Why I Did It Yo
This is going to be a doozy ya’ll. I go into detail like a reisty baste face audit from the IRS. Let me say first, one of my favorite things about this experience was the different door mats I encountered. I’ll throw up pictures sporadically in this article. So why in the little love puppies would I pass out 2000 flyer cards by hand? If you’ve been along for the I Will Thrive ride for awhile now, then you already know, I’m completely insane. But, given my current circumstances, it’s also a great time to test all paths and all marketing options to generate an audience.
What are my circumstances might you ask? Welpers, as of today, it’s been 7 months since I was laid off my day job due to the pandemic. I vowed to never return to corporate life again and find a way to thrive into the future. I will do that by building businesses and continued work with my passions in film, music, and art. The stakes are high as I have a mortgage, a wife, and 5 kids to take care of.
One of the first things I created was the very project you’re rocking right now – I Will Thrive. I was challenged by a successful entrepreneur to document my journey. An interesting idea, plus I already had an entire comedy memoir written called “How John Cleese Almost Narrated My Life and Other Epic Let Downs,” just sitting on the shelf. I even tried to get it published once upon a time, and a big wig New York agent said he’d be interested, but I needed a following first. “People aren’t going to buy a comedy memoir from a dude nobody knows,” was his general message. Yeah, that makes sense Mr Secret Agent Pants.
Money, Traffic, And Let’s Get Physical
So, I full on made the commitment to document my current journey to financial independence. I also thought it’d be fun to pull some stories from my memoir and share those as well. Sure enough, it’s been a blast! But, there’s a problem Cindy Sue, and it’s a problem many small online businesses have to figure out. Traffic. Stupid traffic. Hardly anyone is getting the chance to read my crazy Bill Murray and John Cleese stories, among other hilarious moments like when an acquaintance from elementary school told me he had thought about me everyday of his life 14 years after I last saw him.
But, whats a man supposed to do? One thing I really don’t have right now is money to market anything I’m doing. We’re living off of unemployment and barely getting by, I can’t go invest into ad campaigns to get traffic. So, It’s time to get creative. Enter in the idea of passing out flyers door to door. Really, they’re little mini flyers I printed on business cards. They serve the purpose more of a flyer than a business card though, so I’m sticking with calling them flyers, lay off me!
My only source of usable income right now comes from my patreon account, and from my dear patrons. To be brutally honest, every single one of those patrons are friends and family I personally know. Most of them have been patrons a long time for my music project. Thank you loved ones for your kind generosity! The day I get my first patron that I don’t know is going to be an exciting one! I’ve since grouped my music project and I Will Thrive together for that patreon account. I’m excited to give more value to my patrons with this project too.
As of today, my patreon account brings in $54.20 of monthly recurring revenue. I’ve been spending every dime each month to market the various things I’ve been building. It was the beginning of July 2020, and I was working hard to get ready to launch I Will Thrive. I suddenly remembered my days of working at a big public broadcast agency. Wouldn’t you know it, I was in charge of fundraising. “It takes money to make money” is a real thing kids. If I had the resources, I know exactly how to target the right audience and bring in revenue. I had done it all in various positions and some Ecommerce and SEO consulting before this public media gi.
At least I thought I had. I was amazed at the amount of money we would raise for public media by sending out physical letters. That was new. Some of my less successful campaigns I could spend $4000 and bring in $60,000. My team raised millions over the years. But, right now I only have $54 to spend. That is nowhere near enough to try a physical mailing test, find a target audience, get mailing lists, print the letters, and pay for postage. But, I wondered if there was something I could do in the physical space that would give me the biggest bang for my $54?
I did a little research, and I found overnightprints.com. They had a killer deal on 2000 high quality business cards. Normally priced it would have been over $100, but my total cost was $58.05. Crap, four more bucks than I had. I suddenly remembered I had a patreon account for a different comedy project that I hadn’t checked in ages. We have one solitary patron, and it’s the camera guy. Haha, I wonder if he remembers that he’s giving our own project $1 a month? Anyway, I grabbed the few bucks there, bought my cards… I mean flyers (dangit) and I started working on what I felt was a key aspect of this test, the targeting.
Targeting For A Blog, Video, and Podcast Project?
I was hoping to find fans for the I Will Thrive project. It’s a blog/podcast/video series that could resonate with creative people, those looking to change their lives, people that got laid off due to the pandemic, any anyone wanting to laugh at the stupidity of a fellow human being (Schadenfreude!). I did a good amount of research, and the demographics show that my kind of media is most consumed as early as 12 years old and up to the mid forties. Once the age gets up into the 50’s, the numbers drop off quite a bit for those consuming blogs and podcasts.
