On this episode of the BrightIdeas podcast, we’re joined by Sean Malarkey, creator of a digital publishing and marketing company, and author of the blog and podcast The Money Pillow. Sean relies heavily on his team to help him run his digital publishing company so that he has plenty of time left to do important things such as surf daily from his home in Santa Barbara.
Do you think that his business might suffer without him spending much time running it each day? Not true. The company continues to return year over year growth of around 30%, and is set to gross approximately $2 million this year.
In other words, Sean has a great business that prospers without requiring much of his presence. You could almost say, it works while he sleeps! And yes, that’s what he was going for in this business, and also the concept he talks about with his guests on The Money Pillow podcast.
In this interview, you’ll hear Sean and I talk about:
- (2:00) How his team helps him out
- (4:00) An overview of his audience
- (5:45) The Money Pillow
- (12:20) His podcast launch
- (17:00) An explanation of how he’s going to extract the Golden Nuggets from his past episodes
- (20:30) How to monetize a podcast
- (25:50) How he’s promoting his podcast
- (29:00) How to decide if you should have a show
- (31:00) How he finds his guests
- (36:17) What his team looks like
- (44:30) How he’s building his team
- (49:20) Team-building advice
- (1:00:00) An overview of the publishing company, and how he launched it
- (1:08:00) How they are generating traffic and sales
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.
Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. It’s Trent Dyrsmid here. I am
the host of the Bright Ideas Podcast, and this is the podcast
for really whip-smart entrepreneurs who want to know how to use
online marketing and marketing automation to massively boost
their business.On the show with me today is a guy who is definitely a whip-
smart entrepreneur. His name is Sean Malarkey. He’s the guy
behind the Money Pillow, which is a new podcast. He’s also got a
book for it. The Money Pillow is definitely not Sean’s first
rodeo. He actually runs a very successful online digital
publishing business that works with content experts, and takes
their knowledge, and makes it available to business owners like
yourself who want to get better in a specific area of their
business.Now, I am super stoked to have Sean on the show because he is
doing some really cool things with the Money Pillow podcasts and
the guests that he’s unearthing. In particular, we’re going to
talk about how he launched the podcast and made it so incredibly
successful so very quickly. With that said, please join me in
welcoming Sean to the show. Hey, Sean. Welcome to the show.
Sean: Thanks for having me, man. It’s an honor to be here.
Trent: Absolutely. It’s an honor to have you on here. For the folks
who have not had the privilege of speaking with you off the air
for the last 45 minutes, maybe you would be so kind as to
introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you’re
Sean: Sure. My name is Sean Malarkey and GQ just voted me one of the
top 50 most handsome men in the world. No, I’m just kidding. I
have a really boring story, I guess. I don’t where to even
begin, but what I do now is I have a publishing company and a
marketing company. We publish and market digital trainings, so
we find experts that are good with particular things, and we
have them create the content, and then we take that content,
package it up in a pretty UI/UX, and then we push it out to our
audience, and market it, and sell it. We’ve got a handful of
people that we publish. Then we also have a marketing side where
we have our own audience that we market these products to, and
other ones as well.
It’s an all-in marketing or digital publishing business that
I’ve had now, I guess, Trent, for just past four years. I think,
this year, we should cross just over $2 million in sales, and
we’ve been growing at about 30% year over year pretty
Trent: That’s not a bad little business to have that you can run from
anywhere in the world and spend quite a bit of time surfing
Sean: Yeah. It’s funny. I used to live in Columbus, Ohio, and a year
ago we moved out to California, and prior to moving out here,
the move was going to cost me $50,000 to $60,000, I think, in
total, all things considered. I just thought, “I’m going to
hustle, work hard, earn some extra money.” In about 75 days I
worked really hard in the business and did that, but what
happened was I had to rely on my team in ways that I never had
to do a lot of the things that I was doing on a daily basis.
When I got out here, I was busy unpacking and just getting
settled, and doing this, and doing that, and my team would say,
“Well, why don’t you let me do this for you? Why don’t you let
me do that for you?” I was holding them up on the tasks that I
always do. I would say, “Oh, yeah. You did do that once or twice
in the last month. Go ahead and then, when you’re done, let me
know and I’ll review it.”
What I ended up finding within like a month of being here was
that 95% of the things that I was doing on a day to day basis in
my business, I had basically by default trained somebody on my
team how to do during that phase of hustle. I just started
delegating more and more to them and letting them take ownership
more and more. For a good eight months, I just worked about an
hour a day, and some days I didn’t even work at all. Many days I
didn’t work at all, and then some days I’d work for three or
four hours, and then just crushed it. I realized after being out
here and being surrounded by…
Sean: Opulence is a great word, yes. That I kind of wanted a little
bit more out of life, and wanted to kind of also create more
freedom. For me, money represents freedom, and I wanted more
freedom. I really enjoyed having the ability to do what I want
when I want, and wanted to kind of indulge myself in the finer
things in life, a little bit finer than what I have now, so I
got back to work back in May. I’ve been working about eight to
ten hours a day since then.
One of the big things that got, Trent, is I’ve got a really good
audience, and I feel like I’ve got several different businesses
that I really want to launch and kind of capitalize on that
audience before that audience ages, if you will, and their
attention goes somewhere else. I know I have this window of time
that I really have to sit down and hustle if I want to take
advantage of the opportunity, or later I’m going to have to work
much harder to achieve the same results.
Trent: There are a lot of things, dear audience, that I want to cover
for you guys in this episode with Sean. Just so that you know
what’s coming, because I know that everybody’s time is at a
premium and you’re listening to this going, “What am I going to
get out of this?” Sean has launched a podcast recently called
The Money Pillow, which has been going very well. He’s getting a
ton of downloads, and he’s doing some really interesting things
to promote it. We’re going to talk about that a bunch.
I also want to talk a bit more about the outsourcing. You
referenced your team a lot, Sean, in what you just said, and I
think a lot of people, self included, would love to be able to
have a team that can do more for them, but the stumbling block,
especially for people who don’t yet have a surplus of cash flow,
is how I pay for that. How do I actually make that happen? I
want to come back to talk about that, so I’m going to put that
on my list.
Then, if we have time, for the end, I’d like to actually come
back to your publishing business because it is such a compelling
model that I think anyone who is a reasonably bright internet
marketer… Sorry. I want to erase that. Online marketer. I hate
the term internet marketer because it suggests that you’re
selling snake oil and getting rich quick, and I don’t believe in
any of that crap.
Sean: It has a stigma attached to it, huh?
Trent: It does, so let’s talk about an online marketer, or maybe we
should coin a new term. Let’s call it New Age Marketer. That’s
not going to stick.
Sean: New Media Marketer.
Trent: I like that. That’s much better. New Media Marketer.
Sean: It’s good, isn’t it?
Trent: It is. It doesn’t have any of that negative connotation.
Sean: You heard it here first, folks.
Trent: Absolutely. On the Bright Ideas Podcast. I’m making notes and
then we’re going to talk about the publishing business. I think
that is more than enough conversation to talk us well past the
deadline that I’m sure we both have for this. With all that
said, that’s what you’re going to get in this episode, so stay
tuned because here we go. Sean, what is The Money Pillow, first
of all? People need to know what that is.
Sean: It’s a concept, I guess. It started for me, in my brain, many
years ago, but essentially, it’s just a concept of creating a
great business that prospers without you having to be present at
I had this idea when I was 18 years old. I worked at a
skateboard shop, and the owner lived in Hawaii and came twice a
year. He drew a salary of $10,000 a month, had an AmEx card that
my managers were always making payments on, and this guy, for
years, would just kind of come and go a couple times a year.
Sometimes he wouldn’t even show up. I just thought, “Man, this
guy is living the dream. He built it, got a couple of post-
college guys to manage it, and he’s gone.” I was really, at an
early age, kind of fascinated by that.
