One of the first information publishing ventures I ever did was a course that we sold through newspaper classified ads. It was called The Bargain Hunter’s Course and it was about buying and selling on Ebay. We’d already had some Ebay success so we wrote it up and made it into an info product.
The course came in three volumes, comb-bound with hard covers and looked very nice.
We bought a comb-binding machine and laser printer (not too cheap back in the day)and we ran a sort of print on demand service where we’d print off each course as an order came in.
We built a really basic website and sold a few through forum posts. I don’t think we had a mailing list at that time.
The we decided to place a small classified ad in a UK national newspaper. They all seemed to have ‘biz opp’ sections back then.
The ad cost us £600, which at the time was around $1,000. It was the most I’d ever spent on advertising and I was nervous.
We booked an ad that ran for two consecutive days. It was basically designed to get people to our laughingly ugly website. I’m talking yellow background, full page width, dark blue text and animated gifs.
The ad ran.
We had two forms of payment option on the website. People could use Paypal to pay for the course, which was then shipped within 10 days, or send a cheque through the post, the course to be sent when the cheque had cleared.
Well the ad went live and the payments via Paypal took us by storm. I can’t remember exactly how much the course sold for but think it was around $167
Within an hour of the British public reading the paper over their tea and crumpets we’d paid for the ad three times over. By mid-morning we’d hit the $10k mark and over the next day, when the second ad ran we’d hit almost $19,000.
The ad ran on the Sunday and Monday editions, but it wasn’t until Wednesday Thursday and Friday the same week that we saw the real power of information marketing.
Because that’s when the cheques started to arrive.
Some bounced of course and there were refunds to contend with but we pretty much doubled our profit.
It was the most money I’d ever made from a venture.
We worked solidly for 48 hours, printing. comb-binding, compiling and posting course after bloody course. It was wonderful!
I can’t remember if we needed to change two printer drums or buy two more actual printers, but it was well worth it either way.
Strangely enough though, a little while afterwards we tried to replicate it with the same ad, but we barely made enough to cover the ad costs. We took that as an men and it was along time before I tried newspaper ads again.
We’d never even considered making the course into a downloadable format initially although we did later on.
What I do remember from that period was a sense of total CLARITY.
I could formulate a product and marketing plan in my mind in 5 minutes and the vast majority of them made a very good profit.
I put that down to only having the minimum amount of knowledge anout information marketing.
When I went fully online at first it was the same. Stupidly SIMPLE plans that just worked because there wasn’t enough involved to go badly wrong!
These days while I still have no shortage of ideas, it’s much less clear.
When I come up with a plan I also come up with half a dozen reasons why it won’t work, or how it could be done better, or how someone else already tried the same thing.
And I have to beat down these negative thoughts with a mental stick.
It’s because I know too much about internet marketing these days.
Sometimes I honestly wish I could forget the intricate and fine detail of IM – the higher level strategies – and just have the basics in my head.
Because the basics principles are usually what I use anyway (because they work) and the ‘fancy, twiddly bits’ that everyone seems to call ‘advanced strategies’ are just white noise that hinder, delay and sometimes even STOP me putting my plans into action.
If your ideas are sound, then the basics will push them to success. I honestly believe that.
Likewise if your idea is a duffer or based around some fancy ‘tactic’ rather than the basics of simply selling stuff that people want to buy, then you’ll most likely fail.
As my gran used to say ‘You can’t polish a turd’
So I’m sitting here typing this wearing a tinfoil hat, to see if I can tune OUT some of the clutter that interferes with me putting a plan into action.
I’ve already started with a rough set of rules for myself.
‘If it’s something clever or pretty that doesn’t’ affect the main idea fundamentally, just makes it prettier, more ‘current’ or faddy then dump it!’.
I’m actively going old school these days. Doesn’t mean I’m behind the times – I just bought some extremely cool software the other day to build a new ‘service’ site in one of my niches. I’ll tell you about that when it’s done.
But when it comes to marketing, selling, product creation and business development, I’m very much going back to basics.
And in this recession that’s hitting some marketers like a ton of wet cement, my biz is doing better than it has been for ages.
So if you’ve not been around in IM for too long maybe you’re in a better position than some gurus who are using methods that made them money last year….
….and finding they’re just kicking a dead horse.
The question is how long will they take to realise it’s snuffed it?
I don’t think you need me to write a post about the current state of the industry. You just need to look around. See the huge wave of new marketers coming through making a lot of money putting their own individual stamp on tried and trusted methods like backlinking, flipping, SEO, product creation and blogging.
I don’t even open the emails I get from marketers asking me to promote the usual big Clickbank product launches anymore, because they’re not only shite, they’re BORING, which is much worse.
I said at the start of the year I was going back to basics – trying to actively UNLEARN some of the stuff that’s cluttered up my thought processes for a while.
Let me tell you guys it WORKS.
You don’t need to know everything about your niche or your product area. You just need to know enought to get it out there.
The current enviromnent is better than it’s ever been for newcomers, because gurus don’t own the industry any more. A quiet revolution is going on.
New marketers are coming through, using and selling honest and effective methods, which many established gurus are still sending out the same old (and now very embarrasing) hyped up ‘buy me, buy me’ emails.
Sure you might only think you know the basics, but that’s a powerful position to be in.
Why’d you think I’m putting so much effort into thinking like a ‘newbie’ again?
Comments welcome as always.
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Great read as usual – I particularly like the bit where you say guru’s don’t own the industry anymore. Not only is this true but it’s refreshing and inspiring for newbies and smaller marketers alike.
How refreshing! It’s like having scales lifted from your eyes. About a month ago I realised I’d been running around in circles for a couple of years putting my faith in some people who apparently wanted to help me. Well, maybe they did but I never saw much of the cash back.
