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[E4C14] Product Launch Strategies for List-Less Entrepreneurs – Conversions.io

One of the most inspiring and enthusiastic Internet marketers I have met here is a man named AJ Silvers, the founder of Conversions.io. In the IM community, AJ is a well known conversions geek, analytics addict and split testing fanatic. In 2013, he spent months working behind the scenes running the tracking, split testing and conversion optimization on Internet marketing product launches that generated over $832,000 in sales.

What I love about this interview is that AJ shares examples related to product launches in the LOHAS market – the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability Market – specifically around organic food, alternative health, and health and wellness. It’s inspiring to know that Internet marketing is not just for sleezy marketers who make their living teaching other people how to make money online. You can indeed change the world using the same strategies that online marketing gurus use.

For those of you who have been running businesses that are based on the dollars for hours revenue model, you know that one on one consulting or coaching simply isn’t scalable. There are only so many hours in the day you can work, and therefore so much client work you can take on.

The problem with consulting is that consulting projects tend to be tailored to each client’s unique business needs, and therefore your projects tend to be custom and difficult to scale through replication. More often than not, clients end up taking more time than you anticipate, due to project scope creep or simply through the process of education and hand holding.

Another challenge is that many of the businesses in your target market may not be able to afford your custom services, let alone any agency or consultant based services at all, which leaves a vast population of small businesses out in the cold when it comes to hiring much needed help to grow their business.

A powerful way to get out of the dollars for hours rut, generate residual income streams, while serving a vast tier of clients that can’t afford to hire you outright, is to turn your knowledge into information products that show these lower end customers how to do it themselves in a systemized way.

When your lower tier clients are able to grow their businesses to the point where they can afford your hands on services, you would have already established a relationship with them.

One of the critical components to launching a digital product is an email list – ideally, an email list of engaged, responsive, subscribers. But what do you do if you don’t have an engaged email list, or any email list at all?

The great news is, you can launch a product without an email list. In this insightful interview, AJ is going to share product launch strategies for entrepreneurs who are just getting started, as well as demystify the components of an automated sales funnel. He’ll cover:

  • Whether product launches are truly going out of style, and what to do about it.
  • How to start making money online if you don’t have a product or an email list.
  • The best way to start creating your email list.
  • The smart way to do market research, so you can determine what product your audience is hungry to pay for.
  • Low cost, low risk strategies to nail down your ideal, target customer.
  • Whether or not you should enter an already crowded, highly competitive market.
  • The 2 key challenges of an automated sales funnel that are deadly to ignore.

And much, much more!

AJ has shared loads of resources to help you with your product launch strategy. You can find them in our show notes at EntrepreneursForAChange.com/14.

Mentioned in this Podcast

Where to Find AJ Silvers


Lorna: So AJ, I have to say, I really enjoyed getting to meet you in Chiang Mai because you’re an internet marketer that is really enthusiastic about internet marketing. You’re not jaded, you’re not bitter, and you’re not hardened and that’s so refreshing. And I so enjoy hearing you talk about product launches and sharing your knowledge about conversion optimization. So, can you tell our audience more about who you are, what you do and how exactly you got to where you are now? And if there was ever an “ah-ha” moment that inspired you to embark on a lifestyle business adventure.

AJ: Sure yeah. Where to start? The service company I run at the moment, called Conversions IO same name as the website, specializes in helping people solve the problem of, 1) how to get more leads into their business, 2) how do they make more sales and in many cases 3) how do they do a successful product launch.

The business really started by accident, this time ‘round. I had to take most of 2012 off due to illness, and when I recovered and got out of the hospital started speaking with some marketing friends, asking about the state of the market and how launches were going, and everyone was talking about how they were getting less successful and more people were struggling. So I was like “Oh, OK. That surprises me… What do your marketing test results show?” And people were like, “What tests?”

Now, I’m not talking about amateurs here. These are guys who regularly pull in multi-six figures, and in a couple of cases, seven figures post launches, who didn’t test. And that was a shocking moment for me. I’ve been online working for myself and running small businesses since the mid 2000’s and very early on I was given a copy of an e-book by a guy, who is unfortunately dead now, called Corey Rudl. He’s an absolute marketing genius; one of the ground breaking guys in internet marketing who was looking at taking products online. He started selling books online I believe.

So it’s chapter three or chapter four in his book that he said, “You test headlines. You test everything.” He had an example where he was selling a book on 50 Things You Can Do With Your Car. One of the things was how you can buy a car at a couple of percent over cost price. All of the feedback he got from marketing the book was that that one point alone was what actually made it worth it to buy the book. So he re-wrote the headline of his book just talking about how to buy a car a couple of points off manufacturing costs, and sales went up 300%. He then became an advocate for testing everything you put out there. And in my ignorance, I didn’t know any better. He was an expert, and he said test everything. So I’ve been testing things for 8 years.

Lorna: So what do you think caused these internet marketing gurus who are seasoned in product launches to think that product launches are going out of style?

