Ep 254: NFL to Shark Tank to Ecomm with Chris Gronkowski

RV (00:07):
So excited to meet for the first time ever myself, Chris Gronkowski. If you recognize that name, he is one of five brothers the Gronk brothers, and he played in the NFL. You know, their, their whole team is a big team of professional athletes and big guys, and they are so fun and they do a bunch of stuff together as brothers. But I wanted to talk to Chris for a couple reasons. Well, first of all, one of the three teams that he started for in the NFL was the Denver Broncos, which is, I’m a huge Broncos fan and grew up in Denver, back in the Ricky Nael and Stevie winder, and like Steve Atwater, the eighties, like golden years for the Denver Broncos. And so that’s cool. We have that connection. But what I love about Chris is that he has parlayed his NFL career into a personal brand.
RV (00:59):
And I think a lot of people don’t understand what that life looks like. And so I thought, Hey, let’s talk about it. The other thing that he did part of that was he launched a, a product that is called ice shaker. And this is a product that he launched in 2016. Within the first five months, he was able to generate about $80,000 in sales. He then got on shark tank pitched a deal on shark tank and ended up signing a deal with mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez. And so he’s been growing his social media following. He’s got several hundred thousand on TikTok six figure following on Instagram, he’s building this business. And so I just thought, Hey, this is a cool story. We gotta hear about it. So anyways, Chris, welcome to the show.
CG (01:44):
Yeah, man, I like the intro. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me today.
RV (01:48):
Yeah, I, I, I do, man. I think it’s, I think it’s super cool. And so let’s, let’s start with your exit from the NFL. You know, at brand builders, we work with a, you know, F a growing number of athletes. I feel like because I feel like a growing number of them are waking up to this idea that, you know, Hey, you have to work after professional sports. Most of ’em and you have this sort of limited window where people still kind of know who you are and, and parlaying it into something. And I, I think you’ve done an awesome job of that. So talk to us about what, what is it like transitioning from your whole life of sports? You make it to the NFL, you play for several seasons and then it comes to an end.
CG (02:34):
Yeah. And it does. And that can happen at any time in your career as well. No matter how good of a player you are, you’re one injury or way for never playing again. And what most people don’t realize is none of the contracts are guaranteed. So when I entered the league, I was undrafted I signed a three year deal. It didn’t matter. It was that it was a three year deal. If I got hurt that first play, that was the last game I would’ve got paid for. There was nothing guaranteed after that. So a lot of these guys, they make it, or they get drafted, you know, they might play for a year. And after that, it’s done, you know, it’s over, but they’re planning in their thinking that they’re gonna play forever. So a lot of that, money’s already gone. Once you leave, you leave with whatever you made.
CG (03:13):
If you’re on the roster on a Wednesday, you get paid that week. If you’re not, you don’t get paid, you’re done. You’re going home. You know, you’re trying to find a new job. So that, transition’s hard. You, you only know one thing, you know, for the most part, you don’t have a job besides what you did, you know, growing up as, you know, newspapers and umpire and, you know, worked for my dad, stuff like that. But having that actual experience with a real job doesn’t come until you’re done playing. So really the only thing, you know, up until point is how to be a football player. So once you leave it, it’s, you know, you don’t have the skills yet. You’re older. Most people aren’t looking to hire older. And you know, it, it’s, it’s just this whole mentality that, you know, I was making all this money.
CG (03:52):
I was a football player. This is my identity. You know, it’s hard for me now to go start over at 50 grand a year or 40 or 30, or even if, if it’s 90, you know, which is great for someone coming outta college. But when you’re making that per game per week, it’s definitely a, an ego check and it’s hard to start over. So a lot of guys struggle with it. It becomes an issue for a lot of players and there’s a lot of programs in place now to help guys transition because it is a, it’s a tough process.
RV (04:19):
Yeah. well, that’s awesome. And I just, I think people aren’t in tune to that, cause we don’t hear that much about it and go, Hey, this is someone making tens of thousands of dollars a week to go in. Hey, you’re just like everyone else in the workforce trying to, trying to, trying to figure it out. So, so you leave the NFL. How long is it been for you come up with the physical product idea and then talk us through like, what’s that, what’s that timeline like?
CG (04:49):
Yeah. So I had a, I guess I would say unusual transition. After my third year, my wife was living with me. She had to get three jobs in three years, so she had to go, you know, interview every city I went to, I went to four different teams in four years. So by the third year was Denver. And when she got to Denver, she said, I’m not, I’m not going for another job interview. I’m gonna find a way to work from home. So she actually started an online business on Etsy. At that time it was hand painting wine glasses after Denver was my, the end of my career. So her end of my first contract, a three year contract. So I was looking for another team and I had some downtime. So started looking to her business, realized there was a great opportunity there.
CG (05:29):
And I started buying different commercial grade. Laser engravers started sourcing different products. And you know, pretty soon we had this all out business out of our house ended up then start signing with the chargers going there for about five months. I got hurt in can up and I got released. So I went full time into this business. And within the first year we were actually making more money in her business than I was playing in the NFL. So for me, super unusual transition that, you know, had no clue that’s what I was gonna do had no idea about the industry, but kind of just fell upon it because my wife, so I ended up doing that for five years after five years really came to the point where when people would ask me what I was doing for a living, it was kind of like, you know, I wouldn’t even tell ’em I never posted about it.
CG (06:12):
It wasn’t me. You know, I was this macho football player. I was always in sports and fitness and now I was custom and graving wedding gifts. So when people asked me, it was like, yeah, I’m kind of just doing my own thing. Wasn’t super, you know I guess wasn’t super into it, but it was making me a lot of money. So I kept doing it. But after five years thought of the idea for the product ice shaker and realize that it was a great opportunity for me to get back into the sport sports and fitness that I love doing. So when I thought of the idea just started as a side hustle was selling it outta my house after work and you know, had the opportunity to get on shark tank. And that’s when it really exploded and became a full-time business for me.
