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Joshua Strawczynski (00:27)
In today’s episode, we’re going to be covering a really important topic, and that is how often business owners and marketing managers think they can advertise their business or their product that they have invented without truly understanding how to sell it. Today, I’ve got an amazing guest. Alex Coe is someone that’s come into my life and I’ve got to witness firsthand him approach literally thousands of potential clients one on one, walking the beach, the streets, wherever he is, and try to really understand what is going to make his sales pitch work. Now, this struck a chord with me in particular because in previous episodes, I’ve talked about the thousands of people that I sold outdoor furniture to. And watching Alex work and build his business, I saw exactly the same thing and what he was doing. And the lesson for business owners that we’re going to draw to here is before you can advertise a product, you want to understand understand exactly what drives your audience, and most importantly, what it is that’s stopping them from taking action. The fight or flight mechanism, which we all go into when we feel fear, is something which Alex has massively overcome by his thousands and thousands of approaches of people.

Joshua Strawczynski (01:50)
And I can’t wait to understand what it is that he did, and I’ll break down the science behind why people reacted the way they did. So if you’re interested in your business being able to take the next level, whether it is a small, medium, or even one of the big businesses that we work with, this is the core fundamental lessons. And this is the number one thing that we implement as an advertising agency that makes a difference. With no further ado, welcome to the show, Alex.

Alex Coe (02:21)
What’s up, mate? Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it.

Joshua Strawczynski (02:24)
I’m so excited to have you on because I’ve got to witness firsthand how you’ve started this business here in the tropics, we’re in the Caribbean right now. You’ve built it up from literally nothing, having faced a lot of rejection in the first place. Tell me a little bit about, very quickly, to paint the picture of what have you been doing? Because it’s a really fun job that you’ve started. Who’s your audience? Was it just easy from day one? Like any business, you just nailed it from day one, right?

Alex Coe (02:59)
Not quite. I landed on Isla Mujeres here with Joshy. We met a couple of years ago and didn’t have… I used to be a teacher. I didn’t have a lot of money in my name and wanted to make some money doing what I loved. I remember you asked me one day, he said, What do you love to do? I said, I love to party. He was like, Oh, how could you make some money from partying? I was like, Oh, that’s a good idea. Let’s pray on that. We went through the whole process. We started with some bar craws, and then it ended up morphing into some boat I’ve been doing that for a little while now. I guess what I really do, I run events, I run parties here on a tropical island and have fun and meet a bunch of cool people.

Joshua Strawczynski (03:42)
That’s the flipp It’s easy answer, but it’s really challenging. You’re trying to get 20 odd people once or twice a week who are only here for a few days. You’re trying to find people who are here for when the party will be on. You’re trying to get them to fork out quite a sizable amount of money to come on this boat. And you’re trying to convince them that, hey, it’s all safe. You’ll meet really cool people. You’re not just going to be trapped out at sea for four hours with who knows what. So how did that go? It sounds like someone listening might would say, oh, it’s just a party boat. That’s easy.

Alex Coe (04:20)
Well, it was pretty tough, especially in the beginning, because I was just a random guy in Mexico trying to start a business. It really did start with going hostels and just speaking to people, seeing what they’re hoping to get from their stay here in Isla Mujeres. It was really challenging figuring out the bar crawl situation with which bars would go to and then trying to convince people to pay to come along to a bar crawl with someone random. We didn’t have a website, we didn’t have any of that. I literally went up to people and said, Hey, would you like to come and meet a group of people and have a whole night, a whole week of fun partying for the night doing this bar crawl?

Joshua Strawczynski (04:59)
That’s okay. I think the bar crawl and the party boats, they are worth mentioning together because one of the things you did was the bar crawl was much, much cheaper, like 10% of the cost of the-Yeah.

Alex Coe (05:11)
The bar crawl was a really good way to build some trust with these people at a lower cost, a low entry cost. Then once they had that trust and they had a lot of fun, a really good night, and they met some other people, then we would sell, then we would pitch the boat party to them.

