Well, my next guest Googled the question, “How to make money online?” while sitting in a detention room that he supervised at a local high school. The question came back with some results and they directed him to a digital marketing course and that’s when Chris found his calling. Soon, his own site ranked number one and he would go on to help so many others do the same.
Welcomed back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty and my next guest, Christ Dreyer, is here to talk with us about his new book, Niching Up. Let’s get into it.
All right everyone, I have my man, Chris, with me today talking about his new book, Niching Up. Chris, how are you feeling today?
Chris Dreyer: I’m feeling great, happy to be here.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Great man, thanks for coming on the show, I’m really excited to talk about not only your book but how you came to writing this book. I’m really interested in sharing with our audience a lot about the backgrounds of our authors as well. So could you tell me a little bit about your background, sort of, where you grew up, how did you find yourself being a basketball coach and how you got into this SEO world which we’ll talk about a little bit later?
Chris Dreyer: Yeah, happy to do so and I don’t know how in depth you want me to go down the rabbit hole because I have quite a journey but I will say that I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always wanted to hustle and figure out a way to make extra money and before I even went to college, I told my parents. I was like, “I’m going to go to college, I know you want me to get a degree but just so you know, I’m going to own my own business someday.”
And they’re like, “That’s great, go to college, have the experience, and you’ll have something to fall back on.” My family is very traditional. I went to college and somehow I ended up with a history education degree. I wasn’t the best student, I didn’t attend every single class, and I got good grades but I wasn’t the best student and I was really passionate about basketball so, at one point in time, I thought I was going to be a college basketball coach.
I got a job at a high school in Southern Illinois and the job I got was a JV basketball coach but I was their detention room supervisor. How the detention room worked was if I did that for a year, it counted as a year teaching. So if I did that for two years and then my third year I taught out of the three-year teacher, so I was on that track for tenure. It was the worst scenario, honestly.
I love some of the kids but many of them were in there for a variety of reasons and just didn’t want to be there and I had no authority, no power. We had a three-point system and every time I sent them to the principal, they’d send them right back to me. So I had no authority because the high schools for whatever reason, I don’t know exactly how it worked but could only use so many suspension days. Something to do with, you know, they got capped. So I basically was a babysitter.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: I know a little bit about the background on this because I worked with a lot of educators and the idea that you know, the government pays for a certain, it’s a really weird complex thing when it comes to students actually being in seats but yeah. I mean, it sounds like kind of fell into this thing and you’re just like, “Whatever, I’ll just kind of make my money” but your brain was sort of obviously, always been thinking about doing something for yourself.
So I was reading a little bit and you started to sort of do some Google searching. Tell me about that and what happened next.
Chris Dreyer: Yeah, in the detention room, there were some days where I just didn’t have any students.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s a good day.
Chris Dreyer: So there’s just a lot of downtime. That’s a good day, right, but the day goes really long when you don’t have any students.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right, right.
Chris Dreyer: And I was like, “What am I going to do with this time?” I can look up ESPN or I can make it productive and I typed in the worst query you could imagine, I typed in, “How to make money online?”
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yes, the best. Tell me more.
Chris Dreyer: Sorting through that, I found Ed Dale’s, 30-day challenge to make your first $10 with affiliate marketing, and I took that challenge or that course and I think I made 20 bucks but the thing that it did was that it gave me the education and the awareness of how to pursue digital marketing and by the end of my second year teaching, I was making about four times the amount with affiliate marketing that I was teaching. So it’s a very easy transition to go to that full-time.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Wow, that’s incredible. So you learned a skillset and then you figured out a way to apply it but there was something unique happening, right? As I was reading through your background a little bit, you decided to – this idea of niching down, kind of accidentally happened with your first website but then you realize where you made that mistake building this other website and then you started shape-shifting, kind of relearning that craft in a way. Can you share a little bit about that?
Chris Dreyer: Yeah, of course. My very first website was a health-related site. When I was going through this ideation process, there were just thousands of health and diet websites. So I’m thinking, you know, I got to go more narrow. So my first site was loseadoublechin.com and I ended up ranking double chin first on Google for like three or four years.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s amazing.
