In this episode, host Ryan Alford talks with the host of Mind Pump, Sal Di Stefano.
Happy Tuesday, and welcome to another episode on The Radcast! In this episode, host Ryan Alford talks with the host of Mind Pump, Sal Di Stefano.
Ryan and Sal discuss the growth of Mind Pump Media, a media company that uses its digital platforms to transform the stereotypical conversation about health and fitness. Mind Pump Media differentiates itself by providing raw, entertaining, and insightful conversation to help listeners successfully navigate their health and fitness journey.
Our guest today, Sal Di Stefano, shares the significance of Mind Pump Media, from both a personal standpoint and the impact it's having in the health and fitness community. He shares the products and services the company offers, and why he considers Mind Pump's mission to be radical.
You can follow Sal on Instagram @mindpumpsal | Follow Mind Pump Media @mindpumpmedia
Enjoyed this episode? Then share it on Instagram and tag us @the.rad.cast | Do you want to hear more from our host? - Give him a follow @ryanalford on Instagram. | The Radcast is a product of @radical_results | #theradcast
Ryan Alford [00:00:24] Hey guys welcome to the latest episode of The Radcast coming up on the holiday. Robbie has decorated the podcast room. And I'm feeling festive and excited to have found out that today’s guest is the owner of Mind Pump Media. What else can we talk about now? I really appreciate you coming on the Radcast. Let’s just jump right into it. Let’s give everyone listening here a little background on all things Mind Pump.
Sal Di Stefano [00:01:08] Yeah, no problem. So I've been a professional in the fitness industry for quite a long time. It started at the age of 18. I'm 41 now, so that's well over two decades. About six years ago, started Mind Pump Media with my partners Adam, Justin, and Doug, and the goal at the time, it's the same goal that we have now, was to provide just true, unbiased, raw fitness information. The fitness industry is just rife with crap, terrible information. Mainstream fitness very frequently lies to people or preys on their insecurities and as trainers, it was very frustrating for us. I would have to overcome some kind of myth or the supplement that said it's supposed to help me burn my body fat, or, this new diet that my friend tried, I think I want to try it out. And so we would just have to constantly overcome these myths. And it was quite frustrating as a trainer, especially wanting to really, truly help people. And so we did that for a long time as trainers. And, years went by. I met my co-hosts and we decided to start a podcast. We figured this would be a great way to reach more people. And it very quickly took off. Mind Pump grassroots just kind of exploded through word of mouth. And about a year into it, we quit our side jobs, actually our main jobs. I sold my wellness studio. I had a wellness studio with personal trainers and massage therapists. Acupuncture is the whole deal. So everybody else stopped kind of personal training and we focused full time on media. And today we have the top fitness and we call it the fitness entertainment podcast. We also entertain people with current events and fun conversations. We figure we reach more people that way. And I think that's true. We have a YouTube channel that reaches people with exercise, demos, and other ways of communicating fitness. We have written content and so we're a full-on media company, new media right podcast, YouTube, and written information through the Internet.
Ryan Alford [00:03:29] A man after my own heart, the amplification of media, there is a lot to unpack there that I will start. I love the intertwining of entertainment with fitness. I think that's where a lot of people get wrong. I think with media and content, they kind of hammer you over the head with all the science and the speeds and feeds, but they forget that we're all human and we all want to be entertained a bit.
