Article written by Claudia Lee, Founder and CEO of NEXUS. Collaborating with Dustin Riechmann, of Fire Creek snacks.
Earlier this week, I was able to have a great, in-depth conversation with my friend Dustin Riechmann.
We met on LinkedIn, mid-last year, and with both having a background in digital marketing, we briefly discussed Dustin and my similarities.
Then he explained his coaching, and how he helps people become podcast guests, growing their brand and attraction to it, through conversation.
History and FireCreek Snacks
Dustin explained his beginning, speaking how he “was an engineer for 15 years, and while I was doing engineering, and consulting, I also had numerous side businesses.” He got into digital marketing through his work with a brand called Engaged Marriage and explained he basically took on any client he could find.
That's how he got introduced to a third-generation butcher named Ryan Hansen, who wanted to bring his product online. Dustin continued, "I was marketing his brick-and-mortar stores and we've developed a friendship there and then he said, Hey, I got this product that I want to bring online. I don't know how to do that. And I said, Well, I can probably help you with that. Then that product becomes FireCreek"
In 2019, they launched the Shopify store for FireCreek Snacks and started building an email list to get some momentum. The next steps took them to many trade shows, all the while learning as much as they could about wholesaling and e-commerce, along the way.
And then disaster struck, and the pandemic happened. He explained, “I was literally driving to Chicago for an Ace Hardware trade show. And got a phone call that it's been cancelled because of this new disease thing," he says. "And so everything changed at that moment."
Dustin had to find a new way to get out the news about Fire Creek, which is how things led to podcasting.
"That was really the pivotal moment that made me even think about being a podcast guest," he says. "And so that podcasting thing happened the summer of 2020, I got on my first show, and it was completely about selling meat sticks,” he joked.
He appeared on the Side Hustle Show, telling the story of bringing a local brand online during the pandemic. It was a success, although not an obvious one. "It worked, you know, I sold some snack sticks. It wasn't anything to write home about. But it was exciting. And I realised that we actually had a really compelling story."
The Dawn of Podcasting
Dustin was worried about how things looked going forward but optimistic about the idea of podcasting. "It's like how can I reach people because I knew, we're a pretty compelling brand… like once you try it, you'll love it, you know, but it's really hard to do that. If you're not standing toe to toe with someone on a trade show floor and it's also very difficult to do even through ads and stuff."
That's when he realised that storytelling and long-form education could be the next best thing. "So I was like, the next best thing would be like storytelling and be able to do like long-form education about why this brand exists and why we're so passionate about it and what's so different," he says.
"If I had 30 minutes to spend with someone, I could convince them to try the product." This is how podcasting came to the forefront.
“That is a genius idea, by the way,” I added, “this idea that someone can have a one-on-one conversation with thousands of people that scales.”
He continues, “I mean, podcasting is really unique. It's like the only medium you can do long-form educational content; people are listening on purpose and not distracted typically.”
We agreed it’s one of the best ways to reach people psychologically, “ to reach people is when they're in that state of like, focused but not focused on something else and they can really tune in deeply to what you're saying.”
No Such Thing As Coincidence
He explained, the reasons FireCreek Snacks originated, were predominantly due to the need for clean, label-friendly meat products for a family whose son has a severe nut allergy. He then explained this:
“I had a moment where I turned over the package and realized it was made in Jerseyville Illinois which hit me right between the eyes because that's actually where I grew up.
When I realized that that's where Hansen meat company is headquartered…this town is like 7000 people. It's a small farm town!”
“I went to grade school there till fifth grade and then we moved. I never got up to the higher grades in that town. Ryan, my business partner is two years younger than me. And so he went to a different elementary school, so we never met at all in Jerseyville.”
They talked about how they both had these strange coincidences, “and so I was like, my grandpa was named Bernie and he's like my grandpa was named Bill as like, Bill Hansen. My grandpa, now passed, talked frequently about him. But what we realized was that our grandpas both served in World War Two together and then we're in the color guard of the Jerseyville American Legion.”
And that's why storytelling is such a powerful tool, especially when it comes to building brand trust and connection with your audience. By sharing the origin story of your product, you're not only showcasing its unique qualities but also allowing your audience to get a glimpse into the values and beliefs of the brand.
Teaching Others How To Do It Too
Over time, Dustin realised he could help more and more people, build confidence and take action. He eventually created a five-step framework around podcast guesting and turned it into a small group coaching program. He joined a mastermind group and learned about launching his own mastermind program.
In the fall of 2022, Dustin launched his first Podcast Profits Accelerator program and taught 10 people the whole podcast guesting process, along with scaling it and optimizing their offers, creating a sales funnel, and generating referrals. The best part of the program was “the group and the bond they formed”.
“And so I was like, I don't know, like, hallelujah, I found my calling because I just loved it. Every meeting I show up to is just full of energy.” He joked it's gone, “off like a rocket ship.”
It was fascinating to me, I added, “you found it easier to help educate people on certain topics when there are other people there that sort of encouraged.” This makes perfect sense when you say it out loud but I think we really do forget, how social we are, and encouraged we get from those around us.
“So when the entire room is invested, it makes the individuals more invested.”
“Obviously, the other important thing,” Dustin added, “is curating the right group. So my masterminds are pretty unique and everyone in here has a common thread between them all and that's that they're all entrepreneurs.”
Dustin, And The Way Forward
Dustin’s career journey, to me, from the brief time I spoke with him, has always been about finding ways to get their products in front of the target market.
With my background in paid media, I didn't want Dustin to feel like we were on different pages. We joked, and Dustin mentioned, FireCreek does run paid ads now but “view them as an amplification, but their main focus has always been on organic and referral traffic.”
In their mastermind group, they have observed that a lot of members have never run ads, and they have always found ways to attract organic traffic, “which might be why they are attracted to podcasting."
To make a podcast successful there must be authenticity, and with the dawn of ai, I wanted to know how Dustin felt about how marketing will change. I mentioned my opinion, that it will separate the good and the bad marketers and some will fall for the ease of using it.
“AI I guess can deliver at some level insight. But to me, there's a big distinction there between showing me the right data and then showing me not only how to use it, but why and what's the true value of it. And I feel like as we continue on here into the future that like that's, that's the differentiators, like who can provide the best insights in an industry…”
It’s incredible what Dustin has achieved with his coaching in the past year. Helping people launch brands and tell the stores as well is such a valuable thing. I wish him all the best this year, although he doesn't need to hear it from me, and look forward to seeing him scale with others he is helping.