The Virtual CMO Podcast:
Season 1, Episode 10
Eric Dickmann - Founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group, Twitter @EDickmann
In this episode of The Virtual CMO podcast, host Eric Dickmann interviews Russell Nohelty. Russell is a USA Today bestselling author, speaker, and six-figure creative entrepreneur. He’s raised over $170,000 on Kickstarter, built a mailing list of over 20,000 people, and exhibited at more than 150 events since 2016. Now, he teaches creatives how to lead a complete and successful life through his teaching academy and podcast The Complete Creative, www.thecompletecreative.com.
We discuss marketing strategies for creatives, lifetime customer value, multiple streams of income, creative writing, books, comics, and more! Learn how Russell took his creative talents and built a business that supports his passion for helping creatives find an audience for their work.
Transcript: Season 1, Episode 10
**Please note, this transcript was generated by an artificial intelligence engine. It is intended only as a rough transcript and there may be some grammatical, spelling or transcription errors.
Hello and welcome to The Virtual CMO podcast. I'm your host, Eric Dickmann. Here on The Virtual CMO podcast, we strive to unlock the best marketing practices for small and midsize businesses. We hear strategies and tactics from fellow marketing professionals. And provide practical advice that you can use to impact the trajectory of your company. If you're new to the show, welcome each week, our goal is to improve the value of the content shared here. I hope you'll join us on this journey and become a subscriber to this podcast through your player of choice. Our primary mission here on The Virtual CMO podcast is to pass along insight and have meaningful conversations on topics of interest to marketing professionals. If you have questions, there's a link in the show notes to provide feedback or guest inquiries.
Now. Let's have some conversations with The Virtual CMO.
Hello, everyone. And welcome again to The Virtual CMO podcast. I'm very glad you're here with us today. I'm excited to introduce Russell Nohelty. Russell Nohelty is a USA Today, bestselling author, speaker, and six big your creative entrepreneur. He has raised over $170,000 on Kickstarter. Built a mailing list of over 20,000 people and exhibited at more than. 150 events since 2016. He now teaches creatives how to lead. And complete a successful life through his teaching Academy and podcast, The Complete Creative that's the thecompletecreative.com. Russell can be found at Russell Nohelty that's N O H E L T Y on Twitter and Instagram. And Russell Naulty on Facebook Welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
It's great, that you're here now. I understand you're out in Los Angeles. This has been crazy right with COVID and then we're living in the time when some of the protests are going on for the black lives matter movement. How has it been out in Los Angeles?
Well, it's kind of been The worst. I mean, we're still in quarantine and then we also have the protests going pretty strong. I mean, I guess you could say it's the best also because, the great thing about, Los Angeles and California, in general, is they've taken coping very seriously. And they've also taken the protest very seriously and I am very pro both of those things. I'm happy to see protests still going on for close to 40 weeks. I'm happy to see that we are not opening up too fast that we're all taking, both things, as direly seriously, as they should be taken.
Los Angeles is a city that's known for its traffic and its smog I've seen pictures online. That shows beautiful, clear skies where you can see the skyline freeways nearly empty. Has it really changed?
yeah, I think that LA gets a bad rap for those things. but, I definitely think that it's shown people that you can be effective remote. Commuting. So, I've never seen the adoption of digital technology as quickly as I have in the past two months. The question is, are you still going to be able to, work from home or work remotely or if people are going to sort of convened back into offices and before, when, I mean, I have the efficacy of working from home has, I've been doing it for over five years now and. It's never been lost on me. I've always found that I'm much more effective at home than I am in an office where I can be tempted by, office, office, gossip and, and, and taking breaks and having to commute for two hours. So that's what I'm really hoping. I've really been excited by how people have adopted the digital platform as far as taking meetings. usually. Too much, too many meetings, but at least they have been able to have those conversations. You know, I run, a Verizon dealership as well, or I own a Verizon dealership that does B to B communications and all of our stuff is inside sales. And I've been a writer since on. setting up sales meetings with people on zoom for the past several years. Cause people have not liked it, but for the past few months, people have been very open to doing things on zoom and in ways that they haven't before. So I'm excited about what that means for marketing and sales, of businesses going forward. I just, I'm waiting to see if it's just a bounce, that happened because of COVID or if it's sustained.