Joshua Strawczynski (05:27)
This is one of the typical reactions to anyone that’s pitching anything. So put yourself in the situation of someone that’s on the receiving end of one of your pitches. You come up to them and you say, I’ve got this party boat. Tickets are expensive, but it’s going to be a great time. And they are here for just a couple of days on Isla Mujeres, tropical island. They don’t know anything to do. What are the fears or what do you think are the reasons when initially you were pitching this? They were just saying no straight out of the gates.

Alex Coe (05:59)
It was interesting When I first started, I just had this idea that I could print out some flies and just chuck them out to a whole bunch of people and their people would just, boat party, they’d come and join. That just wasn’t the case. I really needed to, like you say, break down these barriers, break down these fears. What I was finding was that if I use my charm, my charismatic nature, I would get to know these people for them, understand them, they would get to know me a little bit, and then that just builds the trust and rapport for them them to go, Oh, maybe I’m interested in this boat party that he’s actually running. It only took a brief second. We were talking no more than a minute to ask them how long to stay, ask them where they’re from, ask them what they do for a job. Then they would automatically ask me and I would go, Oh, well, I run boat parties here on the island. Then all of a sudden, rather than me just giving them a flyer or saying, Hey, come to the boat party, it was, Oh, this guy’s asking me about myself.

Alex Coe (06:55)
Now, What? You’re also running boat parties? That’s so cool. Then obviously, they would be interested to know more. Because that trust has been built, it was a lot easier to make a sale.

Joshua Strawczynski (07:04)
That’s beautiful. That is the difference between push and pull marketing. What happens when you push against a cow? A cow doesn’t move. Exactly. And this is a mistake that we make in advertising and marketing all the time. We try to push people into the product we’ve invented. I’ve just got this fantastic X. It’s got a button here and it does this and it does that. And all people want to do is get away from you.

Alex Coe (07:32)
Yeah, right.

Joshua Strawczynski (07:33)
But what you were able to do was get them to ask you and you pulled them through. And it changed the entire dynamic. And it makes sense. So To come back to one of the lessons that we talk about with good advertising, good website structure. People are automatically geared to go into fight or flight. They are scared of the unknown. So when they’re making this assessment of whether this is a good product to take the next step with, to invest even a little bit of mental energy into, you want to break down those barriers. What Alex has done so effectively here is broken down the fear of, Oh, there’s a strange guy talking to me, and he just wants to sell to me. And instead, he’s reverse engineered it. He’s got people to say, Tell me what you do. And then now they’re the one that are running this communication, and Alex can easily just present as option. So this didn’t all come naturally. I distinctly remember you walking through the hotels, walking up beautiful playa Norte, just talking to random people. How did that work? There’s a couple of girls lying on a beach towel on the beach.

Joshua Strawczynski (08:47)
Do you just walk up to them?

Alex Coe (08:49)
That is how I started, definitely. I didn’t do any online marketing or anything like that. It was literally me on the island walking up to people saying hello getting to know them and then moving from there.

Joshua Strawczynski (09:03)
That seems fairly scary to a lot of people. They feel like for a big business or any business, really, well, it’s got to be contextually relevant. You’d go to a trade show and it I have to invest $10,000 so that I look like a real booth and I need a logo, all the rest of that rubbish. You’re literally just walking up to people who are lying there.

Alex Coe (09:25)
What I will say is that there were times where that wasn’t completely It’s really natural. I got into my own head sometimes feeling like I needed to sell rather than just get to know people. We spoke about this a couple of times and I always felt so much less pressure when I could just be myself, walk up to someone, get to know them. One of the first questions we’d ask was, Oh, so how long are you on the island? If I knew that they weren’t going to be on the island until the boat party, well, I’d quickly say, Oh, that’s so cool. Have a great time. Then the conversations were not wasting my time because I’m there to sell. But it’s not Coming across as a cold, here’s a flyer, come on the boat party. It’s more of a… It starts off like friends, and then you build from there, and then you can slowly, like you say, pulling the cow, pull them into making a sale.

Joshua Strawczynski (10:17)
Yeah, that’s it. There’s two strings that you’ve touched on here. One of them is you said you didn’t have a website or collateral. In a very short answer, if you had not done all the of people. If you had just put ads up on Instagram or Facebook saying, Boat party, book your tour, would it have been successful?