Then I started a real estate company several years ago. Left
that to kind of pursue the business I’m in now and get a little
bit more freedom. Along the way, I’ve just met so many amazing
entrepreneurs who just have these businesses. With the
technology and the way the world is today, it’s a whole lot
easier to build a business with automation and tools and things
that, 10 years ago, it wasn’t possible. Five years ago it wasn’t
With The Money Pillow, it’s a book that I’m actually going to
write. Starting back in December 2012 I started interviewing a
lot of people that had these kinds of businesses. In fact, the
first interview I did was with Melanie and Devin Duncan. They
own a company called Custom Greek Threads. They live in New York
City. The business is in San Diego. I think they have close to
30 employees. It’s probably 40 by now. They’re growing. They’ve
not been in their office in over a year. Devin, by himself,
manages that company in four to five hours a month in work, and
the company has grown year over year at like 25% to 30%. I think
this year they’ll do $2.5 to $3 million in revenue.
Anyway, I’ve just met all these amazing entrepreneurs and it’s
not people in the new media marketing space, for the most part.
It’s all over the place. People that manufacture products,
people that have services, people that… I interviewed somebody
that has a chain of spas that she lives in Colorado, and her
spas are in Portland. Another guy who had a software company.
You just name it. The business models. Anything you can think of
people have applied The Money Pillow principle to so that
they’re able to kind of live life on their terms, and their
business runs and makes money while they do what they want.
Trent: That’s a nice way to live.
Sean: Yeah, it really is.
Trent: I think, especially for the younger generation who haven’t
grown up with the… I’m going to use the term “brainwashing.”
I’m sure someone will be upset by this, but go to college, get a
good job, work there for a long time mentality. I think that’s
just not part of the psyche of a lot of the younger generation.
I think this opportunity that’s there for us as a result of the
internet, and tools, and automation is absolutely wonderful.
Sean: Yeah. I think, in fact, that mentality is probably a minority.
I don’t know, but it would be interesting to see some high
school exit studies. How many of them feel like their careers
are going to be based on what they learn in college or how many
of them are just going kind of to appease their parents. It’s
definitely a different world that we live in.
Trent: It is indeed. The Money Pillow podcast, you’ve had a lot of
success fairly quickly. Do you want to talk about the results
first so people can know what we’re talking about?
Sean: Sure. These aren’t typical…
Trent: The results that you are about to hear are not typical.
Sean: Just throw a disclaimer out there. That’s so dumb. No,
literally, I launched it back in July. I launched it in, I’m
thinking, late June and then iTunes screwed up my feed. It was
saying the interviews were an hour and a half long. They were
actually only 30 minutes, and all these weird things were
happening. Descriptions weren’t showing, so we ended up having
to delete the feed and resubmit it. I can’t even remember when
that was. I think it was mid-July.
I launched it, and it was generating a couple hundred downloads
a day. I just told some friends, basically, about it on
Facebook, which I’ve got a fairly large Facebook audience, so
that helped a lot, but I have a lot of other assets I didn’t
really tap into. Told some friends about it on Facebook. It was
generating 200, 300, 400 downloads a day. Probably about 250 to
300, somewhere in there.
Then once I kind of felt like I had enough episodes in there…
I launched, I think, with six episodes, and once I got to the 10
episode mark, I decided it was a good time to email my list. I
emailed my list, and that jumped it up, that day, to like 2,100
downloads that day. From that point on, it pretty much has
stayed over 1,000 downloads. I think it was July 11 that I
launched, and we are what? August 19 today, or the 18?
Sean: August 19. I think I’m at 38,000 downloads now with probably
30,000 of those coming in August. Actually, I can tell you.
Thirty-seven thousand five hundred, with 26,878 in August. I had
some good fortune along the way. Stitcher featured me on their
front page, and just some random interesting things happening,
but it’s been growing really well. I feel like I hit number two
in business which was a big boost that day. Introduced me to a
lot of people who had no idea who I was, and created a lot of
My goal is to get it to, by the end of September, 100,000
downloads a month, or 3,000 a day. I think I can hit that. It’s
just a matter of figuring this whole game out. For me, I was
doing all these interviews already for the book, and I had this
content. With my marketing business, I brought somebody on who
was a podcasting expert because I thought it was a cool idea.
She had a great presentation, and a good product, so I brought
her on. As I was listening to her thing I was like, “Man, this
is stupid. I’ve got all this content I can repurpose, and with
doing so, I can build an audience for the book that’s focused
exactly on the topic of the book.” Again, I thought I’ll just
give the podcast the same exact name of the book, and blah,
blah, blah. That’s what I did, and that’s what I’m doing.
My hope is that by doing this, I can build a really large
audience that’s interested in the topic. You’ll see, going
forward, I’m going to start structuring the content. Instead of
just doing interviews, now I’m going to start bringing in a lot
of content that will be featured in the book. I’m going to be
taking the past 15 interviews, and I’m going to be doing
highlight moments where the most important, or most valuable
lessons that people need to learn, or more than I think have
been shared so far when it comes to running an automated or
hands-off business, I’ll be highlighting those and talking some
theoretical talk behind what the person shared. Kind of
structuring it a little bit better and prepping the audience for
the book. My hope with doing that is that it will result in a
big push on the book, and I hope to hit the bestseller list when
Trent: That’s a good idea that you just mentioned, and it’s something
that I’ve thought of doing because I’m like 65 or 70 episodes
deep now, and there’s so much good stuff in that. When you do
like you and I do, and you have really top-notch entrepreneurs
on your show, there’s what I call golden nuggets. There’s a
bunch of them in every interview. I’ve forgotten more of those
golden nuggets than probably anybody, and I’ve been on every
show. I’ve heard every one of my shows, and I’m still not using
everything that I should have learned. I’ve been thinking about
doing the same thing you have.
How are you going to do that? Are you going to have a person on
your team sort of sit down and listen to them all, or did you
make really incredible show notes? How are you going to go back
through? I guess you probably don’t have 70 episodes yet, but
you’re what? At 16, 17, something like that. Can you talk a
little bit about the process of how you’re going to unearth
those gems, and then how you’re going to repurpose that?
Sean: Yeah. I’m sitting here chuckling because I can’t wait to tell
you. It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m just really busy and I don’t
have time to go back and listen to all of them, and I did not
take good notes. There are key moments for me that I really
For example, I interviewed this one guy and he talked about a
product idea that he had, but in order to sell this product, he
had to manufacture it. In order to manufacture it, there was a
large investment into manufacturing. Not large, but $2,000,
$3,000, or $4,000 into getting his first batch of products to
sell. The way he decided to test this to see if this was even
going to be a good idea was he spent three, four hours, or paid
somebody to build a simple little sales page and then ran Google
Ads to that sales page. When people clicked the Buy Now button,
people went to a page that just said, “We’re sorry. This product
is actually not available right now. We’ll let you know when it
is.” All he was doing was trying to measure if this was a
successful business. Does that make sense?
Sean: There are like three or four moments that really stand out like
that for me, but I need more than three or four. Yesterday I
just emailed my email list. It’s a small email list, but what
I’ve built from the website that’s coming there, and just said,
“What was your biggest aha moment?” It said, “I’m putting
together…” I literally am getting responses. I got one after
we started talking.
The email said, and this is all totally true and transparent,
“Yesterday I was at the beach hanging out with some friends. One
of them brought up how you’ve been listening to my podcast. We
started talking about different episodes. He began telling me a
few aha moments that he had while he was listening, things he
could implement into his business right away, and this got me
thinking maybe I should do a highlight episode.” I told, in the
email, the story of Daniel, and his little manufacturing
validation test. I said, “My question to you is what has been
your biggest aha moment? Reply back and let me know, and I will
also give you credit in that episode.”
I thought this was kind of a way to get my audience involved and
do some work for me, and then I can give them credit on the
episode, so 2,000 or 3,000 people will hear me say, “This next
part came from Trent. Trent replied back to the email and said
his biggest aha moment was this. Here you go.” That’s how I did
- I’ve gotten about 40 emails. Now I have to decipher which
ones to actually feature and use.
Trent: That was a very good idea. That will be what we call one of the
golden nuggets of this episode.
Sean: There you go.
Trent: From yours truly. I have to say that word good and clear,
golden nuggets, so that when it gets transcribed and a person on
my team is searching for golden nuggets in episodes to do our
compilation post, they’ll find it.
Sean: There you go.
Trent: All right. I want to take a quick sidebar because some people
who are listening to this, there may be many, don’t really
understand the business model of a podcast. There are a number
of reasons why you could do it. In your case, you’re doing it,
it sounds like, to promote your book, maybe build your audience.