AJ: I think what happens is that people get into a habit. They get used to doing a launch in a particular way. They get used to making a certain kind of product. But the market will change if they don’t pay attention to how the phycology of the market is changing or to the different technologies or commercial pressures out there.

I mean, the economy has been in the tank all around the globe; various different economies for the past four to five years have had different struggles. So, if you’re trying to sell a $2000 home study course now, the way you could have done in 2009, is not going to work. And that’s the real advantage of testing; its that if you go out and make these little tests, these little samples, and dip your toes into the digital waters for example, you can very quickly take the pulse of the market. You can very quickly work out what it is that people are more likely to buy. And then your whole job is actually easier because you’re only building products that people really want. Your sales process is easier because you know people want it, and specifically you know who wants it and where you can find them. In this case you can have some incredibly successful launches.

A successful launch doesn’t need to be very technical or very guru-esque. There was a launch we were working on last year with a father and son team who were very, very passionate about food health and the contamination of the food chain in America. They organized a teleseminar and arranged interviews with experts; people who are superbly passionate about what they were doing and the threats facing average American family’s food tables. So, people could sign up to listen for free, and if they missed any event they could go buy a copy of all the interviews and get some transcripts. No one was selling anything; it was just the opportunity to listen in live and if you missed out or you wanted to re-listen or you wanted a transcript then you could buy a copy of that.

That was a multi-six figure launch. Just under half of a million dollars was raised in three weeks of pre-launch and two weeks of the event. Then the majority of the money that was raised went back into a foundation to help further the educational content around these food issues and what the GMO risk is to the American dinner table.

Lorna: I’m amazed that a teleseminar about GMOs was so successful, based simply on the sale of the digital download of the actual virtual event itself.

AJ: Sure. It wasn’t just one of the GM0s though, it was about 12 speakers. But think about it; if you get a passionate audience that has got a real problem and you give them the information that they need to solve that problem, and you’re educating them about something that’s life-threatening, why not? I mean if you’re interested in food health and interested about what you’re accidentally putting into the lunch box of your children, aren’t you going to want to know and get the most information you can in that situation?

Lorna: Do you think it’s possible for someone to replicate that success? When I looked into this tele-summit I realized the people behind the event are actually very well known in the organic and healthy food market, but also that they have a gigantic list already. Can someone replicate the success of this food tele-summit but start with no lists, and actually have no recognition in the field?

AJ: I think that this is one of those catch 22 questions. Where do you start? If you don’t have a list and you don’t have a product, how do you make money online? How do you create that kind of event?

It’s my belief and experience that actually creating a product is the best way to create a list. Principally because you’re going to be collecting lists of buyers of people who are prepared to pay money to solve the problem they have, and a buyer’s list is worth ten or a hundred times the value of a much bigger list of free subscribers or say, fans of Facebook pages or even on blog readership. You have people that have actually paid money to have a problem solved. They’ve put their hand up and said this is an important enough problem that I’m prepared to exchange real value to have that addressed.

So what you can do is create a product that will give you a seed list. Say you’ve created a product that made you a couple of hundred sales. That list becomes the seed of your business because you can use that list to promote the idea of an interview-based event. Then once you’ve got feedback from that list that they would be interested, you can then go to other speakers who perhaps have more authority or longevity in the market, therefore they will have a bigger list.

By organizing and hosting an event you’re taking away the logistical headaches away from the other speakers and in return they are going to come along and talk about the issues. And normally it’s a passion-based issue or it’s a purposeful thing like anti-GMOs or how to start a not-for-profit, or how companies like Tom Shoes can have a commercial benefit in one country and a charitable benefit in another. So by being the organizer and taking the entrepreneurial risk of sorting out the logistics you can attract other speakers, and that then gives you the ability to snowball the model onto the next time.

It’s not what I would start with though, because running an event like that is a logistical nightmare, if you’ve never done it before.

Lorna: Yes, I have done it before. It’s so much work… so much work. So you’re talking about the tele-summit as the product?

AJ: I think that if people want to get started, an easy way to get started is to create their own first product. We’ve spoken before about the pros and cons of informational marketing, and one of the big advantages is that you can do it from a laptop. You can even do it from a shared computer if you can get enough time on it. In many cases there are situations where people have a pressing problem and they’re short of time and short of the right information to understand how to solve that problem. If you can aggregate the information and package it up in a way that it’s easy to disseminate, easy to understand and most importantly easy to action; so a set of instructions that make sense for people that they can get a predictable result, then you have a product. If you take one problem and solve just that one problem elegantly, then you’ve got one problem and one solution. That’s a great little product.

Lorna: Well you know, it’s interesting because in the Internet marketing world there’s a lot of discussion about not creating your product until you’ve presold it first. So I think one of the dangers that people run into is that they go and spend a lot of time creating a product, and then once they have this product they try to go get out into the market, but they haven’t already made a connection with the audience in whatever market it is that they are trying to enter into. And then then they find that they’re not making any sales.
How do you address the chicken or the egg situation, of do you create the product first or presell it first? Or do you create the audience first?

