Stephen: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Digital Masters Podcast. Today I have on Jared Robin. He is the co-founder of RevGenius, and we’re going to be talking about how to build community.
He’s built his community up to over 11,000 people. We’re going to be talking about some tactical things, but really more about some of the philosophical things that you need to do to be a community organizer and build a robust community.
So let’s get into it.
What’s going on, Jared? I appreciate you being on the show today. How’s it going?
Jared: It’s going well. How are you doing?
Stephen: I appreciate you accommodating me and coming on the show. It’s a huge honor to have you on here. I’ve been watching RevGenius for awhile, actually. Actually, before I knew you, which I think is a testament to what you guys have built.
Then I came across you through a LinkedIn post. You mentioned something and I looked you up. I said, Oh wow! That’s the co-founder of RevGenius. That’s pretty cool. But even beyond that, what really made you stand out to me was a lot of the content that you push out on LinkedIn.
You did one recently about you protecting people on where they are. There’s a lot of negativity on LinkedIn in terms of bashing people that do direct messaging and all this kind of stuff. And you’re, “Hey, let’s leave people alone. They are trying to do their best.”
And so that really stood out to me. I agree with you. I probably stepped over the line a couple of times, but I think that’s really cool. And I am curious where that kind of protective nature comes from.
Jared: Yeah. I’ve been in sales for 15 years, so I’ve seen it all.
I’ve been the beginner many times, whether it’s a beginner seller or transitioning into software as a service, times where I was out of it, and I’ve been at the leader stage with experience screwing up. Things are hard enough for sellers as they are. Today it’s harder to get into a door and get a meeting than it ever has been, because of a few reasons, right?
There’s more products out there to sell. There’s more people selling. There’s more numbness to it. Putting somebody down… It’s enough of a downside when somebody gets rejected, and it happens to a seller all day. Fine. That’s the rules of the road.
But to go above and beyond and call somebody out after they already feel bad, they didn’t get the deal, and then maybe there was some negativity behind the scenes. Shouldn’t be, but it happens. But to do it in a public forum?
Come on. We want to uplift people. What you’ll notice on my LinkedIn posts, and it’s always been my MO, but I started writing it at the end of my posts this year quite a bit.
I write, “Give love. Love is the strongest universal currency there is.” So it’s more than defending sellers. It’s absolutely defending humans. It’s supporting others, right? Give love and watch what happens. And that’s probably a good segue to building community and stuff.
Stephen: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s the thing that I noticed. I’ll admit that’s something that I have to focus on myself. It’s important that we’re building each other up and not using LinkedIn as a platform to put somebody else down and elevate our own product or elevate what we’re doing.
A lot of the time when I see that, it’s some way of positioning what I’m doing as the thing to do. So anyway, I figured that must be why your community is successful. Because you’re thinking that way.
But community is hot right now. A lot of people are talking about it. A lot of people want to do it. I was actually doing a podcast earlier with Kris Hughes. He’s in your group, actually, sharing a community. And so he’s building his own community.
I wanted to talk about how you started out. Tell me a little bit about the beginning, where you were at and what sparked the idea for you to build RevGenius.
Jared: Yeah. So Galem, my co-founder and I, last year I was out of work first and foremost. It was probably April or May of last year I met Galem. We were both attending so many webinars, learning so much. She had a job. I didn’t. Okay. And eventually we had a conversation and the entrepreneurial juices flowed.
We had an idea to create essentially a centralized aggregation of all the events that were happening out there. We saw so many webinars at the beginning, whether you were a company, LinkedIn influencer, or a sales trainer, community, etc. Everybody was coming out of a hundred different lanes. And you see that now, too.
We’re, wow this is a lot. Is there a centralized platform where we could put all this on? And what does that look like? And we came to the conclusion it was probably Eventbrite for sales and marketing, trying to draw a reference. And we’re, that’d be cool. If we had a single place. All right. How do we build it?
