As I mentioned, one of the main things they wanted me to build was something called a "funnel".
A large part of this effort was recreating the PSDs that they had a designer make in HTML and CSS.
Once working with them more closely, I quickly learned their company was much more marketing and sales than product.
I knew exactly what they were doing, and I was amazed it worked.
My whole life every person I've ever talked to who wanted to start a business was always completely obsessed with what the "product" is. They had a whole bunch of products. What they were really clear on was WHO they were serving.
I know now a product is only a small part of business, but honestly it took me a few more years for that to sink in.
Thousands and thousands of people poured through their site, from one step, to the next, in this carefully crafted sequence... AND THEY WOULD MAKE IT RAIN.
So I started to understand, when they say “funnel” they just mean a sequence of web pages that lead customers down a specific path. Kinda like a helpful sales associate in a store guiding you through the purchase.
After a few months getting acquainted with them and their product, it was time for the Cape Town trip.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited. One, because it’s freakin' Cape Town and it’s basically the most beautiful place on Earth. It's full of mountains and beaches, and even penguins! Some of my favorite things! And two, because I wanted to use the opportunity to figure how everything actually worked in their company behind the scenes.
My girlfriend Angelly and I packed our bags and took the 36 hour trip to Africa - and let me tell you - that was a brutally long flight. From NYC to Ghana, to Johannesburg, and finally to Cape Town. 36 hours door to door.
When we landed at a layover in Ghana we weren’t even allowed to leave the runway.
We were told the plane needed to be searched as military looking guards boarded the plane and took the cushion off of literally every individual seat to search underneath as we all stood awkwardly to the sides. They also fumigated the plane with something they assured us was safe to breathe while we were trapped on it.
Finally, after another layover in Johannesburg, we arrived in Cape Town.
The mansion they rented was breathtaking, and not in the same way I feared whatever they used to fumigate the plane was.
It was carved out of the side of a rocky hillside overlooking a private beach that only the gated community, LLandudno, had access too. There was an infinity pool overlooking the ocean and even a cave area under a giant boulder that went through multiple floors of the house and ended as the wall of our bedroom.
After settling in, I eventually had a conversation with the founder of the company.
I remember thinking: "I build complicated systems all day long. If he can sell millions of dollars worth of information products"... granted, he was extremely talented at what he did... "then I should be able to do it for something I know about, too, by following the same framework!"
That’s why when I asked “What inspired you to build your company in the first place” and he replied “I just really like building systems" my mind kind of exploded.
“Great”, I, the systems architect, thought “Systems...“ How incredibly vague.
Obviously we had a different understanding of the word “system."
I was building complex systems daily. I had built systems that allowed transactions of private equity in dark pools for institutional investors. I was pretty sure that whatever system he was talking about, I should be able to understand and build it, too.
Turns out, there are a lot of different types of systems. Systems like I was used to for building and scaling technical solutions, but there are also systems that are designed specifically to make money, and systems to attract leads, etc!
I had been learning the wrong systems if my intent was to make money.
This is the point that I began searching for marketing podcasts, blogs, experts, courses and anything else I could find that could help me learn how to build these systems — the systems that are designed to make money - leading to me spending thousands of dollars in the process.
All the meanwhile, I'm a nerd at heart, so I still toiled away, perfecting my craft of engineering systems end to end.