Today we're talking with Karthik Vijayakumar of DesignYourThinking.com. He also has a podcast called The Launch Plan. Karthik is a member of SPI Pro, and through his participation in the community has found a new direction for his business that he's really excited about: sales page copywriting.
But he's having a bit of a dilemma around leaning into who he is—especially because he gets a lot of inspiration from myself and from Team SPI. (He even loves Back to the Future!) He's struggling with how to balance being inspired and motivated by somebody, but not wanting to step on their toes or make it appear like he's blatantly copying them.
We talk about the difference between emulating vs. copying others, and we dig into the strategy and psychology of pricing your services.
Even if you're not going through a similar dilemma, I still think you're going to find some great inspiration and helpful takeaways in my conversation with Karthik.
AP 1216: How Do I Authentically Lean into My New Direction?
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up, everybody? Welcome to episode 1,216 of AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. And today we're talking with Karthik Vijayakumar, who is a member of SPI Pro, who as a result of being an SPI Pro has found a new direction in his business. And what's really neat is that this is the thing he's going to be doing now. He's having a little bit of a dilemma related to fully leaning into who he is and the fact that he does get a lot of inspiration from myself and team SPI and how to balance the idea between getting inspired and being motivated by somebody, but also not wanting to step on somebody else's toes or copy them too much, or if at all. So this might be something that you might be going through, but whether or not you're going to find some inspiration and motivation here from Karthik here at the end, because we do have some amazing things open up for him and some amazing realizations that he'll take forward and hopefully you can take forward as well. So here he is, Karthik Vijayakumar, who you can find at designyourthinking.com.
Pat Flynn: Karthik, welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here today.
Karthik Vijaykumar: Thanks, Pat. A pleasure being here. It's a privilege, been looking forward to this.
Pat Flynn: Oh my pleasure. Thank you so much. I'm looking forward to learning more about you. So why don't we do that right now? And then we can dive in. So tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Karthik Vijaykumar: I'm a podcast host, a copywriter, and a course creator. I started this blog called the Design Your Thinking Blog back in 2016. Later that year, I started my podcast after watching those seven videos on YouTube that you had, you didn't have a course. Fast forward five years, 2021, I wanted to give an interest that I had developed over the last many years, a shot, which is copywriting. So I decided a couple of things. One is to start a brand new podcast, the Launch Plan Podcast, and also I needed to find people that I can connect with and bounce off ideas. So I joined SPI Pro last year. In the process of all this happening, I was looking for guests and I had a bunch of them from SPI Pro and had a bunch of really good conversations with some amazing people.
Karthik Vijaykumar: One of those conversations ended up having me find out that I had this opportunity that I could potentially pursue, which is around writing sales copies. So that's what I do today. I help course creators with high converting copies and also I have this podcast, the Launch Plan Podcast.
Pat Flynn: Nice. So copywriting, an absolutely massive skill and very important to learn. How did you develop your skills there? What did you do to train yourself on that?
Karthik Vijaykumar: I spent about 15 years before I took a career break in 2016 in product marketing with startups. I worked in the Bay Area, New York, and in India. So in the process of doing this, I realized one of the areas that I wanted to focus on is communicating what we build to the audience, which is to customers and partners and people like that. So I had this interest in copy for a long time, but when I took this break and I started this podcast, the first podcast I started was a game changer because it introduced me to a lot of people and I got a lot of opportunities coming my way. So a few opportunities that I worked on was helping people create their websites.
Karthik Vijaykumar: So people, someone out of the wild came and asked me if you can help me create a website like yours, like mine. I said, sure, because I didn't know what it takes to. And I realized what was really something I enjoy doing in this process was writing the copy. So that's how I started to like copy. Then I started selling my courses. I realized how important sales copies were. That's how I narrowed down to sales copies.
Pat Flynn: Are your courses on sales copy or what are your courses about specifically?
