REALITY CHECK: 24 Questions That Will Challenge You and Your Brand (+NSD2.0 Update)

These 24 questions will not only make you think, but they will also help you refine your ideas about your brand and the problems it looks to solve.

This post references a website and business that I’m publicly building for Niche Site Duel 2.0. The site will become a resource for current and future food truck business owners and operators, and the “coming soon” page is already live. I have not yet revealed the exact brand name and URL because I don’t want a flood of traffic coming from this site to affect and skew the numbers and data during the launch. I will reveal it after the site launches.

Thank you for your patience!

[Editor’s Note, 2019: We have removed most of the Niche Site Duel posts from the website because the tactics outlined in those posts are now out of date, and we don’t want you to spend time pursuing outdated advice.]

With my food truck site’s “pre-launch / coming soon page” now live, and the launch date inching closer, I’m at the point in this journey where I’m diving into the architecture of the main site and the content that will be published on it.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the upcoming launch of the site, but I was challenged—hard—by my good friend Matt Gartland from the other day. [Editor’s Note: Matt Gartland is now the SPI Media CEO.] He challenged me to answer a specific set of questions related to my topic to help me discover my voice for the site and the type of content that may be included on some of the most important pages. 

At first, I saw a ton of questions that I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer, but after answering the very first question I soon saw exactly how valuable and powerful completing this exercise would be for the brand that I’m creating, and I wanted to pass this exercise along to you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you’ve had your website for a while—this exercise will help you in so many ways, it’s unbelievable. And it’s way beyond “describe your target audience” and “what are the major pains and challenges people in your target audience have”—although those are, of course, important questions to know the answer to as well.

I want you to actually sit down for 30 minutes and answer these questions which are listed below. I’m really serious about this.

To help you get started, I challenge you to answer the very first question of this exercise in the comment section of this post. Next week (on Wednesday, September 11th) I’ll randomly select 3 commenters who will each receive a $100 Gift Card.

Winners announced 9/12/13: Congratulations to Christopher Anderson, Kay Fudala and Francis Lacoste, the three lucky winners who were picked, at random, to win a $100 Gift Card. Thank you to all of you who participated! As of 9/12/13, I’ve read each and every one of your comments (over 400), and they are amazing and inspiring. Thank you!

I’ve reworded some of the questions to take my specific brand name out of them. Some of the questions still include “food truck business” or “food truck owner” and are worded specifically for that niche, but you can get an idea of what the question is asking and re-word it for your own target market. Most of them will probably apply to what you’re doing.

Here Are the Questions I Answered

Your Brand

  1. What disease does your website or brand cure? (answer this one in the comment section to enter to win)
  2. Describe the essence of your website or brand in three words.
  3. How will the lives of people in your target audience be different after engaging with your website or brand?
  4. How will someone in your target audience know when it’s time to look for a site like yours?
  5. How will someone in your target audience feel after his or her first experience visiting your site?
  6. How will someone in your target audience feel after visiting your site consistently for three months?

Voice / Impression

  1. What do you believe about food truck businesses?
  2. How do you feel when you eat at your favorite food truck?
  3. What impresses you the most about food truck business owners?
  4. If you were a food truck owner, what would keep you up at night?
  5. If you were a food truck owner, why would you be in business?

Personal Experience / Identification

  1. Describe your first food truck experience: tastes, smells, feelings etc. (5-8 sentences)
  2. What is your all-time favorite food truck, and why?
  3. Describe what you’ve observed about food truck businesses.
  4. Describe what you’ve observed about food truck patrons/fans.
  5. What does it mean to you to be a fan of food trucks?
  6. What have you heard life is like as a food truck owner?
  7. Where do you self-identify with food truck owners?
  8. What excites you about the opportunities of a food truck business?

If You Have a Podcasting Component to Your Site

  1. What is the premise of your podcast?
  2. Describe the one person that should listen to this podcast.
  3. Where is the best place to listen to this podcast?
  4. How will podcast content be unique from other forms of content on the website?
  5. What one thing will make this podcast unmissable?