Some people do it because they want to get advertiser income,
and then other people do it because they want to build
authority. I’m interested in your take. If there’s either
nuances that I’ve missed, details that I’ve missed, or what have
you, but what is the business model of the podcast?
Sean: You just hit on, really, all the big ones. They’re all
possible, and they’re all totally achievable. I know people that
have hit all those things. For me, I honestly, Trent, didn’t
realize you could monetize it. It was just a way for me… I was
going to monetize this, but not directly. When I say monetize, a
lot of people earn good revenue from show sponsors, and once you
get to 2,000 or 4,000 downloads per episode, it’s pretty easy to
start earning a decent living from sponsors. That’s a lot of
eyeballs, or ears if you will, that these sponsors will get
depending on what you’re talking about. There are probably
people that have products or services that want people to hear
that. I had no idea you could do that.
It was just literally for me just to build an audience for the
book, which I knew I could monetize in the sense that if I could
go to a publisher… When you get a book published, most of the
time you get an advance or often you’ll get an advance. I’ve got
a fairly large social reach. I’ve got a big email list, and I’ve
got a business that sells $100 products and up, so all that
stuff has a lot of value to the publisher. I may be able to
generate $50,000 to $200,000 in advance, $300,000 with good
agents, somewhere in there. I have no idea. This is just what
agents are telling me that I’ve interviewed and talked to.
I thought to myself, “Well, if I had the number one or number
two podcast out there with the exact name and content that’s
going to be in the book, and I build a big audience, I could
show lots of downloads, and subscribers, and build an email list
off that, that would probably be worth as much as everything
else I just mentioned that I have as an asset to the publisher.”
With that said, I thought I could probably double my advance.
For me, getting a big advance represents the fact that the
publisher… Not only will it be great money, it will be cool to
put a big check in the bank, but the publisher will really put
their weight behind the book to make sure they see a return on
their money, which means prominent placement in all the book
shelves in all the airports, and all the book stores that still
remain, and any other kind of marketing you can think of.
They’re going to throw their weight behind it because they want
it to generate a return on their investment.
Which then means it makes it, in my opinion, that much easier to
get to the New York Times bestseller list, which means it makes
it easier to sell more books, and at the end of the day, I
really feel like this topic is going to change people’s lives in
a major way and have a huge impact. It’s something that’s kind
of a personal project for me that I really kind of want to leave
my mark on the world, and this is one way, I think, that I’ll do
Trent: Now, do you thing that you’re actually going to make really
good money from the book, or is the book a means to yet another
Sean: I don’t know. Originally, it was a means to an end. I’ve got an
iPhone app that I’m working on and I thought, “I need about
$100,000 to get this app complete, and if I can get my book, get
an advance, I can get that covered.” I’m fairly confident I can
get $50,000 to $100,000 worth of current asset that I’ve got in
the book topic, and in a number of things. Then, I just started
seeing the potential in this.
I’m not in a hurry to write the book. I’m in a hurry to get the
podcast to find 10,000 downloads an episode because then, at
that point, I will then approach the publishers about signing a
deal. I got the iPhone app part figured out, so I’m not as
motivated by that, but I don’t know.
Trent, it’s one of those things that could totally flop or it
could be the next big book that leads into a whole other line of
Trent: That’s the interesting thing about succeeding in public, or
even demonstrating your expertise in public, by way of a book, a
blog, or a podcast, is the people that you don’t even know exist
know you exist, and some of them will come to you with
opportunities as a result of the exposure you create for
Sean: Absolutely. Who knows, man? It could be a total failure, and
hell, I may never even get it done. If the iPhone app gets
completed before the book thing and that takes off, great. Or if
my business takes… You never know, but it will get done at
some point, I’m sure. I feel fairly confident I can get it to
bestseller status. If not, I’ll just have to put my tail between
my legs and walk away from it.
Trent: I have several chapters of my book done, and they’ve been
collecting dust for a while.
Sean: Yeah, I hear you.
Trent: It’s tough to stay focused.
Sean: It’s amazing, too, when somebody gives you a big check of money
and how motivating that can be.
Trent: Well, yeah. Suddenly then you’ve got skin in the game and
you’re also being held accountable times 10.
Back to my first bullet point, then, of this interview is
talking about the podcast. Now, I know that you’ve done some
pretty interesting things to promote it, so not everybody has a
big list. Not everybody has the social reach, so that’s all
great and good for you. For the folks that don’t have that, but
they do have a desire, and anyone can interview people just like
you and I do, so I don’t think that you have to be a rocket
scientist to do that. You just have to have the desire to do it,
but promoting it. You’re doing some cool stuff on Facebook, so
do you want to talk a little bit about what you’re doing there?
Sean: Yeah. I wanted to know that this podcast had kind of reached
every corner of the earth, and I noticed one day that the first
time I looked at the stats, I saw that I had hit like 88 or 95
of the world’s 195 countries. I just thought, “Man, that would
be kind of cool to say that somebody in every country in the
world is listening to my podcast.” I just started running ads. I
just started targeting every country that I hadn’t gotten
downloads from, and that’s been a big boost in subscriptions and
likes on Facebook, on the page.
In just two weeks, I think it’s… Not organically because I’ve
been paying for the traffic, but for 50 bucks a day, I have
gotten… Well, I can just tell you. I’m looking at it right
now. I’ve spent $600 and have 1,227 fans right now, and it’s
probably sent over 3,000 clicks to iTunes, which I don’t know
how many of those become subscribers and download. It’s a
nominal cost. I think I’m paying, on average, including the
United States, I do marketing to the United States, Canada,
U.K., and Australia, which are the big markets for me, including
those and with all the other countries I’m marketing to, I’m
probably at 10 to 15 cents a click right now. I think that’s
been a big push to it.
Then, also, just leveraging my personal network on Facebook has
been really big as well. I haven’t done this yet. I have this
game plan. We talked about it earlier, that we don’t have to get
into now, but as soon as I am ready to kind of just go all out,
I will then go back and ask everybody that I’ve interviewed to
share it. I’m also connected to a lot of influencers over the
last few years. I’ve been earning a lot of reciprocity, or I
hope that I have, by constantly promoting and sharing their
I will then, when I’m ready, I want to make an all-out assault
on Dave Ramsey and that number one spot in business. It’s going
to be very coordinated, and I’m going to be bringing in every
weapon that I’ve got, but I’ll be reaching out to all the
influencers, I’ll crank up the ads that day, I’ll email my list,
and basically just abuse all my friends in social media and real
life, and ask them to help with that mission, and we’ll see what
Trent: This is kind of a piggyback on my question about the business
model. I have a lot of people in my audience who are marketing
consultants, run a marketing agency, or a small business of some
kind, that it may not have occurred to them that they should
have a podcast. Do you think they should?
Sean: I guess it just depends. For me, it’s so easy to generate this
kind of content. I can do two episodes or three episodes a week
in a couple hours a week. Trent, this conversation we’re having
is not like work, if you will. It’s not like traditional work?
For me, this is educational for me to do podcasts. When I
interview these people and they’re sharing with me how they
built their entire business, and their exact model, and what led
to this major increase here, and this and that, I’m getting like
a free education from somebody who has been there and done that,
and at the same time, I’m taking that content and using it for
For me, it’s easy, so if you have the time, and the energy, and
access, or have places you can find people to interview, to
feature, if you want to do interviews, I would say absolutely. I
don’t see any reason why not.
I think iTunes features just about every new podcast that comes
out in new and noteworthy. You got there. I got there. That just
exposes you to an audience that you don’t have currently. I
think with a simple game plan, you can do it, and build a good
audience. I think the audience always equates to value, so
there’s nothing wrong with building an audience. You’re
basically just building your own personal value further, so I
would say yeah. I don’t see any reason why not.
Trent: It really doesn’t take a whole lot of time to do these
interviews, folks. If you think that there’s like a ton of prep
work… I’m going to go on record here. Sean, do you know how
much prep I did for this interview? Zero.
Sean: I can tell from your questions, zero. No, I’m kidding.
Trent: Normally, I do actually put about a half hour into prep, but as
I mentioned to you off-air, my wife and I are moving at the end
of this week up to Boise, and I’ve had no time. I am so far
behind between packing boxes…
Sean: You don’t even need to. That’s the thing, though. We chatted
for 10, 15 minutes. You probably had everything you needed to
know, and we got rolling, and here we are. It’s not difficult.
