Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman

Short and sweet this Friday.

A couple of weeks back, I announced that I was taking on coaching clients. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m working with founders across a variety of industries on their businesses. It has all been moving so quick, and I’m loving every second of it!

Up until now, I’ve just been sending a Google Doc outlining my service. That worked, but I figured it was time that I get a website up to explain everything.

Take a look: BrightGrowth

And If you’re interested in having me on your side to grow your business, then go ahead and book some time!

#entrepreneurship


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Lorena and I just returned from a 10-day trip visiting my family in Ohio and Michigan. First, we stopped by Cincinnati to visit my grandpa. He is 88 years old and living in an assisted living facility.

His health is pretty good, but he does have Alzheimer’s, which has become a bit more noticeable. He has 10 or so topics that he loops through in a conversation, but regardless, he is in good spirits and probably the best I have seen him in years (especially since my grandma passed away).

The highlight of that visit was the cookout, where my aunt, uncle, and two of my cousins attended, along with their children. One of my cousins had COVID, so she (and her family) couldn't come, which was a bummer. My brother and his family made the trip from Chicago as well, which gave us an opportunity to all be reunited like when we were kids.

After that long weekend, Lorena and I drove up to Michigan with my parents. We spent the week visiting some friends, enjoying the end-of-summer season in Michigan, and spending some quality time with my parents. After a week there, we came back to California.

I'm back at the grind today, growing my coaching business (which has taken off since recently announcing it). Our next planned trip isn't until Thanksgiving, but that could change!

#personal


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In digital business, every detail, from pixel to prose, matters. Crafting a brand that resonates isn’t an added luxury, it’s the foundation.

From a foray into online education to dabbling in software, my learning has always been clear: Effective branding can be simple.

When I coach founders, I am often asked is which strategies work best to get more customers in a crowded market.

Well, this article will answer that question.

Let’s dive into the actionable tweaks that can deepen your customer connection and enhance your brand’s recall. This isn’t theory, folks. I’ve used these exact strategies for gaining impressive amounts of market share.

The Power of Consistency

Imagine you’re reading a book, and in the story, the protagonist’s personality changes every few chapters. Confusing, right? How could you ever get into a story like that?

I’ve found that founders make this same mistake. Their brands often mirror this inconsistency when their identity keeps shifting. Consistency, I learned early on, isn’t about stubborn rigidity but about establishing reliability across all channels.

In the world of digital products, whether it’s software, an interactive online course, or an ebook, consistency will always be critical to your success. This isn’t just about having a visually appealing visuals. It’s about ensuring that the core of your brand remains the same across every touchpoint. It’s the little things, and these little things add up!

For example, let’s talk visuals (since that what most founders tend to focus on). Colors, designs, and graphics aren’t just artistic choices — they’re statements. Each hue, each gradient, each font choice carries a weight of its own. And consistency ensures that this weight is balanced throughout.

Then there’s the tone. How does your brand sound to your potential customers? Is your tone formal, casual, or somewhere in between? Your brand’s tone should remain recognizable across all channels. From your YouTube videos to the welcome emails.

Keeping track of all these things is tough, so I recommend that you create a brand guideline. Don’t worry, this isn’t a huge document. Keep it simple and focus on specifying your color choices, typography, and tone. This way, whenever you create a new asset for your business, you can pull it up just to make sure it’s all remaining “true to brand”.

The Art of Storytelling

Stories are what make us human. And your brand, beyond its digital facade, is profoundly human. It’s a tapestry of ambition, vision, and journey. Every digital product you see isn’t just a tool, it’s a testament to someone’s dream and determination.

So, what’s your story? It’s essential to articulate it, not just for your audience, but for yourself. Was your brand born out of a gap you observed in the market? Maybe it was a series of events, some eureka moments, and a few sleepless nights? Or perhaps, it was a dream you nurtured over countless cups of coffee?