And Here Are My Answers…

I hope you didn’t think I would leave you hanging without sharing my own answers to these important questions for my food truck site!

Remember, this is an exercise to get you thinking about the voice of your website and what you know about your target audience—not just who they are, but how they feel and how you can identify with them. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written.

Note: I’ve replaced my food truck’s URL in my answers with: (Food Truck Website)


1. What disease does (Food Truck Website) cure?

A disease is a breakdown in function and structure, and most food truck businesses breakdown because the love of cooking and serving amazing food is completely separate from the business side of running a food truck, i.e. getting started on the right path (like knowing where to start and what to expect), creating a memorable brand around the food, spreading awareness of the brand to allow hungry customers to know they exist and where they are located, and creating a tribe of fans who will actively seek out their brand and spread the word for them. Owning a food truck is more than just about the food, it’s about the brand and the experience around the food that is served as well. (Food Truck Website) will cure a few diseases related to all of that. 1) The “I don’t know how to best run my food truck from a business standpoint” disease, 2) the “I don’t know where to get started and get the best food truck business advice possible” disease, and 3) the “There’s no central hub or community where I can connect with other food truck owners to talk business and share experiences” disease.

2. Describe the essence of (Food Truck Website) in three words.

  1. Community.
  2. Inspired-instruction.
  3. Game-changing-trendsetter.

3. How will a food truck owner’s life/business be different after engaging (Food Truck Website)?

A food truck owner who engages with (Food Truck Website) will feel like they have a place they can go to for answers, inspiration, and a place where they can feel like they are a part of a community. They will implement strategies they read and hear on the site and see results that will increase their business experience, grow their audience and fan base, and ultimately allow them to make more money. Their life will be easier because (Food Truck Website) will be the ultimate, top-notch, high-quality resource for everything that has to do with successfully marketing a food truck, so they don’t have to scramble, guess and hope anymore. They will have more followers on Twitter, Fans on Facebook and customers in their lines. They will be more efficient during their daily routine, and although they will probably continue to be stressed, like any restaurant and business owner would be—they will be confident in knowing that they are doing the right things to give their food truck business the best chance to succeed.

4. How will a food truck owner know it’s time to look online for business advice?

They will either just be getting started and won’t know how to proceed, or they will have started and are not seeing the results they want. They are struggling to get customers, or even understand what to do next. They might see longer lines at other food trucks and wonder—why aren’t they eating at my truck.

5. How will a food truck owner feel after his first experience visiting (Food Truck Website)?

A food truck owner, or soon-to-be food truck owner will say to him or herself, “Yes, this is exactly what I was looking for. I’m going to take this advice and implement it right away.”

6. How will a food truck owner feel after visiting (Food Truck Website) consistently for three months?

A food truck owner who has been a part of the (Food Truck Website) community for a few months will feel like a part of a team and community. They will feel like they can’t get enough and want more strategies, inspiration and instruction from the site. They will feel like their business wouldn’t have grown like it has if it wasn’t for finding (Food Truck Website), and they will not think twice about recommending (Food Truck Website) to any friends and colleagues who want to start or who already own a food truck business.

Voice / Impression

1. What do you believe about food truck businesses?

I believe the food truck business is booming. It’s the new iPhone app—everyone has an idea for one—and people don’t yet have a central resource or place to understand how to get started. I believe the food truck business is a difficult business to be in with several stress points, from dealing with the health code requirements in each city, to going to the grocery store each day to pick up ingredients, and most importantly, finding customers to buy the food that the food truck was built to serve. I believe the food truck business is an exciting venture with many possibilities, but it’s not easy, and I believe (Food Truck Website) will make food truck owners’ and soon-to-be-owners’ lives easier.

2. How do you feel when you eat at your favorite food truck?

I feel like a guy who hasn’t seen his girlfriend for a while. When you see your favorite truck, you remember what you’ve had before and you crave it, and when you order and wait, it seems like it takes forever. Then, you get your food and you can’t wait to take your first bite. You don’t take it home, you just eat it right there, and it’s amazing. It’s like that kiss you’ve been waiting to get since the last time you said goodbye.

