5/18/18

Entrepreneurship Conversation 3: 10xTravel's Bryce Conway


Thanks to Bryce for an excellent interview!




Let’s harken back to the time where we all were in college, eagerly anticipating our spring midterms to be complete while we plan one of the biggest tips of our lives thus far. That’s right, I’m talking about spring break. We’ve all gone through that inner monologue. Planning your big spring break trip with your friends is a college tradition-but one that often comes with a significant dollar cost up front.

For Bryce Conway, a then-college undergrad at The Ohio State University, this was no different. Bryce had many of his friends planning a college spring break trip to Florida but was staring a hard truth in the eyes: he had only $30 in his bank account. Most financial experts would say that’s not enough to finance a backyard cookout, let alone a week crushing Natty Lights on the beach & taking down bar tabs every night.

Bryce immediately thought of every scenario that could get him to Florida on the cheap. He had heard of people taking last-minute packages cross-country in an effort to have somebody else finance your transportation, but quickly found this option to be non-existent. What’s a college student to do? Bryce was prepared to throw in the towel, inform his roommates that he was not going on spring break & head to his childhood home, tail tucked between his legs.

However, Bryce’s luck was about to change. After Bryce’s search for a financier went awry, his internet pop-ups began to flag airline travel cards as the main advertisements in his internet searches. Bryce saw a Southwest credit card offering 2 free flights with a credit card sign-up and figured, why not? After meeting the minimum spend by paying for normal college expenses (textbooks), Bryce received his flights and took the trip of his college dreams: Columbus-Florida for half of spring break, then Florida-Las Vegas & back home for the second half.

Needless to say, Bryce was hooked on the idea of travelling on the cheap using these credit cards. What was one an unattainable spring break trip became the beginning of a business now called 10xTravel- a journey we’re excited to share with you in our latest entrepreneurial conversation.

A Traveler At Heart

From a young age, Bryce always was interested in the world of travel and specifically, aviation. Bryce’s family would frequently take trips travelling around the country, much to the delight of young Bryce. He was fascinated with the idea of flying over different terrains. While most of us would dread that layover in Phoenix on our flight to Los Angeles, Bryce reveled in it. A self-described “av-geek”, Bryce specifically enjoyed getting on airplanes and seeing the world from above. Bryce truly revels in the sights you take in from that window seat, something that ultimately shaped his interest in the travel sector today.

So how do you go from a kid that loves flying on an airplane to a successful entrepreneur in the travel business? After Bryce’s college spring break success, he doubled down on the idea of opening credit cards to travel the world. A few internet dives into the world of travel credit cards introduced him to the world of travel hacking, where you sign up for credit cards with the intent of accumulating rewards points to travel the world.

Bryce began to sign up for many credit cards and consequently took more trips as a result. Going to California was no longer a struggle but a simple weekend trip in Bryce’s world. However, as the free trips accumulated, so did the questions from friends and family. “Are you going into credit card debt?” and “Is what you’re doing illegal?” were common questions Bryce (and I!) heard throughout his initial travels. However, the question he probably heard most was…”How are you doing this? Can you teach me?”

From College Student To Author

Tired of explaining the same story to people that would approach him at every social gathering, Bryce decided to write-up an explanation of his travel hacking in 2012 that would ultimately become his first e-book on travel. When thinking about what to name it, he could think of no better name then what everybody was asking. Get Free Flights was born, an e-book that explained how Bryce was travelling the world by using credit card bonuses as his financing. Bryce had big plans for the book and ultimately saw it as an easy way to make money. Since all these people had so much interest in Bryce’s travels when they spoke to him, they’d definitely be interested in buying the e-book, right?

Wrong. The book started off selling very poorly & read more like a textbook than a conversation between two friends. Bryce sent the book to some of his trusted friends and immediately received critical feedback. They didn’t understand the content in the book and became bored with it, something no author wants to hear. Bryce took their advice to heart & rewrote the book from scratch, utilizing the conversational tone this time. He made a sales page with big, bold text with the claim “Airlines Hate Me!”. He even offered a guarantee that he’d buy a FREE FLIGHT for any person that couldn’t get a free flight using his book.

