We have a great guest lined up for you today. We're going to talk about a bunch of really cool stuff. I've got with me Alex Genadinik who is a software engineer, and not only that, he's a successful entrepreneur and 3 times best-selling Amazon author. Today his focus is on helping first time entrepreneurs and business owners with their marketing online.
Alex has created over 70 online courses on Udemy and has over 50,000 students. He's written over 15 books on business and marketing. He's also got a YouTube channel with over 1 million views. He's the creator of a suite of mobile apps for entrepreneurs that have been downloaded over a million times as well, so you are going to want to buckle in. We've got a lot to talk about.
Just think of what could happen to your business with just a little bit of the kind of traffic this guy knows how to get!
“When you have a curiosity it just drives you to pursue it”
Let's just start right at the beginning. How did you go from being a software engineer to wanting to be an entrepreneur and building on online business?
When you're a software engineer you know zero about business when you come out of college. You still have your own ideas, and you think all of them are great. The one thing that if you can do software, the one thing you can do is actually make your ideas a reality. I was always tinkering around my job. In the morning, literally I would wake up early just to program some stuff. Sometimes on the bus, sometimes in the evenings, on the weekends, I would seriously nerd out because I was really excited about my ideas and seeing how they would fare in the real world.
I don't know if I really wanted to be an entrepreneur in the beginning. I was just curious and I just had so many ideas. That's the beauty of it. When you have a curiosity it just drives you to pursue it.
Juggling The Day Job
Lance Tamashiro: One of the things that I'm hearing is you started dabbling in all of this while you had normal employment. Is that correct? I heard you say you would program on the bus or wake up early to work on these projects. What was it like when you starting thinking, "Okay, maybe this is something I could do for myself."
Obviously, as a software engineer, you're dealing with companies that are making tons of money selling your software. What's that like when you're juggling the day job, juggling this thing that you've got, and trying to handle these both at the same time?
Alex Genadinik: Man, I don't know. I was at work, and I'm sure you understand exactly because we had the same experience. I worked in a startup of 80 people for a while. I saw the CEO all the time and he was always f'ing around.
He would travel to all these nice places and to the headquarters, and talk to investors...all the fun things. Of course, he made out like a bandit when the company got sold. I'm sitting here pursuing HIS ideas. I'm pursuing this guy's ideas and my ideas are getting shafted. I wasn't into that.
"I wanted to pursue my ideas"
I saw what he was doing. I saw what I was doing. I wanted to do what he was doing. I wanted to pursue my ideas. I want to see my stuff go forward. Seeing him inspired me and gave me more of a drive.
Yeah. That's a big thing, I had a lot of role models in my life both growing up and in business. I was raised with, "Go to school. Get a good job. Work for whoever you work for." I was lucky enough to get close to some executive level people. I'd never really considered that kind of thing and then all of a sudden I see what they're doing. I thought, "I can do what they're doing. There's so much more out there for me."
There was a huge mindset shift for me when I went from being an employee, and taking orders, and clocking in, to working for myself, and going, "I can't just go stand around the copy maker anymore, because every minute now counts." What I was always looking for, was, "How do I decrease the amount of time that I'm actually working and getting paid for, so that my hourly rate goes up, and I can go spend time at the golf course, or with my kids, or the things that matter?" That mind shift for me, was really, really hard to go from, "Well I just get paid because I clocked in," to "I don't get paid unless I produce."
Alex Genadinik: Yeah. But it's more fun when you're on your own, especially when I started, it was really hard. Now I'm in a very good place, but I first started, people were like, "How do you motivated yourself to work?" "I'm just not going to have friends." There's no bigger motivator.
Lance Tamashiro: Yeah, and that's one of the things that a lot of people never see, is all of the overnight successes were actually years in the making, it just happens that now all of a sudden, you're a best-selling author, all of a sudden, "I didn't wake up yesterday and decide that I'm going to be a best-selling Amazon author." That was, I'm assuming, time in the making for what you're going to write, getting that out there, having a launch strategy, all of those things
Alex Genadinik: The hardest thing was actually having the experience to have the information, because that took years.
Lance Tamashiro: That's something that people struggle with, is they see what other people are doing, and they're like, "I want to do that." Then they forget that they probably have some experience in a place where they could be a best-selling author, but it seems like we value what we know the best, the least. Right? In a lot of ways.
Tell me about some of these books that you have on Amazon. What are they about? How do you go from being a software guy, to now saying, "I'm going to write a book."