RV (06:50):
So before shark tank, you know, like if you have an idea to make a physical product and you, in your case, you go, Hey, I wanna make this ice shaker for like sports drinks or just whatever, drinking around the office. What do you do? Like how do you, what’s the first thing in terms of creating the product? Like where do you go? Cause I guess you go, I gotta get plastic from somewhere. Or somehow I gotta like have the little ball thing that’s in there, like a lot of ’em do. And, and do you just like start Googling like manufacturer plastic cup and like, is that pretty much how it starts?
CG (07:25):
So I, I didn’t know what to do at that time. You know, this was, you know, this was six years ago as well, so it’s easier now or there’s, there’s more resources now to do it, but back then I was lucky because we were already sourcing products with my wife’s business, we already had connections. We already had manufacturers. We asked them for help and they helped us find another manufacturer. So that’s how we did it. Now what I would recommend doing is going and getting a sourcing agent, you know, just find someone that does it for a living, you know, ask them for the help. It’s gonna be expensive though. You know, that’s a huge barrier to entry and you also have to know what you want. You know, you have to go get some, want to make you a CAD drawing, a 3d drawing so that, you know, you could present it to a, a manufacturer and say, Hey, this is what I’m looking for.
CG (08:07):
On top of that, you gotta research and you gotta know what you’re getting into. Like you said, the little ball that little ball is patented. So we couldn’t put a little ball inside of our cup. So then you try to figure out other ways to do it. And it was one of the hardest problems for us to solve and became one of our biggest assets, because we now have a patented twist and agitator that breaks up the protein powders, but it also ended up being a way to strain out ice. And it has all these other different benefits. And we’re now launching a, a twist and fruit infuser now as well for it. So it ended up being this huge problem for us, you know, how do we mix up protein without a ball? And then we realized this ball is really annoying, especially inside of a metal cup and it’s patented, so we can’t do it anyways. So let’s find another way to do it. And, and we did. So yeah, that initial process is the hardest part. You know, you could think of a great idea, but actually putting it into play is where everyone gets stuck.
RV (08:56):
So how much money are you invested in before you sell one?
RV (09:04):
Yeah, a Lot, right?
CG (09:05):
Yeah, for sure. So you know, at this time I wanted to be a comfortable level for me, so I wasn’t, you know, all in, I wasn’t getting loans. I had a, you know, decent chunk from the NFL, but my wife’s business was doing really well too. So you know, for me at that time, we invested about 50,000 into it. Okay. That was for, you know, the mold fees to get the first run of product going and then, you know, a website and that was pretty much it. And then I was also set up on Amazon, which, you know, was like 30 bucks a month. So that was the start. So it really to start, it was about $50,000.
RV (09:36):
Okay. So you, you get someone to draw it up on CA you have the idea, you draw it up in a CAD and then you make, you get a mold made so that you have something you can hold up and say, Hey, this is what it is. And then you have a website to start selling it.
CG (09:51):
Yep. And now they do 3d printing as well. So that process of actually getting up a prototype in your hands is a lot easier and a lot cheaper than it used to be. Cuz they could actually 3d print it where before that wasn’t happening. So 3d printing has come a long way and that’s also helped a lot to get a product made.
RV (10:08):
Yeah. I hear that. I hear your kids in the background. You got, you got three, three kids. I, I mean, so my wife and I, you know, we exited our first business. We built it for 12 years. We exited it in 2018 and then we, we basically started having kids right then. So this new business we’ve been building while having kids, that’s a, that’s a whole rodeo in and of itself like doing, doing that at the same time, you got three kids and one on the way,
CG (10:34):
Three kids, one on the way. And I tell people this all the time though, it was probably one of the best things that happened for business because I was so competitive. I was trying to do everything myself. When I started the business and it came to the point where, you know, I would work a hundred hour weeks easily. It didn’t bother me. I’d work every day. Cuz that’s, that’s kind of how I was born and raised. That’s kind of how football was, you know, work hard, put your time in, but with business at the end of the day, if you want to, you wanna scale, you have to build a team and you have to, you have to put processes in place. You have to delegate responsibilities because no matter how good I was at it, I didn’t have enough time in the day to do every single task.
CG (11:08):
So once I had kids, man, things slowed down and you have to figure out how to build a team at that point. So that’s really when it, that. And then COVID, you know, COVID really pulled me away from everything because I couldn’t physically be there. We had different shifts going on. And at that point it was, Hey, we need a solid team. We need solid processes. So if I can’t be here, this thing still runs. And so that’s, that was huge, man. Kids, it’s hard as it is as much you know, time and effort. It is you know, to raise kids. It’s it’s also, so one of the best things that ever happened to me because I’ve actually finally figured out how to run a business, the correct way without having to be there 24 7.
RV (11:47):
Yeah. So, and, and so, so now you’re 50,000 in, you have this mold, you got a website. How do you sell the first batch of people? Cause you all sold like $80,000 of this thing. Yeah. Like pretty, pretty quick. Is it just on social media talking about it or what?
