Arlen: Welcome to the eCommerce marketing podcast. Everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest Grant Aldrich who founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their college education. Grant has spent his entire career working in startups with nearly 15 years of experience and 2 prior exits to a publicly traded company. He has been a board member and donor to a number of non-profits, an advisor to many publicly traded companies and a guest speaker at seminars and graduate school courses. He graduated with honors from University of California Irvine in Economics.
Grant: Thank you for having me
Arlen: Yeah. I am super excited to talk to you because as I indicated in your, your intro, you’ve got all kind of experienced that a lot of years under your belt, you know, dealing with, you know, a variety of, of have different startups in writing situations.
So I know you have a kind of a wealth of, uh, of knowledge that you get to share with us today.
Grant: I think I actually bring a unique perspective to the eCommerce world in that I really started in lead generation. And I think that that’s a very valuable thing because when you start in lead generation, you know, you really begin to understand what makes people act.
Right. Cause I think the one problem with eCommerce is that, you know, we only look at, Oh, did someone buy something or not? And you don’t think about further up in the funnel, but regeneration, you’ve got to really work hard to get into the psyche of your consumer and to first generate the lead. And then what happens after that?
Hopefully this will be helpful for the listeners.
Arlen: Yeah, definitely. I’m super excited because like you mentioned, you know, today we’re going to really be talking about the whole lead generation process, getting people into your funnel, not necessarily, you know, getting them straight to your site and purchasing because you know, depending on your whole model, that a lot of times, that’s not the case.
You’ve got to get them in your funnel. You’ve got to. You know, massage these customers and educate them. And then, you know, of course I get them to buy. And so that’s a whole process and I’m super excited to dig into that with you today. But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us just a little bit more about your background and you know, specifically how you got into what you’re doing
I like to call myself a born again, founder. And I don’t mean that in the religious sense. I mean, it, in that I finally had that moment where I realized everything I had been doing before was not making me happy, was not doing it my way. And it’s completely changed my life. And so to give you quick background, I had got right out of college and we began in a bunch of startups.
Lead generation. And I was really lucky to, I think that we, uh, had a couple of really good outcomes and a few exits and I was sitting around. And I think a lot of people can appreciate this. And I finally had the epiphany that I was really unhappy with the way that I structured my last company. It’s like, I’ll give you an example.
Well, I had an office with people there and driving an office every day and I said, you know what? I don’t want to do this. I hate it. I want to work from home. I want a virtual organization. And then I also, you know, what I was doing before, I didn’t really. Feel passionate about we were working in healthcare and the companies I was working for were pharmaceutical companies.
There’s nothing wrong with that. You know, it’s a living, but you don’t skip to work, making pharmaceutical companies money every day. And I think that I think people miss that you have your cake and eat it too, where you pick something that you love to do. And make money at that as well. So, where I came to today is I was, I basically started with the mission to make college affordable and accessible for everybody.
And I, some I’ve really cared about my whole life and. I just start with that mission statement. And basically the Genesis came to online degree.com, which was that in 60 seconds, anybody can get started and register without applications or entrance exams to take as many college level courses as they’d like, and receive credit towards their degree to save time and money on their degree.
And we do it all for free.
Arlen: Wow. Okay. That’s awesome. And it’s definitely a, an admirable mission because yeah, it’s ironic. I was just talking to. Yeah, my mother, actually, the other day, we’ve got a neighbor who’s getting ready to go to college. And he’s thinking about going actually to the school that I went to, which is Howard university in Washington, D C it’s a historically black college and university in the DC area.
And I was just commenting on the fact that yeah, the. Tuition is definitely a lot different than when I went to school. I don’t want to do that kind of age or date myself, but yeah, I went to school when it really wasn’t too bad there. As far as the tuition now it’s really competitive as far as their tuition with a lot of the other schools in the area.
And so that’s one of the things that this young man is wondering about, you know, how he’s going to be able to pay for that. He’s talking about getting college scholarships and things like that. And so. I’m sure. That’s not the only school. That’s like, there’s a lot of schools where the tuition is of just, you know, just skyrocketed.
And it’s just unbelievable. It’s just think that, you know, and expect, you know, kids from all types of backgrounds to be able to try to afford this. It’s just unheard of. And so yeah, what you’re doing is this definitely something that I think is, you know, an admirable cost, so yeah, definitely kudos to you on that, for sure.
