MBP #5: How Jason Glaspey Built a Paleo Meal Plan Powerhouse
Jason Glaspey founded Paleo Plan in 2009, after he discovered it after joining his local Crossfit gym. It was based on a simple idea – produce a weekly meal plan and shopping list so members could eat Paleo, waste less, and buy the right foods easily and quickly. Save time, save money, all for a low monthly price.
Within a year, he would have 500+ members.
In less than a year and a half, he would quit his full time job to work on Paleo Plan.
And in less than two years, he was able to replace his full-time income and bring on a trained nutritionist.
Now, five years later, he sends out thousands of meal plans a week to loyal fans who have also purchased other products he’s produced like ebooks and fitness plan add-ons.
What will you learn in this episode:
- Why he started Paleo Plan in three weeks
- How he was able to get customers on day one with no existing readership
- How Jason approaches “research & development” for Paleo Plan and avoids “over research and over development.”
- How he uses the membership as a focus group to build new products, like a weekly workout plan upsell to the meal plan
- How the electronic Paleo Plan Quickstart Guide outsold the paperback The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo
- How he leveraged partnerships with Crossfit gyms to purchase licenses to the Quickstart Guide (to give away) and send him new members.
- How he found and hired his first contributor to Paleo Plan
- The one little change that resulted in a 60% increase in signups
Big thank you to Jason for chatting with me and sharing his experiences with you, he has a very busy schedule and I appreciate him taking a small bit of it for us! To show your appreciation, click to tweet @jasonglaspey and tell him how inspired you were by his story!
Resources and links mentioned in this chat:
- Paleo Plan
- The (Official) Paleo Diet
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo
- Favorite Book: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. No favorite business book but thought Made to Stick was “pretty good and just defining some big ideas that are fun to use and try and extract value into personal executions.”
- Favorite Website: He follows news around Macs, more about new and interesting software and applications but not to the level of fanboy – likes TUAW.com. Also a fan of Fizzle.
- Hobbies: Movies and mountain biking. And watching Archer. I could watch Archer all day every day. It’s like my brain’s that tree, and Archer are those little cookie elves…
- Find him on Twitter as @jasonglaspey and at JasonGlaspey.com.
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Jim: Today’s conventional wisdom says that you should build an audience, then build a product. He thinks that’s dumb. He thinks that you should build a product you want, then attract an audience you can sell it to, and that’s the only way that makes sense to him. We learn why he takes this approach, and how he’s been so successful with it. Then we’ll also find out one little change he made three months in to his business that increased sign-ups by 60%.
Jim: We look back at the end to fill in anything we missed, hope you enjoy it.
Jim: Hey Jason, how’s it going?
Jason: Really good Jim, how’re you doing?
Jim: I’m doing well, thanks for coming on the show, I really want to thank you, and we’re going to have some fun talking your great business, Paleo Plan. How did it get started? How did you get in to Paleo in the first place?
Jason: Yea, I actually learned about it for the first time about five years ago, I was going to a Cross Fit gym in Portland, Oregon, and Cross Fit was pretty new and, especially to me, and so I was learning a bunch, and one of the things they did was, they had a boot camp that they forced everyone to go to. And part of that, they covered nutrition pretty heavily. So that was the first time I was exposed to Paleo and the more research I did online, I just started learning more, kind of being intrigued by the idea of this whole philosophy of, you know, going back from a modern, standard American diet with a ton of junk food to, you know, real food that was available, it’s been available for a long time that our bodies are used to eating.
So that was pretty interesting, however at the time, again, you know this was maybe five years ago, there were very, very few resources available online, and those that were, were not very well presented. It was maybe a long list of text links to different resources, just a huge page of recipes that were impossible to navigate. And my wife and I were just spending, you know, two to two and a half hours a week trying to find recipes, write up a shopping list, going to the store, coming back, realizing we forgot a couple of ingredients, going back to the store, buying a whole bunch more stuff, coming back and then not planning well enough and throwing a ton of food away. And I just realized, you know, some smart planning would make this so much more efficient, so much cheaper and we’d be wasting a lot less food.
Jim: From what I understand, Paleo, it’s not like Atkins or those South Beach fad diets where it was centralized and one person came up with it and they came with like, books, and these different plans. Paleo is a little more grass-roots. Am I correct?
Jason: Yeah, there is a doctor who kind of coined the term Paleo diet. His name is Dr. Loren Cordain, and he wrote a book quite a few years ago, of the same name, The Paleo Diet. And so, he has that term actually trademarked, but, he has chosen that, you know, this is a way of living for people, this isn’t a brand and so, you know, he’s been very generous with the use of that term. A lot of people, to find the information they need and to get healthy, so it isn’t a centralized brand with a lot of money behind it, and a marketing team coming up with products, it was “Hey, eat real food.”. It’s a really simple philosophy.
As a result, it really took off and one of the interesting things that I’ve always found that really differentiated Paleo from Atkins or South Beach or many of the other marketable fad diets was, it’s the first diet I ever saw healthy, fit people eating. When they were already healthy and fit. You know, I think we’ve all seen people who lost a lot of weight on Atkins, and that’s fantastic, but I never saw someone who had no weight to lose start eating Atkins. With Paleo, again, you’ve got to introduce through Cross Fit because, I think that Cross Fit is really recognized that, when their athletes eat that way, they perform much, much better. A lot of professional athletes now are actually starting to turn to Paleo or a similar to Paleo diet. Where fueling yourself with natural foods just tends to create better performance.
