Episode 246 | Posted on

Forge Your Own Marketing Path with Jonathan Pantalis

Being obsessive in studying marketing can be a good thing. A great focal point for this obsession is the psychology of your customer—who they are, what they need, and what they respond to. My marketing-obsessed guest today is Jonathan Pantalis, founder of Phi Kind Chocolates. Jonathan is an entrepreneur who’s had more than his fair share of hard knocks, including fraud, fire, and health challenges. But all of these potential roadblocks somehow were tipping points that fueled him to do something big. 

After struggling with low energy, fatigue and depression he found his diet and lifestyle to be a major culprit. Phi Kind are chocolates produced without sugar and processed junk – that actually taste and look amazing. Since starting his business, Jonathan has made it his mission to immerse himself in the discipline of marketing. He has pretty much taught himself, through trial, error, and yeah—a little obsession—how to take Phi Kind’s marketing from good to fantastic. 

In this episode we talk about copywriting, direct response, taking the long view, retention tactics that transcend the superficial and go that extra mile to instill brand loyalty. These are valuable real world insights you’re about to hear, so without any further ado, on with the show!

In this Episode

  • [00:30] – Stephan introduces Jonathan Pantalis, entrepreneur and founder of Phi Kind Chocolates.
  • [05:31] – Jonathan tells an interesting story of how he started his chocolate business.
  • [09:53] – Jonathan and Stephan describe their amazing experiences with biohacking.
  • [15:51] – Stephan and Jonathan’s perceptions of abundance and the idea that it’s more than just money.
  • [21:07] – How can meditation and being in a flow state help you to rewire and improve your productivity.
  • [27:54] – Jonathan talks about the moments where he felt most abundant, even when he didn’t have a lot of money in the bank.
  • [38:47] – Jonathan explains the reason behind spending $30,000 with Facebook ads for his start-up business.
  • [43:06] – How Jonathan strategized Phi Kind Organics’ Facebook Ads that gave them a positive ROI.
  • [49:25] – Why creating false scarcity on your products might hurt your business and what to do instead.
  • [54:15] – Visit Jonathan Pantalis’ Instagram account and go toPhi Kind Organic’s website, phikind.com, to check out organic, sugar-free chocolates.

Jump to Links and Resources


Thank you for joining us today, Jonathan.

Thank you so much, Stephan. I appreciate it. 

First of all, let’s talk about the mistakes because I know you wanted our listeners to learn from your mistakes so they don’t make the same mistakes in their business and in their marketing. What have been some of the more costly ones that you’ve made?

It was in scaling the business. Quite frankly, scaling operations. We market, manufacture, and we do it all in-house and fulfill. We are kind of rare in that, we don’t have a fulfillment center, we don’t outsource really anything. Everything is pretty much done in-house so we wanted to scale our operations and we were having just banner year, great sales. Got ourselves into a mess with the lease. That was probably the most expensive mistake that we made of signing a lease that we couldn’t handle and then having to wiggle our way out of that. 

Only the second time I made that mistake and probably going to be the last. I would say that’s it. I think the lesson in that is really there is always more than you can squeeze out of whatever you got. We’re actually in the same space. We’ve almost quadrupled our business since late 2018 and we didn’t need more space, which is a different strategy. I think that was the biggest, most expensive mistake. That answers that.

So, if you could do this over again, what would you do differently besides not sign a lease that was overly aggressive in terms of growth and needs for square footage?

I would have listened to other people more because I think that, especially for me, it’s just my first successful business and once you get that taste of success (if you will), you can get a little crazy and a little bit ambitious with stuff. I certainly did and I just thought that we were so insulated and we were so secured to do whatever, and that things are always going to be good now. We finally got to the hard times. The universe had a different lesson for me there. 

My wife says that sometimes the gift has the bow on the bottom. 

That’s so true. Truthfully, I am so grateful for all of that because it was one of the best things that happened to us. Every Facebook algorithm changed. It’s kicked us down, it is a direct response, part of our customer acquisition that we do. It’s always been the best thing that happened because it has made us focus on the back end more. That’s such a great analogy, bow on the bottom. 

Rather than learning, I’m evolving. I’m able to be around wonderful people. I’m freer than I ever get to be, and I’m helping others on that same path. If you feel good about that, abundance takes on a different meaning. Click To Tweet

One of the gifts with a bow on the bottom, I guess was you having depression and issues with fatigue and so forth because you wouldn’t have created this business and have all these happy customers that have high-quality chocolate that actually makes a difference for them and isn’t just like a yummy treat, but has some nice qualities within it. Do you want to describe a bit more about this?

I’d love to get into that. It’s interesting because when I was younger, I thought I went through these phases of obsession ever since I was a kid. At one point, it was doing magic tricks. I guess I was always an entrepreneur in that way, but I always get very obsessed about things. Somewhere, when I got into high school, my energy plummeted. I couldn’t even read a paragraph and remember what I read.

I really wished that at that time that I was more into the diagnostics and more into actually researching and analyzing that because I honestly don’t even know what exactly it was. I just started focusing on diet, focusing on nutrition and detox, all of that, and that really turned things around. The struggle of not having any energy and being treated by my teachers. I didn’t finish college. My college professors treated me like I was unmotivated and didn’t know stuff. That really pissed me off. It made me want to prove to them that I could do better.

Right. What was it about chocolate? Why chocolate? Why did you end up in that business instead of (let’s say) energy bars or protein bars or something?

