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[Podcast] Champion Your Community (Lloyed Lobo)

By Bob Sparkins  |  Published Sep 21, 2023  |  Updated Sep 20, 2023
Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A marketer with 17 years of experience, Bob has taught over 1,000 webinars and spoken at over 50 events.

Blog Lloyed Lobo 2

[Podcast] Champion Your Community (Lloyed Lobo)

Lloyed Lobo is an entrepreneur, podcast host, and community builder. He's the co-founder of TractionConf.io and the fintech platform Boast.ai, which recently received over $100 million in growth equity funding. His new book, From Grassroots to Leadpages, reveals 13 rules to build iconic brands with community-led growth.

In this conversation, Lloyed shares the lessons he's learned from the ups and downs of life, both personal and entrepreneurial, providing you with a straighter path to your own version of success.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s never too late to redeem yourself. Past screw-ups can serve as a wake-up call to re-dedicate yourself to your goals.
  • Lean into external motivations. Whether it’s your mom (like Lloyed), or somebody else, making someone else proud may provide the fire you need to succeed.
  • Measure your success by impact, not just profits. Revenue is a great metric, but true success from your business lies within the impact you have on you, your family, and your community.
  • Pursue each phase of a business growth journey (in order). Those phases are: product validation, product market fit, and channel market fit.
  • The pinnacle of community is a “religion.” Start with an audience, become interactive with a community, make more impact as a movement, then aspire to form a “religion” around your concept.
  • Know which type of community you want to build. You can create a community of practice, community of product, or a community of play—make sure your choice matches the reality of your efforts.
  • Get people together in person. Even small gatherings can energize your community more than anything done virtually.
  • Consistency is like the compound interest of community. Your frequent, consistent efforts build slowly but steadily towards a huge return on investment.
  • Always have an email list. Use your online and offline efforts for lead generation so you can communicate with your community no matter the changes of algorithms or platforms.

Resources Mentioned

Podcast Block Blog@2x

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Who is Lloyed Lobo

Bob: Lloyed, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of The Leadpages.

Lloyed: Bob, super stoked. Thanks for having me on your show.

Bob: Really looking forward to digging into a lot of cool questions and your answers around community building, entrepreneurship, etc. But one of the ways I love to kick off our conversations on this show is to ask you in what ways do you enjoy transforming the lives of the people that you work with, with what you do?

Lloyed: One of the things that I love the most and my brother helped me see this is what is my purpose in life? And I think purpose drives everything for people. And I think the only time in life where I felt down and depressed and battled with mental health issues was when I felt that I couldn't act on that purpose. I was being lost.

I think my purpose in life and why I'm on this earth is to bring people together, whether it's to create impact or have a good time. But I love bringing people together, and it's something that I've done from childhood, and I never realized that can drive a lot of things in the world. But one day my brother sat with me, and he's like, what is your purpose? And I give him the purpose of the company, and he's like, no, that's not your purpose. He's like, what is your purpose? I'm like, I don't know. He's like, if you don't have a purpose, just observe what you do and what you draw joy from naturally. And he's like, the one thing you've done since childhood is you just bring people together wherever you go. You've got friends all over the world, and people just come together. He's like, even our family, we don't see each other for weeks. But when you're in town, everyone's together. He's like, that is your purpose, bringing people together.

Bob: That's awesome. One of the reasons why I'm excited that you got introduced is that you do have this great blend of magnetism as a catalyst as well. So I really appreciate that this is something that you've identified, bringing together.

How a Called-Off Wedding Ignited Lloyed’s Perseverance

You mentioned your childhood. We don't need to go too far into this because we have some other important, essential questions to talk about with community building. But perseverance is like your middle name. It seems like you've had a couple of different periods of your life where perseverance just had to be the thing.

Can you share just a little bit of your background in the early 2000s and so forth that helped give you this drive and passion to persevere?

Lloyed: Definitely. I've been running a podcast and so as a function of that, talked to a lot of entrepreneurs, have a big community, and one thing I found common in people that persevere there's some burning anger or spite to change the status quo, to prove the naysayers wrong.

There was one incident that shook my life.

So me and my wife are from Indian Heritage who grew up in Kuwait and we're refugees of the Gulf War. And my wife's a brilliant student, she got into med school in second year of undergrad without MCATs. All my life I was a bumbling idiot. Meaning high energy, right? A function of bringing people together is you joke around, you fool around, you infuse energy. That doesn't sit well with everyone.

My wife's parents, I mean, my wife and I have been dating since our teens. I was her prom date. They never liked me, they never took me seriously, any of that. And there was a phase in my life where then I graduated engineering and only went into startups, and the startup before we got married, end up failing. That coupled with me not having a graduate degree, like a master's degree, and my wife being a doctor, her siblings being doctors wasn't taken too kindly.

I was in India getting married and like several hundred people showing up there and my wedding was called off two days prior. That was the hardest thing because I'd been dating this girl since our teens and now we're in our 20s and the company I was working at shut down. It was the 2008 crisis. And so all of a sudden Lloyed had become “unemp-Lloyed,” doesn't have a master's degree, there's no certain path. And his vibe is always joking, fooling around. He's centered around being a chump to everyone.

But nonetheless, when that wedding was called off, I think the message that came across to my parents, particularly my mom, was that your son's not serious. He doesn't have a master's degree. He's not serious about work, about education, about his future. We don't think he's good enough for our daughter. He's not going to amount to anything.

