Show Notes / Transcription:
Boldlife Episode 8
Join us as we sit down with John Rampton who has been featured in publications such as TechCrunch, Time, CNN, ABC News, Inc, Forbes and many more. We will learn his road to over 1.5 million Twitter followers and how you can do this in your business.
Mike “demo” Demopoulos
host & boldgrid evangelist
A longtime lover of Open Source Software, Mike “Demo” Demopoulos currently works at BoldGrid (a WordPress Site Builder) as an Evangelist. He has spoken at numerous open source events around the world. Mike is also a contributor to Huffington Post as well as other publications. In addition, he volunteers as Treasurer for Open Source Matters.
John is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the online invoicing company Due and productivity company Calendar. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the world by Entrepreneur Magazine and a blogging expert by Time. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.
John Rampton: Hi, guys. It’s great to be on, and welcome, everybody, to the podcast.
Mike Demo: Yes. So for those of you that don’t know, very quickly, because we could probably have a whole show just about your past, what do you do?
John Rampton: So I am an entrepreneur. I have many different preneurs, but I’m focused right now on my productivity company called Calendar.
Mike Demo: Excellent. And what exactly is Calendar and who is it targeted for?
John Rampton: We are calendar.com and we are targeted to small business, small/medium business owners or regular people like you trying to book medias online. We basically reimagine the entire calendar experience. So that’s our goal is to make your life a thousand times easier and more productive and take some of the things you shouldn’t have to worry about into account. And so you don’t even have to worry about them.
Mike Demo: Excellent. And you’ve also been rated one of the top online influencers out there, and you have, what, 1.5 million Twitter followers, as an example?
John Rampton: Something like that. Yeah.
Mike Demo: So that’s kind of what I want to talk about. So you didn’t always start out with 1.5 Twitter followers. How did you kind of become one of the top 50 online influencers, what, according to Entrepreneur magazine? I think it was.
John Rampton: Yeah. I think that one was Entrepreneur that said that. It starts off with one follower and then two followers and really cultivating an audience around you. I have a very strong mindset of helping people, so the more I can actually help people and do that, it becomes not necessarily a numbers game. But the more people you help, the more people are going to trust. You’re going to inspire a lot of people. So I find the more people that I help with things that I’m an expert at and they’re not, the more people obviously will follow me. It’s not necessarily a follow that I’m going for. It’s truly helping people, but those people typically reciprocate and try to help you in some way.
Mike Demo: Okay. Excellent. And how long have you kind of been doing this, ’cause you write for a lot of publications too. What are some of the publications that you write for?
John Rampton: I write for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Ink, Mashable, Tech Crunch, Read Right, a bunch of other sites out there, a bunch of my own sites as well, like Calendar.com, blogging.com or blogging.org, due.com. Tons and tons of other ones out there. I write for a lot of sites.
Mike Demo: Excellent. And how did you kind of get into this? How did you wake up one day and decide that you eventually wanted to write for publications and kind of do what you do? It didn’t start. It was kind of gradual path. So kind of what made you decide to go down that path and what was the first step and how did you slowly kind of build your online influence network as it were?
John Rampton: Yeah. So it started many, many years ago when I was building my own products. I’m an entrepreneur, much like probably a lot of people who are listening to this and watching this right now. I started out by literally being like, “Hey, Huffington Post will only write about my company once a year. But I can write for Huffington Post, and I can write every single day and bring my company and what I’m working on into the blog post.” Not being self-promotional, obviously I’m helping people. But I can link to myself and mention, “Hey, here’s a blog post that might help you in your journey towards marketing success or financial success.” We miss aspect of that, and I’m slowly dragging people back to my site.
John Rampton: So for me it was like a natural like, “Hey, the more times I can blog on a site like Entrepreneur or Ink or Forbes or a large site, the more people that are going to come back to my site.” And if I can inspire and interact very, very well, and they trust what I’m putting in front of them, they will trust what I’m out there and ultimately come back and purchase my things. So for me, it was a numbers game. The more blog posts I write, the more traffic I get back to my site, the more people who will sign up, the more people who will become paid customers, the more money I’ll make.
Mike Demo: Okay. Excellent. And when you started doing this, did you start out with the Entrepreneur and the Forbes and the Ink, or did you have to start in a smaller network and slowly kind of build your credibility up?
