Case Study: Vanessa Van Edwards
So in the last segment we talked about how to find an idea how to make sure it's profitable how to test it I thought it would be fun if we bring in one of my students who's actually implemented this and taken an idea failed and then gone back reuse some of the material and turn it into a hugely successful online business so I am totally thrilled to introduce vanessa van edwards. Vanessa welcome here. You know I love this okay, so tell us a little bit about your business I'm so excited to hear what it is what you've done. Sure. So I run a human behaviour research lab and we teach body language and social skills and online courses amazing and before we get to how you did it what happened and the whole process let's just cut to the chase. What are the results of your online business so at the last year has been crazy we sold a million dollars worth of courses and increased our newsletter subscribers to about twenty k so he's in the last year in the last year yet okay, so we want to know h...
ow you did it. Yeah and we want to know like what is the secret even though obviously there's so many subtle things you did um let's let's start at the beginning how did you get interested in this and what happened when you first started pursuing this path sure so I'd always sort of been fascinated by people on the creepy people watcher on dh I wanted teo use the science you know I love self help and I was like, where is the science back to research for self help so I was like let's take sexy science and combined it with self help and make this magical combination but when I first started actually wasn't all rain bows and roses and puppies and what do you mean you don't just hidden you don't just put something online than a million dollars later it just work you know it's amazing what's which is I mean that's actually what I thought I figured why did you that there's sort of this myth that if you love something and you put it online, everyone will just show up and buy it and I really truly believe that and so for the first years of my business and writing blog's and do all the things you should do right and writing blog's I'm on twitter I'm on every social I mean every social work ever stumble upon twitter, facebook and like maybe I had like three followers one was my mom you know what my grandma would be on there but she doesn't use the internet and I was like what is happening? And this is when we start to say it's not working I'm doing everything they told us I'm just going I need to try harder right? And sometimes you realize you're just playing entirely the wrong game you have to change so what did you do that so what happened was is what I thought that was the pinnacle of my career is after a lot of work we got a deal with the traditional publisher so I was able to id self published a few books and it was like my dream teo get a publishing deal and was a big fancy shmancy publishing house and I was like this is going to change my life right right like this is it what was the vision the book comes out and then what's magic imagine today show called actually won the today show that wasn't very fun so so she didn't get on the today show okay going not don't google that that was so uh so yes so I division wass a book that would happen and everything would magically be solved I would have all these customers I don't know what my business plan would strategy would be but a book would make me a lot of money and that would be it so we hired a pr firm you know this book was a labour of love as you as you talk about you know I was like put all my effort into it and it launches and nothing happened so it's in every bookstore it's on amazon and what I know about it, like no one bought it and like, I haven't talked about it in public, so you'll forgive me if it's not super smooth, but it was like a part of me, he was out there and no one wanted it. I mean, even now, like, I talk about him like, oh, because I'd put so much into it, and it shocked me because I had been told, but if you do something you love and you put it out there, people will buy it, and so when I had it out there, it felt like someone rejected me, even though I knew it wasn't me I knew was my book, it felt like a rejection of me. And so I was, like, done, what was that process like, uh, while the book is out there, when I wrote my book, I was getting, you know, my friends like, congratulations, I saw it in barnes and noble and, like, that's cool, but there was this expectation that life would tectonic lee shift for me, and meanwhile, like if the book isn't selling like what's, the experience in those first couple months where you start to realize it's, not as you thought it would be, yeah, and it was the first couple of weeks actually, uh I you know, we knew that nothing was really happening you contract some of your numbers on amazon it was exactly that people were so happy for me my friends were like what's happening with the book and they were trying to be so supportive and I was like, it's going okay? And I actually couldn't do it I like herm it'd you know, like I went into like my hermit mode and I was like, creatives notice, right? Like I can't put anything else out there I'm too vulnerable and I just stopped it's really hurtful when you well for me, I know I started off, I will teach you the rich actually teaching a one hour class to my friends in college for free just a very informal like people in the dorms would be complaining about whatever overdraft fees and I would be like, oh, come take my cost it's free and they would say, yeah, that sounds awesome and then nobody would show up and I did this for a year and a half and it was actually incredibly hurtful because in my I had spent so much time investing myself in it and like I knew I could help them, I knew it, but they wouldn't even show up for one hour and it was free and I was organizing