CG (12:06):
So everyone thought it was social media or the fact that I had a following or my brother did and that really didn’t help at all. I thought it would, I figured, Hey, if I could get 1% of my following to buy, I’d be raking. That didn’t happen. My first post, I think I sold zero. I didn’t know how to build an audience at that time. I didn’t have a personal brand. I had a following just because I was an NFL player, but I never engaged, you know, I never hit people back. There was no reason for anyone to trust me or buy from me because I never did than anything to, to build their trust. So I realized that really quickly that a following doesn’t matter, unless, you know, you actually respond to them and give ’em value back as well. So I learned that later on and have continued to build on that. But at that time it was all about first making friends and family buy it. Every friend and every family member had to buy it, had to leave a review. And then for me, the biggest thing that I did early on, I got
RV (12:57):
Amazon, you were talking about. Yeah.
CG (12:59):
Yeah. So I, yeah, exactly on Amazon get, get as many reviews as possible. And then I, I borrowed their audience. You know, you borrow someone else’s platform audience, at least at the beginning. So with my wife’s business, it was Etsy before we built her website and built her email list for me, it was Amazon. You’ll go to Amazon, go to the biggest platform in the world. If it doesn’t sell there, you should probably stop trying because if you can’t sell on Amazon, you’re not gonna sell anywhere. So got on Amazon really had never been on Amazon before, but I just sat there and research and said, Hey, why am I not the first one on Amazon when I type in shaker bottle? And how do I get there? So I sat there, I studied every single other top ranking listing on there. And I looked at it and said, Hey, they got eight pictures.
CG (13:41):
These eight pictures highlight these eight things. These are the keywords you’re using. This is how many times the keywords show up. I’m gonna do exactly what they do. And let me see how high I can get. So within the first couple months, I added up getting to the three spot for shaker bottle, which was the highest row living keyword that I could rank for. And at that time I started selling about 25 to 30 a day, which was, was pretty good for, you know, just paying for zero ads and being a new product as well. That had only been established for a couple months. So that was my first way to sell. The second way was just going to trade shows. I started doing a lot of just different body building shows and I would show up and just, if you walk by my booth, you were gonna hear every single thing possible about this product.
CG (14:22):
And I was gonna try to get as many people to stop and, and talk to ’em about it. And at that time, you know, there wasn’t a ton insulated cups yet. So I put one bottle a plastic shaker with ice in it and I put my bottle with ice in it and I’d hand it to people. And the second they had both in their hands it was game over cuz they, they would, every time they opened it, they would say, no, there’s no way there’s ice in here. And they would open it, there’d be ice in it. And it was boom. It was a, it was an automatic seller because they just couldn’t believe how well the bottle was insulated.
RV (14:49):
That’s like classic infomercial stuff, which makes it a great, is a great, is a great fit for shark tank. Okay. So how do you get, how do you get the call to go on shark tank? Like did you apply, was there a casting call? Did you have a friend? Like how’d that how’d this happen?
CG (15:07):
Yeah. So that process can be pretty tedious. I, I was lucky because 2012 I was with the Broncos. I got an email from my agent. He sent it out to every single guy on the roster and it just said, Hey, ABC shark tank is looking for any current or former NFL players. If you want to come pitch on the show. So they were looking for a way to build their audience, you know, bring some some new new fans into the show. And so they reached out to my agent and that time I didn’t even know how to use email. And I had nothing to present, but I loved the show. I watched it pretty much every time a new one came out. So I started and I said to my wife, I’m like one day, we’re gonna come back to this email.
CG (15:43):
I’m gonna hit her back with something. Cool. So fast forward, like five years later, I think it was four or five years later. I finally emailed it back and she didn’t work there anymore, but she quickly passed me on to the girl that did. And I said, Hey, I got this great idea. Would love to present it to you. At that point, like you don’t have to go to all the trade shows where like you pitch for the first time they just said, Hey, send a video submission over. And if we like it, you know, we’ll get back to you. So I knew at that point, you know, I had a decent chance as long as I had something to present of value. And I did have value at that time I had about, I had about $35,000 in sales. I had a product, you know, we were selling now.
CG (16:24):
I, I knew my brother was crushing it at that time as well. So that would help as well. So with all that, and then this one shot, I just made it super entertaining. I’m like, Hey, let’s make this video ridiculous because I know it’s an entertaining show. They’re looking for entertainment. So I’m, I’m sitting there, you know, ripping my shirt off in the gym, you know, showing my touchdown, passes, all that and submitted it to them. And a couple days later they hit me back and said, you know, we’d love to move on to the next steps with you.
RV (16:49):
Wow. That’s crazy. So then, so then you go on this show. So, so what happens? So basically they’re like, okay, so you go through a couple rounds of screening or whatever. So you send a video, they say, we like the video. We like the idea. You talk to some people on the phone, I guess. And then what you, you, you, at some point you go, come on the show and you’re gonna like enter into the shark tank and we’re gonna film this.
CG (17:11):
Yeah. So it it’s actually about like, like six months of diligence that they do. And they check on everything. They it was, it was crazy. I had, I had one thing from the state of Indiana and paid my taxes or e-filed it, for some reason they never got the e-file. So they, they put something on my record. So I had to get all that cleared. I had to call like, everything has to be perfect for you to get on the show. So they’re gonna check everything and then, you know, they wanna make sure you’re prepared too. So, you know, they don’t want you showing up and just putting on trash. Like they want it to be a good show. So they make sure that, you know, you’re ready, you know, your product and you know, you’ve watched different episodes. You kind of know the, so they get you prepared for sure.