And so what you’re doing with your current brand and with your current company and with some of the other. Experiences that you’ve had with the various startup. Cause I know as you alluded earlier, one of the main things that a lot of eCommerce businesses really almost don’t know where to begin with is just kind of the whole lead generation process and capturing prospective customer’s information, you know, in exchange for something, whether you’re creating some type of gated content, whether it’s a newsletter where they’re.
You know, just some general information, whether it’s videos, whatever it is, you know, those are the things that you can do to kind of get people into the funnel. But, you know, with respect to specifically, let’s say any commerce brand, maybe they’re selling a product, a consumable product, where do they begin as far as, you know, determining.
What type of content would be of interest to people to kind of get them into their funnel? Yeah,
Grant: that’s right. I think that the neophyte coming into the eCommerce world is under the misconception that someone comes to a website and directly purchases your product from a to B. And I think you and I both agree that that paradigm is it’s gone and does not happen, maybe a very small percentage, but the reality is that in today’s world to convert someone, e-commerce, it’s a digital journey that you have to hold their hand through it.
And it’s a multistep journey to get that person to buy, which kind of going back to what we alluded to earlier when the lead generation world is valuable, because like you said, you have to first engage that person and know who they are in that first step with the lead. Right. And even though you’re not selling the leader, you’re using it for your own business.
It’s critical. I have some very strong thoughts on this. I’d like to share. And to me, there’s two aspects to nail this. The first is you have to provide something of real value that your consumer really wants first. And I say that. And I emphasize that because I think a lot of us, when we first take our first step into creating some sort of gated content, right.
A free ebook, a checklist, we kind of think of what would work, right? Oh, you know, this could be enticing and it could work, but we’re not really going and peeling back that onion and really thinking, what do they want?
Grant: And that small shift is dramatic attic in terms of conversion. So for example, in my own world, I’m in higher education, which is a, like you pointed out a huge problem and there’s a huge demand.
And I went the hardest route possible by working out ways that we could provide what our consumers want. It. To take courses for free to lower the cost of their education and all a modern alternative to junior college. Now, I wouldn’t suggest people doing this there’s was a monumental effort and, you know, getting universities to articulate with you, it’s a huge effort, but the point being, I didn’t create a free ebook on how to save for college.
No one would want that. I went so far as to create a whole solution where they would actually be able to get the free courses. Cause that’s what they want. Right. So that’s the key thing I think people need to do. And then the second piece then, and then this is the next critical piece is the juxtaposition and how your solution fits in with what they want.
So if you nail those two, it doesn’t matter what the content is. If it’s an ebook, if it’s a PDF, you know, whatever it is, it’s a free course. It just has to meet those two things first from the psychology of the consumer, and then you’ll nail it. So for example, with us, I’ll give our stories that, you know, we help people for free.
You know, my, the mantra is may college affordable. So when people come in, we, we, the whole platform is free and we make our money either through the sponsorship of the universities, or we go out and find local price, certification programs for our students and those ones, we, there is a cost. And so when I was thinking about how we were going to do this, one of the things I realized was that.
Most people don’t even realize that certification programs exist. There’s this awesome alternative to something that everybody knows the degree that is actually a better fit for them. And so a lot of your listeners are probably dealing with the same problem, right? There’s something that everybody knows about.
But our solution’s better, but we can’t just go out and blast the airwaves. Cause you, you have to first bring people in for what they know and why ours is better. So that was it. So we let people come in when we’ve got a great free offering for people that want to go the direct degree route. But at that point, it sells itself to say, listen, you should think about a certification.
And here’s why, and again, by organizing and putting real thought into the foundation of your offering, everything that is easy. Yeah.
Arlen: Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, that really makes a lot of sense because you’re providing something that, you know, generally a large majority of students that are coming out of high school are looking forward.
They’re either on the fence where they know they need to go to college, but they’re struggling, you know, figuring out how they want to pay for it, or, you know, they’re definitely going that route and they’re, you know, they just need a little bit of assistance. And so, yeah, you’re, you’re really kind of pulling them in, like you said, the main thing there is offering what the majority of people want, rather than just putting out something there.
Like you said, how to save money on college, I’ll free ebook, which. Would most likely just get stored, maybe saw somebody drive and never get looked at ever again. You know?
Grant: Exactly. Yeah. And you know, to be honest, because so many people have become more savvy and this space has developed so much with good content, you really can’t survive with those types of pieces.
Right? Like that, that being that example. It’s too competitive and it is harder to go one step further and really think about what you’re going to provide a value. But then the benefits are immense because if you provide something of value, if you let’s say, if you’re doing Facebook advertising, then your call to action is more catchy.