In Bryce’s mind, what person wouldn’t buy a book for $19 that came with a guaranteed flight, backed by the author himself? Bryce had dollar signs in his eyes already. He finished up the process by making a YouTube video explaining why you should buy the book, complete with lighting derived from the packaging of a Honeybaked Ham. You can’t make that up…and with that, Bryce’s e-book was off and running.

National Exposure

Luckily for Bryce, right before the e-book launched, he was approached by ABC News about interest in doing a story on travel hacking. ABC News had stumbled upon one of Bryce’s posts outlining a trip to Paris he took for free and thus, Bryce had the attention of the national media. He made the rounds of the ABC shows, appearing on Good Morning America, Nightline News with Barbara Walters & Nightline. This culminated in 8 million views of Bryce booking a trip to Florida for free using frequent flyer miles, an audience that had Bryce thinking of big-time e-book sales.

Bryce was so confident, in fact, that he had booked a trip to Vegas for that weekend to bask in the newfound fame/increased revenue he would soon be receiving. Once the book launched, though, Bryce’s mood had shifted. The opening weekend sold only 39 units, and while the website was getting thousands of page views/day, the conversion was bleak.

This resulted in Bryce awkwardly having to explain to his friends how the book wasn’t the massive success he had expected from the national attention. While the book wasn’t necessarily driving sales, the attention was there. What’s a business owner to do when faced with internal crisis?

Shifting Profit Streams Into Affiliate Marketing

 Luckily, the national attention from the ABC News pieces had attracted some banks & credit card companies offering Bryce promotional deals through affiliate marketing. Essentially, Bryce would advertise select credit cards of these companies and would be paid directly by them, all without passing the cost on to his readers. Ultimately, this provided the base revenue stream for which 10xTravel sits on today, all generated from the attention gained from the ABC News piece.

Without appearing on the show, he never would have made this connection and thus, 10xTravel probably would not exist today. It goes to show for business owners that what you believe your revenue stream is may not be your final product-every business has a different path to financial success. It seemed like Bryce & his business partner had a solid plan in place.

Changing Business Models

Bryce would be the first person to tell you that he would change everything 10xTravel did in its infancy. With some slight tweaks to the business model, 10xTravel began to take off.

The first step was reevaluating the distribution of the ebook. Instead of offering the book at a $19 cost, 10xTravel decided to give the book away for free. Free doesn’t sound like a way to make money in my book; however, it is a great way to build your email signup list and get people to begin utilizing your credit card affiliate links. Since the book was not very professional-looking, allowing the free download provided the reader with the assurance that they weren’t wasting money on a “crappy product’. This allowed the readership of GetFreeFlights to grow and ultimately saw a period of rapid growth in the business.

Bryce & his business partner also invested in some business development courses (6 months’ worth of revenue!) that allowed 10xTravel to reevaluate how they connect with the customer. Bryce credits Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch as a driving factor behind changing how they approach the business with minor tweaks. While seeming mundane at first, they actually deliver results.

One of Bryce’s great stories from the course was the renaming of his business. Bryce’s original name for the site, GetFreeFlights.com, was actually one of the examples given in the course of what you SHOULD NOT name your business. As Bryce sat dumfounded watching the module, his business unknown to Ramit, he decided to crowdsource the new name of the business.
Bryce had originally thought something crafty like The Opposite of Frugal would win the poll; however, the overwhelming winner was 10xTravel, which Bryce had ranked dead last. The moral of the story is this: find what people are looking for, don’t create something you think they are looking for. It’s excellent advice by Bryce & something every entrepreneur should take to heart.

Social Media Strategy: Creating a Cult

10xTravel utilizes a very different social media strategy than many of the businesses you’ll see posting across all channels. While many blogs (us included) drive their traffic through Twitter & Instagram and posting articles to Facebook, 10xTravel has a different approach. Bryce & his team are all about “creating a cult mentality” when it comes to their business, driven by their private 10xTravel insiders Facebook group. While the word “cult” may rub potential readers the wrong way, they simply mean having an exclusive feel where the consumer is feeling more connected than the outside world.

There is no cost to join the 10xTravel Insiders Group and they do fun things like trip giveaways, 10xT Happy Hours with live-stream Facebooks feeds to answer questions, etc. Since 10xTravel doesn’t do a ton of social media posting, they rely on invites from friends to grow the group & word of mouth.