Trent: Yeah, I agree. Where do you find your guests?
Sean: That’s a good question. A couple of different places, but I’m
in a couple entrepreneur groups on Facebook that are private
groups, so originally I reached out to those guys. I offered
just to interview any of them because everybody in that group is
an entrepreneur. There are 200 guys I’m in this group with, and
everybody in there is an entrepreneur. Most of them have mid-six
figure to mid-seven figure businesses, and some even eight- and
nine-figure businesses. I got about a dozen interviews out of
Then that led here, and there, and there, and then I reached
back out to everybody and said, “Hey, I’m looking for new
guests. If you know, great.” Then I have another friend who runs
a big female entrepreneur association. I had her reach out and
got about 10 different females to interview from that.
I just went to where they hung out, and relied on some friends,
or relied on the audience, I guess, just to help me kind of
source that. For me, it’s pretty easy. I can probably just go to
Inc., Fast Company, or Forbes. I haven’t done this yet because I
haven’t needed to, but I could just dig through their issues
online or in print, and find great people. People’s success
Trent: There are not too many people who are successful who don’t want
to talk about it.
Sean: Exactly. These guests, people are always like, “I can’t believe
they revealed this information to you,” and this and that. I’m
going through it, I guess, myself right now, and no one ever
takes the time to care how you got to where you got. When you
take an interest in somebody, you want to know their story. It’s
just unbelievable to me the amount that they vomit out.
Trent: It is the best free education going. A case in point about how
easy it is to get guests. Had you heard of me before I sent you
Sean: No, I hadn’t.
Trent: There you go. I got 140 characters to get Sean on the show, and
I suckered him into it.
Sean: You did a good job. It’s been interesting. I’ve been so behind
the scenes for so long that since I started this podcast, I’ve
been getting three or four a week, and I just thought well,
screw it. I’m just going to use that time to make some new
friends and spread the word a little bit further.
Sean: Anybody listening could probably shoot me a message. You have
three listeners that will probably jump on to it.
Trent: All right. Did you talk about geotargeting in the Facebook
thing we just talked about?
Trent: You did? All right, so we talked about monetizing it, we talked
about how you promoted it to your list. Here’s my show prep for
you. Is there anything that I missed with respect to how you
promoted your podcast to get to where you’re at?
Sean: Probably. There’s probably stuff I’ve forgotten. Can I point
people to that post I wrote?
Sean: Is that lame to do with your audience, or your show?
Trent: No. Hijack away, man.
Sean: I just wrote a post where I sat down one night and I knew it
would get my friends interested, and my community more
interested in it, so I wrote a post where I just revealed
everything. If you go to TheMoneyPillow.com it’s there. I think
I’m going to continue doing that. I would recommend Trent, or
even listeners, doing the same. People are really excited about
the transparency and love it, and as long as this thing
continues to succeed, I’ll do it.
Trent: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea, and it’s something that I
think I’ve mentioned in past episodes. My wife, she’s an
entrepreneur as well, and we’ve decided to start the Bright
Ideas Agency, and she’s going to run it, not me. I’m kind of in
the advisory capacity. We’re going to have an online dialogue,
it’s going to be on the blog, and we’re going to write about
stuff that we’re doing to get customers, and stuff we’re doing
to use marketing automation, and all sorts of stuff. I think
that people love to have the ability to look over someone’s
shoulder who has either had the courage to forge ahead and do
something they haven’t done yet, or maybe do something that
they’ve already done. Doing it again, but for the person looking
over their shoulder, it’s a huge value to be able to do that.
Sean: Huge. Yeah, I’ve gotten so much good feedback. Then what ended
up happening, too, is I got a lot of really important
podcasters, like Libsyn, the hosting company, and a couple other
people just shared that blog post, which drove a bunch of new
traffic. Well, not a bunch, but probably 500 to 1,000 hits to my
site. Not that much. Probably 300 to 500, but I got a bunch of
email and comments that I had never seen before, so I’m going to
keep it going. I’m going to keep just being transparent and
sharing that stuff. Like I said, as long as it’s successful. If
it starts failing, I don’t want to admit that I’ve failed.
Trent: That is the double-edged sword of all that transparency.
Sean: I’m kidding. I will, and I’ll probably have all kinds of great
excuses as to why it happened.
Trent: Oh, of course. My computer broke down. My dog ate my homework,
and stuff like that, yeah. Off the podcast. On to what I talked
about in the beginning. I promised that I would ask you about
the team. Of course, I’m very selfishly interested in this as
well. I have a team, but I want to know what does your team look
like? How many people are on it? Are they full time? Are they
all overseas contractors? Can you walk us through it?
Sean: How it looks now, and it was completely different six months
ago, or not completely, but for the most part… Forever, I had
a virtual team. When I lived in Columbus, for a couple of years
we had an office with people and then we moved to virtual, so
for two years I ran it with a team out of Kentucky of six that
did everything from graphics to copywriting to shopping cart
integrations. They did everything you can think of. Literally
everything, and there wasn’t anything they didn’t know. If they
didn’t know it, they’d learn it, and they were really good.
Trent: Were these full-time people, or were they independent
Sean: Everybody I have is independent contractors. Now I have some
employees, but at that point everybody I had was independent
contractors. I had a team of six in Kentucky who did a lot of
stuff, and I’d say out of that six, two worked for me pretty
much full time and four were part time. What I mean by that is
one guy did graphics for 10 to 15 hours a week. Somebody else
did transcription and audio/video stuff for another 10 or 15
I have a part-time person who has been with me pretty much since
day one. My very first employee, or contractor, and she is in
New York. She does all of our customer support and a lot of kind
of general admin and assistant-type stuff. I have a bookkeeper
that lives in Iowa, and she’s the bookkeeper, but also just does
all of our finances, manages everything.
Trent: I’m sorry. Is she looking for clients? I need a bookkeeper.
Sean: Do you? I might be able to refer you.
Trent: Please do.
Sean: I’d be happy to.
Trent: Thank you.
Sean: We’ll talk off-air about that, but yeah, I would be happy to.
She does everything for me, and then also does a bunch of other
stuff within the business as well. General kind of assistant or
admin stuff as well. Then, outside of that, probably a dozen
contractors that I call on multiple times a year for different
projects. That was it.
Then recently, as I started to get busy again at the end of May,
I got kind of frustrated with some delays that were going on
between customer support, or design, or this or that. The other
thing was I’m in California now and after 2:00 pm, I couldn’t
contact my team on the East Coast, in Kentucky, or in Eastern
Standard Times. That was really frustrating because I would surf
until 11:00 and then get out of the water, have some lunch, and
then I’d have about an hour where I could communicate with them.
An hour or two after I got to work I couldn’t call them anymore,
so I was like this sucks.
Then I started noticing some things. I think I was delegating
too much to them and things were starting to fall by the wayside
here and there. Ninety percent of it got done, and got done
brilliantly, but there was this 10% here or there that just
bothered me. I would be the one clogging the chain, and then
they were so busy they wouldn’t follow up with me on it. They’d
send me an email about something, and I’d never respond. I’d
looked at it and then forgot to mark it as unread, and I had
forgotten about it. A month later I’d be like, “Hey, whatever
happened to this or that?” and they’d be like, “Oh, well we
emailed you and you never responded.” I’m like, “In the past you
would follow up the next day, or the next day, and the next day.
‘Hey, what’s up?'” and they got so busy you stopped doing it.
I got kind of frustrated and said, “I’m going to hire a local
team and I’m going to put a giant white board on the wall where
I can write all these things down and hold them accountable.”
That’s essentially what I did. It’s worked out brilliantly
because, having the same people… I haven’t had this in so
long, where people are in the same room. The customer service
person can complain to the tech guy about a technical issue and
in 10 minutes he can fix something that’s been a frustration for
two years for our customer support staff. It’s been great having
some synergy with the same people in the room.
I think I’ve cut that portion of the employment cost in half,
and I’m probably getting twice the production out of them. I’ve
got people that are more… Literally, the developer and the IT
guy I have are probably five times as skilled as anybody I’ve
ever worked with.
Trent: Oh, that’s nice. Can I give you an idea that I discovered a few
years ago for, I call it, my task management dashboard?