So your price, your costs go down. And then when they come in, there’s going to be a higher conversion rate because they’re more interested in what you have. So the whole funnel gets better. If you take that extra
Arlen: leap. Yeah, definitely. For sure. So I think, yeah, the benefits clearly I think really speak for themselves for sure of how this is an effective strategy now for the eCommerce brands that are listening and are kind of thinking about doing this, thinking about structuring something, the content, and what is it, what is it that they’re going to offer?
Whether it’s online course, whether it’s, you know, videos, what have you. You know, where do they really begin with putting all this together? Yeah. Other and then what type of tools and resources are necessary that you would recommend for making this happen?
Grant: Yeah. So I think once you figured out what that core is, you really have the honest conversation to say, this is what they want.
And sometimes that’s not easy. It’s not easy. If when you figure that out to put something together, well, then you start we’re building on what that piece is going to be. And maybe it could be something as simple as an ebook, or maybe it’s. It is a free course. Maybe it is. So it’s really hard to say what that’s going to be once you figure it out.
But what I’m saying is for the secret, this is that no, most people never figure that out or they never really take the time. Right. And if you do, it will become self-evident. Hmm. And so at that point, you know, whatever that piece, then you you’re right. You, you do wrap it up and you make it so that your, everything in your DNA is to help people with that piece.
Right. So in that case, I mean, we could come up with like some sort of. Actually I’ll I’ll use true car for those who are not aware of true car, true car is a lead generation company in the auto industry. What they do is they’ve gotten a negotiated rate that are lower for when you go by car, no hassle, no haggling.
You get this great rate, but it’s gated because they think they allow you to build your car. No, and, and, Oh, Hey, I want to see what that rate is. It’s really interesting. And I get something of value. Not only do I get to see what that rate is for that car, I actually can get that coupon and show up in any of these dealerships and get it.
So what they’ve done is they basically create a whole app around, so it doesn’t even necessarily need to be gated content. It could just be the information. I drew an application that you create and then once they get it at that point, we’ll, Hey, you know what, that example doesn’t dovetail well into an eCommerce study, but there’s many that would say, Hey, by the way, and then you can begin to transition into the e-commerce.
Arlen: Right, right. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. And I like that example, as far as providing people with, you know, really the ultimate. What it is that you’re, you’re going to be selling them, but just packaging it in such a way that, you know, you’re, you’re kind of moving them along. And then by the time they get to the kind of the end point, then they’re, you know, they’re really ready to go.
So, yeah, that’s um, that’s definitely awesome. I can definitely see how this could all work. Now, as far as, you know, brands are concerned, regardless of what type of. Content that you create or lead magnet, whatever the initial offering is that you’re, you know, you’re getting, you know, your whole funnel where you were providing them some type of value or you’re educating them along the way.
I know a lot of business owners are kind of wondering, all right, I’ve created this funnel. I’m going to be offering them this particular value. I’m going to educate them. Let’s just say, I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you’re a camping goods company and you provide camping tents, all types of accessories for camping, that type of thing.
And so you’re getting people that say into your funnel where maybe you’re educating them on how to select the right. Campsite, how to what’s the proper placement of a tent in a no forced type areas. You know, those types of things, maybe you’re creating a whole series of videos, educating them on this whole process.
And you know, if you’re a camping enthusiasts, she’s really kind of really trying to learn about the camping. You got to go through there. Of course, maybe you’re going to opt in. That would sound like this information would be a value to anybody that’s camping. And they’re going to be interested in seeing the next piece, the next video that you put out there, or the next piece of content.
And, you know, you’re going to kind of bring them on a particular journey. I think the questions that I know a lot of business owners have is you want the sale. That’s the bottom line. You know, you’re not producing these videos for free. It takes time. It takes staff. It takes some production to put all this together.
So you got to pay for it at some point. And ultimately you gotta, you gotta bring it in. The sale, you’ve got to close the deal. So at really what point do you determine, all right. You know, kind of enough is enough. I’m going to go ahead and ask for that sale. I’m going to have a call to action here. How do you really determine that?
Because I think it’s a, it’s kind of a fine line that I know a lot of business owners struggle with is when to ask for that sale when the charcoal’s the deal.
Grant: Yeah. That’s a great question. And I’ll tell you. That moment happens when that person is come through, has the trust affection in the authority for you or the brand?
