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Inflation 101: How the Market Is Changing Around Us

Inflation 101: How the Market Is Changing Around Us

What’s the key to navigating your finances amidst inflation? I’m joined by two financial experts from Johnson Financial Group to discuss the ins and outs…

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What’s the key to navigating your finances amidst inflation?

I’m joined by two financial experts from Johnson Financial Group to discuss the ins and outs of inflation. Brian Andrew, Chief Investment Officer, and Jackie Ruppel, SVP Private Banking Manager, break down the state of the economic market today and provide actionable recommendations to ensure financial stability.

In today’s episode, Brian and Jackie will cover what inflation is, why we are experiencing it, the changes we’ll see in interest rates, how savings and investments will be affected, and more.

Why Minorities are Underrepresented in Tech and What To Do About It Nadiyah Johnson and Ben Juarez

Why Minorities are Underrepresented in Tech and What To Do About It Nadiyah Johnson and Ben Juarez

Wisconsin Tech Month is right around the corner. To prepare, we’ve invited two leaders in the tech community, Nadiyah Johnson and Ben Jaurez, to discuss…

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Wisconsin Tech Month is right around the corner. To prepare, we’ve invited two leaders in the tech community, Nadiyah Johnson and Ben Jaurez, to discuss their efforts to bring diversity into the tech industry.

Our conversation focuses on the lack of diversity in the tech industry and how to bring funding, access, and resources to those that are underrepresented. We also discuss Milwaukee’s current status in the tech industry and the changes we could make as a community to make others view Milwaukee as a tech hub. So for those looking to get into tech, find ways to move Wisconsin forward, and bring more inclusivity into the tech industry, this episode is for you.

Nadiyah Johnson: CEO, Founder at Jet Constellations | Founder at Milky Way Tech Hub

Ben Jaurez: Co-Founder at Like|Minded | Co-Founder at Latinos In Tech

Latinos in Tech: https://www.latinosin.tech 

Milky Way Tech Hub: https://milkywaytechhub.com 

MKE Tech Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mke-tech-podcast/id1628240470

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How To Reinvent Your Brand In A Difficult Market With Christine Specht Of Cousins Subs

How To Reinvent Your Brand In A Difficult Market With Christine Specht Of Cousins Subs

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to reevaluate your brand and adjust accordingly. Customers and technology are changing every day, and it’s your job as…

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Now, more than ever, it’s critical to reevaluate your brand and adjust accordingly. Customers and technology are changing every day, and it’s your job as the CEO to identify that. Start understanding your brand values and stay true to them. If you have a hallmark sandwich or a distinct look, stick to it. Running a business is all about branding. To learn more on how to reinvent your brand in difficult times, join Richie Burke as he talks to an expert in the industry, Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Subs. Learn how Christine reinvented the brand after years of difficult hurdles. Discover why you need to invest in digital technology and why you need a franchise model. Find out how Christine made sure Cousins was built for the future.

Listen to the podcast here

 

How To Reinvent Your Brand In A Difficult Market With Christine Specht Of Cousins Subs

If you’re curious about how to successfully transform your brand, even in a highly competitive market, I’ve got a great episode with an amazing leader. We’ve got Christine Specht, the CEO of Cousins Subs. Christine’s father started the company in the ’70s and built an iconic brand in Wisconsin, but it got a little tired and dated. Christine and the team at Cousins have had to make a lot of difficult decisions over the last decade.  

She has had to navigate a pandemic. They’ve opened stores, closed stores, and undergone an entire rebrand. They’ve invested a lot into technology. As a result of a lot of these decisions and investments, the future never looked brighter for Cousins. It’s a great story. You’ll get a lot of good takeaways from a leadership culture, business, and marketing standpoint for your company.

Before we dive in, I wanted to let you know that this interview is directly from the Keeping It Local Podcast powered by First Federal Bank. It’s a show that I host and we produced through GGMM. If you’re looking for more great local business content, make sure to check out the Keeping It Local Podcast after this episode. Thanks again for tuning in. Let’s dive in with Christine.

I’m joined by Christine Specht, the CEO of Cousins Subs, an iconic brand in Wisconsin with nearly 100 locations and Cousins turns 50 in 2022. Christine also happens to be a Board Member here at First Federal. Christine, welcome to the show.

It’s great to be here.

For those who don’t know, can you give a quick background on the company’s history and its ties to Southeast Wisconsin?

Cousins was started here in Milwaukee in 1972. As you said, we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary which is a great milestone, particularly, for restaurants because it’s a hard industry to have a lot of longevity in. Our first location was on 60th and Silver Spring. It was started by two cousins, my dad, Bill Specht, and his cousin, Jim Sheppard. They based their product on their favorite restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey where they are from.

My dad was living here when he started the business and recruited his cousin to move here to be partners. They started because they missed the East Coast-style sub sandwich and thought this would be a great time to open it up. It was with the intent of having one restaurant and seeing how it goes and maybe trying to support their families, but it took off from there. It hit home with people here in Milwaukee.

What was it like growing up in that family? Were you working in the stores? Did you ever think you would work for the family business as an actual career?

It was my first job when I was fifteen. I couldn’t wait. I worked at our store in Germantown, Wisconsin, which is still there. It’s one of our busiest restaurants. I still remember my first day working. Some of those things you don’t forget. Beyond working in restaurants as a cashier and a sandwich maker, I wasn’t thinking that I would do this as a career. My degrees have nothing to do with the restaurant industry. I have a Degree in Criminology and Law Studies and a Master’s in Public Administration.

My parents allowed me and encouraged me to forge my own path and see what else was out there. They never said you must work for the company. When I joined the company professionally in 2001, it was a welcome choice because I wanted to get back to the family business. My role back then in 2001 was in human resources. There wasn’t the plan then to have me run the company at some point in time, it was working for the company in HR and we’ll see where it goes. As things turned out, I had the opportunity and I went after it.

Not every day is going to be great at your job, but you spend the best hours of your life at your job so you need to enjoy it. Click To Tweet

Is your husband still at the company too? What’s it like being in that family environment all the time compared to something else you could have gone and done?

I love it. I love being in the family business. I love my job. I tell people that, not every day is going to be great and whatever job you have. You spend the best hours of your life typically at your job. You need to enjoy it. I can say that I enjoy it. My husband, J.J., is still working at the company. He’s our Director of Franchise Sales. I appreciate it. It’s still going well since the last time we spoke.

I love it because he and I can talk about work at home, but it doesn’t necessarily run our lives because we have a family and we do other things, but when we do talk about work, we have a collective understanding of what’s happening. We can talk about ideas and challenges in a way that sometimes spouses can’t with one another because they’re not at the same company. He understands the business as well as I understand the business. We then can work together and talk about some of the challenges or even future opportunities where we want to go.

Cousins sandwich shop, you guys are in a very competitive business. What are some of the things that you focus on to stand out?

There are a few things we focus on and it’s about being true to the foundation of the brand. One of our values is grounded. You could ask anybody about our brand and they would tell you what we serve, grilled and deli fresh subs but beyond that, it’s served on bread. It is my dad and his cousin’s recipe from the ’70s. It’s the same recipe now as it was back then. That foundation, the bread is the hallmark of our brand.

To care about the quality of the product that we serve to our guests is very important. The other thing is we have continued to give back to the community. We have a foundation, the Make It Better Foundation. We’ve given over $750,000 since 2013 to various local organizations where our Cousins stores are located. We focus on things like health and wellness, youth education, and hunger.

There are a lot of outward-facing things that we do to differentiate ourselves from our competitors because it is highly competitive and somebody could say, “It’s another sub sandwich.” We try to be different. We have a very strong culture. I’m very proud of that. We were named the Top Workplace for 2022 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We’re happy about that and that’s the second year in a row.

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your Brand
Reinvent Your Brand: Cousins Subs serves grilled and deli fresh subs with their hallmark bread. That recipe hasn’t changed since the 70s. You have to be really true to the foundation of your brand.

 

To get awards that recognize our workplace, our work style, and our culture is very difficult because we have such a fragmented workforce. We’re not under one roof. We’re in many different buildings and it’s hard to drive that culture to all those locations. It’s similar to First Federal where they have different branches, yet it’s all under one roof. When you’re driving that culture, it’s critical that it gets down to everyone.

Can you touch on technology? You’ve evolved quite a bit. You had a big online ordering initiative that started before the pandemic, which paid off through the pandemic. Touch on the evolution of that.

Technology continues to evolve. That’s exactly right. Pre-pandemic, we had online ordering. We had third-party delivery. Little did we know how fortunate we were to have the technology in place to be able to ramp that up because of the pandemic. When COVID hit, that completely transformed how our guests were enjoying our sandwiches. They were then ordering through third-party delivery and ordering through curbside, which we didn’t even have curbside before the pandemic. We launched it in about 48 hours because we had the technology. We just never launched it. We were able to turn that component on and then connect with our guests to help them navigate through that.

Over the past several years, we’ve laid a foundation from a unified point of sale system in all of our restaurants to then continuing to increase the technology, whether it’s online ordering, third-party delivery, curbside, and now launching loyalty. All those components of technology have helped to complement our business and to help people get our product in a way they want to. Consumers are changing. Consumers are purchasing differently and you have to be ready to adapt to that. COVID forced that for many businesses, but since we had that foundation, we could highlight and enhance the technology that we did have.

You talk about the last several years and you started in 1972, but you’ve gone through a massive rebrand. You closed a lot of stores. You rebranded a lot of stores. You’ve opened a lot of new stores since then. Can you touch on the rebrand and the importance of that while staying true to Cousins’ roots because you guys do have such a loyal following in the area?

When I started in 2008 as the president, in the first few years, we were still working through some issues with my dad’s partner’s estate because my dad’s partner passed away. Starting in 2011, my leadership team and I took a look at the brand and we recognized it for what it was, a brand that serves great products in spite of our guest environment and inconsistencies that existed throughout the brand.

In 2001, we had some stores that were microwave stores. They didn’t have grills, yet we were serving cheesesteaks. We felt that was a big inconsistency in product quality and presentation to the guest. We made a program where we put grills in our locations and helped to subsidize some of the costs for our franchise owners to put grills in their locations because it makes a better product.

Start embracing technology. Consumers are changing. They're purchasing differently and you have to be ready to adapt to that. Click To Tweet

That is one example where we’ve tried to increase the consistency of the product quality, but then certainly the environment. Our stores were very old, very tired, and very different from one another depending on the year in which they were built. Since that time, we’ve embarked on creating a brand strategy that unifies the look, where you know that if you’re in a Cousins, even if it doesn’t look exactly like the one you were in Appleton, you have the essence of the brand that you understand what that is. The brand that we have now is one that’s meant to continue to evolve where we maybe update some materials, colors and lighting, but the brand will continue to evolve in that way.

That was a big undertaking because we had a lot of corporate stores and franchise locations that needed reinvestment. We gave our franchisees the opportunity to reinvest. We said, “You have to reinvest. You have to do it,” when in the past, we didn’t make it enforced, but we gave them the opportunity to reinvest at the time their franchise agreement was going to be up for expiration and renewal. That way, they could plan for, “Do they want to still be with Cousins? Do they want to reinvest? How are they going to afford to reinvest?”

