Angela Mader is the Founder of Fitlosophy, a 12-week series of fitness and nutrition journals that shuns quick-fix gimmicks and instead focuses on mindfulness and gratitude for goal setting.
On today’s podcast you’ll learn why she argues that persistence is more important than passion and how it helped her sell over half a million books.
In this episode, we discuss:
- What is "analysis paralysis" and how to combat it.
- How to promote the content you create.
- Why you should feature your customers rather than your products when getting PR.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
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- Recommended: Refersion, Pressify, Quickbooks, Trello, Insightly, Product Reviews by Shopify
Felix: Today I’m joined by Angela Mader from Fitlosophy which is at getfitbook.com, it’s G-E-T-F-I-T-B-O-O-K.com. Angela is the creator of the 12 weeks series of Fitbook fitness and nutrition journals that shuns the quick fix gimmicks and instead focuses on mindfulness and gratitude for goal setting. Was started in 2008 and based in Newport Beach, California, welcome Angela.
Angela: Hi Felix, thank you so much for having me.
Felix: Yeah, excited to have you on. Tell us a little bit more about your story and what are some of the most … The Fitbook is the main product, the feature product but you have many kind of different products listed here. Tell us a little bit more about the products that you sell.
It really has though always been circled around Fitbook because it really is the core of what we do. Everything that we do surrounds this idea of … Literally our mantra is live life fit. It’s a lifestyle, it’s not a quick fix and so Fitbook is still at the core of everything we do, we’ve just created a line around it to support people in their journey.
Felix: Very cool so say a little bit more about the Fitbook, what’s in it and how do people use it?
Angela: Yeah. Fitbook, like I said, I created it back in 2008 and it’s a fitness and nutrition journal so it’s 12 weeks and this is the original product. I say that because we have many iterations of the book since then. The original Fitbook is 12 weeks, you essentially set goals on a weekly basis, you set rewards, it reminds you to do different things on a weekly basis. Then you actually track your progress on a daily basis. Everything from your workouts and your fitness to your food and your nutrients and your portion control. It encourages sleeping, it encourages drinking you water so it really is more of a reflection and a really personal tool to track your progress through. We always say, a lot of trackers out there are what did you do, Fitbook is more what are you going to do.
The saying like, “Fail to plan, plan to fail,” Fitbook is all about planning so one of our sayings is, “Write it down, make it happen.” There’s just so much research behind why writing things down works, I can bore you for days on that but really writing things down is what works. We’ve taken that concept which at the time was very much like … My first trade show was an app all around me, every single booth around me was an app. Yet, Fitbook, to this day we have over half a million of them in distribution and growing strong.
Felix: Awesome. I was going to ask, in a world where everyone has an app, everyone uses apps, I’m guilty of looking for an app for anything that I want to make progress on. Why was it important for you to create a physical product instead?
Angela: Well, I knew that there was somebody like me, very type A person that really wants to have something tangible, I’m just a paper person. I knew if there were people like me out there that there was a market for it and all the research points to, believe it or not, that paper is what works. One of the studies that I refer to a lot is by Pew Research and they found that while most people do use some sort of method to track their health and fitness, they found that paper is actually the most effective tool and that technology really doesn’t play a role. They found that the average lifespan of a health and fitness app is anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks. There’s pretty short time to see results and so all the research points back to the fact that paper works. Yes, people ask me like literally the first question I get all the time is, “Do you have an app?”
I say, “Well paper is what works but yes, we do have an app.” We do have an app and it’s a goal setting app, it literally takes you through the process of setting goals. If somebody were sitting down with me having coffee, I drill them in a very loving way on what their goals are and why they want to achieve them. Then they use Fitbook to track their progress.
Felix: Very cool. Yeah, I’m a big fan of pen and paper too, like I was saying before, I use a lot of apps but I don’t get as involved or I guess I don’t get as immersed into the process whether it be for planning or maybe I’m writing something, just by the hand of putting pen to paper itself just feels like it gets you more involved and actually focused on the task. When I have an app, I’m almost looking for the fastest way to leave it and go do something else.
Angela: Yeah and there are so many distractions and actually it’s [inaudible 00:06:13] that research, this really cool article I found on entrepreneur.com which solidified everything we had ever thought was this goes beyond your health and fitness. Whatever goal it is you want to achieve, whether it’s financial or whether it’s career or whether it’s health and fitness, they did find that people are 76% more likely to reach their goal if they actually write it down pen to paper and, and here’s the underlined and bold, and also tell someone.
It really brings in this idea of accountability. At Fitlosophy, we try to not just create the products but create the accountability and this group that we call Fitbookers but I lovingly refer to them as my customers which are all in this together.
Felix: Awesome, yeah. I want to talk about your Fitbookers and the [inaudible 00:06:57] that you mentioned a couple of times. Before we get there, the very beginning of this … Maybe before that, what were you doing, what was your background before you got into this business back in 2008?
Angela: Jeez, actually, I don’t have a health or fitness degree per se. I actually did my undergrad more in computer science side of things and business and went into that. I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, I’ve been reading entrepreneur magazines since I was 12 years old, I had to do something in this world. I went to a conference some time and he said … It was actually Jack Canfield and he said, “What do you spend time doing where you lose track of time?” For me, it was reading entrepreneur magazine and it was reading any fitness magazine and so through this process, I decided I wanted a product in this space. I came up with Fitbook because it was something I was already creating for myself.
I actually went into my MBA program in 2005, I already had the idea of Fitbook then through many programs and projects in school, I used Fitbook as a source of a design project, as a source of a business plan design project, also part of a … What else did I do? An entrepreneurship course. I was using this idea of Fitbook for all these projects and so when I graduated in 2007, I actually had already started a marketing company but the only reason I started my marketing company was so I had the flexibility to start Fitlosophy at night. I started that at night and then I actually went full-time with that in 2008 and officially launched the product. Now, to this day, I do have certifications in personal training, in fitness nutrition and we actually bring on really knowledgeable people to help in the development of a lot of our programs.