CG (17:50):
So you get there. What’s crazy is for most people you don’t even know if you’re actually gonna record when you get there. So there’s a chance that you still don’t record, even if you make it to the hotel, because if they get enough good submissions, they’ll just cut the last couple people out. So the first thing I saw when I got, there was a guy pacing back and forth at the hotel. And second I walk up, he’s like, Hey man, you here to pitch, you know what, you know, what’s your company name, all this stuff. I’m like, who, who is this guy? And they’re like, oh, he was here last year, but they didn’t, they didn’t film him. So he is freaking out about it, like going, going crazy about it. So I’m like, man. So I, I made this to the hotel, but I didn’t, you know, didn’t really know 100% sure if I’d even recall. And then when you do record, you know, there’s another chance that they don’t even air it. So a lot of times they do, they record it. And you know, if they don’t like the episode or they don’t think it’s entertaining enough or you don’t get a deal or whatever it is, they’ll cut it. And you’ll never air. So
RV (18:45):
Definitely. How long is the filming? Like how long is the, how long are you actually in there pitching your deal?
CG (18:49):
So I was in there for probably close to an hour and then they’re gonna cut it down to eight minutes. But at the end of the day, like they’re, it’s, it’s real, like it’s, it’s no joke on the questions they’re asking you. They’re not in there. Kind of just throwing you softball questions, they’re drilling you on everything. And they just don’t show that stuff. So, you know, they knew what I did growing up. They knew my first job, they knew what I did in high school. They knew what I did right after college. And you know, they, they hit me on all that stuff. They want to know what my parents did everything. So really at the end of the day, they knew everything about me, but then they just show the entertaining stuff. You know, the actual, the actual offers us playing flip cup that, you know, the initial pitch, the chess bumps, you know, stuff like that. But really at the end of the day, you know, they’re, they’re drilling down on you, you know, it’s the real deal it’s of money. And when you think about it, all the diligence and everything they have to do afterwards, especially mark, he’s been doing it for 10 years. He’s not just gonna pick up some scrub company cuz it it’s more work than anything for him. So, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s really vetting companies out and making sure he is getting something that’s worth his time.
RV (19:48):
And so after that happens, like, so then, so then you record and while you’re so you record and nothing happens cuz no one has seen it. And then at some point it comes out several weeks or months later. And then is there an instant like boom,
CG (20:08):
Boom, boom, Shaka Locka, really? For sure. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, it’s huge. I mean, when you’re a new company, especially, you know, that that influx of sales is, is massive. You know, you get the money from the shark. You know, that takes, that takes a couple months of diligence, but they, you know, they then wire that money over. But then that boom, I is huge and all that money is also, you know, you’re not spending mark dollars on it. So it’s top margin. So there’s, there’s a lot of profit there and it, it spikes massive and it doesn’t just spike massive for the day of, you know, now because everyone records everything and then you get articles written about you as well. You really get like this month long tale of, of really good sales. So the first couple weeks is great. The first week is huge. Then the next I’d say the next three weeks is good, but for us it was October. So we went right into November, which was holiday season, black Friday, all that into December. And then January for us is new year’s resolution. So we had this massive wave that then it in February and when February hit, it was like, yo, what the hell do we do now? Like I, you know, I gotta figure out how to run a business now because all that extra traffic and, and sales that came was gone.
RV (21:18):
Hmm that’s wild. So it’s really like the minute the show airs, you start, it just starts popping. Yeah.
CG (21:24):
So we sold out on Amazon in in 30 minutes on Amazon. So the strategy at that time was to try to build our audience. You know, I, I initially used Amazon to, to start the business. But at the end of the day, you don’t know who you’re selling to. You’re not getting any information. You’re not building your own customer base. You’re not getting emails, you’re not getting SMS. So, you know, it’s cool to start and prove yourself there. But if you don’t get off someone else’s platform, they own, you, you know, for the rest of your, your life really is what it comes down to. And if they don’t like your product or they wanna knock your product off, or if someone wants to knock you off, Amazon’s not gonna protect you. You know, they, they don’t care about IP cases. You have to take that outside of Amazon.
CG (22:02):
So if you want to own your audience, you have to build your own list. So our game plan was, you know, get our old stuff on Amazon. So we put all of our old stock. I came out with a new product right before we aired, sold out everything on Amazon within 30 minutes. And it was a decent stock. I wish I put some of our new stuff on there because we probably would’ve quadrupled ourselves. But the strategy really was to build our own customer base and build our website up. So that’s what we stuck to.
RV (22:27):
And then how much do you see, like how often do you see mark Cuban or Alex Rodriguez or even talk to him?
CG (22:35):
Yeah. So Mark’s done a great job of building mark Cuban companies up. So he brought in a, a bunch of employees that their job is to help out the Charan companies. So I think he has 10 around 10 people in mark Cuban companies. Their job is to help out around 80. I think he has about 80 shark tank companies and other investments as well. So I have an advisor signed to me his name’s John and I talk to him almost every week,
RV (22:59):
CG (23:01):
That, so I can reach out really for anything what’s cool about it is they’re there to help and they’re not there to take over the company. So, you know, Mark’s in it for the right reason. He’s not trying to, you know, make a ton of money off me or force me into anything. He’s there to help if I need help, he’s not gonna come in and take over the business. He’s not gonna force me to do anything if I want help. If I want suggestions, he’ll give them to me. If not, you know, and we’re doing well, he’s just gonna let me keep on running it, how I’m running it.
RV (23:28):
Wow. That is such a cool thing. And so how’s it been since? So when was that? When did, when does the show you, when did you, when did you go live on Amazon the first time? When did you do the show?
CG (23:41):
So the first product on Amazon was ready at the beginning of 2017. So January, 2017 was probably when we got our first product on Amazon aired on shark tank in October, 2017 went from that 80,000 range to, we did over 3 million in sales in the next 12 months.
RV (23:58):
Oh my gosh,
CG (23:59):
The company
RV (24:00):
That’s nuts. That is crazy.
CG (24:02):
Took off. And then we did get the update too. So we got the second recording of shark tank as well. In 2018, we aired again in in November. So that was a nice little boost. And now we get the reruns for both episodes. So they’re always rerunning on CNBC now. And every time we do at this point, we’ll get, we’ll get a couple thousand people that come to the website and then we usually get a decent chunk of people that go to Amazon as well.