My mom took it as a personal attack that she didn't raise me well. And my mom cried a lot and asked me one question. “I sacrificed my career to raise you. I could have worked, I could have got a job, but I stayed at home to raise you. Did I not raise you right? That I have to hear this.”

That one thing drove me so much that I never stopped from that day. Of course, we did end up getting married nine months later. Once we moved back to the West and better senses prevailed.

I like to take a positive thing from every experience as a function of us getting that wedding being called off and us getting married nine months later. My wife didn't want to plan a wedding again, so I end up planning the wedding, which made me get really good at planning events. And what is the biggest thing you need to do when you do community-led growth, is plan events. So that was a positive thing. If had I not planned a big 400-person wedding, I probably wouldn't have had that grassroots experience, ground-level experience. And so I never stopped because of that.

Those words rang in my head, and that rang in my head. And every time that rang in my head, I would keep saying, like, I'm a retired 40, I'm going to retired 40. I'm a retired 40, I'm a retired 40.

It's funny because during the Pandemic, I would also say, I'm going to retire at 40. And she's like, it's three months to your 40th birthday. I don't know how this is going to happen.

There was a window during the Pandemic where events opened up. We did an in-person event. This growth equity fund comes and falls in love with us, offers a term sheet, and literally the wire hit my bank account the week of my 40th birthday.

I truly believe in this Law of Attraction. It's worked for me beautifully, beautifully all my life. And I don't know what it is, but it's scary how it works.

Now, after that incident, it never felt like it was a victory or did justice in many ways to that sacrifice my mom said. I think today I feel more closer to that goal, to making those words whole or her sacrifice whole is deciding to write a book.

And the book, in its pre-release, topped a number of new release charts, was next to Elon Musk's book. And for me, my mission is make it a bestseller within a month or so and give hard copy with the bestseller badge, print one to my mom as a gift that, you know what, I may have finagled my way through university and not finished a master's degree, but you didn't raise me wrong.

That's literally my victory in life is doing that.

Bob: I love it. And I'm sure she's enjoying the growth that you've had. And as you know, as most people listening know, it's not how you start or sometimes even how you run, but how you finish the race. And what I love about your story, too, is you now have the opportunity, if you wish to, to retire.

But it seems like you're going stronger than ever in this post-acquisition period of your life where you're still involved in Boast.ai. You're building up another level of entrepreneurship in your life for your family. So it's a little bit more of a legacy. But I love that you're at choice to be able to do that in a way that you can steer the ship, which I think is really what you're going for, right, to have all these choices as opposed to feeling like you have to sacrifice.

Discovering the Power of Community Through Its Absence

Lloyed: Yeah. What I did all my life was chase success, looking for happiness. And think about this. This success chase came from, not my personal definition of success. Because before I went on this chase, I was a bumbling idiot, joking around, fooling around, laughing.

I never thought of money as an end outcome.

Then I realized after that wedding was called off that maybe it is and maybe I got to live up to this definition of success. And so I chased and chased and chased, and when I chased, I sacrificed everything.

I have no relationship with my kids up until that point. Every vacation I was on the laptop. Every time my wife went into labor. We have three kids now. I was at a different company off-site and somebody had to call me. And then I had to fly back and barely make it to the births just in time. So a lot of that happened.

Then I hit this definition of success and left the day-to-day of the company and I felt this lull and I got depressed. When the time came for me to leave, I didn't take it really well, right, because I'm like, I sacrificed everything.

This was my tribe. This was my community. And if you think of my journey, my summers as a kid were spent in a community. My mom grew up in the slums of India, and every summer my childhood was spent in that slums. It was the fondest memory of my life because I would cry every summer when we had to leave.

Then I was a refugee of the Gulf War. And it was all about community and the power of people. And that's where I actually experienced what a small group of people can explode a big movement to create massive impact, but also the entrepreneurial spirit, which is not about creating profits. The entrepreneurial spirit is about taking an obscure idea to execution and impact while dealing with extreme risk and uncertainty.

The risk and uncertainty and ambiguity is key. That is the entrepreneurial spirit. How do I deal with this and take an obscure idea to impact. Then coming back to community and building a community-led company?

All my life I had a community and then left the day-to-day and fell this lull and got overweight, started drinking, became insufferable.

The way I got through my sanity after, of course, speaking to a shrink and surrounding myself with great people is I became a part of a fitness community.

I felt like money in and itself doesn't drive success. You think it does, but it's neither that destination nor it's the journey. Right.

Ultimately, it's the companions that matter, like the five people, the people you hang out with could make you feel like a rock star or a peasant. Like you could be sipping wine in a chateau in Paris and eating caviar with suffocating people and you'd want to get out of there.

Or you could be like me on a rickety bus on the Highway of Death from Kuwait to Baghdad in a refugee camp, and everyone's laughing and singing along the way, right?

I realized then that if you don't have a purpose, any amount of money doesn't fix that. I think what happens is a lot of us, we chase money without purpose. And now I encourage founders to ask themselves before they go into anything, what is your personal definition of success? And this was given to me by a great founder, Jaffar Obanati. And I'm glad I had those questions written down in my darkest times to remind me what the purpose is.

What is your personal definition of success? That means when you have this money, what will you do with it? Like, what will your life be? How will you spend every waking moment? So what is your personal definition of success?

