Nathan Chan is the man behind Foundr Magazine. His story is an inspiration to all start-ups and entrepreneurs-in-progress. Plus he’s an Instagram ninja and in this interview he reveals how he is using Instagram to generate 200+ leads per day.
- Check out Foundr Magazine: https://foundrmag.com/
- Nathan’s Crowdfunding Campaign: https://foundrmag.com/book
- Publishing software: http://www.magcast.co/
- Magazine publishing consulting: http://www.mequoda.com/
- Instagram research tool: http://ink361.com/
Transcription Episode 90: Instagram Marketing Strategies That Generate 200+ Leads Per Day
Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast, designed to skip the hype, skip all the fluff, BS, all that stuff, and give you real actionable tips and strategies from real digital entrepreneurs to help you grow your business on the internet.
This is your host, Derek Gehl, and today I’m going to be interviewing an incredible young entrepreneur who in 2013, in his mid-twenties started with zero, started with nothing, and launched Foundr Magazine, which is a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs.
Today his magazine is read by thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide. It’s a top-10 ranked business and investing magazine in the app store, and features interviews with some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs in the world. We’re talking about people like Arianna Huffington, Sir Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk, Daymond John, just to name a few.
In addition to building this media empire, he’s also a leading authority on Instagram and Instagram marketing strategies, and has built an audience of over 900,000 followers last I checked. With these kind of results, I’m definitely going to be asking some questions there today, and so without further ado, it’s my pleasure and honor to welcome Nathan Chan to the show today.
Nathan thanks so much for being here.
Long story short, I was working my day job in IT support at a travel company and I was really frustrated with my current situation. Really didn’t enjoy the work. I did go back to uni, to a master’s in marketing, no one would give me a job, which was really, really frustrating in marketing, even though I had a masters in marketing. In the end I was just like, “You know what? I think there’s something here around creating an entrepreneurial magazine.”
I stumbled across the opportunity to publish my own magazine with the self publishing software called MagCast. Then I thought, “What an incredible opportunity if I were to do a magazine. I think that will be just a digital magazine of itself was a good idea.”
Then I thought to myself, “Well, what are my interests? Where is there a market that I could serve? What is something that I could produce that people might be willing and interested to read and buy?”
I stumbled across the fact that there wasn’t any entrepreneur magazines in the app store, or the Google Play Store, or even in terms of print, targeting young and aspiring entrepreneurs. There wasn’t really, and still isn’t to this day, a brand that people can familiarize themselves with in terms of targeting young people, or aspiring of novice stage entrepreneurs, in particular young people.
I know there’s a lot of gurus out there, and there’s a lot of people that can certainly teach you their method or system on how to start, or build, and grow, and scale, a business but there wasn’t really a brand that people could relate to. Now, that’s kind of how Foundr was born.
I didn’t know if it would work, and I just said to myself, “I’m going to start this just as a fun, passion project on the side,” and you know three-and-a-half years later, we’re a multimillion-dollar company, and actually a million-plus consumer content every month.
I remember your first few issues, and I went, “Wow. Finally something in here that’s targeting entrepreneurs.” It really wasn’t for me about necessarily the young entrepreneurs, and so it grabbed my attention. I guess my question is, have you skewed past young and now you’re reaching a general audience, or is it still focused for young?
To answer your question we definitely, definitely do have a lot of people that are in their 30’s, 40’s. I’m 30, you know, in the 40, 50, 60, 70, you know ages that consume our contents and that’s cool too. We definitely don’t discriminate, and a lot of people … It’s all good. The content is still relevant to them.
I could say like, “Oh, okay, well if we make X amount of dollars, this our operating costs, and here’s my salary that I need to pay myself,” then it’s just a simple mathematical equation. I didn’t know that, and yeah that’s kind of what we started out. Still to this day to be honest, we’ve never really done any advertising.
40% of our revenue is recurring across the magazine, and we’ve created this club which is kind of like, you could consider it, maybe a membership side or in the info product world, or in the first week see it’s like a premium, like a way to house premium content.
You can actually get the magazine, so it’s bundled in the magazine so you can get that as well, part of this premium package, so you have 30%, 40%, at least 40% of our revenue is recurring from the magazine and the club. Then the rest of the revenue comes from courses, one off courses, and that will continue to be the case. I’d like to have our recurring to be at least 50% to 60% of our revenue, and that’s going to be a big focus for us definitely in 2017.