Ok, so I know my demographic, now how in the stank cake do I get my 2000 cards in the hands of only teenagers and up to mid forties? Alright I’m just going to call them cards. Leave me alone. I can’t just go stick my little cards under the windshields of cars at Costco. Old folks are loving them some Costco. My first thought was to pass out cards at some of the big dorm buildings around town. There are two universities not far from my home. I loved this idea because maybe I could reach multiple potential fans at once as you’d have groups of students living behind each door.
If anyone gets crazy, reads this, and wants to give the whole process a go for themselves, dorms = bad strategy. At least in my town, all the buildings required a key card for entrance. So I needed another plan, and I went back to researching. I ended up finding an area of town that seemed like the best place to find my key demographic. The area has hundreds townhouses and condos, all of which require the tenants to climb a lot of stairs. The area just smells like teens to the mid forties.
Get Passing Funny Stories!
Yes! I’ve got the cards, I’ve got the location, I’ve got some proverbial pep in my step, so it’s time to pass these babies out. Day 1 of card passing had all kinds of hilarious moments. The very first card I passed out went to a guy on the verge of throwing up. Haha. I did a tiny dry run first thing in the morning. I headed out to the river trail with my family to go on a run. My boys and I were running along when I suddenly heard a bike right behind us. It was coming fast. I jumped around quickly in fear that the driver was going to run into one of my boys. Well, literally one foot away from us he screeched to a stop. He wasn’t stopping for us though. He would have just gone on speeding around us.
But, a bug went right into the back of his throat at that very moment. Haha. He threw his bike over, and started dry heaving on the edge of the trail. Classic. We had about 50 yards left of our run, so we finished, and started back where we came from as the rest of the family would be catching up with the stroller and my other seven thousand kids. My wife was passing biker bug man, and she just thought he was out of his mind. I told her what happened, we laughed, and I went and gave him a card. He said he’d never swallowed a bug before, and how crazy it was that it happened right behind us. This was still in-between another installment of dry heaves by the way. Haha.
Sometimes I wonder if things just start happening because the universe knows I’m going to be documenting it now. The second card was another weird one! I got all geared up, my wife took a picture of me like it was my first day of school, and I headed out. I had one quick stop first at a buddies to borrow a camera from him. I was on the freeway headed to my perfect spot, and my stinking car ran out of gas! I was so stoked to start this experiment that I never looked at the gas. This has never happened to me before!
Moments later an emergency vehicle showed up. Man do they sensors on the freeway or something? I had called my buddy, but he was far from making it to me. I told Mr. Emergency Pants that I was stupid, he gave me some gas, we had a cute little chat, and then he took card #2. Thanks guy. Oh man. I giggled, went to the gas station, and proceed to my target destination.
I still stand by my decision of where I went, but the one thing I didn’t fully think through was the amount of stairs I would have to climb myself! Regardless, I wanted to be sure the cards would be seen, so picking townhouses and condos where the homes only had one door made sense. Unless they’ve managed to create a completely self sustaining garden inside of their home, they’ll have to go in and out of their one and only door at some point. For this very reason, the door sign that said “Please use other door” gave me one of the biggest giggles of the entire endeavor.
The Keeper Of The Condo
I had really just started to get into a good groove with getting the cards placed and cruising up and down the stairs. I had only passed out 24 cards when I had a little forced delay. I placed a card at a door, but I didn’t realized it was partly open. I accidentally pushed the door open a bit, and the card fell to the inside of the condo making a little noise. I tried to put the door back where it was, and then I headed to the next flight of stairs that awaited me. I was halfway up the stairs when a thin guy man child popped his head out of that last door. He awkwardly asked me if I was passing things out. I said no, I was a traveling gypsy fortune teller, and for the right price I could tell him all about how he was going to die and that he’ll marry a fat woman that makes pretty good pie.
Or, maybe I just said yes I was passing out cards. Then the following captivating discussion took place as he approached me in the stairwell and his name tag dangled about in the wind like a banner of true and deep authority.
“Uh you can’t do that.” he said. I retaliated with vigor. “Oh.” I said. “I didn’t see any signs.” “They don’t have to put up signs, this is private property.” What could I say to that? Well, the first thing I thought of was a straight up lie. A couple of years prior I knew someone that lived nearby so I said: “I have a friend that lives close, and said he thought it’d be cool.”