Trent: Everyone I explain this to freaks out, so I’m going to share it
with you because hopefully it will be useful to you. I have a
Google doc I’ve had for years, so it’s shared. Obviously anyone
who is working for me anywhere in the world… I do this for my
wife as well because she runs the business with me. Things fall
through the crack in email. It’s hopeless. It’s color coded, so
every column is…
Like for me, I have episodes. All my shows. Each show is one
column, and then, in the rows on the left are all of the tasks
involved with pre-production, post-production, promotion, blah,
blah, blah, that we have to do over and over with each episode.
Then, it’s divided into whose section, so I’m like the top two
rows, which is like “record episode,” and then my wife has some
stuff, and then our overseas VA has some stuff.
It’s all color coded. Blue square means “hey, there’s a new
thing you’ve got to do.” Yellow means it’s in progress. Red
means there’s a problem, and green means it’s done. Any person
who has access to that visual dashboard can instantly see the
status of kind of everything because the colors really stand
Sean: Wow. That is pretty trippy. You have that in a Google doc, you
Trent: Yeah. Just put it in a Google doc and then what you can do is
get your people to subscribe for updates, so my VA, every time I
do anything, Google doc sends her an email saying something
changed. All she has to do is log on and look for more blue
squares for her because that means more new tasks. Then, I can
see how burdened she is or isn’t by the number of blue squares
relative to the number of green squares, which are tasks that
If there’s a problem, she changes it to red and puts in the
comments of the cell whatever the issue is, and then I can go
and solve it and change it back to blue or yellow again.
Sean: Did you say it has… Like when you change the doc, it sends an
email notification automatically?
Trent: Yeah, it does. It’s just a built-in notification system that
Sean: Is that something you have to select?
Sean: We have a bunch of docs that we share, and I never get any
Trent: It’s called “subscribe to changes.”
Sean: Oh, is that in there? Very cool. Yeah, that’s pretty smart. I
like that. It’s very sharp.
Trent: Yeah, because a white board is only good if you’re in the room,
right? This is kind of my digital task management dashboard.
Sean: Exactly, yeah. I love it. You know what you ought to do? You
ought to share that doc with your listeners, or share a dummy
Trent: I have.
Sean: Oh, you have?
Trent: I will do it again in the show notes for this episode, so if
you’re listening to this… What is the URL for this show going
to be? Give me half a second here, and I’ll tell you what number
it is. It’s going to be BrightIdeas.co slash something, and I’ve
just got to see what number I’m on. I’ll put it at the end of
the show as well, but just in case you’re listening right now,
which you are. Nothing like babbling while you’re interviewing.
I’m going to make this one number 71, so BrightIdeas.co/71, and
that will take you directly to the post. In that, I will put a
link to a screenshot of what I’ve just described.
Trent: I’ve got to make a note to myself. Link’s mentioned, so…
Sean: Yeah, that’s really smart. I did not know about that subscribe
to changes deal, and I can see how that could be powerful.
Trent: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. When the email goes out, it doesn’t say
what the changes are, it just says something… Or does it? I
can’t remember because I barely ever look at it because I’m not
the one receiving the emails. I’m the one that’s making the
changes that cause the emails to go out.
Sean: Got it.
Trent: The great thing is, do you know how much that costs to do?
Nothing. Thanks, Google.
Sean: Yeah, I love Google docs. Absolutely love it.
Trent: Back to the team. Where do you find the people that work for
you? Are you doing what everyone else does? You go and put a job
description, and you’re like super descriptive in what you want,
and you put it on oDesk, or Freelancer, or wherever, or are you
doing something that’s different than that?
Sean: For the virtual people, I just literally relied on referrals
for people that I had, friends that I had in the business
industry. Actually, the guy that ended up eventually creating
the team that I hired was somebody I’d met in a forum somewhere,
and he was just answering really smart responses to everything,
questions that I had, and other people. Then at one point, he
offered some services, and I hired him. He ended up becoming a
mentor for many years. I think I outgrew him as a mentor. That’s
the wrong choice of words, but I got to a level where that
portion wasn’t as valuable, but he always was just a sound guy,
and good advice.
Anyway, I found him through that forum. Everybody else was
mainly through referrals from friends. I would reach out and
say, “Hey, do you know somebody who can do this or that?” and
they’d refer them.
For the local people that I hired, I ran ads on Craigslist and
had a bitch of a time, excuse my language if there are kids
around, had a hard time getting people to even respond to my ad.
Santa Barbara has about a couple hundred thousand people in the
greater area, and when I ran the ad for a customer service
person, I had 50 responses in two days, and I had to take it
down. It was overwhelming. When I started running developer, and
IT, just specific niche job types of ads, I was getting two or
three responses a month. It started making me really nervous.
Then one day I went to run another ad because I’d gotten three
responses in a month, and none of them panned out. I went to the
section that I was going to be running the ad in, and I looked
at it, and I noticed all the ads looked exactly the same, so in
other words, they were like “web developer for tech company,” or
“front-end developer for whatever,” and blah, blah, blah.
I was like, “God, this is a good opportunity,” so I wrote an ad,
and the subject line of the ad was “Do You Build Great Shit?” In
parentheses, I put “WordPress, PHP, HTML, JAVA, etc.,” or
something like that, so that they knew when they saw “do you
build blah, blah, blah,” the stuff that was in parentheses was
the coding languages that they know.
The ad basically just said something along the lines of if you
build great shit, we want you. I think in my ad copy I wrote, “I
can write this whole long description of what we want, but
basically, we need you to be proficient in WordPress, this, and
that, and the other. We’re a four-year-old company. We do seven
figures in revenue. We’ve had a virtual staff forever. We’re
looking to hire on a local team. This is not a nine-to-five job.
We really are just focused on results. You can come and go as
you want as long as you’re getting the job done and keeping us
happy. If you want to work for a fun, cool company, and build
some great stuff together, hit reply.” That got 30 responses, I
think, in a week.
Sean: Yeah, and I found the most amazing guy from that. What ended up
being the funniest thing, Trent, was I already actually knew
him. He was a good friend of mine’s brother, so I didn’t know
that. When he responded, I’m like, “Oh, my God, I know this
guy,” but he saw the ad and didn’t realize it was me posting it.
Trent: What kind of money are you paying for local talent to do
technical work like that?
Sean: He does development work, so he’s $5,000 a month. He’s worth
every penny. A lot of the activities I put him on generate
revenue, and he’s already done a couple things that are
generating more than his salary on autopilot basis by fixing
things and creating some good stuff.
Trent: Very nice. What advice would you give to somebody… I know
there are lots of people that are listening to this show that
are what I call a solo entrepreneur. They go get a client, then
they get immersed in fulfillment of the services that they’re
going to deliver to that client, then they get bogged down in
the bookkeeping because you’ve got to have bookkeeping, and
then, then, then, and then the job’s done, and they’re like,
“Oh, crap, I need another client,” and the cycle starts all over
again. Not a good hamster wheel to be on.
The reason they’re on it, it’s not like they’ve never heard of
this idea of outsourcing or building a team. I think, if I had
to guess, because I used to be that guy like over a decade ago
when I started my first business, you’re limited by this either
perceived or reality of constrained cash flow. “Oh, I can’t
afford it” is generally what the objection is. What advice would
you give to that person? Let’s just say that they’re generating,
I don’t know, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year in billings for
their one-person shop.
Sean: What advice would I give them based on…
Trent: To build a team, yeah.
Sean: Yeah. There are three options, if you will. Number one, you can
keep doing what you’re doing and just hustle your ass off.
Sometimes it’s what you have to do because that’s the only way
you know out, and if that’s all you can do, that’s all you can
- You can generally make that work. It’s just a pain in the
ass, and then there’s an opportunity cost from all the time and
energy that you’re spending on that, and then all the mental
energy that you’re expending on that as opposed to revenue-
Two is you can hire somebody cheap. When I first started, I ran
an ad. It’s a long story, but the person I ended up hiring, I
said, “I can’t pay you what you’re worth. I know you’re worth
more. I just don’t make enough now to pay you. If you’re willing
to come on now and work for less, I’ll take care of you later.”
She said, “I like you a lot, and I’d love to work for you even
it’s for less than what I’m worth. That’s fine.”
