Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Build a Profitable Software Business Without Writing Any Code: A Case Study with Spencer Haws

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Do you have a great idea for a software but you don’t have any coding knowledge and experience to transform it into an actual product?

Are you looking for an effective means of marketing your software to your target market?

To discover how to create and market a software product without writing a single line of code, I interview Spencer Haws of Nichepursuits.com in this episode of the Bright Ideas Podcast.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Spencer Haws of NichePursuits.com.

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Transcript

An Interview with Spencer HawsTrent Dyrsmid: Hey there Bright Idea Hunters, thank you so much for joining me for the Bright Ideas Podcast. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid. And this is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their business.And in this episode I am joined by Spencer Haws. Spencer is an online business owner, a blogger and a software developer from Richland, Washington. And back in 2009 he started off by building a portfolio of niche websites that made quite a bit of money with Google adsense. And that led to a successful blog called NichePursuits.com which then led to an even more successful software development business and that’s what we’re gonna be talking about in this particular episode of Bright Ideas.So Spencer thanks so much for making the time to talk about your product Long Tail Pro and how you’ve made it successful. Welcome to the show.

Spencer Haws: Hey thanks Trent. It’s great to be here. I know we’ve chatted quite a bit over the last year too so I’m more than happy to do an interview here to talk about Long Tail Pro.

T: We have indeed Spencer. I started off much like Spencer did. He was very generous with information for me back then. I’m no longer in that business but I definitely appreciate all that past advices. It was very helpful. So for the people who are in this audience which is predominantly small business owners and marketing agency owners they’re probably thinking who’s this guy, why do I wanna listen to this interview. So please just start off with who are you and what do you do?

S: Okay absolutely. Yeah you gave some brief information about what I’m doing now. Before I was a full time entrepreneur which I am now, I quit my corporate job about 2 years ago, it’ll be 2 years in just a few months. But I was involved in the financial services industry. I got my degree in Finance and worked for a large bank after that in business banking.

And so being involved in the internet and building websites was really nothing that I had a background in. It started as a hobby for me. Probably back in 2005-2006 I built my first site just to see if I could do it if I could get something online. And that led me over the next few years sort of moonlighting after my corporate job to building sites and learning and beginning to understand how Google works, how to get things ranking in Google and that led me then to finding niche sites. And that is a big part of my story.

I started building lots of small niche sites that could rank very quickly for small keywords because the big problem that a lot of people have is they see a really big keyword that gets tons of traffic and they try to build the site targeting that one keyword and the problem is they never rank for that keyword because it’s so extremely difficult. Everybody else is trying to rank for that keyword in Google and they’re nowhere to be found.

T: So this is probably that a lot of small business owners do. Let’s say there’s a guy with a plumber or a flower shop or whatever and they make this mistake of trying to rank for that keyword instead of maybe what we call the long tail phrase where if they were to attach a city name or a town name or something so that they’re drastically reducing the number of competitors that they’re against or are competing against rather and have a much easier time getting traffic to their site.

S: Right absolutely. I mean if you take a flower shop in Richland, Washington if they try to rank for the keyword flowers it’s just never gonna happen. There’s too many big corporations trying to rank for that. But if they try to rank for something like flowers in Richland, Washington they have a much better chance of doing that. So it was understanding the long tail keywords for me and I’m kinda going to why this will matter to everybody else as well but that’s what led me to quitting my corporate job. I did very very well with these niche sites. I built a couple of hundred of these, monetized them with Google adsense and that was in March of 2011 that I quit my job. And then I started a blog at almost exactly the same time NichePursuits.com where I blogged about how I was building these small niche sites and what was working for me, how others can rank those sites and all sorts of tactics that you could do to essentially do what I was doing.

And also around the same time I started building Long Tail Pro and so I continued to sell Long Tail Pro. It’s a keyword research tool that I built really for myself because I was frustrated with how long and how slow the keyword research process was using other tools. There’s lots of other great tools out there but for my needs where I wanted to find lots of keywords very quickly and be able to analyze if I could rank within Google quickly I decided to build my own tool and now I sell out Long Tail Pro. So we’ll dive into that a little bit more but that’s what I’m doing now.

T: Okay so for the folks who are listening there’s really kind of 2 main ideas that I’m hoping to get across this interview. One of them is for all those small flower shop owners and whatever type of business that you’re in local markets there’s a great benefit to be had by figuring out a plethora of long tail keywords that you can create content for and individually these keywords they don’t add a whole lot of traffic but they’re very easy to rank for and when you do them in aggregate you can actually translate into quite a substantial amount of traffic and it’s really not very difficult to do. However, you have to know which keywords that you’re going to go after because that’s where the science is. And that’s why you created Long Tail Pro.

The other audience is the folks who are thinking hey I might like to get into the software business. I’ve been thinking about creating an application for a long time so we’re gonna really focus in on that. So let’s give some results so that people who again don’t know you think oh yeah hey man, Spencer’s done really well. So how much revenue have you done with Long Tail Pro?

S: Yeah Long Tail Pro and it’s a long story as well because and maybe we can dig in to this with some of the mistakes I made early on and how I fixed those mistakes.

T: Yeah that would be good.

S: Yeah I created a first version of Long Tail Pro which is not the current version that you see today. That I guess quickly to answer your numbers to get the numbers out then we can maybe drill in to what happened. But I had a first version that I launched in right around January of 2011 and I only sold it for about 3 months from January to March. But it’s sold maybe $2,000 or $3,000 a month. I didn’t do much marketing at all. I didn’t have much of a blog or a list at that point but it was enough for me to know that there was interest.

T: Absolutely.

S: So that first version maybe did $10,000 or so. Then I went back and again I’ll explain why I did this but I hired a new programmer to develop an entirely new from the ground up, a new code, everything, new version of the software which I launched in beta form around July of 2011 and really didn’t launch until October publicly October 2011. So from about, with the new version I’ve done about a $150,000 in revenue. About a $100,000 of that this year 2012. So I get you a rough idea of what I’ve done and I’ve got big plans of course for the future as well.

T: I’m sure.

S: In the future there’s more marketing as well.

T: So we should take into account the cost of the first and the second version because it is part of the reality. What do you think that you spent, coz you’re not a software developer, you don’t write any code, correct? Coz I don’t want people to think I don’t know how to write codes so I can’t build an application coz that’s not true.

S: Yeah absolutely. I’m not a programmer by any way, shape or form like I said my background is business and finance. So I hired somebody else to do the code completely. I just had the idea, I paid somebody to do it for me.

T: And what did you spend to develop this application?

S: Yeah the first version was very cheap and this was my mistake. I hired the cheapest programmer that was overseas and he was able to produce something and I really think that he essentially used some code that he already had which was why he was able to do it so cheaply. But it was about $3,000 to $4,000 to just get that first version up and running. It was pretty bare bones at the beginning. But it quickly had lots of bugs and issues that made it stop working. And I guess maybe now is a good time to explain what happened but it needed lots of attention.

And so I would go back to my programmer and say hey this little parts stopped working, it’s got a bug, can you fix it and he would do the best he can but because he was overseas he didn’t speak english well it was difficult to work with him, to communicate and get things done in a timely fashion. And so I decided I think I just want to hire a different programmer to take the existing code that I can work with that speaks english that I know I can count on for the future. And so when I asked the original programmer for the code he said no, not gonna happen. He said pay me $15,000 and the code is yours. And I mean you have to understand I paid like $3,000 to $4,000 and I thought that was it originally. And also when I posted the job I did this on a freelance website I figured hey I was protected and that’s what I paid for was the source code originally or so I thought. And I probably could have gone through the dispute process on, it was Freelancer.com and perhaps gotten the original code but it would have been a huge headache probably taken months to go through.

And so I was essentially faced with the dilemma of hey I can pay this guy $15,000 and get the original code which I know is kind of buggy already. And then just hire somebody else to fix it. Or I can scrap the project completely, I can just hey I made a few thousand dollars, just tell people sorry you’ll refund them or whatever. But what I decided to do is fire the old programmer and completely start from scratch. Just hire a new programmer, have him create his code from the very beginning and that cost me about $15,000 to $20,000 to do anyways. So I figured I was about even whether I got the old code or the new source code and because I did it from scratch with the new guy the source code I knew was mine. I hired a very programmer who spoke english. Things have been much better since but that was some pretty trying times. I learned quite a bit in those early days. I made quite a few mistakes that made me dig in too deeper but yeah that’s sort of what happened there early on.

T: I think that that is not uncommon at all.

S: Unfortunately.

T: I know personally I never get anything right the first time. I should call myself Captain Do Over coz I always need another time to assess all the errors that I made and try and fix them on the next go around.

S: Yes. So the one point I will make just very quickly that one of the big things that I learned in software development is that hiring cheap usually is not the cheapest in the long run. I would advice what I do now whenever I hire a programmer is hire the absolute best. Even if they’re more expensive they’ll typically get the job done quicker so they’re spending less hours even though they have a higher hourly rate. They do it quicker. It’s done better and there’s less maintenance down the road. So absolutely I would hire the best from the get go.

T: And how did you find the second programmer? Did you go back to the same site and just pick a higher quality person or did you go to like a local meet up and meet someone face to face? What did that look like?

S: I probably could have gone back to freelancer. I actually went back to elance or over to elance. So it’s another freelance website. But I just did a lot more due diligence and paid a lot more attention to the higher quality high end developers whereas before I was just looking to get the job done. I posted a job and I figured hey if they get the job done I don’t have to release my money until I get my product so right, I’m covered but no. So the second time around I just looked at the higher end developers and hired them.

T: Quick side bar for the listeners I have interviewed another fellow by the name of Travis Ketchum who you can find it on the blog. He developed some software as well and his experience is very similar to Spencer’s and the version 1 was unsuccessful coz he hired the cheapest person. So if you’re thinking about doing software in addition to listening to this interview make sure that you go and do a search for Travis Ketchum on BrightIdeas.co and you’ll find his interview.

Now back to you Spencer, you just mentioned due diligence so let’s not skimp pass that because that’s an important part of how you selected your contractors so can you share with us what did you do to do due diligence?

S: Absolutely. And I recommend this whenever you hire any freelancer not just a software developer. Essentially I tried to communicate as much as possible before I hire anybody. The instant messaging, email and I would essentially ask them questions like do you understand the job, can you restate in your words what exactly I’m looking for. And so I would try to exchange at least a few emails so that a) I knew that I could communicate with them, that their english was good and they understood what I was saying.

I ended up hiring somebody here in the US so that’s not a problem but exchanging those emails helped me to know the depth of their knowledge of what I was looking for and you can really see the good freelancers or programmers when they bring up potential problems. They say hey I see your job but have you thought about this, this and this. And those are the people you want to key it out on. Key in on and say no, I didn’t think of that one, let’s discuss. And so that’s great when they can come up with potential problems before you ever hire them.

I actually spoke to a couple of different people on the phone and that’s a big plus to know if you could develop a good rapport and then basic things. I looked at their past jobs, what they were rated on those jobs, pluses and minuses from previous people that have hired them. I looked at resumes and things like that. But I would say the big thing is definitely pre-hiring interview questions and just getting to know them a little bit better and making sure they fully understand the entire project.

T: Did you check with any other references?

S: You know, I didn’t and that is certainly another step that I could have gone to ensure and that’s not a bad idea at all. But just after talking with the programmer that I hired I felt pretty comfortable.

T: And when you say talking did you have a voice conversation with him as well over Skype?

S: I did yes.

T: Especially if you’re hiring someone from another country it’s not to say that there aren’t any good programmers outside the United States but in my experience you really need to have a verbal conversation with them because when you’re trying to explain post production or after the fact issues chatting and skyping and emailing in a non-verbal form can only go so far.

S: Yeah and absolutely. And what I didn’t fully understand the first go around with Long Tail Pro is that I figured software development was a one time deal. I get my product, it’s a package that’s done I sell it forever, right? But I mean that’s not the way software usually works and particularly something as intricate as Long Tail Pro where we’re using lots of different resources any time there’s a small change we have to tweak our software. And so I understood fully the second go around that this was a long term relationship with this software developer. I needed to know that they would be there a year down the road to continually develop and fix bugs or changes that may come up. So that was very important.

T: So coming up over we’re gonna talk about how Spencer marketed and sold his software but I have one last question for him on how he got it developed and that is when you created the scope of the project, coz I’ve been involved now at 2 software development projects myself. One of them we’re just getting ready to release and it’s done and the other one we’re very early in the development phase. And in both of those projects we put a lot of time into screen shotting so that you could have a conversation with your developer that says when you click this button this is what’s supposed to happen. Did you go through a process like that or did you have a different way that you did it?

S: I would say it’s a similar process. I did a lot of referring to similar tools that are out there. So I say hey here’s some similar tools to what I’m looking to have created. Here’s what I like about them, here’s what I don’t like about them. And yes I did take some screen shots. But I wrote out a very detailed explanation of everything that the software needed to do, what was required of the programmer. And just really divided it up into each function of the software. Here is the keyword research function. Here’s what it needs to do and maybe here’s some examples of other tools that do this and here’s what they look like. So yes I did very detailed write up and even more so the second time around.

T: So the interface design that you ended up with, was that really the developer’s interpretation of your detailed instructions?

S: Yes. And it was something that he came up with that we really worked on together. And that was also part of, that’s one of those points where I posted my job and before I hired my programmer that was one of his points. About hey I see a problem here or this is something else we need to talk about is the overall interface. He asked do you want me to do that or do you want to hire somebody else to do that. I ended up hiring him because he also have a lot of experience doing user interfaces. But yeah that’s something that I worked with him to come up with the design and the look.

T: Okay. There’s a lot more we could talk about obviously with respect to how to build software more than we could cover in a short interview. So I’m gonna leave the development side alone now and let’s go on and talk about marketing. So you obviously, just walk us through your marketing plan and what executed and maybe highlight a couple of things that worked really well and maybe if there is things that didn’t work well maybe you could talk about those as well.

S: Okay. Yeah my primary marketing plan early on and a big part of the reason that it worked for me is because I am the target market. I was the target audience essentially. I created this software for me so I fully understood the needs, the problems, what was going through the head of the potential market. And also because of that I already started a blog at NichePursuits.com essentially my target audience is for people that are trying to build websites whether they were niche websites or large blogs or local businesses building websites that wanted to do keyword research more quickly and effectively.

And so I essentially started marketing the software to my blog audience. That’s from the get go I essentially emailed out that hey I’ve got this software that’s available and even before it was done I was very open about my developing a software. I made posts on my blog about this. And so that’s essentially how I marketed it from the get go is just to my blog audience. And that’s a big thing for anybody out there is that if they can have a blog that they’re building out and building an audience it makes launching any product so much easier to have the audience built in. And so that was my primary way of marketing was just to my blog that already existed.

I marketed a little bit on some forums like the warrior forum essentially putting up offers on these forums for people to purchase. And then I reached out to a few other bloggers that were in the same niche to do either webinars or get them on as affiliates to help me promote that.

T: So the percentage of your revenue that came from your own list versus affiliates, what would you guess that was?

S: Well early on I mean it was a 100% me starting probably the first several months was essentially just me. I didn’t go out and I probably could have done this better. I didn’t go out and try to do a big launch with other affiliates and all. It was essentially just me. I threw it up on my blog and emailed my lists and said hey it’s ready, go buy it. And that worked enough to know that people were interested. Now the breakdown this year I don’t know the exact number. It’s still the majority is coming from me and my blog but it’s maybe 60% is me, 65% is me and 30-35-40% is affiliates.

T: Okay so people listening to this are gonna know how popular your blog is or isn’t so is there any in terms of size of your list or daily traffic stats or anything that you feel like sharing?

S: Sure I’ve got about 10,000 subscribers to my email list and to my blog so that gives you kind of an idea of that. So it’s a decent amount.

T: Okay so a reasonable amount. And I think that the key take away that I’m hoping that the small business owner, coz I remember when I ran my technology services company prior to this business and this was from 2001 to 2008 when I sold the company, I didn’t blog. I didn’t know what blog was. In hindsight I just wish that I would have understood the power of blogging. You can create so much engagements, so much relationship, you can build that subscriber list and if you’re a small business owner and you’re listening to this and you haven’t started blogging yet you really need to.

And if you’re thinking gosh I don’t have time hopefully this story with Spencer here and the story of other guests and even my own story because the reason that I do Bright Ideas and the reason that I give all of this content away is to build a list for my software application that is in development currently. That’s my monetization strategy. So when you say I don’t have enough time to blog coz I’m doing all these other stuff it can be a really really valuable activity if you learn how to do it right. And there are lots of other guests and interviews here on Bright Ideas that have lots of success blogging. And in those interviews we go into some particular and I’ve got some how you can do that.

So sorry for hijacking a little bit there Spencer but I really wanted and so passionate about it.

S: Absolutely.

T: You wanna talk to so I’ll stop right now.

S: Yeah well I was just gonna say I can tell you 2 other stories very very briefly of people blogging that has really driven sales to their business. And these are both local business owners who own a small company so maybe it will resonate well with your audience. One is Marcus Sheridan who owned a small pool company in Virginia. And I’ve done an interview with him on my blog but he install pools, fiberglass pools and all they had was just a website. I’ll try to make this story short. But essentially they were about to go financially bankrupt. He finally discovered content marketing. He decided to blog about everything and about fiberglass pools. His website started ranking for every single question that the customers could ask about how much does a fiberglass pool cost or everything that his customers were asking. And within a year they completely turned their business around. They’re now doing millions of dollars in sales and it’s literally, and he contracted because he does this very well, that those sales have all come from his blog. And it’s because he’s targeted these long tail keywords, ranked in Google and so literally changed his business.

The other story I’ll tell briefly is actually my cousin. John Haws, who I also interviewed on my podcast, he decided he wanted to build niche sites. He has a background in landscaping so he built some websites about landscaping in his hometown. He was in Chicago, Illinois at that time going to nursing school. He built some niche sites targeting landscaping in Allen, Texas. Within a couple of months people started calling him saying I want you to come on my lawn. He wasn’t even there, didn’t have a landscaping company. He put them off until the summer until he was off school. He built up a customer base before he even had a business. He went home during the summer and he’s never gone back to school. His business now, he’s done like $70,000 in 6 months, his very first 6 months. The majority of it is online that people are typing and finding him because he blogs about landscaping. And he plans to never go back in his nursing degree just to build this landscaping company.

So that’s 2 small examples and I can tell you if I owned a small local company I would be blogging the heck out of it.

T: Yap coz if you’re not blogging you gotta be doing something. And the cold calling while it can be very effective, it’s not a lot of fun. It used to be a bit mind numbing and the direct mails takes and costs a lot of money. There’s a lot of other things that you can do but blogging you can do it from anywhere. You just flip your laptop open. And I’ll refer to another interview, his name is Peep Laja, it’s here on Bright Ideas there’s an interview. He got 50,000 visitors in his first month. He had no list, no affiliates and it’s a very interesting interview because he talks about how he adopted the reporter’s style of blogging. Then again I’m not gonna go down that rabbit hole, just go check out that interview if you wanna learn more about it.

Alright, so in our off camera talks, Spencer, you shared with me that you were getting quite a bit attraction with small business owners. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you think that happened?

S: Yeah absolutely. So you’re right. I’m starting to get a lot of my readers on NichePursuits.com are actually small companies. I don’t know the total variety of types of companies but at least that have emailed me recently have a pest control company and these are people that have purchased Long Tail Pro and are actually using it. Pest control company, lawyers, real estate agents, small printing company and I’m sure there’s dozens of others that I just am not aware that they’re using my software. But lots of them are starting to really understand the power of the internet, content marketing and ranking in Google just like we described those stories of people that are turning their business around. And the reason for that is because customers nowadays go online and they search everything on Google.

So I mean people used to go to the Yellow Pages now they go to Google. And so these small business owners are becoming savvy and so they found out about me probably from reading my blog, trying to figure out how to rank their business websites in Google because I talk about how I rank my niche sites. And those tactics apply directly. I mean it’s the same process, the same thing just different keywords. And so these small business owners are now definitely very interested in keyword research. And they should be because these are the companies that should be ranking for landscaping in Richland Washington and things like that because they provide the service. And so they’re very interested in doing the proper keyword research, analyzing whether or not they can rank in Google and then making it happen.

So definitely lots of small business owners are using Long Tail Pro and I see that definitely as the future for my own company that they are most certainly part of my target market where I may have not thought that originally when I created the software.

T: That’s one of the things that I really love about being in business and I’ve referred to this previously as I called my green dot theory. You have this idea we’ll call it we’re selling green dots. So you decide to start and a lot of people don’t do that. They let fear get in the way and hopefully this interview will help them to get over that cliff. But once you start to be in business you uncover all these other opportunities which you probably would never have discovered have you not first started to sell your green dots.

And those extra little nuggets that you find can often turn into phenomenal business opportunities and yours is a good story of that. You started off building a software product for internet marketers that wanted to build little itty bitty websites to make money with Google adsense or Amazon affiliates or whatever and now you’re tapping into this market of main stream business customers who have these needs and you’re starting to create brand awareness with them and recognition to the relationship there’s so much that you can do with that for the years ahead. That had you not started you probably wouldn’t be thinking about these things and you wouldn’t be exposed to those opportunities.

S: Absolutely.

T: Alright so we’re getting to the end of our time window for this interview so there’s a couple key things that I wanna cover off. No. 1 is I know that you have recently released, this interview will be published after the release but I think that your special would have ended, but you’ve recently released a very updated version of Long Tail Pro and you have for Bright Ideas listeners you can get the product for $77 instead of $97 if you go to LongTailPro.com/BrightIdeas.

And I guess the last thing, Spencer, if people wanna get a hold of you they know that they can do that on NichePursuits.com. Is that the best way to get a hold of you?

S: That’s probably the best way. I’ve got a contact page there. They can certainly use that, that will send me an email and we’ll communicate that way. Or leave a comment, I’m very responsive on comments. They can certainly follow me on twitter. It’s @NichePursuits. So yeah those are couple of ways they can definitely get a hold of me.

T: Okay. And I also noticed that you have a free webinar that you’re doing. I guess maybe you do it every week or something like that on how to get traffic. You can find more information about that on Niche Pursuits. So last question I have for you, what books are you reading these days? Maybe give us one or two if you’re reading any.

S: I am just about to finish The Lean Startup which is a good one. I’m sure you’ve maybe talked about.

T: I haven’t read that one yet actually.

S: Okay. Yeah it’s definitely a good one. Other than that I don’t have any books I’m reading. I enjoy reading my wired magazine. That keeps me up to date with some pretty interesting articles as well. But yeah that’s sort of what I’m reading now.

T: Okay. Spencer I wanna thank you very much for making some time to come here on the Bright Ideas podcast and share your experience with building software and turning it into a business. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the show.

S: Absolutely Trent. I appreciate it. It’s been good to be here. Thank you.

T: Alright, if you wanna check out the show notes for today’s episode go to BrightIdeas.co/17. And while you’re at Bright Ideas you may also wanna go and get the massive traffic tool kit. To do that just go to BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic and enter your email address. When you do you’ll be given instant access to the tool kit. So what is the massive traffic tool kits? It’s a compilation of all the very best ideas that have been shared with me by my guests here on Bright Ideas and some of those guests or all of them in this case are absolute power houses at getting traffic to their sites. And the really cool thing about the tool kit is that you do not need to be an SEO guru to be able to execute the strategies that you’re gonna learn. Everyone can do all the things that are in the massive traffic tool kit.

So this brings us to the end of the podcast. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid. If you loved this episode or even if you just liked it please do me a huge favor and head over the itunes and give us a 5 star rating and leave a feedback of some kind. Whenever you do that it helps the show to go up of the rankings in the itunes and more people can learn about what we’re doing here at Bright Ideas. And the more people that learn, the more people that we can help to massively boost their business. So thank you very much. It’s been a privilege and I’ll see you in the next episode. Take care.

About Spencer Haws

spencer1-150x150Spencer Haws was a business banker with an MBA who quit his job as a Business Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo Bank to build websites full time. He has more than 200 small niche sites that he monetizes primarily with Google AdSense.

Spencer is the owner of the popular blog nichepursuits.com, where he details his methods as well as his results. He is also the creator of Long Tail Pro, a keyword research tool that niche website builders can utilize to create the right content that targets the right keywords.