During that time, in those early, we closed 40 restaurants. We exited a number of franchisees, and then even now, we have franchisees that are selling to us corporately to move on because maybe they’re looking towards retirement. There has been a lot of change through that, but it has been good because we’ve been able to make the brand consistent for the consumer who deserves that experience every time.

Was there a lot of resistance or pushback when you took on that initiative? The business at the time was profitable and doing fine, but to get to the next level and build it and “future proof” it in a way, necessary steps?

It was met with some resistance but keep in mind that in 2008, we had a recession. We were climbing out of that and stores are profitable. The past philosophy for Cousins and the leadership of Cousins didn’t require those remodels because the individual franchisee was making money or maybe had a loan from their initial build-out. That was paid off, then you don’t want to have to go into another loan. It was very much individual and individual store-focused. We said, “We need to make this a brand while thinking of you individually. We think this will be better for you individually, but we can’t sacrifice the brand because we’re not enforcing a remodel.”

The price is the price and it varies depending on the location, but what we were was very transparent and very honest. We also involve the franchise community in decision-making. We show them design pallets ahead of time. We involve them. We ask them for their feedback so that it wasn’t pushed on them, which as a franchisor, you can do. Most franchisors do that. They tell their franchisees, “Remodel or you’re out.” We didn’t want to take that heavy-handed approach because that’s not our culture. It’s not the values that I live by.

You touched on culture and you mentioned you guys got voted Top Place to Work in the area by the Journal Sentinel. That’s a great award. Do you have any advice on building a culture? What do you guys focus on at Cousins? Any takeaways for other business owners or HR people reading this?

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your Brand
Reinvent Your Brand: Back then, the Cousins Subs stores were very different from one another. So Cousins had to create a brand strategy that unifies the look that no matter where you are, you know you’re in a Cousins.

 

Things that we do to build our culture is we try to be authentic. For us, that means living our values. I mentioned that one of our values is grounded. We’re also optimistic, purposeful and passionate. Those are the four values that you’ll see on a wall in some type of artwork. You’ll see those in the restaurants and our corporate support center.

People know that you have to participate in that culture. You may not experience or live those values at the same level every single day, but it’s about understanding that that’s the expectation. When we hire people here at the office, I talked to them about our culture because I want to make sure that they are a culture fit. It’s from the very beginning life cycle of the employee when they come onboard, and then we live that.

Maybe that’s by having some fun at the office. Our support center made us a Cinco de Mayo potluck and everybody likes to participate. In our restaurants, we’ll reward and support them. Maybe we’ll give them a hot potato bar or an ice cream bar for all their teams to recognize them and the hard work that they’re doing. We try to make that on par at both levels at the support center and with our restaurants, but that culture has to start at the top. For me, that’s what I love to do. I love to live and talk about our culture and try to be as authentic as I can, and then push that down to our employees.

Employees that have left the company that doesn’t fit the culture figure it out pretty quickly. We’re not heavy-handed about it or anything, but it’s important to us. We will have turnover and we understand that. There’s this value set that we live by. I want you to love Cousins. We make and sell subs. I tell the team that all the time, “It’s very simple, but we have to make and sell as many subs as we can so we can pay debts, reinvest in our employees, and also reinvest in the community.” When you drive that home, they get and understand that. They want to make and sell as many subs as they can.

Are you still working in the stores too?

I still work in the stores. I was at our store on Villard working over lunch, which is great fun. We have great general managers. I work in all of our corporate stores once per year and now we’re up to 43. It’s filling my schedule more. It’s a great way for me to live those values, stay grounded, and still is one of the best parts of my job. I love it.

How do you decide which one you’re going to? Do you plan out much in advance so you’re dropping off?

Work culture always starts at the top. Click To Tweet

I would never do that to the teams in the store. They want to be ready. I give my Director of Operations, Hillary, my schedule and she puts me wherever she wants me to go for that period of time, but it’s great fun. I love to connect with the employees. I love to connect with the guests. It keeps me hands-on in understanding what’s happening.

One more question about the in-store experience. How do you guys come up with new products and menu items?

At the corporate support center, we have a menu development team. We think about trends, profiles, and tastes that are coming up. We think about how can we do that and parlay that to Cousins and make it Cousins specific product. There are a couple of ways to do that. We can offer limited-time only subs or LTOs. We probably do those quarterly but then we can put them on permanent menu items.

For example, in the last couple of years, we’ve launched shakes and they’re incredible. They’re so good. We have chocolate and vanilla, and now we have strawberry. We’ll rotate other shake flavors in. There’s a gelato product. It’s wonderful, and yet other times like right now we have our East Coast Philly Sub Sandwich, and it’s a nod towards the East Coast Philly Sandwich in honor of our 50th-anniversary celebration. That will be on the menu limited time.

The best part about that is I’m on the menu development team and we do all that formulation of the product in our support center where we have a test kitchen. It’s a full store inside our support center, where we do anything from training, and baking classes to testing kiosks, which will you’ll see in-store soon. Also looking at the menu development and things like that. It’s a lot of fun because it also means a lot of trial and error. When we were coming with the shake flavor, for example, we tested 25 different shake flavors.

When did the cheese curds get added to the menu? Those are amazing. People don’t necessarily think of cheese curds when they’re going to get a sub.

They don’t. I’m glad you said that because that’s one of the things that helps to differentiate us from our competitors because we’re not just a sub and chips. We have all these fantastic sides.

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your Brand
Reinvent Your Brand: Cousins Subs’ cheese curds are one of the things that help differentiate them from their competitors. They’re not just a sub and chips, they also have all these fantastic sides.

 

The fries are pretty good too.

The fries are amazing. The cheese curds and soups are good. They’re high quality because we don’t want to just throw something on the menu and hope it works. We’re proud of those curds. We win awards for those curds. The kind of those best subs in the periodicals around the state. They’re very good. That has probably been about five years ago or maybe it was longer than that.

I wanted to make sure they got a plug on the show.

Thank you very much and they’re here to stay. Curds are not going anywhere.

You guys are making some aggressive moves towards the future too. You’re opening up new locations. You have some expansion coming. Can you touch on that?

We understand that while our current stores are doing very well. Over the last several years, our average sales of each unit have gone up 93%. That’s a huge jump and accomplishment for us. Same-store sales are up 57% over the last ten years, but we also need to forge new ground. We need to continue to grow and expand.

We do that in two ways. The new ground will be new growth and development. We’re looking at corporate development in Indiana and we’re very excited about that. We’re also looking at reinvestment in legacy markets where the stores maybe are old and tired. For example, we opened up two brand new freestanding locations with drive-throughs in Sheboygan. One on the north side and one on the south side.

Stay very disciplined about what you're looking for and who you're looking for in terms of franchising. Click To Tweet

Cousins has been in the Sheboygan market for well over 25 years, but the stores got tired and became not in the right location exactly. When we acquired those stores corporately, we knew we had a long-term plan and that was reinvestment in the Sheboygan market to be the brand that we know we are and be proud of, but not just here in Milwaukee. We’re making sure that extends beyond Milwaukee, so Sheboygan, for example. We’re opening up a new freestanding restaurant in Green Bay. We’ll have more development in Green Bay. We’re very excited about the Fox Valley, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of planning.

What does freestanding mean?

Freestanding means it is its own building with a drive-through instead of being in a strip center. If we’re in a strip center, we want to be at the end of the strip center because we hope we would be able to have a drive-through, but that doesn’t always happen. That would be our second choice. That was a lesson out of COVID. While our drive-through stores have always been great because they gave a guest another option, it became so necessary. The performance of those drive-through locations is essential.

People’s habits continued to evolve. Less and less people are getting out of their vehicles to come inside. They want to make it quick. We have to design a drive-through flow that can make it quick, but yet to our quality. It still isn’t pre-made food. It’s made to order, yet we feel that we can execute it in a timely manner where people know that they may wait three minutes, but they’re going to have a great product that is made just for them.

Also, when I was doing my homework, I’m not sure if these numbers are still accurate, but I’m guessing they were close. You guys have 41 owned corporate stores, and 53 franchise or owned stores. How has that shifted over the last several years? How do you see that shifting in the future?

It has shifted a lot and that is very close. Right now, we have 43 corporate stores. Several years ago, we would have as few as 8, but it grew a little bit to 15, 16 units. This big growth trajectory we’ve had on a corporate basis is not necessarily new store development. It’s acquiring franchisees who are exiting the system.

When I started at Cousins in 2001, we had over 90 franchise groups. Now, we have less than 30 and that doesn’t mean we’re not franchising, but we’re very particular about who we’re franchising with. We don’t just open the flood gates. We stay very disciplined about what we are looking for and who we’re looking for in terms of franchising. With our franchisees, as I mentioned, many of them have been in the business for 20 to 25 years. They’re thinking about their retirement. They’re thinking this is probably a good time to sell because business has been very good for them.

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your Brand
Reinvent Your Brand: You want to continue to grow and expand. And you can do that by looking at corporate development or by looking at reinvesting in legacy markets where the stores are old and tired.

 

Corporately, we’re natural buyers because we have the first right to buy. Because we already have the systems and processes in place, it’s not as though a franchisee has to sell to a brand-new person coming into the customs system. That’s difficult because that individual needs to learn the system. In this way, it can be nearly a seamless transition with corporate stores.

As long as we’re willing to invest in the labor and the support to help those stores be successful as corporate stores, we can continue to grow that. You will see continued corporate growth. At the same time, you will see franchise growth. Again, it’s about being very selective about who we pick and where we allow restaurants to grow.

Franchising and franchised concepts sometimes get a little bit fast and loose. They’ll award a franchise to about anybody. That may be great for the initial franchise fee, but it causes you pain because you’re married to them for ten years if that’s how long your agreement is. It’s about minimizing those pains that you will have with the relationship at the beginning. We would rather be very slow and cautious in our franchising than have anybody come in.

It seems much more sustainable and with a lot fewer headaches.

Yes, well said.

You’re very active in the Milwaukee community through the Make It Better Foundation at Cousins. Why did you join the First Federal Board here? Are there any similarities between your business and a community bank?

There are a number of reasons why I joined the First Federal Board.

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your Brand
Reinvent Your Brand: First Federal is so similar to Cousins. They’re a small business that invests in the community. They buy branches in areas that are underserved. They’re all about helping individuals achieve financial independence.

 

Other than Ed Schaefer.

My dad was on the First Federal Board for many years. I didn’t lobby for it. When I was asked to be on it, I was touched because at that time my dad had stepped off and I thought, “Maybe I can do something good here.” It’s a great organization. They are so similar to Cousins in the sense that they’re Wisconsin based. They’re a small business. We’re not these big behemoths out there. We have competitors that are larger than us, but the similarities are such that they invest in the community, whether that’s buying branches that are in areas that maybe are underserved.

It’s about helping individuals achieve some financial independence and have a place to go or maybe if they’re starting their business, they have a trusted banking partner in their community. That’s important. I love that. They have their foundation just like Cousins has its foundation. They support causes whether that’s promoting financial literacy for young people, which is so important or helping a women’s shelter in Waukesha.