That’s a very difficult question. It kind of fell in my lap, if you will; it was just perfect timing. This place that I’m in right now was going to be a pie shop. I signed this lease—once again, a really ambitious decision that forced growth in my life—before I knew anything about business. I knew absolutely nothing. I didn’t even have a co-signer. I just ended up getting the favor of this real estate guy who later turned out to be a crook. This building ended up getting acquired by the government because they went to prison and everything

Oh my goodness. Wow!

Yeah. It was very interesting because I couldn’t get anyone in my family to sign the lease for this pie company I wanted to start, and the guy was like, “You know what? Forget it. We’ll just sign it. We’ll do the construction.” That they did, they even got permits and created a whole lot of other mess, but two weeks later the guy gets arrested and that was during that time where I started to really struggle with my health, actually.

I already had low energy but I didn’t really know what was going on. It was during that time where I started to really dig deep. I started to become ethically opposed to what I was doing, like making pie, cookies, and cakes, whatever, really didn’t make sense anymore. I was good at it but it didn’t make sense anymore. 

It’s like you felt incongruent. 

Right. I just couldn’t do it and I’d find myself trying to solve stuff like this and basically telling people the downsides, not the benefits, but it all stemmed from wanting to make people happy. I always wanted to make people happy. I always wanted to see people feel good. Before I understood nutrition and health that was a way to do that. Once I understood the health aspect I was like, “How can I take everything that I know culinary-wise and turn it into something that benefits people, who are into French chocolate? How can I take that and make it something that’s healthy and tastes good?”

And looks beautiful, too. They are little pieces of art. I’m just so impressed by them. They’re hand-painted, right?

Some of them are. For limited edition stuff, some of them are hand-painted and certainly hand-decorated. We put a lot of work into it. There’s a lot of keto and sugar-free chocolates out there now. There’s more and more every day, but we wanted to be something that’s an actual experience. That’s where the marketing actually can be difficult because every single detail has a story.

I am always challenged. How do I explain this? How do I encapsulate it? That’s the best way we can. That was what got me well was analyzing every ingredient. I literally got to a point where I wasn’t buying anything processed, got everything out of my diet that had more than a few ingredients on it. 

Of course, I went organic, gluten-free, and all that stuff, but I really wanted to encapsulate that with our chocolate. Is soy lecithin chocolate the end of the world? Probably not, but if we can do great chocolate without it, why not? That was our vision there. Everything to the very best we can. At that time, I didn’t know if I would even find people that had the same level of obsession that we did and that’s when I got into marketing.

Be mindful of financial investments, employee hires, operations, marketing strategies, etc.

We’re going to get into that but before we do, would you consider yourself a biohacker?

Absolutely. That was a big part of my healing. At first, it was all on my own. I was doing a lot of raw foodstuffs. I guess that got me into it. Raw food and hydration stuff was my initial fascination and supplements. I don’t want to say I moved past that per se, but I’ve certainly attuned that a little differently now.

I was doing a lot of ozone therapy and different things like that to assist my immune system because I believed that was a lot of what was going on for myself. It was some sort of bacterial imbalance and gut dysbiosis. I don’t really experience that anymore once I cruise off the path of my eating. I’m doing well now. Honestly, I believe a lot of people are suffering from this, and to thrive in the world with all the toxins and everything, I think everybody has got to take on a little bit of biohacking to some degree if they want the ultimate edge.

I’m a biohacker. I just love experimenting and figuring out how to optimize different aspects of my health, my brain performance, and all that. I’ve done 40 years of Zen which is Dave Asprey’s company. Dave Asprey’s got Bulletproof, also has 40 years of Zen, you’d go for a week-long, intensive neurofeedback program. It’s wild, it’s amazing. It unlocked memories that I had not had since I was a very young child, so 40 some years go by, and I never have these memories until I go through 40 years of Zen. That is pretty amazing. 

That’s incredible. You know that’s actually something that happened for me when I started to peel the onion as far as my healing journey went. I started having a lot of childhood memories come back. It’s an incredible thing but I have heard 40 years of Zen; I’ve always wanted to give it a go. That’s very cool.

It’s amazing. I know they’ve got a competitor, Biocybernaut, but I’ve not heard anybody talk about that program. I’ve heard lots of people talk about 40 years of Zen. In fact, the person who was my stem cell doctor (is also Dave Asprey’s stem cell doctor), Dr. Harry Adelson, he’s the one who convinced me that I got to give this 40 years of Zen thing a try because he said that out of all the different things he’s done—of course, he’s a biohacker, he lives in that world of giving stem cell treatments to people—40 years of Zen was the most impactful biohack he’s ever done. Okay, I’m going to go for that.

40 years of Zen is basically a biofeedback-assisted meditation, if you will, right?

Right. Neurofeedback-assisted meditation. They have these things called ARPS or Augmented Reset Processes. They’re like these mini therapy sessions where you forgive people who have hurt you in the past. You connect with your gratitude and feeling or sense of abundance, and that will release lots of alpha. You get more alpha waves by forgiving and by being grateful, and that shows up as these alpha spikes in the neurofeedback sessions. 

They’re like, “What were you doing here? You just have a huge spike here. What was that? Do you remember if you’re remembering something or what were you up to then in that session about halfway through?” Sometimes you can pinpoint it and sometimes “I’m not really sure, I was thinking a lot of different things.” Not every session do they go back and review with you, only about half of them, but the idea is that they want to get you more in the alpha and more in the theta and less in the beta. Beta is where we’re just beavering away on our laptops or whatever getting work done, but it’s not a flow state.