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In this episode, I interview Ian Ippolito of vWorker.com

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Transcript

Trent: Hey there, Bright Idea hunters. Thank you so much for joining
me for the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is
the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to
use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their
business.Now in this episode I am joined by Ian Ippolito, the founder of
vWorker.com. If you’ve ever used one of these sites to find outsourcers,
vWorker is one of the most popular of those sites. Now in this particular
interview, Ian is going to share with us his particular strategy for how to
design the perfect product for your customers. Many companies go down the
road and they build in features that customers don’t end up wanting and Ian
is going to share with us his process to avoid that.The next thing is early on in vWorker’s life there was a very deep-pocketed
competitor that came in and they could outspend vWorker 10 to 1, but yet
vWorker prevailed. Ian’s going to share with us the strategy he used to
make that happen.Finally, if you’ve been considering starting an affiliate program for your
site, you really want to listen to Ian’s ideas on how to create the
ultimate affiliate program. Affiliates are the largest source of revenue
for vWorker and in this episode, Ian is going to share with us exactly how
he created it. So please join me in welcoming Ian to the show.Hey, Ian. Thank you so much for making the time to do this interview with
me. You’ve got a very successful company you’re at the helm of so I’m super
stoked to get into that and find out how you built it.Ian: Thanks, Trent. It’s a pleasure to be here.Trent: Just for the listeners who are, I shouldn’t say “listeners”.
For the people who are watching this, you’ll notice that Ian is a little
blurry. We did do our best to figure that out before we decided to record
but, sadly, neither one of us could make it happen so this is the best
video that we’ve got for you for today.All right. Ian, you’re the founder and, I’m assuming, still CEO of
vWorker.com. This has become a pretty big site so for the people who maybe
haven’t heard of you and don’t know what this, can you tell me how much are
you doing in revenue right now, how many years have you been in business
and what does the business actually do?Ian: Sure. We’ve been in business since 2001 and last year we did $11.1
million in revenues and what vWorker does is we connect together typically
business, so sometimes small businesses, sometimes larger. A lot of times,
just entrepreneurs with remote workers and these remote workers can do all
sorts of things for them a lot cheaper than bringing someone on-site to do
the same work.Trent: OK. That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve had
remote workers on my team for probably 18 months now but, man, 2001, wasn’t
even on my radar screen. I was the CEO of my last company then and I, in
hindsight, probably could have saved a bunch of money if I had known that
stuff like yours existed. So I have to guess that back in 2001, was this a
really foreign concept for people back then?Ian: Yes, it was. It really wasn’t something that anyone would think
about. Outsourcing or just kind of getting a remote worker is something a
really big company could afford but nothing that the typical sized company
or the entrepreneur would ever even think of.Trent: OK. That leads me into the story that many of us think about
is, “How on earth did you come up with the idea?” Let’s go back to 2001,
you’re a coder by training if I’ve done my research correctly. You’re a guy
that liked to write software.Ian: Yes, that’s right.Trent: You started off with, I think, Planet Source Code. Was that
your first kind of entrepreneurial venture or had you kind of done a bunch
of stuff that did or didn’t work before that?Ian: That was the first entrepreneurial venture that did halfway decent.
Yes, I did a bunch of other things beforehand. I think I was like most
entrepreneurs. I tried a whole bunch of things and learned a lot of lessons
from things that didn’t succeed.Trent: Yes, absolutely. I learned most of my lessons from the mistakes
that I make. All right. In the early years, you started off with this thing
called “Planet Source Code” and then did that eventually, because vWorker
started as Rentacoder, that was the original brand, did Plant Source Code,
did it sort of feed you into Rentacoder? Can you talk a bit about how that
transition happened?Ian: Yes, you’re exactly right. It not only physically fit in, like not
only did we physically move the people in but even conceptually. Basically,
the idea for what was vWorker, which was Rentacoder back then, was that, I
owned the Planet Source Code site and I was a computer consultant.I was just, I guess you could say, minding my own business. I would
constantly get these e-mails and these e-mails would be, “Hey, Ian, you’re
the webmaster of this site. I like it. I just don’t have the time to use
it. Could you do some programming for me?”That was my job and yet I was so busy, I turned it down. I got e-mail after
e-mail, the same thing over and over again, people asking the same thing.
They needed some help and I didn’t even know really where to turn them to.
After probably, maybe, about 20 or 30 of them, turning them down and
turning them down, I finally thought, “Ooh, you know what? I think I’ve got
this all backwards. There’s an unmet need here and people really, really
need this.If I could come up with some way where they can hire someone, obviously
they can’t hire me, but if they could hire someone else and if somehow I
could guarantee it or make it safe because they’d be hiring someone that
they don’t know and do it over the Internet, wouldn’t that be awesome.”That was basically the idea. That’s how it started. I just kind of one day
just did something on my laptop, kind of typed it all up and made a little
prototype and thought, “Hmm, I think that could work,” and I put it out
there to try it.Trent: OK. So for the folks, and I’m going to put myself in this camp,
who aren’t familiar with Planet Source Code, if I did my research
correctly, you had built that into a fairly popular, highly trafficked
site, is that correct?Ian: Yes, that’s right. That’s a whole story in itself, Planet Source
Code, because this was in the first dot-com crash. It was before the dot-
com crash so pre-2001 and back then, as long as you had a high traffic
site, you could make really, really good money just putting up ads.To give you an idea, for example, I remember Microsoft and Oracle were
advertising on this website, this website for computer programmers, and
they would pay 60 CPM, so $60.00 to show a little 468 x 60, which is a tiny
ad by today’s standards and that site was doing at least a million visitors
a month, it was doing very, very well pre-dot-com crash.It was a great business model. Basically, it was just myself. I had a
second employee who kind of handled the paperwork and the accounting and
that was it. It was a great business model but, also, unfortunately, it was
a little bit doomed to failure because the dot-com crash came and all of
the sudden now all of the people that were advertising on the site couldn’t
pay their bills.I had my own bills that I needed to pay because I had purchased these
things called “T1 lines”. T1’s are like high-speed lines because back then,
you didn’t have high-speed to your house or anything like that. Each one of
those was $1,000 a month yearly contract and I had six of those.My advertisers were drying up, my expenses were still about the same and I
was like, “I need to do something here. I need to find some other way to
monetize this audience. I don’t want to end up as a casualty of this whole
dot-com crash.”Trent: As many did. Your decision =then was to transition your
business model completely away from advertising to helping connect people
who needed talent and talent that needed work.Ian: Yes, exactly. Rather than advertising, an actual service, which was a
lot more difficult but it also provided a lot more value, it ended up being
a lot more lucrative.Trent: OK. Let’s talk a little bit about the business model that you
had back then because you had this traffic so that wasn’t really going to
be a problem, per se. Well, let me think this through. Because you have to
connect two different parties, you’ve got people who can write code and
people who are going to need code. The traffic at Planet Source Code was
probably people who were going to write code because they’re coming there
to get snippets of code that they can use in whatever projects that they
were working on. Is that correct?Ian: Yes, that is correct. It was only half of the audience I needed,
basically.Trent: In the other half, you’re pretty much a startup, and these are
the guys with the money.Ian: Yes. Yes, exactly, and without them, it’s a chicken and egg because
it’s like I don’t know which side you have to develop first. You kind of
have to develop both of them at the same time. Yes, the ones with the money
were not there. I had to find some way to generate those and bring those
people in.

Trent: All right. Let’s talk about the first year. You’ve got lots of
people willing to write code, nobody who wants to hire a coder has ever
heard of you. You had to get the word out and that’s a challenge that so
many of us, well, everybody who’s in business is faced with this. What are
some of the things that you did to make that happen?

Ian: This was awhile ago, this was 2001. It was actually before Google ads
were even out there. The equivalent back then was called “Overture”. I put
out a bunch of ads on Overture and it was really cheap by today’s
standards. You might pay $0.05 or $0.10 a click, which anyone that does
Internet marketing today, if you can do $0.05 or $0.10 a click on something
that’s converting, you’re just printing money.

This was the early days of it and it was very cheap. Even then, it was
difficult to drive enough traffic to it because Overture just wasn’t
Google. They didn’t have all the traffic that Google has today. I tried
that. I tried e-mailing to people but a lot of it was actually, and
especially at the beginning, probably more of our customers were like kind
of on a word of mouth thing.

I told you I had all those people in Plant Source Code requesting things so
I was like, “OK. Send out e-mails to them. Get them coming in,” and they
told other people and they told other people so that’s built. It wasn’t
fast but it was something that slowly built. Then we kind of got our first
break, our first lucky break, which was one of those people that they
referred happened to be a guy from The Wall Street Journal.

He used the site and he was like, “Wow,” and he was so amazed by the fact
that he could hire someone that he didn’t know, he asked them all sorts of
questions, got him to send pictures of himself and then wrote an article
about it. That was the first big break that just “boom!” popped up the
visibility of the site.

Trent: What did that do to your traffic, do you think? Yes, let me
just leave the question there.

Ian: Yes, it was instant spike. It was almost too much to handle because
the servers were only built to a certain capacity. It isn’t like today
where you could probably just ramp up a server virtually and things like
that. We had physical machines that all the software was on and it was
tough for them to handle.

I think when that article came out, the phones started ringing off the hook
and instantly the traffic just went “pfft”, through the roof, probably
about four or five times.

Trent: It’s not the worst problem in the world to have.

Ian: It isn’t the worst problem in the world but at the same time, as a
business owner, you are running frantically trying to make sure everything
can keep up because the customer service people couldn’t keep up and if the
website went down it’s almost like not having a building open to welcome
your customers. Yes, it was exciting but it was also worrisome too at the
same time.

Trent: Before that article, do you remember what revenue looked like
on a typical month? And then do you remember what revenue looked like after
that article?

Ian: It started very slowly. I mean, it was profitable from the first
month but it made something like $50 on month one and probably a little bit
before the article I would guess maybe it was making a few thousand dollars
a month, around that line, so it definitely popped it up. What was
interesting, I did that and at the same time I also kind of started a whole
marketing strategy, which was based on a book that my brother had given me
called ‘Crossing the Chasm’.

Which is a book about tech startups, why so many tech startups, kind of,
just start off, and they have this great idea and they get a few early
adopters to kind of be interested in their product. Then, they just can’t
get the momentum to keep going, they kind of fall in this thing that the
author called “the chasm”. Awesome book. It was perfect timing. So we had
that big, lucky break with The Wall Street Journal and then at the same
time, try to take advantage of it with some of these techniques.

Trent: This is obviously now ten years ago, can you think back, was
there any particular strategy that you learned from Geoffrey Moore’s book,
I think that’s his name . . .

Ian: Yes, that’s right.

Trent: That was really helpful to you back then?

Ian: Pretty much all of it was helpful. I was clueless. Like for example
the idea of the whole product, so so many companies will go out there and
they’ll say, “Look, I have a great idea,” and they develop a few of the key
things that are needed. They open up shop and try to get everyone to come.

What happens is people come, and they’ll go, “Wow, you’ve got three of the
things that I need but without these other two things, it doesn’t really do
what I need it to do,” and what they find is these people won’t come back
two months, three months, or a year later when they actually have that
stuff up. They’ve kind of blown their opportunity.

It’s a coupling of the lean startup methodology, which is do the minimum
that you have to get something out there, but at the same time, that
minimum, make sure it really does meet their needs and there isn’t
something in there that’s missing that’s going to make them say, “Oh, why
should I hang around?”

I spent a lot of time thinking about the whole product. It has a good
section in that book explaining how you analyze who your target market is
and you kind of identify what those markets are and then you figure out
what are their needs and what product features did they need in order to
develop the whole product. It worked really well.

Trent: It did. When you were going through this phase and I always
think of cash flow and what a challenge it is, especially in the early
years or what I call “the lean years”, did you have just you as a full-time
employee and then maybe a couple of contractors? What did overhead look
like back then?

Ian: I had the Planet Source Code already, so I already had my CFO.
Remember, I said there was one person doing the books. I brought her over.
There was her and then there was a part-timer who was a contractor. That’s
how it looked, just running out of a room in my house, yes.

Trent: Was it cash flow positive back at that point after The Wall
Street Journal article came out? Were you able to run the company off what
it was bringing in?

Ian: I guess I was very lucky. It was actually cash flow positive even
from the beginning just because, in a way, the Planet Source Code, I had
already invested all of the money in Planet Source Code for the
infrastructure so it was like I already owned the software, I already owned
the computers.

I had this CFO already so then when I brought them over to here, really the
only extra overhead was this extra contractor so it was positive from the
beginning but not much, very tiny, tiny amounts, not enough to make
anything.

Trent: Did you take a salary back then?

Ian: No, no. There was very little left over. All that money was being
saved.

Trent: OK. If you accounted for your time, it wasn’t cash flow
positive.

Ian: Oh, no, no, no. It was definitely cash flow negative. I was investing
huge amounts of time in there. I was probably investing 60 and 70 hours a
week.

Trent: Yes, my first three years of my last startup, I didn’t see a
dime so I understand what that’s like. Alright so you had in your first
year you were very fortunate to get some exposure from The Wall Street
Journal but you also had a really big issue and it nearly put you out of
business.

Ian: Yes.

Trent: You want to talk a little bit about what that issue was?

Ian: Well, it was credit card fraud. What had happened was we were
starting to gain a little bit of momentum and then starting to do a little
bit better and numbers were starting to look better, starting to get larger
and larger projects and just when momentum was going really, really well
there, I thought.

We had a little bit of momentum, we had a really big order and I was like,
“Wow, this is awesome!” Very big order. At the time it was a big order for
us, $1,000. So this $1,000 came in, I said, “Great. Awesome. This is
probably going to be a great month.”

End of the month came, and the way we work is we take money in, so we take
$1,000 from the employer and we give the worker their percentage of it and
we take a percentage of it. We take anywhere from 6.5% to 15%, so we did
that.

The worker was supposed to get paid so they got probably $900.00-something
out of it and we got maybe, whatever we got, $100.00 or something.
Everything seemed fine and then the next day, the credit card company sent
us a fax and they said, “Oh, by the way, that $1,000, that was from a
stolen credit card. That money’s going back.”

Trent: You’ve already paid the worker at this point.

Ian: Yes, yes.

Trent: Wow.

Ian: Not only were we just out the $1,000 but we’d already paid the worker
the amount so not just out our profit but it was a big mess so I was like,
“Wow, this is a crazy concept. They can just take our money back at any
time. That certainly can’t be right.” I called up the credit card company
and ended up arguing with them for a long time but in the end they were
like, “Well, no, this is a stolen card.” I said, “You said it was fine a
month ago.”

They said, “Yes, well we found out since then that it was stolen.” Yes, so
they were like, “There’s nothing we can do. You’ve lost that money.” I
thought, “Whoa, OK. I’ve lost that money.” I was already feeling a little
bit depressed just from that and then next day I got another fax and it
said, “Oh, this $700.00 charge that you thought that you had, that was
fraud too.”

Trent: Oh, man.

Ian: The next day came another one. Within a period of four days, about
$5,000 worth of these fraud transactions came through, one after another
and there didn’t seem to be any end to it. In fact, it seemed to be getting
faster. I guess the big problem is, on the Internet, you don’t know who
anybody is. Everyone is completely anonymous.

What I did was I closed the account of the guy that did the $1,000 one but
then he comes back and creates a brand new account as someone else, creates
a fake e-mail address, pretends he’s from another country and starts over
again.

I thought, “Oh my goodness. We are going to be out of business at the end
of the month if we don’t figure out something.”

Trent: This fraudster, he was his own worker as well. It’s not like it
was a legit worker where you could say, “Hey, man, you didn’t do any work.
Give me the money back.” He was basically using a stolen credit card to pay
himself.

Ian: Yes, that’s exactly right. He was using us as an ATM basically.

Trent: Yes. Wow. That’s tough. How did you solve this problem?

Ian: Basically, I did a lot of research. I just sat down with Zoey [SP],
my CFO, and we researched on the Internet and we were like trying to
understand how do people do these things, how do they steal credit cards,
and we found out that actually, it’s very easy to steal a credit card.

You can actually pay not very much, about $0.50 per stolen credit card. You
can go to these sites where people just have thousands of these things. You
buy a bunch of them and then these thieves will then go to sites and try to
use them as quickly as possible before the credit card company finds out
about them and try to extract as much money out of the vendors as they can.

Understanding that, we thought, “Well, you know what? OK. What separates
them from a real credit card user? They don’t physically have the card.” We
were like, “OK. Well, this is what we’ll do. For every person that runs
through a card, we’re going to ask them, turn over your card, take a look
at it and tell us the name of the bank that’s on the back and give us the
bank phone number.” We didn’t know if it was going to work but we tried it
and it did. It stopped that guy and whoever, maybe that group of people. It
worked well for probably about three or four months.

Just as we had kind of stepped up our game, then thieves decided to step up
their game too. Then all of the sudden they were able to pass that test so
we’re like, “Hmm, OK. We’ve got to take it to the next level here. What are
we going to do?” We thought, “OK. You know what we’ll do? We will force
them to give us a phone number because a lot of these thieves, they’re from
another country. They pretend they’re from the United States or wherever
they steal the credit card from. We’re going to require the person to give
us a phone number and we’ll just call them just to make sure that they
authorized the card, that way we know that they’re in the right country,
gives us a little bit more protection.”

Again, that was something that worked well. That one probably worked for
another six or seven months and then they found another way to get around
it, which was there started to become available these phone numbers that
you could buy and you could say, “Hey, I’m going to buy a phone number in
Colorado. I’m going to buy a phone number in wherever you wanted to be.”
So, even that stopped working.

Again we had to go to the next step which was, we were like, “OK. Well what
else can we do? OK. They don’t physically have access to the account so
what we’ll do is we will charge a small amount,” and this is something that
happens on a lot of sites these days but back then we had to kind of figure
it out ourselves because we didn’t have other sites to model, but we’re
like, “We’re going to charge a small amount on the credit card and not tell
them how much it is, a number between $0.00 and $5.00, then we’ll refund it
back and if they can tell us what that amount is, then they have access to
the card.”

That one stopped it for a good two or three years but I regret to say even
today, we deal with people who I think what they’ve done is they basically
hijacked people’s information to log into, for example, like their Citibank
account or whatever. Not only do they have access to the credit card and
can run through everything on it, but they can look up things and go, “Oh,
this charge was $1.27.” It’s always a cat and mouse game.

Trent: OK. There’s no super happy ending. It’s an ongoing issue of
something that you have to deal with.

Ian: Unfortunately not, no.

Trent: OK. How long does it take you to get the company to its first
million in revenue?

Ian: First million in revenue was probably around, I would guess . . . I’m
sorry?

Trent: We’ll call it like the ‘million dollar run rate’. You’re doing
just under $100,000 per month times 12 months is a million dollar run rate.

Ian: Yes, yes. It was probably, I would guess it was around the fourth
year, third or fourth year.

Trent: Really?

Ian: Yes. It took awhile to get it going. Even with that Wall Street
Journal article, what we noticed is that we had a huge amount of traffic
but then it tapered off so we had to find ways of generating the traffic
ourselves. A lot of it, like I said, was that word of mouth and some of the
marketing that we were doing.

Trent: Expand a little bit on, because I’m really interested, as I’m
sure the audience is, because the lean years are always the toughest years.
People say, “Oh, when you got lots of revenue, you could just buy lots of
ads. How hard can it be?” In those first three or four years, I’m guessing
. . . when you were doing a million dollars in revenue, was it a very
profitable company?

Ian: It was OK. I was still working as a consultant up until like maybe
year two and a half. It was doing OK but not enough to pay me where I felt
like I could let go of all the other work that I was doing.

Trent: OK. It’s not like there was money sloshing all over the place
so you couldn’t just go and be the free-spending maniacs on marketing. What
were some of the other marketing activities that you were doing in those
first three or four years?

Ian: I mentioned some of them. So kind of keeping up with how advertising
on search engines was evolving, so it was evolving from Overture to Google
and things like that and Yahoo. Making sure we were seen on the search
engines.

A lot of search engine optimization, so I learned a lot about, “OK, how do
I make my site friendly for these different keywords? What keywords do I
want to target?” creating specialized pages that kind of catered to the
people that would be looking for those things, paying for search results
and at the same time, trying to drive it up from the bottom with organic
results, trying all sorts of things, basically.

What I found was interesting because a lot of times things would work, kind
of like with the credit card thing. You find something good and it works,
it can work for two or three years and then it stops working so you always
have to kind of reinvent. I remember one thing that worked awesomely at the
time, which was that I was like, “Well you know what we could do?” We were
just Rentacoder, so we didn’t necessarily do all the types of things we do
now, people looking for a programmer in my city.

I created this thing that would basically show all the programmers in, say,
New York City and then optimize searching for that, so a very local thing,
which is much cheaper to advertise on. But, again, it was one of those
things that worked great for a few years and then had to be reinvented
because it stopped working as well. Everyone else starts doing the same
thing and then you have to find something new to do.

Trent: Especially with the Internet and really business in general, I
think everyone listening to this who is in business is probably already
nodding their heads up and down going, “Yes, that’s just life. The only
constant is change.” I wish we could just put things on autopilot and have
them work for years and years but it just does not work that way, which is
why I do all these interviews. There’s always new stuff to be learned and I
want to learn it all and my audience wants to learn it as well.

You’re now at third to fourth year, doing about a $1 million, how long to
get to $3 million?

Ian: Let’s see, third or fourth year was a million so I would guess maybe
that was around year five or so, maybe year five or year six. Yes, that’s
what I would guess at. It definitely took awhile. The other thing that was
happening around that time too were competitors, new competitors, new
people popping up. New people popping up that didn’t run their businesses
the same way, vWorker was always run off of profits.

The new competitors didn’t even worry about profits, they kind of had that
spigot that you were talking about where they could just blanket ads
everywhere that they wanted to and kind of crowd out our ads. There were
definitely a lot of challenges.

Trent: Yes, so let’s talk about that because there are probably some
good lessons in there. You’re one of the earlier companies that’s got this
particular business model. Now all these, I’m assuming they’re probably
venture-funded organizations who they don’t care about profits, especially
in the early years, because they’re really just looking to build revenue
and then get acquired.

Ian: Exactly.

Trent: These guys are spending, as you just described, a ton of money.
What was that like? How did you compete with them because you didn’t have
their marketing budget, obviously?

Ian: Yes, yes. The first reaction is, “Oh, this is no fun.” It’s like,
“Not fair. They can overwhelm me with firepower.” I thought about it and
it’s a little bit like warfare in a way. It’s asymmetrical warfare. They
have certain advantages but also because of their advantages they have
disadvantages. They’re larger companies and they take a long time to make
decisions and adjust where vWorker could be very nimble. It’s a smaller
company so we could be more flexible.

I tried competing head-to-head, foolishly, on different things and I was
like, “This is not working. They can just overwhelm. They can outbid me
anywhere.” Then I realized, “I need to be where they are not. So I need to
figure out what they’re overlooking.”

For example on Google, there’s obvious places to advertise and then there’s
kind of what some people might call the “long tail keywords” or the places
that are less obvious where, for us, an obvious place to advertise would be
“programmer” but we can totally get outbid there so instead we will look
for a long tail thing that they haven’t thought about yet. That’s how we
kind of rise up from the nooks and crannies.

Trent: OK. Did you happen to read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” back
then?

Ian: No. I haven’t read the “Blue Ocean Strategy”. Is that basically that
idea?

Trent: It’s been quite a few years since I read it, but essentially,
if I remember correctly, it talks about red oceans versus blue oceans and
red oceans are where everyone’s competing, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of
competition and it’s expensive. Blue ocean is you’re trying to find, as you
said, the nooks and crannies where people, they’re not aware of them yet so
when you’re bidding for keywords, yes, that would be long tail keywords.

The book goes on to give many, many examples, again, a long time ago that I
read it, of things that weren’t so much relevant to keywords as they were
the niche, the type of customer that you would want to pursue versus what
your competitors were pursuing.

Like as an example of that, yesterday I interviewed a guy by the name of
Mike Michalowicz, author of a book called “Pumpkin Plan”. Before that he
was running a technology services company, much like I was. We didn’t have
a lot of differentiation and what he figured out was by going after
specifically hedge funds and hanging out where the hedge fund guys hung out
and reading what the hedge fund guys read and getting a couple of different
skills that the typical IT service guys didn’t have.

Like, “How to set up a trading desk.” He did all these things where his
competitors, they weren’t necessarily going, and he cleaned up, absolutely
cleaned up.

Ian: Awesome.

Trent: Yes. It’s a strategy that I always try and do when I’m doing a
business. I don’t know if I always get it right every time but it’s sure
something that I’m trying to think about.

You went out into the long tail to try and compete against these guys who
were basically happy to spend more money than you. Was that the only thing
that you were really doing that was getting the results at that phase or
was there other stuff that you were doing?

Ian: That was definitely just one thing but the other thing was trying to
compete on . . . it’s like, “Well, if we can’t compete on that kind of
firepower, we can still compete on serving our customers better.” I
invested a lot in customer service, making sure that every single day that
there would be somebody that could answer the phone when people had
questions, improving the speed of the turnaround of the e-mails.

Then the other part of that was also the features of the site so it was
like things that people wanted, I wanted to be able to say, “Look, here’s
us and here’s them and here’s the things that we do differently that nobody
else does. We have a 100% guarantee and nobody else does that,” things like
that.

Spent a long time developing those, then creating marketing strategies to
try to present them, even though I just said that kind of very simply right
now, it took a long time to get even that thing of a free guarantee kind of
in my head and get the company aligned with that.

Trent: Well that’s a nice segue because coming up on our interview,
we’re going to be talking about product development in a little bit more
detail, how did you figure out what features to add, of all the features,
how did you know which ones to choose. Then we’re going to be talking much
more about your current marketing strategy, what’s working for you today,
whether social media is coming into play, PR, that kind of thing. So for
the listeners, that’s what’s coming.

Let’s dive into this a little deeper. So product development, because,
you’re right, you could make features that somebody else doesn’t offer that
might give you an edge in some way, shape or form so you’re got this big,
blank white board but you have a finite amount of resources. It’s not like
you can just throw 10 coders at it and say, “Go nuts, guys.”

What was the process that you went through with either on your white board
or in your head or with your team to figure out, of all the opportunities
for product development, these ones seem like they’re going to have the
least amount of risk and the highest rate of return?

Ian: I think the good thing that we did there was I was kind of inspired
by that book, the Crossing the Chasm book, was understanding who our target
customers were and trying to get into their heads as much as possible,
talking to them as much as possible too because a lot of times we guessed
and we didn’t quite guess correctly. It starts with trying to understand
them first and kind of having a mental picture of who they are, their
needs, their desires, what worries them and what problems they have.

Trent: Did you do this with surveys or did you just literally go into
the database and call people up and ask them?

Ian: Both. Yes. The first thing was kind of like just even just
generalizing and saying, “OK, well you know what? A lot of our companies, I
could say this big buckets of companies are the entrepreneur and these
people who, they’re not 100-person companies but they have very specific
needs. So then I went into the database and said, “OK. Here are all the
people that meet that criteria.”

Sent them surveys but also talked to a lot of them. I still do that. About
once a week, I’m still talking to a customer, trying to keep my pulse on
what they want.

Trent: Yes. So what were some of the things that you learned, say,
around this point in time when this competition was coming on to the scene
that were kind of the bigger takeaways or the more pivotal features? Is
there anything that stands out to you there?

Ian: There were so many. I’m trying to remember if one or two were
pivotal. I remember the biggest thing was just trying to make things
easier. Make it easier. Make it simpler. A lot of people don’t really want
to think about what they’re doing and a lot of the sites at the time
required them to think, or at least to read. Even today, it’s a never-
ending process, always trying to make it simpler, always just trying to
refine it and make it even less and more to its essential core.

I’m trying to think of some key features. One of the big ones was the
rating system. So at the time, we just had a normal ratings system just
like everybody else, just like eBay, and we had the same problems that eBay
had, which is that people lie on their ratings, people cheat, people trade
ratings.

They might say, “Hey, I’m going to give you a higher rating if you give it
to me,” even though the transaction didn’t work well. The opposite happens
where they go, “Hey, you stink. I’m going to give you a really, really bad
rating,” even though the person didn’t deserve it.

We were like, “We need to solve this problem with the ratings somehow where
we can make it so that other people can rely on.” That was a feature. We
talked with people. We came up with the idea, “Hmm, what if we made it so
that the whole problem with trading ratings and retaliatory ratings and
things like that is the other person knows what the other person rated
them.

What if we made it that both of them have to rate because neither one gets
to see what the other person rated them.” That’s what we did. That got rid
of all the retaliatory ratings. It got rid of all the trading of ratings
because now you couldn’t trust that the other person would actually do what
you were hoping that they’d do. Things like that were features that we
added.

Trent: Let me make sure that I understand that. You and I are on
opposite ends of a transaction and I get the little e-mail and you get the
little e-mail that says, “Hey, go and rate your transactions.” I rate mine
but you can’t see it until you rate yours.

Ian: Yes, exactly.

Trent: Obviously if I’ve rated first, as soon as you’ve rated, I can
see your rating. Once I’ve rated it, I can’t go back and change it. If I
was unhappy with your reciprocal rating, it’s too late. Mine’s done. Is
that correct?