it by, you know, and it was like first of all, I hate doing anything alone so I hate eating alone and going to movies alone and I certainly hate showing up in a room alone where they're supposed to be there and they don't come it's like the elementary school kids worst nightmare threw a birthday party and they don't show up so I couldn't do it and that's why I started a blogger so you do this two weeks later you know it's not happening yeah, so I decided I need to go in a harm it mother I need to go into learning mode so I started asking people what are the blog's? I should be reading what? Of course I should be taking that's how I discovered your vlog originally it was one of those few blog's that someone said this advice actually works so I was reading your stuff and I noticed there was a big difference between what you do, what other people do, what other people do is they speak in sort of these broad generalizations there like you should do your passion just just find your passion and I'd be like, what does that even mean? Like what is how do I find my passion? And they'd be like now monetize your passion just just makes the money on your passion and I would read these blobs or take these courses and I had no idea how to do it. There was this huge alsatian and it made me feel dumb it's like it's like intellectual snack yeah, you eat it, you feel good for a minute and then you look back and you're like what? Why did I do that? And what was that anyway? We're like cotton candy it's like actually empty like there's no nutritional value there and like you think you're eating a lot but like actually just a complete waste of calories anyway, I could go on I love analysis like gone forever. So we I discovered your your sight and then you had a creative life course and it was the strategies that you provide are not just find your passion or find a career that you like, you have segments that air specifically on finding your idea, finding a profitable business idea, validating a profitable business idea and then scripts actual scripts to be able to do that. So it wasn't just a theoretical thing I had relax in steps I was able to dio I think that was the big ship from learning and hermit mode into okay, I'm gonna start trying things right love that that makes me so happy, and I'm so glad that the creative life class helped you let's talk about validation because it's one thing to have an idea and most ideas at a surface level, they're they're fine help people with their money help him find a job, help them improve their body language it's not particularly novel but how did you go about validating it to know that it would actually so so I was suffering from the ii technique uh the ii syndrome where I wanted to teach body language I wanted to create passive income I thought that it would work and so I took it for the first time and started asking other people what they wanted. So one of the techniques you teaching the course is the straitjacket technique where you were really go in with someone you're perfect client and you asked them all different very specific questions about their pain points on their needs. That was a totally different way for me to think about making a product what was the before and after so before it's like I want to make passive income and people want to know how to improve their body yeah yeah before it was like people should know body language and I see bad body language so I should just teach good body language afterwards it was ok who is my ideal client and this is when I learned the pay certainty technique was a huge differentiator because I realized the people who were reading my block before another wasn't many of them but they did not have the willingness to pay and they did not have the ability to pay they were going to read my free blawg forever they were never going to actually buy anything so sitting down and saying ok who's my ideal client who has the willingness and ability to pay and then asking them very specific questions and these air scripts that you use that are okay what do you struggle with on a daily basis? And one of things that I heard was I want to walk into a room and have people want to know me now that's not body language specifically but the power of presence power body language confident body language is the same thing so my original opt in which I had on average of four subscribers a week that was my average on newsletter subscribers I changed my newsletter used to say learned people skills and sign it below I change it tio how to be the most memorable person in the room now we have eighty seven subscribers a day amazing let's pause we gotta we gotta dig into this so this is so subtle. Yeah. All right. We talk about the research we talk about mastering the craft and really getting in your customers heads and it seems like a lot of work and it iss it should be but the way it manifests itself are in really subtle things that make huge impacts so while other people in your market will be writing things like get fit lose weight or improve your people skills if you're trained in this zero toe launch I will teach you to be rich type style you will know exactly what they're saying sometimes even things they've never articulated out loud and the difference in part from four to eighty seven a day I mean that's worth for a week for a week sorry and that's crazy to eighty seven a day that's amazing that's astonishing right and so that little those little tests those with a little test I started to do really just slow stuff changing wording on my often look even for example on my website he usedto have like courses and book and product the same tabs that you see on every single website and so I changed them one of them says awesome one of them says play one of them says heroes because I was like why should I used tabs already there I want to use words that I know my ideal client would use themselves they would want to click on so it was a lot of testing with just the word's getting people to understand that I wanted to create products and blog's that we're speaking to them because I was then I am them I'm a recovering introvert cropping awkward person learned extra burt and so I really wanted to be ableto have words it spoke to them I love that, and when you do this, there are a lot of other people that teach body language on there, but just like in any industry in any market, most of them don't know what they're doing. Most people who are teaching fitness or or crafts or anything, they've never learned how to do marketing, they just came up with an idea and put it online, so we stop worrying about our competition because most of the time they're irrelevant to us don't even honestly don't even think about your competition don't even look at your competition's website because what they're doing is probably not working as well as something that you could do the only people you should be looking at and talking to are your customers because they're the ones we're gonna give you. The words you need to use beautiful so let's, let's, move forward. You start creating these courses and what are the names of some of these courses? So my first course, I did a really simple I didn't want to put a bunch of money like the book, like I put a bunch of money into a bunch of time into any failed so like what's the simplest test, aiken d'oh. So I took my iphone and I filmed on my iphone and I didn't even have a tripod I used my cookbooks as a tripod and I drug over every lamp in my apartment because I did not even have professional lamps and I borrowed a glance for my neighbors and I surrounded myself of all my lamps and I just filmed a two hour course on my iphone call the secrets of body language little tiny course I was like if I can sell thirty courses was forty nine nineteen forty nine dollars was like that's it I'll be so happy so we put it up put up ah online platform I'm like okay thirty here we go and it took a few hours to get it into the marketplace and fifty four hours later we had over four hundred sales, which is like I mean from what had happened before where I was not getting any sales ever it was like magic I mean it wasn't magic there's a lot of work that went into it but seeing the difference of one you can speak people my content didn't change right my my creative juices didn't change but the way that I positioned it that spoke to people it was I mean I remember that david brushed my life it was amazing I love that it's the difference between trying to push a stone right up this huge inclined versus doing a little bit of work up front and then just kicking a soccer ball along that goes without you having you have me there is you know there is something where like you know that your product hits the market right and like then it's easy and so keep had to learn and I still do this to keep tinkering until I find where it needs to fit because every product is slightly different right? So I have ah dating body language course that is slightly different than my business body language course right? Different pain point different needs and so I kept tweaking my newsletters my landing pages my sales pages to figure out what words what was the pain point? How was it? Slightly different from course of course. So it never stops that tinkering I like it but I have an experimental mindsets like I can't help it. I love that. What? What you say quickly because everyone wants to know you a million dollars. Yeah. How how did you do that? You have how many courses? Right. So now we have four courses are fifth one that's coming out two weeks and what's the price points of these courses so our lowest courses forty nine dollars, that one that I just mentioned my m v p my minimum viable product on my most expensive courses one ninety nine okay, so this is amazing. So at one, even with just that limited range of prices, you have a million dollars in revenue in about a year, and you already know, as you go up market as you make a four, ninety seven or nine ninety seven or even twenty nine, ninety seven dollar product, those numbers will sky rocket it's coming up wait. S so what does it mean now for you to generate a million dollars and tohave over twenty two thousand subscribers in the last thirteen months? You know, I I think that there's a freedom, um, I think that maybe creatives will understand this, there is a financial freedom for sure, right? Being able to be like, I can make my bills, right? I don't have to worry about paying the bills at the end of the month. There's also a creative freedom that happens when you find your people that's what I feel like, you know, I have the most amazing students. I mean, they reach out to me sending pictures there, they're incredible. I feel like I've found my tribe, and so the creative freedom that comes from that once you can hit those pain points to speak to them, it gives you tremendous leeway to be able to try things like I'm a big experimenter I ran a lab, right? So any idea that I have I have we have a team of four interns and researchers and I'll send an e mail with like I have an idea and they're like, oh, vanessa has an idea because I'm able to take some of those risks risks I was too afraid to take before I think I was starving before and now I'm hungry right? It's always good to be a hungry artist like that's good, but you never really want to be a starving artist. I think the people watching this I'm really glad to bring you in because it's one thing to talk about principles and frameworks it's another thing to see someone who's done it and I especially love that you did it. You did everything right and it didn't work you did the books yeah did what they told you and it didn't work and then you went into learning mode see there's two options we could when something doesn't work for