The upside down model that pays you to get customers

I love weird systems like this.
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Hey GirdleyWorld!

Today I want to talk about a business model that fascinates me. We’re talking…

  • Negative customer acquisition cost (CAC)

I think you’ll be fascinated too.


How to get paid to acquire customers

I love counterintuitive business models.

And this is one of my favorites.

It seems totally backwards. How do you get paid for getting customers?

I’ll show you. It all comes down to a particular twist on niche media.

A little background

Until recently, niche media wasn’t much of an industry.

If you want to cover something niche, you could write a newsletter and mail it to people.

But it took a lot of work for people to find your newsletter. So there wasn’t a huge market for it.

The internet completely changed that landscape.

Social media made it easier for niche stuff to be discovered.

Same for advertising on Google or in niche communities.

Suddenly people all over the world could visit the same place to read about finance, stocks, trucking, or aviation.

Over the last 15 years, niche media has proliferated.

There are tons of media businesses online that serve specific audiences.

Think MarketBeat for stocks, or Morning Brew for tech (which has niched down even further to stuff like HR Brew, CFO Brew, Retail Brew, etc.).

These businesses make money by:

  • Selling ads
  • Getting sponsorships
  • Putting on events

Great businesses, but you need a sizeable market for them to be viable.

But then there’s a guy named Craig Fuller…

The FreightWaves model

Craig Fuller was born to a trucking family.

He saw that all the players in the freight industry want to stay informed.

And they want to buy data to make decisions.

So he founded FreightWaves.

At first, it just looks like a trucker news site. But Craig built out a B2B data company attached to it.

Scroll past the trucker news, and you see a whole section of “SONAR High-Frequency Supply Chain Data”.

Customers pay for the data…

And the media biz gets paid to get customers. Negative CAC.

Suddenly that niche market is viable for this approach.

Rinse and repeat

Craig has decided to repeat himself in aviation.

He’s started buying up media properties there, and adding businesses — financing, services, insurance, brokerage — on the back end.

There’s no reason the same play won’t work again.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I’m doing it too. (Though maybe with less intention than Craig.)

On X and with this newsletter, I’m putting out content helpful to business operations and ownership all the time.

And the last two businesses I’ve incubated fill a need with my audience:

  • Near solves for overseas staffing
  • Scalepath offers SMB peer groups

You can do it too. The innovation is out there.

Just find a niche hungry to be informed and start writing.

You’ll figure out what they need.


3 things from this week

  • Appetizer: I’m in Argentina and saw this window display. Never underestimate a marketer who doesn’t speak English natively.
A window display that says "F***ING SALE"
  • Main: Elon, retail investors, competition… there’s a crazy amount of money changing hands in Tesla stock. 9 of the 10 biggest stock trading days in October were TSLA. (From the Chartr newsletter, that visualizes new stuff 3x/week. Read here or subscribe.)
A chart showing Tesla trade volume exceeding all other companies.
  • Dessert: I love it when my internet friends edit my tweets. Hard to disagree!
One of my tweets with most of the words crossed out
Thanks for saving me so many characters, @molson_hart

Thanks for reading!

One final ask: my team and I have been working on our branding. I want to find something that’s more “me” than GirdleyWorld.

So hit reply and let me know:

  1. What are you hoping to learn by reading my stuff?
  2. If you had to describe me to a friend, what would you say?

I read everything that comes in!

Have a great week,