Ian: Yes. That is exactly right. You are rating me just based on your own
impression of me and not based on anything I said about you.

Trent: OK. Were you able to, from a marketing perspective, were you
able to leverage that little piece of differentiation or did you
competitors knock you off so quickly that, yes, it gave better customer
service but it didn’t end up translating into something that we could talk
about to say, “Hey, this is one of the reasons why you should use us versus
them”?

Ian: They actually didn’t copy that one, which I don’t know why. One or
two of them did but it wasn’t one that got copied across the board. Then we
definitely had that challenge which was like, “Well how do we communicate
this to people and do in an effective way that makes them want to use us?”
Then the other challenge with that is there’s not only that one feature.
There’s like about 50 of these different things so the competitor matrix
became a really good tool.

Trent: There’s the fly I told you about. He’s been bugging me the
whole time. Like I said, people are going to think I have Tourette’s.

Ian: I can vouch for everyone, it’s a fly. I heard it before.

Trent: Go away. I’m being taunted.

Ian: Anyway, it was a challenge to try to get that one little piece of
information out there to them and so we created a competitor matrix. There
are about 50 different things there, compares us to all the different
competitors and how we are different and the things that we do better than
them. Then the next evolution of that was, “Well, even that’s too
complicated. I don’t want to read 50 things.”

The next evolution of that was, “Well, let’s take just the top main three
things and compare it to each competitor,” and we started marketing that
and then people that want to read more could then read the detailed
information.

Trent: OK. I want to shift now, because we’ve been a fair amount of
time here and I really want to kind of bring this up to speed on the
current stuff that you’re doing in marketing because in online marketing,
everyone’s got kind of a sales funnel, the nurturing process. You’ve got a
lead and then there’s a bunch of stuff that happens between getting the
lead and converting that lead to a customer. In your case, your customers,
they’re the employers with the money. Is that correct?

Ian: Right.

Trent: In your organization, do you see the developers as customers as
well or do you think that they have their stuff up on everybody’s site
anyway and so you don’t necessarily look at them that way?

Ian: A lot of them do have it up on every site but they are our customers
too because we need both sides in order to function. If we don’t have the
developers or the writers or the translators and the designers, no business
is getting done. We have to treat everyone as a customer.

Trent: Let’s talk here first about your number one marketing activity
to attract more employers. What are you doing there?

Ian: It’s actually the same thing that’s worked well for both of those.
Like I said, what’s worked well has changed over time. Things that have
worked a long time ago worked for awhile then stopped working but the thing
that’s working now, and it’s gone through a couple iterations to kind of
get it there to the point where it’s working, is an affiliate program.

This affiliate program, it started off as kind of just the typical
affiliate thing, “Hey send us an employer. We’ll give you a certain amount
of money.” I forget how much it was, $25.00 or whatever it was. We rolled
that out and then so did the competitors. Pretty much everyone had the same
thing so it was a situation that, “OK. I need to take it to another level.”
But the challenge, again, is these competitors are so much better funded,
how do we actually make it so it’s more compelling and yet be able to do
it.

I thought, “You know what? We do have an advantage over these competitors.
We have one of the highest repeat business rates in the industry. It’s
really, really high. It’s above 80%. It’s like 85%, 89%. I thought, “Hmm,
maybe we can take advantage of that.” I thought, rather than giving them a
one-time fee, we’ll make them true partners so that everyone that they
refer, they will get a portion of the money that we make off of them for
the rest of their customer lifetimes.

I thought, “Wow, it’s not us paying an upfront fee but over the long-term
we could end up paying out hugely a lot more than any competitor could.” So
that’s been working well for us.

Trent: OK. We might want to dive into that one a little bit more right
when we finish up if there’s more. So let’s go on the contractor side. What
are some of the things – actually, no. I want to stay back because I’m not
sure yet that I understand. Let’s say an affiliate refers you a lead, well
I guess it’s going to become a customer, otherwise they’re not going to get
paid, but do you have a sales funnel? Does an employer come to the site and
are they opting in and getting a report or going to a webinar or what
happens when someone shows up the first time?

Ian: We have a number of ways that they can come into the site and
something that’s worked really well is exactly what you’re talking about.
You can just bring them to the site and hopefully they’ll sign up but much
better is to bring them in, offer them something of value.

We have something that we give them something for free that’s of a lot of
value to them. What it is, it’s a project management guide that show the
average failure rate in the software industry is really high. It’s like two-
thirds of projects fail. We’ve got it to the point where almost 90% of
projects will succeed using this methodology so, yes, they can just totally
turn around.

We give them this very, very valuable free information, this guide, and
it’s not short. It’s probably about 30 pages long with all these different
things that they can do if they’re interested in it. They sign up for that.
That is kind of the thing that establishes us as someone credible and we
now have the right to kind of talk to them a little bit more. We can send
then an e-mail and they’ll look at it and say, “Hmm, maybe I will consider
signing up.”

Trent: After they get the guide, now they’re into the sales funnel,
are there other things that happen after the guide that are happening on an
automated basis because you’ve predesigned the sales funnel?

Ian: Yes, so there’s e-mails that go out to them so we send out an e-mail
to them saying, “Hey, since you enjoyed this guide, maybe you’ll enjoy this
other guide that we have that’s kind of similar on another topic and, by
the way, you might want to check us out. Here’s how you do it.” Then they
download the guide, maybe they don’t. We send out another e-mail.

The first e-mail goes out pretty quickly. I think it’s like a week after
and then the next one will wait about a month. The month one is like a real
pitch and at the point we’ve kind of established enough trust where they’re
not going to hit delete. “So here’s our deal for you. We can save you this
amount of money. Click here to sign up right now.” It’s a pitch.

Trent: They don’t get a pitch like that before the first month?

Ian: Not a hard core pitch, a very soft pitch. It’s like, so in that
manual for example, on every page it says vWorker and blah blah blah blah”
and on the very last page of that manual, if they read through it, they’re
like, “And if you would like to actually hire someone to do this, here’s
how we can do it and we can guarantee it safely.”

The other way, it’s subtle is in the manual, we point out, “Oh, well, you
can do this yourself or you can just do it on vWorker and it’s done
automatically for you. If you want to be covered with a contract, if you
want to have a guarantee, all these things.” It’s more of a subtle pitch
rather than in the face.

Trent: OK. They go into a drip campaign. How long does someone get e-
mails for if they don’t become a customer? Forever?

Ian: No, I think they end up getting maybe three or four and then after
that point, maybe we’ll change our strategy at some point but it seems like
the ones that tend to actually respond, it kind of dies off the longer it
gets and after awhile, it becomes less valuable. We don’t send them
forever. We don’t want to bug people too much.

Trent: Three to four e-mails, if you can’t convert them at that point,
they just become a dead lead.

Ian: Yes. They’re there, we may decide to use them in the future but we
don’t right now.

Trent: OK. Are you using webinars in your marketing mix at all?

Ian: No. that’s something that actually we have thought about. Maybe it’s
something that we’ll be doing soon. It’s definitely something that people
have asked for.

Trent: OK. It’s something that a lot of people, I’m sure you’re
already aware, a lot of people are using with a lot of success. It works
well for myself and many of the people that I interview. You can do them
live or you can also make them look live. There’s various software packages
out there, Stealth Seminar is one of them.

If you’re going to go that road, I use what I call automated webinars but I
don’t say they’re going to be live. I just say, “Sign up for my next
webinar.” I don’t say, “Sign up for my next live webinar,” because that’s
not true.

Ian: Right. OK.

Trent: They work and the software’s actually quite well developed
where the experience that they receive is very interactive and it saves you
because why say the exact same thing every week? It’s not like you’re going
to say any different or say it any better.

If you record your webinar, it’s not like it’s any less value to the guy
that watched the recording that the person that watched it live because
it’s exactly the same message. It just didn’t seem to me like an effective
use of resources, because I was doing them live, to say the same thing over
and over. It gets really boring, as a matter of fact.

Ian: Now what software do you use?

Trent: I use something called “Stealth Seminar”.

Ian: OK. I’ll make a note of that.

Trent: I think it’s like $60.00 or $70.00 bucks a month. It’s
developed by a guy by the name of Geoff Ronning. I have an affiliate link
for it if you’d like to use it.

Ian: OK. I’ll go to the website. Yes, there we go.

Trent: It works very well. I have one of my low-end products, it’s
just a $10.00 a month product on one of my other sites and every week a
couple more people sign up for that. It seems to work just fine and I know
that in the marketing space, a lot of people use these with a great deal of
success. Live webinars can work incredibly well, also, just depending on
what your frequency is going to be and how often you want to do them.

Ian: That’s a great tip.

Trent: Now, in your sales funnel, what I’m curious about is in every
list, there are lots of people and they don’t all want the same thing. They
don’t all have the same timeframe. They don’t all have the same objectives,
etc. The best lists are lists that are segmented, you know, blue people,
red people, green people, whatever, just to use metaphors. Are you doing
any of that kind of segmenting or someone who opts in, there are four steps
and everybody who opts in goes through the same four steps?

Ian: It’s not as sophisticated as that. I wish it was. I guess there’s a
challenge in the beginning with try not to scare them off by gathering too
much information, but at the same time, you need the information in order
to be able to do that segmenting. I wish I could say we were doing a better
job at getting that information.

Probably right now, we are maybe erring on the other side, which is try not
to bother them but also not being able to do as much segmenting as I’d like
to.

Trent: Yes. OK. Again, I’m supposed to be interviewing you, so I want
you to give all the answers but I do want to throw this out for you because
this might be useful. I use Infusionsoft. It is really wonderful for
segmenting. You can basically allow your list to totally self-segment
themselves by the links they click, the forms they fill out, the pages they
view, all of that stuff allows you to get really, really targeted and then
based upon, and it uses a system called “tagging”, which is really just a
way of categorizing.

Then you can have other follow-up activities and sequences and campaigns
automatically fire based upon what tags get applied and those tags are
applied based upon the actions that the person has chosen to take.

Ian: You have a tag on every page on your site, basically, so you can
watch their behavior and then based on that behavior, they then become
tagged and then you can do actions based on that. Is that right?

Trent: Every time they click their mouse, a tag can be applied. Every
time they fill out a form, a tag can be applied. Depending upon what plug-
ins you’re using, if you’re using a membership site, Infusionsoft out of
the box doesn’t necessarily allow you to apply a tag when you visit a page
but there are certain plug-ins that work with WordPress or if you’re using
an Infusionsoft membership site software called “Customer Hub”, I believe
it is, you can tag based upon pages that are viewed. What precedes a
pageview? It’s a click. They’re clicking a link. You can tag on a link.

I interviewed another fellow who’s the founder of a fitness chain called
“Iron Tribe Fitness” and their funnel is amazing. Ninety percent of their
leads come in through the web and they all go through this funnel based
upon the links that they click and the videos that they watch. Then once
they sit them down for a consultation, their close ratio is 98%.

Ian: Wow! That’s awesome.

Trent: There is another guy by the name of Jermaine Griggs, who I know
of him but I haven’t interviewed him yet and he runs a company called “Hear
and Play.com”, which teaches people how to play music by listening to it.
The person I interviewed yesterday, the name’s escaping me because I’ve
been doing a flurry of interviews this week, tells me that Jermaine works
only about four hours a week and his sales funnel is apparently
[inaudible/simultaneous audios 51:58]

Ian: Well, I know what made it not successful at the beginning and I think
avoiding some of the things were very helpful.

Trent: Perfect. You should talk about that.

Ian: One was I really should have thought a little bit more about the
whole competitive landscape rather than just myself. I kind of got into
that where I was like, “Well, this is how it’s going to work and this seems
like a great deal.” Then pretty soon everyone copied it and it dried up.

I think one of the real important things was really taking a look at the
whole industry and thinking, “Well, if everyone copies this idea, what can
I do differently that’s going to make it work?”

The other thing is it didn’t just happen. There was a lot of work that went
into, like, chasing down people that I thought would be good affiliates.
Certain companies might just hire an affiliate manager and that’s what
their job would be but we are a smaller company. I didn’t really know what
I was doing. I kind of wanted to oversee the process. That’s the way a lot
happens.

At vWorker, basically pretty much every job, I was the first person to work
in that job and then once I felt that I was doing it well enough that I
could write it down and describe exactly what needed to be done and hand it
off to someone else, then it gets handed off to someone else.

The affiliate thing was the same way and I kind of wanted to try it. Could
I be the affiliate manager and learn what that is and then maybe eventually
we would hand that off to somebody else. That was a big thing. Rather than
just posting it out there and hoping people would come, I would go on
Google and say, “Hmm, it would sure be nice if we were on this keyword or
on this,” and just target these people.

Trent: Let me make sure that I understand what you just explained. You
would chose a keyword, type it into Google. It’s going to give you a list
of results. Did you then individually contact those companies and say,
“Hey, I notice your ranking for this word. Here’s a way for you to turn
some of that traffic into revenue that you maybe aren’t getting at this
point in time.” Was that more or less what you did?

Ian: Yes. That’s it. That’s exactly what it was. If they were, like,
especially high up and on a really great looking keyword or topic, then I
might say, “Oh, well you know normally you would come in on the affiliate
program at this level but you look like you’re going to be bringing in a
lot of traffic. I’m going to bring you in at a higher level.” It kind of
gets their attention, you know? I’m already giving them special attention,
which they like. Everyone likes attention.

Trent: Yes, no kidding. That’s a very smart idea. I like that. It’s
not one I’ve ever thought of and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that
before.

Ian: Oh, good, I’m glad it’s useful.

Trent: There’s our golden nugget. I always like to try and get at
least one real super golden nugget that if people who are listening, they
forget everything else, if they remember that one thing that they go, “You
know what? I’m glad I listened to this interview while I was commuting to
work or riding my bike or sitting in front of my computer or whatever
they’re doing while they’re listening to us.” I want to thank you for that.

Ian: My pleasure.

Trent: Before we sign off, is there any other golden nuggets in your
affiliate program that we would want to quickly talk about?

Ian: I think that was the biggest one. Just not expecting it to work but
going in and working it. Yes, that’s about all that I can think of there.

Trent: My follow-up then on that is when you contacted these
companies, I’m assuming they didn’t all respond to you right away, did you
take on average three contacts? Did you use e-mail? Did you use the phone?
Did you use direct mail? What were some of the activities that you did to
try and make that contact successful?

Ian: I used e-mail and phone. Maybe direct mail might be another way,
another avenue to get them but e-mail’s the fastest and easiest so that’s
what I did first. With one or two e-mails a decent number, maybe about 25%
of them would at least respond and say something back.

If they didn’t do that, then we’d try a phone call, some people wouldn’t
respond favorably to a phone call. Some people don’t really want to be
bothered by a phone call. Everyone’s different. That’s kind of as far as it
got. It never got to the point of direct mail. That might be an interesting
thing to kind of work into the mix there.

Trent: Yes, there are lots of guys out there who talk about direct
mail. I’m reading a book by Dan Kennedy right now and he’s obviously been
around forever in the marketing space. There’s a thing called 3-D mail.
People have a higher propensity to open lumpy mail.

We all get so many e-mails, we don’t get as many letters so I think the
probability that people are going to open your direct mail is probably
higher than they’re going to open an e-mail but, of course, you’ve got to
spend money to do it.

Ian: I know someone, his company is called “Enthusin” and what they do is
exactly what you’re talking about, the 3-D mail. They send just a little
kind of open-up postcard with a link on it and it really kind of gets
people’s attention because they’re like, “What is this weird postcard?” An
invitation for you, and then they open it up and they click on the link and
it takes them to a webpage that’s a customized invitation for whatever it
is that you’re trying to target them for.

Real good way, if what you’re selling is not a low dollar amount thing. It
takes considerable work to customize it but if it’s a higher dollar amount
thing, it’s a really nice way to get a good return.

Trent: Yes, and actually I’ve just been reminded of something that I
read about years ago. I don’t remember the name of the firm, he ran a
market research firm and his data was valuable to large businesses that
wanted to sell their wares to small businesses. The value of his sale was
very high.

What he did was he found the 100 customers that he really wanted to have
and then he bought a drill, like an actual tool, a drill, put it in a box
and the branding on the outside of the box had a picture of some guy’s head
from behind with a drill bit, no blood and guts or anything, just basically
looks like he’s drilling into his head with the phrase, it said, “Get
inside the head of small business.” Everyone who got a drill called him.

Ian: I can imagine. Wow!

Trent: So 100 drills, what are they, like $50.00 each so that’s $5,000
but one of those customers is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
to that guy. That was a pretty awesome campaign, I thought.

Ian: That was awesome. Very smart.

Trent: Yes. I wish I could remember who it was so that I could go and
interview him today. All right. If anyone wants to get ahold of you, what
is the best way for them to do that?

Ian: I have a profile on vWorker.com so they can contact me there. If they
want to call, if they’re interested in vWorker itself, we’ve got the
customer service lines open but ianippolito@vworker.com.

Trent: You said that pretty quickly. You want to spell that out again
just for the folks?

Ian: Sure. It’s ianippolito@vworker.com.

Trent: Terrific. Ian, thank you so much for making some time to do
this interview with me. That was a really awesome golden nugget and I hope
that people who are listening to this are able to put that and all of the
other ideas you shared into action.

I want to thank everyone who listens. It’s a privilege for me to be able to
do these. Of course, if you have any questions for Ian or myself, there
will be a comment form, below the page that hosts this video and I’m sure
that if you make a comment there that one of the two of us will get an
answer to you.

That’s it for now. We have many, many more interviews coming. Thanks so
much for being a watcher or a listener, whatever way it is that you’re
consuming this content. We’ll talk to you soon.

All right. If you want to check out the show notes from today’s episode,
just go to BrightIdeas.co/13. Another thing I want to tell you about is the
Bright Ideas Massive Traffic Toolkit. If you go to
BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic and you enter your e-mail address, you’re
going to automatically receive access to the Massive Traffic Toolkit.

What is that? It’s a compilation of all of the very best ideas that have
been shared with me by prior guests here on Bright Ideas. The really great
thing about all the ideas in the Traffic Toolkit is you don’t have to be an
SEO guru to be able to do this stuff. It’s really a very smart collection
of traffic generation strategies. To do that, just go to
BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic.

That’s it for this episode. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid. If you could do
me a very small favor, please head over to iTunes and leave a 5-star rating
and a feedback comment for the Bright Ideas podcast if you’ve enjoyed this
episode.

It’s really important because every time you do that, it helps the show to
get a little bit more exposure in the iTunes store and we attract a few
more entrepreneurs every time and the more people who are here to consume
all these great ideas, the more entrepreneurs that we’re able to help.

Thank you very much for being a listener and a subscriber. I look forward
to seeing you in the next episode.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this episode:

How to Target Customers with Perfectly Designed Products and Overcome Bigger Competition

An excellent product is crucial to the success of a business. This is true for a business that provides a product to a customer or for a business that brings two parties together to complete a transaction. This is what Ian’s business is all about; vWorker brings employers and contractors together from different parts of the world. He has managed to bring together workers and employers successfully together via his online system.

Listen to the show to learn Ian’s process of designing products that perfectly target the needs of his specific customers.

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vWorker was massively successful at connecting remote freelancers with jobs.
Image source: 123rf.com

vWorker wasn’t a large company when it started. It was just Ian himself, an assistant and a part-time contractor. Over the course of ten years, it grew from just $50 the first month to $11.1 million in revenue. Being the small outfit that it was, it was constantly being copied and bullied by larger competitors that had much deeper pockets.

Watch the interview to learn just how Ian not only managed to keep his business afloat amidst all the big competition but actually achieved success far better than his well funded imitators.

Getting the word out is always the necessary step before customers know that your company, products and services exist.

Listen to the show to learn about how Ian got the word out for vWorker in 2001 prior the DotCom crash and how he has kept the business fresh in the years since.

When working with remote customers and remote methods of payment, there is always a threat of fraud. vWorker was at the receiving end of a rapidly growing problem of fraud that posed a real threat of snuffing out the business’ early success. Watch the interview to find out what security measures and system developments Ian and his team implemented to fight against the wave of internet fraud that was threatening to shut his business down.

In business, you need to recognize problems and then constantly adapt and change to these problems in order to survive and become profitable. Through the early years— or the lean years, it can be difficult to make a profit.

Listen to the show to discover the methods that Ian used to sail his ship safely through the tides of the lean years.

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Ian beat back big competition.
Image source: 123rf.com

vWorker had no real marketing budget and yet the competition were big and backed up by financiers. It made Ian cry foul, but he stuck to his guns and waged war against his competition. He developed a strategy that his competition didn’t expect. He was a step ahead of his competitors and imitators which allowed him to beat the larger competing companies.

Listen as Ian describes how he blindsided other larger companies with his business strategies.

Ian developed a multitude of features for vWorker that allowed him to compete with his competition and win. He made many changes to his system and added in features that his customer liked. In trying to find out what his customers liked, Ian also developed his system of keeping a pulse to what his customers wanted.

Listen to the show to find out how Ian gathered his information to learn what features and additions need to be put in place.

A Sales pitch is massively important for a business to promote its products and services. This is why emails and offers sent to the database of customers need to pitch customers every now and again. Listen to the show to learn just how often and by just how much Ian pitches his customers to his site, affiliate program and online system.

Increasing web traffic was a massively important part of vWorker's growth.Image source: 123rf.com

Increasing web traffic was a massively important part of vWorker’s growth.
Image source: 123rf.com

Attracting customers and achieving high yield marketing is always one of the most crucial goals in marketing a business. Online entrepreneurs need to learn how to increase web traffic to their sites to increase visibility, brand recognition, click throughs, registrations, business and profit.

Watch the episode to learn how Ian attracted customers and increased his business by exploiting his advantages to attract customers through his very own affiliate marketing program.

Ian shares with us his effective affiliate program that has allowed him to turn his hard work chasing down customers and companies into his current $11 million dollar revenue. Communication is key to any business; this is especially true for Ian’s vWorker that has two sets of customers to take care of.

Learn the special twist that Ian adds to his Affiliate Programming to bring in larger customers and companies as high-profit affiliates.

About Ian Ippolito

Ian Ippolito is the founder of vWorker.com (recently acquired by Freelancer.com) and is a highly successful serial entrepreneur.

While at the helm of vWorker, the company was called “One of the 100 smartest, most innovative, hands-down brilliant companies on our radar” by Entrepreneur Magazine. vWorker was ranked as an Inc 5000 company for four consecutive years, and has done over $139 million in business.

Thanks for Listening!

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

How to Use Infusionsoft to Increase Business Automation, Double Revenue, and Increase Customer Engagement: A Case Study with Samantha Bennett

,
sbennet

Are you constantly thinking about how to grow your business?

Would you like to hear how one entrepreneur has been able to double her revenue without killing herself in the process?

To discover how to get more referrals, increase customer engagement, and improve business efficiency, I interview Samantha Bennett in this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast. When you listen, you are going to hear how Samantha used Infusionsoft in her business to achieve a 100% increase in revenue.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Samantha Bennett of The Organized Artist Company.

Watch Now

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If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

Trent: Hi there idea hunters. Thank you so much for joining me for this
episode of the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this
is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how
to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost
their business.On the show with me today is Samantha Bennett of the Organized Artist
Company and in this episode, she’s going to be sharing with us a couple of
really interesting ideas. The first is how she used a very unique referral
strategy to boost her business by 10% over about a four day period. The
second is her very own customer engagement strategy that results in a very
high level of open rates on her e-mails.And this is something not like anything I’ve ever seen before and finally,
in 2010, Samantha was nominated as one of the Infusionsoft Ultimate
Marketer of the Year. Or ultimate marketers of the year, I should say and
the reason that that’s going to be such an interesting part of the
interview is that Infusionsoft is a tool that she and I both use. Is a
really powerful software tool that you can use to automate all sorts of the
sales and marketing and execution portions of your business and in the
interview you’re going to learn how Samantha is doing that and the results
are pretty astounding. Her growth rate is 100% year over year and she’s
forecasting to do the same year ahead. So, please join me in welcoming
Samantha to the show.Hi, Samantha.Samantha: Hi, Trent.Trent: Thank you so much for making some time to come and do this interview
here with me. Welcome to my show.Samantha: Thank you. My pleasure. I’m happy to be here.Trent: So, I first learned of you in San Diego here where there was very
recently an Infusionsoft marketers day or some kind thing like that and you
were a case study. Or I don’t even know if case study is the right term,
but you had an awful lot of success with your business, your online
business which we’re going to talk about in just a second. And you won an
award as the Infusionsoft Marketer of the Year which is really a big deal.
Because what that demonstrates to folks in the audience don’t know what
that is, you’ve got to be really good at online marketing and sales
automation to win that award.And so when I heard that Samantha had won. I thought, especially how unique
your background and your niche is, I thought, “I really need to get
Samantha on the show.” So, Samantha, give me the. First of all, how much
revenue does your business, is it going to do this year? And how much did
it do last year?Samantha: Last year was about $50,000 or so and well into six figures for
this year. In fact, I just sent one e-mail that I believe is going to
generate $120,000.Trent: Not bad. All right.Samantha: Not bad.Trent: So, now, everyone’s wondering, “Well, what does this woman do?” And
you do some really, what I’m going to call, unusual stuff. Because for me,
like I’m your black white capitalist business kind of guy and you’re more
kind of like this artsy, fluffy, actress on stage, artist. What is it? Tell
me about your business.Samantha: That’s what I am. That’s my background. My background, talk about
anybody can do it. I do not have a background in business. I do not have a
background in computers. I do not have a background in marketing. None of
that. I know nothing about any of it. Or no training in any of it. I’m an
actor and a writer. And, about 15 years ago, I started teaching a course,
called the Get it Done Workshop. Just to help other creative people get
their work done and out there. Because it’s really hard when there’s no
quarterly review on how your novel is going. So, it’s hard to stick with
those projects. So, and then in 2009, you know when God sends you the same
postcard like eight times in a row?Trent: I do.Samantha: Okay. Fine. I had the Organized Artist Company was one of a lot
of things that I was doing and then all of the sudden, sort of everything
else, fell away. I had a bunch of projects come to their natural
conclusion. I had a couple of other things I thought were going to happen
and not happen. And I was thinking, “Oh, I guess I better get another gig.”
And then I thought, “Or I could see if I could do that Organized Artist
Company full-time.” Then I thought, “I guess I better get some business
cards.” And that year, I signed up with Infusionsoft very early, almost
right away. Much, much sooner than my business warranted it. It’s a
complicated and expensive system, and my business was that big and had no
revenue. I needed Infusionsoft to pay for itself before the American
Express bill came. There was no budget. There was nothing. There was no
safety net, nothing.Trent: Wait a minute. You mean you started this with almost no savings as
well?Samantha: Oh yeah. This whole thing has been bootstrapped . . . It’s had to
pay me. I’ve had to make a living wage off of the Organized Artist Company,
almost from day one.Trent: Wow. That’s such an important point. I hope that the people who are
listening to this . . . I have a mixture in my audience of people who are
running businesses and want to get them bigger. I also know that there’s a
meaningful portion of my audience that’s still working for somebody else,
and they have these, “I don’t know if I have enough savings. I don’t know
if I have enough of this, that, and the other thing.” Yours is a fantastic
story that you went into it with that attitude. You had the courage to do
it still. I really take my hat off to you, for that.Samantha: Thank you. Sometimes, I’m at like that event in San Diego, and I
hear other people be like, “Oh yeah. I spent $30,000 on pay per click
advertising. Oh yeah.” I’m like, “Oh. A lot of people invest in their
business? Interesting.” That would be fun. Gosh, having a marketing budget.
I should look into that. It’s true. You can do it. You can absolutely do
it. I work with creatives. I work with artists. Some people who are self-
defined as artists, they’ll say, “I’m a singer. I’m an actor. I’m a dancer.
I’m a writer. I’m a ceramicist. I’m a timpanist.” Other people who would
not say necessarily that they were professionally creative, but that they
want to be feeling more creative in their lives.Trent: Okay.