Once you’ve identified your narrative, the next step is weaving it in a manner that resonates. Not every tale is epic, and that’s its beauty. The little detours, the unexpected roadblocks, the small joys — they add layers of authenticity to your brand narrative. Remember, it’s not the grandiosity of the story, but its genuineness that strikes a chord. An authentic tale, told from the heart, bridges the gap between a brand and its audience.

Engage, Don’t Just Broadcast

Think of the internet like a big, noisy classroom. Everyone’s trying to get a word in, and it often feels like a shouting match. Some people have big voices, so they carry further. Yes, they can be heard, but it’s annoying, right?

Don’t be annoying.

Here’s some advice from someone who’s been through it: instead of shouting louder, try a different approach. Don’t talk at people, talk with them.

You see, there’s a difference between just “shouting” your message and truly engaging with your audience.

For example, let’s say that you walk into a car dealership and without even a hello, the salesperson starts rattling off all the stuff they have, the prices, the discounts, and so on. It’s overwhelming, right? That’s just noise. They are sending out information, whether you need it or even want to hear it. It’s annoying, and you’ll shut down. It’s similar with those annoying chatbots and popups that people use on their websites. What is the first thing you do when you see them? You close it.

Same scenario, but picture this now: you walk into the car dealership and the salesperson greets you and asks for your name. They smile kindly, and simply ask you what you’re looking for, getting to know your needs. At this point, you’re likely to at least share your intentions. It has now become a conversation, a back-and-forth where you get to know each other.

From my experiences with software, online courses and digital products, I’ve found that true engagement is where you find troves of gold. It’s not about diluting what you want to say. It’s about saying it in a way that lines up perfectly with what your audience wants to hear.

Okay, cool — but how do you do that?

Woman at laptop computer with pen in her hand, notebook, and cell phone.

Here’s what I did. It works, you should copy it and put your flavor into the process:

1. Be Curious

Get to know your audience. Who are they? What’s their day like? What challenges are they facing? When you’re genuinely interested in them, you can serve them better.

2. Make It a Two-Way Street

When you post content, invite conversation. Ask questions, encourage replies, start discussions. It’s way more fun and useful when everyone’s involved. Do this in online chat, Facebook Groups, social media, and anywhere your potential customer is “hanging out” online.

3. Hold Interactive Sessions

Live Q&As, webinars, and AMAs (Ask Me Anything sessions) are awesome. They’re live, they’re real, and they give your audience a chance to chat with you directly. I crushed it with webinars. I didn’t do them often, but when I did, they were always a net positive. You can then re-use the content across multiple channels, like email, YouTube, and blog posts.

4. Value The Feedback

Yes, positive feedback feels great. But constructive criticism? That’s where the growth happens. It helps you see where you can do better. Every bit of feedback means someone took time for you and your brand. That’s big. Even the most scathing reviews have some important takeaways and represent an opportunity to demonstrate how you do, in fact, listen.

5. Show the Human Side

People connect with people, not faceless brands. Share a bit about your journey, the ups and downs, the behind-the-scenes stuff. It makes everything more real. When I was growing GapScout, I tried the “Build In Public” route. It was incredibly successful for building a following and list of potential customers. People gravitate towards authenticity and stories. Telling stories is about as human as it gets.

6. Stay Agile

The digital world changes fast. What works today is probably going to be old news tomorrow. Keep an eye out, adjust as you go, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Want a clear example? No one uses Facebook pages anymore for their brands. It’s moved to TikTok. Maybe you haven’t started a TikTok because you think it doesn’t make sense for your business, but I want to challenge you to get out of your own way!

7. Respond and Be Present

Engagement means being there, consistently. If someone drops a comment or sends a message, make sure you get back to them. It shows you care. And don’t carry a different tone between public and private comments. People are savvy, they’ll pick up on that, and it won’t sit well with them.

Small Changes Lead to Big Impact

The internet as a bustling marketplace. You know how some market stalls grab your attention because they have just the right lighting or display? That’s the magic of small details. Small changes, like tweaking how we present things, can make a huge difference.

In the online business world, it’s not enough just to be present. You want your ‘stall’ to be the one people remember and come back to, and you do this one intentional step at a time.