I never considered myself a stressed-out or anxious person. I’ve always been very grateful. We’d have so many bad things happen in the development of the business, but I just like, “Oh, it’s going to work out. Things are going to get easier after this.” I just had that belief over and over. Then, I had a traumatic experience. I lived in Northern California where all the wildfires are. I wouldn’t have called that traumatic experience a year or two ago, but now I look back, losing everything in the fire, losing a pet, I had no insurance, I think I had $500 in my name and more bills than that. 

You know what? I’m so grateful for that experience, but that definitely changed how I responded to stress and learning meditation, learning the gratitude practices. All that not only healed me, but it has taken me to a whole another level because I am in control now. 

First of all, my condolences on the loss of your pet. That’s rough. I’m still sad over losing my cat. It’s been not quite a year but almost a year, and boy, that’s tough. It’s really tough and losing all your belongings, all the things that were special and meaningful to you from your childhood and things all that went up in smoke?

Yeah, everything. 

I’m so sorry.

Money truly is just icing on the cake. The real gift is your energy and what you decide to spend that on. Click To Tweet

But you know? Yeah, the pet was the hard part. Everything else, though, I would tell you, once you know it’s gone, it’s almost a freeing thing. I’m not a minimalist by any means now, but I’m comfortable. My bed is the most prized possession that I own right now, really, because it’s organic and whatever, maybe a few pieces of furniture, but living simply now and focusing more on experience and travel, at least at this phase in my life. 

I have a hard time wanting to keep stuff or buy stuff now. I don’t know how many people relate to this, but when you lose everything and you literally only have the clothes on your back and you have to replace your entire wardrobe in a week or two, it’s exhausting to buy stuff. You get rid of that pleasure of buying. In a weird way, it actually benefits in some sense. 

I think back to gratitude. When you lose everything, everything you can be grateful for. We immediately made 2000 chocolate bars and donated them to the national guards and of all the local shelters around us, didn’t publicize it, or anything. Mind you, maybe a week before that, I was on track, I was asking family and friends for money, being turned down left and right. I was really in trouble with the business, and at the same time, I lost everything. 

We still decided to give. Somehow, simultaneously the business just started to take off. It’s a real experience and it’s something that I just always have to remind myself to trust because it was scary to put our time and anything but survival. Some of my really good friends, they own other businesses. We all got together, made these bars, package them specially and put little notes with everything, and donated them. Something happened with that where things just became so much easier.

That’s amazing. I believe there’s a bigger picture here that we’re not seeing. It’s not just tangible. Everything is made out of matter and so forth. There’s a lot of mystical stuff that happens. One thing that I believe in is when you are more focused on the others in your life, the community and so forth, that the universe will reward you for that with more abundance. It’s really the long game we’re playing. Make money or whatever we’re trying to elevate our soul and reveal light in the world. It just changes your whole perspective on things. 

It’s so true and it’s such an easy trap to get in because I’m young and I don’t even have anyone in my family that’s been an entrepreneur or anything like that, or done anything but work a regular job that I know. I certainly have been caught in that phase where it’s like, “All right, I’m going to get money, and then I’ll be worried about being spiritual again.” It has never worked. 

It makes things so much harder because when you’re in that space, everything is in resistance to that ultimate goal of making the money or whatever becomes an agitation rather than I’m learning, I’m evolving. I’m going to be able to be around wonderful people. I’m free, freer than any people I ever get to be, and I’m helping other people on that same path. If you feel good about that, abundance becomes a different meaning.

The money is a side-effect. It’s just the side benefit of all the value creation that you’re doing in the universe. I learned a framework from Kabbalah from one of my Kabbalah teachers. His name is David Ghiyam. He is phenomenal. I’ve had him on my other podcast on Get Yourself Optimized, so listeners be sure to check out that episode. One of these concepts is the prism and how when white light shines into the prism it breaks up in all these different colors. If we use that as an analogy and say these different colors are different aspects of our life, and we’re chasing after these colors—health, relationships, intimate relationships, our career, or business, wealth, all that sort of stuff—the problem is, when you chase after a color, then you lose momentum and you drop balls in terms of the other colors. 

You focus on your health and then your business goes to heck because you’re going hard out trying to get fit and you don’t have everything in balance. Or you’re a workaholic, you work 70–80 hours a week, then your health goes to heck, and you have to have some horrible wake-up call potentially to get back into balance. If you go chase after the white light though, all the colors are within that there’s balance, and there’s this bigger purpose and so forth and all gets handled. 

I found that to be true. I learned that just maybe three years ago. Personally, I’ve never been as successful as I have been over the last several years and that’s not even the point. I feel more alive. I feel more in the service of others. I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible for me as a soul in this incarnation. That’s pretty fun.

That really is the best feeling because the money really is an icing on a cake. It really is. To tie into my past, from coming into a place of very low energy, to have energy with such a gift, to be able to do stuff. As I said, I can read a paragraph and read every single word. I couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t retain it. I couldn’t assimilate it. Just couldn’t even process it. I knew I had a high IQ, whatever that’s worth, but I could not do anything with it that was useful.

