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AP 1058: How Can I Get Customers When Culture and Language May Be a Barrier?

AP 1058: How Can I Get Customers When Culture and Language May Be a Barrier?

By Pat Flynn on

Paul has a business partner based in Japan, and together they have a startup called Mind Nation. Their business deals with self-development, but they’re dealing with some challenges in connecting with their Japanese target audience. How can he increase his customer base and better serve his audience? Check out Mind Nation online at

We kick things off by going over Paul’s progress so far and identifying some blockers. We discuss his online courses and his long-term goals for those courses and the business. Next, we dive into some of the common objections Paul is hearing from customers. We cover some marketing strategies, and then we hit on the big challenge for Paul’s business: Establishing the right target audience. We uncover a number of critical takeaways, and Paul ends the conversation with some important insights for the future.

What You’ll Learn:
Learn strategies for discerning and connecting with the right target audience for your business, even when culture and language are barriers.

AskPat 1058 Episode Transcript

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Pat Flynn: What’s up, everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1058 of ask AskPat 2.0. This is a coaching call with an entrepreneur just like you. I’m going to help an entrepreneur through a problem. We’re going to dissect what that problem is, we’re going to try to figure it out together. And today we’re going to be talking with Paul from Mind Nation. And I have to say, this is probably the most unique call on AskPat that we’ve had this far because of the particular population that Mind Nation is targeting currently, and the challenges that come along with that. So stick around. We got some really interesting topics and conversations that are going to be helpful for you, no matter who it is that you’re targeting. You’re going to find some new strategies perhaps to help you grow your business and finally get that exposure and attention you deserve. So stick around.

Before we get to the conversation with Paul, I do want to thank today’s sponsor first, which is FreshBooks. I love FreshBooks. They’ve been supporting this show for a couple of years now, and I support them, and I use them, and they’re great. I use them for invoicing, but actually they do a lot of amazing things automatically for you. This is about passive income and when it comes to your finances, yes, you have to pay attention to what’s going on. But you can set up a lot of systems within FreshBooks to automatically keep track of things. And you know, it’s March right now and tax season is just around the corner next month. If you had something like FreshBooks working with you, you’d be able to easily figure out what’s going on and get those tax forms ready and all that stuff, and make it just easier for you to do your taxes or to hand to your CPA or whatever.

So you need something like this bookkeeping software that is cloud-based, that is accessible on any device you needed. And if you want to check it out for thirty days for free, all you have to do is go to, and just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. It’s that simple. So go to That will be awesome. Cool. Now let’s get to today’s conversation with Paul. Here we go.

Hey Paul, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Thanks so much for being here.

Paul: It’s my great honor to be here. Thanks so much, Pat. I’m so happy to be here.

Pat: Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited to dig into what you got going on. So why don’t you tell us really quick, Paul, what you do and what we’re going to talk about today.

Paul: Sure. My background is in training, coaching, leadership development, and at the core of it I would teach people—in my previous role in corporate world—emotional intelligence and self realization and how to connect better as a leader and that kind of thing. That’s where my background is. Now I’m pivoted into physical health, I’m a physical health practitioner and now I have a podcast which is a wellness podcast out there. So, that’s my quick background. I have a business partner who’s based in Japan, his name is Dan, he’s a performance and sales coach, worked in real estate in Dubai and around the world, now based in Japan with his wife and children, and we have a business called Mind Nation. It’s pretty new. It’s pretty much start up and it’s come together through our own experiences of life from what we’ve learned through self development and so on, but also Dan’s living in Japan and that’s our target market at the moment although what we do is coaching, essentially in self development.

The courses we’re working on is two phases. One is self-work, self-development, the other one is leadership. The first one is really what we’re focusing on at the moment, which is positive habits, goal setting, confidence, motivation, meditation, time management, and so on. And because our target market is Japan, with running into challenges in terms of how we market to them, how we connect with the Japanese people, because we’re an English speaking coaching company, 126 million people in Japan. I think about five percent speak English well and about one percent of them really confidently. That’s still a lot of people. So we’re confident that there is a market there, but we’re running into some challenges in how we actually connect with them, how we get these guys to take action and join us and design the life on their terms, which is our goal here.