I had a technical person who would help build our MVP. Fortunately for us he, I don’t want to say disappeared, but his bandwidth dried up quite a bit and he couldn’t do it. So we’re, okay, we gotta keep going because this idea, there’s something about it. It feels really good.
So, why don’t we… I remember Galem took the lead on coming up with the event countdown for the week. Every week we put all the what we determined were the curated best events in sales, to start, and we were going to add marketing, to a Google sheet.
Okay, how do we distribute this? How do we let people know what’s out there? And at this point we were doing the personal branding thing when it was getting to the–it had been going on for a few years–but the most recent, big push of it.
We had developed some friends along the way, because we saw who was at events and talking and stuff, and we’re, Hey, hi, I’m Jared. I’m Galem.
We found out other people were pretty friendly, too. We built up this LinkedIn messaging group. And we’re, Oh, by the way, we have this list of events happening. We had 38 people in there and we were breaking the app. We were supporting each other every which way, having conversations, showing, Hey, here’s the link.
And then we came up with the name RevGenius at that point. So we had to name this. I remember one day, we’re, Hey, y’all mind if we change the title of this messaging thread to RevGenius? Everybody’s, Wow, what is that? Oh, actually Galem and myself. We’re planning this company and this is what it is.
And we want y’all to be part of it. And everyone’s yeah, cool, whatever, we grew up with this. And then eventually they asked us to, “they” meaning the other people in the group, asked us to go to Slack. At this point, I’m, okay, Let’s take 48 hours.
We realized that the power was in the community. Not necessarily in that list. We don’t need that. Let’s build a Slack group. Let’s look at the landscape where–the community landscape wasn’t originally our thought, but it came to us–what isn’t saturated that we’re hyper aligned with?
And you know, we figured out it was having an open accessible platform for everybody. I’m big on diversity. Equity inclusion and having a no cost way to get in was critical for us to have diversity of thought, with the most people able to access there.
And then also we’re okay, we also need to have this level of empathy going throughout. Understanding that sometimes people’s workplaces aren’t great, etc. Let’s foster them, too. Let’s be the place where people feel comfortable going. Let’s be the place where people learn, where people meet each other, etc.
And then we started adding people to the mix.
Stephen: It was pretty organic.
Jared: Pretty organic is it right. Yeah.
Stephen: That’s pretty cool. You had an idea, but it was validated by bringing a few people together.
Jared: By the time we were at, I forget what number we were at, where I knew it had legs.
Definitely a thousand. At a thousand, we’re, yeah! But it might’ve been even before that. But we felt it at 3,500. We’re, yeah! I remember we were bringing on 2000 people a month, organically, unpaid. Still to this day, we don’t pay for marketing.
Stephen: Yeah. That’s amazing.
Yeah. You touched on a couple of different things that I was going to hit on throughout the interview, so I’ll start with one. You brought up a technical co-founder. When I think about community nowadays, it doesn’t seem you’d need that. There’s so many platforms out there.
What were you trying to build on a technical?
Jared: So we wanted to build a WordPress MVP and have a ticketing system. Originally. We pivoted from that or a slight pivot and built community.
Stephen: Got it. Cool. And then you also mentioned the free versus paid. You had the empathy or the awareness to realize that for what you guys were doing and what you guys wanted to do, that the free model was the way to do it.
Jared: Yeah, regardless of whether it was the only way to do it, we had to have a free option. Because to be completely open and accessible, there needs to be as easy an access with as few barriers as possible and at no cost for the members.
And we’re, okay, we’ll figure out what that looks like down the road. We’ll talk to sponsors. That seems to be a popular monetization strategy to get money in the door if needed.
Stephen: Yeah, by the way, I know the Motion guys there. They’re doing your podcast, right? They came on my podcast too. They’re really cool guys. I’ve learned a lot from those guys.
Yeah, totally cool. So then what made you pick Slack over… I know some of these questions sound mundane, but what made you pick Slack over something like Facebook or some of the million other platforms you could pick?