Alex Coe (10:39)
There’s no chance. The other thing as well, if we had done that, let’s even say you do get a bunch of clients, it’s going to make a lot harder to make a good product because you don’t know who’s coming. Whereas I was going up to everyone, I could feel the dynamic of all the people and just make it a really, really fun event for everyone.

Joshua Strawczynski (10:57)
Oh, that is a sensational insight. Yeah, and I want to go in that direction because I’ve been on a few of these. You get a group of people that are so fun and eager. And then when they finish, they’re all best friends, right?

Alex Coe (11:14)
Yeah, exactly right. We all head to the party afterwards at the Slina.

Joshua Strawczynski (11:18)
I know you had your WhatsApp group going with everyone that had ever been. Did you find you get a lot of referral from people that had passed it on to other travellers?

Alex Coe (11:26)
Yeah, actually, we did get a lot of that. I even got One lady that got to the island and she said to me, Oh, you’re the boat party guy. I was like, Yeah. She’s like, Oh, I had people down in Tulum that were telling me about you. I think that once you make something super fun for people that are travelling and they’re in that space, they’re obviously going to tell other people about it. Everyone’s doing the same trip down that Yucatan, so it was really easy to get referrals.

Joshua Strawczynski (11:53)
Yeah, the root of it was, all of this comes back to you were talking to people, understanding their vibe, understanding understanding what they wanted out of their trip and then choosing the right people to make the right product. I never saw you take the wrong personal. Occasionally, there was someone that didn’t fit, but 99% of the time, it was the right combination of people. So to come back and labour the point, that couldn’t have been done through just advertising, right?

Alex Coe (12:23)
Absolutely not. No chance. You just have no idea who you’re going to get.

Joshua Strawczynski (12:26)
Yeah, and this is the very core of it. When we websites together, the best, most effective ones, those companies know their clients. They know them inside out. And so we’re able to address, well, what are the fears that this person is feeling? And we can very clearly solve those fears before they have to speak to a salesperson. Statistically speaking, 54 % of the buyer journey is done in personal research before I am willing to speak to a salesperson. If you know that, then what’s important is how do we, as quickly as possible, move them to give them the information they need to then be willing to speak to a salesperson. And that’s exactly what I was doing, albeit he was going straight to them. Now, we’ve been really labouring the point that going direct to your audience is important to learn about them, but digital marketing did play a role in supporting this. You used Instagram heavily to capture the moment and show people what was great about it. Tell me about the impact of Instagram on the sales process.

Alex Coe (13:35)
When I first started, we just had the Instagram running and I was taking all the footage and just editing up stuff and just posting about it. It just added so much value to the next event. I could post a bunch of people all having a wicked time. Then what we also did was we would get them to tag us at the events, all the stories they’re putting up. Then everyone that’s coming to the island sees those stories, all their friends see those stories. If you have something that’s really fun, which we definitely did, it makes it easy for someone to go, Oh, okay, I saw my friend do that. Now I want to go and do that as well.

Joshua Strawczynski (14:11)
It’s important, though, because the average person who meets you Did they sign up right away? Did they like, Okay, here’s my money. Shut up and take my money, or did they go say, I’ll think about it?

Alex Coe (14:22)
That was a very frustrating thing because in my head, when I first started this, I just wanted people to be like, Oh, yeah, boat party, I’m in. But that’s just not how it works. They always They have to think about it. They have to speak to their friends. They have to decide what they want to do. They have to see what the weather’s doing. That was challenging, but it’s definitely necessary. But having this Instagram there meant that people can go and think about it, see all the photos and videos and be like, Oh, this might actually be something I’m keen to do.

Joshua Strawczynski (14:46)
It’s funny because I almost never recommend Instagram as a channel to clients, and that’s because they’re using it as a pay-per-click. Hey, let’s talk to new people. But this is where marketing really This is almost a form of retargeting in that you’ve had a sales conversation with this person, now they can see how much fun other people were having when they did this, and they feel like, Oh, I want that fun as well. I’m missing out. Is that a fair way of looking at it?

Alex Coe (15:19)
Absolutely. Yeah, I think it worked out really well with the Instagram.

