Raised by his grandparents who only spoke Punjabi, my guest on this episode learned to speak English by watching shows like The Simpsons, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid. Today, A.J. Kumar is the mastermind behind some wildly successful digital marketing campaigns over the past 15 years. He helps entrepreneurs in the creator economy build for-profit “human-healing” media brands.
In today’s show, A.J. discusses his journey through the evolving digital landscape, starting with his high school days with Neil Patel, a past guest on this show. The two Indian kids created a lifelong bond, which began with each one challenging the other to do better on exams in their business class. Later, they would both venture into the world of blogging and content creation.
Through our conversation, we shed light on A.J.’s innovative approach to digital marketing, his knack for identifying and leveraging upcoming trends, and his methodology in turning subject matter experts into recognized authorities. If you’re an entrepreneur and want to find out how to strategically position yourself in a market, dominate attention, command respect, and drive revenue like a modern-day guru, you’re in for an excellent show!
In This Episode
- [01:42] – The guru-maker, AJ Kumar, shares the intriguing origins of his career.
- [07:12] – AJ talks about using corporate marketing strategies to create engaging content that attracts audiences.
- [12:21] – AJ discusses the validity and effectiveness of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula today.
- [17:12] – AJ discusses how his new agency was founded.
- [21:06] – What are the three strategic objectives for content creation?
- [25:42] – How did AJ devise a new way to measure content success?
- [31:43] – Stephan seeks AJ’s insights on his launch strategy for his book, Guru Inc.
- [34:59] – AJ gives advice on using content to grow a business and create a consistent brand experience based on audience feedback.
- [38:45] – Exploring the role of AI in content scalability, AJ sheds light on its potential for driving growth.
- [41:45] – AJ demystifies the different levels of building authority, highlighting the distinctions between being a generalist and a strategist.
Thanks so much for having me. This is exciting.
Let’s start with your superhero origin story. I just got enamored with your whole story of struggle and the underdog finally winning from your ‘About’ page.
I heard your name. I forget who mentioned you, but sometimes I get this intuitive feeling like, “I got to have this person on my show even though I don’t know anything about them.”
That’s how I felt when I heard your name. I looked you up and was like, “Oh, this is somebody with an incredible story.” Of course, I was right with my intuition to invite you to the show. Why don’t you start with your origin story?
I grew up in SoCal. I took the same path that most people took. My parents wanted me to go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer, but that wasn’t the journey I wanted to take, so I dropped out of college. It was after the second semester.
I got into sales. I just felt different from a lot of people growing up. I wanted to have this aspirational lifestyle. I used to have pictures of Ferraris, Lamborghini, big mansions, and stuff on my wall. I was always sold on that idea. College didn’t seem like it was the right path.When working with clients, you must invest in creativity, build a community, and expand globally. Click To Tweet
I got into sales at The Mike Ferry Organization—a real estate training company. I was a phone sales rep. I’d be talking to real estate agents—I think I was 17-18 years old—and selling them on coming to seminars where they would pay $300–$500 to learn how to become better sales agents.
Eventually, I started doing well with that. I became one of the top sales guys. I was number 6 out of 40 in the company.
Then, I started selling coaching. I would go to the events with the speakers across the country. I would be in the back of the room and help them sell coaching programs.
My cousin was one of the coaches at this organization. He was a mortgage coach. Even though this was a real estate company, they were starting their mortgage division. He wanted to take off and start his own company. He was really into Tony Robbins and personal development, and he’s just an amazing speaker.
This was around 2007–2008 time. I left Mike Ferry, decided to become an entrepreneur and pursued the dream with my cousin, and then the market crashed. Suddenly, we were in this ridiculous environment trying to sell these programs and help people succeed. It was just a chaotic time, so we had to shift.
My cousin was really about mindset training and mindset coaching, so we shifted from working with mortgage reps and real estate agents to working with poker players, hypnotists, and people from all different endeavors and helping them succeed in their fields.
I did that for about a couple of years, and then, at some point, he and I just started going off in different directions. I got in a car accident, so I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t go to the office and do many activities, so I was stuck behind a computer.
Around this time, I reconnected with a friend from high school, Neil Patel—whom I know many of your listeners probably know of. We shared a business class. We were competing for the top grades. He always got the highest, but I was closely behind at number two. It was a business class, so it was a lot of fun.
Neil even got me into selling these products on eBay at the time. We had a business at that time. It just lasted for a few months before my dad got mad.