Jared: Our members told us to go to Slack, always listen to your members.
Stephen: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s good that you had that initial group. Some people are starting from scratch and I think they put a lot of thought into things before they even get going. Which I think keeps people from moving forward. It’s cool you had that group of people to bounce ideas off of.
Jared: Yeah. People come up with these master plans and all the plans don’t go as planned. A really good takeaway here is that I’ve spoken to so many people. Which platform is the best, what’s this or that. We can go into details, frankly. The platform enables communication. A community lives outside of platforms.
When a new platform pops up to encourage community…you have Patreon being used quite a bit by some sales leaders, trainers, etc., and marketing folks as well, other platforms will come and go. And we could say Slack, Discord, Facebook groups, etc., some are social, some are separated from that.
Community is family. Community isn’t a platform. If Slack got gobbled up by Salesforce, which it did, and it shut down tomorrow, which it won’t, where would people go? We’d figure it out. But people would still have that connection with each other within the brand. We’d figure that our community lives above and beyond platforms.
Now, listen, if you have 11,000 people like we do and you replatform, some people might not come along for the ride, so to speak. But Slack was obvious, so people said, sure. And there’s so many others that are good as well. But you have to think, listen to your members, start really small.
You don’t even need a platform. Start on WhatsApp, start on text message if you all want to share. I’ve seen stuff start on WhatsApp. It’s pretty good. And there’s other tools as well. And then let the members talk to you from a business standpoint.
Everybody’s on Slack or Teams right now. Why do anything else? And we could say other platforms are better, but you want to be where your people are as well.
Stephen: Yeah. We want to make it easy for them.
As I’m talking to you, one of the things about your understanding of community and how it works, it resonates through you. Was this something that you knew beforehand or did you learn as you went? How much of this is your natural thing or how much of you learned through mistakes and through growth?
Jared: Yeah, thanks for asking this question.
So I’d say, is it my natural thing? No, but it’s been learned in the last seven years that I’ve been in technology. Some of the spots along the way, in what helped drive community: I ran a fashion magazine and we threw quite a lot of events, had a bunch of readers. In my history I learned how to deal in that B2C type of interaction, right?
We were putting out content meant for consumers with the fashion magazine, plain and simple. I learned how to write articles, develop content, build teams around that. It was not successful. But what was successful is my relationship with the people. We’d throw events, they’d read my Facebook posts, we’d have Instagram and all of this.
And we communicated with an audience that were consumers, not companies. And companies, too, that they represented.
From a couple other stops, I got really into marketplaces. The two-sided marketplaces. We know a lot of them today. eBay is one, great. And some newer ones as well. Amazon has that, etc. And if you think three to five years ago, it was the Cat’s Meow. It was really big.
And I helped with a sales leadership role in a platform where we were essentially connecting brands with fashion folks, models, photographers, hair and makeup stylists for photo-shoot production. So here we have a community where we’re connecting people for the purpose of work, which is very much like revenue jobs that we have now.
And then after that, I believe my next spot was where I was leading growth for blockchain art, essentially art on the blockchain where…super cool, NFTs, all of that, really into it. When the market crashed, I got out, but it’s had quite a rebound now. We could tangent on that. There’s a really cool piece of art up now that got a hundred thousand dollars bid and it might 10 X that on that platform. It’s a public company.
Really cool. But there I was onboarding art galleries. And we’re figuring out how to bring the people there. So with each spot, the takeaway is working with both brands and the consumers. For a couple of slots there, and with the digital magazine, there was a lot of communicating with folks.
And then along the way I really loved this. And so for me, it was a bit learned and I was always really intrigued in the media space with digital publications, that threw these amazing events and have these cult followings. Really intrigued. We’re on the road hopefully. But really intrigued with giving the people something that they loved, that they felt aligned with, that they showed up for etc.
The idea of figuring that out, that was the Mecca to me. And I went to tons of magazine launches and events along the way and digital stuff. And in RevGenius, out of all the opportunities that there were in community, there’s also an opportunity to create a movement, a cultural movement.