How much money do you need in your bank account to do that forever? Is there a version of the company you don't want to work for? And what is that? How long do you see yourself running the company for? And to accommodate all of that, is there an argument for taking outside capital or not? That sort of thing.

Now, when you don't ask yourself those questions and you're always chasing and us being in the West, we're always driven by this great American dream, which is keep aiming higher and higher and higher and higher. And so enough never becomes enough. Right? It's always a moving goalpost. That's the unfortunate thing.

Then you realize, I'm 65 and I spend my life between chasing work, commuting, doing chores, and not working out and eating a very processed diet that at 65, I'm not functional and I got like twelve years to live.

Once you start asking yourself questions like, what is your personal definition of success? And how much money you need in the bank to drive it, it's probably not unicorn porn. There's a certain amount you need.

I had a chat with the author of Super Founders, and one of the things he said was in talking to thousands of founders who built successful multi-billion dollar companies, there was many commonalities, but one of the few key ones were they had a small success before they built a multi-billion dollar one. Right?

But the reflection between those two is really important because you're like, okay, enough is enough. Now if I go on the next journey, I got to really want to go on it.

Bob: I like it.

The 3 Key Phases of Building a Successful Business

Now, some of the people who are listening to this, they currently are not of the mindset that they're going to build a company that is going to be acquired and be worth $100 million and up. They're thinking about making a company that is going to bring in first 100K, then 250K, then maybe a million, et cetera, per year. But obviously the mindset of growth is the mindset of growth one way or the other.

What had you go from a couple of failed startups to co-founding Boast.ai in a way that initially maybe you didn't think it would have this really great trajectory, but would have that first level of success that you had?

I want to get into that and then I want you to follow that up with, when did you know that there was a little bit more of a hockey stick going towards a much richer company than what you might have originally started to pursue?

Lloyed: A lot of the times you don't know, actually. In fact, most of the times you don't know, right? I said I think before that luck and risk are two sides of the same coin. We just flipped the coin a lot, meaning we did the same thing with a lot of consistency and kept doing it and kept doing it.

Eventually during the pandemic, we met the right partners who decided to buy a majority of the company and it worked out really well.

Now, a lot of people say everyone's lucky. I don't get lucky. You don't get lucky because you don't roll the dice enough, right.

Because the dice of entrepreneurship is not easy, right? And so you fail once, you fail twice. And the thing is, every day is a different hardship, right? You may lose a customer, you may not get a customer. An employee leaves. It's a lot of emotional battle and you keep rolling.

If you never go out and you never meet anyone, and then you complain, I don't meet anyone, right? Then you're not doing the actions that drive the outcome. So you got to persevere and persevere and there is no two ways.

Everything great is on the other side of pain and suffering and hardship. Anything worth doing is a long slog and pain is the pre-condition for growth.

I don't think we ever knew that this is going to get to where it is today. And now we're aiming for a much bigger outcome. We still own nearly 40% of the company, 38% of the company. So there's going to be a greater outcome on the horizon for us. We're active board members and I'm evangelizing the company everywhere I go.

You never know, right, when you're starting out, because startups are built in phases, okay? Any company is built in phases, so let's walk through what those phases are.

Phase one is validation. You have an idea, I got to get some people to pay me to try it out. That's it. I don't know what's going to happen. Let me get like a dollar of money. Let me get my 1st 100k 50K.

The next phase is product market fit. And what that's saying is people who put their belief in us will continue to put their belief in us. The goal of product market is fit. Product market fit is I have high retention, validation is people paid me to try it out. Now anytime they have a problem, they keep trying it because they got value. I solved the problem.

What is the leading indicator of product market fit? Then it's engagement. If I don't use your product, then even if I sign for an annual contract, I'm going to churn. So if I don't use your product to solve that problem that I came there to try it out for, I am never going to like a month later, I'll churn. So engagement is the leading indicator.

Then you get to a phase where, hey, you know what? People love the product, they're using it, it's solving their pain. Now let me figure out a way to get customers in a repeatable, scalable way. So product channel fit.

So you figure out one repeatable, scalable channel to acquire customers. And once you do that, I have one kind of customer coming through one kind of channel, getting one kind of value. Now I can scale this damn thing. And so at scale, you put like 75% fuel on the fire, get more of the same kind of customer, make the product better, explode the channel. One kind of customer, one kind of value, one kind of channel.

Then 25% of the time you try new things. What's my second act? Or is it a new market? Is it a new channel? And I think having those calm, methodical conversations is key. For us, early days of Bose was like, listen, we need to get like the first 10,000, 20,000. That was the goal. And so how did we start? Is like, with anything, you got to first figure out who you're going to target.

If you don't figure out who you're going to target, then you're just shooting blind, right? You're throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks for us.

How Boast.ai Achieved Product Market Fit

I'll give you an example.

Boast is a very non-sexy, obscure kind of product, right? What we do is globally, hundreds of billions of dollars are given in funding by governments to businesses like Leadpages that develop new products or improve existing products.

But what happens? Like with anything government, it's a cumbersome application process. It's prone to frustrating audits, and receiving the money takes a long time.

My co-founder, Alex and I were best friends since university and engineering. And after engineering, he studied accounting. And he had this unique combo that took him in the world of R&D funding and government funding and tax credits. So he worked for a Big Four accounting firm and he knew the space. So he called me and I jumped at the opportunity to work with him. So the first thing we did was cold call a bunch of people manufacturing oil and gas construction, nobody would talk to us.