Joshua Strawczynski (15:23)
So there’s people that are listening now. If there’s one other party boat operator in the world listening, I’ll be surprised. But there will be a whole heap of people who are, they might run a medical clinic, they might run a restaurant, they could be in the tech sector. And they’ll be thinking, well, is this really relevant to me? And I would argue that 100 % it is. The same processes that we go through to choose whether we want to go in this party is relevant to whether we choose a vendor for high-end security or we buy a car or whatever. We still want to feel like people like me, this is one of the nine frictions that we talk about, use this product. And that actually reminds me of Matt Perkins, who used to work for me a long time ago, and he went on and became the Marketing Manager or marketing director for a company called Ironman 4×4. And this was his dream job. And Matt set about marketing the company by by just spending all his time getting to know his customers on social media. He built up the biggest 4×4, a four-wheel drive, community in Australia that just talked four wheel driving all day.

Joshua Strawczynski (16:43)
He didn’t sell them anything. He just got the community going and then was that person that they relied on for advice. And because of that, Ironman saw phenomenal sales growth, yes, driven by digital, but more driven by community. You did something similar. We’ve talked about referral already and how you were curating a community that loved you. How about social credibility? I saw on multiple occasions when you would walk up and talk to people and a couple of the people who either had said they’re coming on the trip or have been on the last trip would be with you and you’d introduce them into the group and that social credibility helped you. Tell me a little bit about that.

Alex Coe (17:28)
Yeah, so obviously we would be running these events. Then if people were, we would all hang out together because we want to be friends. Then if there’s always new people come into these hostels, there’s always new people on the island. As soon as we’d meet them, I wasn’t just some random guy in Mexico that’s running a boat party. I was the boat party guy who made them like an awesome party where everyone loves it. Then they talk to these new people about it and all of a sudden the guards completely drop down. They’re excited for this new party that we’re going to run. So yeah, the social Social credibility definitely helped.

Joshua Strawczynski (18:02)
Any company can do this. I’ve got a couple of examples. Some lawyers we used to use back in Australia, I still would if I was still there. Instead of sending Christmas gifts every year, they would have a concert on their office rooftop, and they would have some old amazing band play. You got to meet and mingle with all their other clients. I got to know those other clients quite well. Now it’s not just me and my lawyers, it’s us and our lawyers, and there was a sense of community. Or maybe a smaller example, there was a bike store near my place on Chapel Street in Melbourne, and they would run free events just about every day of the week. I think Tuesday was Women Who Cycle, Wednesday was Cycle the Burbs, and it went on and on and on. And so they built a community around cycling. So when you needed to buy cycle gear, where are you going to go to? Ebay or the guy that you love who specialises in this. One more example, a very, very, very successful bar in Melbourne. They also have a spot in Sydney and now in the airports in Australia called The Local, The Local Tap House.

Joshua Strawczynski (19:15)
A long time ago, they started holding Ale Stars, which is a beer enthusiast night. Now, it was supposed to be a bit of fun in order to sell tickets. Here’s an event we can make a little bit of money off of. What they And what it inadvertently did was create a community of brand advocates, people that because they’ve got a shirt in their own locker in the bar, and they all know each other, and all the staff know who they are, it gave them identity. And so these people, not only drink there all the time because now they love that community and they love the recognition, but they bring all their friends there as well. So what you were doing, Alex, was creating this community on Isla Mujeres. And Even though people are leaving every two or three days, you’re topping it up with more people. That’s fairly incredible. Do you recognise that? Is that something that is obvious to you, or is that just a side factor of what you are doing?

Alex Coe (20:15)
I wouldn’t say it’s obvious to me. You shed a lot of light in this, and I’ve learned a lot from you, Josh. But I definitely notice it now. It’s very helpful having people that are just coming in and talking, that’s talking up your parties, talking about you. It makes my life and my job a lot easier.

Joshua Strawczynski (20:34)
And so then we always talk about what do people actually want? And I can’t imagine that people actually wanted to come to Isla and sit on a boat for a few hours. What was the underlying problem that Isla experiences was really solving?