At the beginning of COVID people are in despair. People’s awareness was also heightened to the social issues that had been around, but people’s awareness of you as a white male heightened, certainly realizing our privilege and really being important and being able to flow that and what’s going on to a business organization, which traditionally may turn a blind eye to the stuff that goes on, to be honest.
And some of the injustices in the world and in the workplace, and to be able to open up that conversation, it was a prime time to do it. And it’s always a prime time to do it, but the time that we started, we decided to do that as well and build this out and be advocates for the people. Every person, not only people that look like myself.
Stephen: Yeah. That’s awesome, dude, that speaks to me a lot. And I think that’s what’s interesting about, you could argue, where a lot of business is going, to this idea of creating a movement, creating community. And it seems the more pure you can keep it the better effect it can actually have.
I think what’s interesting for me, in hearing you talk and watching people do this kind of thing, is that I’ve always been an introvert. I’ve always been huddled behind some invisible screen building stuff, putting it out there. And I’m now where it’s one of the main reasons why I’m going out there is because for me, it’s not natural to build a community.
And so I get really excited thinking about, okay, how am I going to learn these things? How am I going to get outside of this kind of introspective state and get out there and really listen to people, pull them all together, create a movement around something?
It’s different from yours, but that’s okay. But it’s really interesting to think about that and get outside my own head. And what’s exciting for me is I can see myself really transforming who I am by helping other people transform themselves. And then helping other people think, how can you be a transformer? How can your business be a transformational force?
Jared: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. And thinking about it from a spiritual standpoint, I think we all go through adult life realizing that work is a necessary evil for us, unless we have a couple of liquidation events or something like that.
But the reality behind it is we’re going to be working in adulthood. So how can we find something that aligns with us? In the beginning, we would go through stages where we do things for money. Oops. We do things because somebody tells us to, or because we think something is right and we don’t really listen to ourselves and align.
And then a lot of us are fortunate enough to have an aha moment where we pivot our careers or take a step out of the current job that’s toxic, etc. A lot don’t, but some do. What I found along the way, the fashion magazine was interesting in my journey. It was the first step to figuring out what I wanted.
I did it as a side project. It was not profitable. It was quite the opposite but it was something that I truly wanted to do. It was entrepreneurial, which resonated with my core. And then, the marketplaces were interesting, but ultimately helping others and doing right by others is amazing.
I always thought that it had to be in philanthropy. It was funny. I know I’ve made it when all I have to do is spend all my time helping others. And then I had this awakening. I need to help others to get what I want. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
I’ll never get to that point if I’m not helping others. So then you have side projects where you’re helping others. What’s awesome about communities, at least the one we’re running, is it’s still aligned with helping others. You want to talk about secret sauce? The secret sauce is helping others.
Jared: The secret sauce with life is being aligned, because people could read that, right? You’re the top seller, but something’s falling apart at home or something. You got this edge and that’s why you see top sellers get fired sometimes. If you’re not aligned… that’s the secret sauce of life, being aligned.
And that’s how you get this passion coming out. Talking sales strategies, there’s this funny anecdote from earlier today. This person was commenting on my passion. I’m, yeah, I don’t know what school of thought with selling I follow.
Don’t get me wrong. Those are all great for giving some structure. But at the end of the day, what’s made me successful is being aligned. I’m more aligned now than I’ve ever been. So I think that’s why you see that as a reflection of the output. We could all fail tomorrow and it could all be for naught, but it feels really good right now.
Stephen: Yeah, I know, dude. That’s awesome, man. I could relate a lot, because I grew a company before and I ended up selling it. But when I look back on it, I was going through a lot of turmoil with it. I wasn’t fully aligned. And then after I sold it, my ego kind of locked me into who I was with that company.
So it was interesting, too. You have something and then it’s gone. Then your ego kind of attaches to it. It says, I did that for a long time. I’ve got to keep doing that. I had to go through this interesting process where I realized that wasn’t the thing that was aligned with what I wanted to do ultimately.