Pat: Sure, sure. I’m curious to know, what have you been doing now to try and surpass those challenges? What are you doing right now to try and connect with that audience?

Paul: Sure. Again, we’re bootstrapping, so we’ve created the website, created a bit of a foundation and structure behind us so people can see what we’re doing. Initially, when we designed the model, we didn’t go out and create the course first—great advice from yoursel—and we started to understand what people wanted. I did a bit of market research. The interesting thing about Japan is that the culture there, the society generally is serve your country, serve your company, serve your community, serve your family, and then serve yourself. And for me, that’s a little topsy-turvy if you use that analogy of probably, oxygen mask on first before you help others, then you have the energy to help other people. So, that’s the model that we’re coming from.

Pat: Yeah, that makes sense.

Paul: Yeah. So from there, first of all I said, okay, well look, we know exactly what we want to deliver, we know what people want, there’s a desire for it, so let’s go out and create some webinars and do some paid advertising and so on. And we probably went a bit quick off the mark there. I know a little bit about Facebook, and have worked in it a little bit and understand it, and I think what we created in terms of copy, and creative and so on, was pretty good. But the engagement was low, and it’s not so much—but my question for you today would be about, how do we improve our marketing? Because we realized quite quickly as we’re bootstrapping, throwing money into the vat of Facebook to test the market is probably not sustainable because we’ve got a long term vision. We want to reduce suicide globally, we want to improve mental wellness across Japan and the world and that bigger vision is not sustainable when we’re digging into Facebook marketing in the beginning.

So we tried that, that worked pretty well in terms of we’ve got one student and then we realized quite quickly that the way that we were trying to deliver the course was a twelve-month membership, and not many people know us at the moment and so they don’t have all of the background on us, so they’re maybe a little bit conservative in jumping in and getting involved. So we thought, okay, maybe we need to pivot a little bit and create something more on the ground. And that’s where my business partner is a great networker and he’s growing relationships in Japan. He lives in a place called Etajima, which is a stunning, beautiful place in the South Island. And anyone who lives in the South Island of Japan knows Etajima and so we’re looking at creating leadership programs for small and medium enterprise on the ground so we can start to build and nurture relationships there and then we can maybe scale up into the online course as well. That’s our vision for that.

Pat: Yeah. I like the idea of being on the ground there. I think that’s going to help with building relationships like that. That’s always going to be the best way to do it and people who are building businesses online, like our whole goal is to—how can we develop a relationship with people? So if you already have access to people in your audience and you’re on the ground, then great. A big strategy that I teach is, if you want to grow your online business, you’ve got to get offline. And it sounds like you’re already headed in that direction, which is fine. I think that I want to talk a little bit about the online courses. That’s something that’s currently still wanting to be sold or is that on pause right now and you’re focusing completely 100 percent on the ground work. Where’s the course at right now?

Paul: Well, the course can be developed. It isn’t complete. We haven’t created the whole thing. So what we did initially when we started the webinar process, was we created a few modules and topics, so there’s actually three full topics ready to go. And we were thinking to ourselves, we absolutely want to continue with the online course. I think that would be our bread and butter really, in the long term. And as we looked at it as a twelve month model, we thought, well this is just maybe too long. We’ve actually got the flexibility in the course. We could make it into a short course, or twelve-week, or eight-week, or even just give away some of it for free to test it more. And so the course is absolutely available to us to create more of it, just use what we’ve got and take it from there. The leadership part of it hasn’t been created yet and that’s more of a concept at the moment. We know exactly what it’s going to look like, but we haven’t actually created it.

Pat: Well, that’s phase two, right? After the self-worth, you said?

Paul: Yeah. And phase three is bigger picture, we want to be holding retreats and—

Pat: Events. Yeah.