You know I see people like John Lee Dumas who started Entrepreneur on Fire, and he just went balls out in podcasting, creating a massive audience before he even had anything to sell. But that audience is now with him the entire time so he can sell a number of things to that audience because they are his raving fans. Same thing with David Siteman Garland as well. His audience around The Rise to the Top is huge.

So what should we focus on first if we are just getting started? Nobody knows who the hell we are. We don’t have a product and we don’t have a list. What do we do?

AJ: Well I think the question about preselling is great, but as you’ve already identified, you can only presell if you have an audience to sell to. There’s got to be the no-like trust factor, otherwise you’re trying to ask people who don’t know you for money for a product you haven’t yet built. That, I think is too much of a stretch for most people.

The way I would do it, again, it comes back to simple market testing and market research. You could start with people who are passionate about something. People who have some inherent knowledge, even if it’s from their day job about how they do a particular something at work. You can research to find people who have a similar problem, or decide you’re going to solve a problem in a particular area just because you’re interested in that area. Find a group of people who have a problem.

Now there are loads of ways of looking at this. You can look at social media; you can look at forums. One of the big advantages about things like forums is that behind the anonymity of a forum name, people become very honest. The disadvantage of social media is that it’s social, and it’s public. You put something on your Facebook page it’s there for the world to see. Google doesn’t forget anything. Whereas inside a forum people are protected with a level of anonymity so they’re more likely to be open about personal issues; about the fact that they can’t relate to their parents or are having sibling rivalry or they are having problems with their marital partner. Because the anonymity gives them the protection to share their feelings and to share their emotional pain.

From a commercial point of view, the bigger the pain the people want to move away from, the easier it is to make a sale. And I don’t mean that in a manipulative way, I mean that if someone is in desperate need for the solution to the question, “How do I get along well with my partner? I’ve reached seven years with my marital partner and I desperately love them but I can’t stand the way they do… blah, blah.” There’s a real issue there, and because it’s a heartfelt issue and it’s central to their life, they’re going to pay for the right information to solve that problem because they want to maintain their relationship.

I think that not understanding the market first is the error that most people make. They sit down to create a product in complete isolation because they’ve got a really cool idea for weeks and in some cases, months and months working on the perfect product, only to realize they need to find an audience for it.

The flip side is that you get some people who understand the market really well, understand the market drives and desires and produce a completely rubbish product, and it sells out. I think the best metaphor is in the publishing world. You can take the best-selling author, Dan Brown. Amazing marketing machine. Very, very quick reads. Page turners and pulp fiction. But from my point of view, literary value, you know my toes have got more literary skills.

Lorna: I don’t know who Dan Brown is, what does he write?

AJ: The Da Vinci Code.

Lorna: Oh, ok yes; that was very entertaining.

AJ: Right. So I have a first class degree in English Literature. I love words. And I’m not a Dan Brown fan from an author’s point of view, but it’s a really good example of how the best-selling book isn’t the best written book. Not for a long way.

I think the difference between a successful product and an unsuccessful product unfortunately has more to do with its marketing than with the product itself. There are notable exceptions though. You can of course create something remarkable and it will pick up word of mouth. People will talk about it. But in most cases, those rubbish products that seem to sell really well, they sell that well because the marketing has been done well. They understand what the market thinks it wants, they present the product as a solution to that want or that need, and they rake in the cash.

Lorna: Ok, so you recommend taking some time researching the problem areas, and specifically looking in forums for that market.

AJ: Forums are great. Today I started some research on Amazon. If you look at Amazon, then you’ll get people’s feedback. You’ll get users comments. So you can see the book on How to Start the First WordPress Blog, and you’ll get one person commenting saying “Oh this is great, I love the step by step approach.” And you’ll get someone else commenting in that says “Well, it didn’t really tell me to do anything other than getting the blog up. It didn’t tell me how to blog.” By reading into the comments you’ll see what the market likes and doesn’t like about the book. And you can do that with three or four books, or more depending on how extensive your research is. The readers’ comments about the books will say what they actually wanted, or what they found was good or what was missing or what was liked. That gives your skeleton for which you can then start to say, “Ok, if I’m

going to build a product that tells people how to build their first WordPress blog, maybe it’ll be for a charity or where there’s not a lot of funding involved.” Then ask, “What are some of the things people have liked in other books?” And, “What are some things that have been missing in other books?” And that provides you a template to help you define your product.

Lorna: So you wouldn’t even let a crowded marketplace deter you? For example, take one of the things I think about. I’m pulling together a membership site to help people who consider themselves to be social entrepreneurs, sustainable businesses, and change-makers launch an online presence. So when I look at the marketplace, there are a lot of courses about how to start an online business. And I guess I do wonder, is it already too crowded? Is there enough of the pie for me to grab? And would my unique perspective on providing information around starting an online business that has a focus on positive social change, would that be enough value for someone to buy my product over somebody else that might just be an online marketing, internet business guru? We know so many of them who are selling “How to Start a Business Online,” are really big names.