3. What impresses you the most about food truck business owners?

What impresses me the most is how hard they work and how determined they are to succeed. They work long hours and deal with a lot of stress, but somehow always cook amazing, innovative food. I’m also impressed because on the outside, it seems like they are pretty organized. They have systems in place for taking orders, preparing the food and serving the customer, amongst all of the other things that had to happen before that point of transaction.

4. If you were a food truck owner, what would keep you up at night?

First and foremost, where the heck am I going to drive the truck tomorrow, and will there be people there in line? That’s what would keep me up at night more than anything. It seems like nothing is ever guaranteed and I’d always wonder—will I have customers tomorrow. What would also keep me up at night are the possibilities, which I think ever entrepreneur in any space can relate to. In other words, I’d be excited that tomorrow might be a KILLER day, where the lines are incredibly long and I make a ton of money.

5. If you were a food truck owner, why would you be in business?

To serve the food I love to cook and see the smiling faces when people bite into my dishes. For the excitement—the hunt for customers. For the fans that I create who spread the love and I see over and over again—the regulars.

Personal Experience / Identification

1. Describe your first food truck experience: tastes, smells, feelings, etc. (5-8 sentences)

The first food truck experience I can remember was at a food truck gathering at the local high school near my home in San Diego, and out of 6 or 7 trucks, one truck, Calbi BBQ, caught my eye. The truck was painted black with white lettering, and the logo was a taco with a pair of chopsticks on top of it. Tacos and asian food—together? Really? I had never heard of such a thing, but I was intrigued.

I went up to the truck and looked at the menu and saw things like short rib or spicy pork tacos and burritos. It was true. I ordered two pork tacos and waited a few minutes until my order was up. “Enjoy”, the man said.

I was handed a paper carton with two delicious looking street tacos inside. Each of the two corn tortillas were filled with spicy pork and topped with cabbage, cheese, a vinaigrette dressing and an orange, citrusy type of sauce.

I took one bite, and I was hooked. It was all of my favorite flavors in one, with soft and crunchy textures to compliment—it was perfect.

I’ve been consistently going back to that truck ever since.

2. What is your all-time favorite food truck, and why?

Although Calbi is one of my favorites, my all-time favorite food truck is called Urban Eats, located here in San Diego. They serve an amazing buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwich, which is to die for, but that’s not the reason I love them so much.

One day, when I went to the weekly food truck gathering near my home, I ordered the buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwich, and I waited. I waited and waited and 15 minutes had passed and a few other customers who ordered after me already got their food. At this point, I was growing impatient, but thought maybe they had to cook something from scratch that was usually pre-prepared or something like that—I’m a pretty patient person, so I didn’t say anything.

After a few more minutes—about 20 minutes since total since I ordered—one person in the truck stuck her head out and said, “You had the grilled cheese, right?”

“Yes.” I replied.

And she responded with, “I’m so sorry, the ticket was lost and we didn’t even start it yet. I apologize. Would you mind waiting 5 more minutes, we’ll get it to you right away. Would you like a soda or water on us? Just take one.”

“That’s okay, but thanks. I’ll wait.” And after 5 minutes, the sandwich was ready for me.

Well, I saw the truck again a month later—the same woman working the window was there—and I ordered the usual. She looked at me for a second and then said, “You ordered this before right? We totally forgot your order that time, I remember. This one is on us.”

And that’s when that truck became my all-time favorite.

3. Describe what you’ve observed about food truck businesses.

I’ve seen how much passion food truck business owners have for what they do. That’s why they’re willing to spend 12 hours every day of the week doing what they do. I’ve seen how little information is available to help those who have food trucks better improve the business side of things, and how little information there is to help people get started on the right food.

I’ve noticed the pride that food truck business owners have for their own truck. I’ve noticed how friendly a lot of them are with each other—often serving other trucks their own dishes in exchange for food from those other trucks too.