Chris Dreyer: So just all the nuances and just odd things about a double chin I learned and I just went really deep. The problem is, I didn’t recognize the success and what cause me to have the success of niching I created like 70 other websites and was just all over the place, with no focus and it just didn’t have the same success as that first website.
I got taught the hard way from Google that first ping when algorithm around 2012 on what not to do. So my content wasn’t good enough, my link strategy wasn’t good enough and it basically nuked my income to oblivion and I had to go get a job. So I got a job at an agency, I rose to be their top SEO guy and it’s the classic, “I felt I could do it better than them.”
You know, entrepreneurs, typically we’re technicians first and learned a lot and I decided, “Hey, it’s time.” So I started my own agency. At the time, it was attorneyrankings.org and we worked with all areas of the law and I went through this, you know, up and down of the hero’s journey of things I did right and things I did wrong.
I remember, I think it was my third year, I was in Vistage, which is a peer group of other business owners and I did my business review and I said, “You know what you should do? You should work with physicians and home services and do exactly what you’re doing.” I’m like, “You’re right, I should.” I did that and it just crushed my momentum.
Again, I didn’t recognize that niching was a benefit but I quickly pivoted back to legal and then recognized it and went deeper. So then I went to a subset of legal for personal injury law and the rest is kind of history. We’ve been very focused on that subset of the law and it’s been very beneficial for myself and our employees.
Focus on Your Audience
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, there’s something really unique about having this, you know, just laser focus on an audience that you serve. You know, we talk a lot about that in the Scribe process and how we develop our avatars, our audience, who is your book for, and all those good things, right? Whom are you speaking to directly?
Obviously, that helps your marketing in an amazing way, right? Like, that in and of itself, you’re like baking in the marketing. The person you are trying to reach is embedded and thought about throughout your whole project, right? And so you know, when I owned a print shop, an apparel printing company up in Portland, I was told at a very – I guess you could say, young age, I started it right after college.
I actually kind of started it during college but like after college, I took it seriously and I found out pretty quickly that my niche audience was like, education. Like schools, those are just the people I like to work with. You know, you can almost count on exactly what month they need, what project and so, that was really powerful. But you know, it took me a few years to understand that that was the sort of go-to-market for what I was doing.
But you’re 100% right, then you can do a lot of deep work. So for me, I sort of started speaking, you know, career out of that because I would go to a school and offer my speaking services and then that’s how I would network with people and then obviously hook them into my printing business, right?
So it was just interesting because like you said, you go deeper and you figure out ways you can reach that group on a high level but you know, with SEO, it’s a very complex world out there but can we just share with our audience, you know, for those who don’t know what SEO is or how it could benefit them or you know, all those kinds of things, can you just share a little bit about that world?
Chris Dreyer: Yeah, I’ll definitely – I want to touch on one thing that you mentioned though before I talk about the SEO, as you’re talking about the speaking engagements in that world. That’s one of the benefits of niching is relationship equity. Einstein talks about the eighth wonder of the world as compound interest and everyone always thinks about that as it relates to finance.
They never think about it as it relates to relationships and relationships compound. So when you’re in a niche, you start to learn the players. You start to develop these relationships to move up the ladder to bigger and bigger businesses and influencers throughout that industry. So I just want to touch on that, that’s a huge benefit.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, no, that’s really powerful. Thank you.
Chris Dreyer: On the SEO, to put it simply, it’s everything that you do to rank on the first page of Google. So search engine optimization. When we say search engine, you could replace that with Google optimization. It is optimizing your content, your website. It’s also promoting your content and getting it endorsed by other websites.
The name of the game is being on the first page of Google because if you’re on the second page, no one goes to the second page of Google. If you own a restaurant and there are, let’s say you own a pizza restaurant and there are 15 pizza restaurants in the city, you want to rank in the map pack. You want to rank in one of those top three positions to get a lot more visibility. That’s what I do, that’s what our agency does for law firms and specifically personal injury law firms.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I love that so much. Again, it’s very, like you said, it seems simple but it’s actually very complicated and intense once you get into the – I mean, for someone like you who is in that industry, it’s what you do. It’s what you’re an expert at and I just appreciate that. So writing this book, you know, who did you intend to write this book for?