Paul: Yeah. Events, half-day, full-day workshops around leadership and so on. For small enterprise, medium enterprise and ultimately for the individual, that’s the self-work which is going to come off of this course that we’re creating.

Pat: I love it. Okay. Well, when you initially talked about the online course and it being like a twelve-month thing, to go from not knowing who you are and seeing a Facebook ad and then going into a twelve-month course is a very big jump. Right? It’s a very big leap and to even get one student is huge because that means that there is interest there. So I hope that you realize that there are people who need you and they’re willing to be there for you. It’s just we need to make a little bit more of a smaller jump from the connection of finding you for the first time, getting to know you, to committing to something that long. And where I think a lot of this lies is in the idea of creating some small wins for people, whether it’s through some content that’s created, or even sharing and offering, and maybe even driving ads to not the whole thing, but maybe just a quick little piece that people can go and actually do and get results from.

That’s how you can then begin to get some movement from people, because now they know you and they can get a taste of what it’s like to already get some success and feel good about themselves from you. That’s how you can then move people into a bigger ask. So this is like, you’ve probably heard about this before. It’s called the yes ladder. You start with little yeses and then the yeses can get bigger and bigger and bigger. The first yes is, that ad captured their attention. The second yes is, they clicked on that ad. The third yes is, they got to that page and then they gave you the email to get that free thing. And then the bigger ask is, if this is something you want more of, we are here to coach you through that process and that’s when the big ask is.

And so it’s very much easier to get a bigger ticket item or a longer item to a person for people to buy into that, in that route, versus to 0 to 100 miles per hour right away. It’s almost like dating. Like you date and you get to know each other, you on the first date and you don’t even really hold hands that day, but it might be the next date that you hold hands and then the passion can potentially build over time, or you realize that maybe this isn’t going to work and you can part ways and everybody will be okay. So this is the thing that I’m thinking about when it comes to the online thing that you have to offer, and there’s many ways to create that small win like I was just talking about. It could be access to, for free, a single lesson in the course that is the one that gives them the foundational item that matters to everything else.

Where I want to also ask you some questions about is related to, what are some of the objections? And maybe this is culturally based, and maybe this is just avatar based, but what are some of the objections that people would or are or might have to moving forward with getting coaching? You told me a little bit about the culture, but what are some other objections they might be having, because those can influence what the first giveaway or challenge sometimes it is, or ebook, or a checklist, or whatever that initial win is, that should be in and around the objection because . . . Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.

Paul: I love the analogy of dating for what we were doing because our version of what we did is essentially go on the first day and ask them to get married on that first day. And only one person said yes.

Pat: Yeah. That’s still pretty good though.

Paul: Objections certainly are—culturally we see that. However wonderful the Japanese culture is—I do think it’s a beautiful culture—there’s a certain level of conservatism and safety around committing and standing out of the crowd. And so that’s one objection I guess on more of a societal level, but one thing we’ve noticed is that there’s not a big—and this is why we think Japan is actually a really good market for what we’re doing, is that they don’t have a huge awareness of personalized coaching, or life coaching, or performance coaching, and that respect in this context. So actually, educating them on that first is important. I’ve never seen evidence of webinars being delivered in Japan, so that’s a new thing as well. And from Dan’s research over there, they don’t really know what that is. It’s not how they are generally marketed to.

Pat: That’s a good opportunity, but it’s also a challenge at the same time. Where you might also be able to gain some ground rather quickly would be related to, are there any people who have influence in the Japanese culture that you could potentially tap into for help or support, that you could partner with perhaps? Somebody who has a voice, whether somebody who maybe owns an organization and understands, and you can chat with them and they get it. They aren’t as traditional, and you can utilize that and that person’s clout to begin to start to see some movement. Again, this is tying a little bit back into the groundwork that you’re doing, which I think is really smart. I also know Japanese people are very respectful of just, other humans.

