. I’m going to do my own version of it. I called a videographer, I called the hotel and within one day, I had everything set. I signed the contract. We were set to roll and now I’m literally starting the presentation. I have one week to do it but I’ll get it done.

Instead of spending six months in researching it, you put it out there. It’s not a huge financial risk and it’s already profitable because I already pre-sold a lot of videos.

Awesome! This is all great stuff here. We’ll need to end it for today. Join us tomorrow to find out what to do after you have created your product.

To your success,

Craig Ballantyne