This is a recorded interview with Rich Ux and his student, Zoë, where they discuss Rich's journey with Rich + Niche, how it came about, and the art of brand building.
Rich: We are back. We're doing another interview with one of my students and I think we're going to be talking about brands and brand building. Let's get The Brand Snob herself, Zoë, in here.
Zoë: Hey! Thank you for having me. Today, I would like to go through brand building. But before we get into that, I first want to talk about the beginning stages of your digital marketing career. I want to take it back to when you first realized you really wanted to pursue digital marketing. I know you talk about picking up on skills of digital marketing from when you were really young even before you got into law school. So was there a moment for you where you were, “Okay, this is it. I'm going to pursue this full-time.”
Rich: I think it was probably right after I got my very first SEO consultation with my client in Hong Kong. It was just this girl who wanted to start a fashion blog. She was kind of a local entrepreneur and I got connected with her. I just gave her some advice and I trained her content marketer on how to rank for keywords.
This was probably 2014 or so… That's really when I said, “Well, I guess I'm becoming this digital expert in some capacity.”
I don't know if I called myself a digital marketer yet because that word was probably still emerging at that time as a concept, but I think I was like, “I guess I'm gonna keep earning through this path of client services” and that's why I kind of got exposed to what client services were. Offering client services versus having a job is a bit of a different lifestyle and mindset.
So probably about five or six years ago.
Zoë: That's really cool. I feel a lot of people, especially in the Collective, have slowly eased their way into digital marketing without realizing it. That's how it worked for me when I started with social media, so I like hearing those backstories.
What key work habits do you feel really contributed to your success?
Rich: I was never the strongest with habits. So probably one thing for me is just getting up nice and early, every single day, even if you're tired. It forces you to do something productive if you’re getting up around 6:30-7:30am.
Getting up and doing what's most important right off the bat, trying to have a system that you don't have to think too much, allows you to start working away.
I also try to hack tools. When I sit down at my computer, I click a button and it opens things up and kind of guides me to where I should be thinking.
I have a little tab at the top of my Google Chrome browser that says ‘start here’. It opens all your key tabs like my project list, Slack channels, etc. which helps you get right to it.
Most people probably just aren't getting into the groove fast enough, so I think having that early morning start is pretty beneficial, right?
Zoë: I definitely agree. It's interesting that you feel you don't have a lot of habits, because we often talk about your systems and routines set in place. Your advice has helped me tremendously, not just with work, but in general. Since becoming proficient in digital marketing, do you feel that your self-care routine has evolved because of the demanding digital grind?
Rich: Because I'm 36, I was already starting my life without worrying about the word “self-care”. No one talked about that 15 years ago. I lived very similarly to a normal person. Average lifestyle, what you might expect. Nothing crazy, but going out on the occasional weekend.
I got healthy for my own reasons, which had nothing to do with my career. You watch an eye-opening documentary, so you think about that and make some changes.
I do know how to relax, though. I picked my job because I didn't want the demanding stresses of a lawyer, which is really about time stress.
There's nothing crazy hard about any of these jobs. It's the demands of the corporate culture that really push people to be competitive. That if you don't do it, someone else is going to get partners, so you gotta do it.
I didn't want to feel like I had to compete to have a great life, so I'm someone who knows how to create relaxing states and enjoy things. I have no problem playing a game and not feeling guilty about it.
When you do get your life in a place, you should shift into not self-care, but how can you care for others, how can you bring them forward and how can you uplift them.
Zoë: That’s a very interesting point of view. So do you feel that most successful digital marketers you know have a strong self-care routine, or do you think that’s up for question?
Rich: I think digital marketers know what's best for them. They sense why it's a great industry to be in. So, I think they're the kind of people that figure out self-care.
A lot of digital marketers are working out and know about different food movements, you know?
Because they're naturally researchers, they know how to use the internet to find information. I think they are probably quite strong and have more awareness. They're going through life with a critical eye, and that's why they’ve found digital marketing.