I know that it sounds subjective, but in your, in, in, in, when someone’s building a funnel, they have to keep that in their mind that once they have that, then that person’s going to buy. So let’s go back to your example. Cause I think that I love that example. You first set up whatever you’re going to be providing for free.
Right. And I think the not camping example, that’s a great one because there’s so much about camping and most people don’t know to make a better experience or how to do X or, you know, interesting ways to start a fire, all kinds of cool stuff. Yeah. In providing information, she can get people through whatever your initial funnel is to get them involved.
And of course, As part of that, you’re building the trust, the affection and the authority, because a lot of people that, one of the ways, because once you have that established, well, then it’s great because then you can really start building upon that. How do I get more people in the funnel? How many people then do I convert at that?
But that’s the starting point. That’s the foundation. Now some tactics and things that people do is that, you know, you begin building these things initial actually by first being personal. Right? So a lot of times I said the best brands are personal, right where someone’s in the front. And he’s the one building relation with you because at the end of the day, we don’t necessarily trust companies.
We trust people. And we also build affection mostly towards people. Now it does happen. People have an effect towards Apple, but that’s more rare. Well, it takes a person who you’re really like what they do. You really just gel annually, not only of the trust, but you’re drawn to them finally authority for that person to tell you everything else out there is crap.
And this is why this tent is the absolute best and what we did to do it at that point. I’m convinced I buy it.
Arlen: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yeah. So that’s, I think the, the nail there is that truth across there and really getting the customer to really know that you’re an authority on a particular subject or a particular niche, and then, you know, trusting you to provide value for them.
And that’s really the main thing because the bottom line is there’s, you know, in most. Niches or industries, you’re going to have a ton of competitors, regardless of what it is that you’re doing. And people, these days they’re going to do their research. Cause it, you know, the information is out there. It doesn’t take too long to kind of go through, do some comparison and kind of make a decision there.
And so yeah, if they, the bottom line is they, like you said, they. They purchased from, you know, typically someone that they trust. And that’s usually somebody kind of on the, on the front line, that’s creating that initial relationship. That’s that person that is maybe offering those emails, that’s providing those.
Camping videos or whoever it is. And, you know, you have to inject some type of personality into that that people can connect with because that’s really ultimately what they’re gonna base their decision on somebody that they trust.
Grant: Yeah, that’s right. And so, you know, that doesn’t provide someone. Okay.
Well, here’s the moment in my life. Funnel or my email drip campaign where I do that, but I think that’s really an unimportant actually. I think that’s one important is what you and I are talking about, which is you set up, that’s the mentality and there’s, there’s always a lot of strategies and tips for building that trust and that authority throughout the funnel all the way at the top, all the way through the end.
But I think if you’re in the right mindset for that, Now, you know how you’re going to convert that person. And you know, for me personally, as a man, I don’t know how to market to where I, you know, every time I try to do it, I just know I’m not good at it, but other men, I think I’m much better at it. I look at it for myself when I’m looking at somebody who’s like an expert at something.
When I say to myself, I’d love this guy, he’s a bad ass. Or I love this guy. He’s hilarious that. Is the moment that I’m trying to recreate with everybody else. That’s kind of cause because again, there’s that affection. I trust him. I admire him, you know, the authority, whatever it is, right. That’s like, that’s why, you know, people buy.
Dr squash soap. And that’s why they buy dollar shave club
Arlen: it’s for all those reasons. Yeah, definitely. For sure. Yeah. It’s interesting that you mentioned those brands because you know, at this point we’re, as we prepare to wrap things up, I always like to highlight companies that we can all learn from because.
With most different strategies or eCommerce marketing strategies out there, there are always the leaders in the pack that, you know, are just doing a great job in it. And so in this particular space, what are some other brands that are doing an awesome job and, you know, delivering content and just creating an awesome funnel that, you know, we can all be learn from and, you know, kind of glean some things from.
Grant: Yeah, I think those two, I kind of put those two in the same category because I think they used humor for something that was really cool. Right. And so those, I think those two should be revered and again, they’re very male focused, which is the other cool thing which we can relay with. Right. And when I watch,
Arlen: I’m sorry.
I’m sorry. And so that was dollar shave club and I’m sorry, what was the other one?
Grant: Dr. Squatch.
Arlen: Dr. Squatch. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha.
Grant: And when I look at the ones that work with women, I realized that. I have no idea like how they created it. I, it doesn’t relate with me. I don’t get it. I just realize it’s not
Arlen: for me.