No. That's so interesting that you say that because if you think about the history of video conferencing, it's actually been a technology that's been around for a long time. but when things like FaceTime came along, I think people. As a one-to-one means of communication really started to embrace it. They liked it, but there was still that reluctance in the workplace setting. to let people into your home to let people see your natural environment. And I think with the newscasters and officials and politicians having to broadcast from their homes and everybody getting, a sneak peek into what's going on, seeing the kids in the background and the dog running around. I think it's just made everybody a whole lot more relaxed about it. And I think it's really opened the doors for remote work in a way that I certainly haven't seen in years. And I've been a remote worker for 20 plus years.
Yeah, me too. I mean, I've, I've always thought that it was stupid that people had to work in an office. I mean, You know, you're paying people to do a job and, assuming they, at the end of the day, get that job done. Well, what do you care if they work for one hour or 24 hours? I mean, that's, that's the whole point of salaried work, but this idea that you had to be, that you have to be, like in an office in the office setting to like make phone calls or to, or to, you know, create Excel spreadsheets or to write or whatever the thing is, I've always found to be antiquated, but. On the other hand, you know, you've got to have a way to justify that massive price you're paying for a, for a brick and mortar store or brick and mortar office. So I have, yeah, I've been working on an offer for about 15 years. you know, remotely, I've had my own company for a lot of that time. I've been a writer for most of that time. And, you know, I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of being unproductive with my time.
Well, clearly you've published a number of books, including a USA Today bestseller. So when I look at your bio and I see the work that you've done, clearly, you've got a passion for writing our passion around creativity. So I'm guessing that that's something that. Was fostered in you at a pretty early age. And this has just been a way to finally monetize that. Talk to me a little bit about your journey. So when did you really get interested in writing and you know, where did you start out? Career-wise, to end up as a writer
Yes. So it's weird. You know, when I was young, everyone wanted to be a writer or director recreator right. Like it's like, it was just a thing that you did
especially in LA, right?
Yeah. Oh, I grew up in DC, but even in my school, like everybody, every other person wanted to direct or write. Or a, or a, B a model or like whatever, the creative thing that they were trying to do, is it just, it seems so normal 20 years ago. And now I look back and I'm sort of like the only one, like one of a handful of people who actually I pursued that creative art and actually made a, made a living out of it. So, aye. Yeah. Kind of wanted to do it. And I, and I, and I followed that North star. So, I graduated with a career in broadcast journalism. And after I, I had my degree, I worked in news and news lasted about six months. And then I founded a photography studio that did movies and TV and fashion photography. You know, I didn't do many events or any of that stuff cause I didn't K or I just like kept doing the thing that I wanted to do. And you know, when it didn't work, I moved to some other thing that I wanted to do. So I directed a movie that I wrote and produced called connections, which is a web series on YouTube now. And I, I shot movies. I was sent to Denmark on a movie, one site. I, I, I directed, I did audio. I just did like a lot of like crew positions, production, assistant positions, moved to LA and, did catering and, and, and was around movie sets. And I realized I like movie sets are quite long hours, you know, 12, 18 hours a day in order to move up in those positions. You really couldn't. You really had to like, be willing to put in the hours. And my whole life has been things that I'm not willing to put the hours in for mixed with things that I am willing to put the hours in the forest. So like when I started writing, I really was willing to put the hours in to write. I was, I was willing to sit down at my computer and do the work and. And learn how to market the work and learn how to sell the work and learn how to like, find the best artists. And I just found it consumed my life in a way that directing never did. And, and, and cinematography never dated. No, I was, I'm a fine director. I'm a, I'm a fine cinematographer, but like I wasn't diving deep. I wasn't spending like all sorts of hours, like researching the minutia of it, as I do with writing. And then in 2017, I took my company one to be pressed and I cut off the educational arm and I formed a company called the complete creative, which trains the creative side to build better businesses. And now I have these sort of two sides of one company. One of them is, One of them is about, making creative work. And that's where I sort of test all of the concepts for the complete creative. And then, then the complete creative is where I teach those concepts to other creative individuals. So it's a very, productive and effective company, working because the ancillary by-product of one of the press is the complete creative. I have very little people asking me questions because I have it all on my website now. so it leaves me. Free to do the work that I meant to do.
