In this episode, Josh talks with Steve Brown, founder of ROI Online. They talk about the importance of a story brand and how it helps you put systems in place for recurring revenue.

Steve Brown believes you, the entrepreneur, are the invisible hero of today’s economy. You fight hard to create value for your customers and provide jobs for over half of the American workforce. As an entrepreneur himself, Steve knows what you face today as you fight to grow your business.

He’s the author of the funniest book on marketing, The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business. He’s also the host of the ROI Online Podcast.

In todays episode you will learn about:

  • How to see a system and not a website
  • Design for humans not robots
  • The competitive advantage of clear messaging
  • Why you must run strategic campaigns


Narrator:             Welcome to “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”, where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when an emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program and fund your retirement program. When you do this, you’ll have a sale ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want in the way you want.

In Cracking the Cash Flow code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning, and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.

Josh:                      Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Steve Brown. You are at Cracking the Cash Flow Code.  I have a little bit of a confession to make here is that I just hired Steve in this company to do some work for us. I’m not sure it’s going to make a big difference in the conversation we’ve been having because we have some great conversations.

I find him really talented and hope I get the work that I expect to get I’m sure I will. Anyway, Steve is the owner of ROI online. He’s a story brand consultant. In fact I think he says he’s the first story brand consultant that went with Don Miller.

Steve:                   The first agency certified.

Josh:                      First agency. We’re going to talk about story brand. We’re going to talk about marketing. We’re going to talk about why you need to have the stuff for sale ready company. By the way, speaking of sell ready companies, that’s probably going to be the next name for the podcast as soon as we start off with the sustainable business and cracking the cash flow code.

All that fits under a sale ready business. You want to sell any business, whether you’re going to sell or not, because it makes your life a lot more fun. You’ll make a lot more money. Let’s bring Steve on. We’ll start the conversation.

Hey, Steve, how are you today?

Steve:                   I’m Excellent. Thank you for having me. I’m proud to be here.

Josh:                      It’s a pleasure to have you. We’ve been having some wonderful conversations. I was on your show earlier this week. We had a great time there. We’ll have a great time today except today it’s a lot shorter than what I was together. Let’s start off and talk about why you see your website as a system and not as a website.

Steve:                   Yeah, that’s the big trap. Oftentimes we make the mistake where we’re addressing a problem, but we’re not really addressing the big problem or the real problem. When we look at our website, it’s just a website, that’s something we have to tick off and get it handled and then go on to something else. We’re missing out on a big opportunity to weave that into your overall business.

The mistake is to see it as a website and not as a part of a cohesive, comprehensive system of growing the value of your business. I love the sales ready, or the sale ready business. That if when someone’s about to buy your business, one of the things that’s going through their mind is how am I going to pay for it? How nice would it be to show them because they’re going to go, why? Where do you get your customers? How nice would it be to show them an existing system that helps you see where you’re going to identify potential new clients, how they come into your system? How do you nurture them? How do you bring them on board? How’s your sales process? Would it be cool to have data from two or three years back and just showing you, here’s how you’re going to pay for it. It already got system in place. You just need to work the system.

Josh:                      That’s a really interesting. You’re just saying there, Steve is that one of the four things about creating a sale ready company, or sustainable business depending on what you’re trying to do is that you have to have recurring revenue stream. Recurring revenue stream doesn’t have to be you have signed contracts where everything is all set out January 1st.

It could be a repeatable and predictable sales system. In fact, for most businesses, that’s what they’re going to have to do because they only have a natural recurring revenue stream. They really have to go out and find customers and especially contractors and those sorts of businesses or retail stores. Somebody walks in your store once what’s bringing them back again, over and over and over again.

There are some repeat customers but you need to have a repeatable system of how you get someone to walk in your door, or pick up the phone and call or sign a contract with you. Even though it’s only one contract and then get somebody to do another contract. That makes a lot of sense.

Hey Steve, you wrote a book. The book is called the Golden Toilet which I think is kind of an interesting thing for a book to be titled. What do you mean by golden toilet?

Steve:                   Well, you think that the fear that we have as business owners that we’re flushing money down the drain. We don’t want to waste money, but most people who go through this experience with their website do just that. They go through this long, tough process and end up maybe not feeling too good about whoever they picked to help them get it done and only to realize, after a little bit, I kind of go through this thing again. That’s frustrating.

 It’s our default mindset. I need to redo my website, but what you’re really feeling innately is I need to turn this into an asset that helps me grow my business. Whatever I invest in it, I have an expectation that is going to help me move the needle in some way. Just like anything else, if you look at it as a system, and if we approach it with a framework, there’s a way that you can achieve that expectation, which is totally proper and smart.

