How Three Triathletes Built a Million Dollar Online Business in Under Four Years

  • June 14, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 25 Comments

By no means is marketing the only topic you can build a profitable online information business around.

It’s actually often much easier to build a business online around topics other than marketing because you don’t have nearly as much competition.

Today I’m going to share a fantastic example of that with you.

Elite triathlete coaches Patrick McCrann and Rich Strauss teamed up with technologist Daniel Himel to build Endurance Nation and Marathon Nation into a $1M+ revenue business in just over three years.

In this video, you’ll find out exactly how they built the business, and how Daniel and Patrick are planning to help other people build similarly successful online communities through their new Re:Think Academy project.

(if you’re reading this in email, click here to watch the video)

I love finding examples like this of people who have built thriving (and profitable) online communities around topics other than marketing and making money online.

The examples are out there, we just don’t tend to hear about them as often because the founders are usually busy building the communities instead of talking to people about how to build similar communities. I was really happy to bump into Daniel and Patrick at the World Domination Summit last weekend, so we could record this video to share with you.

Now I’d love to hear from you, what other examples of non-marketing related successful online communities do you know about? Please share in the comments.

Also, do you have questions about the Endurance Nation or Marathon Nation communities? I’m sure Patrick and Daniel will be happy to answer them below.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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jonknep June 14, 2011 at 5:27 am

Talk about doing the whole epic shit thing. Awesome job on providing value to your audience along with zigging and zagging to really bring the business to the next level!

Great interview Corbett and perfect timing as I’m considering taking a bet that would have me walking 60 miles ha.

Tikyd June 14, 2011 at 7:00 am

I have the feeling that marketing to marketers is harder than to non marketers. Because of that i would think that niches outside of IM could perhaps be easier to get into.

Bryan June 14, 2011 at 7:28 am

The money quote:

“Help people take action so they can see change in their life.”

Awesome stuff. Thanks for the video.

Timo Kiander June 14, 2011 at 7:36 am

Corbett and Patrick/Rich/Daniel,

This is great stuff!

I’m a triathlete (and a marathon runner) myself and my goal is to finish my first Ironman (Ironman Lanzarote) in 2012.

Have to check your projects in more detail. I wasn’t even aware that these sites exist in the first place.

Thanks Corbett for spreading the word :)

TrafficColeman June 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

There are still many ways out there to make money, you just have to do research and tap into them.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 June 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

I love how you point out how we don’t often hear about guys like Daniel, Patrick and Rich because these guys are busy being about it instead of talking about it.

I imagine if you look at these guys’ numbers (dollar per customer, cost per lead, cost per sale), they’re probably even more amazing.

I’m also a huge fan of the idea of exposing rabid fans of any topic to killer marketing. More often than not, these people are already buying from horrible marketing and when you see that, you know you’re on to a huge opportunity. And it’s always a plus getting paid for hanging out and talking to and sharing awesomeness with people who have the same passions as you do.

Chris Guilebeau’s Empire Builders product revolves around the stories of people building successful info businesses like this. For anyone interested, go google this product name and you should be able to check it out. I’ve loved it!

Jeff June 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

Wow, you don’t hear that very often from an online business owner – he calls every member that signs up. Very cool.

It’s always good to hear things from a different perspective.

What kind of microphone did you use for this? The audio sounds good even though the camera isn’t that close.

Alex Aguilar June 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

This, for me, was the most incredible thing of this entire story. For a business owner to take such a hands-on approach and call his customers individually is refreshing in this day and age. Very commendable.

Matthew June 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Great and encouraging interview. I love seeing how people in areas many people would consider one-on-one (like marathon coaching) are able to expand their skills and offerings to affect a greater number of people. Exciting stuff.

Patrick June 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback, and especially to Corbett for making this happen in the first place. I think the interview conveyed a lot of the stuff that we do on a daily basis to make the community succeed, so nothing new here unless you have questions for us.

I hope our story convinces more of you to stop making epic stuff and trying to sell it to blog subscribers and instead figure out a way to build a relationship with them where everyone wins (and you get paid). Good luck!