Alex Genadinik: Actually, in college I always enjoyed writing. I took some creative writing courses, and stuff like that. I was a little bit into it all the time, but I didn't really think of myself as an author. It's like you were saying, "It's out there, but you don't necessarily think of yourself as that thing." Then something clicks, and then boom, you are it.
I have a friend who was another nice podcast, Nick Loper from the sidehustlenation, maybe you know him. He's a big book guy. One day, I go talking to him, and he was like, "Enjoy the book." At that time, I had my apps, and the app just crossed 300,000 downloads. There's one feature in the apps, which people can ask questions, business questions. I took all the questions that they ever asked and grouped them into categories, and subcategories of topics. I ended up answering them in my first book. It was extremely well researched, exactly what first time entrepreneurs need. These are the ones that are using my apps. It was very well researched and comprehensive, on "How to Start a Business," really answering everything.
Lance Tamashiro: What I love about that is that you put out, "Tell me what your problem is." They told you exactly what it was, so there's no question. Is it researched? Is it going to be popular? Is it something neat? One of things that I always find that's hard for me is how to talk the way my market is going to receive it, and how do they talk? One thing that I love to do, and I love how you put this in your app, so they can ask you the questions, is they're writing the language.
It's not like you're trying to say, "You might have a problem with managing your time. What they might be saying is, "How do I mange my kids, and come home for work, and make dinner, and build a business?" You would have never come up with that phrasing versus when they tell it to you.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, there is a lot of that, and really just knowing what the most common issues are that come up. My first app was, "How People Start a Business." Then I thought that people who were on it were going to be tech engineers, like me. It was nothing like that. It was regular small businesses like lawn care, local cleaner, people wanting to open a restaurant, open a gym. I was like, "Wow, that's not at all what I thought." I wouldn't have known if I didn't put my nose in there.
Lance Tamashiro: That's interesting. Can you talk about that? You have an app, I'm assuming Google Play iTunes type if app?
Alex Genadinik: Yeah.
Lance Tamashiro: It's an app that helps people start businesses.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, well now it's a 4 app course, because I saw what the people were struggling with, and it was really just 4 main areas. A lot of the people who are the super beginners were struggling with business ideas, they didn't know what to get into. Once people got a business idea, there was the business planning, and the business planning app is the flag ship app. Then of course, once they ... All of them essentially asked about raising money. That's another app, a fund raising app.
The ones that got started, at that point, they need a market. Those 4 main things are the main troubles people have, so I expanded the one app into 4 apps. You just cover more areas.
Lance Tamashiro: When you started this, your initial app, you didn't have 4 apps, or go "I'm going to make 4 apps that are on these 4 topics." They evolved. You put something out there. Your market told you what the need was, and then ... You didn't have the master plan when you did this, right? That's what it sounds like.
Alex Genadinik: No, not at all. It was all from people asking questions. The flag ship app is a business planning app. That isn't actually what I wanted to build at first, but all they wanted to do is write a business plan. I gave them that, and people were really into writing a business plan. Whatever, and so I added that. It took off from there.
It really was the feature to ask questions and talk to me, which at one point, that app was the highest rated business app on Android. For the last two years, if you search for just the word, "business" on Google Play, it's the number one thing that comes up.
Lance Tamashiro: What is the name of the apps, or how would people find them?
Alex Genadinik: You don't even need it. On Android, just search business.
Lance Tamashiro: Literally, if you go to ... You just search business and they'll find the Alex Genadinik suite of ...
Alex Genadinik: I have an orange logo on my app. Yeah, you don't even need it.
Lance Tamashiro: You know what I love about that? It's not very often I ask somebody, "How do we find your stuff? How do we find your app," and they go, "Just search business." That is an incredible story, and what I love about it is ... This is true with all of the products I've ever created, or the trainings I've ever created. What I think is important, and what I think is cool, is never what the market wants.
One of the things that you mentioned that is genius, is you built in a feedback loop. You built in a way for people to actually contact. Basically, they could type in a question in the app, and you get an email, and start a conversation with them, or how does that work?
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, basically, I have an alert that goes off if they write a question. It used to be a free feature, now it's a little bit of a paid feature. It's cheap, but I just got to a point where I would wake up, and I'd have a gigantic list of questions to answer, and from people all over the world. Some of them, English is not their first language, and I would have no idea what ... I would read, reread, reread it, and I would still have no idea what they were asking, so I had to put a stop to it, and make it a paid feature. It's cheap, but that really killed 99% of the questions.