Josh:                      In that framework. I’m assuming you’re talking about a story brand framework.

Steve:                   That’s one of the things that goes into when you think about certain systems, their little aspects, frameworks fill into another framework. So clear messaging is the number one thing your biggest lever that you can lean on. In the story brand framework, if you’re not familiar with it, there’s a great book by Donna Miller called Building a Story Brand that talks about the seven pieces of a framework that helps messaging honor the rules of story, which our brains really appreciate.

If you can get your messaging clear and succinct, in one of the biggest challenges we face is cutting through noise, getting people’s attention, but also earning their focus. That’s one of the ways that you can earn focus.

Josh:                      Here’s what I noticed on most websites. I think you’ll probably agree with me, there are too many darn words on it.

Steve:                   Yeah, you know why?

Josh:                      Why is that?

Steve:                   Well, so there’s this snake oil out there that we’re trying to trick the search engines into showing our ugly ass website to people because, why? That means we’ll get business but it’s not true. So when you try to stuff a bunch of words, you’re designing for robots. Robots don’t buy your stuff. They don’t need to be designing for humans. Our brains, desire, clear, succinct, easy to understand, where do I go next messaging. It’s more than just words.

Josh:                      Yeah. It’s harder to write 200 words or impactful than 2000 words that might be impactful, but no one’s going to read.  I’ve been accused of being very wordy in my life more than once or twice. I can tell you that every time I cut it down, and cut it down, and cut it down, and cut it down, we get better results.

Steve:                   If you think about the people you admire, they’re great communicators, but what do they do? They start with a story. Remember that time you read this, and you really loved it. Well, let’s look at it here. Then you go, “Oh, of course. Why didn’t I see that?” But that’s not how we work.

Josh: Let me ask you a question, this just popped into my head as happens occasionally something pops into my head.

Steve:                   Really?

Josh:                      Yeah. I know it’s hard to believe. I guess we want to have stories. We don’t want to make ourselves the hero of the story. We want to make our customers the hero of the story. We want to be the guide. We want to guide our customer to be the hero and get really cool solutions to whatever it is that we do even if it’s just we’re bricklayers. We can have cool solutions for being bricklayers. I’ve been on this kick recently about vulnerability. My belief is that the more vulnerable I make myself, the more believable and the more relatable I am. Does that make sense to you?

Steve:                   Absolutely. I just happen to have this here. This wasn’t planned, but I’m going to show it in my camera here. If you look at the arc of a story that I got this off of a website. It’s not mine, but we see Woody and so here he’s in his world as normal then realizes things have to change and then oh my gosh, I think I can do it. Oh, I shouldn’t have done that. Then down here in the pit, that’s where he’s like really at as lowest.

When we talk about being vulnerable, well, this is where the people that are choosing our solutions are going to go through the story arc. If you can relate with them when they’re in this area, they trust you because, “Oh you’ve been there before me.”  I feel like you understand me and then the trust barriers go way down. Now, I’m talking to a brother or I’m talking to a compadre. You’ve been there.

Josh:                      Yes. I found that out. I know I’ve always done this thing where the short background of who I am, where I came from. I do public speaking and last time I did it wasn’t last time I spent last year about this time actually. I decided to go into as long 10 minute conversation with all the terrible things I did when I was a 30 year old business person, 28 year old, 32 year old business person.

After I was done because I was vulnerable and honest and whatever, and a bunch of people come up to me said, “Normally when I listen to these presentations, I don’t think I can do it, but because of the way you started off your conversation today, I felt because you came from there, I’m sure I can do the same thing myself.” It was really an epiphany for me. Something I’m going to encourage people to do is talk about the foibles you have the foibles of your company, the problems your company has had getting to where they are today.

When you’re building a story about why you’re a great company, you have to talk about the struggle along the way. I’m an apple fan boy. Apple Computer, fan boy— without the origin story of Apple being in the darkest depths of despair to Steve Jobs coming back in acting like a human being not a complete idiot. Apple wouldn’t be the company it is today. Part of the story with Apple, which makes it so attractive to the people who use Apple products is how they came out of that depths of despair into being I would argue the best company United States today.

Steve:                   Yeah, you know the origin story, which is one of the things great brands do well as they help their origin story. There’s a book called Primal Branding, I recommend by Patrick Hanlon. It’s called the Primal Code. One of the pieces of the Primal Code is origin story, so to know who started the business and where they came from and then all the other things about. It’s really important for you to be able to relate with them. If you relate, you’re over a lot of hurdles.

Josh:                      Yes. If you talk about your challenges, I guess that that’s kind of an important thing for you to do.