Cross fit kind of saw that early, and as a result I got exposed to it early, and I saw a business opportunity. Because, my wife and I were struggling and I thought, if I can make a product for us, I think it would be a product for other people as well.
Jim: I think that’s how a lot of entrepreneurship success stories start off. Is, you see a need that you have, that is growing and burgeoning and you build it, and then people come. What’s your background?
Jason: Yeah, I actually was an English major in college, and advertising major. So my focus was on copy writing, which is the guy who writes the commercials, comes up with the tag lines, slogans, defines how the commercial is going to work, etc.. And I really loved that and being with an English major, I think it made me a really good story-teller. But when I graduated it was a really tough time to get a job in Portland. There were a lot of writers out of work, and the only people I knew who were making money were building websites. So I had some friends and I thought, “Hey, show me what you know!” and I started building websites for really small ones, for small companies. I ended up getting a job at a car magazine, helping them with their website, and then slowly just worked my way through the food-chain, and interactive. I worked at several interactive agencies, and advertising agencies as an interactive specialist. I’ve never been a designer or a programmer, so to speak, but always just kind of, could figure out that strategy, the product, and how to tell the story of a brand to an audience. And that’s just been my strength and it’s worked out pretty well for me, and in creating PaleoPlan, I definitely try to use that as much as I could to my advantage.
Jim: And it, I mean it’s a great site. You hit it on the head in the beginning. Because I know PaleoPlan, when you started it, it immediately, you offer the ability to sign up for weekly meal plans, right?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. We had no site until we had a product. A lot of people, you know, start creating a blog, and what not. I just chose to start with a product first, and the blog actually came second, obviously, I had to build an audience, so I used AdWords. I was a product first, branding first and story first.
Jim: So let’s go back to the first customer. You just mentioned AdWords. I know a lot of time people suggest that, you know, you build a blog and you build a readership, and then you think about the product that your readership would want to buy from you. And in your case, since you were solving your own problem, you knew that meal plans and saving you the time and the waste, I mean waste is a huge issue, is key. And so, you already knew that this product had a need, based on just you alone, and maybe the people that you talked to that, you know, took Cross Fit with you and what not. How did you find that first customer?
Jason: Yeah, I knew very little about blogging to build an audience first, and I’ve worked with larger brands who, you know, when they wanted to get a message out, they bought AdWords. It was a very consistent and predictable way to get people to your site. So, early on, I actually launched the site in three weeks. I just went down and I took everything off the shelves that I could find to cobble together a working product. And I just used AdWords to test it. And when people starting coming and I kind of gauged, alright, well I spent $200 yesterday and x amount of people came, this many people bought, I actually have a profit margin of three dollars, I can afford to spend $40, or more the next day. And just slowly ramped that up, testing different messages and AdWords, and just thinking, you know, If I can get the word out people will start talking about it. If nothing else, I was at a position where I could, no body was buying ads against Paleo at the time. It was a very obscure diet, and so I could afford advertising very, very inexpensively. It would be very difficult to launch this site now without a pre-existing audience and just, you know, relying on the advertising that I did five years ago.
Jim: How did you know what to advertise with? I mean I know you know how use AdWords, but how would you know what your customers or the language that they’re speaking if paleo was so new?
Jason: Yeah, so, at the time my focus was not on convincing people about the paleo diet, I knew that that was a long-tail approach, and it would be very expensive to gain customers that way. So instead I chose just to really focus hard on the small, at the time, small market of people who had heard about Paleo, and were trying to make it easier. And I knew that that was going to be a lot of Cross Fitters at the time, because of all the people who had heard about it, it was only the Cross Fitters that were really active, and knew about it, and trying it. So I just used a lot of language around that market and really just make Paleo eating, eating easier, you know. How to eat Paleo easier, we provide meal plans, shopping lists and recipes to save you time and money. And our value proposition was, you know, we’ll save you money because you’ll throw away less food, and we’ll save you hours because, you won’t be figuring all this out every week. And I just, you know, we’re saving you two and a half hours a week and you know, ten dollars a month is a no-brainer.
Jim: So your targeting was very, very specific. You weren’t trying to convince dieters that they should try Paleo, you specifically went after the Paleo, people that were searching for Paleo information, and knew, you know, the time savings were pretty obvious.
Jason: Yeah, that was absolutely it, and as well you know, I’m not a dietitian, a nutritionist, I’ve studied that a lot actually in college, it was something I had found interesting, but it’s not my life’s work. So I knew that I couldn’t be the person to convince people. I wouldn’t hold the key to why this was, you know, the right way to eat and answer all of their questions.