Really, I think if you’re an entrepreneur and you just have an idea, it’s not that you necessarily have the credibility or even the education a lot of times. I tell people I’m super grateful I got my MBA but you don’t need one at all to start a business. It’s something that you have to do and that’s what I felt with Fitlosophy.
Felix: I’m not sure if this is actually an issue for you just based on what I’m hearing from you but when you touched on the whole credibility thing, I think this is an important point because a lot of entrepreneurs I talk to, a lot of the ones that want to be entrepreneurs are thinking about getting started for the first time. There is this feeling that they need permission to get started from somebody else, basically everyone besides them. Hearing you talk about, maybe you never experienced this issue but maybe talk about how you get around that or I guess fight that feeling where you need permission or need credibility, need validation from other people before you get started.
Angela: Yeah. I think it’s because people think that it’s bigger than it really is. When I tell people in the beginning like, it wasn’t like I thought, of course I had big dreams for Fitlosophy and for Fitbook but it wasn’t … If I literally thought, “Well I’m going to start this company, I’m going to sell in all these mass retailers, I’m going to have hundreds of thousands of people buying this product, if I thought that, it would be intimidating. The truth is, you just have to take that first step, if you don’t take that first step, you will never even know. I remember I was at my first trade show back in 2008 and literally, it’s amusing because it was me and my mom and my designer. Literally, we did not have a team, it was just us. I show up and I had at least 5 personal trainers come up to me and say, “I had that idea.” My response and I mean this in the most kind way was, “Well, where is it?”
The only difference between me and the person that said they had that idea is that I did it. I’m constantly encouraging people, if you’re not ever going to step out and just try, you’ll never even know. The way I get around that personally is, what drives me I guess is more so not the fear of failing but the fear of never trying. I really operate in this space of, “Go, go, go, do, do, do.” I may fail miserably but I’m not afraid of that, I’m afraid of not doing anything at all.
Felix: Yeah, I think what you’re getting at too is just, you’ve just got to get started, there’s really no other way to, no other just cliché that we can drop here but when you just get started, that’s how you learn … You don’t learn just from reading books or reading … That stuff helps but I feel like sometimes we spend too much time preparing rather than doing and I think that’s what you’re get too is just try it out and just get started.
Angela: Well I call it analysis paralysis, you can analyze something until you’re blue in the face, just start somewhere. For me, I started Googling, that was literally … How do I make a book, how do I make a book with binding, who will make …? I found out there are very few people to do this, I started calling people. I didn’t have this whole bold, smart business plan in place, I just started something.
Felix: Yeah, the beautiful thing about what you’re saying too is that you didn’t just randomly start learning a bunch of stuff that you may or may not need, you had something that you were already working on, you were taking action on it. By taking action on it, the things that you need to learn came to the surface and you could then focus your education around, “How do I create a book, how do I distribute a book?” It aligned all of your actions together when you started taking action so I think that that’s great advice that you’re giving. One thing you were saying earlier though that I would definitely want to go back to is that you said Jack Canfield said to you or said to the crowd that, “What do you do that makes you lose track of time?” Can you say more about this?
Angela: Yeah. I think it changes through different stages of life. For me at the time, my world was I’m going to be an entrepreneur if it kills me, this was literally my motive in life. That’s what I spent time thinking about, dreaming about and the most frustrating thing for me was, “Okay, great. I want to be an entrepreneur, what the heck does that mean because if I don’t have anything to sell, what am I going to do?” When he said that, I was just like, “Oh my Gosh, my idea of a good night is Barnes , Noble with coffee, sitting in the fitness section, sitting in the magazine section, buying all these business books that I don’t even know what I’m going to create a business about.
It hit me, if you can somehow combine your passion with something that you think you could make money doing. I think that’s the big difference too, just because you have a hobby doesn’t mean you can make money doing it. Here’s the other thing I think that’s interesting, it was my hobby and my passion at one time, when it becomes your business, it does take some of the joy out of the hobby because you’re doing it every day. I can seriously tell you to this day, I cannot read a fitness magazine now without it feeling like work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but even being at the gym, I’m like, “Okay, well should I be taking a picture of the product like this or should I be snapchatting this?” Sometimes what is your original passion, be careful that you understand that eventually, in order to make money, it does become work.
I couldn’t be more grateful because to me, it’s a natural part of my life and what’s the saying like, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” that’s how I feel.
Felix: No, I love that, that you say that just because it’s a hobby or passion doesn’t mean you can make money from it. When you do start making money from it, it does change relationship I guess to the hobby or passion because like you were saying, you had to show up every day, it’s not something that you just do because now you feel like spend today doing specific things and tomorrow you don’t want to do it but you still have to. I think that it doesn’t …. I wouldn’t say you start losing your passion from there but you just change your relationship with it. Same thing for me because I spend so much time podcasting and creating content, I have a, not to say a hard time but when it comes to consuming content, I don’t like consuming as much content I used to before because you don’t want to spend 24 hours on doing any specific thing.
Angela: Yeah, you burn out, right? I’ve been doing this for … I say I’ve been doing it for almost 8 years but the truth is I had the idea for Fitbook way beyond that. Let’s say I’ve been doing this for 10 years, of course I find things every single day that invigorate me and excite me but I can honestly tell you the entrepreneurship side and the business side excites me just as much now as the fitness side of it. To be honest with you, in some ways, I am more passionate about people being the best versions of themselves and I don’t necessarily think that weight loss is always a component of that. That’s how really our products have evolved and how I’ve evolved as a person. When I first started Fitlosophy, I had a little 6 pack and I was doing fitness competitions, I was obsessed with the gym.
As things have evolved, I still love working out, I love being active but it’s not all of who I am, it doesn’t define me. You can see that in my latest product which is called the Fitspirational Journal which focuses on more whole life concepts like gratitude and appreciating things and integrating health and fitness into your life in a healthy way but not having it be your life.