Karthik Vijaykumar: No. Interestingly, all my courses that I sold until last year were all around podcasting, primarily around interviewing, how to interview people, how to sound design, soundscape your episodes, how to reach out to guests. That was what I primarily was doing. Last year because of this decision, I made a conscious choice to move away from selling those courses and instead becoming an affiliate for your courses. I did that. To come at that decision, I actually tried a simple experiment. So I created a blog post and did all the keyword targeting and all of it. My goal was to see if people reading the blog post would buy your program. And the way I did was to put together over a inaudible funnel. Anyways, the long story short, it started to work. I started to generate some sales. I thought I'm just going double down and do that for podcasting side of what I teach or stop selling those courses and instead give those courses as a bonus for people who use my affiliate link to buy your courses.
Pat Flynn: Smart.
Karthik Vijaykumar: This year my goal is to primarily focus on copywriting and affiliated courses in master classes.
Pat Flynn: That's really cool. Well, thank you for promoting Power-Up Podcasting and our courses. We appreciate that so much. That just speaks to the power of affiliate marketing, because you have this connection to your audience and they trust you. And then you pushing that trust to us, first of all, just honored. But also there are great tools out there that you could serve your audience with that aren't yours. I love the fact that you're using your own versions of that as a bonus. I think that's super smart, but this allows you to focus on what you really want to focus on, which is copywriting and course deals for others. So tell me about business model now. I know you have the podcast, Launch Plan Podcast. How are you getting clients for your work?
Karthik Vijaykumar: It started through the podcast itself. So I was interviewing this person called Jake Lang. He's been on the show before. He's also a member inside SPI Pro. I was interviewing him and after every interview we ended up connecting. Some guests connect better than others. I realized there is some trick there. I've not figured it out quite well, but I think we connected pretty well. I was looking at his membership sales page, in fact, one of his older pages and I thought that could definitely do some work. I asked him if I can do something for him for free and in exchange he could give me a testimonial and maybe become a referral client, so to speak. So he said, yes. And what I did, one thing I realized in the market was there are a lot of copywriters writing sales pages and all of them did their trick and they gave you great copies.
Karthik Vijaykumar: But what I wanted to do is in the process of doing this, I wanted to show the person who's hiring me, how this is done. So what I did was with Jake, I said, four Mondays we'll meet, consecutive Mondays we'll meet and one hour, one and a half hours, we are going to spend on call. In front of you, I'm going to actually write a page, right? So did this across four weeks and he had his page and he was like, wow, this is great. You should probably be selling this. I said, cool. How much would you pay for this? And that's how it started. So he started off by triggering this idea that I should actually write. In fact, he said, you should also sell courses that he would become an affiliate for. It was a lot to take in.
Karthik Vijaykumar: So I spent a couple of weeks thinking through it and decided to go ahead and give it a shot. So in terms of the business model, basically everything is getting started at this point, Pat. So I have this masterclass that is out for presale. Subsequent to this, inside the SPI Pro mastermind that I'm part of, everyone told me that you should go and put a post inside SPI Pro. So I went and put a post inside SPI Pro asking people if they would like me to review their pages, sales pages. So five of them put their hands up, and I had these reviews done and one of them actually wanted to hire me. So that's how I pre-sold, "I had my first customer." And so right now I have like five people, six people's testimonials, and already to open the doors for the pre-launch.
Pat Flynn: I love this story because it shows the impact that you can have by offering something so valuable for free, right up front. And then the doors that could open up, especially when you do that for the right person. And you probably blew this person's mind so much that he's now wanting to work with you and supports you and pay you back in some way. Possible JV partner there long-term for sure. All right, great. It sounds like you just started this new path in your business, and I'd love to know how are you feeling? Is it exciting to you? Is it scary? What are the emotions that are coming in with this new direction?
Karthik Vijaykumar: It's very exciting to tell you the truth. It's very, very exciting. But at the same time, there is a lot of areas that's making me a little anxious, I would say, because Pat, one thing I've seen with you is, I've been following you from 2008, 2009.
Pat Flynn: Wow.
Karthik Vijaykumar: A year before I got married. And since then, I've seen the way you've grown your business. I always dreamt that one day I'll probably do something like you. But then when I saw these calls go by the one I had with Jake or the other people, right inside the call people told me how, how warm it was, how I made them feel comfortable and how they actually just felt so felt like opening up. Right? So I was thinking even this is exactly the feeling I get with you, even though you don't know me, I get that feeling when I listen to you, read your blog post, whatever.