Zoë: You make a great point. So getting into the beginning stages of your brand, could you tell me about building Rich + Niche, and how you came up with the concept?
Rich: Well the concept Rich + Niche is simply because a digital marketer helps people within their niche space online. Everyone's kind of in their own niche.
I’ve felt like digital marketers are the kind of people that help others do well in their niche for a long time. My brand tagline for a while was “We are going to help you dominate your niche” and that's kind of where that philosophy comes from. We felt that Rich + Niche represented that very well.
But let's talk more about how to pick a name. It is hard to pick a domain name these days, isn't it?
For all digital marketers that don't know out there, you gotta know a website called namecheck.com. You put a word in and realize not only is .com, the domain, gone, but also all the social media is already gone.
So I felt that you should start looking at combining words. As a combo, I think Rich + Niche opens up a lot of new ideas and it is kind of trendy and practical. Combining x and y names has been working out for most these days.
But you shouldn't worry too much about the name you create. You should worry about the quality you provide because I think your reputation speaks for you a lot louder than what your name is.
People should also know what the point of the logo is. It's not to really say anything, it's just defining yourself in a way that is memorable. So, although I love selling branding because I think it's a great area to work in, I also like to tell bootstrappers to not overthink their brand.
Get going, go sell, and go deliver. The brand will come and it's an evolving thing.
Zoë: One of the biggest pieces of advice I got when I was trying to think of my brand name was that you put the reputation behind the name. So many brands out there have odd names when you take the reputation out of the equation, so don’t let that trip you up. How big of a role do you think branding really plays in digital marketing?
Rich: Well, I think it's bigger than most people know. Most people are overlooking branding, but in a digital sense, it's also nowhere near as critical as we might make it out to be at a brand level.
We want to believe in a brand, we want to believe it increases conversion rate, and I definitely think it does. There's a minimally viable branding quality that people kind of look for from a natural eye, just like if you bought a box of Kraft Dinner at a grocery store, and one of the flaps was open already.
That's unacceptable in modern times, and it’s just the same when the website looks off. It's becoming unacceptable.
So I think from a basic design principle stand, you want to hire someone to make sure you get that part right, but whether you choose this palette or that palette, I think you can do tests. I’d get a few people in your target demo. Make coercion and say, “Hey, which one do you like better? Which one do you feel more attracted to?”
A great question is, what does this remind you of? Get a sense of what they see because then it's, “Oh it reminds me of a luxury good. Oh, it reminds me of cheap.” Okay, I better look into that. Is that what I want?
Maybe you do want cheap looking if the price is part of it. The no-name brands are perfect examples of that.
It's strategic branding. Branding needs to be thought about, not at just a design level, but a strategy level.
It's going to say, “What is your mission as a statement, and how do you define and write that out for people so that they can clearly know?” Having a strong intention or view is very important as a brand.
You should know this secret about life and that's what your brand is out there for- to spread to the world. Vegan is the choice, or these computers are the fastest, or this marketing course is stronger than others. You are always trying to get that word out.
Branding is going to play a role in that, but to what degree to each brand, is really a case by case, and I think what's more critical. If I change my brand, what are the ramifications?
What I love is when you have a nice, lean brand. You can make moves, update your logo, and revive things quickly. That goes well with a bootstrap business.
So I think it is important, but let's not overthink it when we're just getting started.
Zoë: So for people who are just getting started, what would be the biggest piece of advice you could give about creating a strong brand if you could only pick one thing?
Rich: More narrow. Everyone loves a narrow brand.
Let me ask you a question. What does a Ford vehicle look like? You're like, “Is it a truck? Is it a car? Is it a Ford hybrid?” But what if I asked what a Lamborghini looks like? You can get a lot closer right? And I think that's because people like and remember narrow brands.
Try to be more defined and narrow, especially at the beginning. You'll reach the target people faster.
Once you start making content, the more straight forward you are, the easier it really is to find possible customers, members, and whatnot.