Samantha: It’s a great demographic. It’s a great group to work with. They
are really fun people.

Trent: What is it that, in case there are some of those people listening to
this and wondering, ‘How? What? What is it? What are you going to help me?’
Just explain the business model real quick. I want to make sure people have
context, because coming up, we are going to talk a lot about marketing and
conversions and opt-in pages and sales funnels, and all this stuff that’s
really important. To give context for that, at the end of the day people
are buying something from you. I don’t even know if I know what they’re
buying yet. What exactly do you sell?

Samantha: My flagship offering up until now has been a 6 week teleclass
called The Get it Done Workshop.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: People come in with a project. They want to finish their
screenplay. They want to get an agent. They want to get back to dancing or
poetry, or whatever. They’ve got 37 projects, and they don’t know what they
want to do. They can’t decide. That’s very common. I have a lot of
questions, worksheets, and exercises because there’s not one way.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: There’s not the way. There’s not a way to be an artist, any more
than there’s a way to be an entrepreneur, or a way to be a good parent or
partner, or a good citizen. There’s just your way. It’s not like I’ve got
some incredible method, and everybody should just do things my way. I have
an incredible method for you to figure out what your incredible method is.

Trent: You have a process.

Samantha: It’s all about process and reconnecting people with their
intuition. Really getting good at listening to those half ideas. Because
especially if you put it into an entrepreneurial context, the amount of
things that you could be doing at any moment in time is endless.

Trent: Absolutely. It’s a big struggle.

Samantha: There’s the things you could be doing, the things you really have
to be doing, the things that really should have been done yesterday, the
things that really should have been taken care of three years ago. A list
is enough to make a person crazy. How do you discern? How do you decide
where am I really going to get the most return on my investment,
personally, creatively, spiritually, financially? What can I do that’s
really going to make a difference? That can be very hard to see when you
are in the middle of it.

Trent: You had to make your business pay, right from the start. You were
your own student. In other words, you created this, I’m guessing to a
certain degree, to scratch your own itch, which is why I created Bright
Ideas. I love talking to people like you, because every time I do, I get a
free hour of consulting. I get a little smarter. Let’s talk a little bit
before we get into all this sales automation stuff, that’s going to be the
bulk of our conversation today. You are there, and you are thinking, “Hey.
I want to do this creative artist company. I want to do it full time. I
need to deploy Infusionsoft. I need to come up with marketing. I need to
create my information product. I got to do a sales pitch. I got to, got to,
got to, etc.” How did you figure it all out?

Samantha: Very slowly and one teeny-tiny step at a time.

Trent: But wait a minute. You’re in a hurry. You got to generate cash flow.
You got to make sales. Panic! Panic! Panic!

Samantha: Yeah. The first thing I did was I chained myself to the desk and
made myself learn Infusionsoft. Like I said, I didn’t have any real
background in this kind of thing and I knew I needed to learn it, and this
is back in 2009 when, frankly, it was a lot harder to learn.

Trent: Yeah. That’s how it earned its nickname, Confusionsoft, perhaps.

Samantha: Yeah. Exactly. I just really buckled down and made myself learn
it. That was step 1, as I sort of dove right into the software right away
and got a sense of what it could do and what could happen with it.

Trent: How long did that take? How long did you dive into that particular
phase? Because, again, I’m still thinking, “Revenue! Revenue! Got to make a
sale! Got to make a sale! Got to get the cash coming in!” So how long did
you allow yourself to dive into that?

Samantha: I spent four straight days learning it, and then it’s an ongoing
and uphill climb since then.

Trent: You’re watching training videos and you’re mucking around and trying
to set stuff up, or what were those four days?

Samantha: There weren’t any training videos.

Trent: Back then there wasn’t any? Okay.

Samantha: There weren’t any training videos. [inaudible 00:11:20]

Trent: There are lots of training videos now.

Samantha: There are lots of training videos now and they are excellent.
Yeah. Yeah. I just made myself do it. Then I just started sending
broadcasts.

Trent: You had a bit of a… That’s right. Because you had done this, you’d
been doing this [part-timers], so you had a little bit of a list. Is that
correct?

Samantha: Yeah. I had about 700 people on my list. A lot of them were
friends and family, like everybody when they are first starting out.

Trent: Yeah, absolutely. They were just there to support you?

Samantha: Yeah. That’s why I had gotten Infusionsoft to begin with because
every time I offered one of these classes, and at that time I was still
offering them live, I wasn’t doing teleclasses yet, I was sort of hand-
sorting my list. I’m going through the marketing thing going, “Okay, I
should send it to that person. I think that person lives in Chicago. Yeah,
I should send it to that person. I think that person already took this. Who
is that person?” My list was outgrowing my brain.

The other thing I’d learned how to figure out how to do right away was put
up a little web form and it honestly said, “Stay in touch with me.” I
didn’t have a lead magnet. I didn’t have anything. It just said, “Stay in
touch” or “Join my list” or something really lame like that. The first time
a total stranger joined my list, I was like, “[inaudible 00:12:38]. It
works!”

So, yeah. I just started the broadcast. I started with a little web form.
It was another year or so before I even added the shopping cart
functionality. I was just going on PayPal [buttons]. Yeah.

Trent: Okay. I love this because I really hope that the people who are
listening to this interview, who maybe haven’t taken the plunge yet, are
going to find inspiration in your story. You thought, “All right, step 1,
forget everything else. I’m just going to learn about Infusionsoft. To the
exclusion of everything else in my consciousness, I’m going to focus on
this one task and thereby eliminating that level of overwhelm that we often
suffer from.” You get a little handle on that, you thought, “Okay. Well,
I’m going to build a web form.”

Samantha: Right.

Trent: “Now I’m going to send an e-mail. One step. One step.”

Samantha: Right.

Trent: So what did the first e-mail say? Did you make revenue off that
first e-mail?

Samantha: I don’t know that I did. Do you know where it really slipped from
me? Honestly, I wrote a poem called “In Praise of the Capable”.

Trent: Yeah. All Internet marketers write poems, definitely.

Samantha: I’m here to tell you. I sent it out. At first I wrote it just for
fun and I sent it out to a couple of friends and they really liked it. I
thought, “Oh, well, this is sort of cute. I’ll send it to the list. Now I
have this list. I should send them something, so I’ll send them this
thing.”

I got this avalanche of response back. People really felt like I had
written it for them. They really wanted to communicate back with me about
how much it had meant to them. That was when it tipped for me that this
thing that could seem cold or mechanical or manipulative was actually a
device to communicate very personally with a lot of people.

Trent: Yes. Yes.

Samantha: So now my initial follow-up sequence, and this is what got me the
ultimate marketer finalist in 2010, is… Right to this day, if you sign up
on TheOrganizedArtistCompany.com, the first bunch of stuff you’ll get is a
bunch of poems. There’s the Praise of the Capable, the Ode to the
Overwhelmed, there’s one for the entrepreneur, There’s one for the grouchy.
And, by the time, people get three or four of these, like they feel like I
am their sister.

And, what I love about this is exactly what you said. There is not a
business book in the world that says, here’s what you do. Write a bunch of
poems. That’s the ticket to profit. But, because of who I am and because of
who my people are, it’s just makes me a welcome guest in their e-mail box.
It makes them feel like I know that, like I understand where they’re at.
And so when I do try and sell them something, which I don’t do that often.
The response is huge.

Every time I do a JV offering, every time I offer something, the response,
I get these calls like, “What is your list? They’re so responsive.” I’m
like, “I know. Because they trust me.” And they get excited. They see
something in their box from me and they’re happy about it.

Trent: And nobody else is doing it.

Samantha: No higher compliment can a marketer get.

Trent: Yeah. Nobody else is doing what you’re doing, either. You’re off
sounding so much different than what everyone else has got to be sounding
like. I’ve got to think that really works for you. Let’s go into a number
here. Do you know what your open rate is on your typical e-mail broadcasts?

Samantha: I don’t know. We all know the open rate is not a reliable number,
right?

Trent: Why?

Samantha: It’s one of the worse metrics we have because when people open
something on their smartphone it doesn’t count as an open. That little one
pixel bing, bing, bing.

Trent: Really?

Samantha: Let’s somebody know that it’s open doesn’t happen.

Trent: I didn’t know that.

Samantha: So this doesn’t count as an open and when people are looking at
something in their Outlook or their Apple.

Trent: Preview.

Samantha: You just scroll through things like delete, delete, delete. That
does count as an open. Even though nobody’s actually looked at it.

Trent: Oh, wow. Okay.

Samantha:. So that number is not a good, not a reliable number. It is
however, the only number we have to start with. So, yeah, my open rates are
usually between 16% and 35%.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: Something like that.

Trent: So, that’s still a pretty healthy, for inaccurate number, it’s still
a pretty healthy open rate. Now, by the way, just a little quick, maybe
it’s a take away for you, I use on my sites and I just started to use this.
There’s a plugin called iMember360 which very tightly integrates. Do you
use it?

Samantha: I don’t. I have customer help.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: But I know.

Trent: Very tightly integrated with Infusionsoft and you can apply a tag
just when someone views a page.

Samantha: Well, you know the new.

Trent: Well, hello, kitty cat.

Samantha: The new, the latest version of Infusionsoft, the one from the
spring release, there’s web analytics in Infusionsoft.

Trent: Yeah, there is.

Samantha: So you want to put.

Trent: You’re right.

Samantha: And it will create, it creates a visitor record for everybody who
visits your page and if they then become a contact, it will still have all
the records of every page they visited. You want to get that snippet and
put it on every page you have.

Trent: But do you, where I was going with my comment, is there a better
number for the open rate? Like can you say, “This is how many people viewed
this page from this e-mail.” And I guess there’s lots of different ways to
do this. You can use.

Samantha: Oh, I just track that off of clicks. To make the link to the page
a clickable link and then just track.

Trent: Absolutely.

Samantha: My clicking rates great. My conversion rate is great.

Trent: That’s another way. Okay. So, let’s get into some more marketer’s
nuts and bolts as it were. So, let’s talk a little bit about your sale.
First, let’s talk about how people find you.

Samantha: Right now, they find me almost exclusively by looking for me. My
Google Analytics are all about Samantha Bennett, the Organized Artist
Company. Samantha Bennett, Organized. Samantha Bennett, get organized
artist. Like the people, it’s really people who are looking for me. So, I
have, while I have thesis on my site, so I’m sort of automatically
optimized for SEO, I haven’t done any deliberate SEO activity. It’s on the
list. You know.

Trent: I know when I typed in Samantha Bennett. You come up first. I think
your site the Organized Artist company comes first. So, therefore Google
thinks that you are the most important Samantha Bennett in the entire
world.

Samantha: Well, that’s good because there’s a couple of us out there,
actually. There’s a writer.

Trent: I’m sure there is.

Samantha: There’s a journalist in Pittsburgh. There’s a couple of Samantha
Bennetts out there with a profile but you should always come up first for
your own name. So, that’s another tip for marketers out there. If for some
reason, you are not showing up first for your own name, fix that.

Trent: What if you are John Smith? That’s harder to do.

Samantha: Become John Fabulosity Smith.

Trent: All right. People find you predominantly, it sounds like, word of
mouth. They’ve heard of you in some way, shape, or form, which is the
natural by-product of when you have content that people love. When you have
engagement.

Samantha: That’s it. The e-mails are very formidable to those poems, and
the stuff I write about, creative inspiration, and staying motivated. It’s
content people love to send to their friends or their sisters.

Trent: Let’s jump into another nugget, then. In the Infusionsoft e-mail
builder, there’s a share bar, a social networking share bar. I didn’t learn
this until the day that I met you. I want to know if you do this. If
someone receives an e-mail, and they want to share it on their social
network, Infusionsoft puts that content on an Infusionsoft hosted page, and
to the right of it you can have an opt-in form.

Samantha: That’s right. You have to tell it you want that form. You can
have the form on the right or left of the e-mail, but that’s absolutely
right.

Trent: Is that something that you do?

Samantha: Every time.

Trent: Every time. Okay.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, now I almost don’t send out an e-mail
without a link to a form. It doesn’t get used all that often, but I want
people to have the option if it’s there.

Trent: Okay. I just learned about that, so I haven’t done it a bunch. Is
there an easy way to get analytics on how many opt-ins you are getting, as
a percentage of how many e-mails were shared, or that kind of thing?

Samantha: You just tag off the form, submissions on the form.

Trent: Yeah. I guess you could. That would be a unique tag. You could
create a tag for that particular e-mail and that particular form. Then, you
would know. Okay.

Samantha: Yeah. Speaking of tagging, whatever your tagging protocol is,
have a tagging protocol. Have a way that you do it every time. For me, I
put dates on everything.

Trent: How about you give us an example?

Samantha: If I sent out an e-mail today about a beautiful sun shiny day, it
would say, “Beautiful day.” It might say, “Content only.” If it was in
regards to a class, I might have something else in there about the class.
Then, it would have today’s date at the end.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: I tag everything. If people do something, I want to know about
it.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: I’ve got tags from when I first started that say, “Workshop.”

Trent: In hindsight, it means nothing.

Samantha: Try 700 workshops that I have no idea what that’s about. It says
, “Workshop. February 2009,” I’m like, okay. I had some idea that that’s
the last time somebody clicked, they’re not that interested.

Trent: Did you learn that, by chance, from Jermaine Griggs? Or did you just
think, “Hey. This tagging stuff is the coolest thing ever. I’m going to go
nuts”?

Samantha: It was the tagging thing is the coolest thing ever, I might as
well go nuts. Jermaine makes me look like a child, in terms of tagging.
Jermaine’s system is so beautiful and precise. The man is a twisted,
twisted genius. I love it.

Trent: Yeah. I want to get him on the show, definitely.

Samantha: Yeah. He’s brilliant.

Trent: For people who are not using Infusionsoft yet and don’t know what we
are talking about, can you just please tell us what this tagging thing is
all about?

Samantha: Yeah. Infusionsoft is an e-mail marketing machine, like MailChimp
or Constant Contact or iContact, any of those things that you might be
using. It’s also a customer database management system. They talk to each
other. You can create an e-mail, and in each e-mail you can say, “Click
here to read my blog. Click here to find out more about this workshop.
Click here to get the free PDF.” Whatever it is that you are offering. In
Infusionsoft, you can tell that link not only where it goes, but you can
tell the system to apply a tag anytime somebody clicks that link. I can
see. It’s a great way to measure engagement.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: You really want to get people used to clicking on your e-mails,
partly for sales purposes. You just want them in the habit of clicking, so
then when you’re selling them something, they are in the habit of clicking.
It doesn’t feel weird to them to click and be taken to a page. Also, for
the Internet service providers, that’s one of the ways they gauge whether
or not your stuff goes in the spam box or not. It’s not just does it get
opened, but is there engagement. Are people clicking on it? Are they
forwarding it? Are they saving it? Are they flagging it? Are they putting
it in a file? That’s one of the ways that you stay out of the trash bin.

Trent: Yes. I didn’t think of that. Very good. Again, just in case folks
still don’t get this clearly, tagging is just a means of categorizing
people, or making a notation on their file as it were, based upon an action
that they took that you asked them to take.

Samantha: That’s exactly right; just slapping a post-it on somebody. They
did this; they did that; they did this; they’re interested in that. So that
then you can really target your marketing. And, again, this is a great way
to get a really high response rate. You don’t want to be selling cat food
to the dog people or dog food to the cat people. You want them to segment
themselves a little bit so you know who is interested in what. Then you can
really be sending specific stuff to specific people.

One of my favorite ways to use Infusionsoft is this; if I send out a
broadcast for example, about a class, and there’s a certain number of
people who open and click, and there’s a certain number of people who
register, the people who click but don’t register, I send them another e-
mail almost right away. Because I don’t want to pester the people who
haven’t opened and haven’t clicked because they’re not interested. I might
send them a second one in a couple of days but I don’t want to be all up in
their grill about it.

But the people who have clicked but not registered, they’re interested.
They’re warm, they’re ready and they just need a little nudge. So I send
them a little nudge.

Trent: Give me an example of a nudge. What does a nudge look like?

Samantha: Just a little, “Hey, I forgot to say, there’s going to be a
special something on this teleclass” or “Wait until you hear me talk about
thus and such . . .”

Trent: So you don’t write them and say, “Hey, I noticed you clicked my link
but you didn’t buy.”

Samantha: No, because I think that’s creepy.

Trent: And especially in the artist’s community; they’re not going to know
anything about this stuff so they’re not going to know that we have this
level of visibility into their mouse clicks.

Samantha: Right. That’s right. But you can say, “I think you’re interested
in . . .” or “I really think you might be interested in this course.”

Trent: I love what you said though: “Oh, I forgot to mention . . .” and
throw in another benefit. I think that’s brilliant. It’s authentic because
you can plan to forget something and that’s just good marketing.

Samantha: In the same way, if you were trying to talk somebody into going
to the movies with you; you’d say, “Oh no, it’s a good movie. You should
come with me. You know what, I didn’t even tell you this, and I’ll give you
a ride. How about that?”

Trent: Great metaphor. So they’re like, “Yeah, all right, I’ll come.” Then
they go to the movie and say, “Hey, you know what Sam. Thanks so much for
getting me to that movie. I had a really great time. That was awesome. It
was a good movie.”

Samantha: But be careful because it is your reputation. If you take someone
to a bad movie, they will never let you forget it.

Trent: I was just going to say, and it feeds right in to what you just
said, if you really believe in your stuff, like you really believe in a
movie, you almost have the obligation to do everything that you can to get
them there, because you know that they’re going to have a positive
experience. Why would you not want to have people do that?

Samantha: Exactly.

Trent: Let’s go back to your sales funnel. So they find you, they come to
your site. It all starts with a lead magnet. I’m looking at your site right
now. The side bar, is that the primary place where people opt in?

Samantha: Yep. You want to have it above the fold, right there in the upper-
right. That’s where most people look for it these days. So you want to have
it right there, very easy and visible. Right now, mine’s usually a free
recording, a free webinar. I think the one that is up right now is called
Ready Set Um. It’s about moving from having a great idea to actually being
in action around your great ideas.

Then they hear from me quite a bit in those first couple of days. This is
all Infusionsoft doing this for me automatically – I am at the beach. It
automatically sends a double opt-in e-mail. It automatically sends them a
welcome e-mail. It sends them that free thing that they’ve signed up for,
whatever that is. It sends them a poem; the next day it sends them
something else. Three days later it sends them something else.

These are almost all content e-mails. There might be a little Johnson Box
or something in them that says, “Oh, they got it done. Home study kits
available,” or “You can buy the book of poems, if you feel like it.” But
it’s very low-key. And it’s actually one of things that I’m trying to work
on; I tend to have the selling style that’s a little like, “Um, you know,
there’s a thing, if you want . . . you could . . .” I think, sometimes, I
need to be a little more aggressive in my selling. But initially not.

It’s a lot of content; it’s a lot of feel-good stuff. I’ve had people ask
me, “Do you worry about turning people off by sending them so much stuff in
the first couple of days?” I don’t worry about that for a couple of
reasons. One, I figure you have about 36 hours before somebody forgets that
they have ever heard of you, been to your website, signed up for anything,
seen you, ever had any interest in anything you ever did. So I really want
them to know right away, like, “Hi! Hi! Sam Bennett, you signed up! Hi!
Remember me the day you signed? You were there, I’m typing in your name,
I’m not spam, swear to God!”

So that’s one reason, is I really want to cement for them that this is
something they’ve requested. But also, I’m kind of an overcommunicator, you
know? You’re going to hear from me, and if that bothers you, you should get
off my list sooner rather than later. God bless the unsubscribes. Go find
your people.

Trent: That’s such an important point. I interviewed a gal by the name of
[Jamie Tardy] a couple of days ago, and we talked so much about that, and
then we talked about a guy by the name of [Derrick Halpern], who I had a
very nice conversation with on Friday…

Samantha: Yeah, he’s a smart guy, that guy.

Trent: Both of whom are super, super smart marketers, and they’re, they,
much like me, believe that you need to figure out who your audience really,
really is, and to heck with everybody else. Trying to please, trying to
please everybody is insane.

Samantha: It’s, first of all, it would be creepy.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: If everybody liked what you did, that would be weird.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: You don’t want that. You want a small, passionate group.

Trent: Yep. I heard, and I don’t remember where I heard it, but it was in
the music scene, and it was basically, if you can have an audience of rabid
followers, you only need a thousand people, and as a band, you could make a
living off of that. Only a thousand.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Trent: And so many people are focused on, I need 50,000 or 100,000 or 5
million or whatever, and they’re trying to be, trying to appease everybody,
and in doing so, they’re appealing to nobody.

Samantha: Well, exactly. And, you hear a lot of this, you know, my list
size poker, well, my list is this big, and my list is that big. It’s like,
okay. I’m sure it is. But again, I’m much more interested in clicks and
engagements.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: I don’t want to know how big your list is. I want to know how
many of those people are clicking, forwarding, signing up.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: Just another fun little metric, and this is something, again,
that if your Infusionsoft people aren’t doing, they should be, and if
people who aren’t Infusionsoft people, you can probably do this without
Infusionsoft if you have a little bit of JavaScripting.

There’s a function on the, in the lists, in the link filter in Infusionsoft
where you say wanted the link to link to this webpage, or this in this case
a form, web form that says, “Hey, sign up for a free class,” and then
there’s a little box of “other” and it opens up a few more options, and one
of those options is “Pass this person’s information along at the end of the
link,” then it says, “For Techies.”

And what that means is that it takes the person’s first name and e-mail
address, and passes it to the web form. So they go to a web form that is
pre-filled out for them. I have had conversion rates of over 100% for a pre-
class.

Trent: How is that possible?

Samantha: Because… Yeah, I know. I did the math a couple of times.
Because if people go to the form, it’s already, they don’t have to type
their name and e-mail, it’s already filled out for them. All you have to do
is press the big red button that says, “Sure, sign me up,” and they go
sure, sign me up, and then they forward it to a friend.

Trent: Oh. That’s how you got over 100%.

Samantha: That’s how you get over 100%.

Trent: Okay. Fantastic. That is a brilliant idea. So people come to your
site, they enter into the sales funnel, you communicate a lot in the first
36 hours. You’ve not generated any revenue yet. You’ve built some
credibility, relationship, and trust.

Samantha: Yep.

Trent: Now what happens?

Samantha: Well that’s, that’s 90% of the game. I mean, that’s 90% of what I
do it’s just keep them warm. Keep them supported, keep them feeling
connected to me. I write articles, I answer advice columns and then a
couple times a year I offer a class, and so a couple times a year I do
affiliate offers, and I’m just really straightforward about it. I say I’m
offering this class, and if you’re the kind and if you’re thinking that you
should do it, then you should do it.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: And then I offer a satisfaction guarantee or your money
cheerfully refunded. Most of my stuff is very low-cost. The only thing
that’s not low-cost is working with me one-on-one, working privately, but I
have a membership site that’s really cheap. I have these home study kits
that aren’t very expensive. When I do affiliate mailings, I’m very straight
forward about that. I’m like, “This is my friend. They are offering a thing
that I think is really cool.” They are actually my friend. I don’t do it
for people I don’t know.

Trent: That you don’t know. Yeah.

Samantha: The sort of recurrent thing that we keep coming back to here is
treat your list like they’re your friends.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: There’s all kinds of tricks and strategies and stuff. There’s
tricks and strategies to friendship too. If you gave me a necklace, and I
knew we were going to dinner, I might where the necklace you gave me.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: So that you could go, “Oh. I gave you that necklace.” I go,
“Yeah. I know. I love you. We have this thing together.” Is that
manipulative? Maybe a little bit.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: But it’s also a warm, loving, and considerate thing to do.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: That’s really what I think about, when I think about marketing.
There’s a lot of tricks and strategies and games, and things you can do.
The fact of the matter is that people are going to do what they are going
to do, when they’re going to do it, and not one second sooner. Not for love
or money, same as you. Nobody can make you buy anything. Nobody can make
you interested in something you are not interested in.

All you can do as a marketer is just stand there in as genuine a way as
possible, just going, “Hi. I’m doing that thing. That thing that I said I
was doing. I’m still doing that. You know anybody who needs the thing, I’m
the one doing that.” When you put out this clear, authentic and consistent
message about the truth of who you are, and what you do, you become like
the whistle only dogs can hear. Your people start to find you.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: Again, those people who are not interested in you, who are not
good clients for you, who are not good customers for you, will not find
you. That’s almost as important.

Trent: Wise words. Very, very wise words. A couple more things I want to
cover off before we finish up this interview. One of them is you ran this
referral strategy. We are going to save that for last, because that was
pretty awesome.

Samantha: That was pretty cool.

Trent: I think you said you grew your list by 10% in a week, or something
like that.

Samantha: 4 days. Yep.

Trent: 4 days. We are going to get into a little bit more detail on that
one. I want to go back to your product for a minute, for a little bit. For
the folks who are listening to this and just want to get organized, let’s
give them something. What do you see as the number one mistake that people
make? When they have that pile of all the things that they need to do to
accomplish whatever their project is, screenplay, book, business, whatever
it is, what’s the number one thing, hopefully there is a number one thing,
that you see most commonly as the big mistake?

Samantha: The big mistake is thinking about everything all at once and
getting overwhelmed, and quitting before you even start because you feel so
overwhelmed. The number one strategy I have, and listen carefully to me
when I say this because the clients and students I have who employ this
strategy, see amazing results, sort of jaw-dropping miraculous results. The
clients and students I have who do not employ this strategy, some have
amazing results, and some don’t.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: Here it is. This is not unique to me. I didn’t make this strategy
up, but I’m a big proponent of it. 15 minutes every day, before you check
your e-mail, before you check your e-mail, before you check your e-mail.