Karthik Vijaykumar: I was thinking, how can I do this on my website? So one of the things I worked on early this year is to completely redo my website. So I have redone the website. I have read your Superfans book. There are a few elements I've tried to bring in. One thing that I definitely wanted to bring up and put on the table here to get your opinion and advise on, is to how do I build trust the way Pat Flynn does? I thought best is to ask you to do, to tell me how?
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. So let's dive in. I'd love to ask you as a counter, what did I do that earned your trust?
Karthik Vijaykumar: Many things. I think there are many, many things that you've done. First off, the biggest thing I think is your videos, the seven videos that you have on YouTube, where you teach how to start a podcast.
Pat Flynn: So I taught you something that you were looking to figure out how to do right. Something that, it was everything you needed. Right. And it got you a result, correct?
Karthik Vijaykumar: Yes. It got me a result and it got me more than what I expected. I would say because I just wanted to learn how to start. I just wanted to figure out what gears to get and stuff like that. But what happened in the process is, I saw the podcast. The first podcast that started in less than a year did more than 250,000 downloads. For someone who was doing something like that and back in 2016, it was crazy and I just didn't expect it. That's the first thing. The second thing is, I always thought one day I'll speak to you and tell you this, and to admit that I copied couple of your email copies. Sorry about that, but it really worked.
Pat Flynn: It's all right. We put them in our courses for everybody anyways, so it's fine.
Karthik Vijaykumar: So I copied the email where we said three important things, X, Y, and Z, first email. I really loved it. When I used it, actually people wrote back to me saying, they responded to that email. They said how much that email and I have told them that I just copied this person, go and check him out anyways, because I was in a completely unrelated industry back then. So I think these are just small things. There are so many things. That's exactly if I knew how you did it to me, I probably wouldn't be sitting here and asking you this question, Pat. I just want to understand what magic you had done.
Pat Flynn: You picked up the book, Superfans, a lot of my magic is in there for everybody. A lot of those little touch points and you've touched on a few of those already. The idea of serving first and showing up and offering something where a person can get a result, whether it's a big thing, hey, I helped you start a podcast or even a small thing, hey, here's an email, you use it yourself and boom, you're getting responses. That can only do nothing but help with the trust and loyalty that we have for each other there. Some other things that I do is I try to inject my personality a little bit into my brand a lot more than perhaps others, and that can include many things, right. It can include the fact that I talk about my family and you don't have to talk about family in order to build trust, but that's just a part of who I am. And so I share it. My nerdiness, I think comes through and I'm not saying you must be a nerd or else it's not going to work.
Pat Flynn: But again, just whatever I feel embodies me uniquely, I share with the world, right. I inject my personality into it. So my love for Back to the Future is sprinkled throughout my content. And although, not everybody is also a Back to the Future fan, that's something now that they know about me, so that when they see a DeLorean on the street or the movie comes on ABC or USA, they're reminded of me. And that's interesting. I think the other thing is that the language I use with my audience is really, really key. This is a big eye opener that once I started to dive into of the research of who my audience was and what it is exactly that you needed and how you spoke about, what are your challenges were.
Pat Flynn: If I could relay things back to you in that same language and use literally the same, I mean, this as a copywriter, just basically you don't have to make things up, just use the same words that your audience is using. So I've been able to do that, not just on sales, copy and emails, but also just in actual conversations with people and in my podcast and then later video. One thing that I still continue to do, you probably heard me talk about this, but I still do my best to try to have 10 conversations, real conversations, just like you and I are having right now with members of my audience and specifically brand new email subscribers. When I could get on a call with them, not only are they just blown away about the fact that I want to have a conversation, but to me, that's the most golden conversation I can ever have because now I'm listening to them, I'm learning what their problems and pains and struggles are.