After I reconnected with Neil in my early 20s, he started introducing me to the Internet and blogging. I knew nothing about blogging. I didn’t understand the concept, but he told me to start a blog and discuss what I knew. At the time, my subject was persuasion, mindset, and psychology.
I bought a domain called persuasive.net, and then I started blogging on that. I talked about sales tips and psychology tips. There was even a time when I wrote a blog post about the top five influencers, and Tony Robbins was one of them. Tony even saw that post and tweeted it saying, “I’m glad I made it to the list,” or something like that.
It was great that I got this blog from zero to about 30,000 monthly visitors. I didn’t think much of it, but Neil helped me start the site, build the blog, and set it up. That introduced me to the digital world and got me more into SEO.
Then, he introduced me to people who needed help and helped me start my agency. I started working with some clients he referred me to, and I’d help them with SEO. Some of them are big clients, and some of them are companies like Intuit. I did that for a bit, and I was able to built my own agency close to six figures. Then Neil introduced me to his cousin, Sujan. Sujan also had his agency going on, and it was in San Francisco at the time.
Sujan Patel, by the way, was also a guest on the show.
He’s doing some great stuff. Sujan is a funny guy. He’s super smart. What happened is we combined, and then we started Single Grain. Single Grain was operating out of San Francisco. I left SoCal and went to San Francisco, and then, together, we took that company to a whole new level.
It was a really interesting journey in that I was in my early 20s in San Francisco, and I was meeting with the CEOs of these tech companies. I even remember going to Airbnb’s office.
Airbnb wasn’t the Airbnb that we see now. It was an up-and-growing company. I did that with Sujan for almost a couple of years. We primarily worked with corporate brands, helping them with their SEO strategies and dipping into social media. Social media was still new then and didn’t have the type of attention it has today.
Something changed, and I started gravitating towards personal brands and people. The corporate stuff and okay. We were getting people results, and that was there, but I wasn’t getting this personal fulfillment.You may begin as a jack of all trades. But as challenges grow more specific, so does expertise. Becoming a specialist is the next step to success. Click To Tweet
I took corporate marketing strategies and applied them to person. What happened after that just blew my mind. It changed my life forever. We took her blog from 30,000 to 500,000 visitors a month. It was a combination of SEO traffic and social media traffic.
Essentially, it changed from becoming a personal blog to a global hub. I realized the types of strategies that we were taking on where we would see what other countries were doing. She’s in the health and wellness space. We knew that many trends in America originally came from Europe and India. Ayurveda is now much more popular, but it was unknown back then.
We would use a variety of these different types of strategies to figure out, “Hey, what’s the next up-and-coming trend? What are people going to start searching for? What are people going to be interested in?” We’d create all these different pieces of content that would drive links, including infographics.
There was a time I was watching Dr. Oz, and there was an episode about him showing what poop and pee mean. I was like, “Oh, that would be a great idea for an infographic.” With Kim, I turned that into an infographic, and that one infographic alone generated hundreds of thousands of views, it started getting all these backlinks, and that page at that time would rank for what your poop and pee mean.
We applied that concept to one of our signature drinks, the Glowing Green Smoothie, and then ranked that for a green smoothie. That keyword, green smoothie, we got it to rank at 3 or 4, driving 6000 visitors a month.
We had all these different keyword strategies in place. As we were building the traffic, I was also working with her to take her expertise and the stuff from her book, and we turned that into a digital product. That digital product was a 10-module course; we sold it for about $147. We did it product launch style.
First, we collected all these emails and built up an email list of about 50,000 people. If you have 500,000 people visiting your site every single day, we have all of these mechanisms in place to collect email traffic. We would indoctrinate those people and weave in Kimberly’s credibility and authority into that story so that people would receive these emails daily. Once we had that product ready to go, we launched it. It did about $100,000 in sales in 24 hours and another $100,000 the week after.
That’s when it started clicking for everybody that, “Hey, I think we’re onto something.” Long story short, that model is essentially what brings me to where I am today, where I start working with subject matter experts. I take their expertise and convert it into different pieces of content, whether it’s long-form content, written content, audio content, or video content. And I help them essentially build a brand platform for that content to be exhibited and discovered by targeted people from different mediums.
You mentioned product launch style when you did that work for Kimberly Snyder. You’re talking about the Product Launch Formula from Jeff Walker. Is that formula still valid and as effective these days as it was back then?