John Rampton: Yeah, I started small. So I started actually with my own site. There’s a site called Techimania, which isn’t around anymore. But I started blogging on there every single day. It was me saying, “Hey, this is what I’m putting out.” And I just was out there trying to help people and trying to make a name for myself. But then I went from that and then I went to another site called Search Engine Journal and said, “Hey, I’ll write for you.” And then I went to their competitor and then their competitor and then Huffington Post, then Entrepreneur, then Ink, then Forbes, then Mashable, then Tech, then New York Times, then Wall Street Journal. I slowly worked my way up over time, and I gained credibility.
John Rampton: Now, when you’re starting off in this journey, I would start off with one, building up a little bit of following with where you’re at. So start on this on your own company site or personal site or even medium blog. You start off slow and then you go to other people and start working your way up, getting connections, getting to know people around you, and then working your way up.
John Rampton: Again, I still write for many of those old sites, like I still write for my own site. I still write occasionally for some of the other sites. But I worked my way up and slowly over time stopped, writing less for other sites but started writing more for the ones that brought me the most value.
Mike Demo: Sure. And I think that’s very important because a lot of these online entrepreneurs or people trying to launch products or ideas or e-books or even just a brick and mortar business is they see all these overnight successes and they don’t realize that that author who had that overnight success probably spent eight years working on that book.
John Rampton: Yeah.
Mike Demo: Or [crosstalk 00:06:25]
John Rampton: I don’t think it’ll take you eight years.
Mike Demo: Yeah, of course.
John Rampton: Anybody who wanted to do this could probably do this in six months to a year.
Mike Demo: Sure, sure.
John Rampton: But it is going to take work, take a lot of work. Something that I love to do and I love to bring into my own life is don’t compare your chapter one in blogging to my chapter 22. Same with me, like if I’m trying to be a successful entrepreneur, I’m not comparing myself to Bill Gates. He’s in chapter three million and I’m in chapter three along this journey. So I can’t compare myself to them, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to me. Compare yourself to yourself and just start working your way up and becoming better. And the more people you can help along the way, the better that outcome will come for you, the more people will follow you, the more people will learn from you and trust that inspiration that you put out.
Mike Demo: Excellent. So since you are a serial entrepreneur, I see this a lot when talking to small business owners at things like word camps, as an example, is they’re so excited about a new service or idea or business that they’re launching. They might use BoldGrid to launch their basic website. They focus on that… One second. I will be right back.
John Rampton: No worries. Something you guys should remember along the way and along your path is really don’t get caught up in having perfection. That’s one thing that I have along the way that really, really hurt me is, in the beginning days when I was blogging, I thought that every blog post had to be perfect, everything had to… When I put something on my site, it had to have the perfect this and the most inspiration and the most everything out there.
John Rampton: Make sure when you’re starting, just put stuff out there. Just start along your journey because nothing will ever be perfect. Nothing will ever be a masterpiece. Just put stuff out there. I even sometimes… One of my most popular pieces of all time, it’s been read over 50 million times, it legitimately has eight spelling errors in it. And I haven’t gone back and even fixed them ’cause that helps me relate better with the audience. People know you’re not perfect. And the more you can relate that I’m not perfect, I’m going to make mistakes, this tip may work for some people, but this one may not work for you. You can’t predict what’s going to happen.
John Rampton: So, again, when you’re putting out content or putting out product, just put it out there. Be willing to fail. You’re going to miss. I like the Wayne Gretsky quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” If you don’t take it out there, if you don’t put your content out there, if you don’t put yourself out there, it’s not going to go anywhere. So just get started on this journey, and start working your way up. You will fail along the way.
John Rampton: There are going to be people who tear apart your work. I have one person who wrote an 11,000 word article on what a piece of crap I am. It doesn’t matter. I still put that post out there, and that post has inspired probably millions of people. And it’s probably caused maybe 20 or 30 haters in my life. Again, had I not put that piece out there, I wouldn’t have those haters. It’s right. I wouldn’t have these problems. I wouldn’t have people tearing apart my work sometimes. But I also wouldn’t have inspired those amazing people that have come out of that. So when you’re thinking about things, don’t worry about if it’s perfect.
Mike Demo: Definitely. And thanks for jumping in there. I apologize to everybody about some of the background barking. My dog decided to yell at the UPS guy, so sorry about that.
John Rampton: It happens.
Mike Demo: That’s life. So what I was trying to say, going back to we see all these people that have this really great idea and they can focus on it for three to six months really hard, and then they want to jump to the next thing before maybe right at the cusp I see of that last idea kind of really taking off and flying. Do you find a lot of entrepreneurs kind of get so excited about the next idea they have that they don’t nurture their current project as well as it may be needs to be?