I mean, you’re talking about niching up, right? I like that you call the niching up and not niching down. I feel like that’s a very positive twist, so thanks for that. Who are you trying to help with this book? You know, obviously there is a lot of content in the book, which is really powerful but who were you trying to go after?
Chris Dreyer: My main avatar when I was specifically an agency owner, when I was writing to them because I could share and mirror my successes and pains and kind of that journey but really, the book is for any business owner or most small business owners specifically because they don’t have the capital to really be seen and so we’re all sentients, right? We all have our phone nearby and because of that, clients have more optionality.
Consumers have more optionality, so you have to be different. So creating a unique selling proposition is often challenging and one of the ways to do that is to niche. Instead of going after everyone, go specifically after someone. Instead of competing in that red ocean, create your own blue ocean and that’s what it’s all about creating a unique selling proposition is harder to execute than you might think, and niching is just one method of doing that.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, so walk us through that process. I mean, obviously, you talk a lot about this, there is especially in the beginning where you talk about like being aware and the con artistry because I know I’ve been, you know, I’ll be honest. I knew I threw my money a few times at an agency that just didn’t offer the value or maybe they didn’t know what they were doing, maybe I was naïve to expect the X, Y or Z but I just didn’t see the results and that was kind of really like such a turn off, right?
You know, you talk about that at the beginning. Can you share a little bit as to why the industry, it’s difficult to create trust, right? That’s the thing, when you’re approaching a potential client you want to work with, how do you I guess, in a way, stand out to that person? I mean, obviously, if you’re – we focus on helping law firms that focus on injury, like personal injury. How do you navigate those waters?
Say like, if I right now I’m in the speaking space. So how do I niche down my speaking opportunities and go after one sector so that I can stand out to that sector? I predominantly speak to like diversity and inclusion at universities and non-profits and things like that but still, I feel like in a way it’s still kind of broad but yeah, what would you say to someone like me?
Chris Dreyer: On the how or when the niche, I think it’s important to have all these experiences first. I know that many coaches and mentors like to recommend niching out of the gate. I think it is important to take it as an individual and to have these experiences first. David Epstein’s book, Range, he gives this example of Rafael Nadal, where Nadal’s parents put him in all these different types of sports and he had a passion and propensity in tennis.
He was very good at tennis but imagine if his parents just stuck him in basketball. Would he be the star in basketball that he is in tennis? We’ll never know of course but the likelihood of that is probably low. That’s what I have to say is when to niche is like first having these experiences and try to identify where you have a purpose or passion and then you also have to look at candidates that would generate profit.
So it’s purpose, passion and profit. You really need all three and the reason all three are important is that even if you identify a niche that can pay you a nice profit if you don’t have a purpose or passion when the going gets tough, when you got to put on those extra hours, you got to wake up out of bed, you know, go to work on a Monday, if you have a purpose and passion, there’ll be no problem.
You will actually enjoy going to work on a Monday but if those are missing, it makes it really challenging to take your business to the next level. So that’s what I would say and if you already have had a lot of experiences, I would look at the data. Who is paying you the most? Who do you enjoy working with? Who do you get the best results for? I would use that information to help you make a better decision.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: There is a lot of people in our audience that you know, go through these process especially writing books or wanting to write a book. Like for you, what did you learn, right? Because you know, there is a thing that we have, right? When I sat down to write my book, it’s like I have all these stories and wisdom and all these things I want to talk about but obviously, not all of them are going to make it in the book, right?
By centering that knowledge base around the person I want to serve, it actually became a lot more concise, a lot more clear and what the message was going to be. For you, how did you sort of approach that? Because when we’re sitting there writing, sometimes ideas that you knew for a long time become even more clear. For you, what would be that thing from your industry, from the time that you’ve spent doing this work for the last 10 years plus, what would you say as you sat down and really got into the writing and executing of the book, what surprised you?