RV (24:29):
Wow. just from a rerun
CG (24:31):
Reruns, man, I love reruns. They, they like it, I guess, I guess we’re rated one of the top 10 episodes in the shark tank history. So we seem to get a lot more reruns and they seem to be in prime time as well. So it’s it’s a nice little thing we got going on.
RV (24:47):
What are you doing outside of that?
CG (24:50):
So sales outside of that, how we’re getting getting people
RV (24:53):
Into the yeah. Now, right. So that’s kinda like you did Amazon got a shark tank, got that, kind of have this little annuity of customers coming in from that, but then you start and then, and then what did you start really layering on your personal brand? Or are you at like, where do you go from there?
CG (25:09):
We, we push hard into Facebook marketing. So we’re spending over a million a year on Facebook ads. At one point that’s significantly fallen off because of the iOS updates and we’re not seeing results there anymore. After that really built a sales team up as well. And then we, we, we built out a retail strategy too. So we’re national with vitamin shop GNC lifetime fitness. We’ll actually go into Walmart in February this year into 1900 locations. We’re in grocery. So we have a pretty decent retail presence. Now at this point we actually held off until really the goal was, was 2020, but then COVID hit and everything got crazy and really pushed off until, until now for retail strategy. But we’re in, we in a lot of gyms as well. We, we do a lot of work with CrossFit too, and we also do a lot in the promo space. So anyone that’s looking for customer gifts or employee gifts or event gifts, anything like that, we actually have the ability to turn custom bottles with in three to five business days because that’s my wife’s business. So I took all that. I integrated it into ice shaker as well. You could buy a one off bottle on our website. We’ll probably make it the same day and ship it out for you. Or you could buy thousands of bottles and we’ll ship those out within three to five business days.
RV (26:25):
Yeah, that’s really, really cool. And so your purse brand, then you still talk about, you know, like I saw one of your reels recently was talking about like the way that retirement and pension plans work for formal NFL athletes. So you’re, so you’re still kind of like, just out, trying to just be out there talking about, you know, whatever, obviously talking about the product and just but talk’s really blown up for you.
CG (26:49):
Yeah. So I, I mean, I went to you’ll kind of try to figure out social, I didn’t know what to do at first. So I just kind of just started posting and really what it came down to was I had to find a way to bring value to people. So to do that, you know, I started talking about NFL. I started answering questions that other people were asking. And when I did that, I kind of led down this, this, this track of just answering NFL questions from there, I then became, you know, someone that people trusted, they would ask questions to, I would answer ’em I’d engage. And from there I’d then weave in different ways to also answer questions about product. So people would ask, Hey, your NFL career is out over now. What do you do now? So that was a great opportunity to answer this question, bring shark tank into it.
CG (27:30):
And it came to the point where I actually, someone then asked, you know, what is it like to have the sharks on your team? I did a TikTok about that. It drove more traffic to my website than shark tank airing did. So I drove more, more views to my website from one TikTok post than the live airing of shark tank did for the first time. And I got on all my calls that week and the different companies that we work with said, man, what, what happened? And in this 3d day period, and I said, oh, I put out a TikTok about, about shark tank. And they were like, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. So that video got about 6 million views. It drove a close to 50,000 clicks to our website over three days from one TikTok post. So it just shows you the, the actual power of it.
RV (28:17):
6 million views and 50,000 visit visitors.
CG (28:21):
You had about 50,000 visits to our website. I mean, it, it was hard to distinguish where they, because it won’t tell me directly from TikTok, but, you know, we had this massive influx over those three days. So my TikTok then over just a 30 day period, when I first started I would reach about 50 million people. So video views was at about 50 million. I now average on a weekly basis, I average about 5 million views on TikTok a week.
RV (28:46):
That’s amazing. And they’re just, they’re just all these little short clips, basically the same as an Instagram reel,
CG (28:51):
Same thing. I then also put it on Instagram reels now as well. And that, that, I mean, that’s what everyone’s pushing. So Instagram’s pushing it, TikTok, pushing it, you know, you can then do YouTube shorts. You can then do Pinterest. So I, I try to hit every platform that, you know, I will post that same video throughout all of them because, you know, there’s an audience there that wants to see it and they want you to post it on their platform. So those four have, have taken the same style videos for ’em done pretty well, but Instagram reels and TikTok by far are driving the most engagement most sales, most, most everything. And also for me, me personally, I make a lot of money off of brand deals as well because I’m, I’m an influencer now. And it’s hard to find guys that are influencers is what it comes down to. You know, it’s, there’s a lot of females I would say it’s probably 80% female. We actually got accepted into a, a Facebook affiliate program that Facebook was doing and it was 95% female. And I’m like, what’s going on with that? So I think I get a lot of brand deals because I I’m a, one of the few males that they would consider an influencer. That’s growing a profile.
RV (29:58):
When did you start going all in ONT to
CG (30:02):
So it was man, I got challenged. I have a podcast and I got challenged on the podcast by a kid who was a college dropout and a TikTok expert. And he was like, man, I got 600,000 followers. You got 10,000 and you got all these cool stories to tell why don’t you go on there and tell ’em. So I did. And, and that’s that first 30 days I through 350,000 followers by telling, you know, NFL style, unique stories, shark tank behind the scenes, stuff like that. But I started that, I would say midway through 2020.
RV (30:32):
Wow. that is cool, man. And, and you just post how often you posting.