#entrepreneurship


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This summer I have been chugging along with my Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and this week that consistency has paid off again as I earned my second stripe!

Just a couple of months ago, I got my first stripe, and that felt amazing. This too feels good, but perhaps I’m a little less excited. Not because I’m bored with BJJ, but because I feel like I could have pushed myself to get it sooner.

Life stuff happens, though. And you know, the pace was still pretty good. I can be prone to burning out with this kind of thing, so going slow is better for me.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break again as Lorena and I will be traveling to visit my grandpa who now lives in Cincinnati. Following that, it’s off to Michigan for a week to spend time with my parents (and a few friends), before returning home. At which point, I’ll pick training back up.

#personal


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Well, here’s an unexpected update for those of you who have been following my GapScout journey for the past year or so…

Summary: My heart is not into it, and after a lot of reflection, I have decided to exit the business. I’m currently working with some folks on a buyout and/or licensing. I have transitioned to offering coaching/mentoring to a select few founders (keep reading for information related to that).

Longer version: Software is fun, but it sucks, too. What I find most fun about it is building a brand, competing, and marketing. And since August 2022, I've been doing my thing from that standpoint, and it was working!

Through content marketing alone, it has gained a lot of traction! Thousands of visitors to the site each month, and 10-20 daily sign-ups for the email list, which has thousands of folks on it as well. Had some moments where it went viral on Reddit, too. People want what GapScout has to offer!

But the other side of the coin: software is emotionally draining. At least for me.

I encountered many hurdles over the past year. We overcame them, but each time it made me question... “why am I even doing this?”

I would lament these issues with my wife, Lorena, as I began to seriously question why I was choosing to have this stress in my life (she was incredibly patient with me).

Because that's the thing... it was a choice. I didn't need to be building a software company. The final straw came when G2 sent me a letter saying I couldn't analyze their very public reviews without a licensing agreement. At first, I thought, “Okay, no biggie, there's got to be a solution”.

I spoke with lawyers and with their legal team. Here's the thing: G2 (and similar sites) have been rewriting their T&Cs to limit AI analysis of ANY kind to protect their investors. It's insane. They can technically sue you even if you manually review the content on their site and document any themes or insights on a pad of paper. Like... what?!

Nonetheless, we found the solution, and that was to pay G2 (and similar sites) a licensing fee. They were cool with that, as you would expect. So, I was at a crossroads...

  • Option 1: continue forward with the project, paying yearly fees to these sites.
  • Option 2: back out now, and sell.

I took a few weeks to discuss with Lorena, and I landed on exiting the business.

I'm fortunate to have some options from that standpoint. One is to license the tech, another is to purchase the tech, and the third is to purchase the tech & brand. I'm confident that the end of GapScout will sort itself out in some capacity. I'm done stressing about it. The project had it's fun parts (i.e. marketing and growing the brand), but I’m moving on.

Okay, so what's next for me?

Something this journey taught me is to choose to spend my time doing whatever makes me happy. And something I've always been energized by helping other founders overcome challenges.

I have done this informally for years. It's fun helping others travel the path that I've already been down. I like to celebrate their wins, and help them get unstuck when encountering a roadblock.

When it comes to remote businesses (software, digital products, agencies, etc.), there are very few things that I haven't seen. I recently completed a coaching certification program to get some ideas on how to better structure my coaching so that it can yield positive results for clients as quickly as possible.

It’s exciting! I've only just started to let people know that I am taking on clients, and as of writing this, I have four founders officially signed-up. Several others have phone calls with me this week.

I just need a few more, and I'm closing the doors.

Why?

I'm the one doing the coaching, and I'm not trying to have a 40hr/week “job”. I want to show up with energy and enthusiasm so that I'm helping the folks I work with.

If you'd be interested in me helping your business grow, then email me, and I'll send you a doc outlining everything. Trust me, it's not your typical coaching process.

So that's the story and where I am at today. I feel like a weight is off my shoulders, which is how I know this is the right choice for me.