There are many things that First Federal does that touch the hearts and lives of individuals. It’s not for them just about getting a banking fee or making the money, it’s about staying invested in these communities. That is certainly at the heart of Cousins. Learning more in-depth about that in First Federal solidifies the relationship that I have with them. I couldn’t be more proud to be on the board of First Federal.

We’ll end it there. Thanks so much for coming on.

I had fun. Thank you.

Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode with Cousins’ CEO Christine Specht brought to you by Go Geddit Marketing and Media, GGMM.io. For our friends at Milwaukee, just a reminder, this was originally aired on First Federal Bank’s Keeping It Local Podcast. If you’re looking to grow your brand through podcasting, video, or digital advertising, make sure to reach out or head to our website, GGMM.io. We’ve got a form on there. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks again for tuning in.

 

Important Links

 

About Christine Specht

GGP 194 | Reinvent Your BrandI grew up with Cousins Subs—the sub sandwich chain my dad, Bill Specht, founded with his cousin in 1972. In fact, my first job was at the Cousins Subs in Germantown, Wisconsin.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies from Marquette University and a master’s degree in public administration from American University, I returned to the family business. I have held the roles of Human Resources Manager, Chief Operating Officer, President and CEO, and now serves as CEO. I have successfully brought new life to a legacy brand by leading a series of system changes, including: a largescale rebranding strategy to establish consistency and unify the brand in look and feel across all locations, the implementation of grills in restaurants and the inclusion of Cousins Subs’ Midwest heritage throughout its menu with signature local products including subs served with all Wisconsin cheeses, Wisconsin Mac & Cheese and Wisconsin Cheese Curds.

I proudly serve on a number of boards, including: chair of MRA – The Management Association, chair of the Concordia University Wisconsin Ann Arbor Foundation board, member of the Concordia University Wisconsin Board of Regents and member of the First Federal Bank of Wisconsin board. I also serve as the president of the Cousins Subs Make It Better Foundation board and member of the Cousins Subs Board of Directors.

I previously served on the board of Community Memorial Hospital, Lutheran Living Services, Wisconsin Restaurant Association Milwaukee Chapter and Grace Lutheran Church.

In 2018, I was honored as one of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence and recognized in FastCasual magazine’s “Women in the Lead” series.

Cousins Subs was recently named ‘Best Sandwich’ in the 2019 Best of Milwaukee Awards and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Top Choice Awards Best Sandwiches or Sub Shop in 2019.

 

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podcast

2022 Marketing Tactics To Stand Out: Crossover With M3 Elevate’s Fast Break

2022 Marketing Tactics To Stand Out: Crossover With M3 Elevate’s Fast Break

We spend so much time online, and that’s why it’s so important to formulate marketing strategies that would resonate best with our target audience. Alex…

Read Show Notes

We spend so much time online, and that’s why it’s so important to formulate marketing strategies that would resonate best with our target audience. Alex Wehrley talks about this topic in a special crossover episode with Fast Break presented by M3 Elevate. Fast Break is a podcast hosted by Matt Cranney, Partner and Executive Vice President of M3 Elevate, that discusses strategies you can use to grow and protect your business. Matt invited Alex to be a guest on Fast Break to share marketing tactics and some background on how he started The GoGedders and GGMM. They dive deep into maximizing opportunities before venturing and moving to other areas in businesses. Tune in to learn how to sustain a growth mindset, practice optimism in the face of reality, and navigate the marketing world despite COVID and other business challenges.

Listen to the podcast here

 

2022 Marketing Tactics To Stand Out: Crossover With M3 Elevate’s Fast Break

If you are looking to learn about marketing tactics that your company should focus on now and how you can stand out in this cluttered marketplace, this is a great episode for you. One of the cool things we get to at GGMM is producing and helping podcasts grow for other brands. One of our clients, M3 Insurance, produces a podcast for small businesses called Fast Break with M3 Elevate. It’s hosted by my good friend, Matt Cranney, who invited me to their show to talk marketing and entrepreneurship.

We had a great conversation, so I wanted to share it on this show. Big thanks to Matt and the team at M3 for having me on. A reminder that this show is brought to you by GoGeddit Marketing and Media, GGMM.io, and our good friends Penn, Milwaukee. What I’m about to play for you is directly from M3 Elevates Fast Break Podcast. If you are looking for more great content for small businesses, make sure to check them out after you read this episode. Let’s dive in.

“Stand out in a world where most standby.” Can you tell us more about that phrase? Where does it come from, and why do you believe that’s such a relevant message for small and growing businesses now?

It’s a very relevant message because most brands look the exact same. They talk the same. If you look at their messaging on their website, in their advertisements or in what they are putting out to their customers, it’s hard to tell brands apart. I feel like a lot of brands are comfortable doing the same things that they have been doing for years. The ones that I feel get rewarded try and push the envelope and aren’t afraid to take risks. Those are the clients that we enjoy working with.

I feel that they get the most out of our services regardless. It’s a bit of an aspirational message, I feel. One that I want our target audience to resonate with. It’s important. One of my favorite quotes in businesses is, “It’s good to be better but it’s better to be different.” Especially when it comes to marketing and your product, the best product doesn’t always win. It’s the product that resonates the most with your target audience, that they can understand the best that cuts through the clutter.

Sometimes you need to be different and take a stand in your marketing and messaging to do that. It’s something that we live by at GGMM and something that we help our clients do when we take them on, whether it’s helping them start a podcast or even doing a digital ad campaign for them. How can they stand out in this sea of sameness in this cluttered marketplace when it comes to marketing?

I think about some of the clients that we get the privilege to partner with and some of the incredible products and services that they have. The challenges are how do they take that product or service and differentiate themselves enough, as you said, a crowded space to be able to bring the customers to them that should be with them based on the caliber of what they do. I want to dive into what will be the biggest section of our conversation and our audience based on your vast expertise in the spaces you play that they will be curious about.

If I’m a small and growing business owner reading this and thinking about the places and spaces from a marketing perspective that my clients and potential clients are, how do I reach them through my marketing dollars? What are some of the best wisdom that you can share for small and growing business owners now about where they need to show up, how they need to show up, what are you seeing, and what are you learning?

Go where your target audience is already spending time and figure out where you can add unique value to them. Click To Tweet

There are so many different options in the market now, the good and bad. The overarching advice that I would give is to go where your target audience is already spending time and where you can add unique value to them and also play to your strengths because there are a lot of opportunities on TikTok now. If you are not good on camera and are not funny or quippy, that’s probably going to be a disaster for most people.

Some other content works well on there but if you don’t like the video concept, that may not work. The good news is you don’t have to be there. There are plenty of other things that you can do to market yourself. There’s podcasting, even having a good website, and running Google Ads or Facebook ads to them can be highly profitable depending on what business you are in or engaging influencers or content creators, doing webinars and events, and nothing beat face-to-face. It’s always thinking of how you can add value to your target audience wherever they are spending time, and that can be online or offline.

A lot of people get caught up in the shiny object syndrome of, “I need to be on Instagram. I need to be doing a LinkedIn video. I need to be on TikTok.” I try and dominate what’s working before venturing into other platforms and spreading myself. I’m all for experimenting. I love doing it. There’s nothing wrong with that but if you kill it at tradeshows or hosting in-person events, how can you scale, do a little more, or build off of that? If you are running a profitable Google Adwords campaign on a website, can you scale that up?

I would maximize the opportunities that you are already good at before venturing often and moving into other areas as opposed to trying to do eight different things, especially as a small business. If you are a corporate company and reading this and have an in-house marketing team or a good relationship with a good agency, then that might make more sense. If you are a small business owner, get one thing working and maximize and exhaust that before your energy goes into other areas.

I have a follow-up to that. We are coming out of, hopefully, the last couple of years of this COVID landscape. For small business owners, as they think about their marketing, messages, and where they are showing up, have there been any changes or things that you think have evolved directly out of the last couple of years that you think our readers should be thinking about or paying attention to?

Like everyone reading, it was interesting and somewhat challenging trying to navigate COVID. In the marketing world, a lot of the habits that we picked up from COVID are still going to be there. A lot of companies aren’t fully back in the office or doing what they used to do because they realized, “It’s a better quality of life if we are in a hybrid situation,” or something like that.

GGP 193 | Marketing Tactics
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

One trend that will always hold through is people are always going to be busy, and speed and convenience are always going to win out if you can bake those things into your product or messaging. We are always trying to get someone from point A to point B as quickly and painlessly as possible. That can mean a lot of different things. That can mean most websites have way too much copy on them.

How can we simplify this? People usually scan through stuff as opposed to trying to read a lot. In your sales process, how can simply your messaging? People want things now, fast, and easy. The more you can bake speed and convenience into whatever you are doing or offering, the better off you are going to be.

We referenced this when we were talking about the offense and defense in having teams that compliment but I’m curious. As a successful business owner, entrepreneur, and somebody who has struck me as we’ve now gotten to know each other that you are a growth mindset-oriented person. How have you developed that mindset for growth, and how have you sustained it?

Being a business owner forces you to get out of your comfort zone a lot. I think through the progressions of, “We started as a deal site that was uncomfortable bringing in unknown product to market and going door-to-door to do that or taking a leap with podcasting or whatever, business owners face ten challenges every day. When you forcibly put yourself in those situations that it forces you to grow, and you don’t have a choice.

Also, if you enjoy what you are doing, that makes it easier. If you are not enjoying what you are doing or you are motivated extrinsically, then that can drive you hard. I was like that for a while but that can also cause burnout. The sweet spot is you have ambitious goals but you also love what you are doing, and you are curious about it.

You are in an industry where you get to work with people you genuinely enjoy, whether they are your employees, clients or team trying to set up that life for you and whatever you are going after. It makes having a growth mindset easy. It makes dealing with all the hardships that happened during business or all the little obstacles you have to go overcome on a daily basis easier.

If you're a small business owner, get one thing working really well and maximize that before your energy goes into other areas. Click To Tweet

To tie this together, with that growth mindset, sometimes people can associate that with, “I’m charging until I’ve got no battery left.” What you are saying is there isn’t enough to a growth mindset. It’s important to have one and focus on that but it’s not optimism in the face of reality. It’s that grounded in reality mindset that allows you to grow but also allows you to acknowledge that there can be challenges and things that come up that are difficult.

If you are excited about what you are doing and genuinely enjoy it, it makes it a lot easier to push through those things as opposed to, “I’m going to go until the batteries run out because I want to achieve X financial goal or impress other people,” or whatever that external motivator might be that tends to make things a little less sustainable. It can work but it is less sustainable in the long run.

The phrase that I love is, “The journey is the destination.” To always be focused on our next revenue target or add an employee, those things are great but not to lose sight of what we are doing every day, and do we find joy and contentment in the way that we are showing up for our team, our clients, and the people who look into us. I love that.

For business owners who have control, be honest with yourself than going like, “My revenue goal is $2 million. I want to add X number of employees.” “Why do you want to do that? Is it to say you have a bigger company or do you want to get some other result from that?” There’s no right or wrong answer. We didn’t talk about this trend too, with how conscious people are of what’s going on.

Companies can weave their way into some greater cause, whether social responsibility, equity or whatever that might be. You are making a real impact on the world by growing that is more sustainable than, “I want to hit $2 million to say I did it or add these employees so people think I have a big team,” or whatever that might be. I’ve seen both ends of it, knowing a lot of entrepreneurs and observing a lot, and being one myself.