AJ: Well I think there are a couple of things there. To take the last point first, most people who are selling “How to Start a Business Online,” aren’t. They’re selling “How to Make Money Online,” and the two are completely different.

I think the challenge is that for a lot of people, when they first get online, there’s a level of desperation, and need and hunger. Maybe there are threats of layoffs at work. Maybe they’ve lost their job or maybe they have some huge credit card bills that have just come up. So the first desire of most people is to make money online. Not to run an online business.

Running a business is a completely different mindset, and there are few courses out there that actually teach people how to run a business versus how to do Internet marketing. It seems to me that if you put the word “internet” in front of something it’s got a completely different set of rules. But a business is a business.

To your first point, about how hungry the market is; you always want a hungry market. You can have the best product in the world but if there’s no market for it you can have a very difficult time selling it. So actually having lots of people in a space and lots of competition is a good thing. You hit the nail on the head though when you said you have particular buyers with particular focus; people who want to start their not-for-profit and entrepreneurs who want to create a change.

Imagine the situation in which you’ve just discovered you have a brain tumor. Are you going to see a brain surgeon, or a general practitioner MD who can treat anything? You’re going to go to the brain surgeon. So if I am an entrepreneur looking to build a social enterprise, am I going to go for one of the big guys or girls out there, who just talk about how you can make a squillion dollars by copying 10% of what they do? Or am I going to the person who is saying “if you are, X, this is exactly what you need to do.” So you should say, “If you are an entrepreneur looking to make social change, here’s how you write your blog. Here’s how you do a teleseminar to raise funds for your project,” or “Here’s how you do a Kickstater project for your gizmo or gadget,” or whatever. So the context makes it applicable.

You could have a general How to Make Money Online program, but there isn’t anyone who generally who is trying to make money online. We all have our own personal context. We have our personal history. We have our personal filters of how we see and interact with the world. So if you can tune into a tribe or an audience, that either you can see the world in the same way they do or they can see the world in the same way that they do, you are going to have a huge affinity with that audience, rather than just another Frank Ancols or another Jeff Walker cause (20:47) all of which are great, if you’re in that space for that kind of product.

Lorna: Ok, so market research is absolutely critical. I remember in your presentation about conversion optimization, you had mentioned the importance of coming up with a personal avatar. Now, I’ve come across this exercise many times and I’ve done it myself but I think one of the challenges is how to know if that is really your avatar. How do you know if this person is really between the ages of 30 and 45 and earns X amount of dollars per year and has two kids. How do you validate that the person who you think is going to buy your product is actually that person?

AJ: Put your product on sale and see who buys it.

Lorna: Ok so you create a product…

AJ: Well if I were entering a new market and I needed to work out who the customer avatar was I would do my personal research first and would have a think about it. I would have a look online. There are various tools out there that will give you the demographics about who goes to certain websites. So for example, if you believe that your avatar is 30-40 year old woman living on the west coast of America, professional career but now has children. You can profile that woman and see what websites she’s most likely to be looking at. You might find two or three sites that, according to sites like Quancast or Compete. These sites give you the demographic data of the Internet. So you can find out what sites are more attractive to certain demographics because they’ve done the research and have the data to make a study on this.

You can say, “OK, if I advertise my product in the way I think it should be sold and I put it in front of that audience, will they buy it?” Equally, you can do the reverse by putting a product up for sale in a more general space, like by trying to use Facebook to gather some traffic or maybe you do a joint venture with someone who has an email marketing list. Then you could look at the buyer data that comes in and you can profile the buyers. Your analytics will tell you what region or city they’re coming from, you can work out information about their jobs, etc.

In the conversion course, we talked about how we found that people in certain states in America were twice as likely to buy a product on vegan or vegetarian food than they were in other states. And that was a course with a huge sample size; about half of a million people went through that launch. So, you can take your marketing to the audience that you think is going to buy it, and try to sell it. Or you can interview your audience after and find out who they are, what they bought, what they liked and didn’t like. That gives you information to qualify your marketing to say, “We know the products are actually catered toward 40+ ladies whose children might be a different age.” So taking time to stop and look at the data is the single most valuable thing that people don’t do.

Lorna: Ok so, let me see if I understand this correctly. You would come up with a hypothesis on who your customer avatar might be, and then, let’s say you have an initial prototype product. So then you would go and buy the traffic by placing display or banner ads, or pay per click ads and then actually see or validate whether or not your assumption about who this ideal customer is, actually matches up.

AJ: Exactly! A good cheap way of doing this is to take a hundred dollars and go to Facebook. One of the advantages of Facebook is that their advertising allows you to segment traffic by age. So I’ve got a hundred dollars and I’ll buy five ads. I’ll put the same picture and same headline up for all of them, but I’ll target one group of say 30-32, then 33-34, 35-37, etc. etc. etc. So I’ll split my traffic for my target demographic over five buckets. I’ll have five of the same ads with the only difference being the different age groups. Then I’ll track those ads, and it might be that the 37-39 group generates the most sales from my 20 bucks. So then you say, “Ok maybe 37-39 year old women are my sweet spot for this particular product.”