Imagine I call you and I say, hey, give me your data and I'll get you a bunch of money from the government. You're going to be like, who are you guys? And even if this thing exists, then it goes like, oh, are these guys scammers? Are they going to take my R&D data and do something with it? The larger the company, the harder it was.

So then we started going to all the startup events and you feel like it's your tribe and you have these great conversations, everyone's in the same bracket, the same mind frame, and you're like, wow, okay, at least we're having some conversations. Maybe this could be our market. And it ended up being that for us.

The key learning there was if you want to figure out which market to target, I think step one is figuring out how large is this market? Is it growing?

The second is propensity to pay. Are they willing to pay you or not? And ease of access if you have a massive market with a huge propensity to pay, but you can't get access as a startup starting out with just an idea, everything is based on access. If you don't get access in the first couple of months, you're going to have to shut shop.

We started going to these startup events and people would have conversations with us. The thing is, in 2012 when we went to more and more of these events, what we realized is there's a white space. I'm not learning anything from these startup events. All these events have CEOs of companies that are so large that whatever they're sharing are high level, like platitudes from CEOs. They're aspirational talks, but they're not relevant for a founder at like zero trying to get to one or one trying to get to five.

Now the thing is, because we worked in and around startups, we knew a lot of founders that were at ten. And when you bring a founder at ten to talk to somebody at one, it's more relatable because then I know, hey, how did I get my first customers?

Oh, well, I set up this landing page using Leadpages and I ran x-campaign. It made it easier, right? It would be useful information.

So strategy one was, hey, why don't we host our own meetups? And in the meetup, we knew now exactly what the white space was. So we'd bring somebody who had gone from one to five or zero, like 5 million or 10 million ARR company and they'd talk about specifics. And then our email went from, hey, we're hosting X event with Y influencer to help you get to Z outcome. Would you love to attend? Would you like to attend? We've got ten spots and some free pizza at our co-working space.

Everyone said yes, obviously, I'm going to come.

First meet up at ten people, next meet up at 20 people. Eventually, one day, we had 200 or so people show up in the co-working space.

I knew the media wasn't covering, so I started hitting the local newspaper to ask them for a blog. And they were like, Get out of here. This startup thing is not of interest to us. We don't care.

What I did was not a column, but a guest blog on a couple of other regional blogs that were also popular tech blogs. And I just drove a lot of traffic to it, because when you cover some entrepreneur, they'll share it with hundreds of people and everyone will support them and it'll get a lot of tweets and LinkedIn likes. And then I shared that back with the newspaper, the Calgary newspaper, Canada's Post Media, and they're like, oh, this thing is getting a lot of shares. We'll give you a blog.

The first blog post I wrote to them was Startup of the Week. Now, your Startup of the Week on the newspaper blog, it's massive social proof. And I shared it with the first founder. He just made it explode because everyone's like, oh, man, the newspaper didn't cover us. And this messiah went out there and got us some coverage. And we're Startup of the Week in the local newspaper, and it just blew up with like hundreds of tweets, reshares likes.

Within a couple of days, I get calls, missed calls from the newspaper number, and then I get an email saying, hey, if you commit to writing this every week, by the way, they're not paying me, so I'm doing this for free. If you commit to writing this every week, I will give you a column in print.

I wrote that column literally for almost two and a half, three years now. What happened was, from being a blog, you become more legit in 2012, right, when you're in print. So every morning, Startup of the Week comes out and the founder is at the convenience store down the building or close by at 06:00 A.M. waiting to buy that newspaper that they can then take a photograph of and send to family and friends and buy copies to distribute. And the social proof went.

Those two things today is like modern day of course it's the LinkedIn, it's all the social proof. But two things happened. The influencers who came to the meetup as speakers gave us their social proof. We got their “brand rub” as the function of bringing them. So we became the good guys.

The other thing we got from the newspaper is we had a new website. If we did Startup of the Week or any kind of blog on our website, it would take years to get the SEO. Having a backlink every week from a newspaper, which is one of the highest domain authority websites, juiced our SEO, and our domain authority, too. Now, the rest is consistency, right?

So there's two lessons here, which stems from, again, first, figure out the ICP. Ease of access is more important in a growing market size. Everyone would make fun of us, like, why are you going after the startup market? They never pay. You guys are going to go bankrupt.

Fast forward 2023. It's the market that's played out better than anything, better than oil and gas, construction, anything. And so the learning is, growing market and ease of access is far more important when you're starting out. Understanding your ideal customer really well, like what are the aspirations and what gets in the way to help them get there? And then building your relationships with the circle of influence is key.

Then just pick one or two channels and go deep.

Because now our emails went from buy my stuff to come, here's some value. And a lot of what we do in life to profitability starts with being visible and then being credible.

If you keep providing value over a sustained period of time, you'll get business. So visibility, credibility, and then profitability.

Our salespeople, I mean, initially, most of the deals I brought in the first year, and then the salespeople we hired became more like glorified community managers. Yes, they were cold calling, but they were going out more to events and meetups and hosting our own events, hosting partnered events.

You go from being a sales as a salesperson to a broker of resources. Hey, you need these five things, we can help you. And by the way, are you doing any product development? Have you thought about getting some money from the government? Oh, you're working with such firm.

It was easier to get deals, and that's how we grew. So I think a lot of it comes from that starting point. And then map out the journey. Are you at validation? Are you at product market fit? Are you at product channel fit? Are you at scale?