I’m thinking we are going to have you back on the show because they have fifteen questions around that whole topic of, “How our marketing and messaging show up with what our future employees and current employees are asking us as business owners quite rightly to care about.” It’s not as individuals where maybe we all cared about these things past but how do we corporately care about it? How do we help take that message out to our clients and prospects and say, “We care about this as well, and here’s how it shows up.”

It’s good to be forward-facing about that, too. I used to think that stuff was a waste of time to come up with core values and stuff like that but people care about that. It’s going to attract a certain employee and client. There are no right or wrong answers but as a small business owner, you have to be behind what your values are and live them, and you will start attracting more people like that. Being picky about who you bring into the organization as well.

I’ve already started to write down questions for part two of our conversation. As always, as we round the corner to the end of our conversation, we are going to dive into our last set of questions, which is our Fastest Break Set, where I’m going to pepper you with some short questions and look to you for a quick answer off the top that you can share with our audience. Your favorite book that you’ve read in the last twelve months?

I’m reading a good one now called Golf Beneath the Surface. It comes out in 2023 but I know the author, and it’s on the mental game. It’s good for outside of golf as well but that’s a good one. Shoe Dog, Phil Knight, the Nike story. That was good. I also not to go on a rant but a couple of the most influential books that I read outside of this last year were probably Atomic Habits by James Clear is a good one and The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. I read that right after I started my business in 2011 or 2012. It’s still very relevant now, but that one made a big impact on me.

Complete the sentence. Leadership is?

Helping others win

The most impactful coaching advice that you’ve ever received.

Leadership is helping others win. Click To Tweet

This was a quote from The Compound Effect book but it stuck with me, “Things don’t happen to you. They happen because of you.” There is so much that happens on a daily basis. It’s easier when you take full responsibility for what’s going on around you, especially when you are a business leader or owner. You’ve got control. If something bad happens, you did something, hired the wrong person or took on the wrong client. It’s easier when you take responsibility. I like that quote.

I want to be clear before I ask this next question. Shameless plugs are always allowed. Favorite podcasts that you would recommend.

I am a big fan of the Fast Break and what you are doing over here. My show is The GoGedders Podcast, and it’s done about 185 episodes, a wide range of things. We get to produce tracks for Better with Bikes Podcast and Leinenkugel’s Prost Podcast, which are good. The podcast that I’m not affiliated with is Business Wars by Wondery. I liked that podcast, and that came off of the Sports Wars spin-off, which is also very good. I like the podcast GOLF’s Subpar, and then one of my friends has the Duck Hook Golf podcast, which I’m also a fan of. There are seven favorite podcasts for you.

Great recommendations for our audience. You can’t live without it, an app on your phone.

Unfortunately, it has probably been TikTok and Instagram lately but I’m going to try and limit my usage on those platforms. I like the app 18Birdies while I’m golfing. They have a very good GPS function and some other good features.

The last thing you did that truly scared you.

I have some anxiety issues. I have been very open with them on the show. I had a bad panic attack on an airplane a few years ago, which sparked some other things. COVID was good for my anxiety because I stopped traveling and stuff like that. It has been getting back out, traveling, riding elevators, and all that fun stuff that I suddenly became anxious about a couple of years ago. It’s good for me pushing through. It’s maybe a lame answer for the show but riding an elevator and flying are probably the things that have scared me.

If you had to give a TED Talk, what would be the title?

We could go back to the first statement, “How to stand out in a world where most standby?”

What a great way to finish. As we wrap up, if our audience wants to know more about you or GGMM, where can people find you?

GGMM.io is our website. @RichieBurke on LinkedIn or any social platform. I’m on there.

Readers, if you have been inspired by some of the things that Richie has shared with us and the insights, and you are looking for help in how you show up in the world in 2022, check out GGMM. Thank you, Richie, so much for being willing to be with us, sharing all your wisdom, insights, and authenticity, with us and our readers. We truly appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Matt, thank you so much for having me. I want to thank everyone at M3 for putting up with people like Jordan Herbert, Dan Heichel, and Ryan Barbieri. I know you have your hands full over there but you are a great organization.

We appreciate it. Until the next time on the Fast Break. Thank you so much.

Thank you.

Thank you so much for reading this episode with myself and Matt Cranney from MP3 Insurance. If you are looking for more good content for small businesses, make sure to check them out. He does a good job over there. Also, if you liked what you heard and you are interested in engaging GGMM or if your company is interested in working with us, go to our website, GGMM.io. We’ve got a form on our website, and we would love to hear from you. That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks again for reading.

 

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The Top 4 Ways to Monetize a Podcast Without a Huge Following

The Top 4 Ways to Monetize a Podcast Without a Huge Following

Podcasting is a rapidly growing form of media that presents unique opportunities for both individuals and businesses. But what are these opportunities? How can you…

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Podcasting is a rapidly growing form of media that presents unique opportunities for both individuals and businesses. But what are these opportunities? How can you make money through podcasting when you’re just starting out or aren’t interested in paid advertising? In this episode, I answer this and more.

This past May, Podfest invited me to speak on how one can effectively monetize a podcast and to share how I’ve managed to grow and monetize my podcast, The GoGedders, to over 220,000 downloads in three years and generated over seven figures for GGMM. So, whether you currently have a podcast or are curious about the benefits of starting a podcast for your business, you’re sure to learn some key insights. So tune in and discover the top four ways to monetize your podcast.

Listen to the podcast here

 

The Top 4 Ways To Monetize A Podcast Without A Huge Following

If you read through the whole thing, you’ll be walking away with my main takeaways from a few successful podcasters that spoke at Podfest and my four ways to monetize a podcast without a mega-following so you don’t have to rely on ads. These four ways are all based on what I’ve done personally over the years to generate well over seven figures in revenue for GGMM based directly on the podcast that has enabled the GoGedders to generate hundreds of thousands of downloads.

These will all be takeaways that you can apply to your own show or if you are thinking about starting a podcast, you’ll also get a lot of good information on how you should go about it. Also, if you’re looking to have the podcast move the needle for you from a business standpoint because a lot of companies that start podcasts don’t do what I’m about to go over and don’t get the results that they set out to get.

This show will be very applicable if you’re anywhere from a Fortune 500 brand to a small to a mid-sized business owner or marketer or even an individual looking to start a podcast or grow your brand. The information in this is all based on the Podfest conference I attended in Orlando and did have the opportunity to speak at that conference as well on podcast monetization.

This show is brought to you by GoGeddit Marketing and Media, GGMM.io and our friends out in OnMilwaukee. I’m going to reference some of my overarching findings in this episode. I want to give some credit. They are based on my favorite speeches that I listened to at Podfest. There were a lot of good speakers but the ones that stood out were the hosts of the Grow The Show, The Only One In The Room, Young and Profiting and The Stacking Benjamins podcasts. These are all very successful podcasts. After I go over my overarching takeaways, I’ll dive into the four ways to monetize a podcast without a mega-following. Thanks again for reading. Let’s dive in.

The Elements Of Good Podcast Content

The common themes that I got as far as podcast growth goes from these 4 were number 1, their contents are good and it’s for a specific audience. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast, how can you create good content? How can you get it in front of that specific audience? What I’m talking about good content, especially in their case, there was usually an element of it that was polarizing, authentic, vulnerable, educational, entertaining or a blend of all five of those things. If you can hit on those triggers, polarizing authenticity, vulnerability, educational and entertaining, that’s where a lot of the good stuff is.

Joe Rogan is super successful. Some people like him. Some people hate him. He is polarizing and very entertaining. His content is educational. He hits on those. He does a good job. These people are not afraid to tackle controversial or taboo topics. Especially at the start, they have a very well-defined audience and it’s a narrow audience. Those things are important, whether you’re starting out or just trying to reposition your podcast. They’re all very consistent as well.

Kevin started his show but before then, he had a podcast but all the other ones were in the hundreds of episodes. I’m in the hundreds of episodes. A lot of people think they can put out a few episodes or an episode a month. It’s hard to gain an active listenership in that base or way. If you want to put out a series of podcasts, I’m not opposed to that as long as it’s going to help your sales process, you have a marketing strategy behind it and it’s used as evergreen content to serve your audience.

Good content is either polarizing, authentic, vulnerable, educational or entertaining, or a blend of all those five things. Click To Tweet

That can still be a very smart business move but if you’re looking to grow regular listenership and a larger following, then consistency is very important. Laura from The Only One In The Room who’s gotten the 28 million or 38 million downloads and a book deal had a good all-encompassing marketing strategy. Her team hustled and got after it. I know Hala also did that. They both had teams of interns who were getting good experience running all their content. They didn’t do this on a large budget but it was a lot of sweat and effort to do. They were doing articles that were getting featured in larger publications. They were getting media features, whether it was going on TV, pitching their podcasts to TV or going on other larger podcasts. They were in the media outside of their podcast.

They’re also very active on social media. They picked a platform and dominated it. In some cases, several platforms. I’d be active on social media and play to your strengths. There’s a lot of opportunity on TikTok even when it comes to posting podcasts and clips. Instagram, LinkedIn or whatever your strong ad, these people did a very good job on social media. They got influential guests. They were consistent. None of them seem like they had a magic bullet. They created good content that was somewhat polarizing, authentic and vulnerable. They were not afraid to tackle controversial or taboo topics.

A lot of them have an element of humor or they’re educational and very entertaining at the same time. Combining good content with a very good and aggressive marketing strategy is key. We’ve done a lot of that through the GoGedders. I talked about my anxiety in this episode. We’ve done a lot of episodes on race and hot topics. We’ve marketed them pretty aggressively at times through social media, video, our partnership with our OnMilwaukee, our email list, live appearances and traditional media that we’ve got into, whether it’s been conferences, the newspaper or doing a lot of podcasts at rotary clubs. We’ve gotten out there in that way.

Using The Podcast As A Tool To Promote And Sell Your Own Products And Services

Moving on to the main takeaways from my speech, which were how to monetize a podcast without a mega-following and relying on ads and what we’ve done to generate hundreds of thousands of downloads and bring it over seven figures for our small business since 2019. The 4 ways that we’ve mainly used to monetize this show are number 1) Using the podcast as a tool to promote and sell our products and services, 2) Using it as a way to get earned media and speaking gigs and press that have led to business, 3) Sponsorships and, 4) Having people pay us money to come on our podcast.

The first is, “Promoting your products and services.” Podcasting is an absolute crack sales and network in play. When I started the podcast as a young, small business owner, I was doing cold calling, cold emailing and showing up to every networking event. That worked. To an extent, it was a lot of work, unanswered phone calls and unanswered emails. It was a lot. When I came up with the GoGedders, I thought it would be the one I wanted to do.

I saw a lot of success in entrepreneurial podcasts on a national level and I said, “No one’s doing this in Milwaukee for Milwaukeeans. I can be that guy.” Selfishly, I thought it would be a good way to network and meet people, which is proven. A lot of those unanswered emails before when I emailed the same person and invited them on the podcast usually respond within the hour and be down in our office the next week. They’d have a good experience. We’d create a bunch of content for them. We’d tell their story and promote them. We’d essentially make them look like a hero.