Felix: Makes sense. You had this idea for a very long time and definitely [inaudible 00:16:19] it out all the way through. I hear all the time people wanting to do things, have ideas for things and then once it gets hard, they jump to the next thing, it’s a very common problem. You’ve had this idea for such a long time so that [inaudible 00:16:30] on that. The other funny thing you mentioned was that you basically started a business so that you could work on your true business or your business that you really wanted to flourish. Tell us about that, once you decided to start this, you [started 00:16:43] a marketing consultancy?
Angela: Yeah. I started off in the high tech industry and I was doing marketing and consulting. I was doing it for other people and I realized that I could do the same thing with my own clients and start my own consulting company which I did the same year that I got my MBA. I literally, this is why it’s so fascinating, I wrote down on paper how much money I needed to make in my marketing company to be able to replace my full-time income. I had just landed my first 6 figure job at a advertising agency, my mom wanted to choke me because I said I was quitting my job but it was a rat race. I didn’t like the hours, I didn’t like that I was making someone else just super wealthy and I was doing all the work. I literally wrote down on paper, “Okay, I’m going to make this much and I’m going to start my own company and well I’m going to hold if I didn’t achieve that in the first year.”
Now, what I will say is I’m super passionate about marketing and branding and if you spend any time looking at Fitlosophy you could see that sometimes, even your talents and things you’re good at can be seen through your business. For me Fitlosophy was also an outlet and I looked at Fitlosophy as one of my clients when I had my marketing company. I had all my high tech company first my clients but then at night, guess what I did, I worked on Fitlosophy. I had logos and I had websites and that was where the high tech background came in because I could do all the high tech dorky stuff on my own at night and create this business on the side. Talk about losing track of time, I would work until 2 and 3 in the morning and now I look and I don’t even know how I did it to be honest with you, I’m tired. Back then, I somehow just had this crazy amount of passion for it and amazing amount of persistence obviously to come this far I guess.
Felix: Definitely. Give us an idea of a timeline, you just got a 6 figure job and very soon after that, you quit to start your own company, was this around 2008 as well or before then?
Angela: No, 2007. I graduated in 2007, I had landed that job towards the end of 2006, I was there about 3 months. In 2007, I graduated, quit my job and started Fitlosophy at night. I had been working on Fitlosophy all along even when I had my job but what I realized while having that job was number 1, I was miserable. I tell people this a lot, whenever I speak in colleges especially, I say, “Please don’t quit your job, your mom will come find me and hunt me down.” Here’s the thing, I knew … If you have a job that fulfills you and you’re happy when you get home at night, then you have that energy to work on that business at night. When I was getting home, I was drained, I was cranky, I was tired and I didn’t have this energy to work on my passion project. I knew that, “Okay, well, I can either sit around complaining about it or I could actually do something about it.”
Honestly, the more logical, older part of me is like, “Wow, that was bold.” I continue to be bold in the decisions I make in the business as well and part of that is because complacency is just not something that is acceptable for me. I can’t stay in the same place and you talked earlier about a lot of people have a lot of ideas but they don’t stick with it. Oh my Gosh, I have a file folder full of businesses that I started or ideas that I have or things that I completely [inaudible 00:20:09] out. The only reason I really stuck with so to speak Fitlosophy and Fitbook was because I saw an interest and it sold. Whenever people come up to you and say, “Where did you get that, can I buy one?” You decide, maybe you’re on to something.
Felix: No, definitely makes sense. I love that you … I’ve never seen so [inaudible 00:20:30] someone I guess on this podcast at least talk about this middle ground that you’re talking about, most people just say, “Yeah, quit your job and go on full time.” Or people that say, “Don’t quit your job and just stick it out until the very end.” You’re saying that if your job is fulfilling and it actually makes you feel you have energy on the day then stick with that job because you can still have the energy and the will power to work on your business after and outside of work, I thinks that’s a really important point.
Angela: [Crostalk 00:20:55] replaces your income. I was in a different place too, some people … I have a lot of friends that … Actually one friend I’m talking to right now about this concept of she hates her job, she wants to quit, she wants to do her own thing, how did I do it? She has a baby and she has another one on the way. She’s in a very different place in life and I’m not sure what decision she’s going to make but I didn’t have that element. I figured if I failed completely, I could find another job, I always thought that way and so many people … You have to remember, I started this company in 2008 which we all know was the complete down turn of this economy. People were losing jobs right and left. When I graduated from undergrad, people were getting signing bonuses, I don’t even know if they do that anymore but I was in the high tech space at the dot com boom, money was just like … Company parties were insane and sick almost.
It was very different in 2008, people were losing their jobs. For me, it wasn’t this choice of I would lose control but I felt like I was going to be in more control. At the end of the day, if I lost my job, what was I going to do? If I was starting my own company, I knew that if anybody was to blame, it was going to be me.
Felix: Right, makes sense. You created this product … At least the Fitbook initially, you created it for yourself, you felt like you needed it so you created it yourself, did you have to validate it in any way to make sure that there were other … It just sounds like the reason why you stuck with this one was because it was going to be profitable, felt like it was going to be profitable, felt like there was a market for it, how did you validate early on to come to that conclusion?
Angela: Well, the story goes that I created it because for 7 years leading up to the creation of the product, I though 7 years through college and high school, I had multiple series of battles of eating disorders and body image problems and all these things that made me very unhealthy. It was through the process of journaling, actually through a program I went through journaling is really what helped me identify my thoughts and my feelings and really dial things in and get control over something that was controlling my life. I knew, “Well, if that worked for me, it might work for somebody else.”