So I really just focused on, hey, everyone who is trying to eat Paleo is asking the same questions; What meals do I eat tomorrow, and what do I need to buy at the store to make that easy, and simple and fast. So, that’s a question you don’t have to be a nutrition therapist to answer. You can pick out recipes, you can combine them in an intelligent way, making sure you have a good macro-nutrient profile, enough fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and you can make sure that you’re, you know, getting a nice diversity of food. And that’s just, you know, a reasonable planning experience, not necessarily a dietitian. Obviously, knowing a little bit about it helped, but, it wasn’t until about a year later that I brought on a nutrition therapist named Neely Quinn and she really brought a lot of expertise and validity to the site. And she started blogging right away, writing these fantastic blog posts with a lot of scientific support about the Paleo diet, and was able to answer questions very authoritatively to our readers who were having, you know, specific issues. And that was a massive, massive upgrade for the site, probably one of the water shed moments for us moving forward. Because, as Paleo diet grew, we starting having people who didn’t know about it and were asking some pretty specific questions that needed someone with some specific answers. And so it was a pretty great opportunity to bring someone on and to really add validity and add that face to the company that was like, yeah, I trust her, she went to school for this for four years. She knows this, she lives this, she does this because her herself has to because of her food allergies and sensitivities.
So, at that point, you know, we really came to, graduated to a much more sophisticated and expertise-driven website, which obviously allowed us to grow much faster.
Jim: That’s interesting, I was going to ask you, like a lot of times, businesses have a chicken and an egg issue where you build a product, or you get an audience, you know, one’s the chicken and one’s the egg, you seem to have solved the getting the customer part. At least that first year. Because, you know, AdWords, very targeted, you can get people to your site, and in creating the product it sounds like you just took, sort of, existing resources, added your own brain with planning and just understanding, you know, like she said, macro-nutritional concepts, and were able for the first year, that was good enough for you to entice members to join.
Jason: Yeah, it was. Another thing is, you know, early on there were so few resources, people came to my site and were like “Wow! This is perfect.” They didn’t even care who I was, or what I was doing, because they just recognized how much value this brought compared to everything else that was out there. As the community started growing, and more people started coming to the site and more people were looking for bigger answers, then it, Neely came really at the perfect time. She would have been a wasted resource in the first year, because we weren’t big enough to support two people and people didn’t have that much sophistication in their questions yet. But as more and more people started coming, the diversity of information online started to shift, her presence was pretty powerful.
Jim: So it sounds like, in the first year, I mean, one thing that I think was important was that you were eating this diet, you were eating Paleo, you were participating in Cross Fit, like you were a member of that tribe, or that group. If some other outsider came in and said, “Hey, these are plans, I don’t really use them, but this is, I saw this on some other website and I put it together.” It sort of loses the credibility. Right? You don’t necessarily have to be the expert, but you have to be on the journey with them.
Jason: Yeah, definitely. And I was also one of the people who, you know, I don’t, it’s not my identity. I definitely know people who made Paleo their identity, for all sorts of reasons. And I think that also allowed people to kind of feel comfortable, with like, you know, people weren’t ready to be like, “I am this diet! This is who I am!” and they saw like, you can eat this way and feel better and still be you, and not have to change a lot of things about you and if you need to cheat because your mom made you that thing and you’re at her house and you can’t, like, “Hey!”. You don’t have to be dogmatic about it. And at the time, in the early days, there was a lot of people who were very dogmatic about it. Right? And so I think that was work, if you had anything that was anywhere remotely close to off the list, you were, you know, you were in trouble. And I think I also provided a little value there where, I was just like, hey, this is valuable but, it’s a tool moving forward. It’s not the only thing that defines my life. And I think that that actually provided a nice ambiance as well.
But definitely that first year, I mean, we did everything so, just, how can we be the most efficient, you know? Our product instead of building a really advanced meal planning tool where you could type in any type of recipe and build your own meal plan and hit print and export a shopping list for your custom meal plan, I just realized, one, that’s really expensive and two, a lot of the people we’re serving didn’t need that kind of complexity. They didn’t want to spend that time. But if they were paying for it, they felt like they had to, like they were being second class citizens if they just took the stock meal plan.
One of the things that I had an opportunity to learn working for really big brands is, just because you can imagine a really awesome way to do something, doesn’t mean it’s actually better. And I saw a lot of brands to really, really complex things to create a really complex product, and it just, nobody cared, nobody came, and they never got the return on their investment. So, I was always like, I will build that tool when I am confident that there is demand that overwhelms the demand for a simple, one size fits all. And we had some really nice ways to make adjustments to the meal plan if you weren’t, if you did want to change something. But for the most part, people were really happy with a very simple version and that allowed us to just e-mail them a PDF and I could list out the recipes, I could build out the shopping list with a calculator and create a PDF in InDesign and mail it to someone and I didn’t need to hire a programmer for $20,000 to build me a tool it allowed me to launch in three weeks.
And four and a half years later I still haven’t found a compelling reason to build out a very complicated tool, and I’m pretty sure that we’d lose money if we did because people would find that, you know, unless that tool is incredibly easy to use, vrey, very rewarding in the experience, people get frustrated. And then they carry that frustration over to you. And at this point, after four and a half years, our customers have switched to be a lot more non-tech-savvy women. Women that are late 40’s and 50’s and they’re not necessarily interested in spending a lot of time building out a shopping list.
Those services exist in other places, if they really wanted. We’ve had really good success with staying simple, staying lean and keeping a really good overhead, a really low overhead.