Anyway I went right back to basics and and am for the first time making some money. Not a lot (in Paul Daniels voice for UK readers) but some and steady.
On the basis of this I’d heartily endorse all your comments.
I am now trying to keep it very simple but not going Luddite. When a useful new tool comes along I may well buy it if it furthers my basic strategy.
The funny thing is I had a product ready to promote and had agreement to have it distributed but I took another look at it and thought “would I buy this”. Well, no I would not – it really was a load of claptrap – project abandoned!
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.
That WAS a great post and I couldn’t agree more. I was publishing an MLM newsletter (a small A5 magazine with about 30 pages) back in about 1992 (yeah, almost 20 years ago!) and I was only advertising in the Exchange & Mart, Trader Magazine (I think it was called – dunno if it even exists anymore) and some small home business newsletters.
I would have been about 21 at the time and I was hungry for it once I got a sale or two.
Same as you… I’m sure… I was sitting at home, with a damn old PC (new at the time, but kids these days would never understand the basics we had to work with then!) and printing them off on demand. Then selling reports off the back of the free newsletter and printing those off on demand too.
I got involved on the Internet almost from day one, when it hit the UK, and have never really looked back. Sure, some things have changed over the years, and if you listen to “the gurus” (how much do I hate that term) you’d be led to believe that what worked last month won’t work this month, but when it comes to selling anything it’s all about two things….
1. Solving a problem
2. Providing the solution to the problem
That’s totally basic and there are many more intricacies involved when serving up different solutions to different problems, but on the whole that’s what it comes down to every single time. And it always has.
The technology has changed a LOT, but if anything, it’s made it even easier to engage with potential customers now than it ever was before.
What you say about “unlearning stuff” makes perfect sense. The basics are where it’s at… it’s been like that since day one, too!
As usual your damn right And I’m like your good self and don’t even entertain those emails any more and when are they going to realise that their method of ‘hype’ selling is dead in the water?
Just as a side note, have you had chance to read Ryan Deiss new ebook ‘the web is dead’ (as we know it)?
I would love to know your thoughts on what Ryan thinks about how the Internet is changing and if you agree with some of his thinking?
I really enjoyed reading your interesting take on the IM industry and about ‘going back’ to basics.
It was a timely and enlightening post after reading Ryan Deiss’ report on the imminent death of IM as we know it.
Thank’s for helping me maintain my belief and optimism in going foreword with my projects.
Tony, my boy, you have been reading my mind — I think I’m the one who needs the tinfoil hat to block out your telepathic brainwaves! I’ve always been a fan of simple, stupid profits – avoiding the clutter and complication that so frequently goes into this business. But I’m having to make CLEARER choices lately about what not to do, like remaining adamant about not doing Facebook or Twitter, which seem contrarian, but work for me. (I don’t want to have to hire a team of teenagers and board them in my basement so they can work full time for me, managing social media for my very varied businesses in loads of different niches. I hear teenagers have to eat a lot.)
Thank you for this post because the early ebooks that you and Sara Brown put out through Laycock are still the classics for me — describing the excitement and simplicity of those early days when you would just get an idea for a product and put it out and watch those Paypal payments come in. That thrill really never goes away – both the thrill of launching a product AND the thrill of returning to those older ebooks of yours, which I still read when I need a pick me up!
I’m also trying to approach my businesses more as brick and mortar businesses, even though they’re not. Goes back to the basics of 1)Decide on a product to produce or promote as an affiliate 2)Put up website 3)Have some form of payment 4)Use paid ads and free methods to get customers. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.
Sometimes my oldest, clumsiest, ugliest sites – sites I’m ashamed to show other marketers because they really are AWFUL — are my steadiest earners. They just last and last through all the Google updates, running like the Energizer bunny. They keep going and going. Get enough “ugly” or imperfect sites up and have something you’re selling or promoting and you WILL earn a nice full-time income for yourself and your family over time.
TIME being the key phrase here.
Last year when I finally set up an LLC and an office for my business, I was fretting about it. It seemed very grown up and “having a real job,” two things I’ve avoided like the plague throughout my life. But my mom, sweetheart that she is, sent me a card that had a Lao Tse quote on it: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
You don’t reach your goals of financial independence and all the other thrills that come from working online unless you take that first step. After you take a few more, you find your stride and confidence, and things start rolling.
It’s all about those first steps.
How refreshing Jennifer. I’m retired and have indulged myself in every conceivable online offer over the past few years, (I’m embarrassed to admit) to the point where I’m so bogged down and loaded with information I forgot to take any action. The most wisdom I’ve gleaned in all that time has come from Tony & Sarah, and yet because it was right under my nose and way to simple for me to comprehend I just kept on looking for the next best complicated thing. Happily, in my 70th year, the light bulb went off and I’m back devouring all I can from Tony’s vast experience, knowledge and teaching. I have all his eBooks and am immersing myself in them along with his blog, newsletter and Kickstart program. I’ve shut down all of the other distractions and am starting with a blank page. I particularly liked your comment about simplicity of the past and just wonder if that may not be a mantra for the future. Hasn’t it all gotten just a little bit too complicated?
Great post Tony, I totally agree with you, simple definitely is best. During the Christmas break I have been thinking about this a lot. There is so much info about that, we can’t see the wood for the trees. We spend so much time looking at the latest and greatest system that we never get our businesses off the ground.
I have had some successes in the past, but not nearly enough to live on. This year I am going to go back to basics, blocking out the noise, and focusing on what I know works. I’ve given up on trying to get traffic with SEO, and I am concentrating on paid traffic. As you say in your part of the country, “You don’t get owt for nowt!”