CG (30:38):
So I was committed and the challenge was the post. Once it day, you know, post once a day. Really for me, I got it down to using about 10 minutes a day. That was it. You know, go through when I had extra time, I’d sit on the couch and I’d pull a bunch of questions, I’d save them and then I’d answer ’em and, and what’s cool about TikTok and now reels has copied it is when you answer a question from a previous, previous post, it links ’em. So you’re driving juice to both of them by answering a previous post question. So I
RV (31:08):
Saw that a comment, someone’s asking you a question in a comment. Do you have to use like a question feature on the first one?
CG (31:15):
So no they’ll comment. And then you reply back to the comment and it will link the two posts for you. So it kind of gives juice to both of ’em and then it just becomes like a rabbit hole for people to follow.
RV (31:24):
Oh, this is like a, a video response to a comment video
CG (31:28):
Response. Yep, exactly. And what I noticed as well is that you then give people you know, the ability to ask a question and, you know, you have a, they have a chance for you to actually answer it. And because of that, people are gonna continue to ask questions, ask questions, because you’re actually engaging and you’re actually answering the questions.
RV (31:47):
Interesting. So it’s just a normal, it starts as a normal comment. You just post a I GTV or a reel or whatever. Someone puts a comment and then you just push some button that’s or like a reply to their comment, real
CG (31:58):
Reply. Yep. Just, just a video reply. And Reel’s just started doing the same thing because it it’s a powerful tool. It it’s super powerful. And it, it helps the creator a lot. And then the last thing that I did, and I did it a lot when I first started and I stopped and I started again is just actually doing a CTA. So call to action, ask people to follow. You, ask people to ask a question and the difference is insane. But what it also does is your watch time. The biggest thing on, on all the platforms is watch time. You know, how long is someone actually sitting on your video and watching it? So if you can get that time to go up, they’re gonna keep pushing, pushing, pushing, it’s gonna go viral. So by asking them to ask a question while they’re asking and typing out the question, the video’s still playing, you know, and when you ask ’em to follow you, they actually do as well. And especially after you show up a couple times, people will be like, Hey, I’ve seen your videos three times. And I like, ’em you always ask for the follow, I just hooked you up. So I saw immediately by asking for a follow and asking for a question that my, my all audience would start growing. I would grow 1% a day, you know, sometimes 3% in one day, you know, thousands of followers every single day, just by asking people to actually follow or ask a question at
RV (33:09):
The end. So basically you do a video and then you do that at the end. Nope,
CG (33:12):
No, I do it before I answer the question. So they have to listen to it and then just also gives me more watch time. So I’ll say, Hey, you know you know, Hey, RO so thanks so much for the question today, before I answer this question, don’t forget to ask your questions down below. Don’t forget to follow me here. So that, that just adds to watch time, because I realize if I did it at the end, people would ex out it, it would actually hurt me because then it would cut my watch time. You know, the average watch time down because they would X out the say, second, I started asking for the, for the question or for the follow. So I would, then I then boosted it up to the first thing that I said, they have to sit through it to get the answer as they’re sitting through it, it’s adding watch time. And then they’re also asking questions and then I answer it and they have to wait till the end for the answer. So and
RV (33:56):
Then after you answer, after you answer the question, do you say, if you want a question answer, leave it, leave it down below in the comments or something like, how do you tee up the next one?
CG (34:06):
No. so I, I asked them it before that, but then it loops, so once I finish asking it, it will loop start
RV (34:13):
CG (34:14):
Yeah. So it’ll do back. So strategy, a good strategy on reels and TikTok as well is to make it seem like your video never ended. So once you’re done talking, it clips it, or the ending looks like the beginning. So people don’t realize they’re watching it twice and then you get more than a full watch out of it. And your watch time goes way up. So just another, a lot of strategy, but the whole strategy is shares. And watch time, you know, if you watch times, you know, more than what your video length is, they’re gonna keep pushing, pushing, pushing, and you’re gonna go bar,
RV (34:42):
Wow, Chris, this has been awesome, dude. I, I, I just, I love it. I, I think it’s so cool. And I think you know, there is an opportunity here for anybody who is an athlete or, you know, we have, we have we’ve got clients who were, you know, formally movie stars or TV stars. You know, there’s like this window of opportunity that if you play your cards right, it parlays, like you’ve parlayed it into just a really great following in a business that will last you the rest of your career and you keep building. And this has been awesome. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Like just kind of the transparency of your story, where do you want people to go to, to follow you and connect with all the stuff that you’re doing?
CG (35:26):
Yeah, for sure. So I’m, I’m, I’m pretty much every platform. So besides Facebook, I haven’t mastered Facebook yet, but I’ll work on that. Follow me, Chris, Kowski Instagram TikTok, definitely the, the most engaged on those two check out the website. I sugar.com and I guess last but not least, we got the, the channel, the YouTube channel with all the brothers at the Bronx. So we’d like to have fun on that channel, not that active during the season, but off season, we should be bringing some heat on the, on the channel as well.
RV (35:56):
I love that you guys are branding yourselves as the, as all five of you together. I think that’s got a lot of mileage and legs long term that’s, it’ll be cool to see how that shakes out
CG (36:06):
For sure. For sure. That’s, that’s the fun stuff.
RV (36:09):
Yeah. Well, man we appreciate you making some time and look forward to staying connected and just wish you the best.
CG (36:16):
I appreciate thanks so much for having me today.
Speaker 3 (36:20):
Hey, brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch, anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand builders group brand builders, group.com/pod. We hope to talk to you soon.