Grant: Another one for men. I think. Or most people that I think is really good with trust is Neil Patel. He does an excellent job. I think he one that people could start at and what he does really well. I don’t think he’s top of his game, but I think that what he does really well is the authoritative part of the sale.
I think he does a really good job where you look at the content production building trust and you know how he delivers that. That’s a good one to look at too.
Grant: I could probably come up with more, but those are some good ones to start.
Arlen: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And then, you know, I always recommend people to do is, you know, these days it’s just so easy with any of those brands.
Like you said, the doctors Squatch, uh, either Neil Patel or even the dollar shave club, take a look at their sites, see what it is that they’re offering, how are they pulling people into their funnel, sign up for their list, you know, just get in there and take a look at what content they’re providing you and how are they structuring things.
Um, it’s not to say that you should just. Get everything that they’re sending you and just copy it word for word, of course, you know, most likely it’s not going to work because they have a specific market and either dealing with it with specific products. So, you know, you can’t of course copy everything, but you can definitely, you know, glean some things from what they’re doing and even.
Even though kind of the order per se, of how they are moving people through the funnel is definitely something that you can even try to mimic as far as you know, okay, how frequently are they sending messages? When are they sending them? What’s the tone of the messages and you know, that type of thing. So I think you can really learn a lot from these, these big guys, because, you know, they’re, they’re spending, you know, millions and millions of dollars being, read their marketing
Grant: decisions for sure.
Arlen: definitely. Well, that’s good. This has been awesome grant. Well, I’ve definitely learned a lot and I haven’t really gotten too much into, you know, kind of lead generation and the whole funnel process before this podcast. So it’s definitely refreshing, you know, speaking to you about it. And you’ve provided us with a whole wealth of information.
So we appreciate you being on the podcast. But what I like to always do to close things out, just to switch gears so our audience can get to know you just a little bit better is if you don’t mind sharing one fun fact that our audience may or may not be surprised to know about you.
Grant: I think the fun, one of the best ones is that, uh, you know, I’m, uh, I’ve got three young and so I’m a huge dad entrepreneur supporter.
And my life is absolutely insane. And, you know, one embarrassing fact, I, you know, I grew up in the eighties. To this day, I still like really bad eighties music. I’m really embarrassed to say it, but it’s all true.
Arlen: You’re not alone, man. I am a sheet. I grew up in the eighties as well, and I love eighties, man.
I was just a, it was just kind of ironic because, cause I, um, I’ve been dealing with that ear infection. I’m just getting over when I had a followup appointment this morning at the ear doctor and I was listening last night. So that was, I had my eighties mix on when I was doing some work and uh, I heard one song.
I’m trying to remember. I can’t even pronounce the name of it. It’s a German group. The name of the song is. Comey Sayre, I think is how you pronounce it.
Arlen: You probably heard that. And I happen to hear it at the doctor’s office or when I was leaving, I was like, wow, that’s ironic. I just heard that last night.
And then, yeah, I’m always excited whenever I hear eighties music’s man, because yeah, I don’t know. It’s just something about the genre man. There was so many unique groups that came out at that time, I think is why it’s so appealing to me because they’re kind of all over the place, but yet they all had some really.
Really hot Vons man. So yeah,
Grant: it’s like, it was just a, it was just a wave of one and two hit wonders. And so you have all this variety and different sounds and so they’re all so different. I know. And it did. And a lot of them, they are, they’re so bad, but I can’t help it loving it just,
Arlen: yeah, definitely.
Definitely. So yeah, you’re definitely not alone in the eighties, so for sure. Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate that. And you know, lastly, uh, you know, if any of our listeners, there is one to pick your brain anymore about lead generation and creating a proper funnel, or, you know, maybe that’s some questions about your site.
You know, the online degree site. What is the best way for our listeners to get in contact with you?
Grant: Yeah, so they can, you know, regardless if they’re what we do could help them or not, you know, they could follow along in the project, how things are [email protected] and then, uh, you know, I’m really active on LinkedIn.
So if you go to LinkedIn and you type in my name, grant Aldrich, or an online degree, I should come up and, uh, yeah. Would love to keep in touch with people. All
Arlen: right. Well, that sounds awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. I definitely encourage people to reach out to you and pick your brain and, um, you don’t just kind of go from there and, uh, yeah, once again, grant, thank you again for, for joining us today on the eCommerce marketing podcast.
Grant: Thanks for having me.
Founder of OnlineDegree.com