Jim: I think it’s interesting that you say, you know, don’t build it unless there’s an overwhelming demand, and now four years later there still is no demand for that sort of customization. Part of it, I think, is Paleo plan is like, it’s very straight forward. You get these meal plans, you know exactly what you’re getting, it’s designed to keep things simpler for you. Right? Otherwise, if you wanted ultimate creativity you could get all sorts of you know, menus or cookbooks and things like that and create your own, if you really wanted that level of creativity. But if you want something every week, then that’s why you sign up for the service. That’s your, that’s your differentiater, I would say.
Jason: Yeah, and we spend a lot of time on our meal plans. Our current, we have a woman who’s a chef and recipe creator and she really works in the seasonality of foods. You know, these are the foods that are going to be affordable at the grocery store right now and you know, fish should probably, if you’re going to do your grocery shopping on the weekends, let’s eat fish early in the week so that it’s not all gamey by the end of, you know, by Friday night. Let’s plan smart left overs, certain foods don’t make good left overs, so don’t make two batches of that and think that you’re going to eat it for lunch tomorrow. There’s a lot of planning that goes in to that, and figuring out when the prep days are and hey, you’re going to cook extra fish or extra chicken today because you’re going to use it for lunch in two days.
So I think people get a lot of really smart, intelligent meal planning, that if they were doing it themselves, they would have to spend that time on.
Jim: That’s a good point.
Jason: I’ve also seen people use, or I’ve seen a lot of other companies try and come out with this really clever meal planning tool, and I’m very internet savvy, I spend all of my time using different tools and I love to use them. I’ve yet to find one that’s actually enjoyable to use, instead of being a huge pain in the ass that leaves me more frustrated then when I started.
Jim: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: What we did, is we made it really simple to leave things off. If you see a meal, like on Tuesday morning, that you’re not interested in, it’s got a number by it, and all the ingredients that are part of that meal are numbered in the shopping list, so you can just check those ingredients off. And then you’re not buying food that you don’t plan on eating, but it’s really easy to modify. Just, oh well, I know that the recipe I do want is just these four things, you can just write that down. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t have to, you don’t have to make it a digital version of that.
Jim: What’s really interesting is that you, as you say, you don’t want to build complexity, like the process that you guys use, sounds very complex. But the end product, and that’s sort of the, you know, the grace and beauty of a well run process, is that the end product looks simple, even though there’s a lot of intelligence built it. Like the planning, what doesn’t make a good left over, how you replace, you know like, the menu item on Tuesday, what can you replace it with. I mean, I think that’s really smart, I mean, that’s where you should be spending “research dollars”, instead of building a tool that is just complex for show.
Jason: Yea, and I’ll be really honest, I’m lazy. I’m a really good entrepreneur because I can’t imagine a boss telling me I have to show up at Tuesday every week, week after week, after week. That just scares me, and I also figured out, like, I want every minute I spend on PaleoPlan to be very, very effective. Nothing saddens me more than doing a huge project and seeing it just flop and not getting return on that investment. So, again, I’m make sure that something is pretty proven to be successful before I take on any big undertaking. I don’t mind spending some money and some time on a marketing effort that, you know, may or may not work. But I certainly don’t want to add complexity to our product and then hope that we don’t lose people as a result.
Jim: How do you do the research to find out if something is worth doing?
Jason: You know, it comes in a lot of ways, one of them, again, is just I’ve used tools that I’m not happy with, and I don’t want to have a tool that I’m unhappy with. As someone who loves internet tools, it would make me really sad to be disappointed with what I have. Because I’m not a programmer, I can’t fix it if something is broken, and I’m really reliant on someone else, whether that’s an employee or a contractor. And that means every time I come up with a better way to do it, I’m going to have to spend more and more money and my natural tendency is to refine. So, it has to be a pretty significant, obvious value before I’m going to take on that level of risk.
As well as I talk to people and, one of the things that we did is, we heard people saying “I would like a way to modify the meal plan.”. We just spent some time like, what are they really asking? What’s the problem they’re really faced with? I had a hunch that it was really just that they didn’t want to be buying food they weren’t using. And when we created the number system, which actually came out 6 months or a year after we launched, the number of requests to modify the meal plan just absolutely plummeted. And we realized, ok, we solved the problem. We got people to quit asking for a solution, because it was no longer a problem. And we did that by recognizing that they didn’t want full customization, they didn’t want a complicated tool. What they wanted was to make sure that when they went to the grocery store they weren’t buying food they didn’t plan on eating. And we gave them a really simple way to remove that.
People are intelligent, they’ve grocery shopped before, they know how to add in a few ingredients for a specific meal they have in mind. And so, once we saw just that, we tested a very simple idea, and when it worked, we knew that we had solved the larger problem as well. We still get requests for it, but the percentage of people asking for it compared to the overwhelming number of people who are happily using our system is just, tiny.
Jim: Gotcha. And then so, well I wanted to go back to that first year, do you remember how many members you had signed up that first year?
Jason: You know, I think, I feel like it took me a year to hit 500. Because, yea, it took me a little over a year to hit 500 members. And I remember, that was a pretty big milestone for us. It was later that year that we had grown quickly enough that I was able to leave my job and go full time on it. And by the end of that year, I had grown fast enough to be able to replace the income I had left.
Jim: So this was all within a year and a half?