Trent: So after my e-mail?

Samantha: Spend a few minutes on the projects that matter most to you.

Trent: Sorry. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said anything. Please say that
again.

Samantha: Spend 15 minutes a day on the projects that matter most to you.

Trent: Okay. Focus. Really, that boils down to focus.

Samantha: Daily chipping away at it.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: You sort of feel like 15 minutes, that’s not going to help. It’s
amazing what you can get done in 15 minutes. It’s amazing what happens when
you spend 15 minutes every day for a week, a month, a year, 2 years, 10
years. There’s something about claiming that time and space for yourself,
and for the work that matters most to you, that has a really lovely effect
on your life. It’s a little like when you go to work out in the morning.
You spend the rest of the day like, “I’m so awesome. I went to the gym
today.”

Trent: Yep. Yep.

Samantha: It’s a little bit of the moral high ground like that. You just
feel great. We know it’s true. If you spend 15 minutes a day practicing
guitar, it wouldn’t be very much time before you were a much better guitar
player. 15 minutes a day to work on your novel, 15 minutes a day
strengthening your core, 15 minutes a day looking for the perfect life
partner, whatever it is that you’re thinking, “Wow, if this were
accomplished, I think my life [inaudible 00:40:19]. You have that control.
I know we don’t control everything about our lives, and there’s a lot of
other people’s fingerprints all over us, I get that, but you have 15
minutes.

Trent: Yes, you do. And I want to just jump on the piggy-back on that, and
say that that’s the strategy that I try and do. I try to not check my e-
mail till around four in the afternoon, because you know what? It’ll still
be there waiting for me. If I get sucked into e-mail early, the whole day
is maybe one-third or less as productive as if I can maintain what’s
supposed to be my daily routine, plan my day the night before, think about
what are the key drivers to move me closer to this project’s completion,
and then to the exclusion of everything else, I focus on just those things.

Samantha: Yeah.

Trent: It makes a huge difference.

Samantha: It makes a huge difference, and this is why we created our own
businesses, right?

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: So that we could be the boss, so that we could determine how we
spend our time, and to give up that control is mind-boggling to me. Why
would you create your own business and then work yourself harder and
stupider than any boss ever would?

Trent: I’ll tell you why. Because people aren’t organized, and they don’t
prioritize. They get overwhelmed. There’s all, there’s a lot of noise.

Samantha: And it’s hard. I mean, it’s really, really hard. It’s no joke,
man, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of time, and particularly writing
and I think copywriting, good copy, is the key to success, something you
certainly need in marketing, certainly in Internet marketing, I think you
can make videos, you can make audios, there’s other ways to communicate
with people, but predominantly, we use the written word, and to get really
good at that takes a lot of time. To find your authentic voice takes a lot
of time. To really target in on your niche audience takes time. But then
when you’ve built it, it’s yours.

Trent: Absolutely. Here, here. And then some of us will get to the level of
somebody like Jermaine Griggs, who, and I have not met or spoken to
Jermaine, perhaps you probably have, but I know in his messaging videos and
so forth, he at least tells the story, that he has a fair amount of free
time because he was willing to invest the time to learn how to run
Infusionsoft so that the level of automation in his business if phenomenal.

Samantha: It’s jaw-dropping, what he’s created. I mean, it’s beautiful.
It’s really beautiful.

Trent: I think he’s doing, like, 10 million bucks a year, somewhere around
that range.

Samantha: Yeah, and he really does. He works four works a week.

Trent: Wow. Very nice. So, for those of you who are listening and you’re
wondering what’s all the fuss about. Hopefully, that will give you some
idea of what all the fuss is about. That’s where we’re all trying to get
to.

Samantha: And become a hundredaire. Don’t start trying to work four hours a
week and make ten million dollars. Start trying to make an extra hundred
bucks this month.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: Well, see what happens.

Trent: So let’s get into, let’s close up on this, because I know we’re even
closing in on an hour now, and I want to try and keep this as close to an
hour as we can. Tell us about this super-duper referral strategy, the thing
that you did that got you, what, 10% or 11% risk growth, like another, I
mean, that’s a big number. If you can take however many subscribers you
got, and grow it by 10% in four days, clearly you did something that worked
well. Tell us about that.

Samantha: Yeah, and this was, I have to actually give a lot of the credit
to Mr. Jordan Hatch, who’s the Head of Training for Infusionsoft and, like,
another sick, twisted genius, and a very lovable person. He’s the
mastermind of webinars for Infusionsoft, and he and I were talking. He had
an idea he wanted to test out, and I had an idea I wanted to test out, so
we got together, and I could never have done this without Jordan, because I
don’t have the technical . . . I wouldn’t have known how to do it.

But what happened was this. I had a project I was launching called the
Procrastination Domination Starter Kit, right, it’s a $47 webinar, great
little product, very tight. So I sent an e-mail to my list that said, “Big
News! Launching the Procrastination Domination Starter Kit, $47. If you
want to buy it right now, $27. Special Introductory offer, $27, click here
to buy now.” That just took them to an order form to buy it, and a lot of
people did that.

If you would like to get this for free, refer three friends. You’ll get the
Procrastination Domination Starter Kit for free. They get an e-book that I
wrote called 365 Reasons to Write, and I get to triple my list. Fun for
everybody. So the people who selected that, they clicked on it, that click,
the first thing I did in Infusionsoft was make everybody, everybody on my
list a referral partner for a program I called Refer-A-Friend. Now this was
a referral program with no commission payout, no nothing. I just needed to
be able to track who came from whom.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: Okay, so that was the thing that happened, was everybody became a
referral partner without even them knowing it, and then in everybody’s e-
mail, their link was personalized with their affiliate code. Again, this is
part of the magic of Infusion software. It can do this for you.

So, they click on that, it takes them to a web form that pre-fills in their
name and e-mail address, and asks for their friend’s name and e-mail
address. And then the, okay, yes, please send this to my friend, this
person. Takes them to, normally you fill out the web form and it takes them
to a success page that says “Thanks so much for filling out our form” or
something like that.

The success page, however, was a second web form, almost a clone of the
first one, that said, “Please tell us friend number two’s name and e-mail
address,” submit. Please tell us friend number three’s name and e-mail
address. Submit. The final page had, “Here’s your free, here’s where to go
to get your free thing. Thank you so much.” I also sent them an e-mail that
said, “Here’s your free thing, just in case you didn’t get it from the
success page.”

Now, each of those three friends got an e-mail that said, “Hello, contact
first name, your friend, referring affiliate’s first name, thought you
might like this.” So, “Hey, Trent, your friend Samantha thought you might
like this information from the organized artist company,” and then they got
a little e-mail that said, “Hi, I’m Samantha Bennett, your friend so-and-so
put you on this thing, if you would like to join my list, you can get this
free, 365 Reasons to Write, just click here. If you don’t want to be on my
list, no pressure, you’ll never hear from me again. Don’t worry about it.

Trent: Very, very cool. Did those new people also go through the refer-a-
friend process?

Samantha: They didn’t. They could, I could put it on some kind of a loop. I
wouldn’t want to do it to them right away. I would probably want to keep
them on my list for a little while.

Trent: Yeah. Because I thought about that after I talked to you, after I
heard you explain this. I thought, well, why not make the same offer to
everyone that drops into your list? Why not say, “Hey, if you want to refer
one more person, I have an extra special prize for you, or reward, or
whatever, a piece of content, something.

Samantha: Yeah. You could absolutely, and there is actually two other
things that sort of kept it, kind of speak to what you’re saying. The, I
got e-mails from the people who were referring, the people who were already
on my list, saying well, I want a copy of the 365 Reasons to Write e-book,
too. Can I have what they’re getting? So, I included that for them as well.
So they got that bonus as well.

And at the end of the Procrastination Domination Starter Kit webinar, I
give them a link to a survey, a little three-second, three-question survey
that says, “What three words would you use to describe this webinar? Are
you very satisfied, satisfied, not that satisfied, Sam I hate you?” and
anything else you want to say, just an open text thing in case they want to
say anything else. And that, but their prize for filling out, so it’s take
this three-second survey and get another webinar called “I love money and
money loves me” that’s about creatives and making money.

So that also had, had two important things. One, it gave me feedback and
testimonials right away on a brand-new product. So I can say here’s what
people are saying about the Procrastination Domination Starter Kit,
illuminating, inspiring, fun, helpful, warm, intriguing, blah, blah, blah,
blah, blah. It gave them a second thing, which I’m happy to do, and again,
it gives me some idea about the level of engagement, and that was really,
in some ways, everything about that referral program, the thing that meant
the most to me was that people would do it at all.

I sort of haven’t thought about it until all of a sudden, these referrals
started coming in. I thought, how lovely. How sweet of them. Take the time
out of their lives, we were just talking about how an e-mail can just eat
your life. To take the time to actually think of three friends who might
like it, and send this out. It was really moving to me.

Trent: How much revenue did you generate from the referees, the people that
were referred to you? There’s approximately 650 of those people.

Samantha: There was 600 people referred, and about 150 of them ended up
joining my list.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: Permanently. The rest of them, I deleted because I don’t have
permission to e-mail them. I have no idea what that number is.

Trent: Really? I would have thought you would have known that. All right.
There’s some portion?

Samantha: I’m sure some of them have bought something at some point. Yes.

Trent: Okay.

Samantha: Or if they haven’t, they will.

Trent: Yes. Absolutely. The point is that those leads were very easy for
you to acquire. You now have them, and have a relationship, or building a
relationship.

Samantha: Right. The statistic I hear is that a referred client is 70% more
likely to close and will spend about 70% more with you.

Trent: Absolutely.

Samantha: That’s what the numbers I’ve heard out in the universe. I don’t
know if that’s true of those 120 people or not.

Trent: In my old business, absolutely that was true. I had an offline
business. I always met with the people. I knew that data pretty accurately.
Our biggest customer ever, they were a referral from another customer. That
particular customer paid us more than two times per month of our previously
bigger customer. Without the referral, never would have gotten them. Not a
chance.

Samantha: Never would have had them. Again, it’s just like all
relationships. To make a new friend, to have a blind date, I’m so much more
interested if you say, ‘Oh my gosh. Wait until you meet my friend Trent.
You are going to love him. He’s so smart and funny and charming. You are
just going . . . ” Okay. Great. That sounds great.

Trent: Yeah.

Samantha: As opposed to somebody that comes cold. It takes time. This
organic search thing takes time. This building a dedicated list takes time.
I would rather have something that takes longer and goes deeper, than
something fast that burns out. That’s me.

Trent: Samantha, you have been an absolutely fascinating guest to have on
my show. I want to thank you so much for making the time and sharing all
this with us. I never want to put anyone on the spot while I’m recording
the interview, but I sure hope . . .

Samantha: I’ll do it. I’ll do it.

Trent: All right. Awesome. There you go. There is a master class soon to be
available. We will schedule that as soon as we hang up.

Thank you everyone for listening. It’s my privilege to have the opportunity
to interview so many really smart people like Samantha, and get a free
education myself. I hope that you find inspiration in these. If you do, and
you have feedback that you’d like to give, please do get in touch with me.
You can find me on Twitter or the comments under the forum. It’s not hard
at all to get a hold of me. Use the contact form on any of my sites.

We will see you again soon. I guess you will see me again soon, because I
can’t see you, here on Bright Ideas. We will have some more. I’ve got just
some amazing guests coming up, founders. I’ve got this one guy coming up.
He’s got this hot sauce company, does $7 million a year in sales. This is
like the world record hot sauce. I got another guy coming up who’s the
founder of V-worker. He’s doing $11 million a year with his show. Not his
show, his site. It’s just awesome. I love doing this stuff.

Thanks everyone for tuning in. I look forward to having you back soon. Take
care.

If you want to get the show notes for today’s episode, just go to
brightideas.co/11. The other thing I want to tell you about is if you go to
brighideas.co/massivetraffic, you are going to get access to my massive
traffic tool kit. This tool kit is chalked full of the very best traffic
generation ideas that have been shared with me by previous guests on the
show. The great thing about all the ideas that have been shared in the tool
kit is that you don’t have to be some kind of SEO guru to be able to do
this stuff.

Go check it out. Just enter your e-mail on the page. It’s
brightideas.co/massivetraffic. That’s it for this episode. I’m your host,
Trent Dyrsmid. Want to ask you a small favor, if I can. If you love this
episode, please head over to iTunes, and give it a 5 star rating. Also,
leave a little feedback comment. Every time you do that, the show gets a
little higher in the rankings on the iTunes store. More and more people
find the show. Therefore, we can spread all these great bright ideas with
even more and more entrepreneurs out there in the business community.

Thank you so much. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you in the next episode.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this episode:

How to Increase Web Traffic with Marketing and Sales Automation via Infusionsoft

Samantha Bennett, an artist by nature, has created an online business that has gained her recognition in the world of online marketing. She was a finalist for the Infusion Ultimate Marketer Award in 2010. Her unique referral strategy has allowed her to boost her business by more than 10% in just four days. This level of growth for any business is almost unheard of, until now that is.

Listen to this episode to learn just what Samantha did to grow her business phenomenally in four days.

365-blue-coverEmails are very much ingrained in the marketing strategies of any business. Your online business will either thrive or perish with how you manage to engage your customers through email. Samantha has developed her very own customer engagement strategy that has allowed her to achieve high levels of “open rates” on the emails that she sends.

Listen to the show to learn what Samantha wrote in her emails and just what she does to compel people to open them.

With the strategies that she has developed and employed herself, Samantha has managed to grow her earnings from $50,000 the previous year to well over 6 figures this year. She has even sent a single email that has generated $120,000 in revenue. These numbers are impressive. If you want to find out more about how Samantha increased her earnings, listen to the show and hear her explain her methods and her strategies.

Before her success as an online marketer and entrepreneur, she was predominantly an artist (writer, actress) with no real background on business and computers. Since she discovered that she had the knack for helping other artists out with their works, she has spent most of her time working on that aspect of her business. It is inspiring to hear what she has done to build her business with nothing but Infusionsoft and a strong desire to succeed.

Listen to the show to find out how Samantha started out with no savings and no training to create a thriving business one tiny step at a time.

Customer engagement and response is really crucial to the success and development of a brand or business. When you send out emails to your target customers, you want them to respond positively by having them click to your site or sales page, having them forward the email to their friends or even having them refer your site or offers to their friends. Listen to the show to find out how Samantha got an avalanche of response to her emails.

If you are running and marketing an online business, it goes without saying that you need to market to people who are interested or who will be interested in what you are offering. Samantha has successfully done this with the help of a customer database management system, in her case Infusionsoft. Listen to the show and learn just how she automated a system that kept her emails out of the trash bin allowing her to get a high open rate and response rate.

With all the distractions in today’s modern world, a typical person or potential customer will usually forget your business in 36 hours. Your goal as an entrepreneur then is to maintain your potential customers’ attention long enough to create a relationship.

Listen to this episode to learn what Samantha does in this crucial time period to create a lasting relationship with her potential customers.

It's all already been said. Just not by you.

It’s all already been said. Just not by you.

Many online entrepreneurs think that it is mainly a numbers game. They think that the size of the mailing list alone is enough to ensure success. Samantha knows through experience that this is not the case. She has found a way to gain more targeted potential customers and increase her conversion rate by over 100%.

Business is a relationship between the entrepreneur and the clientele. It is your responsibility as business owner to keep a relationship going with your clientele. Samantha shares her views on this relationship and her thoughts on just what it takes to be a successful marketer and communicator.

Samantha is a great communicator and artist. In the interview, she shares how she acquires leads easily and build lasting relationships in ways that encourage referrals. Listen to the show to learn more about her highly effective super referral strategy that allowed her to grow her business by 10% in 4 days.

As a bonus, Samantha also generously shares a piece of advice that has allowed her and many of her students to achieve jaw-dropping results with their art and other projects.

Listen to the episode to learn Samantha’s best secrets.

About Samantha Bennett

49kb-BennettOriginally from Chicago, Samantha Bennett is a writer, actor, teacher and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled hundreds of artists on their way to success.

The author of the surprisingly popular book of poems, “By The Way, You Look Really Great Today,” Samantha is currently writing “The Organized Artist Book: A Success Book For Creative People Who Want To Be More Organized And Organized People Who’d Like To Be More Creative.”

Thanks for Listening!

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

How an Auto Mechanic Became a Millionaire Business Owner Using Advanced Marketing Tactics, Sales Automation, and Infusionsoft: A Case Study with Bob Britton

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Would you like to learn time-tested marketing strategies you can use to market your business and brand to your customer?

Do you even know who your customers are and how to keep them interested in your business?

To discover how to create and grow successful businesses with the use of updated old school marketing methods in a high-tech business world, I interview Bob Britton in this episode of the Bright Ideas Podcast.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Bob Britton, owner of Pro Autocare, direct response specialist and winner of the prestigious Infusionsoft Ultimate Marketer Award of 2010.

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Transcript

Trent: Hey, everybody. My name is Trent Dyrsmid. I’m the founder of brightideas.co. In this interview, I am joined by a fellow by the name of Bob Britton, who got his start actually as an auto mechanic and then became an auto repair shop owner.This was an absolutely fascinating interview because he’s now got this auto repair shop, in addition to two other businesses, and this thing is doing just over $1 million a year. Most auto repair shops make 1% to 2% profit. Bob is doing over 25%, actually closer to 30% net profit and he hasn’t even been to his store in six months. How is that happening?There’s a whole lot of direct marketing, using Infusionsoft and really leveraging automated processes. In this interview Bob and I are going to go on to explain conceptually how he does that. I really encourage, if you have a business, that you feel like you’re working too hard to make the marketing happen and you’re working too hard to attract the customers to the business, or you’re just working too many hours, this is an interview you absolutely want to watch. Please join me in welcoming Bob to the show.

All right, Bob. Thank you so much for making some time to do this with me from your home office. It’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview someone who has been as successful as you have. Welcome to the show.

Bob: Thanks for having me, Trent. It’s really great to be here today. I’m looking forward to it.

Trent: Very first thing I always want to do, I always want to give my audience a reason. They’re 30 seconds into this interview and they’re going, “Why am I listening to this? Who’s this guy? Why do I care?”

Bob: “Who’s this joker here?”

Trent: Yes, exactly. In the pre-interview you told me that you’ve actually built a pretty successful offline business and then you used a lot of online stuff to really make that business successful. Tell us really quickly, what is that business?

Bob: My core business that I started with is an auto repair shop. We fix cars. I used to be a mechanic years ago. I worked on cars myself. I kind of went from being the guy under the hood to a multiple business owner now. A lot of that success has been due to the help I got from using Infusionsoft to build my companies.

Trent: Think back, if you can., how much revenue are you doing and how many locations are there?

Bob: I had two locations at one point. I did downsize a couple of years or so ago into one location. I do about $1.1 million a year at that location. The thing that a lot of people don’t realize, that I’m very proud of, is I’ve got a three-bay operation. It’s got five total employees there. To do that kind of volume in that space is virtually unheard of in the auto repair space.

Net profits typically in an auto repair shop tend to be around one and 3% net profit. It’s not a very profitable thing. We typically run around 28% to 35% net profit. It’s not only huge volume, it’s supremely profitable. A lot of that is because the direct response marketing that I’ve used and Infusionsoft that goes along with it.

Trent: Wow. This is going to be an interesting interview. I’m looking forward to this. I notice that you’re not doing this interview at the auto repair shop. Do you go there every day?

Bob: I have not been to my repair shop in probably six months. I don’t go there on a daily basis. I have no need to. I have a general manager that takes care of the day to day operations. I do some things remotely. But in a weeks’ time I may spend a couple hours working on the repair shop stuff. Very little is required of me at this point.

Trent: Let me make sure I really understand what you’ve just said. You have a business that’s making about a $300,000 a year profit for you after everyone’s been paid and you haven’t been there in six months?

Bob: Yes. That’s correct. I take that back. I did stop in to get mail.

Trent: All right.

Bob: I don’t work there on a day to day basis.

Trent: Alright, folks. If you’re not hooked on listening to this interview now, I don’t know what we’re going to be able to say to get you interested. I want to get into the auto business now.

Bob: Oh, no you don’t. I have since learned there’s a lot easier ways to make money.

Trent: Yes, probably. Probably there is. Maybe you could interview people for a living and put all the interviews on a website?

Bob: You could do that.

Trent: You could do that. I’ve got to make some notes to myself so I can keep asking interesting questions. $1.1 million and $300,000 net. Let’s go back. The people who are going to be most interested, I hope, in listening to this interview are maybe people who have a business that they don’t feel like they’ve got their marketing figured out yet.

Back when I was running my tech company, lead generation was God-awful, customer acquisition was brutal. We were sitting, cold calling all day long. It wasn’t a lot of fun. It was exhausting. It was ultimately one of the reasons why I sold the business. It just was so hard to get customers.

Since I’ve started to learn about direct marketing and not just the concept of it, I always knew about that, but since I started to learn about the specific tactics and tools, it’s getting a whole lot easier to get customers. Let’s go back, pre-Infusionsoft, just for a few minutes and talk about how did you get customers. I want to see if people can relate to the situation you were in.

Bob: I was in a really unique situation. You’re not going to believe it, but I swear everything I’m going to tell you totally is true. I was in my 20’s. I had very big ambitions about being my own business owner, running my own company. My wife and I, a new baby came along kind of unexpectedly, so my ambitions got siderailed. I took a job working as a mechanic literally just to make ends meet.

I had never actually even grew up knowing the difference between an import and a domestic car. I saw an ad in a paper one day and I’m like, “I need a job”. It was an ad for auto repair and I said, “You know what, I could do that job”. I went and applied for the job. I went out to the library that night and checked out every book I could find and read them all in the next few days. I went and got the job.

Six months later, I was working as a manager of the store. Six months after that I was a certified master technician and I worked about eight years under the hood, fixing cars. It was some tough times but it was enough to put food on the table and take care of my young family. It was a growing family at the time.

Along the fax machine one day came this fax. I was working for another owner and I happened to see it. It was talking about how to really explode and get a load of customers for your auto repair shop. I knew I wanted my own business. I knew I was planning that so I kept that paper. I set it aside.

Trent: You stole his fax?

Bob: He didn’t want it. He was going to throw it out.

Trent: Okay.

Bob: He said, “That’s garbage”. I ended up doing a deal with that owner. It was a horrible deal. It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. I didn’t understand the terms and conditions of what I signed for, but making a long story short I bought a business that was just about out of business, doing total gross volume of around $20,000 a month for a $1 million dollars. I personally signed on.

The problem was that didn’t include any real estate. It didn’t have any employees there other than myself. I basically bought myself a job for $1 million. I didn’t come to that realization, obviously, until a few years later after paying the bills and trying to grow that company.

There’s that old saying that “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”. I lived that. I lived it in a very personal way. I went from basically turning wrenches myself, having to put a huge amount of money to the old owner to pay that debt and grow that company at the same time. It wasn’t in a good location and it didn’t have a good reputation in the community. But I dove into direct response marketing. I went and spent tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands by today.

In my own education, just really learning what the heck is this direct response stuff and what can it do for my business, I took that single store and grew it to two locations, started doing several millions of dollars in volume in about five, six, seven years. That was a direct result of learning direct response marketing, learning how to get people to come in. That was mostly done with direct mail.

At the time, Google wasn’t really out there yet. Infusionsoft wasn’t even around yet. I was old school by any stretch of the imagination. That stuff still works today and I still use a lot of that stuff. But with the tools that are out there today, it’s a whole new ball game.

Trent: Back then, you basically just, I’m assuming, bought databases or lists of people that were probably in your geographic area, blanketed them with mail so they knew you existed. When they showed up at the store you made sure they had the best possible experience and then you probably kept in touch with them with mail again afterward?

Bob: I wish it was that simple. In a nutshell, yes. That’s what we were supposed to do. Unfortunately, I had hired the wrong people. I had some tough lessons there to learn about hiring the right and wrong people. I hired the wrong people. I drove in an avalanche of customers. We had tons of people coming in and they burned them right back out again. I called them the ‘churn and burn’.

That was another valuable lesson there, about having the right people behind your team, learning how to find the right people and manage them accordingly. I did make a lot of mistakes there, some very painful ones, but the end result was I learned some really powerful lessons in a very short time frame. It gave me a lot of strength moving forward to do new opportunities and new ventures.

Trent: Yes, no kidding.

Bob: Yes, you’re right. I did a lot of direct mail, bought lists of what I would consider my ”A” client, the people that fit my profile the best, that would allow me to make a good profit and all that.

Trent: Let’s dive into that for a moment. Customer profiling is so important. I know for me, when I was running my company, I was frightened to be too focused. I thought, “If I get really focused on just this one type of customer, what about all those other people? I won’t be speaking to them”.

In hindsight, I think I was a dimwit because that’s exactly what I should have done, was get really focused on that one customer. How did you figure out who your one customer was going to be? When I say “one customer” I don’t mean one person, obviously, I mean this profile.

Bob: Actually, in auto repair it boiled down real simple: there are a certain number of people that walk in, they throw you the keys, you have their credit card on file and they say, “Bob, just fix it”. They don’t want you to bother them during the day. What I did is I went through my database of customers and I had a handful of those people. I liked to call them my advocates. These are people that love me, trust me, no matter what I said, they just buy it.

It’s not a hassle. They allowed me to be profitable. I took really good care of them. I gave them everything I could. I would think up new things to give them to keep them happy. What I did was I analyzed those people based on their income, where did they live, those types of things.

I built this picture of an “A” client. I went and bought lists of people that matched that criteria. Lo and behold, we got a successful business. The formula is not that complicated, but getting all the pieces together is sometimes going to be a little crazy. That’s what we do.

Trent: Where’d you learn that? Was there a book?

Bob: I learned that from Dan Kennedy. I learned that from being around direct response marketers. I got involved with a mastermind group at a young age. Thank the Lord above that I did because I was able to really accelerate my understanding with that.

Trent: Let’s talk about that for a minute because I’m a big believer in masterminding. I’ve been a participant of masterminds in the past. I’ve launched my own masterminds. I’m getting ready to relaunch my mastermind. Tell me, why do you think being in a mastermind is such a good thing?

Bob: You don’t know what you don’t know. In the simplest terms, that is the absolute reason you need to be in it. I’ll give you a quick story. This is the power of a mastermind. I’m struggling to grow this business. I’m deeply in debt. I’m charged up to the wazoo on my credit cards and I needed a loan. I knew that if I didn’t get this loan I was going to be in some deep trouble.

I went to the bank, they said “No”. I had made one late payment on my mortgage. It was just over 30 days late. It was a black mark on my credit. It was the only black mark, but they would not loan me any money because of it. I was kind of embarrassed about that.