It's essentially a part of my day, I just answer questions. I love doing that because getting close to your customers, it's one of my secret ingredients anywhere, not just the app. My Udemy courses, I encourage people, even in my books ... I made a course specifically, and this is very interesting, it's my own unique strategies of how to talk to your customers. How to develop and voice that resonates with your customers. Part of it is a standup comedian, when they come up on the stage, they do all the work. They always say thank you, you're a wonderful audience.
The audience didn't do anything. That's a part of it. There's the bedside manner. You have to have it. Another part is you have to be open. For example, and take a little bit unusual steps. With my apps, there is no other apps that have coaching like this.
Lance Tamashiro: I've never even heard of such a thing.
Alex Genadinik: In baking, in cooking, in almost anything, except for games, you can have a coaching feature. This coaching feature was like ... Probably my business wouldn't be where it is today, if it wasn't for that feature. What you can do, and I add the everywhere, I add it to my books too, in my books there's a few pages in the beginning, middle and end of the book, I take a little break from the actual book and say, "Hey, how's it going readers?" I talk to the reader.
Lance Tamashiro: Pattern interrupt, right? We're talking about this, "Hey, how's it going?"
Alex Genadinik: How's it going, are you enjoying? I want to hear from you, and I give them intent to hear from me, because I give them free stuff. Every reader of my book gets a free course of mine if they email me. If the email, I develop a little bit of relationship with them, they are more likely to buy more of next books. They are more likely to give me good reviews. They are more likely to do a whole bunch of other stuff, engage in my other products, because I've become human, not just some guy.
They feel better. They feel more trust, and from that I retain them longer, and they give me better reviews, and of course these things help the growth of my products on Amazon, and Udemy, and the app stores. It's a little bit of a secret weapon. The course that I've made is all about just being able to get closer to your customer, and chat with them. Become friendly with them. There's a lot of extra benefits you reap from it as a business owner.
Lance Tamashiro: I love that, because one of the things that we hear a lot in marketing of businesses, you've got to build that know, like, and trust factor. Most of the time, it's just theory land. Okay, how do I do that when I don't have a list. How do I do that when I don't have a list. How do I do that when I just wrote a book and nobody knows. What I love is that you just naturally built thing into your things. I've never seen an app where I can respond to somebody, and have them actually respond back.
I've seen a few book things that are obviously lead generation type stuff.
Alex Genadinik: Mine is not in the gen by the way, I know that by ...
Lance Tamashiro: Yeah, but never something where it's, "Oh my gosh, the guy is going to respond to me." Normally when I see that stuff, especially in books, it's like, "Okay, now I'm at a squeeze page. I'm never going to hear for this person, they're never going to answer my question. It sounds like what you actually did to build your business, and I might be wrong here, but you're actually, personally, responding to these requests, and these things that are coming in, and having a real dialog with these people.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, every day essentially now, I have a lot of back and forth with people using my products, especially on Udemy, because I have such a big presence on Udemy. I have 74 courses now. What I noticed is people I interact with, people who might ask me questions, or just other people. Maybe I don't encourage them but they have questions. If I answer the questions well, and I send them a promotion for other course, I see their names on the transaction list. They're more likely to buy.
What I started doing is anytime somebody gives me a nice review, I write them a thank you note, because they already like me. Let's warm up closer.
Lance Tamashiro: Who does that. That's the thing. We do something similar in our business but the truth is, is when most people do a transaction online right now, and it doesn't matter if it's Amazon, and info product, or whatever, you just bought from this sales page and then you never hear from ... You might have email marketing, but there's never that thank you call, that personal note that you wrote to them.
One of the things we like to do, is we use send out card, and we'll send brownies or cookies. Somebody spends $1000 buck with us, why not spend $50 to send them a gift basket? Who does that, and they'll never forget you for doing that. I love that what you're done is ... I don't even get the impression that you did this with a plan in mind, but to stick these feedback loops into your software, into your Udemy business, into your books. You've got these products, but your real business is this feedback loop with your customers.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah. It's customer service as good as I can do it, but it's a part of our marketing.
Lance Tamashiro: I love it. When you say that, and I want to talk about this Udemy stuff here, as well in a minute, but I'm almost getting the impression, you're not doing paper clip advertising, or are you? It doesn't sound like you're worried about search engine optimization, other than being number one in Android, which is pretty dang cool. It doesn't sound like these are the focuses as far as your business goes.
