Tom Ness is co-founder and former CMO of Truth Nutra and former CMO at Kinobody, and has since charted off to start a new fitness company, Leaner For Life. He is a self-taught, self-starter with a passion for building companies that create a positive impact. He helped scale two companies from inception to 8 figures in revenue, impacting hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Tom is a racquetball addict, loves all things bourbon and craft beer, and is better at Dance Dance Revolution than anyone has a right to be.
Key Takeaways From Our Conversation
Once you crack the door open towards entrepreneurship, it’s important to become a sponge.
Be open to learning about a variety of different business strategies and approaches until you find the niche that is right for you.
Then access as many resources as possible while working your way towards becoming an expert.
“You need to learn how to add value to what is out there, then use that to increase conversions for products.
In affiliate marketing, it’s interesting because you’re marketing and trying to out market people who are also in marketing. It’s really the school of hard knocks. If you apply that to the markets that are less competitive, that you’re not necessarily marketing against other marketers, it becomes increasingly easier.”
- Leverage your network
- Eliminate the risk for the client
- Develop a strategy that results in high return
- Remain consistent
Understanding when a business’s needs exceeds the skill set you are able to provide is essential to maintaining a strong network.
It is important to recognize when your business or client needs someone else to help take them to the next level.
In order to continue to be successful, you should remain true to where your passion lies.
Taking a step back to allow the idea to move forward can ultimately strengthen your existing relationships.
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Get in touch with Tom Ness
Resources · Transcript · Tell YOUR Story
Visit leanerforlife.com or reach out to Tom Ness directly at [email protected] to learn how you can simplify your marketing strategies and streamline business ideas to help as many people as possible.
Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hey there. Welcome back to season one, Episode Seven of fascinating founders. I'm your host, Nicole Holland and I'm thrilled to be your guide as we dive in and uncover the stories that came before the success of some of the world's most fascinating founders. hailing from a multitude of industries and socio economic start, you're going to learn what's made these fascinating men and women realise their dreams from an inspired idea to millions in revenue disrupting, innovating and impacting humanity for the better. You never know what's going to come up in our casual conversations. So get your notebooks ready cosy up with a great Cup of Joe and join us as I dive in to learn how these inspiring individuals have figured out how to thrive at a time where most people give up on their dreams. I'm really excited to have my friend Tom ness with us today. He's the co founder and former CMO of truth neutral and former cmo at Kino body. He's since charted off to start a new fitness company leaner for life. He is a self taught self starter with the Passion for building companies that create positive impact. He helped scale two companies from inception to eight figures in revenue impacting hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Tom's a racquetball addict, loves all things bourbon and craft beer and is better at Dance Dance Revolution than anyone has a right to be is all around a super human being. And I hope you enjoy my interview with Tom ness. Tom, welcome to the show. I'm just
Unknown Speaker 1:28
really, really grateful to be here. Thank you for having me.
Unknown Speaker 1:31
What I'd love to start out with is kind of how your entrepreneurial bug came to be. What were you doing before before you started building businesses?