Ultimately, if you don't have a product that people are paying for and getting value from and they're churning, then don't invest in 100 things, right? Meaning don't go deep in getting more customers.

The last thing you want is a product that doesn't solve the use case and people are leaving product or service, and you keep investing in growth.

Those were, I think, the three core learnings how to figure out who you should target, then how do you nail down your target, and then how do you build a circle of influence? And I can dive deeper into a couple of other areas.

Bob: I love that. I love the learnings.

Build a Community, Not an Audience

Particularly, I do want to shift gears to the community aspect that you're talking about here because you have developed a really great platform with Traction, which I believe is coming from a lot of these initial conversations that you're talking about and your new book is all about from grassroots to greatness through the aspect of community. So I want to ask you a little bit about that now.

First off, you differentiate between building a community versus building an audience. And I'd love for you to make sure everybody else has that as a clear understanding.

Lloyed: Definitely. So long story short and why I wrote the book, right? All my life I was surrounded by community, from childhood to building a community-led company. And when I left the day-to-day of the business after doing this majority deal, I ended up depressed. I felt like I lost my tribe.

To get over that, I finally found a group of fitness enthusiasts. I joined the Peloton fitness community and I came to sanity.

I felt the only time I was down in my life was when I thought I was losing my community. There was this concept of “blue zones,” which is like the five cities or five places in the world where people functionally live to 100. There are nine common traits, and four or five of those common traits have to do with community.

I started spending a lot of time researching, looking at all our past conference videos, and looking at every enduring iconic brand, and I found a very common theme between every seemingly obscure idea that became a global phenomenon, from Christ to CrossFit, every obscure idea that became a global phenomenon had these four paths.

When people listen to you, you have an audience. They buy your product, they listen to, you have an audience.

When that audience comes together, when you bring that audience together to interact with one another, so now it's not one way, it's two way communication. It becomes a community.

When that community comes together to create impact, a purpose, a greater purpose that transcends your profits, it becomes a movement.

And when the movement has undying faith in that purpose through a set of sustained rituals, over time it becomes a cult or a religion.

If you see like the Harley-Davidsons of the world or the Apples of the world or the Red Bulls or like, some of these iconic brands, that's the journey they've taken. I had so much research now in the free time I had after leaving the company, that I could distill those learnings into 13 rules. And the only way to do that is if you keep asking the same questions, you'll draw patterns. If you ask like ten different questions to ten different people, you'll never draw patterns, right?

You know this with Leadpages and A/B testing, and you change one variable if you want to figure out what the difference is, you don't change everything. And then you'll never know.

Asking the same set of questions, how did you see it in the beginning? How did you sustain it? How did you make it sticky? What rituals did you practice, asking very open ended, but spotted questions on how did they get from a to b to c.

Like, how did you validate your community in the beginning? How did you make them keep coming back over and over again? How did you monetize? How did you make sure you had a mechanism for sustained growth? How did you drive engagement, those kinds of things.

We're able to pull out 13 rules which were pretty much common to most of them, that took them from audience to community to movement to religion. It's called from Grassroots to Greatness. Here's the book, designed it with some love. You can see here it's dedicated to a good friend of mine who passed away. He was an OG community builder, ran the Growth Marketing Conference, which people will know. Jason Lemkin from SaaStr did the forward. Put some love in it.

I made the book available for $0.99 on digital. I had to write it in a way that I could consume. And so it's a lot of stories. It's like each chapter is a story centered around a few brands that are like characters. And that's how I had to write it for me to be able to read it and consume it. Otherwise the book would never finish.

You know the interesting thing is this community has given me everything. I have most of my big key relationships in moving to a new city like Dubai after I left the day to day at Boast, to all the connections who provided content for the book, to the investors who came and bought a majority in the company, also came through an event we hosted.

It's given me everything. And the only time I felt down and depressed was when I thought I had no community. I wanted to pay homage to the community that drives the world. Right?

If you see in 2023, what's happening is generative AI has taken over all this conversation about generative AI. But what we don't realize is first it was the internet, and everyone was saying internet company and web 2.0 web company and web company and.com company. And then we stopped saying that and it became a cloud company, and then it became a social company, and then it became a mobile company, and then blockchain company and fintech company. And now we're saying AI company.

But there was a time where in the 80s where Harley-Davidson almost went bankrupt. You can't imagine this in 2023 where Harley-Davidson almost went bankrupt. But yeah, when the Japanese manufacturers commoditized electronics and made it cheaper, Harley had a tough time and the company, the leadership went and started rider clubs, and they went out there and deliberately started rider clubs. Everyone had to go out there and host events.

Community became a company strategy, not a marketing strategy. And that's what it should be. A lot of people take community and put it in marketing and hire some marketing manager.

If giving and connecting and infusing energy and appreciating people is not in your ethos, if you don't want to give, give, give value before you get something, it's going to be very hard to build a sustained community.

So Harley engineered this community. Employees became riders, riders became employees. And over time, they created the Save Harley movement and they also created campaigns to rescue people or save people from breast cancer, donate to breast cancer and autism. All centered around the camaraderie and the brotherhood of riders of bikers, around the ritual of weekend rides that went from extrinsic motivation of force somebody to come to internally, it's the weekend, I got to get on a bike.

But what that tells you as you compare to today, from Internet to cloud to social to mobile to fintech to AI, is yesterday's innovation always becomes tomorrow's commodity. It's people who drive innovations. If you build a community, you won't become a commodity. And that's the message I want to drive.

