This article all about Lisa Messenger and how she has completely disrupted the magazine industry and has influenced game changers like Arianna Huffington, George Clooney and Richard Branson to contribute to her vision.
I have wanted to have Lisa Messenger on Addicted2Success for a while. I recently caught up with her for an interview and in my eyes she is one of the most exciting female entrepreneurs in Australia right now. When I first saw her speaking on stage she was dressed in all white, with a glorious, graceful, angelic like appearance and she came across as a visionary leader from another planet that was destined to change the world.
Lisa is most well known for launching her magazine in 2013 called The Collective with no money and no experience in magazines what so ever! The Collective Magazine has gone on to be a global success and is now in thirty-seven countries with a vision of empowering people to live their best life and telling the story behind the story.
It took Lisa over twelve years to start looking at doing business outside of Australia and she puts it down to fear, perceived lack of knowledge, incorrect thinking around the need for government grants, and even thinking she needed someone’s permission.
Below are Lisa’s eight ways to not make the same mistakes she did and start a global business from nothing.
1. Be bold like Lisa and keep the plan simple
Think about why you want to take your business global and don’t do it just to be global for the sake of it. It’s only fear and your own misconceptions that are holding you back from going global, and once you start to look into it, it’s not that complex.
What happens with 99.9% of entrepreneurs is that they think they need to write laborious business plans that are a hundred pages long and contain every last detail before they can go global. Lisa sees’s herself as purposely, counter-intuitive to all of that and prefers to do what she calls back of the envelope plans. The most her plan will ever be is two pages and sometimes as little as two sentences.
Many entrepreneurs carry around a limiting belief that involves them thinking they lack the finances to get their idea off the ground and into an international market – Lisa has proven this is simply not true.
2. Pre-sell your idea
Once the plan is written out Lisa will then go around to corporate’s and tell them her idea so she can raise the money she needs to take it global. Every single thing that Lisa ever does is presold. There is usually no strategy on how she is going to implement the idea, and it’s made up as she goes along. This process is called being visionary and then executing.
At the execution stage, Lisa is very good at finding teams, putting them together, and then making the idea happen. In the early stages of The Collective, Lisa was very tenacious and would tell corporates that she had no money, no team and no experience in magazines, but that she can deliver on her promise.
With traditional magazines, they would normally sell pages of advertising to make revenue, whereas Lisa approached corporates and did sponsorships to cover the $350k that it costs to put out each issue of the magazine.
Each corporate sponsorship came bundled with advertorials, syndicated content back to them, speaking gigs, copies of the magazine to give to their clients and event partnerships. These sponsorships were combined with traditional advertisements in the magazine allowing her to ask for more money each time and focus on doing chunkier deals and less of them.
All of these factors combined were what allowed Lisa to pre-sell her idea to corporates. No matter how small the investment was from a corporate, it didn’t matter in the early days of The Collective because Lisa saw it as someone believing in her idea other than her, which validated the concept clearly in her mind.
You need to hustle a lot and embrace the challenge to pre-sell your idea, which will give you the success you need to take your startup global. Recognise what your currency is other than dollars. For a company like The Collective it’s content and so they can trade with a non-competing partner to maybe have their magazine distributed to a partner’s database in exchange for an article on their company that interests The Collective’s readers.
At the start of your business, you almost need to throw yourself at prospects, but as you get bigger and bigger things become easier. As an example, Lisa had Ryan Gosling on the front of one of her magazine issues and after that moment, she now get’s lots of publicists contacting her with influential people to feature on the front cover.
3. Attend an overseas trade fair
When Lisa found out, there was an event called Distripress she made the bold move to travel to the event with her Marketing Director Claire Bellbeck when they had very little money. They had to do lots of small deals just to be able to have the money to get there. In one day, they got to have a meeting with thirteen global media distributors all in the one place.
After the end of the event, they ended up being able to piece together distribution deals with thirteen different distributors, which Lisa says anyone can do, and it’s not that complex. She feels it’s really just a matter of finding out who distributes your particular product and going to a place where there are going to be more than one distributor.
With the deal in place, Lisa wanted to be in over fifty countries as quick as she could but she didn’t realise that it can be quite costly to ship physical magazines all around the world. She later settled on thirty-seven countries so she could focus on making a good return in strategic markets.
4. Pre-convince everyone you do business with
When you start working with a global distributor, they want you to commit to a certain spend in each market. It’s one thing to get product into a store, but it’s another thing to get it out of the store and for people to know it exists in the first place.
Using the power of persuasion and thinking differently, Lisa started saying things like, “I can’t afford to have a placement in the newsagency or to spend money on advertising, we need people to back us and believe in our vision.” What she did do though is make the bold move of guaranteeing them a certain amount of profit, which had never really been done in the magazine industry.
Distributors would then ask her how she knew that the magazine was going to sell, and she would tell them that she didn’t and that if it didn’t work out, she would have to find the money somehow to pay them back.