John Rampton: For sure. You got to know when to give up, but you got to know when not to give up as well. I find so many entrepreneurs give up when they’re right at the cusp of turning over. I almost did this in my own life. I had blogged. I was working at a small little hosting company actually back in the day called Fiber Net. And I was working there, and on the site I was blogging. And I started this site called Techimania that I brought up earlier. But I was blogging three blog posts a day. I was putting out just how I was marketing, how I was doing things. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was writing three posts a day, ’cause I’ve read all these people online that are making six figures blogging and doing this and amazing here and starting these successful business. So I was going to do it as well.
John Rampton: So for nine months straight, I wrote three blog posts a day. Now if you guys do the math on that, that’s a thousand blog posts, give or take. So I had written a thousand, probably 800 to a thousand word articles, spent literally probably a thousand hours on this. And I had not made one dollar, not one dollar. So that’s when I was literally ready to give up in my blogging career.
John Rampton: And I, at that time, I read a guy called Zack Johnson. And Zack was like, “Hey, here’s how I made money blogging that’s a little bit different from other people.” And so I read it. And he’s like, “When you have a site, you’ve got to put ads on it.” And I had an ad on my site that nobody had bought it. So what he recommended doing was he’s like, “Go and put four ads on your site, so one, two, three, four. And fill three of the spots with people who you think would want to advertise on your blog. Just give them free advertising and then put the fourth one as pay to play.”
John Rampton: So I did that. And a week and a half later, I had somebody buy that spot for 150 bucks. And I was like, “Holy crap, I just made 150 bucks blogging.” Now was that worth the three hours a day times by 30 that I was putting in? I did this Monday through Monday, guys. And everyone would look at that as a failure, but I was like, “Oh, here’s a little bit of success.” So then I did the next one, and I put that one at 500. And a week later, somebody bought it. And then I put the other one for 750, and that one was bought ten minutes later. I had literally put it up, and it was bought. And then I put the other one for a thousand, and that one was bought about a month later.
John Rampton: But what I love about this story is I was doing this and I didn’t have the right information in front of me. I hadn’t tried different things. And had I just given up, I wouldn’t have known where I’m at today, where that personal blog makes me easily six figures. And I only blog on it once a week now, and it is still legitimately making me six figures every single year. You guys, there’s lots of things you can do. Try, try, try, try, try. There’s a time where you should know to take something out to the shed and shoot it, right? But there’s also a time to know when you should keep going, keep pushing forward. And my hope is that all of you can get there.
John Rampton: If you guys need help with this, feel free to reach out. I think my Twitter’s a little bit below. You guys can reach out to me anytime, and I’ll give you my thoughts and my feelings on that. I love talking with people. I love helping people. So seriously, reach out to me, guys. I love helping.
Mike Demo: Excellent, yeah. That reminds me a lot of something that Russell Brunson of ClickFunnels says is you’ve got all these people that are trying to launch more and more funnels and all these funnels, and they limit you to five or ten funnels on their 97 dollar a month plan. And be like, “Hey Russell, I need more funnels.” What happened to other ten that you had? Oh well, I need more. And he tells his mastermind group, the group that pays tens of thousands of dollars to work with him directly, that you’re not going to be able to launch your second funnel until your first funnel grosses a million dollars in revenue.
Mike Demo: Now granted, you’re dealing with different types of people. But that’s his role. You focus on one thing until that hits a million, then you can go on to the next one. And I love that idea because it just forces people to be deliberate in their actions and also really give it what it needs. Sometimes, a bad idea is a bad idea. But I see a lot of people that are giving up after four weeks or eight weeks and going on to that next thing that think will be overnight and not realize it does take some work to get to that point.
John Rampton:Yeah. I tell people when you’re start out blogging, blog about something you can blog about once a day for the rest of your life without making a dollar. If you’re trying to make money day one, typically it’s going to show through. And I’m guessing it’s going to fail.
Mike Demo:Sure. So this makes sense if you are kind of a solo entrepreneur or doing your own passion project. What if you’re just a marketing manager at a web agency, as an example? How can you take some of these ideas and apply it to maybe a company you’re working for, even if you’re not interested in doing it for yourself personally?
John Rampton: That was me, guys. I was interested in it, but I was working at another company. And I was just sharing tips and tricks of things that I was an expert at. And I found after time, I really enjoyed that I could help people out, that I could give an example of, “Hey, did you know if you have an e-commerce site and you put Google AdSense on it, it will index your pages a lot faster?” People are like, “Oh, that makes sense.” I could give people little tidbits of information and explain things and truly make an impact on their life.