I look back now and I can smile. At the time, it was a really big deal to me. I was really upset about it. I was involved in this mastermind group. I was committed to it. I flew out. The meeting was whatever, but I was having lunch with this guy. We were sitting there and I was struggling with this in my mind and I was worried about it. The conversation came up so I said, “I’m just going to let the guard down. I’m just going to be honest”.

I told this guy what was happening and he goes, “You know, Bob, why don’t you just call them up and ask them to remove it?” I went, “What? They’ll do that?” He goes, “Yes. It happened for me. Just call them. You have a good payment record. Just call and ask them to remove that. Tell them your situation and see what they do.” It never occurred to me, ever, that I could call the creditor and that they would even consider doing that. That little piece of information twisted my head and I went, “Okay”. I went home and called them.

Sure enough, they removed it, got the loan, boom. I was rocking and rolling. All of that changed because I was in an environment with other entrepreneurs and other business people who have been through and around these types of things. It made all the difference in the world. That’s just one example that I can think of. I could give you 100 more. We could talk all day about it. The power is in other people’s perceptions.

Trent: We could go on and on. I’m sometimes known for hijacking my own interviews and telling my own stories. I’m going to refrain. I’m not going to do it. No. What were you paying, though, for this mastermind, to be a part of it?

Bob: Ten thousand dollars a year was the cost of that one, plus airfare and hotel, meals and so on. I look back now and I did not have the money. I mean, I had to scrape up the money together, every dime I had to get to those things and be part of that. Oh my God. If I hadn’t done I know for a fact I would still be either turning wrenches or slaving away at some repair shop and not where I am today.

Trent: Chances are you wouldn’t have got that loan. If you didn’t get that loan…

Bob: Who knows? I would have gone bankrupt.

Trent: All right. You’ve been doing this direct marketing. This is all pre-Infusionsoft. Back then. Let me guess, lots of moving parts, lots of manual processes, lots of work and things falling through the cracks. Am I kind of painting a reasonably accurate picture?

Bob: I don’ think you’re painting it as painful as it actually was. We were doing a lot of direct mail. I do multi-step sequence mailings to get people to respond. It was our most successful thing. I think you can imagine. Let’s say you get a list of 3,000 people. This is a real world example.

You divide that up and let’s say we divide that into 1,000 each. We’re going to mail it and 1,000 people get letter number one. Two weeks later those same people get letter number two. Another two weeks later they get letter number three. I called it my three step letter. Each letter is specific to that person. It has a specific expiration date and it’s always the same for those people. You get a letter and it says this expires six weeks from now. That’s letter number one.

Letter number two: “Hey, it’s still six weeks from now”. It’s very, very powerful marketing. That’s cool. That itself is pretty complicated to make sure the right person is getting the right letter at the right time. Now, what if you wanted to do multiple mailings at the same time? There’s a two week window. What if I decided we’re going to mail out this letter, letter number one, to this 1,000.

Week number two, in between, we’re going to take the second part of that list and mail them letter number one. We started multi-stepping these things. We had calendars going, I had assistants to try and track this stuff and make sure it all went right. I’ll tell you what, it didn’t always go right. It screwed up a lot.

Trent: I’m seeing landmines all over the place here.

Bob: The process was a nightmare. I tried to outsource a couple of times with minimal success. A lot of times, even the mailing houses would screw it up or they wanted a lot of money to manage a campaign like this. It became the law of diminishing returns when you start doing that. We had some fun in the pre-Infusionsoft days.

Trent: You mentioned you had some assistants. In addition to your own time, you had labor costs associated with all of your hard costs of actually mailing these letters out?

Bob: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. She still works for me part-time. She was responsible to get all those mailings out.

Trent: Where I’m going with this is, for example, when I spoke with Janette Gleason the other day, folks, if you don’t know who she is she’s another interview that I’ve done so look for that interview on the blog, they, pre-Infusionsoft, were spending $15,000 per month.

After Infusionsoft was deployed they were spending $1,500 per month and they tripled their revenue. Can you give me a sense of what was the spend before you put Infusionsoft in place? You probably had much higher labor, I’m guessing, than you did afterward?

Bob: Yes. There’s actually no comparison. I don’t have the exact numbers here but I can tell you it’s probably a third. My assistant was full-time with me at that point trying to manage all these. I gave you the example of the three-step letter campaign but we were doing follow-up mailings, new customer mailings, we were doing all kinds of different moving parts. There was a referral program that she would manage. Even with her working full-time, a lot of these pieces would break. If she took time off, some of the things didn’t get done.

After Infusionsoft I took all of those processes, put them into Infusionsoft for that business, I have 72 individual processes that work now. We’re doing my Infusionsoft app for that repair shop business, and I cut her time down to about five or six hours a week. That’s all she works now. She physically makes sure the stuff gets in the mail but she doesn’t have to know who gets what or when or keep track of any of that stuff. It’s all automatic and done with Infusionsoft.

Trent: All right. The audience is probably saying, “Enough with the old school. Let’s talk about what’s working today.” I just wanted to make sure people really understood the problem that Infusionsoft helps people to solve. In case anyone is curious, yes, I’m an Infusionsoft user as well. I’m a big advocate. As a matter of fact, that was one of the reasons why I started Bright Ideas.

Once I started using Infusionsoft in my business I thought, “Oh my God. If I would have known about this stuff back when I had my tech company” I don’t know when Infusionsoft was started, it was probably available in a more rudimentary form, but all I can say is, “Good Lord”. It would have been exponentially easier. Back then I wasn’t even building a list. I had a website with no opt-in form. Can you believe that?

Bob: I actually know that most businesses these days don’t. Even though it seems like we talk about this stuff all the time, if you stopped 100 people on the street that are business owners and said, “Hey, you got an opt-in form on your website?” They would be like, “What’s that?” This is the thing that really gets me excited, Trent. Anyone who is watching this, you are on the absolute bleeding edge of what I believe is the next revolutionary technology.

Not just Infusionsoft, but marketing automation, along with Infusionsoft, understanding these principles, will transform small businesses. It is going to have an enormous impact not just on small, but on small to medium businesses. It’s going to have an unbelievably huge impact. Those people who are going to take that technology and start to use it and run with it are going to be the next Bill Gates. That’s the impact this is going to have on the American and worldwide business community.

Trent: I couldn’t agree more. Again, that’s why I started Bright Ideas, because I wanted to interview guys like you who can say to my audience, “Look, this stuff works. This is how you do it”. Enough. Let’s get into it. Let’s talk about Infusionsoft. We’re going to need to do a master class, which is when we get into it way, way more details. I’m going to be all over you afterward about that.

Those are only available for my premium members and I’ll talk about that later. As best we can, let’s talk about the overview of the process. I call it the ‘life cycle of a lead’, from how you’re getting the lead, how it gets into Infusionsoft, what happens. We’re not going to go super granular and talk about action sets and campaigns because without seeing it on the screen people won’t have a clue what we’re talking about. But, conceptually.

Bob: Until you dive in there, I won’t go to that depth. You want to start with capturing leads?

Trent: Top of the funnel, yes.

Bob: Start with your website. Here’s the best gift I can give to anyone that’s watching this: 99.9% of the web designers out there don’t know anything at all about how to make money online. If they did, they would not be working building websites for $15.00 or $20.00 an hour or whatever they’re getting paid.

There is such an opportunity to make enormous amounts of money if your website is properly designed by somebody who understands direct response marketing, understands how to capture leads from the web. That is the foundation piece.

All this Infusionsoft stuff is kind of behind the scenes things that happen. It manages all these processes and it markets to your people and it can do all that stuff. If you don’t have a good lead generation thing to start with, that’s going to bring people in. I don’t care if that’s brick and mortar or online business. It’s the same for both. I’ll give you some statistics about that in a second. You’ve got to start with the foundation piece. It’s a properly designed, direct response website. There are almost none out there. That’s part one.

The top of the funnel, you’ve got a lead coming in from your website on an opt-in form or people are requesting more information. That information goes into Infusionsoft, triggers a response. They’re going to either get an email back or get physical mail back, a DVD, a CD, they’re going to get something from you. They’re going to get a phone call from a sales rep. All of those behind the scenes things can be managed through Infusionsoft, but that’s where it all starts.

Trent: Okay. I want to go a little deeper there because I know that 99% of the people who are listening to this are kind of going, “Well, how does that happen?” They fill out the form, name and email, they hit that Submit button. They get an email and it says, “Here’s your report” or whatever it was that you promised. That’s called a lead magnet, for anyone who’s wondering. That then creates a record in Infusionsoft, which is the software that you and I pay to use. Then what happens?

There’s all these processes that we can create to have them fire all on autopilot. Can you give me an example of how that works for you? You mentioned some things that I don’t do. I don’t do direct mail. I don’t mail CDs. I want to know how automated is that kind of thing?

Bob: It’s completely and totally automated. One of the things you can decide to do, a lead comes in, you can say, “Okay, send an email to a sales rep with this person’s information and have that sales rep call them”. You can have a fulfillment list that goes out to a mailing house that says, “Send this person this CD”. You can have a letter that goes out, a postcard, a voice broadcast where an automated call goes out to the person and says, “Hey, thanks for reaching out to us. We’re going to get back to you”. You can do so many different things.

It’s virtually only limited by your imagination. I just recently started playing around with text messaging. If somebody comes into my funnel I’m going to text them and see if I can get them to respond that way. We’re going to do some testing in that area. All of those things are part of this whole marketing system that you’re going to put together for your small business. It really is what makes the difference.

Trent: What I’m trying to get people to appreciate is that back when I had my business, the only marketing that I did was picking up the phone and making cold calls. If I wasn’t picking up the phone, and if I wasn’t making cold calls, there was no marketing happening. Every day that I went to work I had this panic feeling of, “There are no leads coming in. There are no leads coming in”. I hated cold calling with a passion because it was so ineffective.

Bob: Let me put this in perspective for anyone watching this. Forget about the new leads just for a second. It’s super important for every business. I can guarantee you that almost everyone watching this that’s in business right now has a stack of papers or business cards that they’ve collected that they know for a fact there is money sitting in that pile, but they haven’t followed up with those people.

What if you had an automated system that you didn’t have to do anything at all and it followed up relentlessly with those people, those new people, those contacts that you’d made, talking about your products, your services, educating them and giving them free stuff. What would happen? What would happen? Would you make more money?

I’ve never met anyone yet who is in business that doesn’t have that scenario. The reason is that in business you’re busy. The phone rings, you have this going on, there’s all these moving pieces. You, as the owner, are typically running around doing all of that stuff.

Sometimes those things fall through the cracks and that’s the power of having a system in place that works 24/7, never gets tired, never takes a day off, using and putting together all of these marketing sequences to make money and make sales for you. It may not be instant. It may be down the road. It seeds the list. It works the people and educates them for you, so you can continually just make sales.

Trent: That’s why your car repair shop makes so much money, because that’s happening all the time. Let’s go back to that. I know we’re both pretty excited about Infusionsoft and I don’t want people to listen to this interview and think, “Well, that was just one big Infusionsoft commercial”.

Bob: By the way, you can do this all without Infusionsoft. That’s a disclaimer right there.

Trent: It takes a lot more work. What is your website for your auto repair shop?

Bob: It’s pro-autocare.com.

Trent: All right. If anyone is listening and they’re not driving their car, presumably they’ll punch up this. There you are.

Bob: You’ll recognize me right away. You’ll notice that it doesn’t look like an auto repair shop website.

Trent: No, it definitely does not. $200.00 at the top, which is your guarantee, you’ve got your contact info, okay. Walk me through. Someone comes to this site and where do you get most of your leads from on this site?

Bob: Two things. Right on the right column, you’ll notice that there’s an opt-in form for a free report. Also, it should pop up a banner at the bottom offering a free report as well.

Trent: There’s the “Make an appointment” button.

Bob: If you scroll down slightly on the right.

Trent: Free report: learn the seven deadly sins people make when choosing an auto repair store.

Bob: Interestingly enough, and anyone who’s in the internet marketing space would say, “How come you make them scroll to make them see the opt-in?” I’ve tested this. We used to have it right above the headline.

Trent: I was looking at it and going, “I don’t know about this”.

Bob: I tested it. It works better that way, believe it or not. We get more opt-ins on this particular one because the headline is so important. I’m driving a lot of traffic from pay per click and other places and they need to see the headline right away. Obviously, they see the banner. But the headline is very important as well.

Trent: It’s funny you mentioned the banner and I scrolled to the bottom of the page. I’m like, “What banner?” Then I just noticed the big orange banner across the bottom.

Bob: Yes, the other one. That’s the second opt-in that pops up.

Trent: People fill this in, they get a report. What happens next? Does it go by email? It must.

Bob: Yes. I deliver the free report by email. Obviously, we follow up and invite them in. We do a couple of other things. We offer them a discount to come visit us for the first time, so it gives them some incentive to visit us the first time. Here’s the thing that you should really take away from this, tracking is one of the big things we talk about in direct response marketing.

You’re not going to do anything if you can’t track it, which is why I love the web so much because it’s so easy to track everything. I know for an absolute fact that when people find my repair shop on the web, versus coming in any other way, that they spend almost three times more money. I started to look at that. Why would people be spending more when they come from online versus direct mail or other ways they come in? If you think about it, it makes total sense.

The people that are looking for repair shops online have a broken car. Something is wrong right now. This is the beauty of the web and getting all these pieces right. Back in the old day, when I was doing all that direct mail, I would have to front all this money, spend all this money to put the mail out then hope that somebody had a need and they would come in and take advantage of that offer. Now, this whole thing has been flipped upside down.

Somebody has a need right now, they’re looking for me. All I’ve got to do is not mess up the sale. I’ve got to convince them that we’re the best option for them to get their car fixed and it’s an immediate sale. They have a need, they find me and we’re golden. They see that website, I’m putting my money where my mouth is right away. This is the beauty of this whole thing, this whole internet marketing for small businesses. This is where it’s at. This is exciting stuff.

Trent: I’m willing to bet that the 99.99% of your competitors are completely and totally clueless.

Bob: Utterly clueless. I love going and looking at my competitors. I have competitors who are spending humongous amounts of money on pay-per-click advertising with Google ad words and other things. I know where they’re driving the traffic. I go there and I’m like, “These guys are just killing themselves and they don’t even know it.” They see me doing it so they’re doing it too, but their website is never going to convert anyone to buy ever.

Trent: They opt-in. They get the free report. You guys follow. I’m assuming you must have some sequences that include making a phone call. Do you get the phone number at some point in here?

Bob: It’s on the bottom of every email that comes in. Obviously, as soon as you opt-in an email actually goes from my service manager to you, inviting you to come in. He doesn’t send it, but Infusionsoft sends it for him. It actually drives you back to the web to make your appointment.

If you click the “Make an appointment” button, that’s an Infusionsoft web form that then follows up religiously with people once the appointment request is made. He will either call or email. He’ll email automatically from Infusionsoft but we’ll follow up with a phone call to get people to come in. All of those processes that are happening, you can see the front of it is the website. The whole behind the scenes stuff is Infusionsoft.

Trent: I notice you have a tab called “Internet coupons”. Does that work well?

Bob: It works very well. You’ll also notice that the coupons have an expiration date on them. If you look closely and come back tomorrow, you’ll realize that the expiration date is based upon 14 days from the day you view the page. We’re always timely.

Trent: Are you using iMember360 as the plug-in on that? Is this a WordPress site?

Bob: It is a WordPress site. I am using iMember360. I have a membership portal for my customer base there. They can log in, look at their invoices, it actually does up-sells within my membership portal.

Trent: How are you having the date automatically change? Is that just a bit of Javascript?

Bob: Yes. A little bit. Now, we’re getting granular. It’s a little Javascript that does that. That’s an important point from a marketer standpoint. You guys have probably seen this, anyone watching this. You go to a website and you see coupons and they’re expired or they’re out of date. Just that one little tweak and that’s an automation thing. Put a little bit of script in there, we’re able to keep the coupons fresh. I can update them if I want to. The expiration date puts a sense of urgency on the coupon.

Trent: There are a lot of lessons to be learned. You don’t need to be in the auto repair business. I hope that you’re realization that if you’re cutting hair or you’re a florist or you’re an accountant or whomever is running a brick and mortar business and you’re relying on just foot traffic to bring people to your business, there’s so much more that you could be doing, so much more. It’s not terribly expensive to do all this stuff.

Bob: You know what it takes, really? Getting around some people who are doing this stuff and they can show you how. That’s the big thing.

Trent: Back to the mastermind yet again.

Bob: Yes. It really is. Like we started out saying before, this stuff is so cutting edge that nobody knows this stuff. It’s not that many people. You can’t stop people on the street. It’s not common knowledge that this stuff even exists or how to put all the pieces together. I’ve had people come in to my group that have spend 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars on a website and it doesn’t make them a dime. They didn’t know that you could get this stuff done for a couple hundred bucks.

Trent: Are you still direct mailing where you’re just buying lists?

Bob: Absolutely.

Trent: Okay. How much are you spending per month on direct mail versus how much are you spending, I’m assuming you’re doing pay-per-click to drive traffic to your site?

Bob: I am.

Trent: How much on each of those two activities?

Bob: I spend about a grand a month on pay-per-click and I spend about maybe $1,200 on direct mail.

Trent: You said you track a lot of your stuff.

Bob: I track all my stuff.

Trent: How much revenue is coming, and it might be blurry because your direct mail is probably driving traffic to your site, right?

Bob: Well, it is, but it’s a specific offer with a coupon code so when they physically show up in my shop I know that they came from direct mail. I did one other thing, too, that we’re getting a little granular but I think it’s important because people like this. I did something that nobody had done before.

I don’t know that anybody has done it again. I tied Infusionsoft into my point –of-sale system at my repair shop. This point-of-sale, which is a computer, physically, sitting at my repair shop, at my service manager’s desk, is at night synchronized and all the data goes up into Infusionsoft by a special program link that I had created.

When I do all my direct mail now, that entire list is imported into Infusionsoft. There are no email addresses so it doesn’t violate any terms of use. You get a piece of direct mail from me, even if you don’t use the coupon code, you’re in Infusionsoft.

I had a special algorithm written so that the point-of-sale, when you show up at the shop, it says, “Hey, wait a minute. This guy lives at this address. He must have been direct mail. He’s a response to this direct mail”, even if you don’t use the coupon or the offer. I’m tracking it automatically based upon that, using that system.

Trent: Which is giving you the higher ROI: direct mail or pay-per-click?

Bob: It’s definitely pay-per-click, by probably 10 to 1 at this point. The last I looked, I haven’t looked in a while, I’ll be honest, at last look we were doing $45,000 a month in direct from my website and/or pay-per-click combined from the web.

Trent: It makes perfect sense because of what you said before. The pay-per-click is working because people have a problem with their car. They’re looking for a solution right now. Direct mail, you’re just farming. You’re planting seeds. “I’m in your neighborhood. When your car breaks down, think of me. Think of me. Think of me”. Again, that’s why the whole online part is just so incredibly effective. Are there any video customer testimonials? Are they anywhere in your sales funnel? Like, “Bob’s a great guy. I love the store. Blah blah blah”?

Bob: I do not have video but if you go to the testimonials page, there I have pages. I actually built a custom automated system for testimonial collection as well. When a customer picks up their vehicle there’s a nice thank you card that drives them back to the web to leave their remarks. When they do that, they can go right online and put that in.

It’s an Infusionsoft web form that then captures that information and automatically publishes it to my website upon my approval. I’m getting new stuff coming in. Again, the testimonials page is no longer a static thing, it’s constantly being updated by my customers.

Trent: Yes, there’s a gazillion of them on there.

Bob: There’s a gazillion on there, yes. In fact, every couple of days, sometimes there’s gaps, but every few days somebody puts one on there. It’s a great way to constantly have that happen.

Let’s go back to the beauty of Infusionsoft. Back in the day, somebody would send a testimonial in or leave one for us someplace and we’d have to write them a letter saying thank you and send them a little thank you card or whatever. Infusionsoft now automates that whole process.

If somebody fills out the thing it sends them a thank you. I do a little gift card that goes along with it as a thanks for their testimonial. I don’t have to do anything. Nobody has to do anything. It just happens.

Trent: Are you using send-out cards?

Bob: Yes.

Trent: Janette, she has it tied directly into Infusionsoft.

Bob: I do as well.

Trent: You do as well. I think somebody makes a third-party piece of software to do that. Is that correct?

Bob: That is correct. There are a couple of guys doing that now. It makes it real simple that Infusionsoft basically sends an email and they can get a gift card, greeting card, cookies, whatever you want to send. I do birthday gifts, greeting cards, cookies, that kind of stuff, all kinds of different things. Again, the sky is the limit. What your brain can conceive, you can get it done.

Trent: What percentage of your annual revenue comes from repeat customers versus new customers?

Bob: Repeat business is three-quarters of my business, three-quarters at least. It has to be that way, too. Otherwise I’m not doing something right.

Trent: Yes. I don’t want people to think that by hearing that they should just focus on their existing customers. People are always moving and dying. If you’re not bringing new blood into the fold then you’re dying as well. It’s important that you do both.

Bob: I think you do have to do both. Although, most of the time, as business owners, I do think we get caught up in new business, new business, new business and we forget that, actually, if we worked a little bit harder on getting more money out of our existing customers we would do really, really well. There is two really good targets right there.

There’s only three ways to build a business, right? Three and only three; you get more customers, you get each customer to buy more, so a higher transaction size. Then you get them to come back more frequently. Out of those three, 66%, now, the two, are dealing with existing customers, higher transaction size and more repeat business. I think it is a valuable target to go after the new customers and you definitely need to spend time there. It can be more profitable if you focus on those other two areas as well.

Trent: Bob, I want to talk a little bit more about, if you haven’t covered it already, your best strategy for getting repeat business from your customers. Then, if people want to get a hold of you, because I know that you’ve got an Infusionsoft mastermind and I want to give you an opportunity to talk a little bit about that. So, let’s go with those two and then we’ll wrap up.

Bob: The first one was what’s the best idea for getting repeat business?

Trent: Yes.

Bob: The best idea I’ve ever heard or came up with and developed was getting people to pay me in advance for my services. Here’s the thing that I’ve come to realize: we all, as business owners and human beings, actually, accept that there’s boundaries and limits based upon our own thinking. I think if you stopped 100 people on the street and said, “Would you ever consider prepaying for auto repair?” 99 out of 100 would say, “You’re out of your mind. I’m never going to do that.” I get a lot of people to do that.

The benefit to me is that I give them a lot of benefit for doing so. There’s a whole program that goes along with it. It’s a great sales pitch that I put together for it. It actually benefits them tremendously. They get the best price, the best discount all the time, all that kind of stuff. They’re prepaying me every month. Their credit card gets dinged for a set amount that we’ve agreed upon or they’ve opted-in for.

I have money rolling in before I even put the key in the door and open for day one of business at the first of the month. That is guaranteed locking them in to do business with me for as long as they stay in the program. I already have their money. It’s already been prepaid. It’s a great program. I think with a little bit of creative thinking and stretching your own assumptions of what people will or will not do.

Just about any business can come up with something that gets a cash flow system like that in place. In the info businesses we call that continuity. We want to add continuity coming in. I haven’t seen a business yet where we haven’t been able to come up with some way where we have that kind of thing. That’s one. That’s a higher level.

Trent: Can I interrupt you for just a moment? Something I want people to understand: I had a computer fixing business. We built continuity into that business and I was able to sell that business for $1.2 million when I was done. If I did not have that continuity, that business would not have been worth 10 cents because people who are wanting to buy a business, they want certainty. They want predictable cash flow.

If for no other reason other than your exit strategy, which is the time when it comes to sell your business, if you want to build value you have got to figure out some way to build continuity into your business. Sorry, I just could not go past it without hammering that point home.

Bob: Couldn’t resist that one, could you?

Trent: No. It’s so important.

Bob: The other thing you can do is never work in your business and it makes it a lot more valuable to an investor.

Trent: It does. They don’t like buying businesses that are all wrapped around one person. People don’t like that.

Bob: That’s very, very true. The other thing, real quick, is to have some kind of club or membership that people can buy into. Obviously, I call that my VIP program when it’s prepaid. I also have what I call the ‘Car Care Club’ card where they can buy a card and it’s a bunch of services at a discounted price which also locks them into doing business with me.

They’ve basically bought a discount and it’s guaranteed that they’re going to come back to me again and again and again when they have a problem. Those are two quick strategies that pretty much any business can use to get that working for them.

Trent: Okay. Which kind of segues us into the whole mastermind thing because people might be thinking, “Well, yes. But how do I figure that out?” That’s, I think, a great segue. If you want to talk a little bit about your mastermind, this is your chance.

If you have a URL where people can get more information, please feel free to give that. If there’s any kind of coupon codes or anything that you can extend to my audience, mention that and we’ll make sure that underneath this interview there’s whatever links they can click on to get whatever deals there might be available.

Bob: Let me tell you how this came about. I built this whole system with Infusionsoft, took this business to the moon and was kind of bored. I was home and I was like, “This is boring”. I started another business and started another one after that. I’ve got three different businesses now. My second one was in the IT industry like you, Trent. I sell marketing information to the IT industry. That’s completely online, completely automated business.

Then, I won the ‘Ultimate Marketer’ from Infusionsoft in 2012, got a lot of notoriety around that. It talked a little bit about my repair shop and these other businesses that I started. I realized that there was a real need within the Infusionsoft space to have a sense of community. There’s some there now but I wanted to take it to a whole other level.

I wanted to get a group of people who are serious about taking their business to another level and helping other people work together. I kind of felt like it was almost my duty to do so because I had been given so much in the past at my own mastermind that I had been part of and I had some real key people that made a big difference in my life. I said, “You know, it’s time to do the same thing”.

I created what we call the ‘Marketing Automation Group’, or MAG, for short. Some people who are in the Infusionsoft space may have heard of it. It’s not a huge group. I don’t want a great, big, huge group. It’s a small group of very passionate entrepreneurs. We work on all facets of business: hiring and firing, management, sales strategies, marketing, direct response marketing.

The common theme that runs through everything is automation. We take all of these ideas and we say, “Okay, how can you take that strategy and how can we automate as much of it as possible, if not all of it?” We come up with new ideas. Members share with each other. It’s really a fun and exciting group.

You can go to marketingautomationgroup.com. I just have a basic funnel there right now. I don’t really do a lot of online sales for that business. I actually do most of it in person. At this point, we get a lot of referrals from people that are members who have friends and they’re wanting to get in business. Don’t expect a big, fancy sales funnel because it doesn’t exist. But, make no mistake.

When it comes to building your business, we’re very, very serious about helping our members. We’re seeing some tremendous results that people have gotten. I’ll give you another link, too, actually, at the end of it. I don’t want to say the wrong thing in the recording.

