Most marketing consultants would be afraid to follow their own advice…
Hey Rainmaker, do you ever read things that just stick with you for a long time?
I’ve got quite a few of those buried in my head, and when the time and context comes up, they just come pouring right out.
For example, years ago — probably somewhere between 2005 and 2007 — I read a Gary Halbert testimonial for Dan Kennedy. I can’t quote it exactly, but I can tell you basically what it said.
Gary said, of Dan…
“Dan Kennedy is one of the few copywriters who not only writes successfully for clients, but actually stands behind his skill by risking his own money advertising his own products.”
There’s a HUGE lesson in that testimonial…
Gary admired Dan not for the copy he was writing for clients, but for the fact that he was willing to risk his own money to sell his own products.
Now, if you’ve been around this little world of ours for any length of time, you know Gary knew a thing or two about marketing. And Dan, too. They’re pretty sharp marketers — and sharp copywriters.
There are very few people in marketing today who would be willing to compete with Dan in a head-to-head copywriting challenge.
And before Gary passed away, it would have been rare to find a copywriter who would knowingly try to beat one of Gary’s ads.
Now, Gary and Dan have a surprisingly large amount in common. Not the least of which is that they both lived — for extended periods of their life — as near-neighbors in Ohio.
In fact, Halbert’s family crest company was Dan’s very first copywriting client, before Dan even really knew what copywriting was.
But an even more important connection — one that’s probably a better explanation of why they were both so successful — is…
Both Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy risked their own dineros… To run their own copy… To sell their own products!
Now, Gary’s testimonial points to something very interesting about this…
Because if every copywriter and marketing consultant did this, it wouldn’t be something worth remarking on.
But not every copywriter or marketing consultant does it.
In fact, most don’t.
It’s far easier when it’s your client’s dime on the line if your copy fails.
Sure, you’re motivated to succeed by royalties. But when you get your fee either way, you’re not motivated NOT TO FAIL.
And I’m not saying that’s wrong for the copywriter’s business model.
In fact, I agree with Gary’s assertion that the easiest way for a good copywriter to not get paid is that the client screws something up. Because, by nature, a freelance copywriter is an outsider and has limited control over the marketing process, the copywriter MUST get paid a fee — preferably, a big one — so the client is motivated not to fail.
However, this arrangement has limited utility in really learning the ins and outs of marketing, copywriting, persuasion, and so on.
If you REALLY want to learn marketing, you need a “sandbox” side business…
I launched my first one in 2007.
I sold a video my dad made on how to cut foam wings for model airplanes. It was a tiny market, but it was a market. And my dad had already made the video and it had been selling successfully on eBay. What I did was created a website and selling system for it.
Starting that sandbox side business was very instructive.
I was able to take all the concepts I was learning, and apply them without the filter of a client meddling in what I wanted to do.
I wrote an email autoresponder sequence. I wrote a sales letter to go on the website. I created an order form, and set up ecommerce through PayPal.
Success or failure was riding on my shoulders.
And then, I started PAYING FOR ADVERTISING.
For that particular project, I mostly used Google AdWords.
I identified keywords and created campaigns and ads to drive traffic to my site.
What initially started as a search campaign morphed into something slightly more sophisticated, with some rudimentary display advertising and retargeting.
But here’s the important part — it was my money on the line.
That “sandbox” project in that tiny market eventually made me thousands of dollars…
The sales came in at little more than a trickle.
The global market for that topic is probably well under 100,000 people. In an average month, about 1,000 people would visit the website.
But sales did come in, consistently, as a result of me spending money on advertising, that sent traffic into my selling system. Follow up emails automatically dripped out the selling message for weeks and months after someone subscribed. And eventually, about 20% of the folks who signed up for the emails would buy.
It was a good little system that ran untouched for years, until the quality of the video (it was recorded on VHS) really started to dampen the viability of the product.
But over the course of setting up and running that selling system, I learned a lot about marketing.
And importantly, I learned about marketing in an environment with two important characteristics:
— First, I had complete freedom to run it exactly how I wanted to run it, so I could test ideas and see them succeed or fail on their own merits.
— Second, because I was investing my own money, I was playing NOT TO LOSE, which is a far more powerful motivator than playing to win.
There is no better environment in which to hone your marketing chops…
If you’re a consultant or copywriter who wants to gain the kind of skills that command high fees and get you in with the best clients, this is something to consider.
You’ll learn more in one year of a few hours per week running a “sandbox” side business than you will in a decade of writing assignments for clients.
And it’s very important to put your own money on the line.
Buy web traffic. Run space advertising. Send direct mail.
The losses are painful, but they teach a lot. And the wins are quite rewarding.
I don’t think I’d be half the marketer and copywriter I am today if it weren’t for my constant pursuit of side businesses.
Because every time I run a side business (Breakthrough Marketing Secrets included) I’m forced to think about marketing and business-building in a way that client work simply doesn’t require.
Not only that, because I’m confident in my ability to generate income from these side businesses, I’m able to confidently charge higher fees when I do take on clients. The trade-off is greater for me — to agree to a client project requires me to take that time away from personal pursuits — so the payoff of working with a client has to be greater.
And if you’re NOT a consultant or copywriter — and instead you run an already-successful business — don’t rule this out.
Starting a “sandbox” side business that allows you to experiment and innovate may actually help your main business grow. Your motivation might be a little different — because you’ll actually have less at stake — but you can absolutely use it as a testing ground for strategies, principles, and tactics you can then transplant to your main business. Without risking that main business by running more “out there” tests.
Either way, building a “sandbox” to play in will keep you on your toes and hone your abilities. And put you a million miles ahead of anyone who doesn’t take this simple step…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets