Jack Butcher is the founder of Visualize Value, a design, consulting, and educational company in New York City.
Jack spent 10 years working in advertising for Fortune 100 companies as a creative director for multi-billion dollar brands that include Amazon, Nokia, McDonald’s, and Mercedes-Benz. It was a job he found enjoyable but constraining.
In search of freedom, Jack started his own advertising agency, which he describes as “No fun, and even less freedom.” However, after two years of iteration, Jack figured out how to transition to highly specialized (and fun) consulting, and a product business that scales infinitely.
Visualize Value is the product of that transition, a project Jack has used to build a network of mentors, a $1M/year product business, and a media platform with an audience of over 500,000 people.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How to use your unique skills to stand out on social media
- Why repetition in your design is the fastest way to build your brand
- How designing for niche markets makes your job much easier
- How to scale your business without compromising quality
Links & Resources
- DHH on Twitter: @dhh
- Jason Fried on Twitter: @jasonfried
- Nick Huber on Twitter: @sweatystartup
- David Perell on Twitter: @david_perell
- Write of Passage
- Brian Norgard on Twitter: @BrianNorgard
- Anthony Pompliano on Twitter: @APompliano
- Maven Adviser
Jack Butcher’s Links
- Jack’s website: Visualize Value
- Jack’s email newsletter: VV/155
- Jack’s Twitter: @jackbutcher
- Visualize Value merchandise
- Visualize Value on Twitter: @visualizevalue
- Jack’s Instagram: @jckbtchr
- Visualize Value on Instagram: @visualizevalue
- Build Once, Sell Twice
You build something digital that runs on code or media, and can be served up infinitely at zero cost replication to you, something like a product or an information product you build at once, and you can sell it to a hundred, a thousand, 10,000, a hundred thousand people. The bulk of the value is created once.
And then just becomes a game of how effective are you at spreading that story and reaching people that need the thing that you’ve done.
In this episode, I talk to Jack Butcher. Jack has a really interesting visual style where he’s taking these complex concepts: it could be leverage, it could be this idea of build once, sell twice (that I’m super jealous of by the way), how he framed that… any of these things, he takes them and distills them down to these graphics:
Black background, white text, white line drawings, slightly pixelated looking. It’s very distinct style and he’s used it to build a massive following; well-over a hundred thousand followers in social media, he built his email list, he’s doing fantastic revenue from courses. So, we dive in on what it takes to be unique.
How a lot of marketing Twitter, you know, marketers talking about marketing is repetitive. A lot of people don’t have a unique angle on it. And so how he makes unique content that’s more interesting and engaging and stands out.
How constraints really drive that.
We talk about a lot of other things, exactly how he makes money and monetization. There’s a lot of great stuff, who inspires him, so much more.
Jack’s someone that I’ve wanted to have on this show since I started it. And so I’m very excited to talk to Jack.
Let’s dive in. Jack, thanks for talking with me today.
Thank you for having me, man. I appreciate it.
Okay. I feel like so many people on the internet are—especially in the content marketing audience growth space—are doing the exact same thing as other people, you know, it’s just like, it’s similar playbook. Everyone’s going over it repeatedly. The amazing thing is that it still works. You don’t actually have to innovate that much to make like a hundred grand a year or more on the internet, which is mind blowing, but then you come out and you actually have like a really unique visual style.
You’re doing something different instead of just like another random tweet thread, or like summarizing the same quotes that everyone else is doing. It feels like you’re doing something unique. And in, you know, in these little graphics, you’re explaining these same concepts that everyone else has talked about, but in a really condensed format.
So, I’m curious, well, one, let’s just start with where that came from, and then I want to get into like what you think other people should do to differentiate and not be the same. Like, you know, it’s just copying everybody else.
Yeah, sure, so very quick background. I studied design in school, graduated in 2010. That was in the UK. I moved to New York and started working agency jobs in basically every different capacity. So design art direction, creative direction, worked for small boutique agencies that would build like, small brands to big global behemoths at work on like.
Multinational billion dollar brand campaigns. And one of the skills, one of the skills I built up, I think, across all of those experiences was working on pitch decks. So what all of these different ad agencies have in common is you have to tell compelling stories to get the opportunity to work on a project.
But the pitch deck is kind of a work in the agency, right? Nobody wants to be the last one in work on the pitch deck, waiting for everybody’s emails to say include this, include this. So, early in my career I sort of got stuck with that by default, but for whatever reason, not quite into it quite, enjoyed the process of distilling all of these different people’s ideas that would come at you from all different parts of an agency or trying to convey something to a business.
Basically tell their story back to them in a more compelling way than they’ve ever heard it told. And that’s essentially what gets you the opportunity to work on these projects? So, yeah, a lot of late nights working on pitch decks was the, I think the eventual catalyst for visualized value as a style, I went through a ton of iterations to get there.
Worked at agencies for eight years, started my own agency and then slowly narrowed down the type of work I was doing as an agency to that really, , specific aesthetic and that very specific deliverable. So before visualize value was a media company, it was a very highly specialized service business agency.
Testing testing like in those pitch decks, were you creating, , graphics to distill these concepts down rather than using, you know, words or like, I’ve seen a lot of agency pitch decks over the and most of them are a decent amount of words with like, you know, someone went on the agency version of Pinterest and like mood board or something to go with Your style is very different from that.
Yeah, so I, I tried to, I try to differentiate because you know what you’re going to be up against with all the other agencies you are going to be up against the bulleted lists and the Pinterest mood boards and things of that nature. So what fascinated me and I think was a, , an edge in some of those environments where, you know, how can we visualize the…
Either the opportunity. So some of the like some of the things came from understanding, like where our brand was positioned in the market and how to visualize that for them. Like here’s, you know, here’s where you’re positioned relative to competitor X or this, or here’s like a way to visually contextualize where your product is or who would buy your product.
And that, that idea of translating those things that other agencies would show up with as like five paragraphs into one illustration is really the, I think the moment that you’re trying to create is, ah, the, this agency or this person really understands us and they can quickly summarize what we’re about because that’s what essentially what you’re pitching them as a service.
So the first opportunity you get to demonstrate that you can do that is in the pitch deck. And the irony is that you don’t get paid. Well, that piece, that’s the thing that you do on spec and you compete for, and you spend agencies spend tons of money putting together pitch decks that you end up going nowhere.
But, and that’s another reason why I think you have an opportunity to knock it out of the park too, is because there’s a, you know, a lot of people phone it in. So, , yeah, that’s working on that process and just having to, I think the other piece of it is having to stand in front of a room of people and, and walk through these things.
Like, I was at that point in my career, just like so nervous about telling the story correctly, that I just wanted it to be so Bulletproof that I would go over and over and over and over it and, , refine it to where I felt completely confident explaining it. And the longer you talk, the less confident you sound.
So I was just trying to distill it down as much as possible.
Yeah. So did you notice, like those pitch decks really working and did you get credit for winning those, those deals and all of that?
Yeah, I would say, , there’s definitely a hierarchical structure in agencies where you, you don’t necessarily take the full credit for winning the business, but you’re the person who gets asked to work on the next pitch deck as a result. Right. So my role went from working on the business after it had been one to just being sort of like on the pitch circuit like that, you know, myself and a couple of friends, , strategists and writers you’d have this team of people that consistently can come in and take, , yeah.
Take a, take a story and turn it into something super compelling and then fly somewhere. I present it when the work, and then you go on to another pitch and that’s a whole nother conversation about why agency businesses, at that scale are difficult because the people who are great at pitching are rarely the people who fulfill the work after the fact, because it’s the ROI on them pitching is so much.
Yeah, I mean, at this point you’ve become. Like the best sales asset that they have. like, of course, we’re going to have you work on implementing it rather than, or sorry, on, on pitching rather than implementing, which then gets into a problem because you’ve demonstrated, like you understand the customer’s problem better than anyone else in your, even the one I’m working on.
That’s, that’s the that’s the game is it’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s also just like that human incentive behavior thing playing out perfectly.
Right. So what were the, like, , your style now, you know, is these black images with, you know, light text and just really simple line illustrations and all of that. What were some of the early iterations of that? Like what did it, what did it go through to turn it into that style?
Certainly more complex at times. So when, when you would do it for a brand, you would take their color palette. They’re static they’re , that type face, whatever type face they using. And, it was still the there was still these like, I guess diagrammatic elements were consistent. So it’s gotten over the last maybe two or three is, is less reliant on style and more reliant on substance.
So if I look back at something from two years ago, it may have looked. For, but there’s no like underlying logic to it or there’s less underlying logic to it. So I think, , just making that shift from relying on these like stylistic decisions is huge too, where if you can choose to of constraints, it becomes more about communicating the idea, then picking the color, making the typeface look interesting, like composition, all of those things.
So, ending up there one for like function. So you show up and you’re not spending two or three iterations of the thing, just working on, , stylistic decisions, but also the equity that you can build by showing up with the same aesthetic every day. Right? It’s like after you’ve done it a hundred times, people don’t even need to read the name above it.
They know where it’s coming from in the same way. A lot of established brands have, you know, you could recognize a Delta ad on the side of a bus based on. The typeface and the photography and the color scheme, all that kind of stuff. So that’s another hold over of what I learned in the agency world is you can never, you can never be too repetitive.
Visually. I have a friend who’s got this great quote said great advertising, whereas in not out. Yes. And I think a lot of people, especially creative people, don’t like you abandon something before it gets recognizable.
Yeah. So that’s interesting. I’m a huge fan of constraints. I feel like you, you know, well, you and I have similar backgrounds in that we’re both designers turned, audience builders, marketers. I don’t know what you want to, whatever you call it now.
Yeah, but I’ve always leaned on constraints. I just think that’s so interesting that you’ve been able to distill it down to something so unique because of the constraint.
Right. So many people would be like, let me find 10 different visual ways to explain this concept of build one, sell twice. And you’re like, no, I’m just going to represent it in the exact same type of face and all of that. Because after I do some version of this a hundred times, like then people will immediately recognize it.
That’s that’s fascinating. What do you think, going back to the question about, people being unique online, like what are the things that you wish people did more of, or how should creators think about these things differently when they’re and teaching concepts or, any of that to actually be unique rather than, you know, cocking what’s what’s so common.
Just I’ll preface this or a disclaimer for everything I say is going to be consistent with my experience. But I think the starting out with the service element is a really important piece of it. So being able to transition something that you delivered as a service and, you know, has, you know, it has been implemented with results in a business.
Like when I started working on visualized value as a service specifically, I was building pitch decks for like the most boring businesses. You can imagine, like supply chain, , logistics for PL or companies. So I spend hours on the phone trying to understand the supply chain industry and then build these like simplified, , set of visuals that represented what made that company unique, for example.
And then when you see that work, you’re like, okay, this is a. This is a thing that I know I would never ever run out of opportunity doing, because there’s an there’s, you know, millions of businesses that can explain what they do as well as they could be. , so knowing that I think gives you a level of conviction where all you’re doing is just becoming a magnet for people who need that.
So you don’t need to, you don’t need to keep switching up what you don’t need to keep emulating audience building tactics of other people. You’re, you’re building from the asset as opposed to like being one step removed from that. I think it’s, , and that’s an easier transition to make because you’re, you don’t need the scale initially to live off it.
If that makes sense. So the. With an audience of 500 people of, you know, people I went to school with and common connection, or like a mutual connections or one degree separation, I could win like one piece of client work a month by just posting portfolio work and get introductions. And then knowing that that deliverable has value, just build the brand around the, , the philosophy of that service or the philosophy of that, , that thing that you’re building for a client.
And then your audience aligns behind that as opposed to aligning behind you for some miscellaneous approach to content. And then you have to reverse engineer a way to monetize that, , relationship or that, that, , That group of people, you don’t even really know what they have in common or what they’re, what they’re interested in.
Right? So among the people who follow visualized value, you can kind of, you could think about them in fairly specific ways that people who either want to learn the skill. Like I wish I could communicate concisely with design. So there’s obviously a very specific way that you can help people learn that, or they’re business owners that want to hire you for your services.
Or there are people that just want to consume knowledge in a more concise way. But it’s all the foundation of it is the it’s the, the craft, I suppose you call it. And I think it’s hard to. It just, it feels like a different game you’re playing when you’re just constantly trying to create content for content’s sake and then marry that back to something.
And what you end up building is like how to build a Twitter audience or, , you know, some generic how to get attention product, but then there’s no underlying like, okay. W why? , so I would, and it’s a brutal process to go through the service business route and you have a design background. So you’ve done that too, but it’s such a solid foundation in my opinion, that you can always, , you can always lean back on.
So I think designers have a bias for this, cause this is how we’ve been hired over the years is you build a portfolio, normally cares about your like degree or even the agencies that you’ve worked at, or they want to see is like, what projects have you done? And what, what are you capable of as a designer?
Well, how, like, what’s your taste level? Like what tools can you use? And, that I think just creates a bias for publishing proof of work that is it’s like one step removed from like, just purely, the only motivation is to get people to like, and follow a, an account. So it’s a little esoteric, but hopefully that makes sense.
Well, I think what I hear in that is this idea of show your work, right. Designers know that inherently. And then other, I think in coming from other industries, you’re like, why don’t people trust me already? Or that kind of thing. Like, look at the credentials that I have and designers are like credentials.
Like the only thing that matters is your portfolio.
And people are like, yeah, but I went to Yale or something and you’re like, you know, and so designers, no, you have to show the work. You have to show the progress.
And I think more industries that adopt that, the more success that they’re going to have
Yeah. And I think the parallel to that is this like build in public idea. The, but there, there are degrees of building public, right? The, The there’s like the marketing side of it and the product side of it. And some content just feels like all marketing without the, , you know, without this underlying thesis or this, , product that’s being built. So it could be software could be like, , it could be software could be an information product, but there there’s two different layers.
The audience building things just become a by-product of marketers marketing, marketing, right. It’s a, it’s a rabbit hole that goes pretty deep.
Yes. Yeah, there, there’s a lot of, a lot of that. , we’ll go with rabbit hole instead of circle jerk, but, so you have this phrase, well, I feel like your entire business you’re using design, but is taking con , let’s see like complicated concepts and distilling them down to something really, really concise and specific as you have this phrase, I’m actually intensely jealous of, because I wish I came up with it because it’s trying to explain concepts that I’ve used, like, you know, a thousand words to explain in detail.
And that’s build once, sell twice. Can you explain from listening what that means?
Yeah. So my background is advertising. So I was in the time of materials business for so long someone hires you and at the end of the job, or you make an estimate of how long it’s going to take you. You write an invoice and then you hope that it’s going to take you less time, what you estimated as opposed to a product business, which is way more common in technology, where you build something.
And well, you build something digital that has, that runs on code or media and can be served up infinitely at zero cost of replication to you, but can capture value as, you know, as you reach more people. So something like a SAS product or an information product, you build it once you modify it and you can sell it to a thousand, a hundred, a thousand, 10,000, a hundred thousand people.
There are incremental costs of, you know, your payment processes and hosting and things of that nature. But the, the bulk of the value is created once. And then just, it becomes a game of. How effective are you at spreading that story and, , reaching people that need the thing that you’ve built. So, yeah, trying to distill that down into a single phrase has been yeah, has been instrumental in being able to do the thing too.
So, that’s I think, like a little layered lesson that I’ve learned in, , building something, building a product is obviously a huge part of that equation, but also finding a very concise way to talk about that product is, is the other half of that equation. So, you know, write something once and then publish it a thousand times is the same idea.
And you can use that as a propellant for the thing that you’ve built. , and now we’re in this era of the like full stack creator where you can. Build the thing market, the thing like perform customer service for the thing from one laptop from anywhere.
Yeah, it’s, it’s probably the single most important concept for someone on the internet to understand. , cause like in the same way that if a hundred people sign up for ConvertKit today or a thousand people sign up, it doesn’t matter. Like we, we built the thing. We can sell it as many times as we want within, you know, if like a million people signed up today, we’d have a few issues, you know, but like within a reasonable distribution, same thing for, you know, one of your courses, like one person, 50 people, a thousand people, it doesn’t really matter because…
Which is both amazing and can be painful because you, it often like a part that people miss is that the build once, when you are building it for an eye to sell it, You know, twice or a thousand times or more is actually more work. Like it’s a lot more work to build rather than if I’m just like, oh Jack, you’re my client.
I’m going to build this one’s for you. Like I can get away with a lot of things, , and then get away with is even the wrong term. Right. I can simplify it. I can just, I’m just building it for you. know who you are. I know who my client is, but when I’m building it to sell, , you know, an infinite number of times, then I have an infinite number of circumstances, , that it could be perceived in.
So yeah. Maybe talk about the difference between building something wants to be sold once versus building it to be sold many times.
Yeah, I think you’re right in that you have to anticipate a lot more. So if, if the thing you build doesn’t work without you, then it doesn’t work right. In a one-on-one relationship with a client, you can get on the phone and you could sort of call an audible. Or if you, if you, you know, you can wait until the last minute to fulfill this piece of the thing.
And that that transaction is totally different, right? It’s the pitch, the sale. And then the work starts versus you build the thing. And then once, like the sale is basically the last part of the process, as opposed as opposed to the first part of the process. So, , well I think going through that process does though is really helps you identify it helps you build the story to tell people what the thing is.
And that’s, that was the really frustrating thing for me about an agency business was like, Well, are we, what do we do? Like we’re a creative agency. We can solve any problem creatively, right? If you’re a car company, if you’re a, like a prenatal vitamin companies and other old client of mine, like finance, anything fashion, and you end up saying like, yeah, we can help you with your mock that we can write emails.
We can build websites. We can do, , we could do all these different things. And until we, we are, I think a citizen of the internet, which I wasn’t until two or three years ago, you really, it’s very difficult to grasp the opportunity, unity that exists in a, in a very narrow wedge, right? You, if you’re, if you’re great at one very specific thing and you find a way to get that message out to the world on the internet, it’s very unlikely that you’ll run out of options versus you have this really generic message.
You don’t get, you also don’t get the compounding benefit of working on the same problem over and over again. So I’ve friends who run agencies that are incredibly talented, but instead of building products, they just hop from job to job. And there’s no like there’s no, they’re not earning equity in, in a specialty or against a niche.
For example, like ConvertKit is, , is a good example of some talented agencies would spec would build like 80% of ConvertKit for example, and then move on to another job. And to me that’s just bananas, right? They’ve just abandoned all of this equity and energy that they’ve invested. And now they’ll go and work on like a no real estate platform or something else.
Not to say that the job is done when they’re finished as an agency is only just beginning, but it say. There are obviously pros to that business where you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. And I think that’s what keeps a lot of people in that world, because if it feels less risky to, , to sort of diversify, but in the age of the internet, that diversification is oftentimes unnecessary, but also, , and just cost you a lot of opportunity in the long run, not making a decision to, to own one thing or get really great at one thing.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense because as. People will create this work that they just throw away. And they think about like, oh, I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I don’t want to be the agency that only works with real estate clients, or I don’t want you know, put in this box, like I’m an artist, you know, or whatever I think.
And what that means is that you are creating from scratch every single time. And then maybe eventually it’ll loop around. So you have a similar, you know, you have that second real estate client or, you know, something like that. And you’re like, oh, I get to borrow some learnings. And really when we choose this niche and focus in, then you’re, you’re borrowing those learnings every single time.
And it really, I mean, that’s where things start to compound. ,
Without that, you don’t have anything compounding.
Yeah. And it’s hard. Like, I think creative people, you said it, it’s like, I don’t want to pigeon hole myself. I don’t want to, I don’t wanna be working on the same thing every day. And I used to, I used to, they used to be one of my lines I would use in interviews. It’s like, why do I like, working at agencies?
Cause you have a different challenge, a different problem, a different industry every day. But at a certain point it’s like,
I’m not really like hyper competent at anything across all this stuff. And that’s, you know, that was getting frustrating at a certain point. And then I. There’s one realization I had someone told me this years ago was like identifying the feeling that you enjoy versus the, , versus like the tangible application of your skills.
So it’s a slight shift in, , slight shift in perspective in that, , visualized value is just this vehicle for me to become a better designer and, and help me, , help me better translate difficult concepts into visuals and all of the constraints that I’ve placed on. It actually helped me get to that feeling faster.
And that’s a hard thing to identify, but once you get to that, like then you start to take advantage of the compounding stuff. Cause you can solve a lot of different problems if you, you know, build and convert it. For example, like. No two days are the same. I imagine because you have this compounding, asset to work on, so you can go in and tweak something.
And then that thing delivers a benefit months, years into the future. You don’t need to go back and visit until it breaks or until there’s a better way to do it. , and it’s easy to confuse. It’s easy to confuse working on one thing with not having new problems to solve. I think the opposite is actually true because you’re solving problems in code and making things that fix the problem that you can move on from.
You’re constantly getting exposure to, , new types of problems and new ways to solve them. That’s really the, yeah. The what focus affords you in the long run is, and, and obviously the build once sell twice mentality and focus is, always exposing you to new problems. And, letting you build equity, as opposed to just trading your time constantly to work on different problems.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I want to dive into your business a little bit. You’re very transparent with numbers. , and I want to like, kind of understand the flywheel of, you know, Jack Butcher. Maybe share some numbers initially and, , you know, on, , social following and, and email list and then getting into revenue.
And then I’d love to hear kind of that arc of how, how each thing feeds into the next.
So social is at, I would say around visualized value specifically is about 450,000 followers, Instagram and Twitter. My personal Twitter is about a hundred and twenty-five thousand and email is actually one of, , Smallest audiences, probably about 20,000 email subscribers. , and this is a real focus of this year is, is dialing in email.
I could go into it, but I’ve got Twitter accounts banned a few months ago, but, , the flywheel, like the, on the product side, we have, , education products, how to visualize value and build one, sell twice, , some smaller products. We have a planner, , some art, some merge, and don’t spend any money on advertising.
I would say 80 to 90% of sales come through organic social. So the, a really simple system like that, the art gets posted to Instagram and Twitter. And the bio link in both of those is the store people. You know, if they discover it for the first time they click on the store. Or scroll through Twitter, , wrote, , worked with a lot of people.
Who’ve been through the courses to write case studies and those do a great job of educating people who come in organically on, you know, the types of people that have leveraged the content in the courses to build things so that those case studies on the store get a good amount of traffic. And that feeds into products and then run occasional organic promotions, which are responsible for decent spikes in revenue.
So that will be milestones. Like, you know, , the account has reached X Dunbar, followers or holidays. , there’s, there’s definitely an organic, , there’s an organic flywheel where the floor increases slowly with time, but the real big spikes in revenue still do because we’re not doing paid advertising do rely on these times.
Promotions and incentives and getting people to act in a very noisy, crazy world. , and, and paid advertising is something that so many of my friends have, , tried to encourage me to do, but there’s just some resistance there for whatever reason, , because when we haven’t needed it so far, and two, it’s just such a interrupting thing that it feels like it might not be consistent with the way, , the brand is working now, but it’s all about execution.
So not writing anything off. , but email is a big focus for this year and SEO, , like just, , the things that don’t rely on a stroke of creativity happening on a daily basis. I definitely want to keep that, that as a part of the business, but building up the floor as well. So where, , recent convert kit, , Customers on building out a bunch of different experiments on that.
So excited to get that role in this year.
That’d be fun to dig in on one thing just as I was going through, , or like revisiting more of your Twitter feed that stood out to me and it goes back to the constraints. It’s interesting. Right? You talked about the constraint and the visual style means that no matter what I do, someone will recognize this, you like, oh, this is visualize value.
This is Jack, you know? And just because we have like the slightly pixelated, you know, like that exact font that look on a black background, And so when I come across it, you know, and I come across all your stuff cause I follow you, you know? Right. But you see it in a thread and you click into it. Cause you know, it’s going to distill some great concept down, but use the same style for like your Memorial day sale, which is, you know, really all you’re saying in this graphic is like, Hey, there’s a bigger discount on Friday.
The discount decreases over time, but I’m trained. And everyone else is of like, oh, this is one I know exactly who’s running the sale. You And, and to I’m expecting that there’s value in the graphic that I click on. And in this case there is, it’s just that you have to like, it’s another step away. And so it’s fascinating.
I believe that your ad for the target market works significantly better because of the constraints that you put on it. , because I’m trained to opt into that is that side of it intentional as well.
Yeah, I think one of the fortunate things about it is the transparency in the tactics used to grow the business.
Like demonstrate the value proposition of the product itself, if that makes sense. So there is this dub, this layer of the more effective mock organic
marketing techniques that I can test and prove the, the better the content in the products becomes.
So you have this, , which would not be the same if you’re selling like physical merchandise, for example, right. You can run really clever ads, but those ad mechanics, aren’t part of the product that someone is buying. So you gotta have this double layer of proof where I’m trying to, , test and document things that work for growing internet businesses.
And in that practice, , you kind of get proof for the fact that these things are working by making your purchase. It’s kind of a. , Metta idea, but it’s been a, that’s been a really helpful part of the story is just being totally transparent about it and, yeah, like willing to fail in public. So you don’t have to on some of this stuff too.
Right. There’s an interesting point about audience selection that is in there. And I think I first realized this when maybe paying attention to, , DHH and Jason from base camp. , it was sort of the thing of like, wait, they have a product and the more they talk about how they build the product. The more, it drives sales for that.
And on one hand, you’re like, oh, that works for everyone. But if you break it down, like it actually doesn’t work for everyone. Right. If I run a pool cleaning business where you know, that is my agency, that is my service. And I’m out here talking about, here’s how I built that business. Those are two very different audiences.
You know, that the other audience is people who want to start pool cleaning businesses, or maybe those who want to clean their own pool. I guess you can have that, but then you need to go off in the info product world, need to do all this other thing. And so it’s, it’s very different. And the thing that I love about my business and you have the same advantage is I can talk about how I run the business and the people who care about that are also the people who would buy products and be customers of the business.
And so if you want to like build for longevity and you enjoy building in public, then it’s one of those things to make sure that there’s significant overlap between those two groups.
Because I think we assume that most businesses have that. And the reality is. I think only like 10 or 20% of businesses actually have that audience product.
Yeah, yeah, spot on. And it would end up in you building two different products, right? You have the productization of the service as a secondary business. I read this great tweet yesterday. So the dog that has two owners dies of starvation. So the idea that that’s like basically building two businesses, it might not feel like it, but it is.
And I think it’s very easy to get distracted by things like that, to where it feels like, oh, it’s just another revenue stream. Like none of it’s a totally different focus and a completely different empathy you have to have for very different type of person. Right.
Well, so diving in on this, for an example that came to mind would be Nick Huber, who has put her handle his sweaty up his business. Like his real core business is buying, , self storage facilities and, you know, building those out, getting the recurring revenue from it and all that he has just happened to, as you said earlier, become a citizen of the internet and like go all in on that world, build a following of over a hundred thousand on Twitter.
The more he talks about his business of how he built it. Not no one cares, no one who’s like buying self storage is like, oh, let me make sure that I get a NICU or like a storage box.
So he doesn’t have any overlap there. And on one hand, , you know, he’s able to drive new revenue streams. He’s able to meet lots of people.
You know, he came out with a course and. I think he shared that publicly, that it made, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars. , and that’s incredible. That’s two separate businesses. The interesting case is that it almost never hurts you to build that audience and to share because he has this sort of overlap of another element to the self-storage business is that he needs investors.
He needs coming in and saying, , you know, like being the limited partners and putting up millions of dollars for that. And so he has two different customers already, and, and Twitter is very helpful for getting that second customer, not the buyer of the self storage facility or the renter, but the limited partner who’s going to put in money.
And so you get this whole range of things. And so I guess I say all that to explain that it’s not one or the other, it’s not binary, it’s, there’s a whole fluid aspect to it.
I think that’s a great example where you have a, you have overlapping utility, like your ability to explain your depth of expertise. As an operator does perform a core function in your brick and mortar business too. Right? If he never sold a course, he’s still probably attracted multiple seven figures of capital into his investments by.
Demonstrating that he knows what he’s doing or understands the mechanics of the industry. And then, because he found success doing that. It’s like, well, there’s also people who want to learn from me too. , I think there’s an interesting, I think there’s an interesting insight in that that is, that is maybe only uncovered in hindsight, but these things that have some ulterior motivation tend to be like the examples of people that I know were doing something either for themselves or to perform a different function.
It wasn’t purely a, like, I want to, people want to use the NICU. For example, you didn’t stop that because you wanted to sell a course on how to build self storage facilities. It was likely the investor motivation that got him started. So this business is running. Need to like demonstrate my expertise online.
My original publishing visualized value graphics was just to find service client service, business clients. So is it just a lead magnet? And it got big enough that it brought in more service opportunity that I could handle. So that presents a product opportunity to scale the, , first scale, the design element of the business by teaching people design as opposed to selling hours of your time to work on design.
So that’s like a small nuance. I think that goes back to what we’re talking at the beginning of the conversation where the word selfish is, you know, you can interpret it however you like, but if there is no like drive to produce this thing for some selfish motivation more often than not, like just sort of get lost in the.
In the, in the weeds a little bit, or you’re, you know, you’re just pursuing a metric that doesn’t have a, , a direct relationship to the success of a business. You already own, like, I could publish a hundred visualized value graphics. And if I got one message from somebody that said, can I hire you for consulting?
That would have been a success as opposed to not having a consulting business publishing a hundred pieces of content growing an audience of a thousand people. And then what? So I think the service business, like a grind, and in the case of the Huber example, you’ve built a different type of business. And then the internet is, , you know, just adds additional leverage or opportunities to that business.
And then 3, 6, 9 months down the road, you look at what you’ve built and you’re like, ah, okay, light bulb goes off. Here’s another opportunity to serve the people that are already subscribed to your stuff.
Yeah, well, yeah. And it gives you that. Like success is going to take so long to actually achieve, you know, , you’re going to have to have the hundredth graphic or more before people start like, oh, oh, I see this was all the same person I saw pop up, you know, like I get it now. And if you don’t have that, the value coming back to you in some way, then you’re going to give up that like, you know, graphic 14 or something like like, oh, I did it for the altruistic, like just to create art, you know? And, and, and that will die out. You actually need things, you know, you need value coming back either into your pocket or to your ego or something else.
Some feedback loop has to exist for sure.
So one of those feedback loops like this is ultimately a business show. , so one of those feedback loops is money. And so I’m curious, you know, courses are the primary thing. Are you up for sharing some of the numbers behind, you know, like what each of the courses earn. Each year at a high level,
Yeah, we did a 1.1 million last year. , and I say we, me and my wife, , there’s nobody else involved. , the breakdown of that, I think it’s about 60, 40 build one sell twice and how to visualize value. , this year it’s interesting in the last year was kind of a crazy time for online education and there’s so much concentrated attention and this really huge shift in remote work.
So this year, we’re still doing, we’re still hitting good numbers organically. I’m running far less. , intensity of promotion and the products of, you know, they’ve been, they’ve been in the X-date guys for a little while now, so just have to be more creative about, , building up that floor and bringing new people into the audience.
So we’ll be on track to surpass what we did last year so far, but there’s definitely, , there’s definitely a requirement to innovate on the marketing and the content side and, , you know, how to continue to build the audience and deliver value and also how to motivate yourself. Right. I feel like I’ve covered these topics in such depth and detail at this point, which may not be true to everybody reading.
So you can definitely repeat the, we can repeat the playbook and use the things that are working, but there’s also this element of keeping yourself entertained and interested. And, , when you. I think you can feel the energy of somebody promoting something, , genuinely based on like how they talk about it and like, , going through those feedback loops in real time as the product launch, as a product launches definitely creates a different type of energy than sustaining it for years and years and years.
So, where, yeah, it will be on track to, and I like to say double revenue this year. We’ll see.
The point that you’re making about the energy and it being something new, right. As we create things, we’re looking for something new, it can often get us into trouble because you could have something that’s working and you’re like, oh, that’s amazing. That’s working now. Let’s do something new. And like this stops working for some reason.
And you’re digging in. You’re like, why is that not working anymore? And I’m like, oh, cause I have worked on it in three months. You know, I haven’t put effort into it, but at the same time, it totally comes through when we’re following a personality driven business. If that person’s heart isn’t in it. Like, you know, we followed them along when they were super passionate about it.
They were building in public, they were sharing like, oh, here’s how course is coming together. Here’s everything. There’s that excitement there. That’s an interesting challenge of like, what does it look like in year two or year five, , where it’s like, I still care about this, but I’m just not passionate about it anymore.
Do you have, , either examples of people that you look to who have systematized that and solve that problem or your own things that you’re thinking about?
Yeah, David Perell is a good friend of mine and Write of Passage, is a great product. And I think it is probably, it probably does have something to do with the level of specificity. and , And , what’s the word I’m looking for? Not the timeliness, but the like writing. So of the two visualized value products.
Let me backtrack a little while the build one sell twice was really popular last year, but I think out of visualize value is going to be the longer term, , the longer term, , asset or that asset is going to have the most value over the longer term, because as behavior starts to change and people stopped, like this starts to become more natural, right?
And it, that business is just becoming obvious at a certain point, we still have a way to go, but, , last year culture shifted so aggressively that it feels almost try at a certain point to keep explaining these, these concepts that you know, everybody, at least in the circles that I occupied on Twitter was talking about this nonstop for 12 months.
And as a world. So it comes back to life a little bit. It’s, , you know, people have other things to do and different things to talk about and like interests that they weren’t able to, weren’t able to pursue for a year, maybe. , so yeah, I think something that is more closely aligned with, , the craft, maybe that design for me is, is that, so I’m never going to stop producing on the visual side.
And that pursuit I think is, , is eventually going to overtake that moment in time where we were talking about internet leverage, if that makes sense like that, that’s all still part of the conversation, but the visualized value brand is more about design than it is about like building replicable internet products.
That was one of those, like. It was actually an audience inspired idea to build, build one, sell twice based on out of visualized value, being a product. So my transition from service provider to leveraged information, product architect was something that other people wanted to understand that weren’t designers.
So doctors, lawyers, , video editors, whoever, how do you take this thing that you’re doing spending a ton of time on and earning zero equity in and build products? , I think it’s going to be valuable for a long time, but it does. , like I personally have more, , more energy for design over the long run than that.
If that makes sense. Like once you’ve explained that a thousand times that that content exists go and find it. Whereas design is this thing where you could spend 500 years. You know, perfecting it and iterating on it and you’ll, , you’ll see like tangible, , results show up in the craft as, as you go.
I think for me, like I always, I guess as my role has changed, you know, going from an individual like designer, doing design work at an agency for a startup freelancing, you know, and then working through to selling products and all of that. And then up to, you know, like leading a 65 person company, the now the skill that matters most is the ability to succinctly communicate.
Complex concepts and do that repeatedly. And so that makes sense to me that you know how to visualize value as a product is one of those things that can apply even further, whereas builds won’t sell twice as amazing as it is, is like a deep dive on a single concept versus how to take it across everything.
Yeah. And I th I think for a different person that like, maybe the opposite would be true, but based on my personal like skills and, , interests, that’s where your instinct has to kind of kick in and be like, okay, what are we optimizing for over the long-term here?
And, I think it’s that. And, and what is our actual moat?
You know, what, what are we, what do we do better than anyone? Or what can we do better than anyone I’ve given enough time and energy? And I think design is, is more that answer than, , all of the different ways you can spin an education product around building online businesses. Cause that, that, again goes back to our earlier point in the conversation, which is like a lot of that noise has just reached deafening pitch at this point.
And, competing in that world is just not something I’m, I’m very interested in quite honestly.
How do you think about new courses versus continuing to grow? like the, the two that you have, you know, or like, I sometimes explain this as like strip mall versus skyscraper. You get, , more retail space, right. In each case we have, we have more retail space that we can rent out, you know, any of that, but like, are you building a whole bunch of things and doing urban sprawl or are we taking one thing and like scaling it 50 stories tall.
Yeah. So I, yeah, maybe, maybe, I’ll, maybe some more quote me on this incorrectly in years to come by. I feel like I’ve put almost everything I know in those two products, I could took 10 years of work to get the experience that went into those products. So it feels like you, you can con you know, what I learned in the last six months can go into those and iterate on those
But is there going to be some highly specific thing that I stumble across that I think is worthy of designing a new curriculum around? Probably not. And that’s another reason why the that’s another reason why the marketers doing marketing feedback loop is like ends up in you sort of producing these products that dilute each other in some cases.
So if you have like 50 skews as an education business, that to me is like that kind of dilutes my objective, which is help people com become better communicators do build once or twice and how to visualize value need to exist separately. Yes, I think so. , but is there like nothing pops in my mind right now or I think, oh, I could like design another curriculum.
This huge set of experiences that I have, that I haven’t already covered that, that right now that doesn’t exist.
Yeah, that makes sense. And so not forcing it because I think a lot of people would look to maybe the interest waning in a, in a project or like that, that initial motivation, or they would say something like, oh, I want to double revenue next year. So let me double the skew count. and that, that results in a whole host of problems.
Yeah. And it’s a, it’s a much, like exactly. It’s like the short term solution to a long-term problem and diluting the work you’ve done to the point where someone visits your website. It’s like, well, which one of these? It’s like, it’s very simple right now. I mean, it’s like, do you want to learn design or you want to learn like how to build a leveraged it net business?
Or do you want to learn both? That was your options versus like the. And, and the curriculums of both of those things are way more principal driven than they are tactical. So that’s another thing that isn’t, there’s no need to go back and update them every time a product ships, a, you know, , a new feature, because it’s not talking about like, here’s how to build a website or here’s how to like, run this line of code it’s is how you should think about this problem.
Or here’s like a, you know, a mental reframe on an offline business versus an online business that this insight may not come to fruition in the next five hours for you. But it’s going to rewire the way you think about this to the point where, you know, you will have chosen different opportunities in 10 years time.