so 2017 was really when you became an entrepreneur prior to that, it was mostly a side hustle of writing the books and doing the other publishing, or it was really before that still.
is when I started full time on this 2017 is just when I started the complete creative want to be pressed was founded at the end of 2014. And I went full time on it in 2015.
So what were some of the initial things when you became an entrepreneur and you were doing this full time? What were some of the things that you thought would go one way and went a different way? in a negative way and the same is true in a positive way. How was the experience?
I mean, literally everything diff differently all the way from when I started my first company in 2005. So everything has gone differently. My whole career, I will say that when I first started, I thought that, because people bought one thing, they would buy everything. and I really believe that like once I had a little bit of success in one piece of it, as my success came in comics. And specifically say to see in horror comics, specifically like funny fantasy and horror comedy comics. And, so I had quite a lot of success in that. and I just assumed that having success in that would mean that those people would buy literally anything that I made because they just loved me so much. And, that was not the case.
Yeah, that's a, I see that with a lot of businesses actually.
Yeah. So it was a blessing in disguise because, so I did my first launch in 2014, and that was for our book by Jones, a monster Hunter, and that one raised about $5,000 at launch. So I used Kickstarter for all of our launches. but like this it's the same Franny business launch is just like, our lunch has happened to exist on crowdfunding. And so that first launch turned into our second launch, about a year later, almost exactly you're later. And, that one we did. we did $8,700 at launch. And meanwhile, we're going around to shows and sort of selling books at shows and doing all that stuff. and, the echo by Joe's monster Hunter at Katrina hates the dead. Both of them were sort of horror comedy post-apocalyptic comic books. And so, they, and I did one and the next and the next one did better, which is how companies should go. and then after that, I did a book called a mystery novel. All in blog posts called my father didn't kill himself, which raised $3,400. I, then I did a, a picture book called, I can't stop today, which is a book about farting for kids and it raises $2,200. And then I did a book called space, broken needs repairs, which is now called, sorry for existing, which raised, $1,800. So I was going quite the wrong way. luckily I knew that I was going the wrong way after that first launch. And that's when I started getting passionate about the second part of audience building, that I really drill into people, which is getting to know the audience well enough that you can like predict what they're going to buy, which is really what I think. I think that, that, most of the marketing people and most businesses, sort of skip over this part, because the number one question that I hear from businesses and creative delight is what should I make for my audience next? And I say, I always tell them, if you don't know what to make for them, it means you don't know them well enough. You knew them well enough. They would tell you and you would already know. So. I went back and I, after that my father didn't kill himself campaign. I looked at the people who did buy from us, all three campaigns. And I interviewed them. I actually went out and I was like, Hey, why didn't you buy all three of these books? And then the people that bought Katrina and didn't buy my father, didn't kill himself. I also interviewed them and asked them why. And like what they wanted from me. What I found with that day, they wanted me to do a, an, a more books, about more comics, specifically about monsters and monster type things. So I made an anthology called monsters and other scary ones. There's a bad word in there. The S word. so I try not to say it on podcasts, but it's hard not to because like, it's just the name of the book. And, so, I, at that book ended up raising $27,000 that launch. Our next book, pixie dust, which was also sort of a monster Hunter comic book. This one was a fantasy horror, same as fantasy horror-comedy. That one raised $5,000 at launch. Then we did a book in our big book. The biggest book of all time is called the field is hard to spell, which raised $40,000 at launch. So really that all came from my, going back to those first principles of like, Finding out what your audience wants and then giving it to them, which was probably the biggest negative that I learned in that first couple of years. And then also the biggest thing, positive that I found. and then I'd have been doubling down on how to amplify that since I started.