“It’s not.” manchild said. “ok.” I said, wondering what would happen next. Sorry for lying God and Mom. He then escorted me down the stairs to his steed, a little green golf cart. Dude said he’d drive me to the main office and if I could get permission from them then there’d be no problem.
He was one of the few on staff handy man and keeper of the condos. As I told him more about what I was doing and about I Will Thrive, he told me in sly tones, that if I came back after 5pm, guys like him aren’t around and I could easily pass out the cards. I giggled, he may have winked, and he dropped me off.
I pretended to call someone as I walked up to the office. The moment manny-child-the-sly-after-fiver was out of sight, I put away my phone, and I of course walked to the other side of the complex to pass out cards without permission. I’m not coming back after 5, that’s dinner time. haha.
About half and hour later I was walking down a corridor, suddenly a different keeper of the condos was behind me. I knew because he had the same cute name badge thing. He was walking fast, and started picking up speed. It really felt like he was trying to catch me. I felt like I was in some scene from Terminator I barely remember. I made a quick right, and pulled out my phone again, because you know if you’re talking on the phone then no one can catch you. But, he ended up just going the other way and didn’t bother me at all. I passed out cards to the entire complex before heading home.
I spent about 3 hours passing out cards on the first day, and after doing the math, I walked up about the equivalent of the empire state building. I felt like I accomplished quite a feet of exercise and marketing. I was less impressed with myself when I found out that people do a run all the way to the top of the empire state building in a manner of minutes.
The Big Scare and the Sad Notices
The biggest startle of the experiment wasn’t fake terminator keeper of the condos, and it came on day two. I found a section of townhouses where I wouldn’t have to climb stairs for awhile. These townhouses themselves however had many stairs on the inside, at least three flights each, which would mean no one too terribly old would live there. I had been going for about an hour, I looked to my left and this flipping card board cut out of David Tennent scared the crap out of me! Haha
These places had an issue however that I had to rectify. It was quite possible some of the tenants rarely used their front doors. The garages were on the back of the house. Was there a way I could ensure they see my card even if they don’t use the front door? Yes kids, there was. It didn’t work on every door, but many of them I could push the card past the inner weather stripping and they would fall inside the houses. Haha.
The saddest part of the experience was the number of eviction notices I encountered. There were a fair few. It has to be a sad and unfortunate sign of the times. My biggest fear right now would be to lose my house where my family is safe and happy. It legitimately made me sick and sad upon seeing the notices.
Wait, how long?
This experiment took way stinking longer than I expected. I wasn’t vigilant in tracking every minute of the time spent, but I ventured out six times, and on average in about 3 hour blocks. That’s roughly 18 hours of work, and getting out about 111 cards an hour, or about 2 cards every minute. That’s a very rough estimate because it includes drive time, and there was at least two times that I had to pee something terrible and had to drive back a few miles to the nearest gas station.
The Take-Aways and Was It Worth It?
The day I passed out my last card, I was honestly a little bummed, which surprised me! I wasn’t always excited to head out on my card passing days. Even so, it was actually a lot of fun. Getting out side and doing some work in the fresh air and sun was refreshing. The quarantines of 2020 I’m guessing only amplified my feelings. With that, here is what I think about the experience and then let’s talk about the results.
I think any new entrepreneur should put themselves through such an experiment. If I get nothing out of this in terms of traffic, it was still worth it. It proved to myself how much I care about “I Will Thrive.” I was willing to go up and down stairs for hours, be picked up by the condo police handy man task force, and push my body beyond the norm for the need of a bathroom all because I care about this project.
You will learn about your business and yourself with such an experiment. Whether it’s a new band you’re starting, a tech gig, or whatever it is that you’re creating, I highly recommend coming up with some kind of extreme marketing exercise and make sure you’re the one on the front lines. There’s a part of me that wants to order more cards and continue passing them out once a month or something.
As for the actual traffic results, well they’ve been minimal. The very first day of passing cards, I did see a big bump in ad revenue on the blog. I made $8 that day, and for a brand new blog I thought that was good progress. It’s never made that much again however, so I’m starting to wonder if one of my friends was clicking on a bunch of ads that day trying to do a good deed. Haha.
I’d do it all again. Stay tuned for my next crazy marketing idea. I’m pretty sure the next thing I have planned might be illegal, and my wife told me not to do it. Of course I’m going to try it. I don’t think it’s like go to jail kind of illegal, but I guess we’ll see. Can you release content from prison? 🙂
VIDEO version of this episode HERE
PODCAST version of this episode HERE