In terms of the business model, I didn’t know what that would look like, I just literally worked it out along the way Derek, and I was lucky enough to stumble across this resource, and it’s an incredible resource for publishers called Mequoda.
What they do is, they help struggling print publications with how to turn their business around, because a lot of legacy print publications that have been around for 20, 30 years are struggling now that digital’s come. Not just from a digital magazine standpoint, but they don’t have a blog. They don’t have any “digital information products” or anything like that, and these guys help these legacy print publications turn those businesses around.
They put out so much free content on what it means to create a really sustainable really, really strong healthy magazine publishing company, or media company. I followed their model, and that’s kind of … I haven’t paid them any money, and haven’t bought any of their products, but I’ve just read their stuff and it just makes sense.
We have the magazine on the front end, it’s kind of a level entry $2.99 a month or $21.99 a year, and that’s the kind of level entry face of the brand. Then on the back end we have our … The core product is this club, which is a subscription-based, $50 to $70 a month, and then on the back end we have courses as well but 99% of their content is free.
We have a lot of people that listen to that podcast, go to the website, consume our content every month, read the magazine, and have quite a sizable email newsletter, that’s close to 300,000 now. Across all of that we have quite an amazing community, and building a reasonable sized platform.
The goal I think for us now is to create more premium content, but at the same time keep producing quality content at scale for free. Whether that’s blog posts, podcasts, whatever, and the business model I think will be to have the core product, some sort of recurring, and then on the back end have two courses at scale taught by experts.
One thing I want to set up next year is having an office in LA, and just getting an expert doing interviews, I don’t want to do the interviews anymore, and getting someone doing video interviews, turning them into podcast interviews, live streaming, creating courses, doing profit shares with all sorts of experts, and doing really high quality courses at scale, to the point where once we have enough amazing courses on how to do X.
It has to be evergreen, that we could bundle it all into one day have some sort of Foundr plus, or Foundr premium, which we could charge, bundle it all in for a recurring. I think that’s the goal for the business model now, but I never knew what … To answer your question, I never knew what what that would look like.
All I literally knew was selfishly that I wanted to create awesome content, wanted to build up this magazine to be able leave my day job at first.
I think Nathan what you did there is a good example, for all the the new entrepreneurs that are going, “I don’t know quite exactly how this is going to work yet,” but as you move forward, it definitely becomes clear.
Now, something I want to drill into a little bit here is, you’ve kind of taken a different approach, so I mean I’ve always been more in the, let’s call it the personality-based brand, right?
Now you’ve gone and you’ve built a more of a, not a guru, but a traditional brand, Foundr, so you’re building a company where people are connecting with this brand. Now one of the questions I have is, as you’re creating the courses, and the training that you’re doing in the community platform that you’ve created, are you communicating with them as Nathan, or is it the Foundr brand that is communicating?
We did do our first test, where someone in our team, who is just an absolute guru weapon at sales. He did a course on sales and webinars, and all the emails came from him, and he did all the teaching.
That was a really good experiment and it went well. I think yes, you have to be careful, I agree, because I definitely don’t want to be known as a guru, and yeah, I am around Instagram stuff but I don’t openly admit that.
We’ve covered the brand driven stuff, now I’m interested to talk about how you’ve created this magazine, and how that magazine then generates leads that you can … Because you’ve created a community, correct? You’ve got the subscription based …
I was paying like $4 at install, which is … It’s really rough. It’s really competitive. I was like, “Okay, what’s the lowest hanging fruit?” and it turned out it was App Store SEO. That’s the strongest source. That’s one of the strongest sources where if anyone types in entrepreneur magazine, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Foundr comes up.
We’ve done a really good job I believe of attracting people to the magazine from App Store SEO. The goal more than anything is to use the magazine as a great brand builder, and to generate the interviews, get the great content out there, but yeah we don’t push that hard to the magazine to be honest.
Now let’s shift gears a little bit here, and let’s talk about that, because you’ve had some incredible guests, absolutely amazing guests, right? How did you … I mean when you were first starting out, how did you attract people to the magazine, to be interviewed to take part?