RV (37:07):
Gro gro Chris, Grotowski one of the five Gronk brothers. What a cool conversation. This is another conversation that, you know, we do this podcast we’re learning right alongside of you. And this was one that was super tactical, like way, way more tactical in terms of what has changed my behavior immediately since doing this interview with Chris and it was pre it’s pretty awesome. And it’s cool to see what he’s doing. I think it’s, it’s inspiring to see how he transition and you know, his career in the NFL into a great personal brand. And I’ll tell you this. One of the things that I got clear on just in talking to him was going, oh, I got clear clarification on some of our core target audience, like some of our avatar at brand builder group brand builders group, because we work with athletes and stuff.
RV (38:01):
And it was like, oh yeah, well, you know, college athletes and stuff like that. And, and, and the whole, like N I name image like this, maybe we should be trying to reach out to college athletes and, you know, and get in with some pro athletes and stuff. And then it hit me like, oh, our market is not athletes. Our a, our market is former athletes. We’re one of the ways where we can be useful. And, and if, you know, a former professional athlete, you should introduce them to us because we can help them, like leverage the following that they built from sports or whatever to create, and, and, and turn it into a long lasting career as you know, a personal brand, an educator, encourager, entertainer, whatever. And it’s cool to see Chris do that and hear his story about how he, you know, went from being in the NFL and then became an entrepreneur.
RV (38:50):
And now he’s like building his personal brand really, really cool. And it, it makes sense to me cuz we have a lot of athletes in our, on our community and people who play in the NFL, et cetera. And it’s like, oh, they’re all former athletes, which makes sense. Cuz when you’re in the NFL, you should probably focus on not getting killed and win in a super bowl. Right. And like doing your thing. But after that it’s D story. So that was a, that was a, you know, an insight for me just to share with you that even as we do this, every one of these episodes, we’re learning stuff, new constantly that we are applying to our business. So that’s not one of my top three formal takeaways. I’ll I’ll go into those now. So the first one my first formal takeaway was where it was so simple.
RV (39:38):
He said do video replies to the questions that people leave in your comments. That’s so cool. Right? Like what a simple, easy way to create community, engage with your followers, have video content, a a add, add valuable content like that, you know, that, that, that people are interested in is yeah. Anytime somebody asks you a question as a DM or as a comment, answer the question as a video and say, you know, Hey, this question comes from so and so, or you don’t have to name ’em and just go, got this question the other day. Here’s the answer. I mean, this is the formula that we teach our brand builders. Like all of our paying members, as simple as we go every week, you you’re going to take at least one question and answer one question with one answer and then give a call to action.
RV (40:31):
Like that’s it QAC question, answer, call to action. It is a simple formula for how to effectively do social media marketing, content marketing YouTube podcasting. I mean, what are we doing on this show every week we’re bringing on people who do a component of personal branding really well or that we think do it well or that we wanna learn from, and then we’re highlighting it and showcasing it for you is to help you get questions answered for how you grow your business. And, and we use that as a way to like build trust and hopefully to get an opportunity to meet you and have a free phone call with you at some point, and then see if we can understand what your, your vision is and see if the process that we teach that so many of these people use to build their personal brand is one that we can help apply for you.
RV (41:16):
But the Genesis of that relat is answer a question, be useful. And one of the exercises that we have our members do is we have, ’em make a list of 52 questions that their audience has. And then you answer those one at a time and that becomes basically your content calendar for a year. Well, you know, your, your audience has way more than 50 questions about what you do and you, you definitely know more than 50 little tips or nuggets about what you do if you’re truly operating in your uniqueness. And so paying attention to the questions, people are asking you and the comments and the DMS and, and, and then making that into is just so smart. Right? So, so if you’re gonna answer a question, answer it as a video because then you’ll never have to answer that question again. Right? You have that video there and it creates content and it’s just so, so simple.
RV (42:08):
The second thing that Chris does, and I went and looked on his TikTok profile and I was like, this is crazy. He actually does this. And he said, it makes a huge difference. And I started doing it. And guess what? It makes a huge difference like is to do a call to action where you deliberately like articulate the words like in your video to say, follow me, click through. And you know, I’ve been saying, click click through to my profile and make sure you give me a follow. He’s, he’s mostly focused on TikTok. So he just points at the follow button on his TikTok videos. It doesn’t allow him to repurpose on Instagram, which is, you know, kind of a bummer, but whatever Instagram or TikTok where he’s focused and he points and he, you know, follow me here, which is really short.
RV (42:56):
And you know, you see his finger and then you go click right there and you follow him. And it’s like, of course, that works. People do what you tell them to do. I mean, this is crazy, but this is the whole point of calls to action in general is like tell people what to do if you go back and listen to the Tom episode. So Tom Rath wrote strength finders, which is the all time bestselling nonfiction book, like the bestselling nonfiction book of all time on Amazon, it sold 10 million copies. And I asked Tom in that interview, I said, Tom, how do you sell 10 million copies? And he said, simple, give people something to do, tell them what to do. And here it is again like that, that same dynamic, that same principle coming up where he’s just saying, you know, make sure to follow me on my profile.
RV (43:41):
And, and it works like what a, what a difference. So we’ve started doing this. I’ve started doing this with my videos and it totally works. Like, it, it, it, it’s not like suddenly we’ve got millions of followers overnight, but just noticing how the follower count is growing proportionate to when we were not doing this, it is a noticeable difference. And it’s so simple. And so you gotta be thinking of these increasingly committal calls to action in general. Right. You know, if you liked, if you agree with what I had to said, make sure you like this, or share this with a friend or leave a comment down below or, or, you know, tell me your thoughts or click through and follow, or, you know, click the link in my bio and join my, you know, download my free lead magnet. These are calls to actions where you’re literally verbatim telling somebody what to do.