A lot of times, after that, it would be like, “What do you guys do here?” I’d let them know what we do at GGMM. They’d introduce us to their marketing department. That’s what led to a lot of business for us. If you have a podcast, use it as a tool to have those conversations on important topics within your industry or whatever your podcast is about and invite those centers of influence or prospects that you want to get in front of. I never hard sell or pitch someone when they come in here. That’s not my style when I’m hosting the podcast. It’s not why I do it.

Combining good content with a very good and aggressive marketing strategy is key. Click To Tweet

Consequently, it’s led to a lot of relationships that have organically turned into a business over the last few years. Some people recommend pitching your guests right after they come on the podcast. That’s not my style at all but I’ve formed a lot of good relationships with these guests. I’ve provided value to them before ever asking for something because that’s essentially what you’re doing when you have someone on your podcast and you’re creating things for them and positively promoting them. You’re adding value to them. The best rule of networking I believe is adding value to others and helping others win. Essentially you’re doing that if you’re highlighting people on your podcast.

They tend to like you and you tend to form a relationship organically. It can go from there. It’s not transactional but transactions end up happening somewhere down the road. We’ve also done mid-roll ads on our podcast and those perform well. You’re always almost going to get more. If you have a legitimate business product or service, you’re going to get more out of advertising that on your podcast because you’re forming a relationship with your listeners as the host of your show. Especially if you’re positioning yourself as the expert, there’s a good chance they’re going to want to buy and work with you one-on-one. Make sure you put that out.

On this show, most of the episodes are not solo episodes like this. I’m usually interviewing other people, which is not positioning me as an expert but I put my mid-roll ad into the right audience and be like, “This Richie guy knows what he’s doing. This is a good episode. They offer a bunch of marketing services. I should reach out to him or see how I can get involved in this show or my company wants a show, needs video work, digital ads or whatever that may be.”

In using your ads, you’re going to get more out of that than trying to put other people’s ads in your podcast, do affiliate marketing or something like that. You can also do episodes on your products if it’s done right. If you are doing a commercial on your product, it is probably not going to be very good at podcast episodes. A good example of this is Trek whose show we produce, the Better With Bikes podcast came out with this revolutionary new helmet a few years ago called Wave Cell, which it’s 42 times better at preventing concussions than the average helmet or other standard helmets.

It’s a good technology that these guys spent one decade developing. Trek had two engineers that develop that technology. It was an interesting story about how they formulated it and how they’re trying to change cycling safety for the better. It wasn’t a commercial but essentially it did a good job of promoting the helmet and people wanting to buy a helmet after listening to it. If you can create a good story about one of your products or maybe even someone else’s product and do it as an affiliate, you can make money that way.

Using The Podcast As A Way To Get Earned Media And Speaking Gigs That Lead To Business

Number two is using the podcast to get earned media and speaking gigs that lead to business. This show has a partnership with OnMilwaukee. For those of you who don’t know, they do awesome content. They are a fun blog news site in Milwaukee that’s been around since the early 2000s. Jeff and Andy founded it back in the day. Jeff’s no longer there. Andy runs it but they do a good job. We have complimentary audiences.

At the time when we got that partnership, they weren’t producing any podcast content. They then have FoodCrush, which is a good show. If you’re a foodie in the Milwaukee area, make sure to check it out. With OnMilwaukee, essentially, we shout them out as a partner. In every episode, we put their logo on our marketing materials. We write articles and then they’ll publish them on their site. They promote our social content sometimes if it aligns with their social strategy. That enabled us to get on a bigger scale, especially at the beginning.

The best rule of networking is adding value to others and helping others win. Click To Tweet

If you have a podcast within a specific industry, think of what publications, media companies, websites or social media accounts your audience is spending time on. Is there a way you can partner with them? Is there a way you can make them a media partner of your podcast and do something similar to what I’m doing with on OnMilwaukee to get your distribution at a higher level at the beginning? The first thing is, is there a media partnership within your industry that you can pursue?

Number two, I’ve got to speak at a lot of conferences because of my podcast. Some of these are doing live podcasts. If someone has a conference in the Milwaukee area, a lot of them have done a lot of GoGedders that. This enabled me to get in front of new audiences, network and get in front of a lot of people that way, done conferences, chambers, rotary clubs, things like that, where my target audience is hanging out and my podcast would make good content.

Speaking at those places doing live podcasts is a good way to get your podcast out in front of your target audience and meet the right people. Also, local press and industry press. I talked about this. The woman from The Only One In The Room did a good job of this. If you have certain podcast episodes or if your podcast is newsworthy, you can get coverage in the local media, which can drive more downloads, subscriptions, users and press for your business.

Sponsorships

Number three is sponsorships. When a lot of people think of sponsorships, they think of ad dollars that are going to come in. The reality is that 99.5% don’t make any good money or would not make any good money on podcast advertising, including me. Podcast ads on a CPM model or Cost Per Mille, which is Latin or something for 1,000. It means Cost Per 1,000 downloads, which is what people will pay to advertise on your podcast. Those rates are typically in the $25 to $50 CPM range where I believe the average is around $33, even on the lower end of that.

That’s how much you can get paid for podcast ads. A lot of advertisers aren’t going to touch a show unless it’s getting 10,000 downloads an episode. Even the GoGedders as a show when we’re doing well and getting 10,000 downloads a month if I put 3 ads that $33 into every single episode, all 4 episodes as an aggregate, we’d be getting $1,000 a month in ad revenue, which would not pay for the production, content and time that goes into this podcast.

If anyone wants to hand me $1,000 a month, I will happily accept it. That would be great but that’s not going to move the needle from an ROI standpoint from this show. That’s the reality of ads on podcasts. When I do sponsorship deals, I think of how much value can I add to the sponsor with the resources that I have. I think of myself in this show as a marketing and media company. If you’re a podcaster, you should think of yourself as a marketing and media company as well.

Media companies have distribution. They distribute content. As a podcaster, you have some level of distribution. The larger audience you have, the more you can demand because the more distribution you have. You should also come at it with a marketing agency mindset. I say marketing and media mindset because companies pay for content. As a marketing agency, some companies will pay us $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 plus for a video.

The four ways of monetizing a podcast without a big following are: promoting your own products and services; using it as a way to get earned media and speaking gigs’ using it to get business sponsorships; and having people pay to come on your… Click To Tweet

Those videos, the high-end ones require production crews and stuff like that. There’s time and effort to go into that but companies are used to paying for content. Also as a media company, you realize a lot of media outlets, whether it’s trade publications or local business publications, are mostly pay-to-play articles in a lot of ways where if they advertise, they’ll also get articles, sponsored content and all of that.

I work with Meridian Putters, which is a golf company. If you’re looking for a great new putter, check out MeridianPutters.com. When I call up Golf Digest or some of the large golf publications and try and get PR or affiliates, they want us to pay $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 for an article on a campaign around it. Those are not free articles. Even when you go to look up articles like Top 10 Skincare Products, Top 10 Putters or Top 10 Vacation Sites, a lot of those articles are based on affiliates because that’s how those websites make money. If you click on those skincare products and buy them, that news site is getting a kickback.

What I’m saying is companies pay for marketing and media. You as a podcaster configured yourself as a marketing and media company. When I do sponsor deals, I try and bundle in, “You’re going to get clips of us talking about your product on the podcast. We can mix in the roll of your product, run a campaign for you and drive traffic to your website. Your marketing team can take these clips and use them in your Facebook, TikTok or Instagram advertising. We’re going to give you shout-outs on the podcast. The guests we have who are influencers are also going to be posting about your product in the podcast episode and sharing that.”

I’m trying to create a bundle. When I do that, that takes me out of that CPM model where I wouldn’t be making much money. It puts me in a different category where I do make good money and provide good value to the clients. I’m looking at, “With the resources I have, what can I offer this person?” That’s how I do sponsorships.

Having People Pay To Come On Your Podcast

Number four is having people pay to come on your podcast. A lot of the media world and all of the marketing world are paid to play. A lot of GoGedders episodes are not paid. A decent amount is paid to some extent. Sometimes it’s just, “Do you want us to amplify your episode? We can run an ad campaign around it. We can take the videos. We’re already creating and driving more traffic to the episode to your website if guests or business leaders come on.” It’s a good value proposition for them.

The guideline I have is I never have people come on the show who I do not think would make a good story for my audience. It’s never someone who comes on and it’s like a commercial. It needs to be a good episode for the audience. The audience wouldn’t know if it was paid or not. What we do, especially to companies who don’t want to go through all the time and effort to start their podcast but a podcast is valuable content to them, it’s a bundled package of, “You can come on the show. We’re going to create video content that you have full rights to and run a campaign around it. You’re going to get this kind of media distribution.” Bundling that all together is essentially how those deals work and why people pay to come on. This podcast is a good marketing vehicle and distribution for them.

To recap, my four ways of monetizing without a big following are promoting your products and services, using it as a way to get earned media and speaking gigs that lead to business, sponsorships but selling it as a bundle, not as ads on how you can add the most value, having that marketing and media mindset and then having people pay to come on your show. You can do all those. The more distribution and the value you can provide, the more you can demand. Those are some ways that I’ve been able to monetize this show. It’s brought in a lot of money for GGMM without taking ad dollars from companies.

Thanks so much for reading this episode. I hope you got a lot out of it. If you need help implementing any of the tactics that I went over, you need help with production for your podcast or you’re a company looking to grow through podcasting, we’d love to hear from you. Go to our website, GGMM.io. We’ve got a nice form that you can fill out on there.

 

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Wisconsin’s Content Queens Alex Wehrley And Kristin Brey Share Tips, Backstories, And More!

Wisconsin’s Content Queens Alex Wehrley And Kristin Brey Share Tips, Backstories, And More!

Although there is no single perfect formula for producing viral content, learning from the experts can certainly level up your game. This episode features Wisconsin-based…

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Although there is no single perfect formula for producing viral content, learning from the experts can certainly level up your game. This episode features Wisconsin-based content creators Alex Wehrley and Kristin Brey, who have collectively amassed thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok. The two share their journey to reach their current social media status and the well-kept secrets of their creative process. They discuss how to increase online presence, deal with all kinds of feedback, and translate pressing issues into comedic posts. Alex and Kristin also answer a few questions about Wisconsin and perform a mini “Wisconsin Women Wanted” segment.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Wisconsin’s Content Queens Alex Wehrley And Kristin Brey Share Tips, Backstories, And More!

In this episode, I have two of my favorite content creators joining me, Alex Wehrley and Kristin Brey. If you’re on TikTok or Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen them as they’ve been putting out a lot of viral Wisconsin-based content. We’re going to get to know the backstories behind these two. You’re also going to get insights on how they create content that goes viral. If you’re a brand business creator looking to up your game and get more exposure in the marketplace, you’ll get some good takeaways.

We also have a lightning round of Wisconsin-based questions. Because these two did put out a comedic video about launching Wisconsin Women Wanted, a premier dating service for men, where they gave red flags and green flags based on certain traits of guys, I couldn’t resist and had to throw them some real-life scenarios involving my friends like Dancing Cowboy MKE, Jack Blair, and more for them to red flag and green flag.