Alex Coe (20:51)
Well, we spoke about this a lot, Josh, over the couple of years that we were doing it. And the problem was that people wanted to… I wanted to people. They weren’t comfortable just doing what I was doing, going up and inviting someone to a bar or having fun. But they did want to meet people. They wanted to have fun. They wanted to hook up with others. We provided a service that made everyone be able to do that, and entertain and made everyone feel comfortable and gave everyone friends.

Joshua Strawczynski (21:21)
There’s a couple of real lessons in that. One of them is that you’re not explicitly going to say it in the sales pitch, but understanding that was their motivation allows you to cater all of your marketing and your sales pitch to it. Secondly, you could easily, as an owner, go and build the best boat and the best tools or whatever it is for having a good time on that boat. But the underlying desire is that these people want to party, let wild, kiss a random stranger and no amount of tools or nice boat is going to achieve that. So we’re going to finish up soon, but I’m really curious in the idea of failure, because you probably had, I don’t know, or you’ve had several hundred people come through these parties, but you’ve made several thousand pitches to people. Tell me about failure. Was every time the pitch didn’t work, did you just straight out fail or was there more to it How did you find that?

Alex Coe (22:30)
If you always see failure is failure, then you’re not learning. I think there was lessons in every time we do the pitch. There was a lot of rejection, a lot of people that just turned you away immediately. That’s confronting. That’s really hard for somebody to just persist through that and just keep approaching people. I certainly felt at times like, Shit, man, I don’t want to do this anymore. But I think if you’re a business owner, it’s so It’s important to get on that front line and to actually know your clients. It’s just necessary. If you get that rejection or you get a bit of backlash, then you just have to reassess how you approach it, how to do it better, and then realise that the next person might just be a straight-up sale. Not everyone’s going to come on the boat party, but if you reach out to thousands of people, then you’re going to get hundreds of sign-ups.

Joshua Strawczynski (23:29)
Did you start to see trends? The more people you spoke to, you learned little bits about how to pitch to them. Over time, there was less rejection and you knew how to hit those sweet spots?

Alex Coe (23:42)
Yeah, we fine-tuned the pitch and how we approached it for ages. But, yeah, it certainly wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It took a bit of time to figure out how to pull the cow rather than push the cow.

Joshua Strawczynski (24:00)
There was something that I’ve spoken about selling outdoor furniture before on this podcast, but it was one of the ways I put myself through a university. I would A/B test my approaches to people. And the long story short- You told me this story. Was that what I found out was the single worst thing you could say to someone is, Hi, can I help you? The single best thing that resulted in the most sales was, How’s the great furniture hunt going? Because it was a totally innocuous question and it allowed them to respond and start a conversation, just like you said. Once they did that, their guard came down. They started to build a little bit of trust. I could show them my expertise around furniture. I could tell them that other people like them had purchased this item, which made them more likely to do it. To me, that sounds like exactly the same experience that you’ve been having.

Alex Coe (24:57)
I definitely resonate with the guard coming down. There’s a distinct difference between when I would go to somebody and be pitching to them, trying to sell, and then the difference between me going, Hey, how’s your travels going? Where have you been so far? How long you got here? It was such a subtle difference. I would always… I’m not always sorry. I would sometimes go back into that feeling of, Oh, I need to sell rather. You get these tickets sold. It was always more pressure on myself, more resistance from them. Yeah, I definitely felt like if I could just enter the conversation with a different intention, where the intention was to know them and to understand them rather than sell my product or service to them, then the guard just dropped. I’ve really resonated with that. If the guard drops just a little bit, then I got into a much more of a flow with getting to know them, and the pitch came in much more easier.

Joshua Strawczynski (25:55)
Before we finish the fun stuff, you have just filmed and it’s about to be released, Survivor Australia. You’re one of the participants. You were away for what? I can’t say exactly how much because this would give away the- The whole show ran for 47 days on the island.

Alex Coe (26:14)
It’s a romantic experience, but a lot of fun.

Joshua Strawczynski (26:18)
I actually think this is really fascinating. I wonder if fans of the show might have tuned in to listen to the first 30 minutes of this to get to just this part. But there is some relevance to business here because it’s a really stressful situation. Just for those people who don’t watch survivor or those people that are interested in it but don’t watch it at all, tell me a little bit about how stressful every single day is.