Alex Genadinik: I love how you geek out on the number one on Android for business. I am a very strong CEO guy, so I wouldn't be their number one if I ... I see how, like I geek out on that stuff the same. First I was a better SCO guy, and very good at algorithm, manipulation, or basically just working with different algorithms, and not just SCO. All these web sites like Amazon, Udemy, whatever. App stores, even iTunes, they have ... It's not just a lot of SCO, I recommend YouTube. It's about a recommendation algorithm they also have.
Lance Tamashiro: Your programming background. So just to backup for people who don't know, an algorithm is basically the instructions set, or the decision making that a program has, and search engines are just a big program. What computer nerds like us like to do is, we like to look at it and go, "Oh, it looks like this pattern's happening, so it probably is programmed this way." Then, what we like to do is go, "Let me test that." We do little things to see if we're right on the algorithm. We start to ... We call it reverse engineering. How would we do that. That's what you're talking about, right? When you're saying algorithms is you started to notice the patterns and how things are working.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, and most people of course, when they think about online algorithm, the only thing they think about is SCO. A quite more advanced thing is, there's another algorithm. Is the recommendation algorithm, right. On Amazon, they show you people who bought this book also bought this book. You can make a very significant amount of money, if they show your book next to, for example, The Lean Startup. People who bought The Lean Startup, also bought your book. If you can manipulate the recommendation algorithm that way, that can be retirement money, because you don't have to work anymore because your book will get sold on passive income, you just would travel and live your life, right?
Lance Tamashiro: Marketed by somebody else's marketing essentially.
Alex Genadinik: Exactly, but you just have to get your book to be recommended there. It's easier said than done, much easier. There's certain strategies to do it, but they're difficult.
Lance Tamashiro: Your Udemy stuff then, is this the kind of stuff that you talk about in your Udemy courses, is ranking business, or what does your Udemy business look like?
Alex Genadinik: It's mostly business and marketing courses. I do have a course SCO, in which I talk about basically the challenge of Google Acio, and opening peoples' minds into other SCOs. For example, Google Acio, at the moment is the most challenging difficult marketing environment that's ever existed in the world. Every web site it there. Every web page is competing for key words, and you only win if you're in the top 10, and maybe just top 5. For most searches, if you're a business, it's a no go. You shouldn't really even try.
Let's say I tried to rank for the number one in business in Google. That would be impressive, but it's impossible, so I went to other search engines. In my case, it was the Android store. For other businesses, it might be a different business. I talk about every large site is an algorithm. Of course, I talk about the key words in the SCO course, all the basics. Key words on page, blah, blah, blah, blah. Google search.
When Google search becomes too difficult, I try to get people to think outside the box, and be like, "Okay, your business can be promoted on other search engines. YouTube is a search engine. Amazon is a search engine, and Yelp is a search engine. App store for app, Google Play for apps, iTunes, all of these sites are a ... most of the content discovery happens through search. If you leverage that, it can be a flood of traffic for your business. They're all gigantic, so I talk about that.
Soon I am going to make a second course on advanced stuff with algorithm manipulation for "How to get recommended." How to leverage the recommendation, because no one and, and people like to talk about SCO, SCO. All people talk about SCO, SCO, SCO. No one's talking about the recommendation algorithm, but that's really the powerful algorithm, because if you get next to, like I mentioned, "Hey, people who bought this book also bought The Lean Startup. You're going to make a lot of sales.
I get recommended on YouTube next to a video that has a million views, you're going to get a lot of views. More than SCO can bring you.
Lance Tamashiro: That's genius what you're talking about. There's two things, the first is, I agree. Most people when they think of SCO, all they think that SCO means is Bing in Google, just getting on those. The truth is that everything is a search engine now, and it even doesn't have to be Amazon, Udemy, all of these giant one, but there's even niche specific search engines now.
There's directories for all this stuff. It doesn't matter if you're in teaching music, teaching golf, being a pesticide person, general contractor. There are search engines that probably most people use every day in their business that they're in that business. They go and look up their competitors, and it's never even dawned on them before that that's a search engine, and why am I spending all of my time focusing on Google. Like you said, you're never going to rank for pesticide, you're going to have a hard time ranking for dentist, for all of these things, but there's other places that these people know about that they're using, that then can easily dominate, because nobody's thinking about it that way, and the people that are there, they're not professionals in it. Nobody's selling that.
I love that point that you made, and also the whole idea of being next to people on recommendations. You can't compete with The Lean Startup, you can't compete with Tim Ferris. There's just no way, but if you could figure out how to every time one of those books shows up, your book is the number one recommended, you get to leverage their name, and it almost starts to look like, "Hey this guy must know. Every time I look this up, I see this guy's book, I see this guy's book. I better check out who this guy is, eventually.