So there's always that dilemma when you're talking about building something for an audience is if it's not something that they're familiar with, it's sometimes hard to get that feedback, to really know where to go. But I think in your case, you've nailed it. When you already have an audience, it's very important to sort of understand the pulse of that audience so you can understand how you can satisfy them. It's like you've already hooked them. You've already made the sale now. How can you sell more?
Yeah. As far as marketing goes, also, I think that people marketing teaches way too much and puts too much reliance on demographics and too little reliance on psychographics.
So, Demographics are kind of easy. Like audience insights will literally tell you all the information that you need to know about your audience or any audience that exists. literally like you could go and type in on Facebook audience insights, pretty much any audience. And it will tell you, the number of men, you remember, women ages of those people. Once you start running ads, you will be able to see all of that information, but it's like, That's all like first-degree stuff. It's so like the, the demographics are not important. What's important is, is the messaging and the messaging comes from the psychographic information that you learned from your specific audience. Do they like you? Because you're rebellious to like you because you're elegant. They like you because you're loquacious. Do you like they like you because you're terse and I like you because you are, you're honest? Or genuine. do they like you because you are motivational or inspirational, they like you because you're like pessimistic. Like what is the, what are the things that. That, that define you as a person in their eyes. And then how do you message that part of it appropriately? So you can find the people with the lowest customer acquisition cost and the highest lifetime value. And I think people spend a lot of time on that demographic side and way too little time on that psychographic side.
that's so interesting to me because you know, here you are a creative guy who's written comic books And you're talking about things like lifetime value, which is such an important part for so many businesses that they do. I just don't understand. They look at the immediacy of a sale and say, okay, I'm done, wash my hands. Now let's go to the next person. But it really is all about that lifetime value because it's so much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. And I think it speaks volumes that even in a publishing world, even in a creative world, that you have that sort of a mindset because, well, it worked well for the Harry Potter franchise. Right. you build on the reputation that you have, you build on what your audience likes and they'll come back for more.
Absolutely. But on top of that, looking at your people with the highest lifetime value across the lifetime of your company shows you the values that they care about and how. Find more people like them. you know, so many people are worried about the immediacy of someone who just bought yesterday, but just buying yesterday does not mean they are actually good. Clients of yours, like, just because they buy something from you, it really tells you just that you did a very good job of selling that thing. what really matters is the person that gets that thing and comes back again and buys book three or bicycle five, or buys books seven, because those are the people that are actually like going to be driving the company forward. The person who buys the first time is incredibly important because they. Like they are, what's keeping you or your, your business open today. You know, they're the ones that are like trying it today, but the ones that are going to actually increase your bottom line increase, like how high you can, your, your, your floor is, are those lifetime fans. And it's important to not just look at the frequency that the the the immediacy of when someone bots, but also the frequency of it and how, and, and, and. overall like the mouse that they spend on your company and doing all of those, all of those things are important where I think that we get too tied up in the wow. Someone just bought it today. So they are my next new best customer, but use most of those people, at least half of those people that try your product, the first time are not going to like it and are not going to continue on. And it's usually more like 60% or higher. So you're really looking for what can I say to message to the right people so I can cut those 60% out immediately and make sure that I'm getting my most valuable customer and speaking to them. And that usually means. Speaking in a way that most people don't understand or don't care about so that you can really drill down to the ones that do care deeply. And those ones that care deeply are the ones that are going to drive your company forward for the next five, 10, 15 years.
Yeah, it's really about creating that niche, right? Creating, understanding that persona of that target customer and building your messaging, your outreach, marketing campaigns, really to attract that customer, not to attract everybody, not cast a wide net, and hope that you're going to catch your customer in it, but really focusing. And on, on that target customer, I think that's great. And it's very interesting to see how you've applied that in your business. I kind of want to switch gears a little bit, because I know that as you did your publishing, you also sort of got into this idea of multiple streams of income. talk to me a little bit about that and the importance of that for you and your businesses.