Honestly I just made it and I was at 24 Hour Fitness actually one day and this guy comes up to me and he says, “Hey, where did you get that?” I said, “I sell them.” Mind you, I did not sell them at this point and he said, “Well, where can I buy one?” I was like, “How many do you want?” He was like, “Well how much do they cost?” I said, “20 bucks.” He was like, “All right.” I went home that weekend, I printed out a couple of copies at [Kinkos 00:23:30], I had them bound, I bought little pins, I stuck them in there, I was like, “Okay, I can do this.” I still have those 2 $20 bills to this day in my office and I’m super proud of this. For me, it was like, “Okay, I’m on to something.” Honestly, I’m going to be really clear, I did not create rocket science, this is not … It’s a book and the reason it sells is this, I think number is we don’t sell any hype or anything like that but we do sell this concept of hope.
People that use Fitbook are hopeful that they’re going to achieve their goals that they set out to. We are not the only journal in the market nor were we ever be the only journal in the market. There are literally hundreds of competitors out there. The only difference is we actually are the only company that is in the business of fitness and nutrition journals as our core product and we’ve created a lifestyle around it.
Felix: That’s awesome, yeah, definitely want to talk about this idea of not just selling a book. It’s funny too, before we get there it’s funny that you said that you validated this for the first time just being out there in the gym. This is not the first time I’ve heard of this either from people, other companies that are in the fitness space where they are wearing their shirt or using their fitness gear at the gym and someone comes up to them and asks them, “Where can I buy?” Then that’s when they first find out. It’s funny because I’ve never looked around at the gym and wondered what is the next big product, I don’t look at anybody at the gym. Whenever I hear that, I’m like, “Wow, that must be great validation because I never look around to talk to anybody about their products at the gym.
You said that you did not create rocket science, I think it’s a really important I guess point to talk about because, especially for new entrepreneurs that are sitting there thinking about products that they want to create and they started thinking about crazy ideas of never before seen this and that. It sounds like you didn’t use this thing, you didn’t use that for this project or this product, is there ever a time where you … Like if you were to start over, would you take the same approach where you don’t reinvent the wheel or is there a place for you to come in and say, “Let me create something brand new that no one’s ever seen before?”
Angela: Well, it’s funny you say that because even though I say there were tons of journals out there, I really … Because I don’t want to claim this because it sounds like really super confident but I was having a meeting with my target buyer and the target buyer had actually picked up 4 journals from a competing company, they’re a huge company in our space and I had been in Target for a year and I was owning that isle. All of a sudden, this company comes in that has lots more money than me, let me tell you, and they have 4 journals underneath mine. I remember seeing it and I wanted to cry, I literally … No, I did cry. I sat down on a shelf in Target and I started bawling and I was like, “This is the end of me.”
At this point, I know we’re getting the numbers later but at this point Target was about half of my revenue. You can imagine when a competitor comes in, you’re like, “Jeez, I’m out, I’m done.” Here’s the fascinating part though, they didn’t sell, theirs didn’t sell. They actually ended up taking all the journals out and Fitbook remained. Here’s why, because I didn’t just create something like, “Hey, here’s what works for me,” and just put it on the shelf and hope it works. When I talked about my Fitbook [inaudible 00:26:49], you have no idea how involved my customers have been in creating this product. Everything down to, “We want an extra line for extra sizes.” “Okay, we’ll add an extra line.” We think that this is hard to understand, what do you think about this?” I have involved my customers since day one and the overall idea and concept behind Fitbook has stayed very consistent.
I will tell you that involving my customers in this process has resulted in a product that is from a design perspective really unique and creative in the way that it walks someone through the process of not only setting goals but tracking them and then reflecting along the way, it holds your hand literally. We also don’t take ourselves too seriously, it’s a funny product if you read through it. I guess my long point is that the competitors did actually come into this space but according to this talk with my fitness buyer at Target, she’s like, “You really created this space Angela. We didn’t even have a fitness journal in our isle until we met you.” It took off and one of these large companies comes in because they see the opportunity that they missed. With that I think I was really proud of the fact that like, hey, we brought back this old school concept of writing things down in the fitness space and since then tons of fitness journals have come out.
I don’t like to knock any competitors because honestly, I want people to use what works for them. I’m super excited that what we’re doing is opening people’s eyes to apps aren’t the only way, diet pills are not the way. This is something that has proven to work, give it a try.
Felix: Awesome. One thing you said about involving your customers early on, I think that’s a great point too. How do you get feedback from your customers, what are you doing? Then, the 2nd point to this is how do you know what feedback to take versus what not to take?
Angela: Well, that’s always interesting because I think the bigger we’ve got and the funny feedback like the emails, we literally … My funniest customer service email was, on our website, a long time ago, it said, “It’s [inaudible 00:28:54] size, easy to tote around and toss in your gym bag or your purse.” I get an email from a customer because you’re not … She said, “I want to return my Fitbook, it doesn’t fit my purse.” My assistant at the time was my cousin, she was in college, I needed help, she was helping me. she’s like, “I want to tell her to buy a new purse.” I’m like, “Yes.” In all seriousness, early on it was easy because we had our email list which literally started out with my friends and family and people that I went to school with and stuff like that and obviously it grew over time.
I did a lot of surveys, I’ve done a lot of user groups so we’ll do Google Hangouts and ask for people’s input. I also will have on site groups where I bring in Fitbookers and ask them questions about products and usability and things like that. We have a lot of different ways of asking people things but what I’ve learned is this far in though, if I were to change anything dramatic about Fitbook, I would probably make more people mad than I would actually make people happy. With that, we’ve started developing new iterations of Fitbook so for example, Fitbook was very 12 weeks, sets and reps image and the person that knows what they’re doing in the gym. We went ahead and created a product called Fitbook lite which was 6 weeks and it took a more entry level approach to reaching goals.
Not everybody knows sets and reps at the gym or pounds weights and so this was more 4 healthy tweaks to lose 5 pounds in 6 weeks. It made weight loss a lot more achievable. Then on the other complete side of the spectrum, we just came out with a product called Fitbook PREP which in partnership with Nicole Wilkins that actually is for the hardcore figure competitor, somebody that’s really into that body building space. We started developing out these products in the niche markets so that we don’t upset our original customer because I’ll be honest with you, I have people that have literally used Fitbook for 8 years and still have everything about Fitbook and they post pictures of them. I am more loyal to them than a new customer that’s like, “Hey, you need to do this.” I’m like, “No, these guys have been with me for a long time.”