Unknown Speaker 1:41
So my entrepreneurial journey did not start, like most entrepreneurs that I know, you know, you hear these stories of people that they, you know, they were like hustlers from, like, straight out of the womb, you know, where like, they started selling baseball cards and they were like five and like the Gary Vaynerchuk origin story. Right. And my, uh, my life did not start like that. I was a I actually wanted to be an artist. So I went through my entire childhood, my teen years all the way through 2021 thinking full, fully that I was going to be a starving artist my whole life. And I love art. I love all the traditional media and everything. And in Meanwhile, I was working retail jobs. And in this particular case, and I was 2021, I was working at a Barnes and Noble. And I was stocking like, the funny thing is, I didn't even like business. I didn't like business. I didn't like marketing. I actually I didn't take a single business class and all my years in school, and I was stocking books in the business section at Barnes and Noble one day, and there was one book that it was lime green and black. So it stood out like a sore thumb. And like for whatever reason, like I would always just like, you know, like tirelessly stock books and not look at him, especially in the business section because I didn't have an interest in it. And this book really caught my eye it was it was by Yannick silver. was called moonlighting on the internet version 1.0. And the only reason I looked at it is because it was lime green and stuck out. But on the back of the book, it was it was basically a book about affiliate marketing and how there were all these people making money from the internet in their spare time, like in their underwear. And so I was thinking about that. And I was like, I remember thinking to myself, as I was reading the back of this book, I was like, wow, that's like, way better than being a starving artist, my whole life. So, long story short on, on my break that day, I ended up like taking the book into the back room and reading it, I bought it that day. And that literally was the day that my life really changed. So it literally in one day, and I got into internet marketing, I I first of all, I read the book, so that was you know, step one, and I was introduced to the world of affiliate marketing and really just like the concepts of internet marketing in general. And one thing led to another I went down the rabbit hole, and I just kind of started failing my way forward. So the last 10 years have really been one giant learning curve. And you know, it's, it's kind of been like a blessing and a curse because there's a lot that I'm not like entrepreneurial person by nature. I don't think like I never had that itch to be one. But then as soon as that door cracked open, you know, I just started becoming a sponge and consuming everything that I could about business and marketing and, and I've learned a lot just through experience and kind of the school of hard knocks. And one thing led to another, I learned how to, you know, one concept after another and applied it, and I was able to grow a couple companies with some business partners to some pretty good heights.
Unknown Speaker 4:32
Very cool. So when you got into affiliate marketing, what were you selling?
Unknown Speaker 4:37
So this is like that snake oil salesman part. So I unfortunately got into marketing by selling products on how to market to people that weren't making money online. I can see this now because I've had success in building other companies that don't do this. So what I would do affiliate marketing is basically promoting other people's products and you get a commission of the sale. What I found is that there was a lot of people promoting how to make money, how to make money online courses to people that aspire to make money online. But they would just promote the courses and hope that people would buy those courses through their links without any incentive of doing so. So what I would do, I got smart with it, and I decided that I would interview the person that made the product and I would get kind of the behind the scenes like the making of and like what they're doing now. And try to like, you know, pull out some some tips that would complement the product that weren't included in the product. And so I would interview those people I would get, I would glean those insights that I could, and I would set up a website promoting their product and adding the bonus interview to the course if the if the visitors to the to that review bought the product through my affiliate link. So I didn't have to the genius in this is that I didn't have to use the product at all. I would just interview the people get insights from them and a couple extra ear tips and nuggets that the people that bought the course could use in addition to the course itself and I would set up these sites and would rank them in Google. So the first thing I had to do is I learned affiliate marketing. And then I learned SEO and how to rank, you know, websites in Google, which back then was like, super easy to do. And you just like spam the internet with with backlinks, and it was great, you could rank for anything. And so that's what I did. So I learned from an early age, in my marketing career, how to create like, how to add value to what was out there, and then use that to increase conversions for products. So that's kind of how I cut my teeth with marketing. But it was, it was a interesting way to do so because your marketing and trying to outwork other people that are also in marketing. So it was, again, like I said, it was really the school of hard knocks, you know, if you apply that to other markets that are less competitive or that you're not necessarily marketing against other marketers, it becomes increasingly easier. So yeah, that's how I kind of got my start in marketing and business and affiliate marketing.
Unknown Speaker 6:53
Awesome. And then how did you pivot out of affiliate marketing and into Building a company.