Sal Di Stefano [00:03:59] Absolutely. And a big thing with the fitness space is when at the time we started the company; when we looked at what the fitness industry was providing, you either had a few of those heavy science segments and then, you had the entertaining marketing sexy-looking bullcrap side of the picture. Now, the problem obviously with that side was that all the information that they were promoting was terrible. And the problem with the science side is that they were in an echo chamber. The people that would listen to that were other fitness professionals or trainers or other science-minded fitness people. They weren't reaching the masses. So you had the flashy marketing bullcrap side that was reaching the masses with terrible information, then you had the good information that was reaching nobody. Now, here's the thing. When we started the company, none of us had any experience with media whatsoever. We never did podcasts. We were never on video. But we understood how to communicate fitness very effectively because we had trained people for so long. We were all very successful trainers. And one thing you learn when you train people, everyday people, because we're dealing with the general population, we didn't specialize in high-performance athletes and we didn't specialize in bodybuilder competitors. We specialize in training everyday people, getting the average person to develop a long-term good relationship with exercise, nutrition, solving the obesity epidemic with the people that are suffering from it the most. And one thing you learn as a trainer is you've got to be a good trainer, you've got to be able to communicate the right stuff, but your clients also want to see you every time they come to train with you they want to be around you. So your workouts need to be somewhat fun, the conversation needs to be good. The person needs to enjoy seeing you because most of these people are not fitness fanatics. Most people don't love working out as their personal trainers do. So that entertainment piece was very important as a trainer. We knew you had to be that kind of a person if you're going to get the average person to show up week after week and month after month and year after year, and then eventually develop a great relationship with fitness on their own. But initially, it's like, why are they showing up? Why are they coming to see you? Besides the results, it’s also, they want to be there. So, that was our intention with the podcast. We're reaching the average person. So part of that is we've got to be fun to listen to. So a lot of our episodes start off with a 30 to 40-minute intro portion, which is current events. We tell stories. We have a lot of fun in the back half of the episode. We really get deep into fitness and it's been a winning formula. We've been able to reach a lot of people that I think we wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise.
Ryan Alford [00:06:57] Yeah, I love it. So let's talk about the fitness business. Covid’s poured gas on a lot of fires that were trending anyway. I think fitness is one of them, which was this notion of virtual training that had picked up. You have Peloton and others that have been growing in the space and Covid comes along and kind of accelerates everything online. Is that one hundred percent of you guy’s business at this point? You mentioned you shut down some of the brick and mortar stuff and I don't know if that's one hundred percent switch? Talk about some of the opportunities and challenges with going virtual.
Sal Di Stefano [00:07:34] That's a great question. Covid, the forced lockdowns of gyms, just really crushed that segment of the fitness industry. And in my opinion, the message was totally wrong. The message is the gym is the most dangerous place to be right now, when in reality up until now your best defense against illness is strengthening your immune system and not having comorbidities like obesity or diabetes. So, that's my little soapbox.
Ryan Alford [00:08:13] I mean, just to go down that path real fast, imagine the impact if the government got behind getting people healthy, truly healthy as they have with shutting down things and locking them down and eating more Twinkies?
Sal Di Stefano [00:08:29] Oh, it's incredible. It's absolutely silly. Here's the thing, there are a few reasons why gyms are actually quite safe in the Covid era. First off, gyms take lots of precautions separating equipment, taking the temperature of people, making sure people wear masks, and all that stuff. But besides that, there's something called a self-selection bias. I've worked in gyms forever. I've worked out in the gym since I was 14. Every day I lived in gyms as a professional for two decades. People don't go to the gym when they don't feel good. They just don't. They still go out to eat. They still go out shopping. They still go to the bar sometimes. But most people don't go to the gym when they feel under the weather. You're surrounded by people who are probably not sick and you're surrounded by people who are health-minded. And honestly, again, taking care of not just the physical stuff. You work out, you're not obese, you got better insulin sensitivity, and you're less likely to have diabetes. All these poor, more comorbidities that are so prevalent in the population of people that have severe Covid symptoms. But there's another aspect that is the mental aspect, physical fitness, and exercise, (and this isn't just my opinion, studies have proven this), is as effective or more effective in the long term at treating things like mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Do you know what's exploding right now? Depression and anxiety. So you take that away from people, stay at home, watch the news freak out. Yeah, you might reduce some infection rates, but mental health is going haywire. You're seeing suicides explode. Just read an article that Japan had more suicides and Covid deaths recently. Children’s depression is going up. So, it's just insane. But, now that we made that point.
Ryan Alford [00:10:33] Yeah, me too. I'm glad you made it because it drives me crazy.