Felix: I love this that you’re saying that rather than changing the existing product because there so many I guess like legacy, not legacy but there are so many users or so many customers that are already used to the way that it’s been done before, you created a new product. How do you know when it’s time to … You’re saying as well that you have iterated the Fitbook over time. How do you know when that line is crossed where you’re saying, “You know what, let’s not change the existing product, let’s create a brand new one for this other type of customer base?”
Angela: Well, a perfect example is we have Fitbook and then I name them all, I don’t know why, it’s probably the tech background in me so we have Fitbook 2.0. Fitbook 2.0 which people don’t know this is their internal names. We had to change it because we had the food pyramid and the Fitbook. Well, everything from food pyramid went away so we were outdated, people were upset so we went more into this, we actually created a concept similar to My Play but we call it our food Fitlosophy. We had to make a change on that and so we asked customers at that time, “What do you want?” We realized that there were … People were like, “Well you have space for cardio but you don’t have space for classes.” We were like, “That’s a really good point.” so we added that. Anything that made sense and where we felt like these customers have really go input and adding extra space of exercises while keeping the integrity of the product or people wanted to originally add space to track calories and I was adamant against that.
Counting calories was like the death of me when I was battling my issues with eating disorders and so I wouldn’t put anything about calories in there so I would say no. There were some standards that we just said, “No, this is what Fitbook is.” Fast forward, our Fitbook PREP that we just came out with, it does encourage counting your macros because frankly, somebody that’s competing at a high end athletic competitive part of the sport, they have to be tracking those things. We really try to separate them so that we encourage the user regardless of their goal.
Felix: I like that. It sounds like you’ve based on what is the goal of the customer and if it can’t achieved with that same product without changing it too much, you create a new one, I think that’s a great approach. One thing you were saying earlier was that you don’t sell a book, you sell hope and this is another thing that I think you said to us in the pre-interview portion which is that, people don’t want to be marketed to, they want to be inspired. I think these 2 are very closely … Too close that you say that are very closely aligned. Tell us a little bit more about this, what do you mean by not selling a book or not selling a product but instead selling this kind of feeling of hope?
Angela: Yeah. I think … I’m in a very special market called health and fitness and while I love that because I have an opportunity to have a different voice, I’m not proud of the industry and the message that we send people. Happiness is having a 6 pack, happiness is feeling good in a bikini and looking like this. Whatever this definition is of what healthy is and so we really try to change the conversation from basing your happiness and your health on what the world thinks and instead being the best version of you that you were created to be. We really try to step outside of the product sale, almost to a fault, sometimes I’ll be talking to my marketing girl and I’m like, “We haven’t posted a picture of a product in a while.” We love to inspire people because I think that if you can inspire people and tap into what they really want to be and who they want to be, there is this one saying, “Aim to be a value, not a success.”
I want to add value for my users and so you have to couple that and marry that in a smart way to sales. Obviously at the end of the day, we’re not running a non-profit here but what drives this business in my opinion is the fact that the products work. If all I need to do is inspire people and convince them that, “You know what, there is another way and you don’t have to be what the world thinks to be happy.” I believe that they will want more of where that came from. We try to do that through, whether it’s just inspirational images we post a lot on social media to blog posts. One of our recent blog posts was reasons why you should toss your scale because there are so many other reasons to lose weight but health is number one, not looking a certain way. Changing this conversation has really been I think a key differentiator in creating a different conversation within this industry.
Felix: I love that. In terms of marketing the business, what has been the most successful for you guys, has it been the social media or what other I guess mediums have you used to market the business?
Angela: Yeah, I would say early on because things have drastically changed. When we started this business, we … When I started the business, there was no social media, believe or not, I know that makes me sound really old but we didn’t have social media and so we started out with email marketing. Other ways that we’ve decided to market the business obviously is through social media, email marketing is a huge part of how we actually retain people and actually nurture our relationships with people. It’s through content so blogs are huge for us. We do SEO, we’ve seen a lot of success with that because frankly if people can’t find you, they’re not going to buy you. One of our most successful ways early on was PR. When I say PR, it was literally Angela packing up a red box and finding the name of editors and sending it to them and hoping that they would feature it.
We got some early winds pretty early on with some magazines, got some placements so that really helped spread the word. Fast forward to today, we really do lean heavily on email marketing, content marketing and a lot of SEO.
Felix: Cool so email marketing, content marketing, SEOs. Let’s start with email marketing, you mentioned that you used email marketing a lot to retain customers so tell us a little bit more about how do you use email to do that?
Angela: Yeah so here’s the cool thing about our product, if somebody buys a product and then they’re like, “Okay, what next?” We have this opportunity to help them. We use auto emails so that let’s say somebody receives a Fitbook, maybe a week after they receive it we’re like, “What’s your goal? If you need help setting a goal, try out our app, it’s free.” We nurture that and then say, “Hey, get you goal.” Then a couple of weeks in we say, “Great job, keep going, how’s it going, connect with us on social media so you can be part of the Fitbook family.” Then 6 weeks in, halfway there, we really do nurture them through the process of using our product. Let’s say they buy one of our products, lets say our food scale or our snack stocker, anything like that, we will send them recipes or we’ll send them information that not only just gives them the product but actually gives them useful information for how to use the product. In that way you’re nurturing them through the process.
Felix: That’s an awesome point because I think when a lot of us think about email marketing or [inaudible 00:38:10] email campaign or auto respond or you’re talking about, we think about hitting the recipient with as many things as possible, as much content as possible, as many other things to buy as possible. I think what you’re getting in and I’ve heard of this as well is to help the customer get the most value out of the product that they just bought from you. Getting them to realize the value of it and get the most out of it, that’s how you win the customer, not by bombarding them with more things but help them get the most out of what they’ve already bought from you. It’s sounds like that’s what you’ve been doing which is based on what they’re buying, helping them get the most value out of that particular product, I think that’s a great move.