Finally, if I may offer a bit of advice. A key takeaway, if you will:

Always check-in with yourself. In life, in your job, in general. If you are powering through that “ball in the stomach” feeling, then take a minute to understand what is causing that feeling in the first place. Your current path might not be the best for you, and you have it in your power to make a change.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

#entrepreneurship


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Lorena and I needed a changed of scenery. We have been in our home in southern California for a few months, hosting friends and family. While it has been enjoyable, we started to feel the need to get out for a change of pace.

We landed on Lake Arrowhead. We have been there before, but life was a lot different at that time. It was in the very beginning of the pandemic, and we weren’t even engaged yet!

We returned as husband and wife, and with a deeper connection. It’s funny how a few years can really change your perspective on just about everything.

Mountains, trees, and a lake.

Lake Arrowhead is really worth a visit if you’re in California. You have to drive up a winding road for 30 or so minutes, scaling the mountain from one side. As you slip over the edge to the other side, you enter an entirely different world. In many ways, it reminds me of the forest in northern Michigan (although less flat).

Lorena and I relaxed for a few days in a stunning Airbnb. It was an A-frame cottage that had been completely redone. Honestly, it was probably the best Airbnb I’ve ever stayed in.

During our time there, we went on a few hikes, cooked food, and enjoyed the view from our place (positioned on the side of the mountain, looking out at the tall trees).

The trip itself has given us an itch for more mountain stays across California. Fortunately, we have quite a few to choose from that are all within two to three hours from our home.

Below are just a few photos, including the view from our place.

#personal


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You know, it’s not often that I get together with a group of people anymore. There are a few reasons, but mainly because we live in California, and all of our friends and family live in other states. That, and making new friends is hard as an adult!

Recently, that changed when two of my childhood friends (and their wives) visited us for a week.

I’ve known Avis and Mike since elementary school. We played soccer together growing up, and even though we didn’t go to the same college, we always hung out when back to our hometown during breaks.

As life went on, we always kept in contact. I’d see them when possible, but all three of us live in different states now between California, Michigan, and Maryland.

So, this made the trip all that more memorable. As it always is, we laughed a lot. It’s easy with them. They are, in many ways, like family at this point. I love to hear about what they are up to in life, and it’s great to see them successful.

People come and go in your life, but there are always a few that are constant. For me, that’s Avis and Mike.

#personal


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It took me a little longer than anticipated, but this week I finally got my first stripe in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu!

In April, I started taking lessons and was up to three or four classes per week, depending. However, trips like going to Big Sur and heading down to Mexico prevented me from having a regular schedule.

I still have a long way to go, and so much to learn. This martial art is so rich and deep in its nuances, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

Still, it’s fun, and I have good comradery with the other guys who are in the class. It’s a very positive, helpful environment.

My ultimate goal is to become a blue belt, but I think that’ll take ~18 months if I consider how my schedule can fluctuate, and how much I need to learn to get to that level. So, I’m just enjoying the journey.

Here’s to the next stripe!

#personal


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Wow, I can’t believe we are already into June 2023. The first half of this year has been full of activities for me and Lorena, which has caused the time to feel both slow and fast at the same time.

Something I haven’t been great at is blogging. Not that I have any goal necessarily, I just find that writing is a good way to keep the mind sharp. Most of my posts this year have been personal and less about business. Mainly, I think this is because I’ve been finding business and entrepreneurship less… fulfilling… than before. But more on that at a later point.

Today I’m keeping it personal with a status of my progress with Spanish.

I continue to take lessons, but with less vigor.

While I continue personal lessons with my tutor three or four times per week, I’m sort of in a rut. On one hand, I am pretty good at Spanish now, comfortably sitting at a B2 level of fluency. But that level is hardly perfection. I very much want to get to C1, and as I wrote in my goals for 2023, I plan to reach this level in one to three years.

And I think this is where things get tough for me.

In the beginning, hitting Spanish goals came fast and often. I was benefiting from “noobie gains” and it was incredibly motivating. Today, it’s different. I have habits now with the language. I use comfortable patterns instead of pushing my abilities. I can communicate well and the need for rigorous study is less necessary.