Coming from me as somebody who's built a successful AI-driven company that was largely fueled by community, right? We're talking so much about AI and generative AI. I mean, we had access to OpenAI in 2019 or 2020 or 2019, like their APIs.

Ultimately though, how was OpenAI even built is a large community that provided it with data, the beta customers that gave it all this data to help it like the research project, right? People will drive the future. And every enduring brand and every enduring worldwide phenomenon from Christianity to CrossFit has people at its core and community is what makes it up.

Bob: Yeah, I want to dig a little deeper into that because I think we love that aspect and philosophy of things at Leadpages. We have generative AI included in our products. We have the ability for people to move forward with all the cool tech and all that stuff. But at its core, we're always a conversion first and people first software company so that we can make sure the impact and the results that entrepreneurs are looking for is actually what they receive. Right?

How to Start Building Your Community

I'm interested in having you talk a little bit more about those that want to create a community that are people-centric. They often will hear that term and they're like, oh, I have to rush out and create a community. I need to use Discord or Slack or Facebook or something else.

I'd like for you to talk a little bit about the tech side of community building, but also what are the key components of someone who's doing their own thing? They have a couple hundred, maybe a couple thousand people on an email list and they just don't quite have that resonant click of a community yet. What can they be doing and what role does the tech have in building that community up from where they are now?

Lloyed: Definitely, I think I should take it all the way to the beginning, right? Because I think it's easier almost in following that story of figure out an underserved niche. First, I'll barrel through this a little bit.

Figure out your ICP, ideal customer profile, the white space. Like, what content are they not receiving that you can deliver outsized value on? Figure out their aspirations, their goals. Right? Like, understand that graphic of like, I think there's a graphic which shows Mario eat a mushroom and become Super Mario. And your product is not the mushroom, it's Super Mario. So that's the value you need to provide. What is the aspirations or goals? Figure out their circle of influence, meaning, who do they follow? What are the tools they pay for? Where do they hang out?

Once you have that baseline, you need to figure out the kind of community you want to build. There's three kinds of communities you can build.

Community of practice, which is coming together to learn about a specific skill and get better at it. Becoming better digital marketers or becoming better customer success people, becoming better entrepreneurs. So I think that is a key, but yeah. So figuring out what kind of community you want to build. So community of practice is coming together to learn about a specific craft or skill and get better at it.

There's community of product where people come to learn and become better at your product, like your Leadspages community or the Notion community or the Atlassian community. They're making the product better, turning your customers into product evangelists.

Then the third one is a community of play where people come together to have fun, like the Harley Davidson community or the Red Bull community or the Nike running Club community. It's important you figure that out because otherwise you're going to build the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Now, what I tell people is, if you don't have a Product Market Fit, do not build a community of product. The reason why I brought this up is because how do you know what content to deliver?

If you have a few thousand subscribers and all you're sending is content around using your product and how to get better and spamming with your product, but you don't have Product Market Fit and very few customers in that list, then they're going to get turned off, right?

Then figure out how do you deliver value around a specific skill or a craft and make sure that whole list contains that ICP and you're delivering value against a white space.

Then the next step is, how do you create the right content? You have, say, write down 100 burning questions for that niche. And you can do it in one of two ways. You can either curate content from other experts for that niche to solve those burning questions and problems.

Or if you're an expert, you can just share your learnings or do a combination.

Once you have these couple hundred burning questions. You have a repository of ideas and think, hey, if I had to write a book on this or Ultimate Guide to XYZ, what would be the chapters, subchapters and topics it would include then? Now you can turn one form of content into multiple forms of content. Like these interviews can turn into video for YouTube, audio for podcast, then you turn the highlights into shorts for YouTube, Insta, TikTok.

The text you can turn on LinkedIn. Your predominant channel should always be where your community hangs out the most, or prevalent. And that can't be like, oh, they're prevalent on Slack. You can't blast on Slack right, in a private channel or they're prevalent on Chat.

Figure out a channel that gives you some distribution where you can build an audience like a public channel. And then you have this audience forming.

Now how do you turn this audience into a community? Because it's largely one way. You need to collect emails. If you don't collect people's emails or numbers, you don't own that audience. Your audience on LinkedIn, your audience on any platform you don't own if you don't have their emails. And it's important to collect that in my view.

Right, this is where Leadpages also comes in to help with that.

I'll tell you this, I kid you not, I'll give you one example, Nas Daily, I talk about him, Nuseir Yassin, the founder of Nas Daily. He's a YouTuber with like 40 million community, massive.

When he started he was building a community on Facebook. He started a Facebook group which has 21 million followers. Initially, his content would be seen by 50% of his community, I think he made like $100,000 a month.

Facebook had an algorithm change and now his content is seen by 5% of his community and his revenue has gone to bupkis. So you have an audience, it's great. These platforms give you a great start at building an audience. What happens eventually is when you start getting more and more followers, platforms eventually need to start making money, so they start infusing sponsored content and other brands and showing your followers other people's content beyond you.

Your mind share with your audience starts decreasing and they start seeing other people's content. And that's what happens. And that's why it's really, really, really important to turn your audience into a community. And the only way you can turn your audience into a community is if you have their contact information.

Then the next step is building all this audience gives you a start, like you know where the pull is. But now how do I turn this into a community? So what we did was, I mean, I said we started with doing in-person meetups because that was at a time when podcasts weren't huge, YouTube wasn't huge.