RV (44:33):
People need to be told what to do, why cuz their brain doesn’t have much space or time to figure it out themselves. So you make it easy for people when you tell them exactly what to do, help them take the next step by making the step painfully obviously excruciatingly clear and then tell them what to do. So they don’t have to think about it. They can just do it. And now they’re on your email list. Now they’re following you. Now they’re sharing your content. Now they’re commenting below. They’re subscribed to your YouTube channel. They’re they’re rating and reviewing your podcast, like tell them what to do so simple. And I’ve just never done that. Yeah. I’ve always felt kind of weird about it. Just like, Hey follow me. But you know, there’s I still feel a little bit weird, like I’m pandering. But it makes a difference and you go look, if those people are gonna follow me and now I have a chance to change their life, cuz now they’re gonna see my content again.
RV (45:27):
And again, that’s a worthwhile thing, right? So I can, I can feel stupid silly if it’s for the sake of going, I’m gonna get another opportunity or several opportunities to impact somebody’s life versus, you know, I get to feel cool. And then this is the one time they’re gonna see a video of mine and then I’m never gonna see ’em again. So I can live with that. I can live with that. I get it outta my comfort zone there a little bit. And that’s one thing that I’m, I’m working on the third takeaway from Chris, which you hear this, right? This isn’t totally new. I mean, it’s not new information, but is if you go live specifically on TikTok, it’s huge right now because TikTok pushes you out to everyone that is huge, right? Like that is very different. If you go live on Instagram, it’s more like it’s pushing you out to your followers, which you may not have a bunch, but TikTok is in the, still the season of growth, right?
RV (46:28):
So there’s so much traction to still be made there. And going live is the way to do it. Now. One of the things that I discovered unfortunately, is that you have to have a thousand followers to have the go live function on TikTok even available to you. And so I was like, shoot we’ve been ignoring TikTok for the most part. And so now we’re kind of like trying to pick up our game a little bit and, and get into it because I feel like we’re late to the game once again on social. And I think if we can get there while this is still happening, or if you have a thousand followers going live on TikTok, you should do it, right. Like you’re at, there’s this harvest season that, that we’re in right now where you’re getting a disproportionate amount of a, of a tension and impact and reach.
RV (47:19):
And you gotta kind of play those seasons cuz you don’t know when they’re gonna come up. And TikTok is in one right now. If that matters to you now we’ve got other friends that go, I don’t trust TikTok. I don’t like it. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t believe in it. You know, it’s owned by the Chinese. Some people have issues with that or whatever. Like you gotta make your decision, but like if you’re into reaching people, this is your chance. Like this window is, this is happening on, on TikTok and, and it’s huge. And I’m learning a ton from TikTok. Like there’s a bunch of people that I’m following that I’m, I’m learning stuff from. And so pretty incredible. So, you know, you’ve got going live. And then the other thing is using the discovery tool on TikTok. We talked about this with Tory Gordon a few weeks ago, she’s got a huge TikTok following.
RV (48:11):
But just going to look at the discovery page and it tells you which hashtags are trending. Like it just tells you right there. This is the content that people wanna see right now. And this is the content that we’re pushing out. And so paying attention to writing the wave, right? Like that’s like here comes the wave and it’s telling you, this is the wave right now. And if you wanna hop on you just like create content that fits inside that wave and you catch, catch the wave. So this is that window, right? This is that this is that window. And you see the opposite happening on Instagram. It’s like every, every few weeks the reach just goes down and down and down and Facebook like organic reach, just like dead. I mean almost virtually dead like zero. I’m shocked at how little, our content, you know, even videos that are awesome and it’s like they get 20 views.
RV (49:06):
We haven’t put a ton of time into Facebook either, but this is why is this? Like, it doesn’t work very well anymore. Organically. So, or at least we’re not, we’re not putting in the work. It takes to really make it work. There are plenty of people making it work. You know, if you go back and listen to the episode with Hillary billings and Marshall, Marshall CS about you know, they’re getting hundreds of millions of views, like there’s a way to do it. And we talk about it in that episode. But right now this is the, the season is TikTok. It’s the one that’s here, it’s right in front of us. And we are we’re, we are late to the game. And you know, still in some ways, not, I mean in a lot of ways, not in, on it, not all in on it, but we’re, you know, we’re taking steps direction and I would like to experiment with going live on TikTok.
RV (49:55):
So we’ll see how that happens. But there you have it practical tips from, you know, a guy who, I mean, Chris, Chris is, you know, Gronkowski is a really well known. I mean, obviously his, his brother is one of the, the, the greatest tight ends of all time. And Chris had a very solid NFL career, which, I mean, anyone who plays in the NFL is amazing in my opinion. But it’s, it’s not like Chris had millions and millions of followers. He doesn’t have millions of followers now, but you know, he had a, he had something that he achieved. He was the top of his industry. He was in the NFL, but then it was over and it was like, what are you gonna do with it? Right. And so you might be at the top of your industry, but you’re transitioning it and going, how am I gonna use this to impact lives and to build an audience and to become well known?
RV (50:41):
Not for the sake of me being well known, but for the sake of making a difference in the world. And I love at Chris has done that and he’s turned it into a great business and great relationships and great partnerships and he’s adding value and he’s, he’s, you know, cool. And you can do the same thing. People wanna know you and you have an opportunity to help them and just figure out how can I answer their questions, give ’em clear calls to action and, you know, pay attention to some of the natural ways to grow your reach and do it consistently. And you know, that’s how it happens. So it’s simple, it’s simple, it’s doable, it’s all doable, right? Building your personal brand, building your influence, building your reach, making an impact, making a difference, becoming more well known, all doable. So many of those things are learning right here every single week. So keep coming back we love having ya. We’re learning right alongside you. And and then also hopefully modeling and showing you the way in some ways we’ll catch you next time on the influential personal brand podcast.