Keep it simple. Keep your language very simple. You might be sophisticated in the brand sense, but people need to understand what you're saying.
So keep your copy nice and clean. Simple words. Grade five reading level, less is more, less is always more in most cases.
Branding isn’t entry-level.
I think you develop a brand sense as you grow as a person who is touching brands, right?
You will only get better as you develop, so that's a great reason to start a micro brand. That's what is great about digital marketing and online business.
It's nice to be building things like you are stacking. It's not going to kill you if you have it, and it might even grow so you can go flex your brand building muscles, design quality, messaging, and overall website experience.
Maybe you stop there. Maybe you don't do social media for this micro brand, because it's so micro, you might actually rank well in SEO, right? That's where you want to go with it.
Just imagine you design Notion boards for female yoga instructors. That's so narrow, but you know there are some female yoga fitness instructors out there that might actually search for how to use Notion. That one will grab their eyes because it's so narrow.
And that's how you win. By being narrow.
Zoë: I find myself overcomplicating things more often than not, so I’ve been working on that less-is-more mentality. Speaking of Lamborghini… Do you think it would be possible to build such a substantial brand if you were to start today?
Rich: Absolutely, we are going to see bigger brands.
I mean, Amazon is a huge brand. You don't feel it as a brand because they don't advertise how the old brands used to advertise.
We're so illusioned and fantasized about TV commercials. A Michael Jordan dunking a basketball is an incredible video to be watching for anyone. I've been watching the Netflix special with Michael Jordan and its fantastic. You can't not enjoy the godliness. That is Michael Jordan. And I think that we were able to advertise through celebrity and power like that before, but now it's just a little different.
Amazon built its brand through Google AdWords. They were showing up when you were shopping, then they provided the fastest possible delivery path, which is reputation building.
Snapchat is just as big as Nike. More people went on Snapchat today than the Nike store.
So what's popular now is apps, applications. Your attention is on, “What can I do with apps now?What's my life like with all these apps?”
We’re even doing it right now, so absolutely. And it doesn't mean that brand is always reflective of profitability, but it is culture and there will be people with worldwide brands, forums, etc.
Look at the 4chan forum… It's garbage, scary, wild forum, but it's branded on the dark side of the internet. That's the craziest forum. And how did they build that?
They were narrow. They had a very narrow, specific set of rules on what happens on this website and they made a name for themselves with that.
So, I think it's a yes.
Zoë: I think an important message to pull from that is, there is a place for everyone. People get so caught up and like, “Oh there's this, there's already that.” But still, to this day, there's so much possibility.
Rich: Right, I like that attitude, but don't forget the possibility is in the future. And what does that mean that if you're looking at someone and they've already done it? You need to look next.
If you're a bit slow, you have to accept that fast. Moving is a strategy. So what you really want to do is be developing the skills, knowledge, and commitment for when your time comes.
I didn't start talking about digital marketing when I knew about digital marketing. I waited for a time in our culture where I saw, not only did people want to be remote workers like me, they needed a way to do it remotely and I believed that full stack marketing is one of the very first careers that are more stable.
For graphic designers, I don't think it's as stable. You don't have as much work because you can only do so many logos and such, so stacking feels like you have an endless list of tasks because the more content the better.
In my nine-stage system, stage 7 is content. You spend the most time and the most money there. And that's what's beautiful about digital marketing. It’s that once you've built the core of your client's vehicle, you help them put the gas in, and you never stop driving.
I think that's a unique thing. I waited for that, I saw that leaped and took it and now I’m claiming it.
So I think people shouldn't be watching others. They should be observing the culture and seeing what's coming down the pipeline.
For example, TikTok is blowing up.
You might want to position yourself not as a TikToker, but as someone who serves TikTokers. It's that second level.
If you want to be a marketer, how can you serve these people?
Maybe it's like, “Hey, I repurpose TikTok content for YouTube and Instagram so you can just focus on TikTok.” I know that's a bit weird, but it won’t be in three years. That's just the way it is.