I’ve noticed how little food truck business owners know about using new-age internet marketing strategies and technology, although they have caught on to the importance of using payment devices like Square to collect payments.

I’ve noticed how little food truck owners do to create hardcore fans beyond the food that they create. There are no reward programs or real incentives (beyond the food itself) for me to come back.

I’ve noticed how much the food truck business relies on social media to help share where they are located and connect with their audience, although I’ve never received a conversational tweet from any food truck owners before.

I’ve noticed how much it’s growing, not just in my city, but all other cities in North America. I felt like it’s just taken off within the past year or so.

I’ve noticed how to-go containers are so plain and un-branded.

I’ve noticed how some trucks spend little time on making their menu’s on the side of their trucks easy to read. Isn’t that obvious?

I’ve noticed how important having a good team in the truck is. I got food from a truck once that was one man short, and it screwed the whole assembly line up. It took me 20 minutes to get a burrito.

4. Describe what you’ve observed about food truck patrons/fans.

I feel like there are those, like myself, who will usually get the same thing all the time from the same food trucks, and there are others who like to explore different options from different trucks, depending on their mood.

In my experience, the food truck experience is often a social gathering. It’s not just about getting good food, but sitting down with others and enjoying that food together. Many of the food truck places I frequent setup chairs and tables for their customers to sit down and enjoy the meal together.

Food truck patrons love to talk about the food they’ve eaten. They usually always will if they are with others.

Many fans will share their favorite dishes and foods with others—again, if they are in a social setting. I’ve recommended a few of my favorite trucks to others and shared exact dishes I’ve ordered when I’m with friends or family there too.

5. What does it mean to you to be a fan of food trucks?

To me, it means being able to eat awesome food, while also helping out a business who I can tell loves what they do. Food trucks are small businesses, and I’m always down to help out the small business like this—and if I can get good food at the same time, it’s a win-win situation.

I also feel like I’m in an inside circle of sorts. I’ve seen the same trucks over and over again for the past year, and I’ve begun to recognize who works on which trucks. If someone out of town, for example, were to come visit and we go get food at the food trucks, I’d be confident in recommending my favorite trucks and dishes to them.

6. What have you heard life is like as a food truck owner?

I’ve asked a number of people who work on food trucks here in San Diego, and they say life is pretty busy. 12-14 hour days working on and in the truck are common, and it’s a lot of jobs rolled up into one—from small business owner dealing with the finances and health codes and regulations and all that stuff, to chef (of course), to engineer (when things break down), to the person who interacts with the customer and makes sure they are taken care of.

I’ve asked a few food truck owners where I could get help if I wanted to start my own, and they said the best thing to do would be to do a job shadow type thing one day to see what it’s really like. That gave me a clue that it’s different than any other job, and one that only special people would be qualified and or willing to do.

7. Where do you self-identify with food truck owners?

I understand the thrill and excitement of starting a business and being your own boss—doing something on your own. It’s extremely fulfilling.

Like food truck owners, I understand what it feels like when things work out, customers are happy and money is being made, and I also understand what it’s like when things don’t go according to plan. Along the same lines, I can identify with how adaptable they have to be in order to succeed.

I can also identify with creating a product and wanting to get it in the hands (or mouths) of as many people as possible—not just to make more money but to serve an audience and make them happy. To make them feel like they got their money’s worth.

I can also understand and identify with the hardships that come along with running a business. From always feeling like more can be done and never turning it off in your brain, to trying to figure out things a regular 9 to 5er wouldn’t have to worry about, like the financial and legal aspect of running a business.

8. What excites you about the opportunities of a food truck business?

Being your own boss, creating your own success and crafting something that people can enjoy that they can’t get anywhere else. To me, the food truck industry in particular is a little like fishing—you get the right equipment, you buy the right bait, and you find the right spot, and you never know—you could hit the big one. You won’t always, and you’ll have days of little to know success, but the next day could be the game-changer, and I think that’s so exciting!

If You Have a Podcasting Component to Your Site

1. What is the premise of the (Food Truck Website) podcast?

To share startup stories, marketing strategies and tips from existing food truck owners to help other food truck owners succeed in their business.