The reality is she still works for me to this day, four years
later, and she made my life so much easier so that I could start
focusing on growth and growth-producing tasks as opposed to
those kinds of tasks. To this day, she’s still with me, and she
probably makes three times what she’s worth now. I don’t mind
paying her because she’s incredibly loyal. I can call her at
midnight if I have a crisis. She’ll answer the phone and she’ll
help me out. I don’t do that, but she’s just an amazing person.
I overpay her now, but for years, I underpaid her, so I have no
issue with that.
People that are loyal, I don’t mind taking care of them. It’s
not that I overpay her. She works for what she earns, but I
could probably get somebody for half of what I pay her to do the
same work, but I don’t because she’s been incredibly loyal to me
and made some sacrifices to work for me early on, so I view it
as a good exchange.
Trent: Just in the interest of transparency because I’ve been a CEO
and had a staff and so forth, too, so for the folks to
understand this, it’s not that Sean’s super-duper altruistic.
It’s also there’s a massive pain to changing from someone who is
really good at what they do, and you have a relationship with,
and you know that when you assign them something it gets done to
trying to find someone who can do most of the stuff, and they
can do it, I can pay them half, blah, blah, blah. It sucks.
Sean: You never know what you’re going to get, too. You hire somebody
new and six months later they’re gone, and you have to do the
whole cycle over again, so there is a huge pain.
For me, this type of position that she does is fairly simple
stuff. I could, without much pain, replace her, but I never
would because she was so loyal to me early on, and amazing. My
thing now is I probably need to dedicate some time into getting
her to do some other things outside of what she’s doing because
she’s making more than she should, but in the meantime, I don’t
mind paying her what she gets for that reason.
That was the first two. You can do it yourself. You can pay
somebody. Offer to pay them cheap, and you’d be surprised, if
people like you, that they’ll do it.
The third thing is you can get somebody to do it for free. There
are interns that can do it. Interns are good, but you have that
pain point of losing them after a certain period of time, but if
the tasks are not that challenging, you can have an intern do
- Or, some sort of trade or exchange with somebody else.
Right now, for example, I have somebody that is like begging me
to do coaching with them, and I just don’t like doing consulting
or coaching-type work because I feel like I’m obligated and
blah, blah, blah, but she’s been a great customer. She’s been a
good friend in social media, and all this stuff.
I said, “Look, I’ll give you a 20-minute call on me. I’ve
appreciated all your support over the years, but that’s really
all I’ve got.” We start talking, she shared with me her whole
story, and it kind of pulled on some heartstrings. She had some
hardships. I realized I was in a position to kind of help her,
and I think I really, truly can change her life with some of the
direction that I’ll give her on what to do with her business
I said, “I do need somebody to work on TheMoneyPillow.com and
format all this… The website right now, in its form, sucks. It
could be a whole lot better because I don’t have the time and
energy, and I haven’t found somebody to hire to do that, but if
you want to do it, I’ll do it, and I’ll give you a half hour
coaching a month, and we can talk here and there, back and
forth.” She’s just like, “I’d love to.” She’s doing it for me
for free and I’m giving her some value and exchanging some
advice or knowledge with her.
What I told her was, too, I said, “If you want to do this for
free, I’ll be happy to coach you and then, after 60 or 90 days,
if the podcasts are generating revenue, and you want to continue
to do it, I’ll be happy to pay you X amount of dollars to
continue doing it, but I won’t be coaching you at that point. I
don’t want to coach you beyond that point regardless.” She’s
just like, “Awesome. I’d love to do it as long as this isn’t
anything crazy, I’d love to do it, and get paid to do it in the
future,” so I’ll probably start paying her. She’s doing an
amazing job, and she’s going above and beyond, in the first few
days of working on it, beyond my expectations.
Those kind of exchanges work really well, and they work well for
- I don’t want to throw $1,000 to $1,500 a month at somebody
to publish the podcasts and do all this stuff on there. I’m not
doing all the video editing, and the audio editing, and all that
stuff now. I’m not taking the blog content and really filling it
out to the level it should be, so she’s willing to do it for
free, and I’m going to give her a half hour a month of my time,
probably an hour in total, I would assume, which is no big deal
because I like helping people. I just hate feeling obligated to
Trent: Is she doing the post-production editing and the video editing
Sean: No, I’ve got somebody else doing that. A guy that kind of owes
me some favors, if you will, so he’s been doing that for awhile,
and he’s happy to do it. We’ll end up working on some projects
in the future together, and he knows that, so he’s doing that.
What I’m going to do is the first 30 days she’s doing all of the
on-the-page content, and the second 30 days I’m going to have
him teach her how to do the actual audio and video editing.
Trent: That’s a fantastic idea. If there’s anybody listening to this
episode right now, I am looking for someone to do my post-
production and some of the website work as well. If you are
interested in being coached by me, get a hold of me.
Trent@BrightIdeas.co and we’ll make a similar trade.
Trent: All right.
Sean: Somebody should respond to that, man, because to be able to
work directly with you has a huge value. The person that’s doing
this stuff for me now, I asked her today how it was going, and
she said she’s loving it. She said she never anticipated
enjoying the work, and for her, listening to all the interviews,
and going through all the content has been extremely educational
and fun for her, so she’s just like, “I’m actually loving it.”
Trent: No kidding. That’s kind of another good point. Just the mere
fact that you would have to listen to all the episodes is like
an advanced marketing degree through your ear buds.
Sean: It is, right?
Trent: It’s not like it’s all my great ideas. I’ve had some pretty
darn smart entrepreneurs on this show who are killing it, and
I’m good at getting them to explain step by step exactly what
they’re doing to get that result. Maybe I should take my own
advice and just listen to more of my own episodes.
It’s funny. I actually did re-listen to one of my own episodes.
As people who listen to my show regularly know, we’re launching
this agency for my wife, and I had interviewed a couple people
who are really doing well with their agencies, so I went and re-
listened to my own interviews. I was there the first time
around, but you can’t take as good notes when you’re the host of
the show as you can when you’re just sitting in a chair with
your ear buds.
Sean: Yeah, it’s a different experience listening to it after you’ve
done it, isn’t it?
Trent: Yeah, it is, very much so. Out of my own episode, I did this
one with Graig Presti, I think I got a solid page of notes of
action items that were built into our launch plan, and it was
Sean: That’s awesome. Yeah, I do the same. I go back and listen to
every episode mainly just because I want the extra download to
Trent: I don’t believe you.
Sean: Yeah, I’m kidding. I find it educational, man. I do. There’s
always stuff when we do the interviews. For example, you’re
interviewing me and there’s probably been a moment or two where
you kind of drift off in La-La Land in your head because you’re
thinking about something I said, so it’s been a lot like
watching a movie twice, or reading a book a second time for me
to go back and listen to it. I’ve heard things that I must have
just unconsciously just blacked out in thought.
Trent: Yeah, that’s true, because a lot of times when you’re talking,
I’m either writing something down, I should video this one day
so people can see what I’m doing, or I’m looking at the next
question, or I’m thinking about where I want to take the
interview. Sometimes I’m going, “Holy crap, what’s the next
question I’m supposed to ask? I don’t have one written down.”
Sean: The other thing is, too, I’ve noticed a lot of things that have
helped me improve my podcast, Trent, and it’s like geez, dude,
just shut up and let your guest talk. It’s just like when I hear
myself, I’m like, “All right. Next time I’m not going to do
Trent: Yeah. I am guilty of that, absolutely. I think I’m getting
better. Hopefully some people who are listening to this show are
laughing their butts off now because they’re like, “Yeah, Trent,
you’re on drugs. You’re not getting any better.”
Sean: Oh, that’s great.
Trent: With that said, another question coming your way. How are you
doing for time, by the way?
Sean: I’m good.
Trent: I had mentioned at the beginning of this episode I wanted to
cover three broad topics. The first one was how you launched
your podcast and got so much traction. The second one was
talking about the team. Then, I want to talk more about this
publishing business that you run because I’m super interested in
that business. It’s something that I probably could, or maybe
even should, be doing as well.
Take two minutes and just kind of give us the quick overview of
what the business is, and then I’ve got my first couple of
questions kind of tucked away in my mind that I want to ask you,
but I want people to have context for what those questions are.