John Rampton: One of the first people that ever, ever emailed me… I used to write about ad words and how to really improve your ads. I owned a site called PPC.org. That was my second site ever. And I still remember an email from a very, now very, very influential person who you would recognize their name. At the time, they weren’t influential at all. But now they’re probably in the marketing and online space, they’re one of your top 25 people out there. That person emailed me and was like, “This little piece of information changed my life and was able, for me, to prove my worth at the company I’m working for.” Now that person owns two companies that are worth over 100 million dollars and we’re friends.
John Rampton:So that, for me, was my a-ha moment, where at the time he was big or anybody, and it doesn’t matter that he is big someday. But they wrote me a thing and said, “Hey, you impacted my life. You truly helped me.” I remember another email, one of probably my second or third email of somebody who I covered their company and I wrote about how amazing their company was. A guy who started a little company called Product Hunt, probably you haven’t even heard of it. I’m just joking. You’ve heard of Product Hunt, I’m assuming, right? Well, I was the first person to ever write about it, and their founder emailed me and he’s like, “Hey, I really want to thank you very much for doing this and writing about me. It means a lot to me.” And that for me was my next a-ha moment, where what I’m doing is actually making a difference, and I’m helping make other people lives better.
John Rampton: Now, he went on to have, I don’t know, maybe tens of millions of users sign up for Product Hunt. And it’s now a thing that’s launching tens of thousands of businesses on a yearly basis and impacting probably millions of people’s lives. But I helped that person along their journey, and I can say that for the rest of my life. Not to mention, I’m friends with a lot of that founding team and members and stuff like that. And I can count on them now. Had that even not happened, I impacted that person’s life.
John Rampton: And that’s what you guys can do at the company you’re doing. Use your expertise to share with other people to really help, truly help them and inspire them.
Mike Demo: Yeah. So what I keep hearing time and time again is that everything you do, John, is focused on putting other people first. And sometimes, eventually, that might come back as a referral or something else, or maybe not. But the more people you help, the more connections you make. And you’re impacting people’s lives but also, eventually, those people might be able to work with you in some facet in the future. Is that kind of everything that you do is focused on?
John Rampton: Yeah.
Mike Demo: Putting people first?
John Rampton: Yes. For sure.
Mike Demo: And that’s one of the reasons why, when we met, what, eight years ago, something like that?
John Rampton: Yeah, it was something like that.
Mike Demo: [crosstalk 00:20:21] You really appealed to me, because you weren’t the, “Hey, I’m John. Buy my thing.” You’re just trying to help people. And that is so refreshing in a space where a lot of people don’t really know how to network in a way that isn’t just focused on themselves. So that’s kind of cool.
John Rampton: Yeah. Thanks.
Mike Demo: So, in a little bit of time, there’s all these social networks out there. So you’ve got Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and all these new ones that pop up on a weekly basis and medium. What networks do you recommend that people jump on, or does it differ per industry, or just how people like to communicate?
John Rampton: It differs on you as a person and the industry you’re in. For example, if you’re selling women’s fashion, Twitter probably is not the place for you. Although Twitter is very good for a lot of tech things, but not everybody’s on there. Facebook is amazing for some things and just horrible for others. I find usually, it’s an 80-20 rule. Twenty percent of the time, it’s going to be very relevant for your audience. Ten percent of the time, it’s going to be the most amazing thing in the world for your audience. And then 80 percent of time, it will do nothing for your business and you’re wasting your time.
John Rampton: I still know people, even though people say Google Plus is dead, I still know people who are creating high eight figure businesses from Google Plus. Still. It’s driving astronomical amounts of traffic for them, but that’s their core, and they know who their core is. So for you, I’d experiment with every single one of them. See which one you gravitate to. See which one you like and enjoy. And make sure, if your audience is there, to really, really push that and work hard at it. So there’s no right or wrong answer.
John Rampton: SnapChat, I hate SnapChat. I think it’s worthless. But my wife uses it 24/7 and does that for her work and her business. And that’s the only network that actually drives stuff to her and satisfaction for her. Nothing else does. Instagram is another one where I know people making very, very good incomes and driving millions of dollars in revenue for the businesses towards that. I have never been able to do that. I have a strong following. I interact with a lot of people, but it doesn’t work for me. Facebook has never worked for me, yet it’s working for millions of others. YouTube has never worked for me, yet there’s millions of businesses online that are being very, very successful there.
Mike Demo: Excellent.
John Rampton: So find really what works for you.