What is something that jumped out of you like, “Wow, I didn’t even recognize or put these two things together” did something like that happened to you or did you get that feeling at all?
On Writing a Book
Chris Dreyer: I’ll tell you this, when you think of a book, it just seems overwhelming, all the steps that go into it but if you break it down into segments, then it becomes a lot easier to see, you know, the next step and the process and many authors talk about you know, a book is never done. You can always find something that you want to add or something that you want to change.
I think it’s first to get all of your main thoughts down and then go back and if you don’t like a certain section, you know, get it done then get it right. You could always improve and the writing process, it’s a long process. So you may be listening to a podcast and hear something, you’d be like, “Oh that would be a great addition. I need to cover that” or you read a book or you see something on TV and these types of things occur because you’re aware of them because you’re in the process of writing.
For me, on my book, I really struggled with the intro. How am I going to open this book and set the table, set the narrative? I wrote the second chapter. I started there and then revisited the intro later after I went through all the components and I am in the process of writing my second book and I am doing the same thing. I didn’t start with the intro, I started with the main components of the book that I really wanted to emphasize.
Everyone has their own process, this is just mine but when I have a chapter topic, I just cover it in as much detail as I can, try to get as much research about that specific topic, and just covers as much as I can and then move on and if I feel the chapter’s weak then I’ll revisit it in the future.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, kind of tell yourself like, “That’s a future me problem. Right now, I just want to get this out” that’s really good, I appreciate that because you know, the same thing with me. I think for me, it was a lot of just the fears of like, “How will others see this or this particular story?” and for me, I had to overcome that by just telling myself, “Look, it doesn’t even matter right now.”
What matters is just writing this story out, whether it makes it in the final or not, that’s up to the editor and I to decide later and I think just kind of giving myself permission to do that, that was kind of like a revelation to me as I was writing, right? So that’s really powerful, I’m glad you brought that up but what would you say like in it itself for you, right? You talk about everything from expertise to conversions.
You know, you talk about this a little bit briefly, relationships and the equity and what you compound that. What would you say if there was one thing you would hope the reader gets out of reading this book, that small business owner I know I’ll be devouring this but what would you say the one thing you are hoping for, for someone to get out of this as they walk away from it?
Chris Dreyer: You mentioned it right at the very beginning in the name of the book. I was very intentional about niching up. Most people use the phrase niching down and that leans towards a scarcity mindset where you have less. Niching actually creates abundance and then creates opportunities. That’s the main message is if you narrow your focus, there is actually significant advantages and often times those can outweigh going after everyone and being broad in a variety of manners.
You are already losing opportunities. Your win rate may be suffering because you are trying to pitch to everyone but when you start to speak directly to your ideal customer, the individual that you can help, you can use their language. You can speak more about what they need. It lends itself to the specificity and it helps you create more value as a professional services agency, it’s a value exchange.
You have to provide more value in order to charge higher fees. You have to have more value than the fees that you charge and if you understand your audience better, you can create more value for them.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Very powerful man, I love that so much. Chris, I just want to say, you know, congratulations to you. I mean, writing a book is no easy feat and here we are. You wrote it, it’s done, it’s out in the world where people can learn from this. It sounds like it’s already making huge waves out there and helping people. I am really excited for you and I am grateful that you wrote this wisdom down.
Because these are the kinds of things that you know, as young small business owners, you know, like you said that can’t necessarily afford to hire agencies, all those kinds of things, the wisdom is there, the knowledge is there, you pick it up, spend an hour around the book, two hours around the book and you may learn something that you can apply to your business the next day and that’s what I think I love the most about these interviews.
It’s taking out those little bits and pieces of what we call the cup of water from the ocean so that we can learn a little bit something. So Chris, thanks again. Congrats. I am really excited for you. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Chris Dreyer: I am most active on LinkedIn and then you can also go to chrisdreyer.co, which is my personal site.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: The name of the book is, Niching Up: The Narrower the Market, The Bigger the Prize. Go out and get it right now. It is available on Amazon. Thank you all.
Chris Dreyer: Thank you so much for having me.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Absolutely, thank you Chris.
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