Pat Flynn: I can empathize with them because there's a real person there now, not just a made-up avatar, Jimmy's 32 and he has two kids and whatever. It's like, no, this is Antoinette and she just tried to launch and it failed for her. I could really feel that story and then put that into my work, moving forward. Then also just taking note, literally taking notes of the way they describe, what it is that they're going through. In my head, as somebody who's been doing this for a while, I have a curse. The curse is that I know how this works. I've been doing this for a while. This is called the curse of knowledge. When you know something it's impossible to know truly what it might be to not know that thing anymore.
Pat Flynn: These conversations bring me back as close as possible to that, so that I can have a more one-to-one relationship even to people on the podcast, for example. You have a podcast yourself. You have to remember that. Yes, it's scalable for us. It's one person, us, talking to many, but to the person on the other end, it's literally one-to-one, it's a one-to-one conversation. So I've done as much as I can to make them feel like I'm talking to them. That even includes not saying things like, hey, you guys, or hey everybody, hope you're doing well. It's like, I hear that you might have a problem with email marketing. So today in this episode, I want to help you get more email conversions. It's like that language like, wow, there's like a real connection there. And if you can focus on that, I mean, that's how you stand out from other people who are also going to be targeting that same person. Right.
Karthik Vijaykumar: In fact, I have a question right there, Pat. That was the thing that really kept me away from all of this for a long time. I would guess because in my case, I share a lot of things in common with you. So if I put things out, it'll sound more like Pat Flynn, I think, what I'm saying? I love my family. I love Back to the Future. I love Lego. Me and my son, we play Lego all the time. So how do you bring that element of you? I mean, I don't know if you've ever thought of this, we are all made of the same taste, but similar taste, but then when the tastes are overlapping so much, I just feel guilty of putting it out because, oh no, this is what Pat Flynn would do. Someone who's following him will think I'm doing like him, you know?
Pat Flynn: Yes. I mean, I understand that. I understand that. I mean, first of all, I don't own Back to the Future and it's like not something that other people can't enjoy either. So I think that you should embody who it is that you are and if a lot of that overlaps, then a lot of that overlaps, right. You could become the Pat Flynn of the copywriting space. I mean, that could be something that you could sort of take ownership on. And then what I love about this is you could also just be very upfront like, hey, you might know Pat Flynn. Well, I feel like we're brothers from another mother because we both like this and we both like this and I respect him and he is helped me get here. Here's what I can do for you that I got inspired by Pat. He helps people with podcasting. Well, my role is to help you with copywriting.
Pat Flynn: You see how now I just addressed it up front and made it a part of the story instead of trying to avoid it. And then I'm sure there're things about you specifically that are unique to you. And of course, when you share and you don't have to, but you can share your own specific stories with your family that are going to be different from mine, just by default—pictures, all those kinds of things again, and whatever you and your family's comfort level is important to consider. But I think that you could use that as a way to inspire even others to understand that, "wow, okay. He is kind of like Pat, but a different, because he focuses on copywriting, which Pat Flynn doesn't. So therefore I can now understand more holy like what I can look forward to here and know that I'm getting something different."
Pat Flynn: I think that there's a right way to do that and there's obviously a wrong way to do that. If you copied my website word for word and just replaced your picture and the thumbnails of our videos were exactly the same, except it was your face in the same position, there's a wrong way to do it. And I think that as long as you are just using common sense and respectable, and the fact that you even brought it up today, shows that you're you want to do this the right way. I don't think there's anything to worry about. There are going to be people who don't even know who I am. There's going to be people who find you through ads in your podcast and referrals who they're like, "wait, who's this Pat Flynn guy? I didn't even know he existed. And you seem to be similar to him. Cool. But I want copywriting help. So Karthik, you're my guy." So hopefully that relieves a little bit of weight.
Karthik Vijaykumar: No, I just feel a lot better because I realized I do talk about you in my affiliate related emails at Funnel. So I probably could talk about you and maybe even leave a link to one of your courses.
Pat Flynn: There you go. I mean, I'm not going to say no to that.