Because of this new baseline, I haven’t been studying my vocab to really expand the breadth of my word recall. I’m not reading any books in Spanish, writing in Spanish, nor watching any shows in the language. Currently, I’m just having entirely conversation-based lessons with my tutor.

Visiting Mexico always gives me extra motivation.

In the past, I have found that trips to visit family in Mexico are just what I need to find motivation for learning Spanish whenever I get into a rut. I think it’s simply the fact that I am putting everything into practice. It’s incredibly empowering to be in a foreign country and to speak their native language. That feedback, and feeling, make all the studying worth it.

This is one of the reasons why I have enjoyed our most recent visit to Mexico. For three weeks, I have been immersed in Spanish conversations and the culture. I tend to speak Spanish with Lorena’s family and friends the majority of the time. I feel like this trip I have polished my abilities – particularly with my pace of understanding and speaking across a wide variety of topics.

As great as the trip has been in that regard, I do know that I really need to work harder to get to the beginning of C1 fluency.

The year isn’t over.

There is still plenty of time left in the year to make some more noticeable progress. I just wanted to take a moment now to reflect on where I am at currently. I plan to sit down with my tutor to explore options for pushing myself to a higher level of proficiency.

I also don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I would have loved to be at my current level a couple of years ago. I am genuinely grateful for my current ability. Learning Spanish will be a lifelong effort with peaks and valleys, and I look forward to the next peak.

#personal


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As a non-technical tech founder, I’ve always had to rely on a different skill set for starting a software company. I don’t have a huge following, so unlike content creators on YouTube, I lack any extensive reach when it comes to my entrepreneurial projects.

Whether you know how to code or not, perhaps you are in a similar situation, and so I want to share my methodology for starting a business (specifically software products, but it could be applied to any industry).

The premise is simple: start marketing prior to, or at the same time as, building the product.

This is the process I used when launching LearnDash, a company that I grew to over 42,000 paying users before selling. I am starting GapScout using the exact same process as I did a decade ago.

For years, I’ve been telling people to start marketing at the same time as building their product. I don’t understand why this advice doesn’t stick. Maybe because too many people have shared this tip, so it feels dated? Let me assure you that it works.

In 2012, I did this and built my email list to 1,000+ people before launch, a process that took about 10 months. It’s a modest email list size, but it helped me to be profitable and gain traction from day one.

It has been 10 months since I started a blog for GapScout (you guessed it: doing marketing at the same time as build, which is just a few weeks away from being done). And guess what? After 10 months of blogging, over 1,000 subscribers.

Here’s the thing: I’m not doing anything other than blogging, and the posts themselves are simply helpful content. Just do some really basic research on themes you want to rank for in your industry and start writing blog posts around these themes. Don't try to game the system or worry too much about how Google will rank your content. Just write blog posts:

  • 1400 words minimum
  • 3x per week
  • Configure SEO (I use Yoast)

On each page of your website, have a sign-up form/call to action for when you launch. This is obviously how people sign-up to your list. That’s all.

This methodology works for many reasons, but mainly:

  1. You get early traction. You can run special deals to start recouping costs and making money. Treat these early adopters well and they'll help spread the word.

  2. New customers will come automatically. This is the most important part. My site now gets thousands of visitors per month from my blog posts. It feeds itself now, in addition to any other marketing endeavors I add (for example, YouTube).

After launch, make sure you communicate often to keep the buzz alive about your product. Announce ever update that you do, share your excitement, and always explain how your product improves their life. Constantly emphasize this. Never stop. People need to be reminded all the time. Oh, and issue refunds promptly if that ever comes up. The easiest way to piss people off is to hijack their money.

Most of all, have fun. Don't overthink the process, enjoy the flow of everything, and be flexible as you learn along the way. Listen to customers, and they'll give you their loyalty. Don't hide behind email – use chat. Be accessible. People like to do business with people, not brands.

#entrepreneurship


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