Things like Facebook allow you to do very rapid testing because of its amazing demographics. You can specify what age, sex, town and qualify that by interest; whether they watch Game of Thrones or not, or are a fan of HBO or listen to certain podcasts. You can get really super specific. You can ask them if they’re vegetarian or single or in a relationship. Facebook has all of this data so you can very accurately profile and test you hypothesis on who will buy your product. And you don’t even need a product to sell to begin with. You can just have a free report or a sample and count the opt-ins, and when you’re testing consider those opt-ins as a sale. So if you get a hundred people from each of those age brackets and you get 30 people from one and 20 people from another, it’s reasonable to assume that the category that has more takers of your free offer is a good candidate to then go back and sell your paid offer to.

Lorna: I love that advice. That’s actionable. It’s low cost, and low risk and is a great way to test the water. Thank you so much for sharing that. One of the challenges that I find, and you mentioned this before in the beginning of our conversation, that you were out of commission for a while due to health reasons, but I too came across a personal incident or drama that lasted for several months that really impacted my business. And one of the big lessons from that is really the need to take myself out of my business and to have more of a residual or passive income strategy in place. So you and I touched upon the automated sales funnel. I would love for you to explain to our audience how that works and whether that can work in a number of different audiences and I understand that this is quite a popular thing in the internet marketing world, especially when you’re selling make money online type of products, but is it possible in the organic food world, or the holistic health world, can you set up an automated funnel for any type of market niche and what would that look like?

AJ: Ok well, the first thing I want to do is to talk about passive income. I think the word is completely wrong, because in order to get to a place where you have money flowing in to you must mean that you have already put in a lot of work beforehand. Passive implies that that you don’t do any work and in my experience, if you don’t do any work you don’t get any reward.

Now I am a big believer in automated sales funnels and I’m a big believer in recurring income streams, and I prefer to think along those terms because even if you have the perfect sales funnel you still need to watch it and track your data. The market will change, the Internet might change and Facebook may lose popularity over the next big thing, so I don’t think there’s any true hands off approach yet. But there are ways of creating systems in which you need minimal maintenance or minimal overhead.

I am working with clients in the alternative therapy space and we’ve got a project in the food intolerance niche, which again we are doing completely through Facebook. We’ve been very successful targeting, using the demographic data from Facebook. A sales funnel in effect is a sales page where someone comes to buy something, and a thank you page where you get the thing or that confirms that the thing is going to be sent to them in three days, or that they can download more resources online.

A more complex sales funnel might have a lead-capture process at the beginning so you can ask people for their email address and giving them something in return for that and then you can make a sales offer. You can even get a little more complicated by adding more upgrades. A really good example of this, that’s actually not in the Internet marketing space is the Beach Body Program, their health and fitness programs. Phenomenally successful marketing company. There are loads of things you can learn from looking at how they do what they do. So if you go online and buy their course, one which I bought a while back, you then have the option of buying the health supplements or the food replacement meals, for people who are trying to lose weight and want to get a better result.

I didn’t buy these upgrades but they are what was offered to me through the sales funnel, you can then buy another packet of exercise things that I may need to go along with it, like a jump rope and yoga mats and things like that. You could also join the paid membership site which was basically a paid forum where you could pay to sit around with other people who were silly enough to lie to themselves thinking that they were going to put themselves through insane levels of workouts for an hour a day for 60 days. What they’re doing is telling someone, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got to lose weight. But we’ve got this great first product that will give you a great result. And we’ve got other products that will help you get a bigger result or a faster result. And with the help of this online community, we will provide you with support that will ensure you keep going and provide you with motivation and accountability. So when you’re doing an exercise program at home for 60 days in a row you might find it isolating. So what they do with their sales funnel is they’ve taken the original product and offered more things that will offer you a bigger result, a faster result or a more guaranteed result, and those are your options after you’ve made that first purchase.

Lorna: So these offers are delivered through a series of emails?

AJ: No, they’re through the point of sale. So, you say “Ok I want the Insanity product.” And then you’re offered the upgrade to get the supplements. And then you’re offered the upgrade to get access to the community, for example.

Lorna: So is it like a recurring series of different web pages that are presenting the offers or is it like a menu?

AJ: With Beach Bodies, it’s a form. So you fill in the form and you say, “Yes, I want this information.” And getting back to what we said before about solving one problem and having one solution, I think if you were offered a page that said “Here are all of the 14 different programs you can buy,” that actually gets really confusing. And there are loads of studies that have been done where marketers have gone in to a supermarket and they say here are 24 jams you can sample. And people will sample two or three but they can’t make a decision on which one to buy. Because they’ve sampled only 4 out of 24 jams but they don’t know if the other 20 are better tasting. So if a marketer should go in to the food hall and say “Here are four jams, you can taste all of them and then you can decide which one to buy.” When you’re marketing to people, it’s easier to give them no choice by saying “This is the only solution for your problem,” or to give them a very limited choice. You could have the basic solution, the advanced solution or the deluxe solution, and take the intellectual pressure away from them, or having them make a choice that’s really complicated. Like, they’ll say “How do I know which of these products is the best one for me when I haven’t bought them yet?”