Karthik Vijaykumar: I'm just making it up. So yeah, you just got me thinking here, Pat. So thanks for that. I don't know, I mean, that's definitely a place to start for me, but is there a way I can actually bring out the feeling of someone trusting me because they don't hear me online. Like when you talk to me the sincerity with which I come and approach what I create, right? So is there a tip or two that you have in terms of how you go about, I don't know, just telling me that you're so fast.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, I got you. I got you. One of the easiest things to understand is that we as humans will connect faster with people. When we see that other people are also connecting with that person, it's the group mentality, right? The herd mentality. So there's a lot of strategies as you know, on sales pages to provide more social proof. There's the idea that if you are featured in a particular article from a well known publication, you share that logo and people automatically assume that there's a little bit more trust there because the New York Times wrote about you or Entrepreneur magazine that thing, but even more important than that is when a person can see that other people were there or working with you before them. And they had some amazing results and an amazing conversation or an amazing time, then therefore, even if they don't know that person, they at least can understand, especially the more genuine and open that testimonial or story is, the more likely they're going to fast forward that relationship building with you.
Pat Flynn: So, one thing that I love doing on my show for example, is featuring students of my coursework on my podcast, because not only does it and I don't have them come on and I don't cue them up by saying, hey, tell me why Power Podcasting is the most amazing course you've ever taken. I say, well, why did you want to start a podcast in the first place? And they talk about it. And that relates to the person who's finding me for the first time. Oh, me too or yes, I was also scared of technology. What are the challenges and struggles that you had? And they tell those stories and those are the same stories that everybody else has who's watching or listening. Then they talk about what happened after they started or after they finished their coursework and implemented the thing.
Pat Flynn: Then they're painting a picture now of the future of those who are there listening for the first time or finding me for the first time. And so they go, wow, I want those same results and you got those results from Pat Flynn. Well, then I want to get those results from Pat Flynn too, because I want to go through the same process. So the more that you Karthik can tell stories about the before and after of those who have come across your work and who you've helped, the more likely a person is going to just fast forward that trust with you, because somebody else was proven to not just trust you, but get results, the same results that person might be going for as well.
Karthik Vijaykumar: I think that's a great point. I'm definitely going to do that with my podcast. There's one other question that I have for you, which is regarding pricing. So now that I'm starting off with this whole line of business with copywriting, the first thing that I was told when I was speaking to Jake in this case, he told me, how much would you pay for this? He said a number, is it 2,500? At the least. And to me that seemed to be a little too high. So I said, I'm probably going to be charging a thousand to start with. Now, what is a right price for me to start with? I know you've answered this question for different people. I went back to so many episodes, just listened to hoping that it'll find an answer. I still don't have the right answer. So I think I just want to ask you that because it's again very related to the trust part, because when people trust you, I don't think twice to pay, pay something for a course that you put out. Now, how can I do that with people, with my audience?
Pat Flynn: Well, that happens over time, right? As I mentioned in Superfans. Superfans aren't created the moment people find you; Superfans are those who get those special moments from you over time. That's when you have that Apple fanboy who camps out before a new phone, before they even read any reviews, they don't care. They just want it. And that takes time to get there. To answer your question, as far as like, especially with new people coming across your stuff, I think you have to change the focus from who you are to rather hear the results that you could provide for somebody. I want to ask you with relation to pricing what are you most worried about?
Karthik Vijaykumar: I'm just worried about not having the street creds of say certified copywrite or whatever it is, but I'm doing something. I'm really proud of the outcome of what I create for. In this case, what I did for Jake, the outcome was really good. He's making sales. I really don't know, frankly, what I'm worried about. I'm just probably not too comfortable charging 2,500 like what he said, because what if people think, I don't know, well, who's this guy to charge 2,500?
Pat Flynn: Let's go to the extreme. What if you charged 200 bucks for a service like this, a very high end service, you obviously know what you're doing. What do you think the perception is going to be if you just charge so little?
Karthik Vijaykumar: People probably would not even trust me in the first place. I wouldn't only think it's worth my time to do it.
Pat Flynn: That for sure. There's this perception of value based on the price point that you offer. So it's interesting because you said you're worried about people not trusting you. However, when we lower the price, eventually there comes a point where that just removes even more trust. So that leads me to the believe that the price point is isn't even really about the trust is and the price point aren't there. Okay. Let me ask you another question. If you knew that there was this client and they had a product that you knew that if you just improve their sales page, they would increase their sales by $5,000 a month or even $3,000 a month, which is $36,000 a year. Does the $2,500 seem a little bit more easy for you to grasp in terms of—
Karthik Vijaykumar: Right.