It’s like, remember when there was a big flood or Tsunami, nobody was writing and taking things. They were all there to help each other. And that was the most amazing thing that I had ever seen in a scene like that. People are very important. So online you lose a little bit of the people part of the process, which is again why I think webinars could be a really interesting thing, but I think a little bit of help from somebody who has some influence can really go a long way too. Have you looked at partnering with anybody in that way or in that fashion?

Paul: Somewhat. We’ve got built a couple of smaller relationships locally.

Pat: That’s good.

Paul: There’s a startup cafe there. And we’ve got a connection with a women’s group, a women’s empowerment group. What we’ve noticed is actually women are a little more interested in what we’re doing. And that’s a group of doctors, so it’s about 500 women in that group, and the head of the group is really keen and interested in what we’re doing, albeit that we having her taking action or responding to us in some ways is a little slower because she’s so busy. But again, part of that culture is to just work, work, work. So yeah, we have reached out to a few, but yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great idea and I think if we can tap into the celebrity somewhat, even if it’s not A lister, Japanese people love that and I think there might be a great way to do it.

Pat: Yeah, I think that would be smart. Are there also other influencers who actually may have a little bit of online presence and who may have captured the few who are online, who understand this a little bit more, whether they are in the personal development space or not? It could be really interesting. Is there an Oprah there? Is there a Dr. Oz there that you could connect with who has some online presence? Do you know those names, like Oprah and Dr. Oz? They help with personal development here in the US quite a bit.

Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Pat: Yeah. That would be a great strategy too, to make a list of those people and reach out to them and chat with them, and again, if you have this free offering that can really give their people a quick win. Because my conversation earlier about the quick win was related to understanding more about the objections. Like sometimes you can create a mini program that is a two day thing or even a 24-hour challenge where they are set on a task to do something very small, but it’s very simple and easy. Because it’s structured around one day, people have the time to do it, but it opens up their eyes when they see those small results coming in.

So I know a person who has that online course, and to help people understand that people can do this, he gives people the task to try and earn one dollar from somebody that day. And it’s such a small thing. See what you can do to get one dollar from a person in one day. People come up with really creative ideas, but what happens is when people get that dollar, that’s a dollar they did not have the day before, and it just took a little bit of thinking and a little bit of accountability do it. And so then people are inspired to continue to go through the course because it just takes some action, and you have to get out of your comfort zone. So that’s like, an example of something I was looking for in the realm that you’re in. I don’t know if it is there or not, but I just wanted to feel around a little bit to see if it was.

Paul: Yeah, I’ll explore it more. I think one of the other challenges for us is a little bit around the fact that we’re bootstrapping. So throwing—I say throwing money, but putting budget into paid advertising is, I guess I’m resistant to it a little bit in that we tried it and it went okay, but we could see that it could have been a bottomless pit if we’d have carried on. And we want to really sustain us. So the key is to create a bit of capital at the beginning here to sustain the longterm vision we’re trying to create, but we’re thinking, how can we reach people without just throwing money at the problem?

Pat: Right, right. And honestly, first of all, what you were doing is like, this needs to happen. I know there are, for example, larger suicide weight rates in Japan, and this needs to happen. You know that or else you wouldn’t be doing it. But I also know that you don’t necessarily need to spend a bunch of money on ads. There are other ways that are a little bit more strategic and a little bit more organic and a little bit more personal that could end up giving you better results faster than, like you said, just doing the Facebook ad thing, which I think that there is a time and a place for that, but I think that you aren’t there yet. And so I would recommend shifting focus to other means of connecting with, like we talked about influencers or other people who are online who had some fallings already in that space, who have communities of people in Japan who follow them. It’d be really interesting to see how that might happen. I don’t think the ads are a smart thing to do right now, quite honestly.

Paul: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. The thing I have is I do have my podcast at the moment which, it’s been going just over a year and there’s 100 episodes that are really great content around wellness and I want to leverage that the best way I can. It’s just great to be able to have that. I just need to figure out how I repurpose it and use it to help my—

Pat: I love that. The other question I had was related to the language barrier. You had said only five percent I think, of people in Japan actually speak English.