It’s different now. It’s not just hitting people through one channel. You need an omnichannel approach to where people are getting your messages from other places. We didn’t use that formula exactly more than it was building up the anticipation, weaving in proper stories, and then opening up a launch for a certain period. It’s a lot more intricate than that. Even today, that concept generally works, but only to a certain extent if you’re not reaching people across these platforms.
You said that working with Kimberly as a client changed your life, business trajectory, etc. How long did you guys work together? Why did the relationship end? Why did you part ways?
I worked with her from about 2011 to about 2015. She had gotten married at the time, and stuff happened with that. I just continued to work with my other clients because by that time with her, we were successful with that digital product, and then we introduced physical products. It was a subscription for probiotics.
I even modeled something I learned from Amazon, which is the ‘Subscribe & Save’ model. Originally, we were just selling supplements one-by-one. We added a mechanism for a Subscribe & Save, and suddenly, we had 1000, then 1500, and 2000 subscribers paying $50 a month for these probiotics.
As well as leveraging the brand we built and the audience we created for her, also turned into a New York Times bestseller three times. I learned how to win The New York Times best-selling game from Tim Ferriss. I met Tim in 2010. I was introduced to him through Neil’s old business partner.
You need an omnichannel approach to where people are getting your messages from different places.
I remember I was in San Francisco then and met him in a Thai restaurant. He explained to me how the concept works, how it’s all about creating perceived value, and how it’s all about the first seven days of the book’s launch.
We took that concept. With Kimberly, we’ve created all these additional pieces of content and all this extra value. It was guides, recipe books, and additional digital courses. It was a few months before the book launch, and we started pushing that.
We got all these pre-orders. Once a book did launch, you automatically have all of these people that already bought, plus we had all this promotion going on, and then she hit the list. I realized, “Okay, that’s how this is gamed. What could this lead to? How can we do that again?”
It happened three more times, which was the same concept. A lot of people do that now. The game is different now because it’s a lot more competitive, but it’s still the same concept.
At that time, what I realized—which is kind of what’s going on today—is that everyone’s an influencer. There are influencer management companies and all these different platforms for influencers. I realized back in 2015 that this would be a boom. Today, it’s called the creator economy.
Did you have any part in that, or was that just a lucky break she got or some sort of synchronicity? How did that come about?
It was synchronicity. How I view all of this is it’s all engineered essentially because what I do for people is help them create attention. She had two books from The New York Times bestsellers at that time.The true measure of investment in creativity lies in the Return on Attention Created (ROAC), which shapes the impact of successful content creation. Click To Tweet
Deepak knew her because he started seeing her on the Internet and TV, and he started seeing her more frequently. Deepak works with up-and-coming people.
That’s the case with many different authors, especially of his caliber. When you find somebody up-and-coming, you want to associate with them to introduce them to your audience and have them be introduced to their audience. It’s mutually beneficial.
She met him through a chance encounter in New York while walking. The beauty of the Internet and creating content is that these types of things occur.
How did you end up creating this new agency, The Limitless Company? I don’t know how long it’s been out, but you left Single Grain. You and Sujan parted ways, and then you have this new venture. Tell us a bit about that and how that came about. Why this agency and not some other type of agency?
Originally, I had started Limitless Publishing in 2011, around the time we had Single Grain. I got that concept when I was watching the movie Limitless. That movie was so cool and so amazing. Too bad NZT doesn’t exist other than maybe Adderall.
I don’t know if that’s the right approach to doing NZT, but that concept fascinated me at the time. I’ve been obsessed with that concept since I saw that movie because the mind is such an interesting place, and there are so many possibilities and things that you could explore within yourself. I had that at that time, Limitless Publishing.
Kimberly Snyder was the first client of Limitless Publishing. Still, the model was different back then, where I would joint venture with clients and then start and spin up these other companies, whereas now, it’s where I’m turning it into a hybrid agency model.
I don’t think of it as an agency more than I look at it as a content creation kitchen. Before, it was about written content. It was about blogs and getting all this Google traffic, which was amazing and exciting. Then, as Kimberly’s thing happened, I helped her launch her podcast as well because the podcast, in around 2014–2015, became a platform of choice for many people, and it still is today.
Neil says something interesting about podcasting. A lot of people think podcasting is saturated. There are a lot of podcasts out there, but most people who start podcasts stop after the first three episodes. If you compare the amount of blogs to the amount of podcasts there are, it’s crazy different. There are still massive opportunities with podcasts.