Steve:                   It makes you human.

Josh:                      Yes. So tell me about the competitive advantage of clear messaging and why most companies blow it.

Steve:                   Remember the last time you went to the fair or to whatever, where that those movies always have those scenes where there’s all these balloons and rides and noises and distractions and stuff, and you’re walking down the midway. You’re just being bombarded with all these sensory for any ear and your smells, and the touch and your eyes and everything.

Well, that’s your brain from the minute you wake up. So having clear messaging, it’s like that corndog sign over there. When you go and you order it, and you focus on that, then all that stuff goes away. Remember, when you put the mustard on that corn dog and you’re about to take a bite, there’s nothing else going on around you until you have that first bite. That’s the competitive advantage of clear messaging because you’re trying to earn a few more seconds of that person’s attention.

Now attention and be like, “Hey, look over here.” But focus is when I get you to shut down all the other century, then just start ignoring those and then your brain is going, “Hey, it’s safe for you to invest a little more time because I think you got something here that’s connecting with you or relating with you.” We have this part of the brain. I call it the body card.

That’s a brainstem where there’s no language processing. It doesn’t matter what the text is. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying. It doesn’t understand it, but there’s a feeling an emotional thing that that bodyguard is going, “You’re safe here, Josh. You can hang out here a little longer.

I’ll look for any distractions or any dangers, but go ahead and spend a little more time here.” That’s what clear messaging does. It’s that immediate, emotional connection that helps your brain relax, make sure bodyguard say it’s okay and then the you’ve just done a miracle. Because we’re just being bombarded all day long about things demanding our attention kids, wives, husbands, TV, whatever it is.

Josh:                      Yeah, facts. It’s it really intrigued by we’re just talking about that was thought ran through my mind is that we buy based on feelings and justify with facts.

Steve:                   Totally, totally.

Josh:                      We forget that all the time. We’re buying on feelings, what our feelings or stories.

Steve:                   Totally, feelings. When you get your story going, then you’re getting to go the fiber optic way into that person’s brain. But if you’re trying to do with all that text on the website or long boring story you’re trying it’s like a modem, one of those old modems that makes it [modem sounds] like the AOL sound.

It’s just going to take longer to process and you’re going to lose them because the energy goes out of them. There’s a book, another book, Marketing to Mindstates by Will Leach. It talks about the emotional stuff, but that’s the practical guide to applying behavior design to research and marketing. Well, he talks about the system ones part of the brain is that emotional and how to design your marketing to communicate better that part of our brains.

Josh: That makes tons of sense. I see a lot of times people, they talk about themselves. They don’t talk about their customers. Frankly, when anytime I’ve ever bought anything, I really don’t care about you. I mean, I like you.  You’re a nice person and all that kind of good stuff. But what I’m really interested in is, what am I going to get? What’s the benefit for me to do business with you?

 Steve, I’m not talking about you personally. I’m talking about you in generic terms. I want to switch for a second here. We will deal with blue collar businesses a lot here. This is really what we’re really trying to work for. When I talk about sale ready business, I’m really focused in a blue collar business, leaving out there actually are more saleable, and professional service businesses. In the big challenge for most blue collar businesses is there’s recurring sales thing.

I keep talking to them about that about the fact that you need to have an online presence. You need to be doing things to make your phone ring, can you click go into a little bit about why a blue collar business, say construction company, or a plumbing company or electrical contractor, or a distribution company, somebody who does distributes tires? Why do they need an online presence when their clients are climbing the phone or there are still sending faxes believe it or not?

Steve: So think about the deliberate thinking and when you set up that business, you made it clear where you’re supposed to park before you come in, your hours were to come in at your reception desk, the transaction. Those are in our physical world. They’re obvious. We get that naturally. We do get referral business. We do have people that call us and come in on the fax machine, but in the meantime, all of your customers being trained by big brands to expect that they can evaluate from a distance of safety online, what to consider as a potential option that’s coming up. They’re doing their research.

They’re having these great user experiences with these big brands. So when they show up on your virtual platform, your online platform, they expect that same experience. It’s a huge competitive advantage. It’s something that’s totally realistic in this virtual world for even a tire shop, or a service business whatsoever like that especially. That’s a great way to get around your competitors, because they’re dealing with the same challenges and having to confront the same old resistance to adopting as you’re going through.

Josh:                      It makes sense to me. It’s about designing for humans and not robots. What does that mean?

Steve:                   So everyone has been brainwashed by the guys that call you every day. They tell you, they get you at the top of the search, and they don’t know anything about your business. That’s called SEO, Search Engine Optimization. As I was referring to a little earlier, if that’s trying to scam or trick the search algorithms.