Angela: Yeah and I think one thing too is it obviously makes sense because we love our customers but from a complete business and logistical perspective, it costs way more money to acquire a new customer. Think of your cost acquisition for a new customer, it’s a lot more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer. The challenge and the opportunity is thinking about yes, getting new customers is great, you want to spread the word but how do you nurture that existing customer? Not only do they continue buying from you but they actually spread the word about you as well.
Felix: Yeah, that’s an awesome point. How do you actually get these people onto your mailing list to begin with, what are some strategies that have worked well for you?
Angela: Yeah so we do a lot with Shopify, I love Shopify. Our blog is a huge source of traffic from a mailing list perspective. We’ll offer content, we’ll post a really yummy looking recipe on social media or in an email blast and we’ll post it on the blog and then they’ll get all the recipes on our blog. When they get there obviously they’re encouraged to sign up. We also do special free things, a lot of free things on our website. For example, every month I release a new calendar, it’s just a printable calendar where you go to getfitbook.com/calendars and you can download a monthly go getter calendar. Obviously we want your email address when you get there. We have different landing pages for why people come to the site. I’d be honest, the best and most effective way we have actually uped our subscription rate is when people first go to getfitbook.com and they land on our homepage, we’re trying every month, actually we’ve been doing this for about 4 to 5 months now, is testing a different offer to see what drives subscription.
We’ve done everything from testing 10% off your first order to free shipping on orders of $48 dollars or more or get a free recipe book if you sign up for our … What we’re really doing is identifying what is converting and not only that but what is converting those newsletter subscribers then into customers.
Felix: I love that, I think the A/B testing, the way you’re doing is key because you can always have a new winner and then find new ways to beat that winner over and over again over time, you’re just going to increase your conversion rate for emails and of course for sales as well.
Angela: Yeah. Just by the way, free shipping trumps all almost all the time. It’s just a little heads up for maybe your listeners. People want free shipping and in the world of Amazon, it’s almost the only way to compete. Now, what we’ve found is to make it profitable, underlying keyword bold, is to make sure that it’s on a certain dollar [inaudible 00:41:31], sorry to interrupt you.
Felix: No, thank you and keep on doing that, I think those are great gems dropping there. Cool so when it comes to content marketing, you guys you do post pretty consistently on the blog, it looks like at least once a week. How do you know what kind of content to create for the blog especially if you’re turning out so much content?
Angela: You’re making it sound like we’re so strategic, thank you. It’s called … I will be reading a magazine and have an [crosstalk 00:42:00], I’ll have an idea or I’ll be on the set on the gym and be like, “Oh my Gosh, we have to do this.” I do have … Early on I was the only blogger and I love to blog and I have more time, I wasn’t managing there as much. I would blog literally I think every day, it was amazing. Honestly, I think it was a huge reason that we got a lot of traffic because blogs really do drive traffic. Now, as time has gone by, I’ve hired somebody to oversee our marketing, we have a blog editor now and so they really work on putting together a content calendar a month in advance. We look at things like today is national back to work day for example, we have a blog on biking to work. “Even if you don’t have a bike, here’s how you can participate and how to be healthy at work.”
We’ll look at events coming up, it also will revolve around any kind of things that are going on in the industry but we really try to do consistent things. We feature one fab Fitbooker every month so we know consistently we’re going to do that. We try to post one kind of recipe article or post a week. They really do a great job of creating that calendar but I’m still very highly involved in it because I want to be able to curate good information that is very relevant to our followers but I’ll be honest, they’ve done a phenomenal job and I just oversee it now. It’s been really great.
Felix: Yeah, that’s great that you now have a team working to help you create this content. Are people just discovering the blog through the SEO and just through Google searches, how are they coming across these articles that you’re putting out?
Angela: Well we obviously promote them to all of our email lists and every time a blog is posted, it’s auto sent to our email list. Then we’ll do another follow up a couple of days later like, “Hey, if you didn’t see this.” We also use social media as a really key driver because on social media, people … I don’t feel like people want to be sold to on social media. They want to engage and they want to create a relationship. We will do things like, number one we inspire people daily, we literally post motivational quotes or something like that every single day. However, what we’ll do is we’ll post an image of the recipe or the workout like I think today’s post was a picture of me and my bike. We’ll say, “You want our 4 tips to stay fit at work, go to getfitbook.com/blog. What we do on social media is we give them something and we try to give them some content and say, “If you want more, go to our blog.”
We really use our social media to send people to the blog. We also do giveaways on the blog. We try to do that so that we engage people on the blog in a very more intimate way than we do say on social media.
Felix: Yeah, that makes sense. I think that that’s the key step that sometimes people miss, they spend so much time creating the content but the promotion is the key because people are not going to come across unless you’re actually pushing it out there so that’s great advice, putting it out. Especially like you’re saying, people don’t want to be sold to on social media so that’s a great opportunity to post content because content is not directly selling it but still there’s a tie back to your business itself.
Angela: Well and one of the things that I’ve seen be super [inaudible 00:45:07] in here and I noticed this on certain pages that I follow on Facebook and social media is there’s this curiosity factor. We’ve started things like … One of our most popular blogs is like the one food hack you’re not doing in the kitchen. If you read that you’re like, “What am I not doing? I have to read this.” Then we send them to a blog and we give them all these ways, [tons 00:45:30] of food scale that you didn’t think about. It’s not necessarily, “Hey, buy our food scale.” It’s like, “Hey, did you know you could do this, this and this?” We really try to add value more than just sell.