Throughout this whole process I’ve not known what I’ve been doing, I’ve just kind of worked it out along the way, and you’re making me sound really good man. I just want to be very transparent with your audience, that I am working out all of this stuff along the way.
Yes, you’re right, I am … Some of these things I am doing, I think is a good move, I think it’s a wise move, I think from a strategy standpoint it is good, but working out along the way. Same with starting the magazine, I had no idea about … It’d be a tool for influence, calling it Foundr and having a magazine, no idea that’d be an asset based business, not a personal brand, not Nathan Chan, plus I try to be as humble as possible. That’s just who I am.
Then in the third place around utilizing influences, and using it to build the brand, didn’t know but worked out along the way. I think the first … To answer your question, we have wrote an in-depth blog post, 5,000 word plus on our whole exact process of how we get interviews with Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington, Barbara Corcoran, you name it. You can go to foundrmag.com/getinterviews because we do get asked this question quite a lot, was just giving out a whole process. You can go and check out that blog post.
But to answer your question, in the early days, it was really rough Derek. If you look at the first issue of the magazine, I didn’t even have a successful person on the front cover. I had a stock image, and that is because no one would get back to me, and it was really, really, really rough, and I struggled big time.
As time went on, I was lucky enough to get an interview with Richard Branson, and have him on the front cover of issue number eight. That was a big turning point for us, and I learned a lot of critical lessons around what we did with that issue, with the Richard Branson issue, I can talk to you more about that if you want to delve into that.
Yeah, the way that we do it is one, we have a magazine which is powerful. Two, we contact people when they’re looking for press, which is, you know, if people are looking for press … They’re promoting a book or they’re promoting a TV show, or you name it, then they’re more likely to do press stuff. Then we find the correct person so the gatekeeper, whether that’s a PR agency, or whether that’s this person’s assistant, or that person’s head of PR. We find them and we make phone calls, or hassle them, or whatever.
I just literally just got off the phone last night with Richard Branson’s head of PR, because I have a few requests, or some things I’m trying to work with those guys on. I don’t know if they’ll say yes, I don’t know if he’ll say yes, but I’m asking and I’m getting on the phone.
If you run right back to me on email, I want to get on the phone man, and that’s a key takeaway when people have. Very, very, key there’s a reason people have their phone number in the email signature. Call them. I hope that answers your question.
I love that and I mean your track record speaks for itself, and I think what we’ll do is I’ll include the link in the show notes that you just gave us for that process for getting interviews. Because just about in any niche imaginable, you can find experts, you can find people that are already influencers, and if you can find ways to connect with them and interview them and leverage their brand in your business, that can be a massive turning point.
You said you could talk a little bit about how you used Richard Branson, and how that worked for you. You want to go down that rabbit hole a little bit?
People buy whether it is a personal brand, or whether it is a business brand like Foundr, people buy from businesses or people that they know, like, and trust. That’s what we did when I got that Branson feature.
Not only did I push people to a landing page, if they stumbled across it, but I also pushed … We also gave away that issue for free in the magazine. One thing I want to do is, we’re going down exploring print now. It’s so funny, we’re going full circle man. We’re doing this print book … You didn’t ask me this questions, so if you want to delve deep on this print stuff, we can later.
I was like, “Okay, well let’s grow this thing.” How are we going to grow this thing? I was trying all sorts of things, guest posting, blogging on our own site, Facebook, Facebook ads, Twitter, all sorts of things to grow the magazine. Pay traffic, you know I talked about how much we’re paying for app installs. We’re doing great with App Store SEO, but you can only get so far, right?
We had maybe 100 or so followers, and I did have another friend, this is the actual friends that helped me come up with the name Foundr, without the E, my friend Jake. He’s an entrepreneur, and he’s from my area that I live in. Which you would know because I know you know Melbourne.
He was crushing it on Instagram in the health and wellness space, so he was creating physical products, selling super foods, and all sorts of things. Long story short he said to me, you know, “Instagram would never work for you Nathan. Instagram marketing strategies are only for people in the health space.” I said, “Okay, I’ll take that.” It does look like that.
Crazily enough, I saw after like two or three posts, that night before the intern started, the day before the intern started, a Google analytics hike. We made an extra $150. I was just like, “Wow, we’re onto something here.” And Instagram marketing strategies got interesting.