2. Describe the one person that should listen to this podcast.

The listener is adventurous—an explorer. No matter their exact age, they are young at heart and aren’t afraid to try something new. Hence, their willingness to start a food . The listener loves food, but also loves the idea of making money from selling food. They love to work hard, don’t get much sleep, but also love to work smart and be efficient, and they love more than anything seeing a long line of people out their food truck (or envisioning that, if they have yet to buy a food truck). They are entrepreneurs and are willing to take risks to live a fulfilled life, not behind a desk, or even in a restaurant, but on the road in a food truck where each day brings new possibilities and excitement their way. The listener is a food truck owner, an entrepreneur who wants to hear how others do it, so they can get inspired and apply the same principles to their own food truck business too and see results.

3. Where is the best place to listen to this podcast?

I can imagine the best place to listen would be in the food truck itself, on the way to the next location. Also, at home when contemplating the next day’s work would be great too.

4. How will podcast content be unique from other forms of content on the website?

Of course, there’s the real stories and real voices of existing food truck owners. I think this is where the audience will really feel like part of a community, where they can related, because they are hearing from one of their own and probably share similar stories, but they’ll also be a lot of “a-ha!” or “omg that’s so smart” type of moments on the show too.

5. What one thing will make this podcast unmissable?

The specific marketing tips and strategies existing food truck business owners are using to help them get more customers and make more money. Plus, a kick-butt intro song that pumps them up to keep listening and keep getting inspired.

What’s Going on This Week?

This week is a big one for the new site.

I’ll be sending personal emails to food truck owners and operators to introduce the brand and hopefully feature a number of them in a round-up post that will go live on launch day. As a byproduct, I’m hoping to also grow my email list at the same time and make some long lasting connections.

Now, you might be curious about what the copy of that particular email might look like.

Well—you know me! Here it is below (click to enlarge in a new window):

Screenshot of the email, which reads:

Hi Adam!

I hope all is amazingly well with [redacted]. My name is Pat Flynn and I'm a HUGE food truck fanatic here in San Diego. I frequent the Urban Eats and Calbi BBQ food trucks every week—and I'm also a successful serial entrepreneur.

My business nature and love for food trucks got me curious about resources that are available to help food truck owners get more business, and I soon learned that there's nothing really out there to help!

My latest project aims to build THE online community for food truck owners rich with practical business advice and inspired food truck owner stories. It's called [redacted], and it's launching later this month.

I'm putting together a featured article of various food truck owners to help with the launch. Would you and your truck like to be featured? I hope so! If yes, please take just a minute to answer this one question:

** What's the one thing you wish you'd known before you began your food truck business? **

Just reply to this email with your brief story. I can't wait to read it!

I know you're super busy, so I really appreciate you considering this ask. Thank you so much!

Best wishes!
[website name redacted]

I spent 35 minutes on Sunday afternoon drafting 67 separate emails to food truck owners like this. I plan to click send to 300 food truck owners in total by mid-week, as I’m still testing the current flow through my email list and delivery of a giveaway, which I’ll talk more about soon.

I used one of my favorite tools, TextExpander, to quickly insert a pre-written email (Google’s Canned Response will work too) with areas where I can quickly and easily swap out names of people and businesses.

Does this take some work? You bet it does! But, as Lewis Howes says:

“The only time greatness comes before hustle is in the dictionary.”

You gotta put in the work folks, and manually sending emails to get the word out there probably seems like a waste of time to a lot of you, but over and over again I keep hearing about people jumpstarting their businesses or getting massive results from sending emails, like Neil Patel from QuickSprout or Trevor Page from How to Program with Java.

And in case you missed it, Derek Halpern from recently published an article (and video) about it as well, titled:

A Revolutionary New Marketing Strategy: Write Email. Send Click.

In the next update, I’ll share the results of this email outreach program—the reply rate, the types of responses and how things are gearing up for launch day.

Cheers, and I wish you all the best! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it!

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  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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