The lightning round in the red flag and green flag is all at the end of the episode. A quick background on our guests. Alex won Miss Wisconsin back in 2009. She hosted the Miss USA pageant in 2015. She has been a TV host and producer for networks like VH1, CNN, Fox and more. She also has her own company Empowerista which helps brands create content for social media campaigns. She’s a DIY expert and a former Big Buck Hunter model, which we dive into.

Kristin is the Creator and Founder of As Goes Wisconsin, a bipartisan media initiative that helps move Wisconsin forward one show at a time. She’s the first idea lab video columnist of the Journal Sentinel, a radio host on WTMJ. She has been an actress, writer, producer, and even had a stint working in tech in the Bay Area.

Just a reminder, if you have guest suggestions, topics suggestions or have a brand that wants to get involved with the GoGedders, visit our website GGMM.io and click on the GoGedders tab or you can fill out the form on our website and we’ll get back to you. All right, let’s dive in.

A lot of people know you from the Wisconsin-based content you’ve been creating over the last few years. Not a lot of people know your backstories and how you’ve gotten into doing what you’re doing now. Do you mind giving us the rundown? Alex, we can start with you.

My background is in local television. I cut my teeth on small market TV. I started in Rockford and then worked my way up to Oklahoma City, Dallas and LA. I worked in traditional TV for a while. I had a lot of fun with that but then the industry was changing a ton. It went from more traditional TV being popular to social media being popular. I was trying to find my voice and navigate this new popular space of content creation and love the idea of not having to wait to get hired for my next gig and having a little bit more creative freedom in my work and my schedule. It has been a journey.

I’ve been creating content for many years. I would say since probably 2015, but honestly, it has taken off, especially in the past few years. I would attribute that to a couple of things. COVID helps give me the time for sure to experiment with more things. Also, I would say experimenting with the topics that I enjoy talking about and the topics that resonate with my audience. In the past couple of years, it has taken off for me. Enter Kristin. I moved back before COVID but you moved back during COVID. I’ll let you speak for yourself but probably, similarly, you found yourself with some extra time. There were a lot of synergies. We both lived in LA. We’re both newly back in Milwaukee and creating content. It was such a natural fit for you and me to collaborate.

Mine is similar but different as far as from Wisconsin, left Wisconsin, came back to Wisconsin. I went from Madison and moved to LA when I was sixteen to be an actress. I had an agent and a manager. I booked some things with the best. I hit the winning shot in a movie called Believe In Me, where I was a star basketball player.

Similar to what you said as far as not waiting to get cast, I quit acting around twenty and started going to college because I didn’t want to wait for someone to pick my journey for me. I went to school, then undergraduate from UC Berkeley, worked in tech and learn a lot more about business and startups. People don’t understand that it’s also a part of being a content creator or managing your own media business as far as understanding click-through rates and what resonates and looking at analytics and everything like that. As much as I wasn’t passionate about tech, I certainly took the skills from sales and marketing that I learned while there and still use them daily.

Somehow, I ended up in New York for a little while and that’s where I started doing standup and sketch. I have always loved the daily show. I’ve always loved political comedy and how you use comedy to explain things or to show a different perspective. Circa 2017, I started teaching myself how to write jokes, and complex issues into short videos, how to edit, and how to shoot myself. First, I started a YouTube Channel called Below The Fold, which looks more at national issues.

I was living in LA at the time. Early 2020, I had an idea of trying to make a documentary about Wisconsin voters because we’re weird if you’ve ever paid attention to an election in Wisconsin. I came back to my parents’ house in Central Wisconsin on March 15th, 2020 and the world shut down. I quickly pivoted and took what I had learned about making short content on national issues with Below the Fold. Instead of doing the documentary, I started making content that was more specific to Wisconsin. Specifically, with trying to get out the vote in 2020 because everyone is going to be inside.

That’s how and when that took off. I realized I had found a niche here. I had an audience that was building much faster than anything else I had tried to create prior to that. It became very obvious that I needed to move back to Wisconsin but I certainly wasn’t going to stay in Central Wisconsin, which is how I ended up in Milwaukee.

Alex, you have an interesting path too. You are doing DIY videos then you’ve transitioned over. You still do some of that, but mostly Wisconsin-based short, funny, TikTok and Reels now. A lot of people would think what both of you are doing would be a smaller audience in a way, but niching down seems to have helped both of you.

It’s funny that you mentioned, “You were doing DIY content and now more Wisconsin content.” I haven’t followed typical marketing rules in the sense that I create the content I want to create. Sometimes it’s a hard-left turn where it’s like, “All right, hold on. We’re going from DIY content and Wisconsin content.”

To your point, I would say that I have a niche or a few niches. I very much so pay attention to what my audience likes. It’s a relationship between what I enjoy creating, but then also what’s well-received by my audience. I pay attention to what they like and I create more of it. Naturally, that creates a niche.

It’s interesting because, as you said, the assumption is that there’s going to be a cap on people who are interested in Wisconsin-specific content when you think of our state is less than six million people and we all have friends who left Wisconsin. A number of our friends are people from the Midwest, in general, who live all around the country. That kind of content and humor still resonates with them or your friend who knows someone who’s from Wisconsin who was like, “My buddy is like that.”

The relatable comedy that is just because it’s specific to a relatively small market, the reach that it can still have and how it can resonate with people who don’t even necessarily still live here, I’ve found the same thing, whether it’s politics or straight comedy. The number of people who have either reached out or DM me who have some connection back to Wisconsin who don’t still live here but still find the content.

The other thing I’ll add is a lot of times, when people think of a niche, they think of a subject matter. I also like to think of niche in terms of point of view and personality. Sometimes people come to someone for their subject matter, but sometimes, they come to a content creator for their point of view on the world. Maybe they’re extremely frugal or extremely down-to-earth. That has been a throughline with my DIY content. In my Midwest content, my motto is, “Good enough.” I’m an anti-perfectionist. It’s like doing it affordably and easily. That has been a throughline where people get me.

It’s very relatable. I don’t know how you stay monotone in some of those videos but you do a very good job.

That’s not how I am in real life, but it’s fun to put on that character for sure.

Kristin, why politics for you? What got you into that initially? Is it something you’ve always been into or did you see an opportunity where there was a void in the market?

I would say it has always been there, even starting in high school. I remember the first pretty political thing I paid attention to was the Bush-Gore election, which I was a freshman in high school, which is a long time ago. That was the first memory of understanding what was going on. A year later, 9/11 happened. At least for me and in our age group, so much has happened in many years that has molded the country and the world.

It’s my Spidey sense of always caring about issues and how political is personal. When I was in college, I was a Public Health and Women’s Studies major. The ideas of gender and race and some of the things that drive socio-economic politics, I always am drawn back to and interested in. More specifically, how do you talk about these things without fighting about it, which is why a little bit later, comedy came into play because I had a performing background? It melded all together to make a lot of sense for me. It’s issues that I find interesting or issues that affect a lot of different people. Trying to talk about solutions without being super boring.

Can you guys talk about your process for creating content? Do you plan content out? Is it on a whim of what’s hot now and an idea pops in your head? You’re like, “Let’s go.” You’re both very good at it. I’m curious. I think there are some good takeaways for people here who create content.

If people saw my process, they would think I was a hot mess. I have ideas in my note section. I have a Trello board that’s neglected. I have a Google doc. I get inspiration from everyday life from talking to friends, talking to family, and living my life. I’m one of the hosts of Discover Wisconsin. That gives me a lot of Wisconsin inspiration. I’ll get these ideas in life then I’ll jot them down in the million different places that I keep notes for content creation ideas.

At some point, when it’s time to create content in advance, by in advance, I mean 3 to 7 days in advance, I might think about it. Is that even more than you? Sometimes it’s even the same day as well, but I do not work that much in advance. I’ll try and sit down and be like, “Here are all my ideas. Now, what are the ones that I feel like I can write a script to?” Part of the challenge is, “This is a fun concept but now how do I bring this to life with a script?” There are certain ideas that flow for me where it’s like, “Here it is.”

I like to follow what feels easy and what flows because again, my motto is “Good enough.” Sometimes, I’ll be working with a sponsor or collaborating with someone where it’s like, “This might not feel super easy at the moment but I believe in this brand. I believe in this collaboration. I believe in this concept. Let’s think outside of the box. How do we make this work?” It’s changed.

When people think of a niche, they think of a subject matter. But sometimes, it is a point of view and the personality of the content creator. Click To Tweet

Is that how you go about things?

Because of the content that I was creating, it opened up opportunities. Now I’m doing stuff at Journal Sentinel. I’m doing stuff at WTMJ.

I would be interested to hear almost your process working with news outlets like that as opposed to your own personal accounts or As Goes Wisconsin.

Now, I’m doing one video. We do one video a week that’s considered a video column. In the same idea as an editorial or an op-ed that is an opinion in a newspaper. We’re being innovative with the idea as far as now, it’s me on camera giving an opinion on news in Journal Sentinel specific to Wisconsin and/or Milwaukee. The ideas lab, which was the op-ed, is a portion of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Me and my boss, it’s basically what is on my mind. What is topical for the week? What is the news of the week? What is important potentially to try to explain further in a less complicated way versus what is firing me up that week? As far as the topics go, there’s some balance between what I am fired up about and also what we think is important to convey in a different medium than just the written word.

That is a weekly brainstorm and then I write it. Even though the Below the Fold times, I’m an expert in nothing. The amount of research I got to do to try to understand it enough myself to then put it into 200 words or less, sometimes 100 words or less to get the most important points out is a lot of over-preparation to then distill it down into the most important things to say.

That’s when it comes to an explainer. There’s more work and it’s hard to make things short, and try to also couple in like, “What can we replace with images and visualization instead of me saying something?” You do have to capture someone’s attention so quickly. Graphics or sound effects or different things that can keep people’s attention or explain something further without me having to say more words certainly is part of the process for that.

That’s part of my job. With the radio, it’s reading the news every day and coming in with a hot take, as far as being able to say, “What do I think about it? Have we thought about it this way? Did you know this?” I’m trying to be the voice on the morning show that I’m on as far as bringing a different perspective.

When you guys are creating Reels or TikToks, are there certain elements that you’re trying to hit on or check the box as far as humor you are bringing up like sound effects or things to make the videos engaging, get more views, go more viral or things like that when you’re in your creative process?

There are themes for things that go viral. For both of us, the comedy part is huge. For anyone who’s wanting to have success as a content creator, there are a lot of different routes to go but I will say that comedy is one of the best routes if you can do it or can learn it. It can be learned as well. I tried to be very mindful of making sure those punch lines are in there. I would also say relatability and having reference points.

I’ve noticed a lot that my Wisconsin content does especially well when people have reference points. For example, I did a video on if various Wisconsin places were family members. I think why that video did well is because people know the low-hanging fruit of various stereotypes like Madison versus Milwaukee. I talked about how I feel like Milwaukee is underrated and appreciated. Madison is cool. It knows it’s cool. People already have those reference points or at least my audience does. It resonates with them. It’s finding those from a topic standpoint and finding the topics that resonate with your audience.