If you compare the amount of blogs to the amount of podcasts there are, it’s different. I think there are still massive opportunities for podcasts.
Creating that podcast for her started getting me into more of the audio realm. At the time, I also had another client in the TV space. While working with blogs and audio, I started getting introduced to TV stars. That led me to work with different network television companies and gain more insight and understanding of the entertainment industry works.
I came from marketing, and then I suddenly took a turn and started going into entertainment. I knew that entertainment was something that I wanted to do a long time ago. I even remember meeting with Neil early on in my career where I was like, “I want to be an actor. I want to be in Hollywood.”
That wasn’t a great idea then, but today, I have an office right next to the Hollywood sign, which is exciting.
I eventually started pursuing that interest in entertainment because I was so fascinated by that idea. 2015–2016, everybody was talking about, “Oh, the future is going to be video,” so I started diving into that. Around 2016–2017, I started vlogging with clients.
This is early on. I was still trying to understand it, didn’t know much about equipment or filming, and was just trying all these different things. Short-form social media wasn’t a thing yet. That became a thing a bit later. First, it was vlogging, YouTube videos, and just getting familiar with the video environment. Aside from creating cool videos that sometimes lead to opportunities, I didn’t have much success.
By the way, vlogging is a term that hasn’t stuck. I don’t hear people using that term anymore that much.
Yeah, even though they do it.
Yeah. They do it, but they don’t call it that anymore. It’s weird.
It might have a stigma attached to it because, from 2010 to 2020, there were a lot of YouTube vloggers, and many people were getting into the space.
I do remember meeting clients here and there or prospective clients who wanted to monetize. It was hard for many YouTubers to monetize initially because then, at some point, brand deals started to become a thing, but it wasn’t something that brands were investing in at the time.
Anyway, I got into more of the video realm, filming with TV stars, figuring out and learning how TV production companies work, and getting whatever insight I could from that. Then, the pandemic happened. This was right when we started to get into short-form videos and building the video agency. That helped me look at things differently. It put onto my radar that I want to figure out how to do this remotely because otherwise, it would take too much time.
I get why production companies and TV shows cost so much money. Coordinating all these different variables that go into production and talent is challenging because we’re talking about reality TV here. A scripted show is another animal, but it was so complex.
Much of my time went into figuring out how to coordinate all the different pieces that go into it. We’re just talking about the content creation part, not even the marketing part. I did the marketing part, I knew, but the content creation part of it, the capturing, and the editing was all a new endeavor that I was getting into.
Then, at some point, I listened to Gary Vee talking about TikTok. This was when TikTok weirded people out. I was like, “I see it, I get it, this is the thing. This is the future.”
People saw things like Quibi and said, “Okay, that’s just a failure.” It just wrote off the concept of short-form videos because they thought Quibi failed. Quibi came at a time that was too early when so many other options were available and much more entertaining. The Quibi shows were superscripted and super polished, but people had TV for that. TikTok came along, introduced short-form videos, and became this new place where people found entertaining value.
I knew, “Okay, I see where this is going,” because, at first, it was just jokes, memes, and funny stuff, then I was like, “Wait, this is a great place to build a platform.” That’s when I realized I wanted to get subject matter experts into this and help them become entertaining. Edutainment is what that concept is called. It’s corny, but it works.
How do you do that for yourself? How do you do that for a client? Could you give us an example of somebody?
When working with clients, everything I do comes down to three strategic objectives. I learned this from Bob Iger. He’s the guy that was running Disney for a long time.
When working with clients, I figure out their subject matter expertise and how we can creatively communicate this.
Number one, investing in creativity. Number two, building a community, and number three, expanding globally. When I work with clients, I’m figuring out what their subject matter expertise is and how we can communicate this in a creative way that’s both entertaining and educational. As we get that process going, “How do we build a community around it so that we have people talking about it amongst each other, not just with themselves in a silo, and then expanding globally into different markets however they want to grow their business?”
The problem with content creation—just to take a step back—is that it’s hard for people to invest in it because traditionally, especially with Internet marketing, you’re looking at a straight ROI. That just was the specific thing that people look for. It was easy to understand for a long time, but now I don’t think people are getting those numbers because it’s complicated; privacy and more regulations are being implemented. It’s getting a lot more complicated.
There’s more competition, and the costs just keep rising and rising, which erodes the ROI.