Yeah. So I am one who likes to be productive. Productive as possible, but that does not mean to work as hard as possible. It means leveraging as well as I possibly can. So, I get asked a lot how I've done X, Y, and Z. How I started a company, how I built a company, how I built an audience, how I run Facebook ads, basically all of the stuff that I do. And, and, and any company, the stuff that you do is going to be the stuff that, that people keep asking you about. And I have hundreds of authors who are like, I wish people would stop emailing me about this stuff. And I said, well, you're missing a grand opportunity, which is taking the stuff that, you know, and productizing it and making a second stream of income from at least that because if you're successful, people are going to want to know about what they, what they can do to be successful. Like you. Add you don't. And, and so one of them, I want to be pressed as the moneymaker complete creative is my training Academy that trains people on how to do something like want to be pressed. It's not specific to publishing it's specific to all creativity, but it's how to build an audience, how to run Facebook ads, how to develop a little business, doing, having a little marketing agency for yourself, and all of these. Pieces of the things that I learned. So it became, it became apparent to me very early on that people are going to want the knowledge that's in my head and as I, and, and if I could find a way to market it, it literally is basically doing two things at once. So I'm able to do the thing, test the thing. And when I, when I've perfected the thing, I can then sell the thing to other people. Meanwhile, while those, meanwhile, I have no fear that someone's going to be able to just take it and mirror me. Tomorrow, because like, it takes time, like, just because I gave you the blueprint, you still have to build it yourself. And by that time I'll already be like light years ahead of you. So I also don't have that. No problem either. So I have found that a very good way to be, to maximize your ROI is to take the thing that you've done. And then like, And then create courses. It doesn't have to be like training or something. But one thing that you're going to have to do as a company is you're going to have to train your staff. And so that means, but that means, Basically creating courses for them about how to do your job, how to do their job. And what I'm saying is how I did it was I would take those same things, folks. So a marketing person that works for me would take me, build a rabid fan-based course. So they will be in the same language and, and someone that was doing marketing for me with our group builders, our marketing agency would like to take our group builder course or other courses that we have by ran an anthology. The people that were in that anthology would take our anthology course. So that's a, yes, I can make money on them, but I can also add people to those courses. and, and, and, and basically send them on a journey to be better employees or better contractors for us at the same time.
I see some entrepreneurs do embrace this idea of multiple streams of income. But what they do is they have all these unrelated streams, you know, maybe they've got a little real estate business and maybe they're selling some sort of a product on the side and then they do this and they do that. But they're really not doing what you're talking about, which is leveraging their knowledge in different formats. I think that
Bye. I think that you actually should. I also own a Verizon dealership. So like I do have some disparate businesses. The problem is every time a business takes a certain amount of time to run, like even a business that doesn't require any thought still requires like a few hours a month. So, I don't, I, I want to do that, the kinds of businesses that I really love. And so I'm trying to spend as little time outside of that as humanly possible. So some people are entrepreneurs just for the sake of entrepreneurship and they don't really care, but I just love what they have productized is the system that they use to like make a business successful. And so if you, if you have a system that like, okay, this is how I take a company from a million to $50 million and you can replicate that. And that becomes your system. There is some efficacy for that too, but yes, I think that people are much too. Concerned at what the new thing that they're going to do is less concerned with how do I, how do I like to craft a business where all, everything is moving in the same direction. And then I can maximize my profit in that way by minimizing my by, by minimizing my waste and increasing my productivity so that anything that I do. It can be leveraged in multiple different ways from the courses to the speaking engagements, to the conventions that we do to the books that we make. You know, we're generally trying to find as many ways to leverage one product as humanly possible, because we've, we're, we're already doing the work in that one product. So. if we can focus on we're very small, we don't have a lot of marketing budget. so like we need, we need one product to do 10 things for us. And by being able to put all of our marketing money into a couple of the products, and then all of that spill off is also captured by buying some other products. It really allows us to make a bigger impact than we normally would for the size company that we are.
I live here in Orlando, Florida. So do you come to a Comicon?