Jason: It was right around two years after launch that I had finally replaced the income that I had left, but once Neely came on and we really started focusing on growth, and I quit my job and was able to really focus on not just answering questions and keeping the company active, but actually what can we be doing to grow and improve? And I brought on someone to help with support so my mind was freed up from just answering, you know, silly questions, to focusing on the business. So yeah, the first year I think we got three to four hundred people.
Early in the second year we hit 500, and I’m going to say by the end of the second year we were 1500-ish people.
Jim: Wow, that’s amazing.
Jason: Yeah, we’ve had very, very good growth and obviously, you know, the growth of the Paleo diet, and just people’s awareness of it has certainly benefited our business. You know, we were getting better at our job, and at the same time more people were looking for it. So it was a nice, nice timing, and just fortuitous timing, I’d say.
Jim: So that first year, you have 3, 4, 500 numbers, getting weekly emails for your meal plans, you were doing that, you were doing the customer service essentially until you brought on the assistant, and then you hired Neely, as your first hire. How did you find her? Because I looked online on PaleoPlan, and it said she lives in Denver? And you’re in Portland.
Jason: Yeah, she actually came to me. She had seen the site and was really impressed with it, and just sent me an email like, hi, and she introduced herself, let me know she was a nutrition therapist, was really in to what I was doing because she ate Paleo. She’s got an entrepreneur in her as well, and she was trying to figure out how to break in to this web stuff, and was kind of wondering if I would either mentor her, or if I was willing to work on a project with her, to help her build an internet business. Over a couple of months we were just chatting, and obviously I couldn’t help her build a competing business to what I was doing. She just really couldn’t feel like she could behind any other diet and promote in the same way I was doing PaleoPlan and then at one point, she just said, you know, have you ever thought about me helping you? And I was like, yea, kind of, I don’t know. I was nervous to hire someone though because, you know, I wasn’t even completely supporting myself at the time. It was nice side revenue, but I still had to have a regular job. The idea of bringing on a partner was really scary because you know, how would that affect our growth? How would that affect my ability to pay my, you know, support my family? But we just talked and I really liked her, I really liked her ambition and she’s a smart, smart lady.
She also just made a lot of sense, she had a lot of skills that really filled in the massive gaps that I had. My skills were very different from hers, she would have a very difficult time building a successful web company without internet experience, and a background. The more we talked, the better we felt, and so, she started off just writing some blog posts for me, and answering a few tricky customer questions and then taking on a little bit more, and a little bit more, and pretty soon she was working full time and we were growing much faster and we started using her skills in a lot of different ways.
Jim: It sounds like it was just, like you said, it was good timing and a good fit in terms of skills, and not necessarily you had this growth strategy and she was perfect for it until after she showed up.
Jason: Yeah, I’ll be honest, it was **** luck. Pardon my french. And I’m so thankful. She’s become a good friend, we talk regularly and, you know our calls will always extend way beyond just work. Having her really helped me see how I could use her, versus me having a bunch of ideas and then finding that person. I’ve actually tried to keep that strategy with other people. When you find someone who is really great, see how they can improve your company versus having a very specific job position in mind and then just trying to fill that job position.
Jim: Is this how Max fit in? He’s the Cross Fit guy in California.
Jason: Yeah, so Neely actually met Max at a big Paleo conference and he was just a really funny, really clever guy and we were just talking about, you know, it would be nice to have some fitness blog posts occasionally. So we reached out to him and he’s got just a great sense of humor and really approachable, while still being, you know, obviously incredibly fit and really knowledgeable. He just started writing occasional blog posts for us, just to kind of, you know, build his brand and at the same time increase the type of information we could provide to our readers. Then after maybe 6 months, to a year of him doing that we just started looking at, you know, how else can we work together? Would a fitness product make sense? What would he need to get out of it to make it worthwhile for him? What would we need to get out of it to make it worthwhile for us? And how could we leverage that to make a better product for our customers?
So we did some research, we sent out an email to our existing subscribers and asked them, would you be interested in a product like this? We polled them, got their response. Then we followed up with, you know, what kind of product would you like to see? What would it look like? What elements would it be? And then just kind of worked with Max to design that, and it’s been a lot a fun, it’s been a nice addition to our product line.
Jim: Would that be the 21-day cleanse? Or the ebook.
Jason: So Max is, he just writes our work outs. We have a fitness product that’s a tag-a-long with the meal plan.
Jason: If you want to also get at-home workouts sent to you, you can add that on for five dollars and every week you get 4 workouts sent to you that are easy to do at home, require minimal equipment, and can be scaled from someone who is just starting fitness to in pretty good shape. Just to allow those people who, you know, either can’t afford, don’t have time, or just prefer a work out at home.
Jim: But there’s something nice, and easy about working out from home. As long as you’re motivated enough to do it, because you don’t have to get in a car, or run to gym or whatever. You just get up and go. So it seems like a natural pairing.
Jason: Yea, I still go to Cross Fit and I still do workouts at home. There’s some days it’s just like, I don’t really want to deal with that. Or, I don’t have the fifteen extra minutes it takes to commute because I’m trying to be efficient with my time today. And, you know, home work outs can be pretty effective, if you have that. And I think part of what we give is, you get an e-mail every week with a list of the workouts and suggestions on how to get through them. So that, you’re not on your own, you’re not completely in a vacuum just trying to build up the energy to work out and trying to figure out what you want to do that day. That there’s this thing that’s coming that you can leave comments on each day’s workout, see what other people felt about it. And still be part of the community in some ways that you wouldn’t be if you were just doing jumping jacks and verpees in your living room.