Exactly. I needed to invent a different way to measure the success of content creation. I came up with the concept called ROAC—return on attention created. ROAC is how I determine the effectiveness of a person’s investment in creativity. I’m looking at both qualitative components and quantitative components.
I’ll give you an example of a client right now. Her name is Nikki Haskell, @bignickbh. We’ve generated maybe 7–8 million views on some of her videos this month alone. She’s killing it. I’ve been working with her since last July. We’re killing it with her.
Qualitatively, her life changed. It got transformed. Nikki used to have a television show back in the ’70s. I was introduced to her through just a mutual acquaintance. She went from being irrelevant because she was essentially irrelevant from long ago to becoming super relevant to the point where all of her relationships changed.
When I start working with the client, and we’re creating content for them, the first thing that happens is the relationships change because people start to see this person differently. They start to see this person on a platform. They’re communicating entertainingly because of how we create that content, and they’re getting some value out of it.
That value could be LOLs or a motivational message. With Nikki, we found an audience that we didn’t think about initially, but after a little bit of it, we realized that there was this huge opportunity, which was Gen Z.
I’ve created The Limitless Company. I call it a ghost kitchen for content creation. I hire a lot of Gen Z professionals and creators.
I’m creating a platform where we have Gen Z creators who are part of the Limitless team on one side, and then we have clients who are subject matter experts on the other side. I facilitate the collaboration between all the creators to create content that drives views and ultimately helps the client achieve that result.
For some clients, it’s television shows, a book, or their products. It just varies on what the goals are. When we’re looking at ROAC, it’s essentially like we’re creating the content. What kind of impact does that content have, and how is it changing the perception of the people watching it? You’ll also see the difference in the quality of comments people type. All that starts to rise.
Quantitatively, we’re looking at reach, favorite ratios, saves, and numbers of comments. Stuff that was traditionally viewed as vanity metrics, I started seeing the value and how we could utilize that because social media platforms today—the way I see them—are like countries. They have more users, and countries have citizens. You may have a culture shock when you go to a new country.
That happens when you are on a new social media platform like TikTok. For many people in the beginning, TikTok was very strange, especially if you’ve never been on TikTok before and you go on TikTok. You’re like, “What the hell is going on here?” It’s a culture shock.
Each social platform has different cultures that are being developed.
Each platform has these different cultures being developed, but this is relatively new because everyone had the concept of a social graph where the content was essentially just being shown to people you know or people connected to who you know. Whereas now, it’s built around an interest graph.
An interest graph is so much more complex and beneficial, especially because there are opportunities for everyone. It comes down to a person being able to create content, creating it consistently, and iterating it along the way.
It’s like software. I learned a lot from Neil, and he’s the king of software. When it comes to software, you’re constantly just iterating the product over and over and over again. There isn’t an end because you’re constantly improving it.
The same thing goes with building your brand on the Internet. You’re putting out content. You’re constantly iterating it, learning from it, and improving it. That’s why if you look at it traditionally from an ROI perspective, a month in or two months in, you might not see anything or notice like, “Oh, I didn’t make money from this, and you may stop.”
ROAC was created so that you could look at it from a much longer-term perspective. It was Gary Vee who said that social media has a trillion-dollar ROI. He said it in a video once.
It’s hard to comprehend that. What does that even mean? It’s because—and the pandemic helped show this—everyone looks through the digital lens before seeing real life. What you see online augments how you see people in the real world.
Now, companies understand that, and many people are starting to understand that. At least business professionals are starting to understand that because, for the longest time, there was a stigma with social media. You would hire your niece or nephew to manage your accounts.
I started my platform to take my expertise, turn it into a product, and then build a brand.
I dealt with that for a good portion until the pandemic happened, where people would see it as, “Oh, my niece is going to do that, or my nephew is going to do that. I’m not going to pay you to do that.” It’s a very low-barrier thing or whatever.
That’s why, for me, I’ve always focused on a very certain type of clientele, a clientele at a level where they’re at the top of their game and already a leader in their industry, and they want to become a leader for their industry. That’s what I’m helping them do.
Are you doing that for yourself as well? Are you eating your dog food, or do you like being behind the scenes backstage?
For a long time, I didn’t do that. I just did it for other people. That bit me in the ass over and over again until, eventually, I started writing a book called Guru Inc. That’s me starting my platform so that I could basically take my expertise, turn it into a product, and then build a brand off of what I’ve done for others so that I could eat my dog food.
Do you have a whole launch strategy for that?
For Guru Inc., not yet. That’s something that I’ll be working on pretty soon, but I have a good idea. It’s different influencers and different people that I know. I’m also going to work on trying to sell that concept, but we’ll see. Otherwise, I’ll self-publish and build off of that.
What would be an example of a standout piece of content you’re quite proud of that came out of this ghost kitchen for content creators? What pops into your mind as this is extraordinary, remarkable, and a skyscraper piece of content?
The way I see this ghost kitchen and content creation is there are formulas. There are different formulas for how you can create that content. What we’ve started doing is we’ve built our concept of content. I call it crack content. That’s content that’s designed to be addictive.
We get people addicted because I’m leaning into the concept that social media is addictive. I will create content because that’s what everybody’s doing anyway. Everyone is trying to create content. They’re putting in all these psychological tactics and trying to manipulate people. They’re trying to get people to push buttons. They’re trying to do all these things.When you discover an up-and-comer, associate with them and introduce them to your audience. Relationships work both ways, and as their success grows, yours may too. Click To Tweet
I turned that into crack content with some people for my team. The content is designed to be viral. The content is designed to appeal to that ADHD brain of everybody’s. You can see it in action with people like Nikki.
We have another client, NonToxic Dad, who’s just killing it now. He’s gotten 10 million views just this month. A lot of the time, a lot of these views come from 20% of the videos. It’s the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the videos are driving 80% of the views. But to get to that level, you must continue to iterate, and then, at some point, you find that sweet spot.
NonToxic Dad has this schtick of canceling certain toxic foods. Nikki she has this schtick of I’m in my 80s. This is what I learned in my 20s. You develop these series of ideas as you create content and get feedback. As the world changes, things evolve, and stuff happens.
You feed off of all of that when it comes to this because I see fast content like fast food. That’s why I say it’s a kitchen. We have this assembly line where we have different creators doing different parts of building this content or creating this recipe before we serve it to the clients.
What would be an example of something that flopped but you weren’t expecting it to?
Yeah. Some campaign or initiative that you thought this has legs.
There are flops all the time.
You could share some lessons as to why.
Sometimes, you invest in creating a video, which doesn’t work even though it’s a good concept. A lot of times, it just comes down to how it starts.
There’s this study. I heard this from MrBeast, where once a viewer watches 20% or 25% of the video, they tend to watch the whole thing. If content doesn’t work or fails, it often concerns how it starts. It has to do with what the hook and transition is. The viewer must understand what they’ll be getting before deciding to invest, even if it’s 45 seconds into that content.
A lot of content will flop, which is just the nature of the game. That’s why you just got to have more time for content creation. I always tell clients or people I’m consulting with that you aim to hit 20 or 30 videos monthly so they have more opportunities and get more feedback.
The beauty of what’s happening right now is the feedback. That’s also something that I talked to a lot of our new hires, especially younger professionals. There’s so much talent among younger professionals. That’s why I’m specifically looking to create an environment for them.
I didn’t have a ton of clients. I have eight or nine clients right now because it was hard to handle so many clients and do this. It was just mentally a lot of bandwidth.
Once viewers watch 20-25% of the video, they tend to watch the whole thing. Often, if content doesn’t work or fails, it has to do with how it starts.
It was just recently that I finally created the systems and processes that allow me to handle more content creation at scale because that becomes part of what we offer people. We’re going to help you create high-quality content that’s relevant to your audience at scale. We’re talking 20–30 videos a month.
Later this year, the goal is to help some clients get to 60 videos a month or whatever it is. It’s also for me to start bringing on more clients at a certain level because then what happens is in the environment. I’m bringing in creative and talented young professionals and getting them to work on projects with successful people with some respect. That way, they get rapid feedback.
Anyone who’s working on these projects all of a sudden is getting rapid feedback on their work. It helps them advance their careers faster than they normally would, working with many small companies or brands, which is not bad thing. I’m creating an environment where growth can happen quickly.
My job is to facilitate and orchestrate it. That’s why I call myself The Digital Maestro. Musicians play their instruments, and I play the orchestra.
I do view this in that fashion where the musicians are people who have their phones, keyboards, mice, and computers. Those are the digital instruments that they’re playing, tapping, and doing.
Essentially, I’m orchestrating them, and then the client is the person that’s the face. They’re the ones that are looking at the audience. We’re essentially creating an integrated brand experience that everyone listens to across the world. Unlike an actual orchestra where you attend an event, everyone sits in the stadium. In the digital world, these platforms are creating a stage, and it’s being communicated to people worldwide across space and time.