Sal Di Stefano [00:10:37] Oh, it drives me absolutely nuts. And don't even get me started on treating free people like children. I mean, if we're really free people, you inform us, we make our choices, we take our own risks.
Ryan Alford [00:10:48] We'd go a whole different avenue there.
Sal Di Stefano [00:10:53] Don't get me started on the off, right. Look at my shirt. Right. I love fitness. I love freedom. But, as far as online fitness is concerned, yes, they've shut down, effectively, shut down and destroyed a segment of the fitness industry and particularly the brick and mortar gym business. But the demand for fitness is still there. So, the fitness industry or people in the fitness space have had to pivot to meet that demand. So, you're seeing more online fitness offerings. I know Peloton, you brought that up. I know their share value has exploded and they're selling more bikes than they actually can produce at the moment. Actually, I think they have a production problem at the moment because the demand is so high. So people still want to work out. People still want fitness, they still want to see other people. And so the fitness space is trying to figure out how to meet that. I know a few trainers who were trainers in the brick-and-mortar gym who've now pivoted to meeting people in their homes and training them. By the way, the black market for fitness is exploding right now because of the lockdowns. So you're starting to see these speakeasy gyms kind of like prohibition-era bars. People are having trainers come to their homes or train them in parks. People are feeling it. They need to move. They need to be around other people. They need to work out. So I think if you're in the fitness space and you're suffering because of these lockdowns, the demand is still there. You just got to figure out how to pivot.
Ryan Alford [00:12:32] How has business been for you guys? I mean, obviously, like we said, more online fitness shoppers, for lack of a better word. But how do you separate yourself?
Sal Di Stefano [00:12:45] So, we're a digital company, right? So our podcast is downloaded, on YouTube, you can watch it online. So from that aspect, we were protected quite a bit. Now one way that we monetize it is by selling fitness programs. A lot of our fitness programs were easier to do if you had gym access. So they would utilize dumbbells, barbells, benches, squat racks, that kind of stuff. But we did have programs that we had created before for people who want to work out at home that requires minimal equipment. One program, in particular, is called MAPS Anywhere where you need resistance bands and your body, and then you can do the whole workout. Well, when this all kind of went down, we saw a huge spike in sales for our MAPS Anywhere program, which at the time I'd say was probably on the lower end of sales. I would say our gym programs were much more popular. But when this all went down, MAPS Anywhere went through the roof. Then we created another at-home program called Map Suspension that uses suspension trainers. And then we added a modification to most of our programs, where you could follow all of them with just a pair of dumbbells. So that way people could follow the programs and still do them at home. So that's what we noticed there. As far as people tuning into the podcast, we saw a small dip in downloads initially, maybe because people didn't work out at first, because when Lockdowns first started, everybody was staying home, but then that came back pretty quickly. So I think we're probably feeling some of the economic effects of what's going on. But because we're constantly growing, it's hard to tell. I just don't know if we would if we're growing as fast as we would have. But because we're digital-based, we were largely protected. I can only imagine how challenging it would have been had we been a gym, a brick-and-mortar.
Ryan Alford [00:14:56] Talk about marketing, obviously, you guys are smart. You guys do what we do with podcasting. And if people ask me all the time, how do you monetize the podcasts? And that's like every other person that hires us brings out the podcast, so it takes care of itself. So it's similar for you guys. But talk about other marketing approaches along with maybe how you use the podcast.