Alex Coe (26:52)
To paint a little bit of a picture where we’re waking up on a beach on the sand every single morning. We We don’t get a lot of food. We’re getting some rice and beans, but we have to cook ourselves. If for any reason it rains and we don’t have fire, we’re not eating. Limited sleep, very hungry. You’re also psychologically suffering the entire time. You’re constantly trying to understand the other people’s intentions and trying to manipulate people at times. You’re trying to be on the right side of the boat and work with people that might be lying to you. What I found was that that was really challenging. But little things like similar to the Isla experiences that I would use, just learning people’s names and using their names regularly at the start of the game was really, really important. People felt, like you said, A sense of trust. The guard drops down a little bit. They’re willing to spill some secrets and gets to know me a little bit. Certainly use that in the early stages of the game.

Joshua Strawczynski (27:56)
I can’t even imagine because when I watch something on TV, I always assume there’s some level of staging. You’re staying in a hotel and then come out and film this and then move on.

Alex Coe (28:07)
I didn’t really know what to expect heading to the game. There was a little part of it that was hoping it would be like that, but it definitely wasn’t. It was really, really intense. We weren’t living in tents, but it was intense. Yeah, I love it.

Joshua Strawczynski (28:22)
In business, we will often have a sales conversation that we think we have just nailed. This person has said yes, and they’re going ahead. It is phenomenal for some people more than others, just how often those commitments we’ve got from people fail. They don’t follow through. I can only imagine in a conniving game like this, you would have experienced a lot of that.

Alex Coe (28:46)
Yeah, definitely. I definitely felt like I was making waves with people in the early stage of the game. Then had people committing to things, saying, Yeah, we have a lot of plans, we’re all locked in, but it just wasn’t the case. People just fell through, lies being told. I guess you can relate it to the real world, to business like that.

Joshua Strawczynski (29:12)
A good friend of the show, Mike Irving, the owner of advanced business abilities talks about this from a sales perspective. He talks a lot about getting not just a firm commitment, but fully critically assessing what the person is saying to you and really diving deep into it to look for, is this a real answer or are they just telling me what I want to hear? In hindsight, do you feel like you got a lot of telling you what you wanted to hear?

Alex Coe (29:42)
Looking back on it now, definitely. On that note, it sounds like Mike should apply for survivor. I think he’d probably go pretty well on the show. But yeah, it’s hard to take anything in the game as face value, but I certainly felt like I was making… I felt like people were being honest with me and that I could trust them. And then there was lots of times that that was not the case.

Joshua Strawczynski (30:09)
All right. So final question then. You and I, privately, outside of this podcast, have been talking about the concept of grinding recently. And I define grinding as doing the hard work to get a benefit in the future. Through all of the time, the nine months of thousands of approaches of people on the beach to sell party tours to up to, you’ll have to watch the show, two months of being under high pressure in a tropical beach scenario, not enough food, not enough sleep, manipulated drama. All that’s really hard work. Do you feel like it was worth it, that if you could go back in time and do it again, you would and you would recommend it to the younger version of yourself?

Alex Coe (30:56)
Yeah, absolutely. I think that Everything’s better when you break a sweat together. If you put in the hard times and you commit to achieving what you want to achieve, I think it’s definitely worth it. I would recommend that to my younger self, definitely.

Joshua Strawczynski (31:14)
Alex, we’ve really covered a lot of ground today. And there’s some really interesting things in there. I wanted to interview you today because you’re so relatable to so many people. Not everything needs to be cold and academic the way that I look at it. I think that you represent a really the humanistic side of business in general. So thank you so much for joining the podcast.

Alex Coe (31:37)
It’s been a pleasure.

Joshua Strawczynski (31:38)
Where can we find you online?

Alex Coe (31:40)
I’m mainly on Instagram, alexco. Au. My girlfriend and I actually have a TikTok, but we’ll save that. Me and Alex, me_Alex on TikTok if you want to follow that. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks, mate.

Joshua Strawczynski (31:56)
Cheers, Alex. See you.

Joshua Strawczynski

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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