I literally just started listening to podcasts. I dropped out of school and I said, “You know what? I might be dropped out of school but I’m not going to be uneducated.” I’ve never owned a TV but to live with Netflix, I got rid of all of that and just started force-feeding myself information, listening to university lectures, reading PubMed articles on health and nutrition. Literally force-feeding myself with stuff that I couldn’t understand. It took about two years, but eventually, I became a factory for retention. It’s very interesting how quickly my ability to retain stuff went away, how long it took to redevelop it, but once I did it was the greatest gift in the world to have all that energy.

What do I want to do? I want to work a lot because I couldn’t before. It was difficult to do before. I was just getting enough done to get by. In that same way, I had to learn balance a little bit because I’m so grateful to have energy that I can put myself in overdrive mode, but then I get efficient in the other things. There are still some things we are never perfect, but it’s been a big realization that when we get one track, when we just work, it can actually take away from our work, much like your analogy.

Running a business involves a lot of physical, mental, and sometimes emotional stress. It’s best to keep your mindset in check every now and then.

Right, and to circle back to what we were talking about earlier with biohacking, brain performance with neurofeedback, and 40 Years of Zen, getting that alpha wave state in your brain so that you get into the flow, allows you to accomplish five times as much in the same period of time. In one day, you could accomplish a week’s worth of work, just by being in the flow state.

That’s such a truth. I love to dive even deeper with the biofeedback part of it, but I’ve been finding that with meditation, it’s just absolutely incredible how much you get done by allowing myself space to not focus on anything, allowing my brain to unwire. 

That was a really profound thing to happen to me, about a year and a half ago. I was not in the position where I should have been taking a break. I was right on the edge of getting out of that lease I mentioned, I was just right on a very major tipping point, but really in my logical mind, I should have been working, working, working. My mom insisted that I come to see her in Las Vegas to meet my half-sister. She really didn’t want to go alone and so I went with her. I was not in the position, in any means to do it, but I did. It was 10 days and I ended up actually driving to Arizona for a few days. I just meditated in the desert.

I came back and fixed everything in a week. Something that I’ve been working on for six months, in a week everything just fell together from taking that time. Ever since then, I will never deprive myself of taking time, whatever it takes, to get myself into that right space to be in the flow. What’s interesting, I’ve actually been able to work more because I’m focusing on being exactly what you say being in the flow. That’s a very interesting thing.

Yeah, very cool. By the way, I just interviewed Ariel Garten, who is the co-founder of InterAxon, that makes the Muse meditation headset that tracks your brain while you’re doing meditation.

I almost bought that yesterday, I was about to buy it. I was looking at an Amazon store. I almost did.

Well, there you go. The universe is knocking, saying hello. I learned this from Tony Robbins. There are no coincidences, so there you go. You might want to get that. Anyway, I interviewed her. It was such a profound episode and I know that I need to meditate, I know I need to do it. The only meditation I’ve been doing very repeatedly is this morning prayer.

It’s a Kabbalistic prayer called the Ana Bekoach. Each of the seven lines has a different meditation, a kind of thing to think about. There’s one line that’s about connecting to the tree of life instead of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I’m so hungry for information and knowledge that I get lost. It has somewhat become an obsession or an addiction and that helps me to ground myself and reconnect. It’s all about the miracles and not so much about learning about how the universe works, corks and string theory, and everything else. I can let some of that go. I don’t have to know everything. That’s just one of the seven lines. 

That’s great, it only takes me a couple of minutes to do that. That’s different, though, from what you’re describing of deeper meditation of really listening to yourself or connecting to something greater and just sitting it with that, or standing. There are standing meditations as well or walking meditations. There is one where you can walk the labyrinth. The meditation can take the form of transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation. You can do silent meditation retreats, like Vipassana for 10 days of not speaking. There are all different ways of doing those but it needs to be a practice where you just make yourself better and better like going to the gym. Do you want to share any wisdom about this? I know I need to do more of this.

I’d love to. It was interesting in my experience, in talking to other people. It’s really easy in the beginning and then it gets difficult. Once you’re good at it, like letting your mind go on autopilot if you will, it actually becomes harder. That is where practice is essential. That’s where the repetition is essential because when it’s difficult, it’s actually when we ought to be doing it the most.

I would say that for me, I’ve tried a lot. I tried the transcendental and then I’ve also just tried silent meditations, counting. I’ve tried guided meditations, unguided meditations. What I find is at least 20 minutes. I like to do it in the morning before I look at any electronic devices, which I know is very difficult to do. I really made it a practice to wake up at [5:30], [6:30] in the morning at the latest, try to get up right around when the sun goes up.

In my theory, it’s when our melatonin is still circulating in our body. We’re still in a lucid state, so our ability to slip into deeper levels of other brain states, I think is a little bit easier. That’s what I do. What I like to do is I like to visualize at some point, but I really focus on being empty and just really tuning into my emotions. I don’t think meditation is necessarily always about thinking about nothing. How does my body feel? What’s the environment around me? Am I hot? Am I cold? Do I feel the weight of my body? It’s really tuning into what exists. Once you have tuned in with everything, you check in with every sensation in your field and your body, and then you can move on to going into your emotions and your thoughts.

We’re all chasing that feel-good feeling. We want success, abundance, happiness, but we forget that we can actually still have all of those without getting obsessed with the money. Click To Tweet

I really do everything I can and it’s not always easy to let go of the thoughts. Sometimes that’s through counting, something that’s through breathing and holding in breath for some time and trying to pull the energy through my body, through different breathing techniques. I’ve got a tool kit that I’ve used. I’ve played around with several now. I’d cycle through them to keep my brain limber if you will. I think that the best thing really is the persistence; it’s the repetition in continuing to have a practice of some kind. 

I think in the morning and evening, what I would do is gratitude in the evening for 10–20 minutes just thinking about what I’m grateful for. I think about where I was, where I am, what do I become? Then, I think about the things in the day that I maybe didn’t do right. I think about how I would live my day again. I really have gotten into visualization and meditation because it’s so much more powerful in this affirmation or something like that. That’s one of the things that benefitted me in the beginning. I still do both, but there’s something about the combination of just seeing because of the emotions of abundance, the emotions of success, the emotions of chasing or chasing feeling good. Why do we want to be successful? Why do we want to have abundance? Why do we want to be happy? Those are some emotions were—

We could choose to have right now without having the thing—

Exactly. I think that most of us have had a time in our life where we’ve felt those emotions. For me, I look back to the times where I felt free and abundant. Those might not have always been the times when I have the most money in the bank, but I will tune in to those times. When you go by memory, it’s very easy to tap into an emotion. You can remember what it felt like. I would focus on a memory when I felt abundant, when I felt happy, when I felt connected, or when I felt like I had a lot of wonderful people in my life depending on what I want to draw in. I would tune in on that. I would focus on that and try to eventually fade out the memory and just really amplify the emotion and you feel it flooding through my body, then I would visualize from that space.

It didn’t have to be anything. I would try to make it like the happy ending of a movie if you will. Just really feeling it and feeling gratitude. This is a personal technique that I do, but I’ll share it because why not? I try to visualize my soul in my body and for whatever it’s worth, I believe that this is all an infinite experience. We pop in and out maybe in some sensical manner, but we are always popping in and out of a different dream in my belief. I try to just really feel like I’m popping into the one that I want to be in. It’s like I’m being born again for that next day or before I go to bed I’m going to a different place. That’s just been the most incredible thing. It really has helped me stay in that state of flow. It’s just been really something.

That is so cool. What you’re describing of kind of popping in and out of this realm of reality reminds me a bit of Donny Epstein teaching how you can exchange versions. There’s a version in an alternate universe or in the multiverse that has the skill already, that has the insight or the wisdom and you could just exchange versions with that version of you and skip all the hard slog.

I totally believe that. When I was young and ignorant, that’s actually my overdrive of the day. That was the reason that I gave him, like why did you start a business? Whatever I was like ignorant, didn’t know that it was going to be this hard, but that’s what I always told myself. Before I knew anything about personal development, before I knew anything about mindfulness, meditation, I didn’t know anything about health.

I always had told myself, I’m living in the best possible version of this reality. There are many realities out there but I’m going to be in the best possible version of it. I was so convinced about that. I don’t know why, I don’t know where that came from, but I was just so convinced. I think part of that was motivated by, I don’t know if I call it a failure but the fact that I didn’t do so well in school, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. That really motivated me to want to become more. I was just so set on it.

Wow. I love what you said there. By the way, listeners, if you wanted to check out the Donny Epstein episode on my other show in Get Yourself Optimized, please do so. It’s a game-changer. I’m going to his event, The Transformational Gate, in just a few days to get these energy entrainments and stuff and he has his practitioners fly in from all over the world, so it’s going to be amazing. My little baby, who’s 5-months-old, you have got to meet him at the event. He’s going to be coming with my wife and we are very excited.

Oh, and a couple of other things before we move onto the marketing stuff, all about the growth hacking things that you’ve been doing. I think this is really important that we close the loop on all this meditation stuff because it’s so important. One question, do you ever do guided visualization, or is it all just self-guided?

Now, it’s self-guided, but I started with guided. I had some apps, I had two or three meditation apps. I think my favorite one was probably the Headspace app and then I did a bunch of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s stuff for a while. He’s so incredible. His guided meditations are really incredible. I read a few of his books. 

It’s funny. I did the guided meditations before I read the books and then the books talked about how you can take a little bit here and there and I was like, “Oh, okay. Now that I got a grip on this I can start to combine stuff,” because he doesn’t really teach the transcendental techniques which were the counting or the words you say over and over again that clear your mind. I have merged those things together and that’s been great.

I would start with guided. If someone was just getting started, even five minutes of guided meditation, it was so hard to do 5 or 10 minutes when I first got started. Now, I can sit down with absolutely no guidance, no music, and sit for 20 minutes, or 30 minutes, or even an hour if I really want. Now, it’s based on how early I wake up. If I can get myself up at four in the morning, I’ll do an hour. It always pays to do more because the more I can be in control of my mind, the more I can be in control of my future.

Cool. Well, there are a couple of other apps besides Headspace that I’ll mention. The Waking Up app. Sam Harris, he’s awesome, I’ve heard him speak several times. I saw him at Summit LA. He was speaking there. That was awesome. Waking Up app. I love the lessons inside of there, not just the meditation exercises. Some of those lessons are super profound, like the one on death. 

In fact, I think I mentioned this to you before when we were chatting in person, that I’m part of Genius Network, which is Joe Polish’s mastermind. He started one of the meetings with that death meditation. It was a two-day event and the first thing that we did instead of talking about whatever the agenda or anything—I got to play this for you—it changed the dynamics for the whole rest of the event in a very good way. Super cool. 

Then, there is the Primed Mind app, so Elliot Roe was behind that one. He was a guest on my other show on Get Yourself Optimized. Really great guy and a great app as well. There’s a couple of options for apps in addition to Headspace and in addition to Muse.