Lorna: Yeah, I think not creating consumer anxiety and not presenting the consumer with a multitude of choices is a really great option because what ends up happening is that they end up buying nothing.

AJ: I mean, I think it’s from the Robert Collier Letters, one of the classic books on business marketing that suggests that you should enter the conversation that’s already taking place in your prospect’s mind. So if they’ve got an issue about food or weight loss or how do I go out and create that is remarkable and changes the community that I particularly care about, if you understand that market, you already know what they’re thinking. You’ve read their reviews, you’ve read their blogs, and you’ve read their forum posts and seen their social media communications. You get an idea of the conversation that’s already going on, and the issues that they’ve already got. So, by presenting the solution using their own language, in a way that reflects what they are currently thinking, it’s really easy for people to make that decision on what to buy.

Lorna: Now with regards to the automated sales funnel, how do these sales funnels keep on selling? I can imagine that you’ve got the initial product and that you’ve offered the initial upsells during the checkout process, but at a certain point the person is going to be fatigued by the process and say “Ok, I’ve done my shopping.” How does the company continue to engage that person? Is it going to be now through a strategy of permission based marketing, where you’re sending the person emails with value, and sending value one, then value two at certain intervals and then offer value three, four and five, and then sales offer, for years to come. Is that what the rest of the sales funnel looks like?

AJ: It can. There are two parts of the question regarding the automation. One is how do they get more customers into the funnel. And one is how does the funnel keep up? I think people forget about the first bit. That you’ve got to have more people coming into the sales funnel for it to be automated. So it’s ok getting people to a sales page and then having a series of offers that they go through, but you’re completely right about the permission-based marketing having an email sequence where you follow up the permission by sending emails to add value.

I think the thing that most people overlook is that the automation needs to be on the front end: How do you get more traffic and people to keep coming in and looking at your web page? Which is why for me, the biggest and most successful companies that are online are all using paid traffic. There’s a lot of traffic about free traffic and search engine optimized traffic. People will blog or write content or put videos on YouTube. There are lots of things you can do to generate traffic.

There’s no such thing as free traffic and everything has a cost of production. If you’re creating a video or writing an article, all of those things take time and that time has an opportunity cost. You know, you could hire someone to write articles for you or you could use your own time to write them yourself. Equally you can just go and buy advertisements and display ads, pay per click, and Facebook.

My experience is that the people who invest the time and knowledge into getting the page traffic that works and buys, have most successful sales funnels. Because you need a constant supply of new people coming in.

Let’s say we have a product that’s teaching people a new way of cooking food that only uses organic healthy ingredients. There are lots of upsells that you can do when there’s someone who has put their hand up and said I’m willing to pay money to learn how to cook organic, healthy food. One might be, where to shop. There are certain shops for this food. You could even offer a subscription service where food is delivered from a local organic farm. So there are loads of things you can do once that initial sale has been made. But the real trick is to make sure you’ve got another 50 people or 100 people every day looking at

that same offer. This is why I think that passive income thing is a myth. Because in order to get people to be constantly coming to your webpage, you need to be very good at organizing the traffic. So whether it’s with joint ventures or email partners, or you are doing a social media marketing campaign or you’re doing paid traffic, that’s where the real attention needs to be. It’s to continually feed the funnel and find people in different areas from different parts of the inter-web, who are interested in organic food or whatever the product may be.

Lorna: You know, it’s interesting. Pat Flynn is kind of the bannerman for passive income. He’s got his web site called Smart Passive Income and on his site you can find a story about how long it took him to make money online, but essentially what his story is that it took him about a year and a half to make his first seven-grand month from his blog about LEED certification. So I really think that blogging is the slow boat approach to driving traffic because I think a lot of people have a hard time getting those blog posts to actually go viral. I mean some people do but the truth is that even if you write scintillating content, if no one finds it, it won’t ever go viral.

AJ: Sure, I mean Pat Flynn, the bannerman for passive income, how hard does he work?

Lorna: He’s working a lot, it seems. He doesn’t seem passive at all, he’s hustling!

AJ: Yeah, he’s putting out great content. He’s got a good website and podcasts and blogs that have been very successful and he’s worked damned hard the entire time. So I think that anyone who is under the illusion or maybe has been promised something by a magical sales guy who says you can buy a product, click some buttons and under six months money just appears in your bank account, that’s less likely to happen.

Lorna: So in regards to someone who’s interested in productizing their expertise and selling it online either as a course or a digital download package, I think that one of the biggest problems people have that actually limits them is understanding when they are “expert” enough. Do you have an idea on when expertise is valuable enough that a person can go ahead, package it up and sell it?