Alex Genadinik: I'll give your audience one tip for how to do that. It's not the end all and be all, but let's say in books, right. If you from your book also recommend The Lean Startup, or if you from your blog, recommend your books and the Lean Startup, so that your readers buy both of these at the same time.
Lance Tamashiro: Oh, I see.
Alex Genadinik: You'll have a lot of people you bought your book and his book at the same time.
Lance Tamashiro: I love that. You could even, take that one step further, so the strategy is, if you get people that buy both of the two books, Lean Startup and your book together, and the search at Amazon says, "Hey, in the last week there's been 20 people that have bought these books together, this must be a thing." The algorithm looks at it and goes, "Well, I'm going to start recommending this because I've seen these sales come in. That's genius, because what I like about that is if you've got a book coming out, and you've got an audience, or you're even got friends and family, that are willing to go buy it for you. You can run a promotion, go buy my book, and this book, let me know that you've done it, and I will X, Y, Z. Give you a free coaching call. I will give them your course.
Alex Genadinik: If you're aggressive, you would just reimburse them. You can just skip over all that.
Lance Tamashiro: Oh, I love that. That is a killer, killer idea. We're getting short here, but I do want to talk about one final thing, and that is you've got a million views on YouTube. Tell me what's your YouTube channel about? A million, it's not even something that you can wrap your head around really.
Alex Genadinik: Actually, honestly, it doesn't seem like that much, because when I started of course, a thousand was gigantic. Then 100,000 was big, and then a million. Actually YouTube is like, there's people who have a billion views, that's impressive, but a million ... YouTube for me was a learning playground for video, because originally I'm not even a business guy, so I further even not even talking, and speech, and video, this was all so new for me. It was like I had to figure it out.
A lot of those videos were early on, and I wasn't just figuring out what I was doing so I just made a lot of videos, and they got a lot of views. At the moment, I'm not too focused on my YouTube channel, because of course, I love the premium content of Udemy. On YouTube, I just did the whole stuff, ask high quality videos as I could at different times, they were even poor quality was as high quality as it can get there. Then of course SCO marketing, and some recommendation. On YouTube I vowed 60% to 70% of my traffic comes from SCO. I just SCO'd the top, a lot of long-tailed topics about business.
Lance Tamashiro: When you say your SCO is just long-tail, it just means that you're going for very specific phrases that you see people looking for on YouTube, rather than going for "How to Build an App, yours might be, "How to rank you app higher in the Google App store, or something like that.
Alex Genadinik: I the app, in app niche, I actually have some authority, like mobile app marketing, mobile app whatever, modernization, I probably rank number one. But when it comes to like business plan, that's one of my key words, that's really hard to rank and you need to put up terms. I did some videos, Business Plan for a Restaurant, Business Plans for a Lawn Care Business.
Lance Tamashiro: Right, because if you think about it, that is the problem with ... The light bulb's going off here, because the problem with YouTube, is that people that are looking for it are usually looking for How Tos, but when you type in business plan, I can't think of a case where as a business owner, the people you're going for, where business plan on YouTube would return the result that they want. Almost never. It would be hap and chance if it did. If I'm a business owner, I'm looking for a business plan for my restaurant, I'm looking for business plan for my dental office, I'm looking for these specific things, and that idea of taking that long-tail, and just adding it in.
I think about how I search on YouTube. I search for how to fix my lawn mower. When I search for "how to fix my lawn mower," it's never what I want, so I always end up going, "how to fix my lawn mower," and the Toro, whatever the thing is. That's really unique on YouTube, because of the information people are looking for, but it also is great for us as marketers, to be able to get in front of the exact audience we're looking for.
Alex Genadinik: Yeah, the specific stuff does help. The problem with the specific stuff, is sometimes it doesn't have a lot of volume. The term, "business plan" is a sexy term that has a lot of volume. Yeah, sometimes it's a strategy. It's one of those video strategies that's viable.
Lance Tamashiro: Awesome. Well man, I super appreciate you taking some time out of your day to do this. Your strategies on not only ranking and the whole idea of recommendations, but I love how you implement, and actually know, like and trust in a real sort of way, and connecting with your customers.
Where can anybody listening for this find out more about you, look at some of your strategies, or even get in touch with you?
Alex Genadinik: The problem is everything has my name. My email has my name, and my last name is so brutal, that if I said, people would never remember. I actually have a page on my site, which I think we talked about, and it has discounts for all my courses. 60 + or better of my courses.