And so, positioning for a wave is the appropriate mentality. Most people don't have that. They're constantly looking for what people are already doing that is done, and they've won and that's game over.
You're not going to be PewDiePie anymore. You're not going to use that same model that he used to be where he is. You gotta innovate. You have to have one new level, so make sure you're looking into the future of what's coming down the pipeline.
Zoë: I like that approach because I think a lot of advice is just, “You need to get out there, you need to do it now. You need to start today or you're losing.” Obviously you need to be grinding, but timing is definitely important. Aside from your latest Rich + Niche course that just launched, is there anything exciting people can expect to come as you continue to grow your brand?
Rich: Because my wife is about to give birth any day now, I just really wanted to be course-focused for the quarter one and a little bit of quarter two for this year.
I knew that once she gave birth, the whole reason I wanted to be a remote worker was to be an available, supportive father. So I'm probably going to chill on course creation a little bit, at least on some of these more foundational transformational type things.
I'm really wanting to shift back into more content-driven stuff, like YouTube. More innovation there. I think we need to create something of value so that we have an exchange with our audience just like yourself. But in order to sustain it otherwise would not do it, that's just you have to incentivize the world's innovation, right?
So I'm excited to get back to content because I've been more product-focused based on my timing.
I have a lot of different ideas for podcasts and videos that I think would be good matches for our audience. I look at Rich + Niche trying to become synonymous with modern digital marketing, being the Netflix for people on YouTube, and also being the university for them on the Rich + Niche Academy. Then also providing them that career network in the Collective.
I'm trying to create an experience for a very specific person, who is thinking that in the next 20 years, they'll definitely own their own big brand.
They're probably going to launch it on their own back. They're probably going bootstrap, but before they get there, they’d earn some money so they don't have to take that job they don't like. They could probably earn more from home if they could just develop their marketing skillset and the mindset around what it's like to shift out of 9-5 to. Well, it might be 7-7. But at least you'll be doing it for yourself, on your own terms in your own house with the clients of your choice.
For me, it goes back to the four-hour workweek by Tim Ferris. He started that journey for me.
The journey for me is not really all things automation, but when you control the who, the what, the where, and the when.
Those are all multipliers of the value of the money you earn, meaning you could be making 7k0 in an office, but you'd actually love your life three to four times as much making 40k at home where you get to choose what you do.
I believe that. In my first year, maybe I made $25,000 in my efforts. I don't remember, but I was loving it and I was new. I was growing, there was no doubt.
Man, you grow fast with every single digital marketing project. You just don't make the same mistakes, your aesthetics get stronger, your speed gets faster. You know where things are because so much of digital marketing is plugging all these things in.
Where is all this stuff? You build a bit of documentation for yourself. You know your process, maybe you borrow from others. That's why we have the Collective to kind of share how we do things.
Then you're just fast.
What people don't know is, it was even surprising to me when I created my first major core full-stack marketing funnel.
I tell people it takes around four to eight weeks to learn this, but when you're done, you can complete it in four to eight hours. You get much, much faster over time.
That's where you make the money because now you can do twice as fast. That opens up a lot of new possibilities. Whether you use that new time for other things, or you take a second client, speed matters a lot.
Zoë: Yes, speed is crucial. I agree you lined everything out perfectly in the course. It's one of the reasons I was drawn to you just by watching your YouTube videos. It's so easy to absorb the information and actually get it the first time instead of having to do it 50 billion times before I can get it correctly once. And from there you can really take off. I really appreciate that.
And I also really like the Collective. I feel like it's still underrated. It's growing, but I just can't talk about it enough.
I recently quit my job and moved into marketing full-time. Having that support system, a place where we can all really grow and share all different pieces of information, really just be there to troubleshoot and grind is so refreshing. I can't wait to continue growing. I feel it every single day. Just getting to work and having your systems in place really helps everything be streamlined.
Rich: Absolutely, so glad you’re loving it.