Unknown Speaker 7:01
Yeah. So the one of the projects that I was doing on my own so in the still in the, in the realm of affiliate marketing, I saw that there were, you know, there's a lot of competition and marketing products to internet marketers, and people that wanted to build businesses. So I tried to venture out into the fitness space, because fitness has always been a passion of mine have worked out, you know, my whole life, very active and everything. So, I wanted to create a product on on fitness information. And because I had been so comfortable interviewing people from the affiliate marketing review sites that I had had set up for the last few years, I decided to create an interview series, which nowadays you'd call it a podcast, but back in 2011 2012, it was an interview series. And so my grand idea was that I was going to, I was going to interview five or 10 different people, fitness experts out there, and I was going to interview them around a particular topic in fitness, like how to get shredded in six to 12 weeks or whatnot, and And I was going to compile all those interviews into a series and I was going to bundle that into one product. And then I was going to have all the people that I interviewed promote it, and I was looking to cash out and be a millionaire. And it was three or four interviews into it. That so I interviewed the guy and and, and I asked him, so at the end of every one of the interviews, I would ask for recommendations on who I should interview next. And if they knew someone who would be a good fit, and if they could connect me and the one guy I was interviewing, he said, Wow, you should really connect with this guy named Greg O. Gallagher, who runs a website called Kino body calm. So I was like, Alright, cool, hook me up. So he didn't hook me up. But I ended up emailing Greg anyway. And I was like, Hey, I have this interview series. I'd love to be part. I'd love to interview you for it. You know, is there any time that I could do so. So we set up the interview, and I interviewed him. And here's the thing though, and this is like this transition to the pivot outside of Internet Marketing. So going into it, his site at the time, had about 20,000 visitors a month, and he basically had like tonnes of money. tonnes of case studies so people would go to his website it was like a really bad looking website. It's like stock WordPress theme 2012 out of the box. So didn't look good or anything, zero marketing involved in it at all. And yet he was getting 20,000 visitors a month, he had an enormous amount of case studies on his site of people that would find his his, his either his videos on youtubers articles on in Google, and they would follow a workout and they would just send them a transformation three months later of like going from fat to completely shredded. And he had tonnes of these didn't really advertise them very well, because he you know, he didn't know, you know a lot about marketing, but he was definitely an expert in his authority and his domain. And so I was looking at this he had tonnes of case studies, he had a very well defined philosophy for fitness and getting in shape. He spoke to a very, very narrow market of people that wanted to basically get shredded like a Hollywood celebrity. And he had a tonne of traffic to a site and an email list of like five or 6000 people are something so not drastic, but but he had no he didn't know how to monetize it effectively. So he was doing a lot One on one coaching programme and making a few grand a month. And so I saw these indicators and you have no information products at all. And I had just come from a world in the last few years where I was making several thousand dollars a month promoting information products just as an affiliate. So, at the end of our interview, I was like, hey, do you have an affiliate programme? Do you have any products that we can promote, you know, during this call, and he had no idea what an affiliate programme was, and he had no products to speak of and I kind of just loved the light bulb went off and I was like, wow, you there's all these indicators that this could be really big company or a very successful internet business. If I could inject what I know about marketing into what he has already built with the fitness philosophies and you know, our powers combined could really build something pretty impactful. And so I pitched him on the idea and I was like dude, I will literally build out all of your marketing for you for percentage of the upside that I bring to you. So no retainers, no like agency kind of thing. It was like if I if I suck at my job, it's like nothing out of pocket for you and I waste all my time. But it If I if I crush it, then we both win in a really big way. And you know, I think we should try it out and he accepted and I was kind of the start of the beginning of Kino body.
Unknown Speaker 11:09
Amazing. So you so there was no like Kino body what it is today is not what it was that it was just a guy with who was a fitness coach in her who thought. And together you took that and created a business out of it that can you say when you left what it had grown to?