Sal Di Stefano [00:15:23] So when we first started Mind Pump, the goal really was to build some authority first at large. So when you're talking about me and my partners, especially my co-host, Adam and Justin, we had been trainers for a long time here in the San Jose, California Bay Area. And we had a reputation in this area just because we've been here for so long. We've managed lots of gyms, but outside this area, nobody knew who we were. So if we were going to sell any fitness programs online, you want to have some kind of authority or you want to look like Mr. Olympia? None of us look like Mr. Olympia. So, we're just regular guys that like to work out. So how do we build authority? And we thought a podcast was a great way to do it. It's long-form media, so when you listen to a podcast that's 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half long, and in our opinion, that's the best way to communicate, to really communicate fitness and health properly. Its fitness and health are not something you can communicate properly in a 30-second commercial. That's how you get the wrong information. So it's a great medium. We knew that our knowledge would come across. We thought it was a great way again to build authority. So we started with that. And the idea was, let's see how much value we can bring whatever audience follows us. And so a couple of decisions we made right out the gates was, number one, let's do a lot of podcasts. There are two reasons for that. And what I mean by lot, we do five episodes a week. A couple of reasons for that one. One thing that we learned through our experience with fitness was if you want to get good at something, you've got to practice, you've got to do a lot of reps. None of us had media experience. So we said, okay, however awesome we think we are. We didn't think we were pretty cool.
Ryan Alford [00:17:25] Don't we all?
Sal Di Stefano [00:17:26] Yeah. So you're going to have a slightly higher level of narcissism, I think, to do any of this stuff. So we were pretty awesome, but we were also trying to be objective. We've never done media and to be honest with ourselves, we're probably going to suck. So let's do a lot of podcasts so that we get reps. So in a year, we will have a lot of practice. So let's do that. And number two, lots of podcasts allow us to just provide tons of value to whoever is listening to our show. Just tons of free information, tons of value. And then let's see what that looks like. Well, at the end of that first year, and by the way, we sold nothing the first year, we didn't have a goal of selling anything. It was the goal literally was to build an audience, provide them with a ton of value, and see if we can build some deserved authority. Let's see if people really think that they like what we have to say, and then we'll figure out what to do from there. So after about a year, our podcast was growing quite rapidly. People were messaging us pretty often that they hoped that we had a program or something that they could purchase or some way they could support us. So after about a year, we had a meeting and we said, we think it's time to monetize. Let's see how our audience responds. We sold our first program, which was Maps Anabolic, and it took off. It did very well. And that's what we did. We did that for the first three years. We sold fitness programs and so we monetized. And the way people heard about our programs, the way people thought that our programs will be good programs in comparison to others that they listened to as the podcast. After about three years, the podcast got big enough to where we thought maybe we could start looking at sponsorships. I think there's a big misconception with people when they start podcasts that they're going to make a lot of money with sponsorships. That doesn't happen until you're already kind of big, otherwise, you're not going to do very well with that. So we had gotten to a point where we've gotten some authority, we've gotten to a decent size, and we had people approaching us wanting to sponsor us. We're very picky about who we work with. Or again, we were trainers, first media personalities or second. So we wanted things that we really believed in. And so we started to work with companies that sponsored us. And then that became a big part of our revenue as well. So sponsorships and program sales are two of the main ways that we now monetize. And the way that we talk about our sponsors on the podcast is pretty different from most podcasts. I know the traditional way of doing that would be to open your show with a commercial like this, you buy whatever you use my code for 15 percent off, but the way we talk about our sponsors is we try to keep it as genuine and as authentic as possible. And the only way for this to work, of course, is to work with companies and brands whose products we actually use on a regular basis. So when we do an episode, we know that, for example, today I'm supposed to mention Butcher Box. That's one of our sponsors. And so I know this ahead of time. So I know. Okay, Wednesday I'm going to talk about the Butcher Box. Well, by the time Wednesday comes, I would have used one of their products. I would use the tri-tip or I would have done something with the company. So then I can bring that up in conversation. So it's a very genuine plug for the sponsor. And we felt that this would be more effective at converting sales. And it was a more genuine way of selling, of talking about our partners and selling their products. And we're right. Our conversion rates are very, very good compared to industry standards. And so we've continued to do that. On the back end, my partner Adam manages all those partnerships with sponsors and we are constantly in communication about how well we're doing, what the conversions look like, we send them the clips of the episode where we talk about them, and we're constantly meeting with them. And then we use our other media to make up for the difference if the podcast doesn't deliver, which is rare. But if that does happen, then you'll see us talking about our sponsors on our Instagram or even potentially using our email list to boost up their conversions or whatever. And so we've developed these really good relationships with our sponsors, and that's now, again a large part of how we fund this company.