Sean: Sure. I have an online, or digital, publishing company, and we
take digital trainings and sell them. I don’t do any of the
content myself. There’s a little bit here and there I do, but
I’m not like the face or the name or anything behind it. What I
focus on is just finding other experts who are really good with
a certain topic or niche, but don’t have the audience that we
have, so we then take them, publish them, take their content,
package it up in a sexy package, and then sell it. They bring
the content, we bring everything they need. Our deals are they
have to be available for some promotional-type stuff here and
there. That, provide the content, and provide updates to the
content should things change, and then we handle all the rest.
Trent: It’s digital publishing promotion at its finest.
Sean: Exactly. It’s pretty much the same as a book publishing company
publishing somebody’s content just from a book perspective.
Trent: Only probably more profitable.
Sean: You got it.
Trent: Let’s go back to the very beginning when this business had not
done its first dollar of revenue. I didn’t know you back then,
so correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m assuming that nobody
knew who you were. What did you do before this? I guess I should
ask that question.
Sean: I had owned a real estate company. I had a brokerage, an
investment firm. That company, I was in charge of all the
marketing, and managed all the agents as well.
Trent: By chance, was your very first product of this digital
publishing company a real estate training product?
Sean: No, but when I sold that business I thought that’s what I would
- Just as a little side project, I started blogging about
Twitter. This was in 2008, and I got a website. It’s now defunct
and you won’t find it, but it was MyTwitterExperiment.com.
I just wrote every day for 30 minutes. I’d spend 20 to 30
minutes writing a blog post about things I’d learned that day
with Twitter. I was really into Twitter, so I just though,
“Well, I’ll just write about Twitter, and do this for a couple
of months, and just see what happens. It will be fun, and it
will get my creative juices flowing,” so that’s literally what I
By the end of 30 days, it like really picked up. It was getting
tons of re-tweets on each post. People all of a sudden started
seeing me as an authority. I was getting over 1,000 visits a day
within a month to that website.
Trent: That’s crazy.
Sean: It is crazy, but if you think about it, I was on Twitter
building a huge audience on Twitter, and then writing about
Twitter and how I was building a huge audience on Twitter. It
really was just something that was really easy for them to
share, and at the time, nobody was doing it. Now, everything has
changed, and it’s not as easy as it was back then.
Anyway, that’s what I did and I just took off, so I thought,
“Wow, I should probably create a opt-in so that people can join
a mailing list.” I knew, with real estate, we had a big annual
list of people that were interested in buying or selling
properties. I knew kind of the value in that, so I thought,
“Well, I know there are some different products I can market
that I’ve been touting on the blog and earn affiliate
commissions.” That’s what I started doing, collecting an email
list, was getting an insane amount of opt-ins every day.
By month three, I think I started monetizing it. My first
attempts at monetizing were just sending out offers to products
and services that I used. They could be software, they could be
all different kinds of things, and I was getting, I think, the
first month or two like $1,000 or $2,000, so three months in I
was earning $1,000 to$2,000 a month by sending out a few emails
a month, and then putting a few in the auto-responders.
Then, I wrote a book on Twitter, about 120-page book, started
selling that, and by month three to six, I was probably earning
$3,000 to $4,000 a month in book sales and affiliate promotions,
and it was going up by a hair every month.
Then I met a business partner that I had at the time, Lewis
Howes. I don’t know if you know him, but he was doing the same
thing with LinkedIn. I said, “Dude, my audience can really use
what you’ve got, and your audience can use what I’ve got. We
should partner up and do some stuff,” and we did. That was kind
of the beginning of everything.
Trent: His course was the first product that your publishing company
brought to market?
Sean: Well, we were business partners for a long time and originally
we created some trainings together, and then we did the LinkedIn
training because it was just this simple little training. We
were selling mainly higher-end products like $500 to $1,000, and
Trent: People were paying $2,000 to get a LinkedIn course?
Sean: No, it was like a six-week live training, and a bunch of other
things, so they were paying that. They were getting consulting,
and some done-for-you-type stuff, and this, and a lot of stuff,
actually, for the money. We had a whole segment of our audience
that couldn’t afford all that, so we said let’s create this $100
LinkedIn training and we started selling that.
As soon as we did that, I realized there was some really good
revenue coming in from that, and I said, “We should publish one
on YouTube.” I had used YouTube a lot with my real estate
business and had tremendous success with it. I was getting,
literally, like five buyer leads a day from YouTube. If you’re a
realtor listening to this, you’re going to probably think I’m
full of shit, but our videos averaged about 5,000 views a video
because we did some pretty smart stuff with SEO for real estate.
It was really easy to get a property video up to the front of
Google at the time. Anyway, so it just crushed it.
I came up with an idea late one night, and I talked to my
business partner about it at the time. He was just like, “Maybe
we should find somebody else to produce it who is really kind of
an active expert in the field. Let them do all the content and
we’ll just focus on selling it.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s a good
call.” We both knew James Wedmore. We reached out to him. He was
really receptive and open to do it, so that was our next
As soon as we inked that deal, I said, “Well, why don’t we do
Facebook as well if we’re going to do this and that?” We reached
out to Amy Porterfield that same week and got a commitment from
her to do FB Influence. That was how it all really began.
It was just this funny thing where we created this $100 product
and we did a product launch behind it and anticipated the sales
kind of dying down, and they ended up generating $300 to $400 a
day in revenue. I just thought, “Wow, if we had 10 to 20 legs,
different products generating this kind of revenue, that could
be great.” That was kind of the beginning of it.
Trent: I’m going to guess you’re probably familiar with
Sean: Did you say Early To Rise?
Trent: They’re doing $20 million a year in information products from
what I have heard. Obviously I’ve never seen their books. Would
you say that your model is similar? Exactly the same?
Sean: Yeah, it’s similar. We’re not doing that kind of revenue.
Trent: Where I’m going with this is they obviously…
Sean: Oh, this is Craig Valentine, yeah. Here are two things. This
space is fitness. If they’re doing $20 million in revenue,
they’re probably keeping about a million of that. This is a
ClickBank product. I’m just kind of giving you some insight. I
would rather have my business at one-tenth of the revenue and
probably similar profits.
Their business model, they have to give away the majority of
their profit. Actually, I shouldn’t be saying any of this. Never
mind. I won’t even go there. It’s just a high revenue, low
margin business. Craig’s a genius and he’s got this thing fully
automated, I think, for the most part.
Anyway, nothing bad to say about those guys. I don’t mean it
like that, but it’s just I chose to grow my business in a
different way. For me, I would rather have a smaller business
where I get to keep the majority of it versus… I have a friend
that has a company with 1,500 employees. Literally, he started
nine years ago, and now has 1,500 employees, and the revenue
they do is astronomical, but his salary, I think, is close to $2
million a year, and I think I can get there with 10 employees.
Trent: Yeah, I wouldn’t want 1,500.
Sean: Can you imagine?
Trent: Can I imagine…
Sean: Managing 1,500 people?
Trent: Well, no, because you’d manage five people that would manage
1,500 people, would be my guess.
Sean: Yeah, but, you still have… Anyway, go ahead. Sorry to derail
Trent: You damn hijacker, you. The reason I brought ETR up was because
my understanding from the interview that I listened to with CEO,
they’re driving paid traffic into the funnel and they convert it
profitably. I was using that as a segue to ask how are you
driving traffic to your various legs on this e-publishing
company? For you, it’s not one site. It’s a whole bunch of
different sites for the different products. How many products is
interesting to me, and you can throw that number out if you want
to, but what I’m really interested in is have you managed to use
paid media to evergreen the funnel profitably?
Sean: I don’t know if this was while we were on the air or off the
air, but remember when we talked, I was telling you how I was
just sitting in the water waiting for waves and thinking how I
had a lot of holes in my business? That’s one of them. The paid
traffic. We don’t do any paid traffic. All of our sales, and I’m
just looking right now to see if there’s any truth in what I’m
about to say, we do about, outside of promotional periods and
everything, probably in the ball park of $3,000 to $4,000 a day
in revenue, all from referral, word of mouth, repeat customers,
affiliate traffic, you name it. It just comes from everything,
so paid traffic is a big opportunity for us.