I stumbled around, but pulled in all the things that I really love to do. I loved media. I loved helping other entrepreneurs. Through wiggling around almost like a fish out of water, I started pulling these things together. Now I find myself here trying to help a bunch of people in being uncomfortable all the time, getting on camera, doing interviews.
I’m finding myself in a similar spot. I still have a long way to go. I’m at that spot where I’m blowing the fire, trying to get it going. Hearing you talk about it, man, that’s really why I’m always encouraging people.
It’s not necessarily following your dreams, but I guess there’s an element of that. But really trying to get people to align all these different things and be willing to be uncomfortable and go for it. It sounds like you want to say something here.
Jared: I was going to say, show up for yourself. Just keep showing up. Nobody else is going to, so you might as well, right?
Stephen: I’ll say though, it’s two things. This last year has been scary. But also the wildest ride is so much fun. I go to bed with my wife and I’m, man, this has been the craziest, scariest fun year that I’ve ever lived.
And I want to, because that’s life, right? It’s not gonna all be good and it’s not gonna all be bad. So it’s going through that process and learning to enjoy that journey. I dunno, man. It’s, it’s really cool.
Jared: For myself, I was jobless a little bit before COVID, unemployment. I live in New York. I don’t have a boatload of money saved for rent or anything like that. I went probably eight weeks or more without the unemployment checks.
There were so many people going at the same time, trying to connect the dots. It wasn’t happening. Then you call, it wasn’t happening.
Then interviews dried up, where there were interviews right before COVID. I got let go maybe a month or less before the pandemic. So I felt down and out. I felt hopeless. And the one thing I made sure to keep in my thought process is that with every extreme time in society, there’s opportunity.
The companies that have come out through the recession and through other events have been crazy. I think Slack started during the recession. And the audience could check me on that, but I’m pretty sure they’re one of many.
And I’m, okay, what is there now? What is there now? What is there now?
And that thought process helped lead to RevGenius with Galem.
Stephen: That’s awesome. Yeah. I had that same thought too. I was, it’s a recession right now. I was, this is the perfect time. Because I basically switched careers after 20 or 25 years. Not just like you, but at COVID.
And I was thinking that this is the perfect time to seize the opportunity. This is awesome. And there’s…
Oh, do you want to finish up?
Jared: Oh, it is. But it all depends on your financial situation. The health of others. Depending on how the chips are stacked. No pun intended yeah.
It could literally feel the perfect time, or it could feel the worst time. We could go off on a tangent on mental health and stuff, but the takeaway is no matter how good or bad a time it is, try your absolute hardest to remain level because there are opportunities.
And you brought up a good point. That’s a good point in terms of what your financial situation is. You can’t discount that.
I feel after talking about those deep things, some of these other questions feel…
Jared: Oh, no, please ask them!
Stephen: But yeah. The stages of building out content for RevGenius, at those earliest stages, what were some of the best content and programming that you could put together that really drove the engagement and the interaction between people?
Jared: People. Meeting other people. That’s it. Yeah.
Stephen: Were you guys creating content or was it really that networking field?
Jared: Everyone was homie. We had all the homies in RevGenius and we still do.
We have 11,000 above and realizing, geez, you don’t have to be so formal. Be formal, be tasteful, tactful, but we’re all in this together. Try to facilitate that type of vibe. And yes, allow the members to have input on this, and listen.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah, that’s deep. And then did you come up with some ways to encourage the members to spread the word? Or was that kind of all organic too? Or did you have some purpose behind that.
Jared: We’re probably doing more now than we did at the beginning. It was, you have a product that solves a need. All right. I see dozens of communities coming up every month that are, so to speak, doing the same thing. And you have leaders of them sometimes that don’t commit the effort and energy needed. So it’s going to fall off. And they don’t have the teams.