AJ: Sure, I mean all information is valuable to the right audience. And this is the thing; I know some very successful guys who are in their sixth or seventh figure market and they spend 20 or 30 grand a year on coaching. So even if they’re making six or seven figures per year online, they’re still not going to know everything. They’re not actually experts. But they’re experts enough to market it to the people who are less experienced, less informed or less technically able than they are. I mean a good question, was, take someone like Pat where he was looking at turning a skill he had in his day job into his first product. If someone’s prepared to pay you to turn up and do something, that something is worth value. So you could productize how to do that thing.

If you’re an accountant professional and someone pays you to balance their spreadsheets and accounting ledger, then there’s value in other people wanting to know how to balance ledgers. If you are particularly good at organizing events and rallies and parties, there are other people who aren’t who will pay to learn how to do it. So if you can do one thing, there’s probably a market for it.

That’s the thing, you need to understand what the market for your skill set is. You could have the most amazing skill—you could make the world’s best vegetarian dog food, but if you’re only selling to cat owners you’re not going to make any sales. But if you had your first vegetarian dog food recipe, so you’re expert enough to have one recipe, you could probably sell that to people who have a vegetarian style lifestyle that care about what their dog eats and they’re interested in something new to try out for their pets’ meal.

Lorna: Ok, that definitely makes a lot of sense. Now, another thing that holds people back is that maybe they and their immediate colleagues know about their expertise, but no one else outside of their company does. How does a person who has expertise but isn’t known in their industry beyond their own company, how do they gain credibility? And how do they entice joint venture partners to work with them and promote their products?

AJ: Ok so two questions: first is how they create personal credibility for their skill. It’s just, demonstration. The best demonstration is that not only that you can do something, but that someone you have taught how to do it can do it. Because if I’m an expert on conversion that’s great. You hire me. But why would you buy a course from me if I cannot explain it in a way to someone who’s not a conversions expert to get a result? And that’s the big challenge I think. A lot of people think that it’s about their personal credibility that if you’re marketing a product, the best validation of your product is the results of the student, or someone who has bought your product and implemented it. So I would create a product and coach three or four people, probably for free if I’m just starting out, how to use my product in a way to get results and the information they want. And I would get their testimonial or case study. That would be the best proof and credibility to share with other customers. Because in all honesty, the customer probably doesn’t care about me and my skill. They care about their ability to get the result they want.

And going to the JV’s, there are some joint venture partners that are interested in if you product converts and sales. And there are other joint venture partners that actually care about the quality of your product. So if depends on who you’re speaking to and in what market.

In the make money online sector, on the more hyped end of the Internet marketing world, my experience unfortunately is that most people care about your sales page and how much money you are going to make, but not about the quality of your product. However there are some people out there who make stunning products and they way they get talked about marketed it just because the product is so good.

In the email you mentioned permission marketing. In that space there are two names that stand out to me. There’s John McIntyre, has an email marketing course and runs a site called Drop Dead Copy. It’s phenomenally good. Very blunt in his style but it works for

some people and it works in some markets. Another product in the same market would be Andre Chaperon’s Auto Responder Madness. I don’t know anyone who has bought Andre’s course and used it, who hasn’t told everyone they know about it. Without permission or a referral link, it’s that good.

I was at an event two years ago in America and one of the attendees came up and asked the speaker about how they could increase their email marketing. And the speaker said “Buy Andre’s course. Read Andre’s course and then implement the course. That’s three steps to start making more money with email.” You could do the same with John McIntyre’s course. They’re different approaches but they’re both step by step, saying “This is how you do email. This is how you reach your audience. This is how you write copy. This is how you make your sales.”

Those products I will happily talk about and promote because of the quality of the products. With those, I don’t need to worry about the conversions because the product is so good, it’s going to sell. But some JV’s will only speak to you if you can prove what your earnings per click are or how many sales you’ll make from every hundred visitors they send you. So you need to prequalify your marketing by maybe sending emails out to your list or turn to Facebook and buy some visitors to come to your webpage so you can measure those numbers.

If the JV is interested in the statistics behind your launch, you can prime the funnel. So I’ll go out and buy 500 visitors, get them to the site, find out how many will buy, which is a great market test, and use that data to recruit joint venture partners because I can say to a JV, “My product launch is converting at 7% on the sales page to relatively unqualified traffic, so if seven out of a hundred people who have seen my webpage buy. And the market average for my industry is between 1-2%. So my page is performing 300x better than the competition.” If a JV partner has the option to send me a hundred visitors from their email, or someone else, if they send it to me they’ll get $700. If they send it to someone else they’ll get $200. That’s not a difficult conversation to have.

Lorna: Have you found that the whole advent of Gmail tabs has really impacted email deliverability, click-through’s and opens?

AJ: Well, possibly no. But I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it. I think the people that are worried about it are tracking the wrong metric. What I’ve seen and some people I know who have done more extensive testing on this than I have, it’s my experience that if you write great emails and people want your information, you’ll reach your market. They’ll read it. So, open rates, there are other changes that are affecting open rates, like Google caching images, in emails which it’s the image that triggers the open in your auto responder system. I do know people who quote-on-quote end up in the Promotions tab. I read my promotions tab, because I’m interested in some products. So I think people panic about certain things and are more concerned about Gmail than with the actual quality of the content in their emails.