Felix: Yeah, I love that title that you’re talking about, playing on the curiosity thing. I’m a big fan of that too, I love having those kinds of headlines because it really does pull a lot of psychological leverage that get people to take action. Sometimes when people are doing things like that, you hear a lot of people complaining about, “It’s a click bate title.” For me, I always say it’s not … I don’t ever consider anything click bait if it actually provides a value at the end of the day. You’re clicking through and you’re learning something and getting something out of it, please, click bait me into clicking on your article if I’m getting something out of it.
Angela: It works, I’m such a sucker for it on Facebook.
Felix: Me too.
Angela: What am I not doing?
Felix: Yeah so one other thing that I think you mentioned was about PR. You I think told us this before the podcast, before today was that rather than focus on promoting the product itself or the business itself, you focus on promoting your customers, your fab Fitbookers. Tell us a little bit more about I guess this different approach to PR?
Angela: Well and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I don’t love the product placement too and that’s been our strategy from day one is like, “Put the book in your holiday guide.” That’s been done and we love every placement that we get, don’t me wrong but what has been really fabulous is seeing our fab Fitbookers get this opportunity to share their weight loss story in a really big way. We had one fab Fitbooker, Megan, she is young, super inspiring, she’s lost over 60 pounds … No, actually 80, I correct myself. She was featured in the New York post and she was also featured in Women’s Health Magazine. It was huge, the hits were crazy, I remember seeing our followers on Instagram blowing up but I couldn’t figure out why and it was because New York Post picked it up.
Aside from the fact that she used Fitbook, she got to be the star of the story of her life losing this amazing amount of weight and she was 23 when she was a college athlete and she literally had a heart disease and went through a procedure and she knew she had to lose weight. Fast forward, she ended up losing 80 pounds. She’s super inspiring and I love that her story is told. Actually just this month, one of our fab Fitbookers, Trisha, she was featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine and she’s lost 140 pounds using the book. She literally has … Her life is completely different, she runs marathons, half marathons, she ran one ultramarathon, all these triathlons. Their lives are going to be the story that inspire other people.
When I talk about PR, it’s not necessarily “profiting off of their success” but it is putting them at the corner point of the story where they should be. The truth is, Fitbook is just a tool to help them get there, they’re the ones that do the work. I love this because that’s what it’s all about. Just because you see a book and it’s 22.95 at getfitbook.com, that’s not inspiring, that does not change lives. Seeing Trisha who lost 140 pounds, seeing Wayne who was an alcoholic who overcame his disorder, his alcoholism and lost 70 pounds, seeing Megan who lost 80 pounds, that is what inspires people. That really has been our approach is to really put them where they belong and not [some of the 00:49:02] spotlight.
Felix: Yeah, I love it that you’re on a first name basis with a lot of your customers. It’s so true that those kinds of stories are way more interesting than just talking about the product itself. You may have an amazing product, I think the personal stories are always going to be much more interesting and much more relatable and it’s going to be very hard to be a better salesperson than your happiest customers. They’re the ones that are going out there, have way less of a bias view, they love your product of course so there’s bias there but hearing from someone that’s just like them that’s been in the same situation as them, as your other customers and hearing about their success because it they’ve used your product I think you can’t get a better … I don’t want to turn it just a sales message but they’re going to be doing the selling for you way better that you could yourself.
After all these kind of marketing strategies that you’ve used successfully, just give us an idea how successful is the business today, it think you mentioned earlier that there’s 500,000 Fitbooks I guess that have been purchased since the beginning?
Angela: Over half a million, I don’t have an exact number because literally we’re in production at least every month. I know we hit the half million mark actually towards the beginning of this year. We are in Walgreens, Target, Amazon, Vitamin Shoppe and obviously we sell in our website as well as select other small gyms and clubs and stuff like that. Successful is such big term but the way I look at the company as that we continue to grow year over year. A big part of that has been our website and so I see that as a huge success.
Felix: Angela I know you have a feature coming in on Entrepreneur Magazine, can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. In the June issue actually, they’re doing a feature on our switch to Shopify. They have this column called the fix and it’s essentially an entrepreneur that had a problem and how they solved it and then the results of it so they’re actually writing the article about our switch to Shopify in June of 2015. Just to give you an idea, we actually saw 119% growth from Q1 in 2015 to Q1 in 2016, 119% growth year over year in sales. It’s just been a huge part of our success as we move to more of the [inaudible 00:51:26] online growth strategy. Yeah, they’re doing a whole article about it, I got to do a photo shoot, everything, it was so much fun.
Felix: That’s awesome so in June issue, I guess it will be out by the time this podcast is out. Speaking of Shopify, what kind of other tools and apps are there on Shopify or off Shopify that you use to help your run the business?
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. Shopify, we do a lot of integrations, that is partly why we chose it. Mailchimp is a huge part of our email marketing strategy obviously and Mailchimp is obviously a leader in this space. We use email marketing with Mailchimp, I’m a huge fun, it’s actually really funny to use too if you’ve ever used it. Other apps that we use on Shopify specifically is we have product review features, we added that because product reviews is a huge part of why I buy things for example like on Amazon or … I’ll always look at reviews. We have that, we also have Refersion, R-E-F-E-R-S-I-O-N is our affiliate system so we can get our users who love us talking about us. We have an app called Presefy which actually creates clickable, buyable links from our press placement.
For example the press placement I was talking about with Trisha, I was talking about Fitbook, we’ll show the press placement and then over on the right, Presefy actually pulls in a link to actually buy that product that was featured in the article which is really cool. Other integrations that I could not live without Quickbooks online, that was a huge reason why we actually made the switch to Shopify as well was the integration with Quickbooks online was huge. Anybody that’s using the desktop version of Quickbooks, please switch for the love of God, Quickbooks online is the coolest thing ever. From an app perspective, one app that I literally don’t think I could live without, we used it internally for our team and it’s free is called Trello, T-R-E-L-L-O. Everybody talks about Slack and frankly, I’m not smart enough I don’t think to use Slack yet, I tried, I really tried,
Trello is so easy for us as a team so we manage all our projects, we all manage our marketing calendar, our team calendar, we manage our own personal to do list, everything through Trello, it’s amazing. We also use Google Docs, we use Insightly, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it but Insightly is a CRM for a small business. They’re a sales force and all those but they’re super expensive. Insightly is extremely affordable, it integrates with your email platform, it makes CRM possible I think for the small business. Then well obviously Dropbox and we use One Drive which is actually a Microsoft platform. We actually all run Macs internally but we do use One Drive as our internal sharing system for remote basically file management.