I mean, I've gone to a, I've gone to a San Diego Comicon. The closest I've been to MegaCon, which is the one in Orlando is probably awesome. Con I was planning to go to Houston this year, but that show got canceled because of the state of the world.
yeah, we're living in a crazy time for events. I know that there were a lot of events that I was going to be part of as well, and almost all of them have been canceled but yeah, that's a significant event here in town. I know of lots of people who have gone. I've never been myself. It looks like fun though.
Yeah, I do about 20 that I've done since, Since 2015, at least 20 to 30, and sometimes upwards of 50 a year. That's really how we make our money. We, we start our, we, we, we raised funds on Kickstarter and then we take the books around the country to different conventions and that's how we, and we sell them to. A tip to people at shows and that becomes our marketing stream. So while most companies use, you know, use Facebook ads, we use the marketing, we use the funds to go to conventions. And then the return on that investment would be sort of like the return on a Facebook ad for us.
That's interesting. So you do a lot of in-person sales?
Do. I'm in almost all of our stuff that is direct to the customer. so we very rarely use Amazon or anything else to do our stuff I do with my books and my, and our Kickstarters and some of our stuff. I use quite a bit of advertising in that respect, but for one to be pressed, most of our are in person or direct to the customer in, a situation like Kickstarter.
So, I know you mentioned already the complete creative. So tell me a little bit about what you're doing over at the complete creative and what things there might be of interest to our audience.
Sure. So the complete creative is a website for creative entrepreneurs, make the best work of their lives, and share it with the world. So I generally work with people who are trying to productize or make or make products so books or art or. Podcasts or things that are actually tangible goods. And while the people that I work with all have services that they provide, whether it's ghostwriting or drawing comic books or painting murals or, or, doing courses or lectures or whatever, the thing is, the thing that I'm mostly focused on is creating that product that we can sell for the rest of your life. And that is really what I believe makes a good product is, you know, these products we're going to outlive you. so, if you do it right, you can make money on them forever. And, and, and, and if you, if you can do the marketing well, then you can build on that with each additional product. So, I TA I take a very creative approach to that. Like, as far as like, not creative as in, like, I'm doing something crazy, but just like, I'm talking to creatives by creatives for creatives. And so, I have free courses. I have. Paid courses. I have an Epic blog post. I have my podcast, the complete creative, which is, how, I interviewed creators about how they built in to stay in their creative, but probably for the purposes of this, the, but what I would recommend people checking out if I have a free audience building webinar. That's 20 minutes, at which, talks about how to sort of, find your perfect audience, and build it out from there. And you can find email@example.com forward slash audience.
Russell. That's great. I really appreciate you mentioning that and bringing it to the attention of the audience here. And this has been a fascinating conversation. For me, I especially loved your thoughts around lifetime customer value and the support that you're giving the creative community. So if we had to start with one of your books, which would be the one that you would recommend.
Fiction or nonfiction. Alright. So I have a book called end demons followed behind her. It is our biggest ms. My biggest, universe called the gods verse Chronicles and the demons follow behind her is about a woman who gets sick of living during the apocalypse, or she sets out to hell to kill the devil. It kind of is the book that, that sets everything else in motion, and it is free on all platforms.
you could go to dot com and join our mailing list and got a couple of our other books, but yes, and the demons followed behind her or death follow behind her, which is that book. And the two others are the ones I would recommend.
Well, 2020 has been a bit of apocalyptic in some ways. So that sounds like a good place to start. Russell. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Thanks for having me.
That wraps up this episode of the virtual CML podcast. Join us again next week for another conversation about marketing. As a reminder, if you'd like to learn more about virtual CMO services or anything else discussed here today. Please visit fiveechelon.com. A complete transcript of today's show is available as well as the listing of all the actionable insights. Please follow the links in the show notes. Thank you for your support and feedback. There's a link in the show notes. If you'd like to send us comments and your reviews on Apple podcasts, or also appreciated if you'd like to reach me, I'm at @EDickmann on Twitter. That's E D I C K M A N N on Twitter. If you'd like to connect on LinkedIn. Please, let me know. You heard about me through The Virtual CMO podcast. I look forward to talking with you again next week and sharing some new marketing insights.