TikTok was a little bit of a game changer for me in how I approached content. Before, it was always scripted. It was always incredibly well-researched. It was sometimes long-winded, even if I’m trying to get as much content in this short period of time. What TikTok had taught me, especially before, it was 15 seconds, then it was 30 seconds, then it was a minute. Now it’s ten minutes or something. That’s YouTube.

In the video meme aspect of TikTok, whenever I try to explain TikTok to someone who’s not on it in the same way that meme culture takes an image and changes the joke based on what the words are, with the similarity that follows the joke is the image. With TikTok, using the sounds, that’s the similarity. Watching people how they use the same sounds to create a different position, scenario or whatever, and watching the creativity that can flow from there, it taught me a lot as far as you don’t always have to have a super researched script with a bunch of setup and punchlines to get a point across.

To be able to take an image of a headline and a sound from friends. I used one about weed and Wisconsin. Weed dexterously still illegal in Wisconsin. I used a headline saying, “How much money Chicago or Illinois has made in tax revenue from weed?” I put that up and then used a sound from Friends of Rachel going, “I’m not jealous. Maybe a little bit but not jealous.” That was it. That’s all I had to say and people got what the point was instead of making a huge diatribe about why we should do this. What TikTok has been able to create is making things that are shorter and direct to the point but still funny. It totally changed how I approached content.

It’s interesting hearing her talk because it goes to show there are multiple strategies for how you can create content online. She has knocked it out of the park by hopping on some of these audio trends and video memes. I haven’t done a ton of that. I would say that more of my original content takes off. I’ve dabbled a little bit in that and I probably should do more. My point is a lot of it is finding what works for you. I’m a big fan of experimenting and seeing what works, then doing more of what works.

Any additional pieces of advice for content creators who are looking to grow or people who are looking to start creating content?

When Alex said experiment and don’t be too precious about anything, that is the best advice and just start. Perfect is the enemy of done or the intimidation or imposter syndrome or it’s not good enough. Whenever I look back at stuff I made a year ago, let alone when I first started, it’s so hard, like what my performance was and what joke I thought was funny and how I dress. If you are waiting to be perfect to start, you’re never going to. Just putting it out there. There’s so much content that unless you say something so wildly inflammatory, it gets you fired. There’s not much you can do that’s wrong. No one sees it. You just start.

I would echo that 100%. You’re going to go through a cringy stage and accept it. That takes being okay with what people think of you. You have to put that aside. As long as you can stand by your own content and feel confident about it or maybe you don’t even feel confident about it but to Kristin’s point, you’re not saying something overly offensive. You can at least still stand behind your values and how you’re representing yourself as a person. You have to experiment and be consistent because it takes time to build an audience.

Another thing I feel like people don’t talk about a lot is it’s not just one-sided. You can’t just post and then get off the platform. You have to engage in the comments. In the beginning, you might not get any comments. That might mean finding other people in your niche and engaging with those people and other people’s content sections. There are various strategies but the main thing is to get started and be consistent.

That’s so true. When you start, it’s as bad as it ever is going to be and it’s only up from there too. I remember when I started this show. I think in the first episode, I had two of my friends on. That took me five tries to get through the intro. I got some hot tea before to make sure my voice would be okay. It was not the smoothest performance on my part but it got better from there.

Everyone starts better.

How often are you folks surprised by the amount of engagement your posts or Reels get or don’t get or is it relatively predictable at this point?

For me, it’s not predictable because sometimes, I’ll have short things that do well and don’t. Sometimes I’ll have longer things that are over a minute that do well. I should probably be better at keeping a log of what has the highest views or engagement and what patterns I can tell. Again, I make the things that I want to make. I’m not super analytical in how I approach it but it’s not predictable for me.

GGP 191 | Viral Content
Viral Content: Your audiences already have reference points that resonate with them. Find topics from those specific standpoints when creating content.

 

I would say it’s predictable within a range. I know what my low point is and what my high point is but it’s funny. There are certain videos where you can see it coming where it’s like, “This one has what it takes to do well and is going to resonate with people.” A lot of times, you’re right, then sometimes you’re completely wrong where it’s like, “This one was going to take off and it totally was flat.”

When you first asked that question, something that I thought of was that I shouldn’t be surprised anymore but I’m still surprised by how many assholes are on TikTok. It’s ridiculous. That is something going back to your question about how to prepare content creators, you do have to grow a thick skin. The more you grow your following, the more mean voices there are. You have to grow a thick skin and let it roll right off your back.

It’s shocking to me because your stuff is so safe.

It’s hard to hate on that but in the political realm.

When someone comes at me for my opinion on something without asking for it, it’s like, “All right,” but you’re going to get it.

You’re going to get bashed no matter what.

Versus the stuff you make. I’m like, “Who is hating on you?”

Thank you, but I can give you a perfect example. I posted a video and somebody in the comment section said, “Have you ever thought about getting a boob job?” I blocked them. That’s how I handle those things. I was like, “No, I like my A-cups. Thank you very much.” Who asks that?

Now, I’m trying to imagine you with Pamela Anderson’s boobs walking on the set the next time we filmed together.

It’s like I’m not surprised but I am surprised. You’re constantly reminded that there are people out there that don’t understand. There aren’t acceptable things to ask a stranger about or say to a stranger.

Alex and I, the last time we filmed together, we were commiserating a little bit on this topic. The same goes with not letting compliments get to you either and getting your ego to blow up. If you can stay steady and trust what you’re making and trust, who you are and the opinion that you’re having and what you’re putting out in the world, then the steadiness of someone complimenting you. I say this to someone who wants to get complimented.

Who doesn’t?

If you’re positively affected by compliments and adoration and validation, that’s where you’re getting your validation from, then no wonder when a stranger says something mean or cruel or targets something that you’re already insecure about, it’s going to have the same effect on the negative side potentially. You can’t have one without the other. You have to stay the course and not let either the positive or the negative affect you.

Your self-esteem can not be dependent on what others think of you.

It’s a lot more unstable when it relies on extrinsic forms of validation.

It’s from strangers. They’re from people but that is your audience. You cannot not pay attention to it, but it’s a fine line between how much you let it dictate how you feel about yourself and what content you’re making.

Let’s move on to some Wisconsin lightning round questions, then we’re going to hear from the two founders of Wisconsin Women Wanted, and then we’ll do a few fans’ submitted questions. Each of you, what is the best place to travel in Wisconsin in the summer? Favorite spot.

I got back from Door County, so I’m biased now. Door County or the up north area.

I was going to say the exact same thing. It is a toss-up between Door County and up North. It depends on what vibe you want. If you want a classy vibe, you go to Door County. If you want true good old Wisconsin, you up North. Both are so fantastic for different reasons.

Favorite Wisconsin beach or lake?

I would say Pewaukee Lake. That’s my family’s lake. My mom had a house on that lake for a while. It feels like home. I have so many good memories of that lake. I love that there are restaurants on the lake. There’s a little downtown area. There are great beaches. The boating is great. It’s shockingly never overly crowded. It’s a short drive away, so it’s super convenient.

I would say nostalgic-wise, it’s still Mendota or Monona. I don’t know if it’s the best lake in Wisconsin but those are the best lakes in Wisconsin.

I love Mendota. It is great. There is something to being on a boat on Mendota and seeing all of Madison and Maple Bluff. It reminded me of childhood. I’ll say that.

Just accept what people think of you. Put aside negative feedback, stand by your content, and always feel confident about it. Click To Tweet

I love the Terrace. That was one of my favorite things to do at Madison.

The best cheese curds in Wisconsin.

There’s a cheese factory next in Rudolph, Wisconsin, next to my parent’s house, which is called Rudolph Cheese Factory. We can go there and they made that like fifteen minutes ago. They have a timestamp on when they were made. I’m more of a fresh cheese curd person. I would say Rudolph Cheese Factory.

I would say Renard’s.

Where is that?

In Door County. It’s good.

Is it a restaurant?

I’m afraid that I’m saying it wrong but I’m 99% positive I’m saying it right. I believe they exclusively make different types of cheese but they are known for their cheese curds. You can’t miss them when you’re going into Door County and right on the way out. They’re fantastic and they squeak. That’s the true sign that it’s a good cheese curd.

Favorite Wisconsin beer or drink.

I like Fantasy Factory.

In Madison, Karben4.

With the crazy cat riding the unicorn, I’m a big IPA person.

I have to pick a few. Spotted Cow, Summer Shandy has something about it that’s super nostalgic for me, Sprecher, their Abbey Triple, and I love a good old Brandy Old-Fashioned as well.

It’s not a beer.

You could add a drink to your answer.

Skip and Go Naked.

I’ve never heard of that. Feel free to educate the audience.

I don’t think it’s unique to Wisconsin but we’ll go with it. It’s concentrated lemonade mixed with Miller Lite beer and a handle of vodka. You make it like a punchbowl. It’s like the Jungle Juice that we got herpes from in college.

One thing Wisconsin newbies need to know about Wisconsin other than don’t drink Wop.

I did a video on this and I was joking but also serious. You need to make friends with two types of people in this state. 1) Someone who owns a boat. 2) Someone who has a cabin. If you find those two friends, your Wisconsin experience is going to be very heightened.

That’s good advice. My first instinct was to say something about don’t get stuck in the Midwest goodbye. The politeness and niceness of a conversation that can happen in the Midwest if you’re from the coast are very different. Knowing that it’s okay to end the conversation and keep going.

I love the kindness. I don’t like when it takes you 30 minutes from saying goodbye to getting out the door. Both are great answers. This is not Wisconsin-related, but the craziest reaction you’ve ever gotten to your content other than someone recommending a boob job. It could be positive too. Anything.

My most viral video was on TikTok and it was when I revealed that I am a buck hunter model. I filmed that when I was 22. I didn’t think that it would live on to this day. It’s still in the bars, so I’m like, “I’m forever 22 at a small-town bar near you.”

GGP 191 | Viral Content
Viral Content: TikTok doesn’t require you to always prepare a super-researched script with a bunch of setup and punchlines to get your point across.

 

Isn’t it randomly Photoshopped too? Aren’t you missing an arm?

People send me screenshots all the time. They’re like, “I saw you Saturday night playing Big Buck Hunter.” I did this video. The joke was like, “Whenever I’m feeling insecure about being 34, I think about how I’m forever 22 at a bar near you.” It’s meant to be a joke. Some people took it way too seriously. That ended up going viral because it turns out there are a lot of guys out there that have crushes on those girls.

That was interesting to see the range of responses from everyone being very nice and positive to very shaming when it comes to my looks to screenshots. That was a very wild experience to be exposed to that much of the internet. That’s the other weird thing about TikTok. TikTok. It pushes you often to a cold audience of people who are just seeing you for the first time. With that video, they didn’t have exposure to any of my other content. It was a very weird experience all around.

There’s not a particular video that I feel like, “I was not expecting that reaction.” Whether it’s Instagram or TikTok or Facebook, there’s a separate folder where people send you messages that you don’t know. It’s always Russian roulette opening those. It’s either a huge compliment or something that you said that meant a lot to someone and that feels good.

I was talking about how I have an uncle with Down syndrome. On the radio, I mentioned my uncle has Down syndrome and my mom is his legal guardian. I had a woman reach out to me and send me a DM of how much it meant to her hearing because she has two little boys who have Down syndrome. She’s always worried about if their older siblings will take care of them once her parents are gone.

