“It does not matter how slow you go, so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Ghandi
“What would you say… you DO here?” – Bob Slydell
TIME IS RUNNING OUT
With only a few weeks left in 2014, I’m trying to do three things with GBXM:
- Wrap up a few stories I’d like to get into a printed issue/book before the end the of year.
- Leanne drives a 1,000hp rail – and a 2,000hp digger. This is awesome.
- Tony is an old school hot rod guy. He’s built several machines for little money.
- Ted traded his trackday Bimmer for family trips to Death Valley in a Range Rover.
- And Jesse went from being in trouble with the law to professional rally service provider.
- I’m mostly just waiting on pictures for these.
- Publish a printed issue/book before the end of the year.
- I miss publishing something tangible. A lot.
- The stories are all done (with the above exceptions).
- Just need time to build the issue/book (and get it on Amazon this time).
- Get a head start on 2015.
- GBXM needs to be more cohesive in 2015.
- I’m working on an editorial calendar with solid content ideas for the whole year.
- We’re going to run more personal/professional development stuff.
- I’ve been promising “high performance machines & lives.” I need to deliver.
Way back in 2011, I came across a series of articles by this guy Craig Ballantyne. They were meant to help people starting online businesses make their first US$100k relatively quickly. Now, I’ve always been one to put making a difference before making a profit, but two thoughts keep coming to mind: I’d really like to make a living helping gearheads live better lives, and if GBXM pays my bills, I’ll have more than a couple hours a week to devote to that dream.
While cleaning up my Google Drive recently, getting a bunch of programs straightened out and organized, I came across some worksheets from that Ballantyne series. This afternoon, I opened the first one up and had a look for the first time since early 2013. (I’d saved the details in early 2011.) It was clear to me that, if I’m going to help gearheads live better lives, I need a much more detailed understanding of exactly whom I’m trying to help.
ARE YOU THE IDEAL GBXM|united CUSTOMER?
Generally speaking, I write for gearheads with more than a few years’ experience under their belts. In my mind, I’m kinda looking at people like myself – a pretty good bead on things, wanting something more, but not entirely sure what that is or how to achieve it. Call it a shared journey of self-discovery. I love the phrase, gearheads like us – but just who the hell are we?
We know our way around an engine bay, have a pretty good understanding how all the automotive systems in our vehicles work together, and know enough about modifying things to be dangerous. There are only so many variables under the hood, ya know? Life beyond the garage, however, while proving similar, has an infinite amount of variables. There’s no way we can consider them all, and while we like to think we’re rational, intelligent beings, we’re still subject to backfire effect, confirmation bias, and good old fashioned vanity.
If we’re going to build high performance machines & lives, we – I – need to do a better job defining the problems I want this venture to solve. So, at the risk of getting touchy-feely, here’s the questions Mr. Ballantyne told me I need to answer – and the answers I’ve come up with so far. I hope you’ll get in touch – comment, email, etc. – and let me know what you think about all this. If you’ve read this far, I’m kinda doing this for you and I.
- What fears & hopes do they have that [ GBXM ] can help?
- Fear of uncertainty, the unknown, indecisiveness
- Fear of being caught up in the rat race & feeling like nobodies
- Hopes of making a living doing something we love
- What do they want back in their life that [ GBXM ] can provide?
- Inspiration, excitement, purpose
- Power to make important things happen
- A clean slate – a fresh start – to build upon
- What in their life do they want to stop – that [ GBXM ] can help?
- Wheelspin, working a lot harder, but not seeing a lot more benefit
- Mediocrity, more of the same, pointless consumer garbage
- What do they long for that [ GBXM ] can provide?
- Self-made independence, Spilner’s meal ticket
- Easily implemented ideas that deliver immediate results
- A community of solid, responsible gearheads dedicated to better lives
- What pain & disappointments do they have that [ GBXM ] can end?
- We’re surrounded by idiots, it seems
- Gearhead culture is developing some real issues
- Frustration with the idea that we’re going nowhere fast
- What do they hate that [ GBXM ] can fix?
- Having to choose between car stuff and everything else
- Working harder, but not seeing the benefits of our effort
- What comforts & cover-ups do they use in place of a real solution?
- Procrastination – It can wait.
- Rationalisation – I can’t do it now.
- Excuses – I can’t do it now because [ blank ].
- And how can [ GBXM ] be the REAL SOLUTION they desire?
- Provide inspiration. You can do this. See others who have or are.