We had the luxury of just emailing people and inviting them to events with a landing page and they'd sign up.

But during the pandemic, what happened was I have this PTSD from sitting through large virtual events and compounded with another PTSD of doing a large virtual event on a webinar. Having done a company in the web conferencing space that didn't work out.

We reached out to every single speaker and said, hey, would you do a 1 hour AMA for us? And so for two years during the Pandemic, when it was shut, we did a live AMA every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m..

We'd invite a speaker, influential person, same thing like unicorn founder, CEO, VC, you name it, and we do these live AMAs. And now you're nurturing that community online also, right? They're interacting with one another and the speaker.

The best thing, though, when you do these AMAs is people register to join. We were seeing 400, 500 people register every week for these live webinars. Then twice a week.

I kid you not, man, I think we started the Pandemic with maybe 30,000 subscribers. And we came out of that with like 100 plus thousand subscribers, because what was happening was people would share it with other people, speakers would share it. We'd do partnered webinars every week.

The compound interest on consistency leads to big outcomes over time, right? Jason Lemkin's quote in my book, actually, just reading it because it's a wonderful quote that says, “consistency is the magic ingredient that turns small actions into big outcomes.” Right?

This is very important because if you see how SaaStr came about, SaaStr is the largest community for business software on the planet. They've got over 250,000 people engaged in the community. It started with Jason Lemkin for two years, writing three Quora posts a day. He never stopped. Who's the single richest person in B2B SaaS? It's Larry Ellison. Never sold a single share of Oracle. Who's the single richest person in investing? Probably Warren Buffett. Compound interest.

What happens is a lot of us, we stop, right? All success is a combination of three things communication, creation, and consistency. If you can communicate and create but you're not consistent, you're not going to succeed. But you need these three ingredients—communication, creation, and consistency—to build some level of success, right?

We kept doing these webinars week on week and week on week. And the first time when few people showed up, if we stopped, it wouldn't get to 100 plus thousand subscribers.

The first time, ten people showed up at our meetup, if we stopped, and there were times where only ten people showed up, or four or five people would show up, if we stopped, we wouldn't have eventually got to a Traction Conference, where we've had now the CEO of Twilio and the president of Atlassian come, right?

Everything great is on the other side of pain, and you need to be very consistent to get there.

So that next step is start bringing people together. Sorry, I went on this lecture on consistency. The reason why I did is because a lot of people just freaking stop.

If you're building your audience on platforms, it's great. It feels good. You're getting growing followers, but it's very important to turn those followers into contacts for you. You need to own your audience so that the algorithm doesn't change and you're done overnight.

If you're doing podcasts, maybe make them maybe every so often. It doesn't have to be every single recording, but maybe once a week or once every other week. Turn it into a live AMA and throw up a landing page and get people to register it'll. Grow your audience.

Make sure you have a newsletter. I don't know why enough people don't send a weekly newsletter. You have to send the newsletter.

If you don't communicate with your audience, you're not going to connect. And if you don't connect, you're not going to build a community down the road. Right?

Then I like the chat groups. Like, WhatsApp, Discord. But it gets very noisy. Even Slack gets very noisy. And then people tune out.

The Power of In-Person Events

What I love the most is in-person events. And this is maybe controversial for most people, but I talk about this in the book as well, the science of senses. Anytime you incorporate more than two senses, you start to build genuine bonds. We're here sound and sight. If we were in person, it would be taste, touch, and smell. And think about it. There's some emotion behind meeting and getting together in person. There's some level of energy that it's very hard to replicate online.

If you look at every iconic brand, Harley-Davidson or HubSpot or Nike or Red Bull, they have an in person component. Even web-based platforms like Yelp did a lot of in-person events. You have to, right? And it doesn't have to be a big conference like a SaaStr or what we do at Traction that takes like eight, nine months to plan or a year to plan.

Hosting a ten-person dinner in a city where you have a concentration of customers or fans is great. Like, hey, I'm coming in town. There's going to be pizza. And 20 people get together. What's more important is you do it consistently. What's more important is that eventually you find super fans and give them the autonomy to do it.

So I'll give you another example. I had a great conversation with Atlassian's chief revenue officer, and he said, Atlassian's community last year hosted 5000 events, self-organized. Isn't that insane? 5000 events is a large freaking number, right? 5000 events, it took them 20 years to get there. But 5000 events that were self-organized means Atlassian has 5000 superfans.

And every community has this path, right? 1% is going to be superfans. 9% is going to be like, casuals, and then 90% are going to be lurkers. So Atlassian has like, 5000 superfans who together have brought in 500,000 people to their community through events and whatnot. And that is very powerful.

The only way to do that is to encourage anyone who wants to leverage your community and do something with it. Leverage your brand and do something with it. Like Notion did, right?

When people were creating templates, how did Notion explode? It exploded out of the seams with this community model, right? And it's because they encouraged and enabled their community to create. And they didn't try to control. If you try to control something, you'll never be big. The only way to build something big is to give people the autonomy. So from Notion's playbook, if you can see, they empowered the community to create.

One TikTok made by a loyal user, outshines ten company-produced videos, right? They created this Notion creator channel gene, even paid people. Then they fostered these connections without exerting control. They saw people were discussing love for the product in different online communities, so they just let them do it.