I’ll give you another one, Trent, that you can put underneath the video. People can get more information as well. It’s not for everyone. It’s not cheap to be part of our mastermind. It’s for people who understand what we’re doing here and want to be part of something bigger. I think one of our members said it really well. He said, “My sales are up but the most important thing is having infinitely more fun along the way than he ever could have doing it himself”.

Trent: My sales are up but my work is down.

Bob: Yes. And he’s having fun with his new friends. It’s pretty cool.

Trent: How much is it for people to become a member of this?

Bob: It’s $13,000 a year to join plus travel expenses. There’s a whole list of things that you get as part of your involvement in the program. I’ll give you the link that gives that out to everyone. I will make an offer to your people that are watching this or want to join your master class. We’ve got to talk about the specifics of that. I’ll definitely discount that some for people who see this and say, “You know what? This is the kind of thing I’ve been waiting for. I know this is going to be right for me”. They can see the ROI of being part of something like this. I’ll make a special offer to them.

Trent: Okay. Terrific. Thank you very much for making the time. This has been a fun interview. I think that you and I are going to be talking lots more in the months to come. I just love being around other passionate, energetic entrepreneurs who are excited about what they’re doing. That’s why it’s such a privilege for me to be the host of Bright Ideas because I get to talk to you guys every day.

It’s pretty rare that I have a day where I feel like I’m overworked or things aren’t going that well. They have. We’re entrepreneurs. We’re humans. It all happens. But every day that I do an interview, I get this dose. I get my fix basically.

I hope that my audience gets as much of a fix out of these interviews as I do. I want to thank all of you guys for being my audience. If you think this is good stuff, please tell somebody else about it. Put it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, wherever it helps spread the word. For that, I would be really appreciative.

Bob, again, thank you so much for making the time.

Bob: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me. It was really fun.

Trent: All right. Take care.

Bob: Okay. Bye.

Trent: Okay. If you want to get the show notes for today’s episode, go to brightideas.co/14. The other thing I want to tell you about is the Massive Traffic Toolkit. If you go to brightideas.co/massivetraffic and enter your email address you’re going to get instant access to the Massive Traffic Toolkit.

What is the Massive Traffic Toolkit all about? It is a compilation of all the best traffic generation strategies that have been shared with me by all those really smart people that I’ve had here on Bright Ideas. The really great part about all these ideas is that you don’t have to be some kind of SEO guru to be able to implement them.

To get access, again, just go to brightideas.co/massivetraffic and enter your email address. You’ll have access right away. That’s it for this episode. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid.

If you really loved this episode or, heck, even if you just liked it a little, please do me a favor and head over to iTunes and give it a five-star feedback. Go ahead and leave a comment.

The more people that do that, the more visibility that comes to the Bright Ideas podcast and the more people that we can help with all of the really terrific bright ideas that are shared by the experts that I’m so privileged to have on my show.

Thanks very much for being a member of the audience. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this episode:

How to Increase Web Traffic and Stay Well Ahead of the Competition by Marketing to a Huge Volume of Customers

Bob talks about his success building and running a brick and mortar business with the help of marketing strategies that are also applicable to small and medium online enterprises.

You’ll hear him discuss these marketing strategies that can be applied universally to all forms of business.

Marketing plays a big part in the overall success of a business or brand. With well implemented and well planned marketing strategies, entrepreneurs can expect severalfold growth in profit.

Bob’s automotive shop earns exponentially more than the industry norms. Image source: 123rf.com

Listen to the show to discover how Bob managed to create and implement efficient plans that helped him grow his profits both online and offline.

Automation is an important key step in maximizing the returns of any investment. Bob paints a realistic picture that shows just how essential automation in marketing really is for the overall financial success of a business.

A business that wants to dominate in a field or niche will ultimately have to deal with competition. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you should be able to make full use of all available technologies to market your business efficiently to your potential clients. To do this, you should reach huge volumes of your target clients. Bob makes this clear as he explains the best strategies that entrepreneurs need to utilize to market to their customers.

Bob’s business is so profitable largely because of the marketing automation he’s put into place. Image source: 123rf.com

Listen as Bob shares his extraordinary tale of triumph as he reveals his beginnings as a young man in need of a job to a mature and successful entrepreneur earning $1,100,000 a year in his auto repair business.

Many modern day online methods of marketing evolved from old school strategies. Learn the connection between the old school and the modern-day marketing strategies by listening to the show.

If you wish to build and manage a successful business, whether online or brick-and-mortar, you first need to hire and manage the right people. Learn from Bob’s experience by listening to him recount his beginner’s mistakes in hiring the wrong people.

If you wish to go far with your business, you need to take good care of your clients or customers. Before you do however, you must first know just who your client or customer really is. Bob discusses just how important customer profiling is and relates the techniques he has used to bring him his present day success. He first starts by describing what he calls his “advocates” and later on proceeds to outline his method of creating an ideal customer profile.

Customer profiling has played a huge role in Bob’s success. Image source 123rf.com

Listen to the show to discover just how you can use your creative mind to gather and analyze information required to help you create a clear picture of your customer.

The Mastermind Principle helps individuals achieve their goals with the help of others. Bob describes the importance of a Mastermind concisely by relating it to the single piece of information that changed his entire life.

Listen to the show to learn just how being in a Mastermind has allowed Bob to achieve the successes that he has now experienced.

The internet is an extremely powerful tool for business. It allows entrepreneurs to run their operations faster, more accurately and infinitely more fun. Bob explains the great potential for success that current entrepreneurs have with the available software and technology by comparing the next successful small or medium sized enterprise to Bill Gates- type success.

Bob explains just how to boost your sales with direct marketing and automated marketing campaigns. He shares many proven strategies that defeat the law of diminishing returns that are so inherent with today’s websites and business models.

Direct marketing is an absolute must, say Bob. Image source 123rf.com

Listen to the show to learn why it is important to have an Opt-in Form and just where to place these forms on your site.

Bob boldly states that 99% of web designers and web masters DON’T know how to create websites. He then proceeds to state the common mistakes of average or ordinary websites and web designers that don’t generate and convert leads into profit.

A business always aims to bring in new customers and keep old ones to remain successful in their specific field. Listen as Bob enumerates wise business facts that allow you to do just that.

Listen to the show to learn Bob’s best ideas for creating and keeping leads.

About Bob Britton

BobBrittonFeaturedBob Britton is a business owner, direct response specialist, author and speaker who has 19 years experience building and growing brick-and-mortar companies as well as online businesses.

He started his career as an auto repair mechanic but his ambition brought him to new heights. He soon built and managed his very own successful auto repair business at pro-autocare.com. His business genius has allowed him to win the Infusionsoft Ultimate Marketer Award for 2010.

Aside from running three successful companies he is also actively involved in his Infusion Coaching Group and Marketing Automation Group that allow him to coach and influence other hardcore entrepreneurs.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Use Internet Video Marketing to Drive Traffic to Your Business with Chris Savage

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Chris is the CEO and co-founder of Wistia. He lives and works in and around Cambridge, MA.

He likes to talk about startups, marketing, video, evolutionary health, company culture and doing a lot with a little.

You can bribe him with coffee, a delicious and healthy lunch or a game of ping pong.

He also likes to play with Instagram.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How a Brand New Blogger Got 50,000 Visitors in His First 30 Days – Without a List or Affiliate Promotion

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Peep is the face of ConversionXL. His unusual name (to most people) is actually pronounced ‘Pep Laya’. He’s from Estonia, but lives mainly in the US these days.

Peep is an entrepreneur and a conversion optimization junkie. He runs a unique conversion optimization marketing agency called Markitekt (they make existing sites better and build new conversion optimized websites) + several niche internet businesses such as T1Q.

Peep delivers trainings and workshops on conversion optimization and internet marketing, consults businesses in need and plans the architecture of websites that sell.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How One Entrepreneur Used Media Coverage to Go from Zero to $20 Million: An Interview with Jeremy Shepherd

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Would you like to learn successful PR strategies that will reliably generate more media coverage?

How valuable would it be for you to learn actionable take-aways from someone generating millions in online revenue?
(over 20 million, to be exact)

In this episode of the Bright Ideas Podcast, Jeremy Shepherd reveals one golden nugget after another.

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The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Jeremy Shepherd, founder of Pearl Paradise.

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Transcript

An Interview with Jeremy Shepherd
Trent Dyrsmid: Hi there! Thank you so much for joining me for the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid. And this is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their business.On this episode I am joined by the founder and CEO of a company called PearlParadise.com. His name is Jeremy Shepherd and this is an amazing story of entrepreneurial success.Way back in 1996 Jeremy started this company. He was working as a flight attendant and had gone over, bought some pearls for his girlfriend, turns out they were got appraised for home issurance reasons they were worth far more than what he paid. And he started this business by financing it with his mastercard and he’s now doing $20 million a year at PearlParadise.com. And in this interview you’re gonna learn about a social media strategy that is unlike what I’ve heard of from any other guest that accounts for 30% of his sales and it takes him an hour a day to do this social media strategy.Then he’s also gonna explain his particular PR strategy that he’s used to get on TV, to get on major newspapers and one of those pieces of coverage in the newspaper accounted for millions of dollars in revenue. It actually tripled the revenue of his company. And then we’re also gonna talk about his very specific search marketing and search engine optimization strategy that he uses to drive traffic to his website.So I gotta tell you I get to do a lot of these interviews and this one I had a blast. You’re gonna love it. I have these things called golden nuggets, actionable take aways and I told Jeremy I said “Jeremy, I think you broke the record for golden nuggets in a single interview.” So please join me in welcoming Jeremy to the show.Alright Jeremy, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for making the time to do this interview with me. Yours is a very interesting story that started all off with the trip overseas and a mastercard. So we’ll get to that in a second but welcome aboard.Jeremy Shepherd: Thank you. Nice to be here.T: So as I just mentioned before we started recording, I always like to right away give my listeners kind of the reason why they wanna keep listening to this interview and yours is a phenomenal success story to say the least. So why don’t you first of all tell us a little bit, tell us what your company does, how you make money and then kind of how much revenue you’re doing today and then we’ll go back and talk a bit about how you got started.J: Well my company is PearlParadise.com Incorporated. We’re doing about $20 million a year revenue and we sell pearls, nothing but pearls.T: Pretty simple business model.J: Pretty simple.T: In a cocktail party what do you do? I sell pearls, a lot of pearls. So this started back in 1996, is that right?J: Right.T: So at the time you were a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. You were overseas in Asia somewhere and you bought a string of pearls for your girlfriend and then suddenly they were worth a whole lot more than… do you wanna talk about that story?J: Yeah I was a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. I grew up as an army breadth and I was speaking multiple languages so it’s easy for me to get a job at the airlines. They’re always looking for foreign language speakers. And it was all the way over at Beijing actually. One of the popular things for flight attendants to do was either go to the pearl market, the hometown of *inaudible. And everyday flight attendants go there they buy bags, whatever, you name it. But there was a section there actually 2 floors of the market they were dedicated to nothing but pearls. I’m not much of a shopper myself and I certainly wasn’t much of a jewelry shopper but one day I did decide to go there to get a string of pearls for my girlfriend. And I paid around $20 for the string of pearls and brought them back to the States, gave them to her and she had them appraised for her home owner’s issurance. And the appraisal came back at $600 and that was sort of an aha moment for me where I thought wow, maybe there’s some sort of business opportunity that I can make out of this. And that’s basically where the seeds are sown and where I started the business.T: Okay and then you didn’t get online for quite a while and I know that from now I think it’s fortunately all of your sales come from your website, is that correct?J: Yes. Now actually I did get online right away but I didn’t start with a website right away.T: Oh that’s right.

J: Well I started out, well when I first brought the pearl, I started bringing pearls in and just keeps growing over the time. I started visiting stores, a couple of jewelry stores, and I couldn’t really find a way to market that because jewelry stores for the most part they buy on consignment, on memo, they buy from the big pearl houses in New York where they’ve been purchasing for the last 100+ years and so it was difficult to break into that market. And a friend of mine called me one day and he said “hey Jeremy, I’ve got great idea where we can sell your pearls.” He’s been selling items on the internet on this new website called ebay and said “hey maybe you can sell pearls there too.” So pearls I sold actually were on Amazon. Amazon had a format similar to Ebay at that time Amazon auctions and it was a little bit difficult for me to figure out coz I had no experience on the internet whatsoever. And I started to dutch auctions on the Amazon giving them the information from the appraisal that my girlfriend had to describe the pearl and then he put a picture of it, put a dutch auction up and immediately started selling pearls. And my first dutch auction closed with everyone in the items up that I put up there sold.

T: Wow! Talk about a rapid reinforcement that you were on to something that was gonna work. That’s something we talk about anytime I’m talking to someone about how to get going and validate a market is surveys are great, customer focus groups are great but there ain’t anything better than the buy button.

J: They’re always better.

T: That is the best validation there is. So you very quickly were strongly reinforced that hey there’s something going on here so over the next few years how long was it until you built your own website? How long did you just keep doing this dutch auctions for?

J: I did auction probably for the first, I think close to 3 years. What I did was sell everything that I brought back from China, take the money go back to China, buy the same things and more things actually, and just kept doing auction. It didn’t occur to me at the time to build a website. When I started first selling pearls I barely knew how to turn on the computer let alone put up a website.

So my brother came up with the idea to build a website around 99 or 2000 and this is around the time where websites were a little bit more *inaudible things came out platforms that mom and pops could actually build their own websites without any background on HTML or programming. And so I built my own website myself. I sat about a week in a room, doors closed, working on it for a week’s straight. I took photos without a digital camera, a regular film camera, I got the photos developed. Went to Kinko’s where they had a scanner, scanned the photos up on to a disk, a real disk. Got the photos back home, loaded them up onto the website.

I think it took about a full week to build my website and put it this way, I wouldn’t be successful today if my websites still looked like the day I built it.

T: Yeah.

J: So 10+ years ago you didn’t need the flashiest websites to be able to sell online because the online medium was relatively new. Well it still is relatively new but it’s very new at that time. So yeah that’s how I started on the internet with my own website.

T: How long was it before you quit your job working for the airline?

J: I quit my job, well there’s actually 2 parts to this. I started to go abroad in the year 2000 or was it 2001, I’m sorry 2001, spring of 2001. And I took a leave from here. And I took a leave because I wasn’t a 100% confident that I could do this on my own coz up until this point it was really just sort of a part time hobby. I would carry pearls with me in my flight bag. I would carry a credit card processing machine in my flight bag and my computer. And so my business was raised from hotel rooms all around the US and around the world while I was still making money as a flight attendant. So I decided to take a leave of absence and I believe it was just a few months and focused solely on the *inaudible .com website. And by the end of the first month I knew that I would never go back to flying again.

I kept on taking leaves for a number of years because of course 9/11 happened so a lot of people in my industry lost their job and so they let more senior people like myself take leaves of absence so that they wouldn’t have to fire the junior people. So I was able to take leaves to about I would say almost 4 years before they finally asked me to come back to work and at that point I told them that it wasn’t gonna happen. But the great part of that was that taking a leave of absence not only did I save someone else’s job at the airlines but I got flight benefits for all those years. So I was able to travel all over the world to buy pearls and it was a benefit that you can’t imagine.

T: Well yeah you saved a whole bunch of money for sure.

J: Sure.

T: So when you first built the site how did you get traffic back then and is that in anyway, we’re gonna later in the interview of course we’re gonna talk about what’s really working well for you today, but I’m curious back then was getting traffic was it completely different strategies that you used to get traffic today or are they somewhat similar and what were they?

J: Back then we didn’t have the books that we have today, the leaders in the industry that we have today. It’s just things like SEO and SEM, social media, those sort of things, you know, those words weren’t even around back then. When I first started the way I got traffic for my website was again through the auction. I put advertisements up in all the auctions that I put on Amazon and on Ebay. I did very traditional method in the very beginning, business cards. I even tried some advertising in the newspapers, etc. But it really wasn’t until about 2003 when I started getting tremendous traffic to the website and that was from probably the best move I’ve ever made and I was hiring a PR agency.

T: Really, you mentioned that in the pre-interview questionnaire that you filled out for a side guy by the name of Paul Collins I think.

J: Paul Collins, yes.

T: Alright so we’re getting way out of order in the interview but whatever it doesn’t matter let’s talk about that because I think people are always looking for how do I get more traffic and I wanna give them that information. So let’s talk about what Paul did for you.

J: Well Paul called me out of the blue. And he found my website, saw my story and called me up and said “hey, who represents you as your PR agent?” And in my line, PR agents were for movie stars, bands. It never occured to me that I might need a PR agent. But that’s an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for opportunities. So I started to have lunch with the guy. Thought what could get hurt if I did have lunch with him. He brought forward that he wanted to represent me and what he did charge me I think was around $1,000-2,000 a month for a 6 months contract and at that time it sounded like buying a lottery ticket. What can I possibly get from a PR agent?

So we renegotiated a bit and I decided to have his services for a $1,000 a month and with no contract so I could let him go immediately. Because at that time a $1,000 a month, it was quite a bit of money. I was still a sole proprietor working on my own. And within I would say the first month he not only paid for himself but he paid for his services for a year. It was phenomenal. I was travelling in China during the SARS outbreak, he got public radio to interview me on the ground in China. He got News Weekly to interview me. It was like a roller coaster. Our sales increased exponentially immediately.

And he ended up moving out of the country after a couple of years but the last thing he did for me was he got me an interview with the Wall Street Journal. And it was nearly a half page interview on the front page of the market place section and that was the million dollar interview that changed my company from that day forward. The last paragraph in the interview said PearlParadise.com is the place for people to buy a strand of pearl they know would cost a $1,000 on a jewelry store but only $200 on PearlParadise.com. And the interview and the article literally tripled our traffic, tripled our sales and we’ve taken off since that point.

T: Wow! That is a phenomenal story. Now do you still work with Paul or is he?

J: I don’t. He moved believe it or not China, Shanghai, China. He lived there as a child and decided on a whim that he wanted to go back and he wanted to spend the rest of the days there and call me when they have send me up so *inaudible. And he’s still in China. Since then I’ve had a few other PR agents that have been a bit more expensive but none of them have been quite as successful as Paul Collins was.

T: Yeah, geez that’s too bad coz I’m hearing this I’m thinking I’d like to work with Paul as well.

J: He was pretty amazing.

T: Yeah. Do you know what he did that why he was so successful?

J: I think maybe it was his personality. He was the kind of person who could walk into a room and not only be the center of attention but everybody enjoy being around him. He would talk at everyone. And he really believed in me. He believed in my story and my company. And I think that the combination of his personality and of course he believed in me really made him a powerful PR agent.

T: Yeah no kidding. And you haven’t, do you have, how big of a role does PR play in your marketing strategy now?

J: It still clearly plays a sizable role. We do things like editorial look books 2x a year. We get magazine poll because of our PR agency almost on a daily basis. They don’t know which ones magazine but yes it’s still part of what we do.

T: You said editorial look books, what’s that?

J: Twice a year we do look books for what we call editorial reviews where we create new lines in pieces and we meet with editors on the west coast and the east coast 2x a year and show them all of the new pieces that we’ve created for the year strictly for editorials. There’s some pretty crazy pieces that might not necessarily sell well on the website. And we also create look books so they can take it with them. And what that does is it sort of puts us in a place where the writers, journalists, the reporters, when they think of pearls for a particular story or for a model’s shoot for a magazine, we become sort of the go to company getting those products.

T: Yeah okay. Now I’ve gone and jumbled up the whole order of my interview by jumping ahead to that. So I wanna go back coz when I create interviews like this I have a couple of goals. One is I really wanna give people tons of usable strategies that they think they can put into work in their business now. But I also wanna give them motivation because I want people to, there are gonna be people listening to this that maybe don’t have a business yet and are just kinda like teethering and I think that’s why your story of starting off part time using mastercard to buy your first little string of pearls is such an excellent story. So we’re gonna back up just a little bit. How long did it take you to get to say when did you have a year where you did a $100,000 in revenue?

J: $100,000 in revenue? I’m trying to think around the first year, the first holiday well I did about $20,000 in sales. It was probably around 3 or 4 years before I hit a $100,000 mark.

T: Okay. And a $100,000 in revenue because the profit margin is pretty high on this. I’m assuming that that was enough for you to be able to be full time and continue to run the business.

J: Oh absolutely. When I was full time I took very little lull in business basically rent. And I didn’t buy any toy. I didn’t buy my first until a couple of years ago actually. So it didn’t take much to live on the way I was living. I wasn’t living large at all. So yeah the $100,000 a year was more than enough for me to do the business full time.

T: Okay. What toy did you buy?

J: I bought a Tesla.

T: Nice.

J: Lighter vehicle.

T: Yes. I actually used to have the Lotus Exige that the Tesla’s shares the same chassis with.

J: Same chassis, yes. Whole lot of fun.

T: A very fun car to take to the race track, that’s for sure. So I wanna dig into the psychology a little bit as well. Was anyone in your family in business before you decided to start your business?

J: My father, well I’m sorry my stepfather started his own business. He started a plumbing company when I was a child. Other than that no.

T: No. Okay.

J: But I was a serial entrepreneur growing up. It was something I always knew that I’d probably do. I started my first business very young selling cookies and I started to make a calling card business when I was a flight attendant. When I was 19 years old I started a small transportation business. *Inaudible. I was always looking for something new and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be completely happy or satisfied until I had my own company, successful company.

T: Yes absolutely. Was there a time, we’re updating with these questions as, when things weren’t really working out coz we know that’s a part of the entrepreneurial journey, highs and lows, we get down on ourselves, the visions start to fade, the confidence in the visions starts to fade, how did you deal with those particular times? Did you have a strategy? Was there certain books that you read? Did you do stuff in the morning, like what did you do to keep your head in the game for lack of a better term?

J: No I can really see where you’re coming from. You know, when people look at my business and look at me, a lot of friends that I’ve had in the past, they all think “oh, he’s so lucky. Or oh, his life is so easy.” But starting a business you’re absolutely right, you got ups and downs. There are times where you think this is not going to work, fail and plummet for a period of time. I think that innovation is probably the most important thing that I’ve been strong with over the years and that I’ve always looked for new ideas or new ways to strategize, new ways to market and a lot of that doesn’t need to come from books.

Early on in my business I decided I needed to read 2 types of books, books about online business and books about pearls. Nobody taught me anything about pearls. I had become a pearl expert on my own. Finding time to read is not the easiest thing when you’re an entrepreneur so what I did is because I go to the gym nearly everyday I started going to the gym every night and spending an hour on the bicycle and I would read a business book for an hour every single night on a bicycle in the gym. And that was the one place where I could confidently say I’m gonna spend a whole hour reading a business book every single day. And I did that for a number of years.

T: Interesting. So you read a lot of books?

J: I read a lot of books. If I can point this camera on my bookshelf I probably have a lot of same books as you do but it’s a lot of books.

T: And if any of those books come to mind, coz again I like actionable take aways. Is there any particular book that you think man oh man, this is a must to read?

J: Oh wow, a must read. Well Jake O’neil’s books on usability are very good. They helped me a lot early on in designing my website. Purple Cow. One book that stand out to me that changed a lot was Web Design for ROI by Lance Loveday. Web Design for ROI is a book specifically written for what I do, how to build a website and get the best conversion out of your website. I was so impressed by this book that I called him and actually hired him and he still works for me to this day.

T: Works for you as a contractor or works for you as an employee?

J: Contractor yeah. He reads all of our idea.

T: Okay. Great segue because now coming up, I wanna spend the rest of our time really talking about what are you doing today that’s really driving traffic, driving sales, driving conversions because there’s gonna be, I hope, some couple of golden nuggets in there that people who are listening to this who have a business can say “hey, that’s a good idea. I can do that.” So top 3 things that are driving revenue for your company right now are what?

J: Well the no. 1 thing has to be social media. That’s the most important thing I would say for my business and I start every morning with social media and I am active in social media all throughout the day. No. 2 of course is PR. And no. 3 would be search engine marketing including SEO and PPC.

T: Okay let’s dive into those, let’s dive into social media coz it’s big. Social media, what do you do? Are you tweeting? Are you hanging around facebook? Like what’s on your playbook everyday and is that the first thing you do each day?

J: First thing I do everyday.

T: And how long do you spend doing it?

J: Well I use it when I wake up around 6:00 in the morning and my wife doesn’t usually wake up though until 7. So for the first hour of the day I’m on social media. And yeah social media is a vague word, sort of a buzz word. Everybody thinks they need to be involved in social media, having a facebook page, having a twitter account, etc. My social media is very specific to what we do and in 2003 and 2004 I built another website called pearl-guide.com where I wrote a few hundred articles and posted them online.

And about a year or so later I entered a forum and at that time I didn’t even know what social media was but what I was doing was I was creating a social media platform. That forum is what I’m primarily involved in now. It had nearly a 100,000 pages in content and thousands and thousands of members. And why it’s so important is because the hundreds and thousands of pages of content, any one searching for anything pearl related online, if they’re doing the research specially they’re gonna come across pearl-guide.com and the articles that I’ve written or even just posts I’ve written on pearl guide they live forever. There are posts that I’ve written on pearl guide say 5 or 6 years ago that may have 10,000 views on them now.

And so I spend 15 minutes writing something that reach 10,000 people over the course of 5 years. Now today I’ve got thousands of posts that I’ve written and posted on pearl guide and that drive easily 25-30% of our business and it cost absolutely nothing. The only thing it cost is time, time and dedication. And of course we have a facebook page. We’ve got around 11,000 fans on facebook and we do post a lot on facebook. I have a twitter account, I post a little bit on twitter. But being so specific to our niche which is pearl it has made us the undisputed leader online for the pearl industry.

T: And then looking at pearl guide it does not appear at first glance that it’s in any way, shape or form affiliated with pearl paradise.

J: You’re right.

T: So then how’s it driving traffic? Are people finding out hey, you’re the guy writing a lot of these posts and then they click on your profile like any other forum when they say who’s this guy or gal they click on the forum and they go oh, he’s from pearl paradise, maybe I should go check out pearl paradise. Is that more or less what’s happening?

J: More or less. I think with social media there’s a mistake a lot of companies make with social media. I’m sure you’ve seen it before as well. Just think companies that have twitter accounts for example that all they do is post about stuff. They don’t post about other people. They’re not there to help people. Social media is not a talking to people sort of system, give them interaction and by meeting the CEO of a large online pearl company in the world being on pearl guide everyday and interacting not only with the members, the thousands of members that are the normal members, but interacting with people that just come on and ask very simple pearl questions. Just being there to help people has created a fan base for me and my company on pearl guide.

So not only do I go on there and talk about pearls but all the other members talk about pearls as well. They make sure photos of the pearl they got from my company, maybe even other company, but there are no other companies that are involved in pearl guide that are as highly recommended as our company. And that’s specifically because of the amount of time that I spend personally on pearl guide.