Two, I haven’t heard of. I’ll write this up.

Don’t settle for short-term successes. Every business goal and decision must at least look further into the future of the company.

Oh, and then breathing exercises. I want to ask you. There’s box breathing, there’s the 4-7-8 breath which I learned about from Dr. Andrew Weil. He’s a huge health guru. He’s been around forever. He spoke at a Genius Network event last year. He was sharing how powerful this 4-7-8 breath is. Breathe in for 4, hold on for 7, and breathe out for 8.

That’s essentially what I do. Something about holding.

The box breath is where it’s just 4-4-4 or it’s just the same length for holding, and for breathing out and breathing in. Do you ever do that one?

Yeah, I do. I mix them up but I wasn’t even actually familiar with the terminology on them, but the one you mentioned from Dr. Weil is close to what I do. Once I get into meditation, I’ll start with that kind of breathing and then I’ll transition into just breathing out for about twice as long as I’m breathing in. I have a pattern with it now that I am able to follow. I don’t count the breaths as much as I used to.

Okay, got you. By the way, Dr. Weil says that this breathing thing of the 4-7-8 is one of the most profound things that you could do to improve your health and to just be more mindful and everything. This is the foundation for so much in your life. Just that one thing, breathing 4-7-8 for at least several minutes a day.

I believe it.

There’s one other breathing exercise I’ll mention and then we’ll move on into marketing. I learned this one from my wife, Orion, who you met. She learned it from Naam Yoga. You breathe in actually, I’ll just demonstrate it. We’ll get the listeners to follow along and do it, as long as you’re not going to be unsafe by doing it if you’re driving or something, maybe not. You breathe in, a little bit more, and then you hold it, and then tap on with your fingers on your upper chest, keep tapping, keep holding it, and let it out and do that another time or two. Let’s try one more. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, and let it out.

It is so energizing, I do this before I go on stage or before a TV appearance or something and it just gets me into the zone. I’ll even have speaking engagements sometimes if it’s after lunch and the audience is kind of sleepy. I’ll walk them through doing this. For a marketing event or something, I’ll be the only one who’s done anything like that. It’ll make me memorable. People remember how you make them feel more than what you teach them or anything like that. They feel more alive and that’s something that they can take home and apply and teach others. It’s really cool.

Yeah. One more thing I’ll say, on the tune of meditation. The event that I met you at, I meditated five times that day. I didn’t meditate before I went. I was traveling. I skipped the day but it found me anyway and it was a great way to connect with people. What an amazing space to be in to connect with people. That was really profound. All the devices that they had there and also the people that are guiding the meditations. It was super cool.

Really cool. Let’s talk about this growth hacking stuff because you have been doing some pretty ninja things. A lot of it self-taught, you’re not in a whole lot of different masterminds or anything like that, and you’ve spent significant money (or have at least in the past) on Facebook ads and so forth. You put your money where your mouth is wherever. I don’t know if that’s the right analogy here, but you really doubled down and made sure that you are going to do this big or go home. Where did you get to on a monthly ad spend with Facebook?

I think our most in this month will be probably a little bit more, but around a little bit over $30,000 a month.

$30,000 a month. For a small business, would you call yourself still a startup?

Oh yeah. We’re literally in that scaling phase now where we are implementing HR and operations. We’re about 11–12 people right now.

That’s a lot of money to spend for a small business on Facebook ads. I hear complaints all the time about the money, it’s just getting more expensive and our line of value you get off of Facebook is decreasing at the same time. What would you say about this as a strategy? Is this a long-term play or is it something that you just filling a gap with something that’s probably going to go away over time?

It’s both, I mean I had it go away. I’ve had my ad account banned and that probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

Really? So tell me more about that

I would say that we became heavily dependent on Facebook. Late 2017 to early 2018. I think 2018, March or May 2018 was when the big algorithm change happened when the data scandal happened with Facebook. I went from getting literally $6 conversions at an average order value over $60, which is ridiculous. I had this one ad running, which is a stupid high budget, at least at the time, it’s more now, but that time it was a lot. That thing was just going and going and going. 

Thousands of conversions, then that data thing happened. That was my first slap with Facebook. All of a sudden, wherever we’re getting this 7–10 times return on ad spend, which is insane, to not even being able to break to 2–2.5 return on ad spend. That was a dramatic blow to our business. It took some time to re-evaluate. Internally, we had a lot of inefficiencies, like labor inefficiencies, production inefficiencies that we had to correct.

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If you are in a position where you have a product or if you have a contract, manufacture, or you don’t manufacture the product. A lot of the people that I learned about Facebook ads actually did dropshipping and stuff like that. If you’re in one of those situations and you’re pretty much dependent on the cost of your ad to make money, that’s not a very easy place to be. It’s not so easy to sleep at night because as it happened to me many times, that rug can get pulled underneath you and you could be pretty much a seven-figure-business to a zero-figure-business overnight. It’s easy to put a lot of energy and time into ads. 

I’ll tell you, the amount of time I spend on my ads now compared to then, there are some strategies. I love to talk about strategy. but I’ll just say, I do not focus on my cost per acquisition hardly. Obviously, I have a threshold, but that is hardly what I’m focused on now. I’m focused on way more retention tactics. Not even tactics. Just taking great care of our customers so they come back more often, and having a few things to automate that. 

I’m always building out more. I figured that’s where the time should be because retention and keeping the people excited about the product, about the vision is really, at least in my experience, the way to beat advertising cost rising, is to have something that has a little bit of word-of-mouth ability to it, that has a little bit of excitement to it beyond with what you can do with.