If you read Andre’s course, Auto Responder Madness, he teaches a method writing a

series of emails that he calls a Soap Opera Sequence with a cliffhanger. So you’re left wanting the next email. It’s like waiting six months before getting the next series of Game of Thrones. Or waiting to see the final series Breaking Bad. There’s a huge amount of anticipation. Now I’m not saying that your emails are ever going to be that popular but Andre teaches a way of leaving an open loop or creating an unanswered question, like a show from 1950’s TV. “Tune in to see how batman escapes from his arch nemesis,” or whatever it is. So whether Gmail sends it to the promotions tab or the outtakes or primary tab, because people are looking out for my content.

Lorna: So we’re about at the end of our segment but I’d love to close this interview off with a few final questions. One of the questions I love to ask entrepreneurs is how to help other people avoid the same mistakes that you might have made. So in your entrepreneurial journey, was there ever a mistake that cost you a lot of time, energy and money that you could have done differently and what would you have done?

AJ: Well I’ve made tons of mistakes. I mean I make mistakes all the time. I think that is how we learn fastest. But the biggest… well there are three I can think of, and if I had more time I’d probably switch these all around completely. But the first one and the biggest one is mindset. I was very successful when I first started selling information products. So when judged success it was in sales. So I had a tiger list that I built up from buyers. I had about 400 people and marketed only my own products to that list. I didn’t get involved in a whole lot of marketing other products.

Lorna: What kind of products did you sell?

AJ: One of them was how to create micro products from publically available information. One was how to do a sales video, and one was how to write a certain type of email. And I made an inordinate amount of money. Starting from scratch within ten weeks, I made something like 13 or 14 thousand dollars. And before I had always had service business so I sold my time or my team’s time coaching but this was the first time I did a digital project created out of thin air and I made five figures within a couple of months.

Lorna: How much were you selling these products for?

AJ: Some were very low value, some were $17 or $27. Some were much more expensive, maybe four or five hundred bucks. The challenge was, that from a monetary point of view it was very successful. But when I looked to my stats and I looked to my audience and talked to them on Skype or whatever, only about 5% of people who bought acted on the information and got a good result.

I launched a program that taught people how to make a WordPress membership site using only free software. Because what membership sites are great at is building a recurring income. They’re a great way of building a community and getting paid for doing something.
There are lots of complicated scripts out there but I found a way of building a membership site using only the free software out there. So I launched the product and it sold very well. Made 5 or 6 thousand dollars. So when I looked at the stats, 20% of people who bought

the product on how to build a membership site hadn’t logged in to look at the information. And I was floored. I mean it sent me into a real tail spin. I stopped marketing information products because I thought, what’s the point? 95% of the people that buy don’t take any action, I felt guilty about taking funds from them when they’re not getting any results. It was a big personal issue because I’m all about value and about helping people and inspiring people and I couldn’t even get people who paid me money to learn something to follow the information from the course.

What I’ve subsequently learned after speaking to hundreds of different people who had similar situations, is that actually there’s a massive disconnect between people who buy the content and people who implement it. If I had my time to do it over again I would make sure to concentrate on that 5% very well. I would make sure that they were serviced with everything I could offer, and I’d do everything in my power to encourage others to get off their butt, get into their work chair and do more work, but I would hold my business back based on the fact that most people don’t take action.

Lorna: Ok cool, I love that. Is your business your purpose? And if it’s not, what is?

AJ: Sort of; I think. I always look at ways of inspiring and motivating other people to do what they want to do. So with the conversions business, I wasn’t writing in my journal when I was a kid that I wanted to grow up and become a conversions expert. I don’t think kids know that was then. But I do like the fact that I get emails from people.
I had a comment on a recent Facebook post where someone had a conversation the week after Christmas that said, “I just wanted to thank you. We had this conversation and I went and did this thing, and I made an extra $2000 in the first week of January.” And that’s superb. I know the downstream effect of that guy earning more money; what it will do for him and for his family. What it will do for his costs as he is now a more successful marketer. I like to measure the impact in that sort of ripple effect; what can happen down the line.

My personal purpose is inspiring people to take action and get off their butt and go do something they are passionate about. In many cases we all operate in a very commercial world so you need to find a way to make sure you get paid, whether it’s through your passion or to support your passion. And that’s what I really enjoy is that I know I’m enabling people to do that. And the businesses I build need to allow me to do some of the things I love to do. I love to fly and am getting to see much more of the world at the moment with my laptop lifestyle. And that’s really cool.

Lorna: Well I can tell you for a fact that you’ve definitely inspired me! So how can our listener’s best communicate with you?

AJ: If they want to learn more about how to generate more sales online they can go to www.conversions.io there will be information on there about how to contact me, some free training content and some step by step guides to be able to get started.

Lorna: Well thank you so much for this insightful interview. It was a pleasure speaking with you and you have a great day.

AJ: Thank you, thank you for your time.

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