Ryan Alford [00:22:12] That's cool, man. You call yourself a fitness enthusiast first and a media personality second. I'd say pretty damn good marketers. You don't have any clients I talk to that I try to convince to do the same things you guys have pulled off.
Sal Di Stefano [00:22:31] You know what’s funny? Not so much now because of the lockdowns, but before this, all the lockdowns happened, I would go to local gyms and I would speak to trainers and I would talk to them about building their businesses and how to become successful with their clients and how to get their clients better results. And the way that I would open these talks, and I think you'll appreciate this, is that I would I'd be in a room with 50 trainers and I'd say, raise your hand and tell me the most important skills and attributes a successful trainer has and then I would define success as a trainer, who got clients great lifelong results as a trainer, who had a great client base, who really valued them, and someone who could really support themselves following their passion of personal training. Then people would raise their hands and I would get things like a really good successful trainer needs to be passionate. And I write that down. And then they'd say something like, they need to be very knowledgeable. They need to be very motivating. They need to be very inspirational. They need to be very empathetic. And those are all very great qualities. But then I would cross them out and I'd say now those are important. But there's one skill that is more important than all of those, and that is effective communication skills. And now I'm going to call it by something you've heard before, sales skills. And you could see all their faces kind of like, look at me, very confused. And trainers hate to hear that, by the way. They hate to hear that sales as a part of their job. And I'd say, look, your goal as a trainer is to get this person who's sitting in front of you, the average person, to make fundamental lifestyle changes. These are very hard. I mean, 90 percent of people who go on diets or start workouts fail. This is a fact. You're trying to get someone to make fundamental changes to their lifestyle, to start and consistently start exercising, to change their diet. That is very hard. Our diet is like a part of who we are. It's our culture. It's how we celebrate. It's how we are when we're sad, or when we're stressed. I mean, with so much dysfunction around food. And you're trying to get these people to change these things permanently. And the way you do that is you take what and what you understand and you transfer it to that person and get them to understand it. And that takes the most effective sales skills that you'll ever use. I mean, you've got to be a better salesman and the best salespeople that sell cars or houses or whatever. So those are very important skills. And so if you're a successful trainer, if you've been a trainer for 15 years and you do a great job, you really learn how to sell it very well. And so when you look at Mind Pump and you say we're great marketers, really, it's just the skills we learned training clients, like how do I get Mrs. Johnson to change her diet for the rest of her life? Man, I got to really sell her and I gotta do it effectively. Every time I see her twice a week for the next six months that she's with me. And then I get to be so effective at it that she does it forever. Like, that's a hard thing to do. But through trial and error, you really learn how to do it.
Ryan Alford [00:25:43] And you guys are doing it well. I would add in their likability. And then, of course, I do wonder with the virtual stuff, so many trainers are like counselors, like how you guys manage that aspect of it.
