Twelve years ago Joel Runyon was laid off from UPS, living in his parents’ basement, and contemplating life. An athlete and ultra-marathoner, Runyon was attracted to training and performance products. The internet interested him, too.
He thought, “I like the internet. I like marketing. Maybe I can do something.”
Fast forward to 2022, and Runyon’s something is called “Impossible,” an Austin, Texas-based fitness and performance company launched in 2010. It sells digital training programs, apparel, and now, nutritional supplements. “Sleep” is the latest. It’s a powder drink mix for deep sleeping.
He and I recently discussed his journey. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Give us a rundown of your business.
Joel Runyon: It’s called “Impossible.” It’s a mindset and fitness performance company. It started as a blog to challenge me to do new things and then morphed over the years from digital training programs, a training app, and now apparel. We recently launched our performance nutritional products.
Our goal at Impossible is to inspire people to push their limits, train them to do that, and fuel them as they go out and do impossible things. Then we capture that on social media to inspire others.
Bandholz: You’ve built a substantial email list, several hundred thousand subscribers.
Runyon: I didn’t know anything about marketing when I started. I was working in my parent’s basement, unemployed from being laid off at UPS, trying to figure out life. At the time, I thought, “I like the internet. I like marketing. Maybe I can do something.”
I took an internship at a marketing firm in Indiana and started reading everything. I learned from Perry Marshall, an old-school pay-per-click guy. I went into a couple of Perry’s events and learned a lot. I built my chops on pay-per-click and search engine optimization, and then I started building relationships with people with websites and audiences and getting into the influencer space. I made partnerships with podcasters and YouTubers.
Connecting with people is my strength. Coming off of SEO and building organic traffic channels, I figured out how to leverage partnerships with people who have audiences or guest blogs.
Bandholz: What is the SEO strategy now?
Runyon: The problem now is that a lot of people copy content. I built a site in the Paleo diet space when that was blowing up. We were one of the first pieces of content and everybody referenced ours. We saw a lot of growth. The health and fitness space is more challenging now because it’s becoming more medical. You’ll see WebMD show up for many results. Google is trying to de-risk what it ranks.
From a nuts and bolts standpoint, content is overdone but still king. If you can take an SEO base layer of content and then apply a brand filter on it, build links and authority, that’s great. A good piece of content attracts backlinks.
You can use the link juice from one page to promote another. Spread that traffic throughout your site as you want. Merge SEO basics with content with potential virality, and then utilize partnerships and friendships in the space to amplify specific things that you want to put effort behind.
Bandholz: You’re launching nutritional products.
Runyon: We’ve been working on a nutritional sleep formula for two years that went live in April 2022. It’s called Impossible Sleep, a powder drink mix. We want to help people perform at their best, and one of the ways to do that is by optimizing recovery time. I’ve always been an ambitious person. I used to cut corners on my sleep to get extra work done. That was debilitating in the long run. I tried different sleep supplements without much success. I wanted to create something for people who struggle with the same issue.
Our target market is high performers, athletes, and entrepreneurs. If you’re a go-getter but not good at sleep, we can help. A good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to recover and recharge. We sell via subscriptions and one-time orders.
Most sleep supplements have a lot of things in them that knock you out. Some are good for you; some are not. Many supplements act as a sedative, but those never actually make you wake up feeling good.
Impossible Sleep contains L-Theanine, which puts you in a calm state when you take 150-200 milligrams. It’s not necessarily going to put you out. It’s more of a habit cue, signaling your body it’s time to wind down. I find it helpful to take 20-30 minutes before bed.
I’ve been monitoring with my Whoop tracker. My recovery scores are through the roof. I’ve been waking up the next day feeling refreshed.
I’m excited to get the product in people’s hands. It’s going well early on. People are excited about it. We had a bunch of pre-orders. We’ve had a few dozen people share positive experiences. So I’m very hopeful about that, and I’m looking forward to more feedback.
Bandholz: What are you doing for fulfillment?
Runyon: We use ShipMonk, the third-party fulfillment company. Recharge, the software platform, manages the subscriptions.
I also started using the Shopify app Rebuy. It’s an upsell tool that will auto-push someone to buy our subscription. We’ve seen good results with it. It’s not a super complicated setup. Shopify does many helpful things outside the box, and then with the subscriptions, we haven’t run into limitations yet. It’s been cool to learn about warehousing and fulfillment.
Bandholz: Where can people buy Impossible Sleep?
Runyon: All of our products are at Impossible.co. Our sleep formula is on the front page. Everything behind the brand, all the adventures, challenges, and mindset stuff, is at ImpossibleHQ.com. We have fitness training and programs at ImpossibleFitness.com.