Partnerships and Sponsorships

BiG Podcast - Partnerships and Sponsorships
Mon, Mar 13, 2023 8:11AM • 17:44
audience, website, product, gym, building, recommendation, people, clients, business, bike, partnership, recommend, booth, owners, company, test, trek, podcast, local bike shop, sell

I will pay you $500 for a 30 minute phone call. Hey, I'm Chris Cooper, this is business is good. And today I'm going to tell you about sponsorships. Why I don't take sponsorships on my podcast and why I said no to the software company that wanted to pay me 500 bucks for a 30 minute phone call.

Today, I've got three big key topics for you. First, we're going to talk about the value of your audience. Second, we're going to talk about the value of your recommendation. And third, we're going to talk about the partnership funnel. But first, a story. 

In 2006, I was sponsored by Trek bikes. Trek was the biggest most popular cycling company in the world. At that time. Lance Armstrong was winning the Tour de France seemingly every year on a Trek bike, everybody wanted to ride Trek bikes. But I wasn't a cyclist, I was powerlifting. Best case, I might have been the fastest powerlifter with a bicycle within a square mile or something. But the local bike shop wasn't interested in my legs, they were interested in my audience. I was a personal trainer at a local gym, I had a full book, and every Tuesday night, I would lead a cycling group for any of my clients who wanted to come. Now my clients were high earning individuals who could afford to work with a personal trainer a couple of times a week, they had high affinity they really liked and trusted me, most of them were beginners, some of them were thinking about doing their first triathlon. 

And so when they thought about what kind of bike should they buy, they would naturally turn to me. And so it made sense for the local bike shop to put me on a Trek. Now, this didn't make sense to me at the time, because I didn't understand the value of the audience, I thought that they really thought I was an amazing athlete. And that's why I was gonna get sponsored by Trek. Of course, at the end of the summer, the store asked for its bike back. And I don't blame, you know, at least they didn't ask me to pull up under the cover of darkness and leave the bike, because they were embarrassed by my actual cycling prowess. But they did sell bikes from this program. And I learned something, which is if you know how to build an audience, you'll never go hungry. 

Your audience is more valuable than what you know. even more today than 20 years ago, attention is really hard to get and it's extremely hard to keep. Now that my mentorship practice Two-Brain Business has 40,000 people on its daily email list, 10,000 YouTube subscribers and almost 3 million podcast downloads, people want to get in front of my audience. So here's why I don't take sponsors on any of my podcasts and I recently turned down offers for 500 bucks for a 30 minute phone call. And I will politely decline your offer for your amazing revenue share program if I push your product to my audience of gym owners. 

Let's start with point number one the audience is harder to build than the product is. If you're like me, and you're listening to this, and you're a founder or a business coach, you're probably really in love with your product. You love building out your courses or your widget or your cookies or whatever it is that you make. And you want to believe that simply making the best widget, the best courses, the best cookie will guarantee your success. This is called the technicians curse. And I first read about it in the E Myth mastery book. But the reality is that more and more, it's less about what you make and more about your ability to build an audience. 

building an audience is easier than ever before, except there's a lot of noise out there. There's a lot of competition for the audience's attention. And so people will often approach us because we have a very strong niche audience. I'm going to talk about the increasing value of your audience as the size of your niche decreases. But I want to tell you a story about a website company. So there was this website company and it was run by one woman. She was an amazing designer. I really loved her. She came out to one of our summits. And she spent all night in the cafe, walking people through their websites and showing them how to make it better. And the next year, she showed up at our summit and she had a booth. She wanted to talk to people about building better websites. And because everybody in the audience was a gym owner and she built gym owner websites, she sold about 35 website packages

Now typically she would sell one or two of these packages a month. But at our summit, she sold 34 in a weekend, and it broke her business. Unfortunately, it was more business than she could handle. And so clients experienced delays. And they experienced a bit of a rush job. And if there was any kind of problem with their website, they struggled to get service because she was a one woman shop and she couldn't scale. So the first lesson here is that when you partner with somebody, and you put them in front of your audience, you have to make sure that they are actually ready to take on the audience that you're about to give them, we didn't foresee that she was going to get 34. But the reality is, even if she had gotten 10 new website customers from being at that summit, she would have struggled to maintain them all. So when you're looking at potential partnerships, you have to make sure that they can handle the clients that you're about to send them. 