Sal Di Stefano [00:26:01] That's actually more of the job than anything actually, dealing with the root. I'll give you one example. Let's look at the root motivation as to why somebody is working out or changing their diet in the first place. The root motivation for most people is that there's something about themselves that they don't like or usually something that they hate. So, I hate my belly. I feel fat. I feel gross. I need to work out. That's how most people start. Now, the problem with that motivation is that motivation or that the impetus will never produce a lifelong relationship with fitness and health. Here's your evidence. When somebody stops trying to eat right or stops working out, the average person, you often will hear something like this, like you'll talk to your friend and be like, hey, what happened to that diet? Why did you stop doing that? And they'll say, Oh, man, I just want to enjoy life. I just want to live my life. Why did you stop working out? Oh, man, I just got sick of it. I just want to enjoy my life. Now, there's a clue right there. What do you mean enjoy your life? It was that they must have really hated what they were doing. Now if the root, if we can switch the impetus from self-hate to self-care - to self-love. I'm here to work out because I want to take care of myself because I care about myself. I'm going to the gym because I deserve to be healthy. I'm eating right because I am somebody worth taking care of. Well, now you have that. That creates a lifelong relationship. It also creates a lot of balance. The person that is motivated by self-hate, when they fall off the wagon, when they go off the diet, they don't just go off the diet, they go in the opposite direction. They tend to rebel as if they were oppressing themselves. You offer them a cookie and they're like, no, I can't have it when they're on a diet. And when they go off, they're like rebellions. I'm going to the whole box of cookies. For somebody who's doing it from a point of view of self-care, there's a lot of balance. Yeah, I'll have a cookie. I think it's okay now, I've been eating pretty good and I'm enjoying this time, we're spending together. And then the next day, they’re like, I don't want a cookie. It's not that I can't, it's that I don't want. The psychological aspect is so key to being a personal trainer. It's everything. I mean, if you can't get that person to shift there, then all you're ever going to get is a person who follows what you tell them when they're motivated and then inevitably motivation falls off because we're human. Everybody goes up and down with motivation. When they fall off, they're done. And that's what everybody does. You see people, they start a program in January, they fall off by March, and we'll do it again next year. Type of deal.
Ryan Alford [00:28:51] Where where's all this headed, Sal? I mean you guys like planners? Are you like you strike me as you've got a plan, but you're kind of letting the cards fall where they may. But where are we headed with Mind Pump?
Sal Di Stefano [00:29:06] So we're extremely transparent. I'm so glad you asked me that. In fact, if we love it when people ask us plans in the business and we'll tell, we'll say everything. So here are the plans. We're going to continue to build this media company, continue to get it to grow. Once the podcast gets really big, if everything works out well, then we're probably going to get off all other social media. None of us really like the social media aspect of this. Social media is kind of a weird world.
Ryan Alford [00:29:41] To say the least.
Sal Di Stefano [00:29:43] It's just so full of a lot of garbage, to be quite honest. So once the podcast gets real big and we're doing great, we're going to get off all social media, maintain the podcast on the side. We've started another business. It's an investment side of the business where we're trying to grow our wealth so that at some point that becomes a very large source of passive income. And then when we get to the point where the passive income is good, the podcast is really good, then we're really going to get to a point where we're not going to care about downloads, we're not going to care about we're just going to go and have fun and just see what happens type of deal. But right now, we're trying to set ourselves up to be able to do that. But for the time being, to grow this business, we're doing the social media thing. It's a great way to reach people. We're going to continue to build the podcast and we're going to continue to invest on our investment side, take a paycheck that maintains us, and then put the rest into something that'll grow so that we can set ourselves up hopefully five to ten years where we can look at this thing and say, alright, what do we want to do and what don't we want to do? And to be honest with you, what will probably stick around is just the podcast.
Ryan Alford [00:31:02] That's awesome, and the podcast and that media that it develops can be the Trojan horse for any development of a brand. If they want it to be with just the platform because you can atomize all of that content and then you can build in a layer like you guys have with ways you monetize it. So brilliant. And send my best to Adam and Justin. So the rest of the team, you guys are killing it, Sal. Tell everybody where to keep up with you.
Sal Di Stefano [00:31:36] You can find the podcast. It's Mind Pump, it's on all platforms. You can find me on Instagram personally at Mind Pump Sal, and then the website is mindpumpmedia.com.
Ryan Alford [00:31:49] Awesome man, I really appreciate your time. So let's do the follow-up, down the road next year, maybe sometime. Love to stay in touch.
Sal Di Stefano [00:31:58] Absolutely. And, Ryan, if you really want to get deep into the business, you got to talk to my partner, Adam. He's that guy is a business wizard. And I think you guys have a lot of fun.
Ryan Alford [00:32:08] Love to do that. So maybe we'll line him up next. But Sal man, have a great one. Really appreciate you coming on. We want to thank everyone for listening to this episode of the Radcast. You could follow along at the.rad.cast on Instagram and of course, everything Radcast at theradcast.com. We'll see you next time.
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