So that’s also a, a different way to operate or a different way to think about these things. And when you’re competing against like get 9000% ROI today, Then, , you know, I feel like the last three months on the internet has been a very strange time for education products in particular, because it’s like, oh, well, I actually have to like put the work in and the time.
And you know, there’s not necessarily going to be an infinite ROI on this thing on day one. That’s, , you’re competing against a lot of craziness right now.
Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. , I’m curious who you look to for inspiration on two sides.
One would be, you know, on the creative side, if anyone comes to mind and then the other would be like on the business side, if you think about the business of visualize value in 2, 3, 5 years, like, who or which businesses is something that is like inspiring and saying, okay, if I can create my version of that.
There are definitely. Most of the businesses that inspire me, like nobody’s ever heard of. So like the, actually went to coffee this morning with a guy who runs a, a plugin for, Poshmark. It’s like a, this, this, this tool that, , helps Poshmark buyers make more money, essentially. It has all these different features and it runs purely on Google ads, SEO, and he’s never had a customer support phone call in his life at rice, like writes emails back and forth, but has a, like spends eight hours a day with his family has built this product where he just goes in and, you know, thousands in every couple features a week.
And, yeah, it just has a ton of time to himself. The, I get, I get in the trap sometimes and be like, oh, what if you built a massive, like massive media business or a massive, , software company? Maybe that maybe there’s time for that. We just had a baby three months ago. So, , right now it’s like time optimization over everything and, , yeah, there’s certainly people I admire on the think in front vowel was massively instrumental in, , like shifting me in a direction of technology.
Brian Norgard, great guy product. David, oh, I mentioned Anthony Pompliano like, there’s just like killer content produces like that. Guy’s an absolute machine and , yeah, that’s, that’s so many, that’s so many, , so many brilliant people. I think the amazing thing about the time we live in now is, you can just build such a unique business.
And, I’ve always found that I try to emulate someone else’s model. That’s got me in trouble. So I’ve S I’ve seen like somebody, somebody, you know, being successful with some specific mechanic, like I can emulate that. And then it’s like, no, wait a minute. There’s a reason I didn’t arrive at that because it doesn’t fit with like, well, I’m interested in, what I’m good at.
So that like introspection of figuring out like, , what gives you energy and what you can sustain is far more, , at least for me has been far more, , instrumental than saying I can, I can emulate that tactic and see how it works. , yeah, the, the idea that visualize value graphics, a sort of disk, like a.
When inspiration strikes, you can make one and post it. And it leads to business results as opposed to having a structure, like a cohort based thing and show up five nights a week to teach something. For example, because there is plenty of monetization opportunities that exist that just don’t fit the way I, , I like working.
Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. , I was going to ask, is there an example that comes to mind of where you borrowed someone else’s or went to borrow someone else’s strategy or mechanic and realized later this doesn’t fit at all?
Yeah. So the cohort-based thing is, is the perfect example. So I’m an investor in Maven, do you know Maven? And I started working with the founding team there. It’s like the initial thing was like, I’m going to do a 12 week cohort-based course. And they have an incredibly talented team that work on the curriculum and help you structure everything.
It’s like, how do you engage the audience and how do you do this? And how do you, and as I was going through that process, I’m just like, this is not me. Like, I’m not like some people are great at running like 15 consecutive sessions or two, twice a week for 12 weeks. I couldn’t do it. And I realized like three weeks into like building these things that it just wasn’t consistent with what I’m about.
And then recently I just started talking to those guys again about running a course, like, oh, I’ll do a three day intensive bootcamp where I can get X, Y, and Z across that some pre-recorded materials and like I can deliver well, I know I’m good at, in, within those constraints, as opposed to adapting to this, to this format that was prescribed out of the gate.
Yeah, I’m sure you could make it work, but it’s like, if it feels like it’s. No 10 X the amount of energy required to do something that other people do really, really naturally. That to me just feels like a, a waste of time if you have other options available, at least.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s good. And you see these trends, you know, of like cohort-based courses or anything else come and, and then settled into like the natural, like audiences or communities that they’re a really good fit for. as they’re just being careful just because like, it’s sort of like, you know, there’s sort of this wave of like Groupon and living social and all of that in the or you’d end up with, like fab.com.
And I’m trying to remember like other ones of that time period where, or like when everyone was launching a mattress company, as an either…
And there’s like a huge need for mattress companies. Right. And it provides a real like, and we had this stair step in innovation. We can, we can ship them directly to people’s houses, all of this, but that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start a mattress company. You know, like only the people.
For everyone. Yeah.
The people who deeply care about that And that is a good fit for them.
Go that direction.
Yeah. I think some people, like there are a few people I’ve met that just like ruthless execute is, and that goes back to the like, figuring out what your, like, it might not be the product that you’re passionate about, but it might be like building a like system of like distribution or logistics and matches has happened to be a great fit for that.
It’s like, it really is a really was tough for me to like figure out what, what feedback loop I could do every day without getting frustrated. And it ultimately comes down to like that very specific type of design work. And then. The business model has to fit that as opposed to the other way around, if you want to stay lean and small and all of these, all of these, you know, internet, citizen, buzzwords that we throw around these days,
Yes, we have lots of them. Well, if people want to follow more of your, you know, your buzzwords and now I’m just kidding. , but everything that you do online, where’s the best place to follow you.
Twitter is the best. So, @jackbutcher and @visualizevalue, you’ll be able to find everything else from those feeds.
Good. Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and, it’s fun. I love following your stuff and I’m excited to see what the next year and many years beyond that hold for you.
Likewise, mate. Yeah. Thank you for having me on.
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