The way Lisa described her technique for doing deals in the early days was to reverse engineer them because she didn’t have the money to do things the traditional way.
Another example of a deal Lisa did early on in her journey was when she managed to get the airport light walls (floor to ceiling walls) covered with advertisements of her magazine. These are typically paid for up front, but Lisa managed to convince them to back her and put them up without upfront payment.
“People love entrepreneurs and they really want to help small business. You have to get people to buy into your dream and your passion. If you’re doing something with integrity that is going to have a positive impact on the world, you will be surprised at how many people get behind you“
5. Make the right approach and try traditional media
The first way that Lisa says you can market your business for global success is to approach traditional media like television, print and radio. To be successful at getting your brand onto these channels, it’s all in the way you position your approach. It’s best to start with getting to know the head of the area that you are going to pitch too first, rather than a cold approach.
The biggest mistake Lisa has seen startups make in these types of pitches is presenting a one size fits all solution. Second to this, many startups pitch ideas to traditional media where they say “this is my story, and I am amazing”. This approach won’t work either. You need to pitch the something that fits with their audience and gets you noticed at the same time.
The way you position your pitch needs to be about what’s in it for them not the other way round.
6. Think clearly about your social strategy
For your startup to go global, you need to have a clear and concise social media strategy just like The Collective. The key to this strategy is to share openly and authentically content that is relevant to your audience.
“With any business it is important to have multiple touch points, be where people want you, on a platform they want you, at a time they want you. This might sound cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason”
Don’t try and be somebody else on social media, get to the heart of who you are and what your startup is about and convey that message as best as you can. As you find influencers that are in line with your startup, begin commenting and sharing their articles so that you’re on their radar, and they might share your content in return.
If you’re selling chairs, for example, you need to think to yourself who are the most influential bloggers that have the greatest followings in the interior space. Maybe you send ten of your bespoke chairs to these influencers, and they photograph or blog about the product.
“You cannot underestimate the power of having a great product or service because when it’s great, it speaks for itself”
Ask yourself the question, what would you do to be a good person in the world and how would you communicate if the conversation were face to face? The result of this question is what you should take online.
Try to make sure that the articles or content you share don’t date as much as possible. This means that if someone came to your social media page for the first time and they read an article, they wouldn’t feel like they were reading yesterday’s news.
Another strategy you can try is if you have a cool top-secret project coming up or idea, you can half tell or plant things into different communities, to test people’s reactions and create a buzz. If the reaction to something were very negative, you could think twice about proceeding with the idea.
When you have great content, the amplification of your brand across social media can be enormous. The community of The Collective has carried the visionary message that Lisa wants to spread as if it’s their own. Even though Lisa is technically the sole financier of The Collective, she feels that it’s the community that own it now.
7. Demand a great culture
As the founder of the business, Lisa feels that it’s her job to set the tone of the culture, the direction and the vision. As your startup grows, your team will start to buy into and emulate the vision. Lisa gave a great example where she said that one of her new team members with good intention posted on social media, “Yay it’s Friday,” and Lisa said kindly, “hey that’s not quite in line with our culture we don’t like to position work as the enemy.”
Lisa strongly believes your life and work can blend if you find your purpose, your passion and your why, then you can be your authentic self at any time of the day, not just when you finish work. In Lisa’s life, she is so passionate about what she does that the lines between work and her personal life are blurred because she is doing what she has always wanted to do.
To be able to scale your vision globally, you must have a team that love working for you and work with you because they love what they do, not because they necessarily get paid to do it.
8. Run a lean team and find ways to attract talent
For many years, Lisa felt inadequate as a startup because people seem to have a measurement around how many staff you have and how that correlates to your success. For twelve years of Lisa’s business journey she had only three staff and she looks back now and says it was one of the smartest ways to do business.
In the early days Lisa had a lot more freelancers and consultants that she would bring in depending on the project, which meant that she wasn’t paying staff when she didn’t have projects. The twenty-three people she directly employs now are very much the dealmakers, marketing, management and design that are core, and then the other functions are fulfilled by eighty freelancers. This structure also allows The Collective to pay a set fee for a task and pull in the right teams for the right jobs based on their speciality.
To attract talent to your startup Lisa feels it’s a little bit of “fake it till you make it” and you have to get really good at telling your story even if you haven’t had any success yet. What I love is that when Lisa meets someone who hasn’t heard of The Collective and turns her down for an offer, she gets quite excited because it just shows her that she still has a long way to go which equals more growth for The Collective – this is such a great mindset to have.
In terms of remuneration, Lisa says that you can’t always pay freelancers great money early on but what you can do is think outside of the box and invite them to cool events or send them some product for free. It comes back to the same overarching idea that Lisa lives by which is what currency do you have other than money to exchange value?
- Don’t wait for someone else to back you
- Don’t wait for government grants
- Invest in yourself
You can find out more about Lisa’s disruptive media company and the size of her global impact by visiting The Collective.