It’s just a big waste of time when you should be doing HEO Human Experience Optimization. All we desire is an honest, useful, helpful way to relate with you, to interact with you, to investigate, explore whatever the services that you have. We just need an easy way to do it. So if we go online, it’s immediately clear where to go next.

Here, I can click and download something or if I’m ready to talk, what number do I call? Or what form do I fill out? Or where are you? That’s human experience optimization. We always get really frustrated when we’re kind of excited about something and then we start to interact with them. It’s really frustrating, or there are just a lot of just stupid taxes I call them that are going on.

We hate paying those taxes, but there are these invisible taxes, I call them stupid taxes that we could eliminate and the experience, but it can make it easy. All we want to do is just do like our grandparents did. You come into the shop, you say hello, they know your name, you get a fair deal, and you leave. That’s all we desire online. Why is it so hard to to provide that?

Josh:                      I don’t know. We have time for one more short little conversation. We talk about strategic campaigns. What is the strategic campaign?

Steve:                   We’ve all been trained to think that for business, we’re supposed to have a Facebook page or a LinkedIn or we’re supposed to maybe write a blog or I think I’m supposed to do a video but where do I start? Do I take a picture of my dog and just say, “Hey, we’re dog friendly.” That’s not going to do anything, likes not going to do anything, followers not going to do anything. If we think about the whole reason we’re doing any of this is to create a contact record.

You go to a trade show, what do you want? You want a business card so the virtual version of that as a contact record. So if you have a place on your website, where I can come in to look around and go, “Hey, I like that. I’m okay with putting my name and an email address in there.” Generally, that happens on what’s called a landing page. So I mean, we’ll do that to watch a video download or maybe a case study or something that’s interesting to us that would help us along our investigation process.

Now, if we have one of those, and let’s say it’s for tire shop, like the best tires to consider for your first replacement set. Well, then now we know if we have a Facebook page or LinkedIn page or an Instagram page that post would promote that lead generating offer on our landing page. Well, there’s a strategy behind that. It means we need, we had to sit down and go, “Alright, I want contact records. Most of my people are interested in buying that first set of tires after they warm out on that new car.”

Here’s how to evaluate and get the best deal. Now, we would like run some ads, but we’re going to tell the person that’s running the ads, when they click on it, I want it to go to this page. Why? Because it’s a nice little way to identify and get a contact record then we would follow up on him with some emails and offer him some other things or say come on in and we’ll do a test drive.

Also, even if you don’t buy a set of tires, we’ll rotate and balance your tires, whatever that may be. Now we’re talking strategy. Now we’re thinking long game. Now we’re talking evergreen. We’re talking a repeatable system. That’s when I say, if you just have a website just to satisfy I need an interactive brochure, you’re missing out on opportunities to create relationships above and beyond your typical referrals, your typical walk ins, your typical calls. Now you’re competing. Now you’re like going around your competitors.

Josh:                      Hey, Steve, unfortunately, we are out of time.

Steve:                   Well, I’m having fun. I’m just getting warmed up.

Josh:                      Yeah, I know. This is what I call the commute podcast is the average time for the United States one way. [inaudible 00:22:14] podcast going for hours and hours and hours, because I never finished them.

Steve:                   Well, this has been fun.

Josh:                      If someone’s going to find you, how would they go about doing so? Is there something you want to do when they do find you?

Steve:                   I tell you what, so we have a book of course, and it’s the Golden Toilet stuff, flushing your marketing budget into your website, and build a system that grows your business. Now that will convince you why you need to build the system. It’ll help you really get clear on the four important things.

Now if you want us to help you with it, you would go to and you would schedule a time. You and I will chat and we’ll decide whether that’s the best fit. Or you can sign up to our new offering. It’s called a Quick start Academy. We’ll teach you or your marketing director, how to do it. You’ll sit with a team of experts. We’ll evaluate your stuff. We’ll walk you through it, but you get to do the work.

Josh: By the way, you do want to buy the book I just recently read it is going to be on my top 20 list for this year of business books that you have to read. I also have an offer. I have an eBook I’ve written about the sale ready company. There are eight steps to creating a sell ready company. You’re going to want to know what those eight steps are.

You’re going to want to get this free eBook. It’s really easy to get. You go to It’s This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Steve Brown. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:             You’ve been listening to the “Cracking the Cash Flow Code” where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?”

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102. Or visit us on our website at Or you can send Josh an email at Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.

Topics: sustainable business podcast, sale ready company, recurring revenue stream, sale ready, steve brown, roi online, story brand, cracking the cash flow, clear messaging

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