T: Interesting. So to draw a parallel for either myself or someone who’s listening, you’re saying that whatever niche that you are in you think that it is a very valuable way to spend your time to find the most popular discussion forum that’s most closely related to that niche and spend say an hour a day everyday becoming a very active participant. Even if you don’t know the discussion forum just participating in that discussion forum.

J: But there’s more to it than just participating and I think this is what the real key is. It’s not just participating, it’s being selfless in the discussions. It’s actually helping people. The people that are successful there are other companies on pearl guide, some of it buy pearls from us, some of them don’t but they participate in pearl guide. The ones that are successful on there never actually sell. It leaves sort of a bad taste to people’s mouth when people come on to these forums and they start trying to sell themselves, tell other people how great they are. When the best thing to do is just get on there and help people and if you’re seen as not only helpful but very knowledgeable people are gonna do business with you.

The analogy that I give for people that you know I’m a pearl guide and start selling themselves or go into twitter and just do nothing but link to their own websites or link to their own products. It’s almost like standing on the top of your office building with advertisement trying to make a paper airplane and start throwing them out to the street. Maybe somebody’s gonna pick it up and read them but more, gosh you’re just wasting your time and you’re just wasting money. It just doesn’t work. It’s about interaction and it’s just helping and it’s about making yourself out to be an expert without trying to sell your actual product.

T: They like showing up to a cocktail party with a fistful of business cards and go “hi, how are you? Buy my stuff” “hi, how are you? Buy my stuff”. I mean no one’s gonna want to talk to you.

J: Exactly. When they show up to the cocktail parties and you tell people what you do and they ask you some questions about maybe their business and you give them advice, well certainly they have a completely different picture of you and they’ll want to do business with you. They will take your business card. They may stay in contact with you. It’s the exact same thing in social media.

T: Yeah and that’s per my experience.

J: It’s a hard context for people to grasp because you get marketing department involved. They only know sell, sell, sell.

T: Yeah.

J: And that does not work for social media whatsoever.

T: Okay. Now well on say facebook, have you ever, let’s say someone says well you know I have a facebook page but I don’t have many fans or likes, I don’t get a lot of traffic, so what they could do is they could go to find other popular facebook pages within their niche and do what we’ve just been talking about on those facebook pages to add value to those people’s community which will then in turn draw traffic back to your own. Is that something that you’ve ever tried? I mean I think it’s common sense it will work I’m just curious as to whether you ever devoted any time to it.

J: Oh absolutely. On even my competitor’s facebook pages or just pearl fans facebook pages I’m personally on there all the time. And I will like people’s post. I will like pearl pictures that they put up. Yap it’s very similar to what I do on pearl guide. I spend a lot more time on pearl guide but our facebook fan page is if you look at the site that people like you’ll see about a half a dozen other competitors that we’ve actually included on our facebook page.

T: I was writing in that one, run that by me again. You’ve got on your facebook page…

J: Yeah I’m gonna pull over our facebook page right now and…

T: Facebook/pearlparadise okay. So I wanna make sure I’m on the right one. Yeah I am. It’s breast cancer awareness month at pearlparadise.com. Good. Still 11,000. Okay so you mentioned you somehow promote or display or added your competitors on here? How do they fare on that?

J: If you look at the things that we like.

T: Yeah pearl perfections, sea hunt’s pearls, anthony dryer. You liked your competitors.

J: Yeah.

T: Okay.

J: And what you notice what we do is in turn they’ll like you back and it’s almost like a cross promotion between the companies.

T: Yeah. I’m just pulling up my own page now to see whether or not my likes are displayed in the same way. Likes, there we go. Yeah I’ve got some of my competitors on there as well. But sadly my golden nugget here we go folks. I always try and get a golden nugget as I need to be doing a way better job with spending some time on some discussion forums and other people’s facebook pages. So you’ve motivated me.

J: It takes the dedication of time. I would say probably the most difficult part about it is that social media is not something that happens overnight. It’s not something you can throw an hour at it every month. It’s something that I’ve been doing daily for years and years. And so it’s a habit of mine. But I also know that without the work that I’ve done with social media my business wouldn’t be as successful as it is today. And it’s really cost nothing. So it’s what you actually dedicate their time in doing this. It really comes down to how bad you want it. And it’s just like getting big abs. If you wanna get in shape you gotta dedicate yourself in going to the gym. You gotta work hard. You gotta eat right. If you want to be successful in social media you have to dedicate your time to it.

T: Yeah it’s not difficult, it just takes discipline. And I know I have been absolutely guilty of like getting on the band wagon for a while but then more pressing immediate stuff, oh you know I’ve got a product launch coming, I’ve got this, I’ve got that so I can’t divert it. And shame on me for today. Okay so that is a really awesome strategy for people who have some time and a high level of motivation. No. 2 is PR. This PR is this time consuming for you or is it more of you writing checks and other people doing stuff?

J: It’s about both. I bought down into the *inaudible and those come in 3x a day. I respond to queries more or less just about every single day. So that does take time. I spend probably about an hour a day just on that. I used to handle all of the PR myself and that is dealing with all the PR agencies that we’ve worked with in the past. But now I have a team here, a team of 2 ladies doing a fantastic job. They’re both designers and they work hand in hand with the PR agencies now. So I’m not as involved as I once was but I still deal with it on a daily basis.

T: So back at my hometown there’s a guy by the name of Brian Scudamore who runs a company 1-800-got-junk. I don’t think you and I were talking about this but I’m sure you’ve heard of him.

J: Sure I remember a deal like me.

T: Yeah maybe it was you and I that were talking about Brian but he’s kind of famous for getting a lot of PR in the beginning and probably still now. And I remember talking to him and he goes “Trent, it’s not rocket science. It’s just like sales. You just pick up. You don’t need to hire a PR agency coz you can pick up the phone and call them. Keep calling, keep calling, keep calling.” People, they associate cold calling can work with sales. You pick up, you talk to enough people somebody’s gonna buy. Reporters are basically the same thing.

J: Sure.

T: And these gals that work for you, are they reaching out to the media like that? Coz you said they’re designers so what do they do?

J: Right. No they don’t reach out to media themselves although it is definitely possible. I think a great PR strategy for entrepreneurs is helpareporter.com doing exactly what you’re saying and reaching out to journalists and writers themselves. The team that I have in the office works hand in hand with a company in Los Angeles called In House PR. They are an actual PR agency that we contact on a monthly basis. And the reason we do that is because that’s all they do. Yes you can handle PR yourself but if you get a great PR agency that has all the contacts, that has writer’s that they are friends that work for different magazines, they can lead you along a lot quicker than you can do it on your own without a doubt.

But that instead doesn’t mean you can’t be successful with something as simple as helpareporter.com. I have managed all that personally and I’ve been included in books, like I’m doing this interview right now. I’ve been on Fox 2x. I’ve been on Entertainment Tonight several times. All these things I’ve got directly from helpareporter.com.

T: Now I have an alarm set 2x a day so that I know when those, the emails arrive at 9:30am and then I think it’s 2:30. There’s one that’s when I’m still sleeping so I ignore that one.

J: Yeah.

T: And another of my guest told me that, and I don’t remember if it’s here she had this point but it’s important to respond to the hard query to the email that comes out within 15 minutes. Has that been your experience? Do you set alarms? Do you know when these things are coming in? Or do you just kinda like remember to check? Or how does it work?

J: I have the query coming to my 2 email addresses, my personal email address which sound an alarm on my cellphone and my business email address. And yes I check that immediately when they come in, scan them immediately to see if there are any responses that are perfectly suited for me. I have a few emails that I have set coz a lot of them you shall find the queries although they’re completely random a lot of them might follow a similar type format it might be asking a similar type thing. So I actually have responses to the queries that I may just have to twitch that and be able to send them out almost immediately. I can only imagine that when these queries come out especially from good ones like say USA Today or Wall Street Journal. They must get thousands of responses, literally thousands of responses and there’s no way that the writer is going to read every single one of these responses.

I think that the key is getting on there quickly no. 1 and having a good headline no. 2. You gotta have something in the headline that’s going to make them want to open the email otherwise you’re gonna be buried along with everyone else. It’s all the same as applying for a job. When we put out an ad for a position in our company there are times we’ve got thousand resumes. And you cannot go through every single one of them. You start soon as they come out, you probably gonna read the first 15 or 20 of them but after that you’re just gonna start getting one down based on what’s the title of the email.

T: So let’s talk about the headline for a minute. So I’m looking at the harrow email that came in probably while we’re doing this one hour ago so just before we started this. High tech crowd funding experts is the first one. So for me I would have or I have been replying with re: crowd funding expert. You’re not doing that I’m guessing.

J: No.

T: Alright.

J: I responded in the one this morning right before our telephone call and it was without pulling it up what was the aha moment of your business. And I’ve actually already talked about sort of the aha moment of my business, getting that appraisal but I responded to it probably within about 5 minutes after receiving the harrow query and the title of it was one big whapping aha moment for you.

T: Aha, so you used some of their words but then you sensationalized it a bit so that it would stand out from all the idiots like me who are applying with re: what is the aha moment of your business.

J: Now I can’t say whether or not it’s gonna get used but I can almost guarantee it’s gonna get read. And it would turn great when it was reported.

T: Wow excellent. So another golden nugget for me right there.

J: And the reason is just looking at in my left and right I have 3 screens in front of me so I can see my other email in the other screens.

T: Yeah I’ve got a couple of screens here as well so if I’m looking down I’m writing notes. If I’m looking over here I’m looking at my laptop.

J: And you know what this might be another actually great tidbit for entrepreneurs and that is when I got 2 screens installed in my office I felt like my productivity nearly helped. The easy thing having more than 1 screen I like it so much that I had my TV pull himself a 3rd screen. Now I’ve got 3 screens in front of me. And if you work a lot with spreadsheet for example especially if you got an online business there’s nothing better than having 3 different topics going on all at the same time on your screen.

T: Well I use a really big monitor and I think it’s big enough that it’s basically like 2 screens, I just have 2 browsers and then I have my email running over on my laptop coz I try and do not look at my email generally till around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Coz email for me it’s such a distraction. I get so many of them and it takes me away from producing the content and if I don’t produce content that would be like you not selling pearls. Content is my pearls.

J: Yeah but you must be very buried at 3:00.

T: You know I’ve done a pretty good job with filters and I have 3 different email accounts and certain people gets one and another people gets other ones. It’s far from perfect but it’s working for me at this point in time.

J: And just no support.

T: With that said it’s not like I have a 100,000 people a month coming to my website, hopefully it’ll get, but it’ll be a worse problem when that happens.

J: Get on with that social media, Trent, you’ll get there.

T: Yap absolutely. Alright so anything else, any other silver bullets or golden nuggets on PR before we move on to SEM and SEO?

J: I think we’ve pretty much covered it.

T: Okay. So we know that social media is 25-30% of your sales so that’s 5 to 6 1/2 million bucks a year just by spending an hour a day for years on social media so big payback. PR any idea what percentage of sales is coming from PR coz it’s probably kind of hard to track unless you’re like a tracking link niche ninja?

J: Well it is hard to track but I can say it has been worth millions and millions of dollars, just to be on Wall Street Journal article was worth millions for us. But yes definitely hard to track except for the time when we get what we call it a big hit for example. Like if we’re on say a television show like we were on Oprah for example you would be able to track that simply because the website crashed. But for the most part it’s sort of like all of this is over. We’re always sending things out to magazines. I’m always taking interviews whenever they come. And you really never know what’s going to happen. But sometimes you’ll get a good hit and it will almost be like a domino effect and you’ll start getting other calls from other people or you get a piece of a magazine and they even get to the cover or something like that. You never know which one is going to be a big hit so it’s again something that you just have to commit to and dedicate to. Sort of like the helpareporter.com works.

T: Okay. So let’s go to SEM and SEO coz those 2 are very different, SEM is generally pay per click traffic and SEO is generally organic traffic.

J: Right.

T: What percentage of your pearlparadise.com’s traffic is coming from paid traffic and what percentage is coming from SEO?

J: Well with SEO it’s a bit difficult to tell because of course that’s organic. Some of these are trackable, some of these isn’t. The PPC is very easy to track with analytic. And it’ll vary month to month but to give you an idea we typically spend around $20,000 a month on pay per click advertising. During the holiday month we can spend a $100 to $150,000. So each one of those clicks will cost us about a $1 to $1.50 depending on what time of the year it is. So we’ll be looking at about 20,000 visits on an average per month from PPC.

T: Okay.

J: On the SEO side which of course is again very, very valuable but a lot of work, we are etched in the search engines, we’re no. 2 for the word pearls right after wikipedia, we’re no. 1 for things like Nagoya pearls, Asia pearls, all the different genres that we sell. So a tremendous amount of traffic comes organically as well.

T: Okay. Sorry I’m was just punching it and spelling the word pearls when you were saying that. Your SEM has not over the last say year coz the search engine world google has changed a lot as they always do.

J: Oh they can’t.

T: And they have been particularly aggressive or at least so it seems in this past say or even 6 months, have you noticed much of a change? For example, a lot of people using SEO have been pretty aggressive in building manufactured links, article marketing, form marketing, press releases, link wheels, yadadi yadadi ya. Did you do any of that stuff?

J: No. The thing when updated what you were referring to that destroyed a lot of websites, a lot of my competitors fell tremendously in the ranking but a couple of them more or less disappeared. There are just links anywhere, natural linking is really important. Now there are a lot of SEO companies out there that practice into the grey areas. They probably reached to the top of the ranking. And in the past it very well been successful doing that but what they’ll do is they will like you said basically manufacture a link all over the internet whether be in comments, spam or forum, on blogs, that sort of things. We’ve never done that.

What we try to do is go after links to get it more organic fashion. Blogs for example, blogs are a big part of our SEO strategy. What we’ve done over the past few years is we research a lot of blogs online that seem like they might be a good tip for our company and then we contact the bloggers and say can we host a contest on your blog. We’d like to send you a piece of pearl jewelry. You tell your readers exactly what you think about the piece of pearl jewelry and then we’ll give one away to your readers. And we’ve done this literally on hundreds of different blogs and every one of those blogs link back to our website but they do it more of organic fashion. They’re not just putting a link in the middle of it said pearl paradise where we were say for example we were buying links from these blogs. That’s how it would appear. And so when the penguin update did happen it sort of solidified my approach to the way we do this because we weren’t damaged at all by the penguin update. In fact we were helped and we knew we were doing things at the right way.

T: Yeah no kidding. The contest on the other people’s blogs that’s a strategy I haven’t heard of before now, ding ding ding and another golden nugget. And I wanna dive more into that one a little bit.

J: Sure.

T: So first of all, researching the blog how can we talk about that people can figure out how to find a blog and see just google around that’s not very difficult to find blogs in your niche.

J: I would say there is a bit of side to that. And the reason that you will want to have like your google toolbar installed. You wanna make sure that the blog you’re reaching out to is a blog that basically google likes. You know they may have a high page ranking. You’ll wanna reach out the blog that make it inadvertently reach out to one niche is blacklisted on google and if that’s right about your product. So we specifically look for blogs with good page ranking and blogs that have a lot of twitter followers and blogs that have a lot of facebook followers. Those are the 3 things that we look for when we choose blogs to reach out to.

T: Do you look at the alexa rank at all?

J: Not the alexa rank.

T: Nope? Okay.

J: Alexa ranking is usually pretty low for blogs just as compete.com rank is pretty low for blogs.

T: Yeah.

J: For most part, for mommy blogs or mommy bloggers are the primary bloggers that we reach out for as much as possible.

T: So mommy blogs. So lots of social proof and the approval of uncle google and you’re good to go.

J: Right.

T: Okay. So then you make contact with the mommy behind the mommy blog. Generally I’m assuming you just email them.

J: Yeah absolutely.

T: What do you say?

J: Well when I first started this program I personally let it up because I didn’t know who was going to be worth it or not. I didn’t know how many people would respond to me. And I just reached out to them and sent them an email and said “hey, my name is Jeremy Shepherd. I own pearlparadise.com. I read over your blog. I think your blog would be a great place for us to give away pearls to your readers. Can I send you this strand of pearls for free and you write about them. Tell your readers what you think and offer to give away a strand of pearls on your website.” Nobody said no. It’s simple.

And we’ve been sending a strand of pearls that may cost us anywhere from for a pair of earrings for example that might only cost us $20-25. And the way the contest usually work is and if they don’t understand how to run this sort of contest we can explain this to them, their followers can leave a comment for one entry, they’ll go to our website, they’ll look over our website saying what is their favorite thing on our website and leave that in the comment section on the blog. That’s an entry. They can tweet about the contest on their twitter account. That’s another entry. They can post a message on facebook about the contest. That’s another entry. And they can post about it, repost about it on their blog. That’s another entry.

So we had contests before for a simple pair of earrings that may generate thousands and thousands of entries and thousands of tweets, hundreds of facebook posts, hundreds and hundreds of comments in the comment section of the blog just for basically a few dollars.

T: How are you managing the contest because you gotta track all these entries?

J: We don’t manage the contest. The blog owner manages the contest. The blog owner just tells us who won the contest.

T: Okay.

J: And there are different apps and things like that on blog that they can use to do that and they do.

T: Yeah there are as a matter of fact. And I interviewed a guy by the name of Travis Ketchum a while ago and I think we actually did a master class, we have one on the works, and he’s got a wordpress plugin called contest domination, plug for you Travis, that works phenomenally well. And he actually has a case study on how a make up company used his plugin and they wanted to get 5,000 new email addresses they end up getting almost 7,500 new email addresses as a result of the contest. I’m gonna be using his plugin coz I haven’t even officially launched Bright Ideas yet and somehow I wanna pick your brand a little bit on that one when we’re done.

J: But you said contest domination is the name of it?

T: Yes.

J: Okay I’ll just write it down and I’ll check it out after this call.

T: Yeah. And listeners I mean it’s like $37 to buy the plugin. It’s not expensive. Now what he’s also doing, I don’t know well I don’t know if I should say it or not coz it’s not launched yet, he’s got another bigger, better, badder version of that coming out. So that’s all I’ll say at this point in time coz I don’t wanna breach any trust of stuff that he’s told me in the confidence of a private conversation. But he was very successful with this plugin and it still sells a lot of plugins everyday.

J: Well definitely I’ll check it out.

T: Contester obviously. So what if someone doesn’t have a physical product like let’s look at we’ll just use an information marketer like me. I’ve got nothing to ship anybody but I’ve got really great content. How could I run contests or how can I get other bloggers to run contests and how can I incent them in the way that you’ve kind of done without having pearls to send?

J: Well I may take some strategizing. But I think there’s quite a few things you could do. You could offer to write for blogs first of all. Create information which is what blogs are. But not only could you write for blogs but you would definitely wanna target blogs that are specific to what you do. But like entrepreneurs for example, you could offer contests an hour of your time for business coaching for someone that wants to start their own business. We all have a product whether it be a physical product, whether it be information, either way business product.

T: Yeah absolutely.

J: So figure out a way to strategize and sell or give away again coz it is social media give away your product.

T: I give away memberships.

J: Yeah.

T: And they’re even less expensive for me than pearls are for you. Yet another gold, I think you might be taking the world record or the Bright Ideas record on golden nuggets here so far Jeremy so kudos to you.

J: Glad to help.

T: I really hope that people who started at the beginning of this interview listen to the whole thing and when I do send the email out to everyone I’m really gonna drill home. And you guys gonna hang around by the end of the interview coz there’s some good stuff, some really good stuff.

J: Well thank you Trent.

T: Alright so why don’t I wanna finish off with you. There are so many other questions that I didn’t get to ask you yet. So we haven’t talked about fulfillment, we haven’t talked about team building, we talked a fair amount about marketing. You tell me where is your next, I’m on another golden nugget out of you before we finish so shall we talk about coz fulfillment, I mean 20 million pearls, you got stuff moving all over the place. But team building I don’t know which one do we wanna go on?

J: Wow, you know fulfillment is basically the core of our business and we’ve done promotions, we did a promotion for example Dec. 7, 2010 and sold 33,000 units in one day. How do you fulfill this?

T: Let’s go down that road.

J: It’s almost the topic for a whole another interview.

T: Deal.

J: I’m sorry.

T: Deal. Let’s do another interview on fulfillment.

J: And actually how to do that promotion would almost be another topic for an interview as well. We did $240 million in sales in one day for that promotion.

Teambuilding I think is also very important and we do that equally. And just a couple of pieces, we meet every morning for 5 minutes in the morning where each one of us states what we are going to accomplish that particular day. And we hold each other accountable to it every single day. We meet once a week for an hour and we recognize each individual accomplishment for the week prior. And we meet once a quarter to strategize when each individual team member is going to get done for that quarter and take responsibility for that particular quarter.

And then we have a sort of master dashboard that we got from a company called results.com and we track of all these goals and anytime somebody falls behind in their goal or doesn’t keep up with the timeline the dashboard changes colors to that particular goal and so the rest of the team see where somebody else might be needing some help and comes and help those other people.

Other than that we do company trips. We’ve gone on cruises, we’ve gone on to Las Vegas just to build a team that builds camaraderie between the employees. And I think that as any successful entrepreneur with a company will tell you, building a company on your own is really really difficult but if you can motivate and build a team around you that is not only loyal but dedicated to their job and enjoys what they do, you’re going to be a lot more successful.

T: Yeah absolutely. Richard Branson who I’m a big fan of, that’s his big thing. I mean if you’re gonna be a successful entrepreneur and you can’t get people happily, cheerfully all rowing in the same direction, good luck to you.

J: Absolutely.

T: Alright so on that note we’ll finish off this interview coz it’s already been a long one. I wanna thank you very much. It’s been fantastic. I’ve got pages full of notes here of all the things that I think I need to be taking away from this interview. Social media, being chief among them I think. And I’m sure the listeners here, by the way if someone wants to get a hold of you easiest way to do that is what?

J: Email jeremy@pearlparadise.com. It’s pretty simple.

T: Yeah like no one could ever guess that one. Alright and Jeremy I would love to have you back on the show to talk about that 2 and a quarter million dollar promotion. And I think there’s a number of master classes that you could teach so you know I’m gonna be up for that in the email after this episode.

J: It would be my pleasure.

T: Alright thanks very much. And to all you listeners and watchers however you’re consuming this content thank you very much. Without you I’ve got no business to run. And if you think that this was a really awesome interview please tweet it or share it or pinterest or whatever way to try and help spread the word because there’s somebody out there whose business isn’t firing on all cylinders just right now and they’re waking up and they’re stressed and they’re wondering what to do and maybe it’s this interview that’s gonna inspire them with a new solution or a new strategy that they can use to help dig themselves out of that hole or just simply take their business to the next level. So please share this interview and the others with people who you think might benefit from it. Alright thanks so much. Many more interviews to come. Many more master classes to come out too soon.

Alright if you wanna check out the show notes for this episode just go over to BrightIdeas.co/8. And I also want to mention if you head over to BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic and enter your email address you are gonna get free access to my massive traffic tool kit. Now if you don’t know what that is the massive traffic tool kit is the compilation of all of the very best ideas that have been shared with me by all of the experts or many of the experts who have been here on Bright Ideas. And the very best part about this tool kit is that you don’t need to be some kind of guru, SEO guru or traffic guru to be able to do the things that are gonna be taught to you in the massive traffic tool kit. Regardless of your skill level you’ll have no trouble implementing these strategies but they are a very bright set of strategies. And by the way you get that at BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic.

So this brings us to the end of this episode. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Well if you could do me a small favor if you really enjoyed this episode please go over to itunes and give it a 5 star rating and even better just leave a little comment. The more of the listeners that give the show a rating the higher it goes in the itunes store and then of course the more people that see it and the more people that we can touch and help with all of the free information that’s shared here by the expert guests on the Bright Ideas podcast. Alright so thank you very much for watching or listening, however you consumed this. If you have a comment or thoughts that you wanna share please make sure that you do so in the comment form at the bottom of this page. We’ll see you in the next episode. Take care and have a wonderful day.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this episode:

Generate Millions in Online Revenue Using Social Media & PR

How To Maximize Your Investment in PR

PR plays a very large role in Jeremy’s success. Image source: 123rf.com

Jeremy credits an investment in PR as his best initial traffic-generating move.  This was a catalyst that took really began to generate tremendous traffic to his website, and it’s a strategy he continues to make the most of to this day.

You’ll hear Jeremy describe what works for him with PR, and learn tips to maximizing your investment in this area, whether you’re outsourcing PR or instead investing internal time.

Listen to the show to find out Jeremy’s PR strategies. Top 3 Revenue-Generating Strategies From Someone Who Built an Online Empire

Jeremy shares that PR is his #2 strategy for bringing revenue to his site.

To learn #3 and #1, listen to the podcast.

Here’s a hint: one of them is social media.  But Jeremy doesn’t do social media in quite the same way that most companies do.  In fact, he shares his perspective of the mistake that most companies make with social media.

Find out if you’re making this mistake when you listen to the interview.

How to Build a Multimillion Dollar Online Empire

Jeremy has made it a part of his daily routine to study other business leaders. Image source: 123rf.com

Over the course of building his company up to the empire that it now is, Jeremy learned a great deal.  After all, when he first started selling pearls, he was still working as a flight attendant!  He learned much through the process of owning and running his business, but he also found a clever way to make time for outside knowledge and learn from other business experts.

You know that I think learning from others is crucial if you want to build or grow a serious business – hence Bright Ideas!  Podcasts are a great way to learn new information.  So are business books, and Jeremy shares his top recommendations in the area of web design and business .

Listen to the show to find out how Jeremy made time to learn business strategies that would radically grow his business.

The Ultimate SEO Strategy

Hear Jeremy talk about his proven natural SEO strategies.  Jeremy divulges what he does to have bloggers jump on board and happily promote his products to their readers.  He also shares what criteria he uses to choose the best blogs to approach, and a template for how to approach them.

Listen to the show to find out more about Jeremy’s killer SEO strategy. 

About Jeremy

By the ripe old age of 33, Jeremy Shepherd was able to build a $20 million on-line empire known as PearlParadise.com. To this day, he does very little advertising. His unique company’s success is based primarily on word of mouth, honest respectability and helpful service that Shepherd cultivates as carefully as his beloved pearls.

He now enjoys a worldwide reputation for his uncompromising quality standards and farm-direct prices. PearlParadise.com has been featured in such high profile magazines as Newsweek, Inc., and Entrepreneur. Although his company continues to grow exponentially, Jeremy Shepherd still delights in traveling to the far flung reaches of the globe to personally handpick and inspect each and every pearl for his customers.

Most people know that a pearl starts out as a tiny bead, around which many layers must form. It acquires its beauty and luster only through the passage of time, which is why it has become a legendary symbol of wisdom. It could be considered appropriate that the pearl also happens to provide the perfect metaphor for what Jeremy Shepherd has striven to achieve throughout his life.

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