Unknown Speaker 11:33
Yeah. So I mean, it was it's a world way of where it was. So in the beginning. I mean, Greg just hustled, he started. He had an idea. He started it, he refined his fitness philosophy and his approach. And so we're so it was at a point where it was a very defined philosophy, but it just didn't have the marketing container around it. There wasn't there weren't any elements of conversion based like sales copy. There are no sales letters, no programmes, no like no information. structure for an information marketing business. And so that's really the expertise that I provided to it. When I so when I started working with him, most of his revenue is generated just from a from a coaching programme. So a few thousand a month maybe. And when I left it had grown to not only information marketing information products, a whole suite of online programmes, but also supplements and apparel extension, man and a coaching and another coaching programme as well. So it was it had, it was basically on a run rate of an eight figure company. So, I mean, we're almost we're doing between five to 800,000 a month consistently. And I mean more during some months depending on if Facebook was cooperating. So, yeah, so like over the course of, you know, six years, we took it from about 3000 a month to an average about six to 700 posts a month, and below and amazing. It was awesome. But now, full disclosure. I had three other business partners and as of right now the key nobody as of right now, like you're as of the time That I left is, you know, it's a 30% operation. So also over those six years, we scaled from me and my one business partner, Darren, basically like building most of it up to the 20 $30,000 a month mark up to, you know, scaling an entire infrastructure with employees and in office and, you know, all the complexity that that entails. So it was quite a journey, but it was also like, none of us did it alone. And, you know, but fortunately, I partnered with people that we had very complementary skill sets, and were able to bring unique things to the table. And, you know, our powers combined, were able to grow something really cool.
Unknown Speaker 13:36
That's awesome. And so you, you've also done this with other companies and now your newest venture is leaner for life. Why? How did this come to be?
Unknown Speaker 13:49
Well, so I mean, the blessing and the curse of growing so my, my strengths lie in really taking a company from really like zero to seven figures, like mid mid to high seven figures or even like I would just say mid seven figures because beyond that you deal with, you need employees, you have a big a bigger team. And then from there the complexity ensues. Like I, I actually struggle a lot with delegating and that's why I have to be really conscious of creating slps around things that I do so it's easier to delegate but just like the whole management in general it's not my strong suit I would prefer much I would much rather prefer you prefer just like going heads down and jamming on everything myself. Again, blessing and a curse I love the work but it's there's a ceiling associated with that. So the so the at the point where the company was with Kino body and our other company that we started truth nutria which has since been rebranded at Lulu, you MCU the quite honestly the the company grew to the point where it exceeded the skill set that I could provide. And so there's there's some people that thrive in the zero to seven figure mark. There's other people that thrive in the seven to eight figures and eight to nine figures in each one of those phases of the business, they require a different skill set to really, you know, bring the company to the next level. And quite honestly that my skill set is not in the seven eight figure range in but I don't have a desire for it to be that, you know, I really like I love building companies from the ground up and I thrive in doing the work not only myself but I thrive in just the startup stage where you're you're building a foundation and you're really carving out who you're talking to the DNA of the business and really like building a stable foundation and that's that's where my passion lies. So managing committees and rolling out big elaborate marketing strategies across several departments is that i mean it's it's really complex and and I did it you know, I did it for for a good number of years but there's there's other people that they live and breathe that I don't so yeah, so that's so I don't know if that answered your question or not. But so my transition
Unknown Speaker 15:51
it did for that aspect, but as far as leader for life, how did that come to be?