Jim: Right. And it’s great that with the membership you have a built in focus-group that you can ask, what would you want to buy?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a huge asset.
Jim: Is that, was that the genesis of, because I know you have that ebook, and then the 21-day cleanse. Where did those fit in? How did they get their start?
Jason: You know, we actually had an opportunity to write a print book. The complete idiots guide to eating Paleo, and we just recognized that there was a lot of really good information in it, but not everybody wants a print book anymore, or wants to wait for it to be delivered. There’s people who are doing research right now. And we also just kind of assumed that, you know, there’s some people who don’t want to be part of a membership, you know? We pay for our cell phones, our internet, our Netflix, our Hulu Plus, we get pretty burnt out on just ten more dollars a month, you know those can add up. So I like the idea of providing something with a ton of value that could be purchased one time, you have it, it’s in your pocket, you can download it, put it on your iPad.
And it also was a really nice product to partner with other people with. So like, Cross Fit gyms could buy it and distribute it to their members, it was a really easy package versus, how do you repackage weekly emails to a bunch of different people. So the genesis just kind of came from, you know, I saw ebooks as a growing trend, I myself prefer reading them. And I just thought, you know, it’s worth a shot and I think Neely was definitely a big push as well. She really believed in the concept. And since, you know, I have an author and she’s a fantastic writer, she’s very intelligent, she does her research. She could put together all the content pretty quickly, and it has absolutely been one of our best successes. I can’t believe how much more successful and profitable it is than our print book. Just, lights out. It’s, we charge way more for it, we get every dollar instead of a dollar per print book sold. And people are very, very, very happy with it. We’ve had extraordinary success with it.
Jim: Have you had a lot of success with selling it through like, Cross Fit partners and things like that?
Jason: Yeah, we allow Cross Fit partners to buy a professional license for it. It’s $300, or if they want to add their own branding, they can add their own logo for an extra hundred, just to kind of cover our time. And then, they get a license that allows them to distribute it to people inside their gym. They can’t just post it on their website for anyone to download, but they can e-mail it to their customers or provide a private access to it. We price that really, really low. The price of what, less than nine people in their gym would, and our focus there was just you know, it’s good information and it’s really helpful for a lot of people. And it creates a nice value add for the gym. And we just wanted gyms to be like, yea that’s a no-brainer, of course I’ll buy that. Because most of those customers at the gym probably wouldn’t, you know there’s a small likelihood that we would be marketing to them already and have an opportunity to capture them as a customer. So we just recognized the pie is really big, and we’d love to get our name out there as the absolute experts in this product. And, if they liked what they see, they can come get a meal plan from us.
You know, it’s really hard to market to Cross Fit owners. They’re very, very busy. Most of the ones I know spend very little time on a computer. So we haven’t done very aggressive marketing with the product, but we get requests for it. And it’s really nice to have a really amazing product and price to answer with. And we’ve sold, I don’t know, a couple hundred of them probably to gyms?
Jim: Well, are you able to track whether those customers, rather the Cross Fit members join PaleoPlan?
Jason: You know, that, if there is a way, I don’t know how to do it. So we haven’t been able to see the final conversion from that aspect. But, you know, it’s never a bad thing when the person who is telling you about Paleo, you know, that’s your Cross Fit coach is also the one saying , and here’s the resource to use. These guys are the experts.
Jason: And even if it’s some person who doesn’t want to eat Paleo, they love their pizza, they’re still exposed to us. We’ve found that Cross Fitters become really great evangelists for us because so many people go to people, like people who Cross Fit regularly tend to be pretty ripped and in great shape. And people turned, their friends tend to turn to them like, hey how do I do what you do? And they say, most of them say, eat Paleo, go to Cross fit. And how do I eat Paleo? Here’s the resource. So, just having our exposure in those environments helps us reach a larger scale audience that may not be Cross Fitters themselves.
Jim: One thing that we had talked about, you know, before the show or anything like that. You know, you mentioned that Paleo people, people that eat Paleo are generally, like, they’re healthy and it’s not because they’re looking to lose weight, they’re just looking to feel better and what not. Unlike other diets where, you know, if you lose weight maybe you change and you stop using the diet. That’s just why fad diets kind of die off. Paleo doesn’t seem to suffer from that sort of, same process or life cycle. But where do you see the future of Paleo going?
Jason: Yeah, I do think that it is slightly immune to the fad diet, again you know there’s healthy people who are choosing it. There’s another advantage that, you know, a lot of people are realizing that they have a gluten intolerance or a dairy intolerance, and once you’ve recognized one food sensitivity, you become really aware of other sensitives that may be pretty small, but can still affect people. A lot of people don’t realize that they do have small sensitivities that just make them more apathetic. Maybe their mood is a little down, maybe their energy level is not quite what it could be. When you start changing those things your awareness becomes. And so I think that, you know, I don’t think gluten intolerance is going to go away. So I see things like Paleo diet sticking around for quite a while. And I kind of envision it being more of a lifestyle, like veganism or vegetarian. That doesn’t seem like a fad diet. People come in and out of those diets, but, their presence is pretty persistent. And I think that whether you call it Paleo or Primal or Caveman, whether you know, what sect of Paleo you have. Do you allow high fat dairy, you know, grass fed high fat dairy or do you occasionally eat, you know, something that is slightly off. There’s going to be some current of that diet running through society for quite a while.