She’s like, “I’m happy to hear that your family has embraced your Uncle Doug,” but there are a lot of messages that are not as happy about what I say and what I do. The general like, I want to open this because if I’ve said something that has a positive impact, I want to say, “Thank you for reaching out and I’m so happy that this made a difference,” but it also means you get to hear something otherwise.

I don’t know about you, we’ve talked a little bit about this, but I’ve had to create some boundaries around what I read. I’ll always be in my comment section for at least the first 30 minutes. I’m pretty good at checking direct messages on Instagram but I make sure that I’m in the right mental space to be able to get those surprises because you don’t know which way it’s going to be. I find the worst TikTok comments are usually after that 30 minutes. Sometimes I’ll see certain comments that aren’t the best for my mood, so I try to be mindful of limiting it and also making sure that I’m in the right head space to deal with whatever pops up.

That makes sense. Let’s move on to the Wisconsin Women Wanted red flag, green flag edition. I got a lot of red flags going through your TikToks on there personally. Hopefully, these guys will score slightly better.

We don’t always agree, so we will see.

Would you like us to answer in character or as the real Kristin and Alex? That’s a funny thing too. A lot of times, people take comedy extremely. They don’t realize that these are jokes and these are not always our red and green flags. Most people get that but not everybody does.

I would say maybe 75% yourselves, 25% comedic. Maybe a blend of them. You could add some comedy to it. These are all based on real scenarios. I’m probably not going to name names. They’re not all Wisconsin-based either. Some of them are but I thought we could help some friends out. We’re going to start off. This is a bit of a longer one that needs an explanation, so just hang with me. The other ones will be a little shorter.

Let’s say you’re dating a guy and it’s a Friday evening in Chicago. He goes out with one of his friends to have a couple of drinks and have a chill night. They ended up having more than a few drinks and ended up at the 4:00 AM bars. This is during the winter as well. He decides he wants to go somewhere warm. He Uber’s to O’Hare and wakes up in Austin, Texas with nothing but the clothes on his back. He calls his girlfriend the next morning and informs her he’s not going to be home for date night. What are your thoughts on this guy?

Red flag.

Until you said girlfriend, I was going to follow up and say, “Is this something he would do as a single guy or is he in a relationship?”

They were living together at that point. They no longer are but at that point, they were living together.

No kidding. I would say waking up in Austin then calling, red flag.

If someone wears a cowboy hat to local bars and changes his Instagram to Dancing Cowboy MKE, is that a red flag?

Green flag.

It’s a green flag.

Is it part of a bit or does he just love his cowboy hat?

It’s a combination. He loves rocking the cowboy hat and he’ll wear it to Brady Street in the middle of the winter and he’s gotten on the jumbotron at Buck’s Game several times as the Dancing Cowboy MKE.

A lot of it when it comes to these bold moves is self-awareness. Does he know what he’s doing or does he think that’s cool?

I think he thinks it’s funny but I don’t know if he knows it’s a complete joke. It’s somewhere in the middle.

The more you grow your online following, the more mean voices you will hear. Grow a thick skin and let those things roll right off your back. Click To Tweet

I think that’s great. Having a nice balance between embracing your individuality and your authenticity but also not everybody has cowboy hats on like having some self-awareness too. I dig it. I’m going to give it a green flag.

It’s a green flag mostly because it’s hilarious. I’m sure he gets a lot of attention. It’s a great opening line as an opportunity to talk to women. Is he single?

I believe he’s single.

It would be interesting if he keeps it up once he’s in a relationship.

He was single when he started it. I’ve seen him still rocking it but you can walk into Joe Katz and tilt the hat or something. That’s a solid move for the dancing cowboy.

Is there dancing involved?

He’s dancing on the jumbotron. I was behind the DJ booth at Trinity. The guy is all over the place. He’s a very versatile guy.

Does he have a bolo tie?

He didn’t go with that.

You should give him that for Christmas. The bolo tie would finish it off.

We recommended it to him and he refused.

Red flag for not committing.

Another question that has to do with dancing cowboy then I’m done with them. If someone rents out an entire Tiki bar at Bradford Beach.

Green flag.

It’s so funny because I’m so frugal that my mind goes to like, “How much is that?”

It’s a decent amount. He’s buying the bar drinks and making sure everyone is having a good time.

I like to have a good time. I’ll give him a green flag.

He owns several Great Clips Salons, so it was the Bradford Tiki Bar sponsored by Great Clips.

Sounds like a fun ride. We’re going to give them two green flags.

For all the ladies who want to date a guy who has received four green flags in the last couple of minutes, that’s Daniel Slade, @DancingCowboyMKE. He’s a great guy. If you are 35 and still enjoy going to Joe Katz and Red, White and Blue.

How often?

That’s a good point. How about once every two months, then we go every weekend?

Once every two months and mostly because I am marrying someone who still frequents those bars, I have to say green flag.

GGP 191 | Viral Content
Viral Content: If you’re positively affected by compliments or validation, do not let negative comments bother you. Your self-esteem cannot depend on what others think of you.

 

The obligatory green flag.

He’s not every weekend.

I would say green flags to every other month. Red flag to every weekend.

What about opening up at the bars to a group of girls flexing that you shot a 77 in a US Open local qualifier?

Is this you?

No. I didn’t do quite that good. He’s specifically targeting cougars now.

Targeting cougars, green flag.

Jack Blair in a 77 at the local queue. That’s all I had for that. I wish I had more. That was fun. We’ll need to get you back for some red flags, green flags.

All jokes aside, I hope all of these men find love if they haven’t already.

A lot of them have. A couple more fans submitted questions then we’ll wrap up. We went over this already but Rob Shea asked, “Ask Alex about her big game hunter model days.” Do you think that catapulted your career?

No, not at all.

How much did you get paid for that?

It was like two-day rates of something like $750 or something like that.

How did you do that? How do you find this opportunity?

When I first graduated from the University of Wisconsin, it was the height of the recession. I decided to move to Chicago. I couldn’t get a full-time job at the time. I was Miss Wisconsin. Miss Wisconsin. I graduated from Madison and couldn’t get a full-time job at first. It was like, “I’m going to move to Chicago and do modeling.”

I was with an agent there and was able to get by barely, like pay rent and that kind of thing. One of my modeling gigs through this modeling agent was Buck Hunter. I didn’t even know that much about the game. I don’t even know if I had ever played it, to be honest. I didn’t think it would live on for years and certainly did not read the fine print that I was signing a buyout deal.

$1,500 at the time and is still now is a lot of money, but when you think of signing a buyout deal in the industry to be used for twelve years, I don’t know for sure that I would have done that. At the same time, it is a great conversation starter. I made rent that month. It’s something that continues to be a hilarious story. As far as did it make me famous? No. It’s not like people connected it to my name or anything like that. It’s something that I’ve chosen to talk about and people think it’s a fun fact. Once they put the two together, they send me photos of them.

Do you ever pull flex when you go to a bar and you see it then you pull a segment or like, “Do you know who I am?”

No, I’m the opposite. I’m so awkward. Every once in a while, if somebody recognizes me, I’m so awkward about it. You would think that with what I do, I would like attention but I don’t. I have been at a bar before where someone was playing Big Buck Hunter and I come on. My buddy, Josh, was like, “Look, it’s Alex from Big Buck Hunter.” I’m like, “No, that’s my doppelganger. I swear. That’s not me.” I denied it.

If anyone sees Alex out on the town, do not say hi to her.

It’s almost weird though if you get stared at, and they don’t say hi. Please say hi. I may be awkward but I do want you to say hi.

I love attention. Feel free to say hi to me.

That sounds good. Can either of you do live shows or standup?

GGP 191 | Viral Content
Viral Content: You need to make friends with two types of people in Wisconsin: someone who owns a boat and someone who has a cabin.

 

My goal is yes. I would love whether it’s stuffed with Journal Sentinel but certainly with As Goes Wisconsin. I have this idea roaming in my head of drunk civics. That’s the name of the thing. We’ll see if the name sticks, but it’s doing a comedy show that is part teaching about local government but doing it through humor and standup and panels. It’s like how Crooked Media and Lovett Or Leave It do things in front of a live audience. I would love to do stuff like that.

Every time I see standup, I think I need to start doing standup again. I did that. I just don’t prioritize the time to write new material because, for me, standup is different from the stuff that I make on camera because political comedy is hard to do in person, especially in Wisconsin, because it can get pretty divided quickly. Anything that I would ever want to do on stage would be much more personal about me and my life and much more relatable. I grew up doing theater, so I love being in front of a crowd.

I love the idea of it but I’m such a homebody. I go to bed at like 10:00 PM. I only like sleeping in my own bed. The idea of the lifestyle of staying up late and traveling, I’ll never say never but I don’t think so.

Someone with the handle Ginger Zilla said, “Once a fib, always a fib.” Do you agree with that?

I think that if you move to Wisconsin and you get Wisconsin plates and a Wisconsin license, we will welcome you with our Midwest nice arms.

Very politically correct.

Kristin is very skeptical. There are different types of fibs. There’s the traditional meaning and then there’s the friendly Illinois buddy. You can be a lifer-friendly Illinois buddy.

We’ll end on this from Matt Holbrook, a good friend of the show.

Does Matt get on here?

He’s not. Maybe after you guys are on here, Pat Connor and Tim came on. I’m building the street cred to get to someone like Holbrook. I think he’ll maybe come on now.

Are you going to get Collin to come on with them? Those two don’t separate. They are two packages of a deal.

Are those guys dating?

I don’t know. Ask his wife.

Holbrook has been looking good though. I didn’t mean to boost his ego too much but I did comment on his calves. He was at the pool on his photo from Mexico or something. I don’t know what’s going on with that guy. Do you even know who this guy is? Probably not. You’re basically done. This is the final question anyways. You can kick back over there. Anyway, Matt Holbrook, a friend of the show, “What is it like living with Michael Samson?”

He is my fiancé. He is very fun and we laugh a lot. He is missing his two front teeth. He’s getting his two front teeth replaced from an accident when he was a kid.

This was not a recent accident.

No, but it’s a long process. In October, he got us two front teeth finally taken out and they’re doing the process of putting implants in but there has to be enough bone that grows back. How comfortable this human is walking around with no teeth all the time?

Green flag.

Regularly leaves the house without wearing his little flipper denture things. It’s a lot of that. It’s a lot of him telling you that he thinks he’s funnier than I am but he’s not.

You guys are such a great couple. It is fun seeing you together. It has been fun to see the evolution of your relationships since the beginning.

Same with you and Tony.

We’ll end it on that very touching note. Thank you two so much for coming on. It was a lot of fun.

Thanks for having us.

A big thank you to Alex and Kristin for coming on. Thank you for tuning in to this episode. If you want to help the show, please subscribe, write a review, and rate us. That helps get more ears on the show. If you want to get involved in the GoGedders or have topics suggestions or guest suggestions, visit our website GGMM.io. Click on the GoGedders tab or fill out the form on our site. Just a reminder, this show is brought to you by GoGedders Marketing and Media, GGMM.io, and our good friends over in Milwaukee. Thanks again.

 

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