With that I took that and I just battle-tested the absolute crap out of the platform. Measured, tested, built. Measure scale, and test measures scale. I don’t know what that framework is from the way we set up, but … Build, measure, learn. I just did that over and over, and over, until we developed Instagram marketing strategies and built this machine that has been a massive, massive lead generator, but also a way to spread the brand.
Like incredible, like we’re closing in on close to a million followers. We will be there hopefully by the end of this year. Even if like you know … Just forget about how many leads we’ve generated, or dollars or whatever, just people hearing about the brand they probably don’t even know, they’ll always say you know, “Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard of it,” or, “I’ve seen you guys around,” and it probably might have started with Instagram marketing strategies.
Because we have, you know out of this 400 million, 500 million accounts on Instagram, active accounts, users, monthly users, and we’re in the top 6,000 in the world, and we’ve built that in two years.
We have quite a large account … I mean the top accounts are like Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande. We built that and it’s been … Because of our Instagram marketing strategies we have one of the largest business related, startup related, accounts on Instagram, more than Fast Company, Entrepreneur, or other traditional magazines in the space as well.
It’s been incredible, incredible way to just spread the word of the brand. Normally you just generate leads, but the Instagram marketing strategies actually really make a massive impact.
I have had this thought, and it’s just one of those things you think about, you think about, you think about, so yeah, we are going to do that I think, yeah. I think we should have more photos of people that we’re featuring in the magazine.
We do a lot of product stuff no doubt about it, you would see. We have the videos constantly going, of the Tim Ferriss issue with a cool video, the Richard Branson issue, the Corvair, Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, we do have that a lot, but I think we should actually definitely have some more shots of within the magazine, and then also of the people featured in, putting a long caption story in there.
Then also of the team and behind the scenes. I think you’re right, that’s a really good idea, and we will do that. Still I think 95% of the content should and can be just content the people love for growth. But you can’t mix it up. I would say that it wouldn’t hurt to do one in every 20, or one in every 15 of the humanization point that you mentioned.
Constantly when you’re scrolling down, like one out of every nine, will be something around the magazine, so they can see that, we’re not just your typical motivational quote account. That’s a big important piece, and then now we’re going to add in this humanization part of the brand, which is your idea, which I love.
I think you need a combination, but more than ever a great Instagram marketing strategies tip for your audience, is you can use a tool called ink361.com where you can find and run scans on your competitors accounts, and you can find the most liked and commented images. You want to repost that stuff if you can, and just make sure you credit, and that’s really, really key.
Also I want to be really clear Derek for your audience, because I know I’m going to work towards wrapping up soon, is you don’t have to post quotes as one of your Instagram marketing strategies. If you have any commerce based business, and you sell physical product, don’t post quotes. Don’t use the strategy we use.
We have also the other Instagram marketing strategies that we’re doing to utilize Instagram as a massive traffic source, an authority builder, and reputation builder, but yeah don’t post quotes. It is not on branch.
We have the in-house team to be able to produce really great content, not just the content itself but from a design and experience wise, so that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to produce this beautiful 250 page book, printed, coffee table style, die cuts, on the front cover.
It’s going to be an amazing experience, and the content is just amazing. It’s literally distilled down to our best stuff in regards to, and from the best in the world, best founders in the world, from some of the greatest companies that have changed the world.
We’ve distilled it down to ID validation, team-building, hiring, marketing, social media, raising capital, you name it. Every single section we’ve got pieces of gold that we’ve extracted, and yeah. We’ve been working on it for at least the past eight months to a year, on this project.
We’re going to crowdfund it, and we’re going to see if it’s something that people truly want, and we’re going to involve the community, bring this project to life. It is a physical product, and I’m really, really pumped about it.
If people want to know more, and they want to get the early bird back at deals, so you can get the coffee table book at a super ridiculous, like cheap rate that we won’t even really make much money on it to be bluntly honest with you. Just because you want to bring the project to life more than anything, and this is a branding exercise.
Now it’s time to apply the final essential ingredient to making the Instagram marketing strategies that Nathan shared with us today actually work for your business, and that is action. Go forth, take action, apply what you’ve learned and stay tuned for more info packed episodes of the Project Ignite podcast.
This is your host, Derek Gehl, signing off.