One of the things I think really helps is that, since there’s no brand and marketing budget behind it, it hasn’t been, kind of, tainted? like, when Atkins came around, there was a brand called Atkins, and they produced some pretty crappy food under the, you know, the banner of this is healthy. And some of it was just really sh***. And it was low carb and it could be a facilitator in losing weight, but it certainly wasn’t making people healthy. But you can’t really brand carrots. You know, vegetables are pretty, you know-
Jason: – you can’t really brand that. There are a lot of people who are making Paleo-friendly food. You know like, this is considered Paleo, and they’ll put that on the packaging. But again, that becomes a label, not a brand. You know, this is gluten-free, this is Paleo, which just kind of insinuates what things aren’t in it. That the meat is grass-fed, that you know, there’s no artificial crap. And I think that that’s going to be seen as kind of more of a label and, again, a current way of thinking about food versus a diet that you choose to be on or off.
Jim: It makes sense to me. But, –
Jason: However, with that said, right now Paleo is very popular, and it is experiencing like, the joys of being the mainstream diet of the moment. So like, Men’s Health put’s Paleo on their cover, that won’t continue forever. Some other diet will come along, some other claim will be the hot new trend. And Paleo will absolutely come down in it’s fame, so to speak. But again, I think that it won’t disappear, I think it’ll just become much more, just something going on in the background that people are aware of and are experimenting with.
Jim: I mean, it’s like Vegetarian, or Vegan, like you said. It’s not like an Atkins or South Beach or any of the other, those are the only two fad diet names I can ever think of anyway. But, yeah.
Jason: There’s, there was a lot more that are less popular, they come and go. And then there’s fads like the cleanse diet, you know, eat, drink, citrus and-
Jason: -cayenne for a week.
Jim: Sounds horrible.
Jason: and, acid. I actually tried it once just to say, because all my friends were doing it and I’m like, that sounds horrible and they’re like, it’s hard. I’m like, well, I’ll try it, just to see if I can do it. And I hated it, I hated every minute of it.
Jim: Yeah, and it doesn’t, yeah no part of that sounds good. But I guess that’s part of the thing of, you know if it’s supposed to be good for you, people think medicine is supposed to be bad. Like, it’s supposed to taste horrible. And orange juice and cayenne pepper sounds exactly like it would taste. Horrible.
Jason: Lemon juice, which is even harsher.
Jim: That’s just cruel. But, I mean, it sounds like PaleoPlan has done well and you’ve had big breakthroughs and everything, was there anything that you tried that turned out badly? Or not as well as you thought?
Jason: Gosh, I tried to forget about those things.
Jim: Which is fair.
Jason: You know, there’s a few little things we did here and there, like, we tried re-marketing. Which is, you know, you, if people come to your site and then they go to another and they see your banners and, you know, we spent a few thousand dollars on that and definitely didn’t see any real traction. And you know, it’s possible we did it wrong. There’s people who use it very effectively, but it did not work for us. Facebook advertising did not work for us, you know, people are on Facebook not to buy a recipe book. Now that doesn’t mean people can’t use it effectively, but, with my skills and talents, our efforts were spent elsewhere.
Jim: Do you still buy advertising anywhere?
Jason: You know, we cover a couple of keywords on AdWords still, just because, you know, we’re leaving inventory unsold by not. We just see, you know, what’s our traffic, what is the most we’re getting from these keywords, and what’s our revenue from those keywords? And if there is an opportunity to make money, we do. We certainly don’t rely on it like we used it. It used to be a huge percentage of our traffic, and now it’s less than 4% of our traffic I think.
Jason: It’s very, very small, but we do use it very carefully, selectively for specific keywords that we still find to be profitable.
Jim: Which is generally what best practices say you should do with AdWords anyway, unless you’re one of the big brands looking to get “branding” by buying certain keywords.
Jim: What do you find is the most effective way of driving traffic now?
Jason: You know, having really good blog posts continues to just be awesome for us. Neely will write, you know, a lot of different, you know, blogs about a lot of topics. But those evergreen pieces of content that she’s written here like, is quinoa Paleo? Just continues day, after day to bring in lots of people who are obviously at a point where they’re unsure of exactly what this Paleo diet is, and when they land and there’s this really nice explanation and then it says, hey, and if you need some help you’re at the right place. It creates a nice, you know, little inbound funnel.
And then there’s things, you know, we we’ve made some really good partnerships with other people who have products that we really believe in and that they have products, or and they believe in our products and then there’s been some nice cross-marketing approaches that we’ve done, had with them that’s been very positive.
Jim: That’s great. Was there anything you tried that was just a runaway success that you didn’t even expect going in to it?
Jason: One of the small experiments I was encouraged to try that I had no idea would work as well as it did was offer a free trial.
When we first launched the site, we did not offer a free trial, it was get started and get started. And we had a free week download so you could like, kind of see what we were all about. But one of the things I realized is, you know, if you give someone a week, a free download, you know, they’ll download it, and try it, but then they have to really remember and really be motivated to come back and sign up and start getting it again.