Dean Dwyer June 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Hey Patrick,

You’re sincerity really came through in that interview my friend. And your commitment to your team…wowzers! I used to teach…imagine how teaching would change if there was that kind of commitment to their community. Well done my friend (you too Corbett and Daniel).

DD

Robin Melina Kinsman June 15, 2011 at 7:09 am

Corbett, thanks for pointing to the next thing – emerging reality in online communities of learning. Kind of a fish-and-loaves thing, I love that it helps scale a business while, incredibly at the same time allows the business owner to add more value personally to more people.

Derek Jensen June 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Truly believe that the non-marketing communities that succeed are better case studies even though ThinkTraffic is great! :)

Corbett June 17, 2011 at 9:31 am

There’s definitely so much to learn from examples like this. Thanks for watching, glad you enjoyed it Derek!

Todd ruel June 16, 2011 at 4:33 am

Corbett,

I love what you’ve done here. You’re showing us a real world example of someone who’s building a successful online business that is NOT all about internet marketing.

I’ve been craving these kinds of real world examples from lots of my favorite web sites like yours, but other folks are too far down the internet marketing rabbit hole.

I’d love to see more examples of businesses who are NOT fellow Internet marketers who are, nevertheless, successfully applying the techniques you share on this site.

Good job! —Todd Ruel

Corbett June 17, 2011 at 9:26 am

Thanks Todd, these are my favorite kinds of examples as well. I’m always on the look out, so let me know if any great non-marketing online businesses come across your radar.

Alison June 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

Really interesting, Corbett.

The big brands are very keen on creating customer communities, often for gathering ideas or doing research with hard-to-reach customer groups. I have designed and facilitated a number of communities and they are harder than they look, in the same way that a high-traffic blog is difficult to imitate.

The communities that are the most likely to experience huge growth are those that flock around a strong, commonly held belief, especially when people with those interests are scattered far and wide. Marathon training is a perfect example. I think good communities have a message, and a huge sense of identity and belonging that helps glue the participants together. Really interesting piece.

Adam Stanecki June 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Corbett,

This is awesome.

Can you get these guys into The Hustle Project? I’m sure our community would love to learn more about how they do their thing.

Cheers, Adam.

Patrick June 20, 2011 at 2:51 am

@Adam, thanks for the props…maybe we can do a webinar or something for THP. Sounds like there’s a lot of awesomeness on the inside!

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog June 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm

these guys have definitely mastered the art of differentiation. i do agree, of my 16 websites now, only my main blog is marketing based, which ironically is the least profitable. the non IM niches are the ones raking in the cash

Anya June 22, 2011 at 3:49 am

I think that is amazing. You wouldn’t think that the running to triathalon niche would lead to a whole lot of money. It’s not typically what someone would choose after doing keyword research, but sometimes you just pick something and it works.

Patrick June 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

@Anya, I actually went to this niche b/c I started as an athlete, not because of keyword research. IOW, I had personal experience and credibility in the space and grew the site from there. It’s much more of a community play (leading, content creation, supporting others) than a product-oriented play (buy a pdf / download / etc).

Jen Brown ~ Sparta PT April 29, 2012 at 1:05 am

Hi Corbett,

I loved this interview (and not just because it’s about triathlon!!). As others have said, it’s very refreshing to hear of the experience – and success – of someone outside the online marketing industry.

Interestingly I watched this interview on the same afternoon that I watched a TED Talk by Simon Sinek where he spoke about the need for humans to be a part of a community & to have/display symbols that show our values & beliefs. It certainly sounds like Endurance Nation has created that sense of community extremely well & it’s something all online businesses can learn from. Creating a community extends far beyond generating (an increasing number of) comments on each blog post!

Best wishes,
Jen

Patrick June 15, 2011 at 5:49 am

@Dean, thanks! You know how it is re:teaching…it’s hard work but if it’s your passion then you don’t mind it one bit! Good luck with your primal stuff…very cool.

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