us, we can give up and say all this this thing is b s or we can say, what did I do wrong? What could I improve? And I really admire that you went the learning round it's also fun to hear the transition from being a starving artist to being hungry as you said, I love that too being financially comfortable and knowing that you don't have to make bad decisions because of money that you can actually be strategic and you can think long term what would you tell everyone here you know a lot of us a lot of people here were it's like having a few ideas they're not sure there's a lot of people online talking about starting a business overwhelmed with too many choices you've been through it you've been from one side to the other what would you tell them um don't try to do it all that's actually really easy once you actually talk about this in the course there's a whole section on mental barriers and being an expert and I think that I was trying to do it all before I was trying to please everyone I'm like sure they could learn body language sure they could learn social skills and so what happened was is my block posts my newsletters my small little e books I was putting out we're like the most watered down versions of principles because I'd be like use it in romance and dating and social life and when I was like you know what? I'm not going to appeal to everyone uh that was actually very freeing it brought a lot of relief there was I did of one of my early course and I was in a like a button down and like killing a vest and someone emailed me and they said, you know, I really think that you should be wearing a business suit our business people love to critique clothes clothes in here why? Because they can't critique your you know, conversion optimization they can't take our segmentation funnels you don't even know what that is so like I don't like your head shot I don't like this I'm like go to hell right? I didn't say that, but he emails me and he's like, you know, I knew him as a reader like he's been on my newsletter he's like I think you should have won a business suit and your course and that was a really big moment for me because I was rina email and like my stomach dropped right anytime you're criticized and I was like, sure, I've won a business suit like, oh my god, am I not professional? Oh my god, my course is going to fail, right? Like I went through that horrible line of thinking and I was like, wait a minute like if this guy that's what he's paying attention to in this course if he's not gonna watch me because I'm not wearing a business suit, I don't want him I don't want he's not my tribe he's, not my student and so I said, thanks so much for the advice, but I'm very comfortable what I wore on screen right and like I'm sure he has described I have no idea but that was a big moment and so I say to you who is your tribe? Who do you want to reach? Don't try to reach everyone it just water is you down and the people who really resonate with you we'll stick stick with you they'll be so loyal to you and you'll learn as much from them is as they learned from you hopefully all right, I'm gonna brag for you uh because there's some amazing things that a lot of us here don't know you have one of the best selling courses on creative life tell us the name of that course power of body language beautiful okay, so that I mean it really it's it's it's great also you have a new course coming up master your people skills I want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to take a look at that thirty days excited congratulations and thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks. Way learned. This is a great example of applying some of the stuff we've taken away today and I think it's fun to see someone who's used the principles and put it into practice what surprised people about that I mean for me as as we passed that mike around one of the things that surprised me was like vanessa did everything right she wrote a book with a new york publisher it got she went on the today show she did all this stuff and it still didn't produce what everyone tells us is gonna happen who's got a surprise how quickly she bounced back from failure yeah it's so easy to get mired in failure and say like I'm a bad person it's me and instead she said I'm gonna learn what went wrong something over here still in the hundred dollar price range not trying to jump to two thousand after failing the book yes so many people want to start sprinting in the olympics before they can even jog one lap and she's taking her time methodically if you remember back to that chart we showed earlier it was years before we started creating multiple courses here's so taking the time to really learn the intricacies is important yeah ah, just the numbers I mean toe on ly twenty two thousand subscribers million dollars in revenue that's incredible it's amazing. I remember sitting in a uh ta correa this is like years ago here in the mission and my friend found out that I had fifty thousand people on my email list at that time and I didn't I didn't really know this marketing stuff I wasn't too into it and she said are you serious? If I had a list fifty thousand people I would be making over a million dollars a year it was like that's crazy. What do you mean? And it turned out that she knew more than I did, and you don't need to have a gigantic list. Fifty k's, actually huge. I have students who are making tens and tens of thousands of dollars, like multiple six figures, with small lists off. I'm talking small, like a few thousand people, so, really managing our expectations. We don't need to have one hundred thousand before we have a real business. You could have a real business with five hundred or thousand subscribers. The fact that she looked at this a subscriber's is her tribe, and that she learned as much from them is they were learning from her absolutely that's a great one.