Now I’ve seen some great ones along with ours that do, and it’s night and day. So the ones that invest, that have leaders or teams that invest, the community will speak back. The community will let you know how they feel and let the world know, if it’s really fire.
So that’s it.
Stephen: Yeah. So it’s really having the commitment.
Jared: Yeah. It’s not, okay, Sandy, it’s Tuesday. It’s your turn. You said you were going to post. It’s nine o’clock. Everybody else! Get on Sandy’s post! It’s her turn, right? There are people that do that.
Those people won’t be around here.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah, no, I feel what you’re saying and it’s all good information for me, too. Because I can find myself getting lost in some of those effects.
Jared: Head down, execute. You’re here for a mission. And if you’re not here for a mission, do something else. If you’re not mission-driven today, what are you?
Stephen: I feel you, man. And so let’s see. One thing I was thinking about here.
Jared: But yeah, you have a burning passion with it and others will feel your passion, especially if you’re creating something that lacked in your space, lacked in your world that you wish you had.
If you do that. Oh, that’s the powerful stuff.
Stephen: When I talk about thought leadership, a lot of the time people think they have to have their own original ideas. But one of the things I encourage people to think about is what’s working really well in an industry that knows this thing very well. And they’re thriving with it.
Take that thing and move it to a different community where they haven’t really been exposed to that one thing. Where there’s a vacuum of that thing. That’s very successful. And all of a sudden it seems it’s rocket science. But it’s really something that’s been well tested in another market.
And this one group of people have never been exposed to it. If you teach them that thing, show them where it could go, then you create that bridge for that movement.
Jared: Yeah. And do a community in a space that you know. I’ve spoken to people of all sorts along the way. “Oh, I found that there’s a gap in this space.” I’m, “Do you know that space?” “Yeah. I’m starting to like veterinarians in wherever.” I’m, “Are you a veterinarian? Are you?” “I want to sell to veterinarians.”
Stop now. Don’t stop. I don’t want to discourage anybody. Stop. Keep going. There’s always a chance.
Stephen: There’s always a chance that I could work. But you’re fighting a river. I know. I know what you’re getting at.
Jared: Keep going by all means.
Stephen: There are the few types that could navigate that, but it’s going to be hard and it’s the same for me. I came from professional services, that’s what I have been my whole life. And so those are the people that I’m that I’m trying to help.
Cool, man, this has been awesome. So I know we’ve talked a little bit about it. A lot about it. but maybe tell the people what you’re doing, and what is the best way they can get a hold of you, and the best way they can join the community.
Jared: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to learn more about what you’re doing and give my 2 cents because I appreciate you so much. So, thanks man.
RevGenius. Revgenius.com is our website. You can join the community there top right corner or anything that says join now or sign up will get you there.
There’s no cost. We have 11,000 members. As of this week: sales, marketing, rev ops, revenue professionals, all levels from SDR to CRO, even founders that need help selling, the sales founders. Our mission is to educate, empower, and inspire revenue professionals, all types of revenue professionals.
We have awesome programming. Everyone’s here to help you level up. Whether it’s a new job, a new promotion, a new skill set, a new connection. We launched RevGenius jobs, jobs.revgenius.com as well.
If you’re looking in the niches, we’re doing community-driven everything, community-driven jobs.
We’re getting people five jobs a week, placing I think two in the last week. So we’re here to help you. We’re not here to do anything other than help. And that’s us, you can follow us on LinkedIn too, RevGenius.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. You’re active there. You’ve got some great stuff coming up.
I appreciate it, man. I’m following you. I’ve learned a lot. I hope to continue our relationship, see if there’s other ways we can help each other out in the future. But thanks so much for spending the time on here.
Jared: I’m here for it. I’m here to give and anybody who’s listening. I’m accessible [email protected]
Stephen: I saw that people can schedule a call right from your email.
Jared: If you need something I’m here to give advice.
Stephen: Thanks again for being on.
Jared: Thank you for having me. Have an awesome one.
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