While this definitely works, one standout strategy was hosting the 10xTravel meetup in Las Vegas, where the 10xTravel team paid for a party in the penthouse of the Venetian for their readers. This was complete with free food/alcohol, a photo booth & 75 avid travel hackers, all in the name of living it up for the insider community. 10xTravel also paid for two readers to fly to Vegas, gave them money to gamble with & paid for their stay, driving an influx of traffic to the group.

Although 10xTravel’s marketing strategy may be different than most, it’s certainly effective and driving growth in the business. By promoting exclusivity with their readers, they have developed brand loyalty-the goal of any start-up business.

Growing 10xTravel Today

10xTravel’s commitment to growing this insider group while producing great content has resulted in explosive growth of their business. They’ve been able to educate the community to answer each other’s questions in the group while hiring additional writers for the site, allowing for additional content to be produced.

The hiring process at 10xTravel is also unique. Instead of going through a formal job interview, the 10xTravel team merely asks their email list to email Bryce “Why should we hire you?”. When they initially did this for their first openings, they expected 4-6 applicants. The demand was much more-they received 50 applicants in the first day, ranging from people sending potential articles they had written for the site to multiple pages explaining why they were best for the job.

Bryce & his team narrowed down the pool & then had each remaining applicant write a sample article for the site. The 10xT team then did a blind read of each article & took the best-graded applicant from that pool. This process has been repeated with every batch of new writers, with the 10xTeam continuing to expand their writing team.

Most businesses would at least look at a resume when hiring a new employee. 10xTravel doesn’t care about that-they care about hiring knowledgeable, strong writers that will stay loyal to the brand. By building that “vicious loyalty”, as Bryce describes it, 10xTravel has built a strong-knit team that can handle the growth they’ve experienced over the last few years.

What’s Next for 10xTravel?

While the current iteration of 10xTravel has become extremely successful, they are always looking to the next way to grow the business. This growth, in their eyes, will come from the concept of curating travel experiences.

Many of Bryce’s readers will obviously come to the site to get free travel for their vacation or other travelling needs. Naturally, the next question is “What do we do when we get there?” By being able to provide a unique experience where you are truly living like the locals, 10xTravel hopes to capitalize on their connections and deliver an A+ vacation for those that want it.

Bryce & I have similar travelling styles in that we don’t like to bounce from city to city on a vacation, trying to see as many of the sights as possible. Instead, we try to take in the city & culture as much as possible, getting the ultimate city experience. This is what 10xTravel is trying to bring their consumer-a tall task I look forward to watching come to fruition.

Much of what shapes today’s travel goals comes from social media, specifically trying to show off for Instagram. People will message 10xTravel saying they want to take a trip to Bora Bora (#ForTheGram) and when Bryce offers a similar experience in South Thailand for 1/3 of the price, it’s hard to say no.

Speaking of Thailand-Bryce has an excellent post where he took a $28,000 trip to Thailand for only $326. It’s one of 10xTravel’s most popular posts to date and one well-worth checking out.

Bryce’s Advice For Entrepreneurs

  •  Drive Faster & Harder: This is a topic that seems second nature to most business owners. When you look at a bodybuilder that is jacked & ask them what they’d do differently, they’d say they would have pushed harder at the beginning of their fitness journey. Why should a business be any different? Challenge yourself to commit to your business and give everything you have-you’ll see the results you want if you give the effort.

  • Reinvest In Yourself: Bryce cannot stress enough the importance of investing in yourself and the business through educational tools. Taking business courses, copywriting, Facebook advertising modules…all of these are valuable levers you can add to your portfolio. They all are there waiting for the taking-you just need to take the initiative to better yourself and your business will benefit.

Stay Connected with Bryce & 10xTravel

Thanks to Bryce for an amazing interview-we really appreciated having him on. If you want to keep up with 10xTravel and Bryce, the best place is following their Insiders page on Facebook, where they have 15k followers. You can also visit their website 10xTravel.com & follow them on Instagram and Twitter but again, the Insider group is the one you want to follow.

We’d love to hear from you guys on what you thought of this interview! If you have questions for Bryce, reach out to 10xTravel or Smart Money Seed & we’ll be happy to answer them. Last but not least, if you enjoyed this story, please share with your friends & family!

No comments:

Post a Comment