Pat Flynn: —charging that price point? Because that's ultimately what a person wants. If you could help them make that much more money, honestly, it's like, they're going to be your best friend if they even just met you for the first time. And it's the stories that you tell, the transformations that you've, you can showcase on your show, on your sales page. That's what would help a person go, "Okay, I don't know who this guy is, but holy crap, he's getting results for these people. Look at how much money they're making now just from working with him. I will pay money so that I like you, you want to have people go, I want to pay you so that I can get to have your magic." And whether they know you or not, it doesn't matter because it's about the results. People want the results, and if you could get it for them, then that's worth charging for. And I think that I agree with Jake. I think that the $2,000 to $2,500 price point makes the most sense for a copywriter that you know is legit.
Pat Flynn: There's a lot of terrible copywriters out there that'll charge basically the same amount. By you playing the pricing game of just going cheaper, just to earn people's trust, that's a race to the bottom. And I don't think you want to play that game.
Karthik Vijaykumar: Okay. And when it comes to pricing and doing a pre-launch, how do you recommend I look at the price in this case, because it's the service, it's not a info product. It's not a course. So one way I have structured my offer is only for those who are booking me during the pre-launch, I also give them access to the masterclass version, which is the recorded thing, showing them how it's done. So you just don't get something from me, but you also get how I do it.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I think bonuses are a great way to do it for services. Because if you just say, "hey, it's a little bit cheaper," I mean, you couldn't offer a small discount or something, but don't do it too much because then that eats into your own time. But a bonus is definitely a great way to do it. And a little bit more access to you would be the other way, right, for the beta students or for your pre-launch, maybe you might say, "hey, you get an additional call with me, or we have group calls, so we can all do this together that I will not include in future launches because I want to make sure I'm here for you as you go through this." That's a great way to do it.
Pat Flynn: I think you're on the right path for sure, but I hope this conversation helped, Karthik, and it sounds like we unlocked a lot of new avenues for you and a lot of things that were perhaps holding it back. So I'm just really grateful for you, Karthik. Where can people go to check you out?
Karthik Vijaykumar: Designerthinking.com. That's where I have all my work. So the Launch Plan Podcast is the podcast .designerthinking.com/launch is where you'd go to listen to some of the best conversations around launching products, especially online courses.
Pat Flynn: Love it. Thank you so much for today and for opening up and for being vulnerable here. I'm just so glad to finally get a chance to speak with you. And thanks for being a member of SPI Pro.
Karthik Vijaykumar: Thanks, Pat.
Pat Flynn: Hey, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Karthik. You can find him again at designyourthinking.com, and copywriting is something that's very, very important. And to know that he got inspiration from somebody else inside of our SPI Pro membership, that's exactly why we have, what we have, which is SPI Pro. And I'd love to invite you to apply to it. If go to SPIPro.com, you can apply, in that way we can make sure that not just you're the right fit for SPI Pro, but that SPI Pro is the right fit for you. So I'd love for you to check it out and apply because there are magical things happening in there all the time. We specifically hired people to help run and manage and help those members thrive. And I'm in there. The team is in there, Jillian and other people you've heard of from SPI Pro and of course Karthik and a few other people too. So hundreds, actually.
Pat Flynn: I'd love for you to join as well during our next open enrollment period. And now's the time, now is absolutely time because as I'm looking at this, it looks like we have an open enrollment coming up very soon and it's going to be the last time that it's going to be offered at this price point until it goes back up. So make sure to apply SPIPro.com. And then if you get in, definitely make sure if you have any questions to let us know because we want to help serve you. So again, SPIPro.com and make sure you subscribe to this podcast because we have another great so come in your way next week, somebody who is a teacher, in fact who started something that's going kind of crazy right now. And I can't wait for you to hear this story. So till then, keep on, keep it on. Thank you so much. Hit up SPIPro.com. Cheers. And I'll see you in the next one. Peace out and team Flynn for the win.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at askpat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.