And even the best intentions, it’s just difficult to find that time and it can slip away. And so we found that one, just signing up for the free trial increased our conversion rate by 60% from, or our sign up rate by 60%. And we provide enough value that our conversions to paid was very high. So, if you look at our sign up graph over the years, the moment we put on the free trial, the angle just got much, much steeper immediately and has been pretty consistent since. So that was a massive lesson in the importance of a free trial.
Jim: That’s awesome, did you see a similar change whenever you offered the 6 month, and I think you have a 12 month pre-pay?
Jason: Yeah, you know those have been very, very good for us. I remember the first day someone bought a 12 month, I was like, I had launched it the day before and hadn’t really done a lot of marketing around it and then I saw it come through and I’m like someone bought it! Someone just paid for that! And then I thought, oh sh**, now I really have to keep the site up for another year.
Jim: So, when did you add that? Like, early on?
Jason: It was pretty early on, I think, within 6 months of us launching.
Jim: Oh, okay. How many, when someone signs up they’re getting, every week they’re getting a new menu that no one else has ever gotten before. It might have like bits and pieces and whatever, do they get a brand new week, every week? Or does it, is there like a cycle?
Jason: Yeah, so, we’ve talking about cycling, obviously because we’ve been doing this for four and a half years we have over a thousand weeks that we’ve built. It seems ridiculous that we’re not recycling, but, if you recycle you kind of quit being able to introduce some of the new recipes, we add new recipes all the time, and so when you’re recycling you’re not really being able to add those new recipes. It just hasn’t felt like the right thing to do, you know, the cost to making a new meal plan every week is not so significant that the value it adds, I think, is worth removing. Also, you know, we get feedback from our members, you know, like, if there’s a recipe and something is kind of, wrong with it. You know, we make changes to our recipes. We update them when we get like, hey, like this is really great, but I added this and it made it off the charts even better. So then, we’ll add that. And, again, going back two years ago and trying to remember, well, what was the status of all these recipes? Have we changed them all so that if we send out that meal plan and they go to the website and get the recipe it’s not like, well wait, I’m missing two ingredients that weren’t there two years ago when we made the shopping list.
At that point, you know, again like, there’s a value to just knowing that it’s right.
Jason: We have a very good system for making them, we’re, in terms of, we’re efficient and, you know my, Molly Owen, who makes the meal plans like, she definitely looks back over previous ones is like, oh, yeah this was a nice week, I’m going to switch these things up but this, these were good recipes and a good flow and that was a good time for this time of year, you know these ingredients. So, you know, she’ll definitely drop on inspiration from previous weeks, but we don’t just hit, you know change the dates and move on.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s smart. Part of me, as I asked that question, I felt a little nervous like putting you on the spot in case you did. Then I would have felt really bad. Because I didn’t know the answer.
Jason: Yeah, and the reality is though, is most people, you know, if you’ve been a member for over a year, like, you’re just using us for the convenience and the community at that point. I don’t think that we’re actually really going out of our way to make sure that ten dollars is worth it. Like, ten dollars is pretty hard to be not worth it when it, if you’re actually using the meal plan.
Jim: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: And like I said, we’ve really talking about it, we’ve thought about it seriously we just haven’t found a way that to make sure that going forward we can still provide something interesting and new. Make sure that there are no mistakes if we change recipes and the level of working through those problems isn’t less than just reusing.
Jim: Right, right, and that’s, I mean that’s where you add that tremendous value.
Jason: I think part of it is that we really care. You know, this could easily be a site where it’s complete auto-pilot, you set it and forget it, everything is repeat you just pay someone to blog and you don’t answer questions. But that doesn’t actually help people get healthier and everyone in our company is really focused on like, we love our job because we can say it proudly, we help people get healthier. And it’s not expensive, and they can cancel any time so if it doesn’t work for them, it’s not like we’re extracting money from people who are getting no value. The people that cancel, that’s great, find something that works for you. But people who are active, are finding value, and we get to take a lot of pride in that.
Jim: Hey, Jason, it’s great what you’re doing with PaleoPlan, I want to thank you again for coming on.
Jason: No problem, my pleasure. Thanks for asking all the questions.
Jim: Yeah, this was a lot of fun, I wish you the best of luck.
Jason: Thank you very much Jim, thanks for letting me be on the show.
Jim: Yeah, no problem, take care buddy.
Jason: You too, bye.
Jim: I hope you enjoyed that chat, what I love about Jason is he’s absolutely no B.S. and Paleo Plan is no B.S., you know exactly what you get, it saves you time, it cuts down on food waste and you pay a reasonable price for what amounts to a ton of work. You can take advantage of the fact that there are thousands and thousands of other members there. It’s really a win-win and that’s awesome whenever you see that with a business. It’s no surprise it’s a success, I think any business can take away a ton of lessons from his experience.
Finally, before you go, if you haven’t left a review or rating on iTunes, it would help me out a lot if you were able to do so. Thank you so much!
As always, I love feedback, so if you want to reach out to me and tell me jokes, suggest a future guest, my e-mail is Jim@microblogger.com or you can find me on twitter @wangarfic.
See you next time, thanks for listening!
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