Paul: Yeah. Roughly that. Yeah.

Pat: Is content . . . or are these trainings also held in Japanese or are they English only?

Paul: Yeah. That’s a great question because we’ve played with this a little bit and some of our videos I’ve had translated and captioned, so there’s Japanese in the videos and some of the advertising we tested with Japanese language and English and I couldn’t see a huge difference in the two. Perhaps it’s because just the numbers of traffic wasn’t high enough to really see an effective split. I think what I need to learn is to understand better what people want because yes, they may speak English, but there’s so many levels of English that sometimes you can’t use Google translate to translate Japanese. Just doesn’t work. So some of it could be lost in translation when it’s in English only, but if it’s just in Japanese, we don’t want to come across as it only being in Japanese because we are delivering the course essentially in English. So yeah, that’s a challenge for us as well as to which way we actually take it, how we deliver it.

Pat: That has to be solved. That’s a major thing. If we do some math, five percent of the country speaks English, maybe—

Paul: Six million?

Pat: Right. Six million people, and let’s say half of them speak it fluently because the other half, they’re still struggling along with that. If you were to actually then give all of them access to the course, you’re still only reaching two percent of the entire Japanese population to a half percent. If this is your target market, I think that there needs to either be full Japanese translation, although I’m thinking of, if I were to come across a course in Spanish for example, and it was shared as the top premier wellness program in the world, but it was all in Spanish and I had to read subtitles, I don’t know if I would be as compelled to go through that because now I have to fight a little bit harder to get that content. It would be a struggle, I think.

So perhaps there might be some thoughts about having a spokesperson, a personality who is a Japanese person because you want to relate to your target audience as well. Maybe there is some cultural—and I don’t know if this is true or not, but seeing a person who’s not Japanese teach in the Japanese culture what to do and what not to do, I don’t know if that comes across wrong or not. Those things have to be figured out I think. And that could be really what is separating the rapid growth to a lot of the struggles that you guys are experiencing right now.

Paul: Sure is. And I think that we try to be really respectful and mindful of how we deliver. Yeah. So not charging in guns blaring, say, “Hey, you do it our way and forget your culture,” but you’re right, yeah, that’s a great point to have somebody for the other 98 percent.

Pat: Yeah. Maybe the ad money goes into not the ads, but into paying somebody to essentially reshoot those lessons in Japanese so that a person can come in and choose whether they want the English version or the Japanese version and they now have a person on the other end that they could relate to. And then, the other part of this is well, is the Japanese population right for what it is that you want to create and what you have access to creating, is that the target? Should that be the target audience? Because I know there’s people in America who would probably just love and need this as well. So I think that if you choose a target audience, you have to understand exactly how they want the content. You can’t choose how they want the content, right?

Paul: Yeah. It’s definitely a global thing. And it’s a global problem that we’re trying to solve. And so, I don’t think the reason we directly went to Japan is because Dan was there and had that insight into what’s going on on the ground there, but we also talked about South Korea and China and then the rest of the world, and the reason we didn’t instantly go out and push it out into the US, and UK, New Zealand, Australia, is because we felt that that market, the coaching market is really saturated at the moment and we didn’t want to be among all of that, lost in all of that. So that’s why we see this as an opportunity, but it has proven to be very challenging to even just get it off the starting block really.

Pat: Yeah. And the cool thing is with the options that you have, they can be tested. So you could test a single video, or a couple of videos, or a lesson only with somebody who comes in to do a Japanese version or you don’t have to just redo the whole thing. You can iterate. And I think that’s the fun thing about trying something in a new space, is you can try something and pull back if you need to. You’re smart, you didn’t build the whole course yet, which is, of course that’s what I recommend. You’ve done it the right way. We just need to continue to iterate and learn as we go and tailor to the audience that we’re targeting.