I studied a lot of copywriting. I studied a lot of direct response marketing. I spent a lot of time really just obsessing over it. And I think I got what I wanted out of it. But I will tell you that, sure, you can make your cost per acquisition lower with copy and that scale is important 100%—especially at scale, changing one headline is a huge deal—but having a system in place to get people to come back over and over again is what’s going to help you sleep at night.

We used to send emails out of emergency. Like our cash flow is freezing up. What do we do? Let’s send an email and run a sale. It was reactive, it wasn’t proactive. There was no pre-eminence whatsoever about our strategy. It was all reactionary. So, with Facebook ads I could talk strategy all day, there are a lot of things that we do very differently. We don’t use a very high budget with our ads sets. We do a lot of segmenting out. We’re going to probably be around $40k this month on spend, probably have 200 or 300 ad sets running, and that would make most people go crazy. But it’s just what I found that works for me.

We have a very interesting method where I have an ad set that I publish and unpublished, that we don’t spend any money on, but it’s basically every single audience that possibly exists. Then I’ll copy and paste whatever I want in there in a different variety and then I’ll just duplicate that thing into a new campaign. I think it’s about 140 different ad sets, take that, and then we will play around with budgets. We’ll try maybe at a $7 a day budget, we’ll try at $10, $11, $20. We’ll play around with budgets. Literally 130 ads and just boom.

Let them run for 48 hours and then we just clip the ones that aren’t good. We’ll take the ones that are. We will find out. Are they doing well on Instagram? Are they doing well on Facebook? Those actually are really the only places that they usually do well, the news feeds, but sometimes, we’ll be surprised and we’ll have some things doing well in the audience network or something. We’ll look at the age demographics because for some reason if it’s a look-alike of an ad of a car, it is doing really well with women on Instagram that are under the age of 40, then that’s where we’re going to duplicate and run another ad to.

It doesn’t always work but we’ll run maybe three variations of audiences and ads to whatever that is that is working at that time because those data pools are always changing. In my theory, if this ad to cart look-alike is working really well with women under this age, then maybe that’s where the majority of its data. Maybe that’s where to learn the best. We want to use that audience for that, whatever that demographic is, to weed out the people that aren’t as relevant to it.

At least, it’s what I’ve found with it and that has been a very great way to go. It’s not really a low-budget strategy because you do spend a lot of money upfront to get yourself in the door, but any holiday, any algorithm change, anything that happens, we’ll find the decline of performance. We’ll just clip all of our ads that are not performing, and then we’ll just do something like that or we’ll just make a few hundred ads and we’ll chop all the ones that are losers.

We have to monitor them every few days. I don’t even look necessarily daily anymore. I’m looking probably three times a week at the very most and I’m just clipping the ones that are over the budget. Our real focus goes into retaining our customers. We’re very fortunate to hit the critical mass where we are getting a positive ROI on our ads, which is wonderful, but we’re able to do that even if we’re over a 2.5 return on ad spend. That’s like our breakeven now. We can survive under a two if we really need to. 

What we’re getting is 4.2 right now would be about our average. Just did some measurement this morning; that’s what it looks like we’re getting. That’s great. Honestly, if we did 2.5 at scale, that’d be fine, too, especially if we have customer retention in place. If we didn’t, then that would just not be a way to run a business. I mean, we’d not be able to run business. 

It gets very easy because it’s almost like printing money because you spend a little bit on Facebook ads and somehow they magically find the right person and they seem to always spend an average of this much. The fact that we even have that technology, the fact that we’re even able to do that is incredible. It’s a wonderful thing.

It’s like magic. There are the look-alike audiences, I’m sure there’s AI in there.

Honestly, it’s ridiculous and the fact that we’re able to have that right now, we do not know when that will go away, when that will change, or what Facebook has up its sleeve, what they’re actually doing. We really don’t know. That’s how I look at it. I do have a little bit of diversity, I do a little bit of display network advertising and I do a little bit of Pinterest advertising. None of them are doing as well as Facebook. I think I still have to achieve a consistent 2X return on my ads spent on Pinterest despite what the reps tell me. 

I don’t know anything about Pinterest, so maybe that’s why, too. I don’t know why people use Pinterest. I don’t understand the user. Instagram I do understand. Maybe that’s why I do better with it and I understand how to craft a message for someone there, whereas maybe I don’t get it with Pinterest.

I think having the strategy where you’re going to do well regardless of the cost per acquisition upfront. Obviously, if our cost per acquisition was $500, that wouldn’t work. It needs to be in a reasonable range, but creating a system where you have flexibility allows you to focus on the business more. I was way too focused on how much my ads cost at a certain point and not enough on how much value I was bringing to my customers. It’s funny how we’ve gone backward now with our email marketing strategy rather than trying to sell more volume of the same stuff.

We’ve actually gone into specializing and making things like what you tried at the event I met you at, things that you can’t buy all the time. Things that are exclusive, limited edition, and actually more hand-crafted. So interesting how moving back in that direction has made us not only more profitable but gives us total security. It just gives us total security that we have a list of customers. 

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Quite frankly, we have a lot of scaling constraints. We’re working too beautifully this month, but we do have some scaling constraints because our repeat customers have hit critical mass if you will. We’ve just gotten so many orders, especially during Valentine’s Day or whatever. 

