Digital Marketing Strategy: Sean Malarkey on How to Employ Smart Online Marketing to Create a Money Pillow

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

Resources Mentioned

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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.

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Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


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

every day.

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…

Trent: Opulence.

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

the time.

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?

Trent: Nineteenth.

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

new fans.

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

it launches.

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?

Trent: Yeah.

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

  1. 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

the podcast.

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

those guys.

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

stories are…

Trent: Everywhere.

Sean: Exactly.

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

a tweet?

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.

Trent: Absolutely.

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?

Sean: Yeah.

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?

Trent: Yeah.

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 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

hours, etc.

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?

Sean: Sure.

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

are done.

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

Google offers.

Sean: Is that something you have to select?

Trent: Yeah.

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 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, 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.

Sean: Awesome.

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.

Trent: Nice.

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

  1. 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-

generating tasks.

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

  1. 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 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

  1. 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

do it.

Trent: Is she doing the post-production editing and the video editing

for you?

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. and we’ll make a similar trade.

Sean: Awesome.

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

really good.

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

my numbers.

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

  1. 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

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

sometimes $2,000.

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: Yeah.

Sean: Yeah.

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

are you…

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 Now, if you really enjoyed this episode,

I’ve got to ask you a little favor. Love it if you would go over

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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).