Like Atlassian, Notion gave them a little budget, a little reach, and supported it, right? They didn't say, you got to do this or that or the other thing. You give guardrails, you don't control. And they launched this block by block, a conference that facilitates collaboration amongst thousands of members. And that is huge, right?

See, like Henry Ford said, “coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress and working together is success.” So get people coming together to create, and you'll have a movement.

Then they rewarded contributions from the community through great perks and access. So that is, I think, a few things from my learnings is: form an audience very quickly. Start bringing people together online. Structured meetups, online, virtual meetups. AMAs are great. For whatever reason, people will sign up to listen to a great speaker that you can turn into an AMA versus congregate with like 50 people.

Once you have that motion going of AMAs, you can turn it into masterminds. Bringing people together in person is indispensable.

If you had to look at it like, what does your community framework look like? Consistency and communication and creation are the rails that drive it. But then it could be something like you post every day to LinkedIn, just don't stop. Then you have a weekly podcast. You maybe have YouTube and Insta shorts? You then host regular meetups online once a week or once every other week. Then you may have in-person meetups once a month or twice a month. Then you may have a quarterly retreat and an annual conference.

You rinse and repeat as long as you're delivering outsized value and you're continuing to add great value. And I love Jason Lemkin has a rule with SaaStr. Add one big piece of value every year and one small piece of value. So you're injecting new blood into the community and keeping people excited.

Some of that aligns with Nir Eyal framework of how to keep people hooked. Right. There's a trigger that forces you to take action. And when they take that action, they get a variable reward. The variable reward is key. If it's the same thing, then they know what they're expecting. But if the reward keeps changing, then it's a different dopamine hit, and then they make an investment.

Final Thoughts from Lloyed

Bob: I love all these tips you've been providing for us, Lloyed, around building community and having that larger impact through the efforts of community, building people and bringing people together.

My final question for you today is you've gone through all these levels of perseverance, some we've talked about, some we didn't really touch on. Is there a quote or a mantra or some kind of a thought that you like to turn to in order to get to the other side of the obstacles that you've continued to face?

Lloyed: I am I can, repeating it over and over. And it wasn't actually until lately that I got it. I was on a Peloton bike and at my lowest, I believe in luck. A know, if you keep putting yourself out there, you'll attract something. And I sign up for this instructor, Robin Arzón, who comes from a post-partum low. She was just coming off maternity, and she says, I don't feel as strong. I'm weak. I can't ride as I used to, and I was also at my low.

Then she yells out, “Self pity is toxic. One cramp, one shift, one ride around the block. Repeat after me, ‘I am I can,’” with Rocky's eye of the tiger playing in the background. That is my morning ritual, by the way. Wake up, listen to eye of the tiger, and bang out as many push-ups as I can in any situation, even before I go on stage. Listen to Eye of the Tiger, and I am I can. That works. It works. There is great power in positive energy. Surround yourself by people who will uplift you. It's hard. Business is hard. Life is hard. It's never the destination nor the journey. It's the companions that matter. Curate your companions wisely. Your well-being depends on it.

Bob: I love that. And I'm also a big fan of Robin Arzón on Peloton. Do you have a handle you're willing to share for us to connect with you while riding or working out? Mine is BobTheTeacher.

Lloyed: I think mine is Lloyed Lobo. It's Lloyed Lobo everywhere. But I may have been using some other handle and I'll find out and tell you, but right now it's Lloyed Lobo.

Bob: Awesome. And what's a great first step for people to take to get to connect with you more as they continue to build their communities and make their impact at a bigger level.

Lloyed: Definitely it's LinkedIn. Lloyed Lobo. There's an E in my name, Lloyed Lobo. So follow me there. I put good content.

Now I'm posting once a week because the book's gotten pretty heavy. But I've posted content on bootstrapping, on mental health. I generally talk about everything. I'm an open book. I don't hide anything from anyone. You ask me how much I was making in my first job as I left the company, how much I was making. Whatever you want to ask me, you ask me. I'll tell you. Even personal stuff. That's the only way.

The thing is, it belongs to the community. I feel right a lot of this information when you've built your life on community. And so truly, I share whatever. When people ask me, I take the opportunity to talk to everyone if they message me. At my peakest, peak busy. I never had an EA. I feel always try to be accessible to the people that help get you there.

It doesn't always have to be hopping on a call, but you can respond. You can have asynchronous setups, you can have a bunch of things. I've gotten everything I have by being accessible and making myself available. I don't want to stop that. I don't want to put walls behind it, paywalls behind it, an EA behind it, or anything.

Then the book will be on FromGrassrootsToGreatness.com. It's available for $0.99. Buy it, leave me a review so it spreads the word. I'll have a very detailed Notion workbook which serves you through templates and becomes a guide to help you go from audience to community to movement to cult.

If you have any questions, need more information, send me a note in that Notion book or a comment, and I will add more information. Thank you so much, Bob. I appreciate you taking the time and listening to my story.

Bob: Yeah, thanks so much for sharing it.

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Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A former high school history teacher turned entrepreneur and marketer, Bob has educated business owners worldwide on how to leverage lead generation to grow their brands for over 18 years. Bob is a conversion expert, specifically when it comes to landing pages. Hosting over 1,000 webinars, he has walked thousands of business owners through advanced strategies to help them optimize their pages and maximize their leads and sales. Bob works with Leadpages affiliates and users to ensure they have all the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to build high-converting landing pages that grow their businesses.

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