Unknown Speaker 15:57
Oh, So interestingly enough One of the first people that we hired so the our first five employees when we first started growing Kino body, our first five employees, one of one of the five ended up leaving so we hired these, these these five guys for a two year internship, one of them ended up leaving for like six months into the into the internship because he wanted to instead of working you know, in our company and for marketing company, he wanted he had a calling to start his own fitness coaching business, which is great and he was he had a crazy transformation himself he was over 300 pounds at one point he lost 145 pounds and he was able to keep it off. And since then, he really wanted to help other people do that too. And so we left our company in in the three years since him leaving the company and me reconnecting with him after I left Kino body and truth. He had not only really created and grown his own very successful one on one coaching programme, but he shot up on Instagram from like 10,000 followers when he left to 430 or 440,000 followers now and So, by all metrics, he's crushing it. But when I but when we reconnected about a year ago, he was in a position where he was he was getting burned out, because you can only grow a one on one coaching business so far. And he not only want to buy back his time, but he also wanted to impact more people. And I was kind of working with them, just like helping him set up some some products and like the infrastructure of an information marketing business that he could scale. But it got to a point where, you know, we kind of just both came to the conclusion that this could be a lot bigger, if we just partnered with it on leaner for life. And just like both went all in on it, and, you know, just, you know, tackled it together. And so, again, I brought my marketing expertise, he brought his fitness expertise, just like the early days with Kino body. And we the first product we launched did extremely well. And then a month later, we launched challenge for that. And the challenge is at the time we're recording this interview, it's it's going to be wrapping up in a couple weeks and we're going to get a slew of transformations that are, you know, they're going to be coming in from the channel. And then we're going to use that to launch a membership site and in about the next two or three weeks, shortly after the challenge conclude So, I mean, it's just like, it's just this thing you know, it's just, you learn how to how to productize something of value to other people and you just, I just love it. I love building companies like this and I like working with people that are as passionate about what they do as I am about what I do. And when you can, you know, when your paths collide into with a product that also provides value to a lot of people in the world. It's just, you know, you kind of firing on all all cylinders.
Unknown Speaker 18:33
That's awesome. So Tom, if you could sum up over the years, you know what you've learned in some of your best advice in a minute or so and share that with the business owners that want to follow in your footsteps? What would you tell them?
Unknown Speaker 18:48
Oh, this is there's a lot of pressure riding on this answer. Man what to me there's so many but I you know, honestly, let's go with this one. I would say that the regardless of what business is You're in whether you're selling physical products or digital products or coaching, or with something else, business and marketing and growing, growing a business is really just the exchange of value. And there's there are people out there that have an issue, and they either want to get rid of it or they want something else. And if if you can speak more to the before state that they're in, and how your your product helps them achieve an end state agnostic of whether they give you a credit card or not, ie provide value to them, whether they become a customer or not, you will grow business far easier than just chasing money and chasing conversions. And I guess to piggyback on that, I really there's there's a lot of shifts that happened in our business growth in all the companies that I've been associated with and have started when we realised that there are businesses not just about conversions and it's not just about looking at a Facebook ads dashboard and seeing you know, click through rates and and impressions and Return on adspend there are real people on the other side of a computer that you're doing business with that are interacting with you. And if you can build a business that speaks to people like people, rather than trying to extract money from them, like a conversion and a just a metric on a dashboard, it really changes how you approach marketing and I, it's kind of like whatever you call it, I can I call it the grandmother tests, like if I feel comfortable, like I don't do something else, I feel comfortable showing my grandmother what I do and having her go through the funnel, because it's other grandmas and it's other mothers and it's other daughters, and it's other real people that you are marketing to. And I think it's really easy for us in this digital world, to forget that it's real people on the other side of the computer that we are, you know that we're asking to do certain things to to better their lives, hopefully. So if you can, at all times, understand that you're marketing to real people and put their needs ahead of everything else. I think you're going to do just fine and I really grown some really, really cool and helpful and impactful companies. When when we started marketing and I
Unknown Speaker 21:02
love it. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with us today. Before we wrap up, where can people connect with you further and also, I just want to turn it over to you anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share the floor is yours.
Unknown Speaker 21:17
Oh, man. Well, first of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to the podcast. It's been great. Anybody that wants to connect with me. Honestly, just you can either email me at Tom at leaner for life com. It's spelled out fo R, leaner for life, or you can go to leaner for life.com that's kind of the main site nowadays. And I think I don't know if I think we can did a good job at covering most things. I mean, like if you guys you know, if we have any DDR aficionados out there, obviously it would be great to talk to you. But yeah, just thanks for the opportunity and having me on the podcast.
Unknown Speaker 21:50
Thanks to Tom for being my guest on today's show and for sharing his founders journey with us will have links so that you can connect directly with him resources discussed plus The full transcript of this episode and more at fascinating founders.com remember that successful people surround themselves with successful people and until next time, this is Nicole Holland, signing off.
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