Single Grain: From Getting Screwed Over To Building A Successful Company

How does a founder who says he got screwed over by his cousin go on to build a multi-million dollar company?

AJ Kumar is the co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency. They specialize in helping start-ups and large companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and other marketing strategies.

I want to do a biographical interview to see how he went from getting screwed over to where he is today. Along the way, I want to find out how you can do similar things and how you can learn from his experience.

AJ Kumar

AJ Kumar

Single Grain

AJ Kumar is the co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency. They specialize in helping start-ups and large companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and other marketing strategies.



Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Coming up in this program, have you ever heard of those Internet

marketers who are just so freaking rabid about getting traffic? You wonder

to yourself, how do they do it and how do I get traffic? Well, I’ve got one

of them here today. I’m going to grill him and find out what he does to get

traffic for his clients, and what you could do to get traffic for yourself.

If you’ve ever been too chicken to ask someone out, like maybe have you

ever been too chicken to ask a date to the prom? Find out what happened

when today’s guest chickened out, and how it changed his life. That story

could change yours, too.

Have you ever wondered how those slick seminar operators get people to pay

thousands of dollars? We’re going to find that out, too, in this program.

All that and so much more. Stay tuned.

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Here’s your program.

Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of,

home of the ambitious upstart. What I mean by that is, this is not a

program for people who have already made it, who are relaxing somewhere on

a beach, who are enjoying the rest of their lives in glory.

This is for the person who’s so rabidly determined to succeed, to leave a

mark on the world, to do even better, that that person is willing to invest

an hour of their time to listen to this program with all my audio issues

sometimes, with the fact that we don’t have perfect video, because the

content here is going to help you get there.

The people who I fight like mad to bring on here to do interviews for you

are going to work with me like mad to produce, to give you insights into

how you can help build your business. I know there are tons of other

podcasts, tons of other shows you could be watching. There’s a reason why

you picked this, there’s a reason why it picked you, and there’s a reason

why I’m going to work like mad to do well for you here.

All right. In this interview I want to answer this big question, how does a

founder who says he got screwed over by his cousin go on to build a multi-

million dollar company. AJ Kumar, who you see up on your screen, is the co-

founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency. They specialize in

helping start-ups and large companies with search engine optimization, pay-

per-click, social media, and other marketing strategies.

I want to do a biographical interview to see how he went from getting

screwed over to where he is today building this successful company. Along

the way, I want to find out how you can do similar things and how you can

learn from his experience. AJ, welcome.

AJ: Andrew, thank you so much for having me here. Just a quick little story

I wanted to tell you about is that about a year, a year and half ago I

think, I actually had a conversation with Neil Patel, telling him that one

of my goals is to be on your show. So, it’s an honor to be in here today.

Andrew: Thank you. You know what? It means a lot to me that I’ve kept the

reputation of this show high, that people, entrepreneurs tell me all the

time that they aspire to be on here. That’s one way that I measure success

here. Frankly, if it comes from you and it comes from Neil Patel, then it

means a lot to me. Is Neil investing in your company? Is that why he

suggested that I have you on?

AJ: No. He’s actually cousins with Sujan, the co-founder.

Andrew: OK. I’ve hit him up for a lot of the companies that he invested in,

and he’s introduced me to them to come on and be guests. Hey, you had an

incident recently, where a company that does some subscription-based

business came to you. Can you tell the audience a little bit about that?

AJ: Yeah. It was maybe, about six months ago, we had a company that’s doing

really well right now. Their main target is women within teens-20s. They

were actually interviewing a bunch of different digital marketing companies

and they came to us basically looking for advice on how to grow their

business. So, I had a conversation with them just a few weeks ago.

I got an intro from them a couple months ago, and just had… I messed up

in the story. Hold on.

Andrew: Go for it. No. You know what? Let the story go even if it breaks

up. We don’t edit it. Let it stay real here. The fact that people watch

sometimes at the end is to see how I’ll screw up towards the end, and I’m

usually the one who does. So, continue with it. She comes over to you. She

says, ‘Look, I’m talking to a lot of your competitors. I’m also here

talking to you and I want to figure out who I go with.’ You say to her at

that point what?

AJ: Well, at that point I basically tell her about why it is that we do

what we do and why we do such a great job.

Andrew: Yeah.

AJ: It was really easy and simple enough for me because of the fact that we

work with so many high profile companies.

Andrew: Like?

AJ: Companies like RIM, Sales Force, Yahoo. We have a lot of credibility

and I think that the best indicator of future success is past performance.

It was really easy for me to show that to her. It really got her to feel

comfortable with moving forward with the decision of working with us.

Andrew: When you work for companies like Sales Force, it’s to get them more

traffic? To do what for them?

AJ: Well, it’s actually a variety of things. For some people it’s, hey, I

want to get more traffic. Some other people, I just want to rank high over

certain keywords because of the money that I’ll make from those keywords.

Some keywords the clients can equal tens of thousands of dollars a month

from just a single keywords.

Search engine optimization in general is an amazing thing for a company to

grow and create a sustainable, long-term business.

Andrew: All right. These bigger companies are trusting you. From what I’ve

seen, also the smaller more hustling entrepreneurs are also working with

you, guys like Tim Sykes, the guy who sells those investment videos. Right?

Ramit Sethi from “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”. The runs the gamut the

people who go to you for help. Right?

AJ: Yeah. It’s really a variety of people, from individual people like the

Tim Sykes or the Ramit Sethi’s to hot start-ups like Warby Parker. It’s

really a variety of different clients with different verticals, and it

could even be hypercompetitive verticals like the insurance industry or

their travel states.