The next lesson here is that the narrower your niche is, the more refined your ideal client is that you're working with, the more your value goes up. So we were working with this company called Inbody, that makes a brilliant scale, for measuring body composition in gyms. It's not cheap, the InBody is really expensive, and their competitors are cheap. And you can go buya Tanita scale at Walmart for probably 120 bucks or less. And the InBody is gonna cost you about 7000. So the InBody went to the CrossFit Games, where there are tens of thousands of people, but most of them are just athletes, they're not gym owners, and they set up this booth. And over the course of the weekend, they sold about three of their Inbody machines, which paid for the booth and maybe the travel of the people attending the booth or whatever, but three machines, and they thought, Okay, that's pretty good. A few weeks later, they came to our summit, which is only gym owners, and there were only a few hundred people there. And they sold 23 machines--like seven times as many machines--because the only people in the room were their actual target audience. And so the value of that audience goes up, the more niche you are. There was another factor at play, too. And that was affinity. So one of the mentors just happened to stand up and say, Hey, I use the InBody at my gym, and here's how it paid for itself. Having that trust with our audience is enormously valuable. And so a lot of people who were buying this expensive machine on faith, now say, Oh, well, you know, if a Two-Brain  mentor uses this thing, and they can tell me how to get a great return on this investment. I'd be crazy not to do this. And so they jumped on this expensive machine. So the value of your audience goes up, the narrower your niche, and the higher your affinity. 

But because your audience is harder to build than the product, you have to be very selective about where you direct that audience. 

Which leads me to point number two, your recommendation builds or erodes your value. Your audience will associate any brand that you recommend with your core brand. And so if you make a bad recommendation, it will reflect badly on you. For a couple of years, we had a product company, a sponsor who would show up and they would like have a booth at our at our venues. And we would write blog articles about them, we would have like podcast sponsorships, this episode brought to you by bla bla bla. And I really liked the founder, there was only one problem, the product didn't work. 

And so people would sign up for this product on our word, they would really get excited about it, because we talked about it so much, and I loved it. And then they'd get a bad experience. So they would get late delivery of this product. And they would have all these fights back and forth with like the customer service reps. And they kept coming back to me and saying things like, I cannot believe you guys recommend these guys. They're brutal. And finally, one guy said, I'm quitting the two brain business mentorship practice, because you continually recommend this guy. And if you're recommending this person for this product, it really makes me question all of your other recommendations too. 

And so this became really, really a point of stress for us, because we were recommending about 12 or 13 different products at the time. And we didn't have time to keep auditing every single person. And in fact, when we'd make a recommendation, we would do a little test, we would never recommend somebody that we hadn't tried ourselves. But we wouldn't keep updating that recommendation every six months. And so as their business changed--as they changed their onboarding procedure, they changed their delivery, they changed the product a little bit. We couldn't stay on top of that. And so it became very, very tough for us to keep making recommendations on products that kept changing over time. So the value of your recommendation is massive. However, it can actually undermine the bigger product that you sell. If you're recommending bad companies. You might make 5000--I think we were charging maybe 7500 or something for the podcast sponsorship spots--but the reality was that if we lost two clients, because we made a recommendation that they had a bad experience with, It just wasn't even worth it to us anymore. 

So we stopped making recommendations for products period, we stopped having sponsorships on our podcast, we stopped saying this thing sponsored by, this blog post sponsored by blank, we stopped talking about other products that we didn't control in all of our media. 

Then I had a meeting in Manhattan. And I was at this meeting with Todd Herman, the author of The Alter Ego Effect, we spent a couple of days with him. And with me was my CMO, John Franklin, the Chief Marketing Officer of Two Brian Business. And after we met with Todd for a day, we went back to the hotel, and we were just sitting in the bar thinking about where we were going to go for dinner. And John started asking me these questions like, What are the biggest problems that gym owners face right now? And on that list was websites. The problem with gym owners websites, was that they didn't know if they were working or not. So when a gym owner would say, can you take a look at my website, tell me if it's any good. We were looking at art. But we should have been looking at science, we should have been able to say, Yeah, you know, based on this many conversions, this many clicks, we can tell if your website is working. 

So here's what a website should do. Just as a quick aside, when people are interested in your product, and they're coming from your blog, or social media or your ads, they're gonna go to your website, and your websites job is to convert them into an appointment. That's it, your website does not generate leads, there's no such thing as a lead generating website, all your website can do is convinced them to take the next step from paying attention to actually talking to you about the service to get them into a sales situation. 