And if this is the population that you want to target, then you have to tailor to their tastes and to their wants and how they want to consume the content. And it may not be in the way that you’ve been doing it right now, but there’s opportunity there for sure though. I think that’s the thing, it could be well worth going through this. You’re in the deep period before the big inflection point when things start to come up again, it’s just figuring out these last final pieces. So I’m pretty encouraged actually.

Paul: Yes. Same here. Thank you. And what we do see is a massive desire there. There’s a huge desire for what we’re doing and people are really interested in it and getting excited about it. But when we come down to the grass roots, just sort of, hey, do you want to try this out, they’re a little reluctant to click on the yes. And that’s not even to pay; sometimes with these small following we’ve got, even getting them to click on the free stuff is a bit of a challenge and I think that’s sometimes where we’re trying to find that engagement from them as well to get them to actually click and try it out.

Pat: Right. Right. You’re just trying to connect the dots but all the pieces are there, it seems.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, they sure are. Yeah. I think with the podcast I think it’s too—I’m going to have to rebrand it. The name of it, the feel of it is a bit different to what we’re trying to do and I’m not sure the Japanese people can really get the play on words of the name of the podcast. So it’s a thinking of rebranding that and actually making it part of this whole Mind Nation business as well.

Pat: I think that’d be smart. Yeah.

Paul: Yeah.

Pat: Cool. I hope this was helpful. What are the maybe one or two big takeaways that you got that you can take with you if any?

Paul: Many. Thanks you. And for me, I think definitely to try and connect with influencers in Japan and test that, and just try and build, I think absolutely try and nurture the on the ground presence more in a major way. But with what we’ve already created and what we’ve got, we can definitely create some free content and start to give that out and to start to just test it, but also build the yes ladder. Try to get people actually engaging a bit more. Yeah, that’s the big thing for me. Thank you so much.

Pat: Yeah. No, my pleasure, Paul. Where should people go to see the progress and see how things are going?

Paul: The website is and everything’s on there. We haven’t put on the leadership program yet, but will be doing that pretty soon. But yeah, everything’s in there and be able to connect with me through that. My podcast is going to be called the Mind Nation Podcast. It’s currently called the Man Bits Podcast because originally it was for men’s wellness, men’s health. It’s evolved a bit since it started, so we’re going to shift it across into the Mind Nation Podcast. So, that’s probably the two places that we can be found.

Pat: Cool. Well, we’ll check it out. Thank you again Paul, and good luck to you and your partner and we look forward to catching up with you again later and seeing how things are going.

Paul: Thanks Pat. Appreciate it. Take care.

Pat: Take care.

All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Paul from Mind Nation. You can find them at—JP for Japan. “Supporting the Japanese community with self confidence, improved habits and leadership skills and personal development.” I love that, so important, and I hope he is able to break through because this is definitely a challenge for sure. I’m excited to keep up with Paul’s journey here with him and his partner there in Japan. So good luck to you, Paul. I appreciate you for coming on and sharing and being open and honest with us. And for those of you who are listening and if you want to get coached and discuss your business a little bit, this can happen. All you have to do is go to and look for the application button in the middle of that page and fill out the application.

I’m unable to select everybody, but I select the most interesting stories, the ones that I feel like I can help the most and the ones that need the most help. So go ahead and fill that out. And at some point in the future, it might be a year from now even, just because there’s a lot of people in the queue, but you never know unless you try. So fill that out and I might reach out to you and we can make it happen. And of course, everybody who gets featured here on the show gets an AskPat teeshirt, which is awesome.

I just want to thank you so much again for listening. I appreciate you. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already, and a big thank you to those of you who have taken the time to leave a review on iTunes or the podcasting platform that you’re using to listen to the show. This means the world to me. Thank you so much. We got some great entrepreneurs coming your way with some very new and unique problems that we are going to work through so we can help not just them, but you the listener as well. So hey, Team Flynn, you’re amazing. Thank you so much. Team Flynn for the win.


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