- Provide support. Let’s help each other do this. As a team.
- Provide metrics. You can see your progress.
- Provide results. You see it working.
ON AVATARS AND PRODUCT CREATION
Next step is to take all that metaphorical, really how I feel, borderline Hallmark card stuff and come up with an avatar – a highly detailed, yet fictional, perfect customer. What’s his name, what does he drive, how much money does he make, etc., etc.? This is tricky for me, because while I know GBXM can’t be all things to all people, I also don’t want anyone reading this to think GBXM is really only for 30-something white guys with 2.3 kids making less than six-figures who are struggling with socialist tendencies and midlife crisis.
That said, anyone who’s been around since the beginning knows I have a hard time picking one thing and sticking with it, even though I’m often pointing out 7 billion people on the planet means a one-in-a-million idea is perfect for over 7,000 people. (Dude. If I had something worth $5/month to half that many people…) It’s tricky to put a name (and gender) on a target customer and call that character “ideal” – especially in public like this.
Frankly, it might just come down to whichever cohort steps up and engages with the idea of teaming up to live better lives through better wrenching. If that’s high school kids driving $1000 beaters, then I’ll start tailoring things to high school kids with $1000 beaters. If it’s middle aged family types with $20,000 weekend playthings dealing with midlife crisis, then we’ll go that direction. (But I’ll never turn down a gearhead in need!)
Since I clearly need to spend more time thinking about the ideal, GBXM|united customer (read: thinking about what gearheads like us really need and want), I’m not going to have an avatar today. Instead, I’d like to point out this is stuff I should have done – and redone at least annually, to be honest – before making a lot of the calls I’ve made with GBXM over the years.
What’s our product? What am I selling, here? Hopes and dreams, apparently. Last year, we had the monthly issues. Last year, a couple dozen people forked over a not-insignificant amount of money for lifetime membership, and a dozen or so more actually paid $25+ for printed copies of those issues. You folks – and you know who you are – are my heroes. Still. A whole year later.
Throwing all the Accounting 101 stuff out the window for a moment, just thinking about how much money came in from those memberships and printed issues, let’s just say it was right about equal to what I ended up paying for printed copies myself. I had to buy one – retail – before the vendor let me sell them. In all, building those issues set me back an easy 24 hours a month, or nearly 2 months of 40 hour work week. Worth it.
In the end, though, it wasn’t sustainable. Hell. You’ve seen how random things have been just here on the website this year. Who knew having a kid and popping an engine and layoffs at work and buying a house and all that madness would be so damned exhausting? I sure didn’t. (Not that I was actually planning on 3/4 of those things!)
Therein lies the rub. If I haven’t truly sat down and sketched out a highly detailed image of who – exactly – I want GBXM to help, and how – exactly – I want GBXM to help them, how the fuck am I doing anything more than sharing really cool stories and hoping for handouts? I’m not.
Don’t think for a second that the stories I’ve run so far, the people I’ve spoken with and met face-to-face, all 600-ish posts on this website and nearly 600 pages of I-didn’t-really-sleep-those-weekends print aren’t damn near my life’s work (I’ve got a little girl to raise, after all). But just think how much more powerful this body of work would be had I been more focused and on-point all this time.
THE 1500 WORD MARK
At this point, I’m on the verge of rambling. Thanks for hanging in there. This piece is something like 5X longer than the average piece of automotive “journalism.” You know me. This is how I roll. And I sincerely appreciate your reading the whole thing. You’re the gearhead I do this for. Yeah, I want to quit my day job and do this full time. And I’m not gonna lie, I’d like to double my current salary so I can fix all the things – in my driveway, in my head. But success comes from helping others achieve success. I’ve got to deliver value. I’ve got to make a difference in your life. In your driveway. In your head.
If any of this matters to you at all. If you’re tired of reading the same forgettable automotive garbage every day and sifting through BS headlines trying to get you to click on another page full of advertising. If you want someone out there to get you some real answers about stuff that really, truly matters, I want to be that guy. Leave me a comment or send me an email – brian dot driggs here at Gearbox (I think the email form is borked again). Let’s figure out how we can help gearheads like us.
Until next time, keep going fast with class and press on regardless.
Oh, and here’s that link I mentioned earlier: http://www.earlytorise.com/how-to-make-100k-online/ (I sort of live in a weird place online between automotive, marketing, affiliate, SEO, publishing, and IT. This rabbit hole may very well change your life.)