Is there a role for AI here in scaling this content up? Do you think that people will abuse that, and we’re just going to be in a wash and a lot of deep fake garbage?
I can already see that there will be a lot of deep fake garbage. It’s coming. Many actors and celebrities have already started doing that, where they’re licensing out their image. Somebody wants to shoot a commercial in Germany, and the actor doesn’t want to go there. Boom, just license that image, and then they’ll create that commercial in Germany.
It’s starting with that first as the whole entertainment industry becomes revolutionized. It’s happening amongst everyday people, but it’s like when that AI Drake song came out. It was really good, but it started to create that conversation amongst people.
Some people skew, too. “Oh, yeah, it’s fine, whatever, as long as it’s good. It doesn’t matter if it’s computer-generated or human-generated.” Then, the other group is like, “I only want to support human artists.”
There’ll likely be a mixture. AI is enhancing and accelerating everything that we’re doing as a company. It’s going to do that for everyone across the board. It probably will get riddled with a lot of crap even though there is a lot of crap, but at the same time, all these platforms—whether it’s Google or any of these social media networks—are pretty good at being able to let the good stuff come to the top.
Are there any particular tools you want to mention that you’re using internally that are AI-based?
Otter.ai is a fun tool. It follows you to whatever meeting. It connects with your Google Calendar, so anytime you go into a Zoom meeting, a Google Meet meeting, or whatever it is, it will automatically come there. It’ll record the meeting, transcribe all the notes, and outline it. That’s huge.
There are creative AI tools that are coming out. We’re waiting for Adobe Firefly. They’ve talked about it. They’ve not released it to everybody yet. That’s going to be a really fun tool. That’s going to accelerate it.
Other than ChatGPT and Bard, which everybody has, Otter.ai is a game-changing tool. If not, other tools are like that. There’s another one called Simon Says. It’s just the ability to transcribe meeting notes and then manipulate that text. There’s so much you could do with that.
It’s helped me immensely, especially when developing client strategies. I have these really deep, intensive calls. Taking those transcriptions and manipulating that data into a fully comprehensive strategy is powerful. It’s been a game-changer.
It takes a long time to do it when I’m doing it with this, but imagine if I didn’t have that tool. It takes things that will take months to occur in days or a week.
Otter.ai is a fun tool.
Where are things going regarding micro-influencers, influencers of really small niches, and influencers with a small following in a more macro niche?
Influencers in themselves have a stigma attached to them as well. Many people don’t want to be labeled as influencers.
I remember watching this video of Logan Paul, who said that he was an influencer but then said it in a way where he was slightly embarrassed about it. The host called him out on it. He’s like, “Yeah, I don’t want to be associated with that.”
Many micro-influencers are content creators who want to be the next YouTuber, Logan Paul, MrBeast, or a subject matter expert for whatever it is.
They’re going to realize that you have to become an expert in some field, and then you have to market that expertise. The time when people become famous is there, but the new path or what many people will be focused on is becoming famous for your expertise.
That’s the premise of my book, which is Guru Inc. It’s literally about becoming famous for your expertise because, throughout the journey that I went on, I grew up with spiritual gurus. There was a picture at my family’s house of the guy with a turban, and that was our guru. We would always pray to him or whatever it is.
I think a lot of the micro-influencers are just people who are content creators who want to be the next YouTuber.
Over time, I realized that “guru” is the term they call a popular expert. It was because that’s how my life originated. I always worked with gurus. Mike Ferry, who I mentioned to you, is a real estate guru. Neil Patel, marketing guru. Kimberly Snyder, nutrition guru.
Throughout my life, I’ve always worked with people where I’m essentially helping them become gurus. Over time, I realized I was helping them create their personal brand based on a model I can now label because I know it. I didn’t understand it then because I was trying to make this person like Oprah or Martha Stewart.
Eventually, I realized that that term is called celebrity authority. There are five levels of authority in any profession. It reminded me of what the caste system was in India. It seems like it’s a caste system for professionals.
Everyone starts as a generalist in whatever field they go into. The generalist is the jack of all trades. If you have a cold, you go to a generalist doctor, but if you start having heart problems, you won’t go to that guy. You’re going to go to the next level, a specialist.
The specialist is someone who has honed in on that craft. As the specialist hones in on that craft and becomes much better at it, they want to go to that next level.