Mike Demo: So, speaking of networking, you go to a lot of physical events in addition to online connecting with people. Do you believe that going to physical events with face to face connections is still very valid in today’s hyper-connected world? ‘Cause I personally believe that, but a lot of people I know will never go to a physical event in a whole year.
John Rampton: Yes, although I think the importance of it is going down and down. The reason why I say this is because different generations. My generation needs that. An older generation, that’s all they want. You speak to a person who’s 50 years plus, and it’s very hard for them to have an interaction with someone on Zoom or Skype or Google hangouts. It’s hard for them to have any type of a relationship.
John Rampton: I’m a little bit younger than that, and I’m able to have actual relationships where I can go a year, two years, three years without physically seeing anybody. But if I text message them or Face Chat them or FaceTime or Skype or whatever video conference, that’s a real relationship for me. Versus somebody that’s under 20 years old, really 22 years old, a video relationship creates the exact same stimulus on the brain as meeting someone in person.
John Rampton: So right now, I think they are still very, very valuable. I like that. That’s where I meet some of my best connections. But if I am not able to take those physical connections and turn them into online connections and foster that, those relationships are going to be lost. So right now, it’s valuable. I think over time that will go down and down and down and down.
Mike Demo: Sure. So we got about four minutes left. So if you were going to talk to a new person just starting out with their business or on the online things, launching their first WordPress site using BoldGrid or something, what would be the top three things you’d want them to take away from everything they’re being told from all of these experts online and digital and all these ideas? What would be the top three takeaways you’d try to let people know?
John Rampton: First, start today. Literally just start. Stop worrying about if it’s perfect or stop worrying about what people think or how you’re going to make money or doing things. Just start. Throw something up. I really like Reed Hartman, LinkedIn, his famous quote, “If you’re not…” I can’t remember the exact, but the thing of it is if you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not launching fast enough. You should be semi-embarrassed of what you’re putting up.
John Rampton: But you know what? When you put it up, people are going to give their honest feedback to you. And that will help you become what you need to become, a future entrepreneur and business leader, leader, top marketing professional, top this, or best secretary, best husband, best wife, best spouse, best dog owner, whatever it may be. That will make you better at that than if you just sit there and think about it for the rest of your life and never make action. So number one, obviously, start today.
John Rampton: Number two, believe in yourself. I didn’t believe in myself in the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. I was working for somebody else for years and years and years and years and had no control over what I was doing. I was actually making double outside of work than I was inside of work. So literally, I was making a great salary in work and I was earning double outside of that because I was too scared to believe in myself and actually jump. So number two, believe in yourself and take a jump.
John Rampton: Number three would be keep going. Sometimes, you’re going to have to push through crappy times. Good times are good. Bad times are very, very hard. But believe in yourself and you’ll get through this. And keep going.
Mike Demo: Excellent. So how can people find you online. Your Twitter is obviously below your video right now at John Rampton. What are the other places that people can connect with you and follow what you’re doing?
John Rampton: JohnRampton.com is my personal site. You guys can go there, contact me. It has my email address. I make it public. So if you guys want to get in contact with me, you guys can. Calendar.com/JohnRampton will get you if you want to book a meeting with me or chat with me at any time. I love meeting entrepreneurs and helping people out, so if I can help you in your journey, let me know. I try and respond to Tweets and stuff. Don’t be offended if I don’t get back with you on a Tweet. I probably get mentioned, on average, over a thousand times a day. So, again, don’t be offended if I don’t. If you email me through my website, I most likely will get back with you. You mentioned this, mention BoldGrid, that I was on the BoldGrid podcast and “Hey, I heard your podcast here. I wanted your information on this.” This will kind of shortlist you to a response from me.
John Rampton: But you guys, I really wish you really good luck in your journey. Contact me. I love helping people out if I can help you in that journey. I’m here for you.
Mike Demo: Excellent. And some of those links and the link to your website and some of your accounts are on the show notes at BoldGrid.com. So you go to BoldGrid.com, click blog, and get to the show notes for a lot of those links. And please, keep following BoldGrid on all the social networks for new exciting product announcements that are just weeks away. And you can find our events calendar on upcoming events by going to the blog post on BoldGrid.com. Our next WordCamp is WordCamp Halifax in Canada, which I will be giving my talk, AB Testing. Which way does your duck face?
Mike Demo: So thank you so much for spending your time today, John. Really appreciate it. Thank you so much for spending your time with us today. I’m sure a lot of people got a lot of value out of this.
John Rampton: Good. Thanks, guys. Believe in yourself. You can do it.
Mike Demo: Bye, bye.