One of the problems we have with doing paid traffic is we’ve
never sold our products as this will make you rich. That’s the
kind of stuff that sells really well, and converts really well,
but we didn’t want to go that route. We’re not trying to make
anybody rich. We’re just trying to educate you. It’s a challenge
to pay for traffic and get it to convert when you’re not making
all these great and grand promises that send people over the
edge to buy.
That’s the deal. We are now getting into that, and we’ve done a
lot of paid stuff in the past, but we never stuck with anything
for one reason or another. That is a big focus for me.
In May, we started implementing… I needed to work on upsells
and a funnel after people purchased, offering them additional
things should they need it. We’ve got that dialed in at about 90
days that the revenues on the front-end sale are up about 80%.
If somebody pays me $100, the average customer is now paying
$180 within two weeks of buying our products.
Trent: That’s good.
Sean: Yeah, so I wanted to work on that prior to spending money, so
that if I now have to spend $150 to earn $100 back on day one, I
know that by day 14, I’ll generate $180 in theory. It could be
more, it could be less, because the traffic’s a little bit
different, but that’s the idea.
Trent: You’re working on it?
Sean: We just now, literally like the last couple weeks, started
running some small samples, but that, to me, is a way that I can
increase our revenues that we’re not currently doing.
Trent: Are you using Infusionsoft on the backend of your business, or
Sean: Yeah, Infusionsoft is one of the tools we use. We use that and
then, also, we do a lot of stuff with ClickBank.
Trent: You’re not using the Infusionsoft shopping cart. You use
ClickBank for payment processing and affiliate?
Sean: We do. With the paid stuff, we’re using Infusion, and with a
lot of our in-house stuff we use Infusion, but probably 60% of
our business goes through ClickBank.
Trent: Not that I’m any ClickBank expert at all, but it seems to me
like their business has also gone through a huge change in the
last 12 to 18 months.
Sean: In what fashion?
Trent: A lot less biz-opp, IM products.
Sean: Oh, yeah. They’re kind of moving away from that, which is good
because there are a lot of great products on there, and they
have a certain stigma attached with it. I couldn’t care less
what else is on there. Ninety percent of my customers have no
idea what ClickBank even is.
For me, it just makes my life easy because I don’t have to worry
about tracking sales, paying affiliates, issuing W9s, collecting
W9s, running reports, blah, blah, blah. All I do is just get a
check, and they handle everything for me. I don’t have to worry
about taxes. I don’t have to worry about European VAT taxes. I
don’t have to worry about state taxes. I don’t have to worry
about all these random things that often in Infusion is not
automated or set up for you. If you are successful, you could
have a government agency knocking on your door saying you owe us
a lot of money and you’re going to jail for not paying your
taxes. I love ClickBank for just that alone.
Trent: That’s a good point. We’re going to nerd out here just for a
moment, but Infusionsoft users will be able to appreciate this.
When you’re using Infusionsoft shopping cart and a purchase
happens that’s a goal in a campaign, you can trigger all sorts
of events off the satisfaction of a goal. Can you plug into the
API at ClickBank to be able to accomplish more or less the same
thing? Do you know?
Sean: Yeah, you can. The only thing we literally use Infusionsoft
anymore for is the shopping cart purposes. We have shifted to
our own email software that’s housed on our servers. There’s a
whole long technical story to get into, but essentially our
emails were going into spam. When your emails get over a certain
size, they start getting looked at differently by Gmail, and
Hotmail, and all that stuff. If you’re not getting 50% open
rates, often times a lot of your email will end up in spam.
Again, it’s really technical. I don’t want to get into it, but
we have our own servers now, so we have the APIs from Infusion
and ClickBank tied into our servers so that when a purchase
happens, it goes into an auto-responder within our own email
provider on our servers.
Trent: You said you still are using Infusionsoft’s shopping cart?
Sean: To process stuff, and we’ll probably change that shortly
because it’s way too costly to be using just for a shopping
Trent: Yeah. I’m confused because ClickBank is the shopping cart, so
Sean: There are two reasons for that. ClickBank, at the end of the
day, if I’m selling something with myself, on $100 product, I
see about $88 of it, or on a $97 product, I see $88. With
Infusionsoft, on our merchant fees, on a $97 product, I’ll see
about $94. It gets deposited into my bank account two days
later. With ClickBank, I think we have it set up to be deposited
every two weeks. Sometimes if you’re spending $3,000, $5,000 or
$10,000 a day, it’s nice to have that right back so you can plow
it back into it and not have to wait two weeks.
Trent: Absolutely. Again, I’m just trying to understand. You’re using
Infusionsoft shopping cart to sell your own products…
Sean: Yeah, when we’re driving the sales.
Trent: When affiliates are driving the sales, then… Got it. Light
bulb just went off.
Sean: There are certain circumstances where if we have an affiliate
that will do 100, 200, 300 sales, we’ll run that through our
cart and then we pay the affiliate immediately. They love it
because they get paid right away. These are our friends, so it’s
just like hey, we don’t want to run it through here and lose 5%.
All of that ongoing business, or that daily business, the
referral and all that stuff, that’s all run through ClickBank.
Trent: Do you have someone on your team that’s tasked with reaching
out to promotional partners on a regular basis, affiliates, and
saying, “Hey, let’s do a webinar, let’s do a promotion, let’s do
this, that, and the other thing”?
Sean: We don’t. A lot of guys I know do. We just don’t have that. For
me, that’s not our business model. We do some product launches
here and there, but that’s an easy thing for me to communicate.
I just call people I know that will promote it to their friends,
and then send emails out to… I think we have close to 10,000
affiliates, so we’ll just shoot an email out to those affiliates
and say, “Hey, we have this coming up. Here are some details
about it. Get involved if you want.”
Trent: All right, my friend, we have been an hour and 15, and I’ve
got, in nine minutes, another call I’ve got to get on, so I just
ran out of time. Actually, if you include our off-air talk,
we’ve been talking for two hours straight.
Sean: Oh, my gosh, yeah. I’ve got to get to work. I’ve got an
interview this morning for my podcast. I’ve really not done much
Trent: Well, you contributed a whole bunch onto the Bright Ideas
Sean: It was an honor to be on again.
Trent: Yeah, dude, it was a lot of fun. I thank you very much for all
the chit-chat. We’ve just got a couple quick things we’ll cover
off-air once I hit the stop button here, so don’t hang up right
away. Thank you very much. If anyone wants to get a hold of you,
what is the best way to do that?
Sean: I’m on Twitter, so that’s @SeanMalarkey. You can go to the blog
if you want to leave a comment there or anything, I see all
that. On Facebook, I’m kind of at my friend max. If you want to
add me there, I’d be happy to have you, and I’ll remove somebody
that I don’t really know or don’t see active. Just shoot me a
message if you would even if it goes to the other box. I’m
getting in the habit of checking that now because a lot of
people have been reaching out, so that’s very cool. Any which
way you want. Just Google me, you’ll find me.
Trent: Well, I sent you a Facebook friend request way at the beginning
of this, so you better add me, man.
Sean: All right, I will. I think I have to remove one person, but
it’s not too difficult.
Trent: That’s going to be a wrap for this episode with Sean. Thank you
so much for being on the show.
Sean: Again, thanks for having me, man. It was a real honor.
Trent: All right, to get the show notes for today’s episode, head over
to BrightIdeas.co/71. Now, if you really enjoyed this episode,
I’ve got to ask you a little favor. Love it if you would go over
to BrightIdeas.co/love. When you do, you will find a pre-
populated tweet. Would love it if you would share that with your
followers. Even more than that, would love it if you would take
a moment to go over to iTunes and give the show a five star
rating. The more five star ratings we get, the better iTunes
ranks us. The better our ranking, the more people get to listen
to the show, and the more Bright Ideas from proven entrepreneurs
just like Sean we get to spread out in the community.
Thank you so much. That’s it for this episode. I am your host,
Trent Dyrsmid, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one.
Take care and have a wonderful day.
About Sean Malarkey
Sean is the president of Inspired Marketing, a web based Internet Marketing Education company that helps clients achieve their goals online through digital trainings on all things Social Marketing & Online Marketing.
Sean is passionate about marketing and helping individuals better understand how to market themselves online using social media.
Sean is also the host of The Money Pillow, a blog and podcast dedicated to making money while you sleep (and play).