That next level is called the authority. You’re now at an authority level. An authority is someone who creates original content. It could mean author, so it could mean a book. It could mean research papers.
Essentially, the authority is the authority once you have peers who review your content and accept it. That’s the authority level. The problem is most people don’t know authority because they didn’t market themselves.
Most people don’t establish authority because they don’t market themselves.
The next level is called celebrity. This is when you become a guru. This is when you become famous for your expertise. You need to learn how to market yourself to go from generalist, specialist, and authority to the next level, which is a celebrity. You need to learn how to develop on-camera charisma. You need to learn how to communicate effectively in ways where what you’re saying is remembered by other people.
That’s not easy. It takes time, coaching, development, practice, and many iterations for you to get to that level.
Once you’re at that level, you want to be at that level because people start gravitating toward you. More opportunities start to show up to you. You start to experience more of these synchronicities where people see you, discover you, and want to be associated with you. This is where you become the guru. This is when you become a leader in your industry.
Then, the next level, the highest level, is called the celebrity authority, or I call it the guru’s guru. This is your Oprah, Martha Stewart, Ellen, Dr. Oz, Neil Patel, Tony Robbins, and Mike Ferry. Whatever niche you’re in, there is a celebrity authority. That’s the highest level you could be in your field.
That celebrity authority could become so powerful and influential. It could even take them to the White House. When you look at guys like Donald Trump, he was a celebrity authority.
When you start to understand that, that’s essentially the book’s premise. My goal with the book is to get people to think and see things differently to leverage what’s available today.
What took Oprah 30-40 years to do before—maybe even longer—and what took a lot of these people that we know all this time to do could be done in a fraction of the time now.
It’s an exciting time to be alive. I know we’re running out of time. What does it cost to work with you? What does that look like?
You need to learn how to communicate effectively in ways where what you’re saying is remembered by other people.
It will vary between different people and, ultimately, the goals. The best thing would be to have a call with me to determine what that will be and what that engagement will look like.
I would give you a range in the high five-figure to six-figure range over a year.
Like an SEO, an SEO person comes into this idea of, “Oh, I’m going to get top rankings in a month or two months.” Similarly to SEO, when we’re working to build your brand on social media, I always preface that within the first 3-6 months, you start to see things trickle in.
You see more perception change within the first 1-3 months. In 3-6 months, you start to see business and more opportunities trickle in. Then, 6-12 months is when you start to see much more exponential gains.
That becomes what we talked about, the return on attention created. If it’s TV opportunities, it could be that. It could be speaking deals or brand deals. Whatever it is to you, that happens in about 12 months.
Awesome. If our listener wants to work with you or just learn from you, get your book, follow you on social media, and all that stuff, where should we send them?
The best place right now is Instagram, @ajthedigitalmaestro. Follow me there. That’s where I will talk more about the upcoming book, more clients’ success, and sharing more tips.
Awesome. Thank you, AJ. That was fabulous and inspiring. I loved your story of struggle and all the cool stuff you’ve been up to.
Thanks for sharing, and thank you, listener, for learning and growing. We’ll catch you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
Connect with AJ Kumar
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Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Identify my expertise and passion to resonate with my audience. Recognize my interests and start a blog or content platform focused on my niche to establish authority.
Cultivate relationships with industry professionals, mentors, and peers. Partnerships and collaborations play a pivotal role in my career trajectory.
Stay updated on industry trends. Experiment with different content formats, including written, audio, and video.
Implement effective product launch strategies. I should incorporate the evolution of digital product launches in my plans.
Recognize that not all content will succeed initially. Embrace an iterative process, learn from my failures, and optimize my content hooks and transitions for engagement.
Aim to produce a significant amount of content to receive ample feedback that helps refine my strategies.
Balance the use of AI with quality control measures to ensure the content aligns with my brand values and resonates with my audience.
Consider writing a book or creating original content to solidify my authority. Leverage celebrity authority status to attract opportunities and influence others within my industry.
Stay adaptable to emerging trends and technologies. The evolving nature of AI and content creation requires an open-minded approach in order to remain relevant.
About AJ Kumar
AJ is a Guru-maker with 15 years in digital marketing. He’s all about helping people shoot to stardom in their field with brand-building content. With smart strategies for business and marketing, he helps them become the go-to experts. He’s got a golden touch, helping clients make millions online, get books on the New York Times Bestseller list, and even land TV shows.