Basically, the problem is that there were no websites in the gym industry that were able to track those things. So the website was kind of this black box, where you hoped that if you sent traffic to the website, people would book a free appointment with you. The problem was that every website in the gym industry was built from scratch, there were no templates. So every website was completely different. It was impossible to track whether they were actually working or not. So when we said we think your site is good, there was no way for us to know for sure. And John recognized this as a problem that he could solve. And so he said, Well, what would make a good website? 

I said, well, first, it has to be able to track how many people are actually going to the website. And of those people, how many are booking a call, and of those people, how many are actually showing up and of those people, how many are actually buying, because what that will give us is a very clear picture of like the entire marketing and sales funnel for a gym owner. 

And if we know those four things-- leads generated, set rate, show rate, close rate--then we can identify where are the weaknesses in their funnel. And we won't jump to conclusions like, oh, Facebook's not working. What was happening a lot of the time back then 2019 Was that Mark Zuckerberg was doing his job. The Facebook ads were working. Clients were going to the website and saying, Man, this is not for me, this sucks, or this is intimidating, or I don't even know how to take the next step. And so building this company, building these websites would actually allow us to diagnose the client's problems better and fix them. But I said, Look, John, is sounds great. But the downside of owning a software company is that now you want a software company, I want to own a mentorship practice, I don't want to own a software company. And he said, Okay, so he left, and he actually acquired a website company. And then he built a CRM, to work with the websites and started this new company that was called GymLeadMachine. And it was so appealing. And I knew that it had been built to serve our specific clients, so that was a no-brainer partnership opportunity for us. 

And so we just started organically talking about them, because we liked the product. We started mentioning them because it was actually helping gym owners. And that's the key is having seen this thing get built, I knew what was in it. And I knew that it worked. I tested it in my gym. 10 mentors tested it at their gym. So we had great results that we could report on and say, here's how it worked for me. 

The last piece of this that I want to share is the testing process. So when somebody comes to Two-Brain, and they say I've got this amazing product, and we know them, like them and trust them already, then we're willing to test it. And so the first thing that happens is that three mentors on our team, test it, we give them a scorecard, they rate the product, if it works, then we take it to 10 more and we test it usually these are people in like our Tinker program, who have some extra time and money and they're willing to take some bets. And so they test it and if their reports are good, that's when we'll recommend it to everybody else. Because our authority depends on our trustworthiness. My audience needs me to test this stuff before I recommend it.

instead of just being willing to trade my recommendation for money, and that is why I was unwilling to take 500 bucks for a 30 minute phone call where I knew I'd be getting pitched on software, my audience and my time and my trust are worth way more than that. 

Partnerships must serve your audience, no matter what. The goal of a partnership is to help your audience achieve more, it's not to generate money for you. Yeah, it seems like there's easy mailbox money if you sell spots on your podcast, or whatever. But the reality is, it's not worth trading the long term trust of your audience, to sell spots, to a product that you can't personally vouch for. If you can't tell a story about why the product is better than you shouldn't be selling those spots. 

Finally, I do want to talk about the value of partnerships to help your audience once you've ascertained that this product or this partner will actually help my audience, then you should definitely share it with everybody, not just your clients. I was having lunch with Jason Katzenback, the founder of And you'll hear my interview with him in a few weeks on this show. And Jason was saying, you know, you have 40,000 people on your email list, they're not all going to buy mentorship from you. But they're all going to buy something to improve their gym. So if you've got a trusted partner, like a bookkeeper or an accountant or a website company, then you would actually serve them by saying, I recommend these people. And here's why. 

Now, of course, you deserve to make something for making that recommendation. But the key is you have to start with "does this serve the audience?" And if it does serve the audience, then talk about it. If it doesn't serve the audience, but it will pay you, then that is the wrong partnership to make. 

I've learned this lesson so many times. I've actually pissed off a lot of partners because we've started partnership programs and then cancelled them and like given them their money back. Because the trust of the audience means more to me than anything else. 

And what builds the trust in my audience is giving them things that will actually help them. I'm Chris Cooper, this is businesses good and building a client centric coaching practice means doing what is best for the client. First, if this helps you go to businesses You can join our community of entrepreneurs and business coaches there. You could ask questions you can talk about partnerships, and anything else you want. Hope it helps.

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