Felix: Very cool, yeah. One other thing I want to talk about here which was again discussed before the interview was that you said perseverance trumps passion. You went as far to say passion is overrated, tell us a little more about that, what’s your I guess perspective on this whole perseverance versus passion?
Angela: I guess I say that because I have a ton of passion. Passion is not what pays the bills, passion is something that can grow thin and it can wear out over time whenever you’re not seeing the success that you wanted to see. The ability to have perseverance is the only thing that gets you through. So many people are like, “I’m passionate about this.” That’s great but does that have longevity? I always say passion is super important it’s what gets you started but perseverance is what gets you through.
Felix: Cool. Let’s say there’s a listener out there that says, “Okay, I know I need perseverance and Angela’s saying I need perseverance so how do I get more perseverance?” What can you do I guess to work on being more persistent and be persistent when times are rough?
Angela: I was asking my team about this because I wanted to prepare for this and have something wise to say and one of my team members said, “I know what your super power is.” I’m like, “I did not know I had a super power, what is it?” She’s like, “Never take no for an answer.” That is so true, whether it’s in a meeting with a buyer, whether it’s a conversation with anyone, whether it’s a vendor, a customer, a client, an employee, when I say don’t take no for an answer, it’s not that I would get my way, it’s that there is always a better way to figure it out. I don’t think you can teach perseverance but I’m also in the school of thought that you can’t teach entrepreneurship either. I think there are key philosophies and key strengths and key … There are a ton of things I’m not good at Felix and we could spend all day telling you all the things I’m really not that great at.
I can tell you that you can’t tell me to stop, you can’t make me quit. If I choose to, I may decide to go a different direction with the business, I might decide to create something different or new but you can’t tell me I can’t do something because that’s just not the way I think. I don’t think that’s something that you can be taught but I guess my advice for anybody would be just as adamant as you are about wanting something in your life, you have to able to put that equal amount of work into it because it does not happen overnight. I think so many people see the logos and the places that we’re [sold 00:57:07] and I’m so proud of those and I’m so honored. They don’t see all the hard work and the nights that I literally cried myself to sleep or that I couldn’t pay bills or that … I would go into a meeting with a buyer and be told no and then told yes and it’s this roller coaster.
You either have perseverance to handle it or you don’t. My advice is if you want to do this, buckle up because it’s a crazy ride.
Felix: Yeah, I agree. I think though if you do want to ever work on a skill or the skill that you want to build, I think it just comes down to doing it as if you already have it and then it’s like a muscle. The more you work it, the more you can get better at working it, I think it’s the same thing with perseverance. I think when it comes for you is just never take no for an answer, start doing that, when someone says no to you, don’t just be, “Okay, I guess I’ll try something else.” Don’t do that, try to find ways to make it work and then as you do that more and more frequently I think that’s how you build up the skill of perseverance. Definitely some people were born with more perseverance, it sounds like you definitely were but if anyone out there that doesn’t have, I think you can work on doing as much, keep just doing it essentially.
Cool so thanks so much Angela. What’s in store for the remainder of this year, what kind of goals do you have, I know you probably have this all written down somewhere so what do you want to do this year?
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. I think one huge thing for us has been what gets the most attention is our placement in our mass retailers. I think I mentioned before that at one time Target was 50% of my business. That’s not a good thing, just for anybody listening, that’s not a good thing. If Target pulls your product or Target is struggling in the market place which they actually are right now, that has way too much of an influence on sales. The way that we’re approaching 2016 and into 2017 is actually diversifying our channels pretty dramatically. Part of that was actually our switch to Shopify last year. Historically, our direct online sales has been about 10% of our revenue, last year it was 15% of our revenue and this year, our goal is to forecast it to be 20 to 25% of sales. It’s actually the largest growing segment of our business is our online sales.
Here’s why it’s important, I guess for anybody listening, as you know, our margin and our profitability on any of our online sales is dramatically higher than anything that we’re going to do through Walgreens and Target, Vitamin Shoppe, Amazon. We’re really diversifying the business in a new way and the other thing is I love this because with this new model, we actually have a lot closer connection to our customer. Somebody that buys the Fitbook at say Target or buys the Fitspiration Journal at Vitamin Shoppe, they don’t necessarily know who Fitlosophy is and we don’t have the opportunity to market to them.
We now have this opportunity as online sales is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our revenue to actually nurture the customers in a more intimate way.
Felix: Awesome so getfitbook.com is the site, that’s G-E-T-F-I-T-B-O-O-K.com. Anywhere else you recommend our listeners to go and check out if they want to follow on what you’re up to and what you’re up to with the business?
Angela: Yeah, you can find Fitbook, F-I-T-B-O-O-K on Instagram and on Twitter and on Snapchat. We also are Fitbook by Fitlosophy on Facebook. I really recommend just connecting on our website, if you go to getfitbook.com/tryit, we actually have this free downloads so you can see what the products are. I don’t try to sell people on anything that doesn’t work for them so I love giving people a glimpse inside our products and say, “Hey, try it out.”
Felix: I love it, I’m just taking a look at this now, I think anyone out there should look at this because I think it’s a great way to get someone involved or get a customer get a better understanding of the value of your business without [actually if they 01:00:57] buy a product. I think it’s a great example for anyone to check out. It’s just getfitbook.com, try it on the top. Thanks again so much Angela, thanks for coming on.
Angela: Thank you so much.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial.
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About The Author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs, and founder of TrafficAndSales.com where you can get actionable tips to grow your store’s traffic and sales.