We haven’t even done email marketing. Scaling the team has been part of that because quite frankly, we haven’t even been able to send emails, but in doing emails we haven’t even hit the limits, I guess the point I’m making. We still haven’t sent one of these a week. We’ve done three a month max of these limited editions. It made up for about 50% of our revenue when we’ve done it, which is looking month by month. To me, that’s outrageous. The fact that we are going back to a more hand-crafted specialty has brought and has reignited interest in our product with our customers.

I know that not every business can do that. I know that this isn’t relevant to every single business, but any way that you can create something else that is complimentary, exclusive, or more special, that’s in the same flavor (if you will) of what your offering is, it’s a reason people come back because maybe somebody is buying our strawberry truffle every month for six months, and they just got tired of them. I get tired of the stuff that we make, but then, we make other stuff and it keeps it exciting. 

It is the same thing with our customers. Maybe they only like strawberries. So, when we offer strawberry balsamic truffle, a slight variation, it gives them a reason to want to be part of this again. The limited aspect of it is it’s only available a few times a year, but maybe because they enjoyed that strawberry balsamic so much, they’re going to buy some more strawberry. At least once. Even if it’s a slight percentage increase, but it just somehow ignites the interest. That’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in our lifetime value by doing this. 

The cool thing about it is it’s not discounting the product, it’s not saying buy more, giving way more for less. It’s really about creating true value. It’s not false scarcity, it’s actual, a very true value rather than 20% off, buy now, 3 days left. That works, but where do you see that happening? You walk around all these retailers in the mall or something and they’re like, “Buy one shirt and get three free.” 

It’s a race to the bottom.

Yeah, it is. Retail is dying, and it’s sad. There was a restaurant supply store that we had a relationship with. It was so interesting. We were in a pinch for something and I went to go get it, I don’t remember what it was but I saw it online. I’m just trying to give them the price match. This was a year or so ago. They were like, “You want to buy it online? Go buy it online” That was their attitude to me rather than price match because it’s really a reality of what’s happening.

The ability to serve people relatively quickly with the most favorable term as far as pricing goes. We’re competing on price, it’s just not the place to be. You are having all those people on the floor. Even if it costs a dollar or more, I don’t have to drive there and somebody else can order it. Even if it’s $5 more. That’s what I did with some buckets that we needed. Somebody else, I said go ahead and order. Everyone’s time is more valuable than going there. The value of retail is declining, so discounting and using those tactics are going away. Even in the fashion industry, people pay more for stuff. The more you pay for it, the more desired it is. 

Yeah, perception of value there.

Yeah. That’s certainly not what we’re doing, but there are some things you said about that, like where people’s price sensitivities are relative to convenience and all about other stuff. Retail is changing and it’s dying. There is a need for it to transform. I think eCommerce is too, though. You look at Bed Bath & Beyond or some big retailer—

They were a client of mine. They were an SEO client for a while.

Interesting. They are probably getting some eComm sales, but they’re just getting bashed in the head by Amazon, really. I’m sure they have enough of a customer base, but it’s not the game you want to play anymore, I think.

Well, we can keep going but I think we have to wrap. I would have loved to have gone into copywriting, direct response, more about pre-eminence, Pinterest, all sorts of fun stuff, and retention.

Yeah, that’s a lot. That’s a lot to get into.

There’s so much stuff, but then we spent so much time talking about things that really matter like meditating and breathing, which I think is more important and hopefully something that our audience to think differently.

I will say that all that mindfulness stuff, there’ve been many times where I forget the mindfulness. I just see they work harder. Please, if you’re listening and that’s the space you’re in, take 20 minutes every morning at least. Just do something to work on. You can’t afford not to do it. It will transform your business, it will transform your life.

Very true. All right, so if folks want to buy your chocolates where do they go? If they wanted to connect with you where do they go?

They go to phikind.com and you can connect with me on Instagram. Just find PHI Kind. I’m pretty accessible there for now.

Awesome. Thank you, Jonathan, and thank you, listeners. Go do something awesome with this information and change your business, change your life, get some breathing in there, and meditate. We’ll catch you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Scale my business operations wisely. Be mindful of my financial investments, employee hires, operations, marketing strategies, etc. 
☑ Maintain good mental health. Running a business involves a lot of physical, mental, and sometimes emotional stress. It’s best to keep my mindset in check every now and then. 
☑ Play the long game. Don’t settle for short-term successes. Every business goal and decision must at least look further into the future of the company. 
☑ Find my flow state and do whatever it takes to reach it when I need to finish something important. This may be achieved through meditation, exercise, brain training, or mentorship. 
☑ Empower my soul as well. Getting energy and guidance from a higher power may serve as motivation to keep on going. 
☑ Be mindful of what I consume – food, information, time with toxic people, and unimportant issues. 
☑ Learn more about Facebook Ads to boost awareness about my business. Many businesses that use this strategy end up successful. 
☑ Focus more on customer retention than cost acquisition. The first sale may feel like victory, but the true winnings lie in loyal customers.
☑ Be proactive about my marketing strategies. Always stay ahead of the game so I don’t have to deal with unforeseen roadblocks. 
☑ Check out Jonathan Pantalis’ business, Phi Kind Organics.

About Jonathan Pantalis

Jonathan Pantalis is an entrepreneur and founder of Phi Kind Chocolates. After struggling with low energy, fatigue and depression he found his diet and lifestyle to be a major culprit. His company creates chocolates without sugar and processed junk – that actually taste and look amazing.



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