Andrew: All right. Later in this interview, I want to grill you a little

bit to see what you’re doing for them and how you can walk in as confident

as I’ve seen you be with clients, and say, ‘Dude, I’m going to absolutely

blow you away with how much traffic I get for you.’ I know it because I’ve

talked to other people who have been your clients, and because you and I

have had conversations in the past.

Let’s go back and see how you got here. Why don’t we go back to that time

for a moment, where you broke your leg. Tell me about that point in your

life. Things weren’t so hot then, huh?

AJ: Things weren’t hot at all. It was actually an interesting time. I used

to have a company with my cousin. This was towards the ending of that

company, where things went really bad. There was a lot of debt. I invested

a ton of money into the company. It was really interesting because at the

time, I think I was 19, 20 or something, and I put in all this money to

Owen. I think it was about 2% of the company.

The way valuations work, or the way I understand valuations now, it was

probably the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.

Andrew: How much money did you put into your cousin’s business?

AJ: Almost sixty, $70,000 at the end.

Andrew: OK. How much of a business did he have when you invested that much

money and only got 2%?

AJ: Nothing. He had nothing.

Andrew: He had nothing? He had just sold you on a great idea. He was a good


AJ: He sold me on a really amazing idea, and he was a great salesman

because he had a lot of success in the past. He drove a Ferrari. I was

really amazed by him. I pretty much had him as a mentor, so naturally I

quickly made the decision to move forward with it because I saw what he

saw. I saw that vision. So, it wasn’t a mistake entirely on his part. It

was a mistake on my part in the sense that I should have known what I was

getting myself into.

Either way, at that time when I broke my foot, it was the same time where

we departed ways. I was just in the worst rut of my life. I was miserable.

I had no money. I owed my parents a lot of money. It was just a weird time

for me because my parents, throughout the two years I did work for my

cousin, just constantly told me nonstop that I needed to get out, and they

were right.

One of the hardest things for me to do was to tell them that, “Hey, you’re

right. I’m wrong. I made a mistake. I need your help now.” What had also

happened was, since he had bad credit at the time, I put my name down for a

car that he got under my name. It was this $60,000 BMW and towards our

ending, he ended up leaving the car at my house and told me to deal with it

because we were just on the complete worse terms. Now I had this $60,000

leased car that, he used up all the miles, and I had still had two years on

the lease and the payments were like $800 a month. I mean I was in a

terrible situation, with that negative mindset, that I was . . .

Andrew: [laughs]

AJ: yes maybe I asked for this but I was in a car accident with my brother

and it broke my foot. So now I was in this position where I had a broken

foot, I couldn’t find a new job, I had a lot of debt, and I had this car I

had to deal with, and, I have to get my parents to help me out, even though

I spent so many years trying to live life on my own.

Andrew: Is this depressing?

AJ: It was terrible. [laughs]

Andrew: Let me get into the mindset that you had. How old were you at the


AJ: I think I was like 20.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go back to when you were 17 this is when you

wanted to ask that girl out. This was a formative need for you, what

happened there?

AJ: So this is back in high school. From high school and before that I was

a complete shy person. One of the hardest things for me to do was to ask

this girl out to prom and at that time I had to make a decision to myself

saying, hey you know I can’t be a shy person anymore. I wasn’t depressed

but I definitely wasn’t happy. So it took me so much courage to finally ask

her out and it felt so amazing when she said yes. It was awesome and it was

around that time where I decided to make this shift in my mindset, saying

that, you know what? I’m going to not be shy anymore. I have to make a

decision, and you may have heard this from Tony Robbins, when you make a

decision you basically make an incision and cut away from every other


Andrew: Right, but you know what though? I’ve heard him say that, and I

remember even being a kid listening to him say that and I remember actually

how many summers I’d leave school and I’d say I’m making a decision, now

I’m going to out there and no one knows me from school, I could be a new

person, I’m going to meet lots of new girls, I’m not going to be shy

anymore and then I’d be the same old loser I always was. It didn’t work. So

making a decision isn’t enough, what did you do? Were you able to break

this shyness or did you stay with it for a long time and then eventually

figure it out?

AJ: So what I eventually did was, I made that decision, I decided I won’t

be shy anymore. At that point I started talking to my cousin, who was a

successful loan officer like I said, he drove a Ferrari and he was my

mentor at the time.

Andrew: OK.

AJ: And I kept asking over and over again, hey you know what, college isn’t

for me, it’s not really the direction I want to go into. So maybe you could

help me out, give me some advice, tell me something. And he would say you

know what? I don’t think you’re passionate enough, I don’t think you really

have the energy, and persistence, and the courage to really make a

difference. And I said I did, and nothing happened, and it would be months

later, then I’d ask him the same questions. He’s like but you’re just not

showing it, I can’t see it. And then I’m like OK fine, decided at that

point I’m going to call every single day for 30 days and I did. And after

30 days of pestering him, and bothering him, being persistent, he’s like OK

fine I’ll get you a job.

He got me a job at a telemarketing place. So what I was, I was a sales

consultant for a company called The Mike Ferry Organization and I would be

making phone calls talking real estate agents and selling them on coming to

our seminars for 300 bucks, 600 bucks, and then eventually selling them on

a 1,000 dollars a month coaching program. So for a shy person like myself

at the time, going into an industry where I’m talking to adults, you know,

17, 18, at the time. I’m talking to these 40 year olds and convincing them

to give me a credit card over the phone. It was hard but I did it because I

decided I had to move forward, I had big goals, I had big dreams I wanted

to accomplish them and I knew this was a path I needed to get into. I knew

I needed to break out of comfort zone.

Andrew: All right. Let’s pause here for a moment and really understand what

you learned while you were there. One thing that you told me you learned

is, you learned how to sell and you also learned how to talk to people.

Give me some of the lessons that you learned from talking to people on the

phone how did you learn to interact with people?

AJ: Well, one of the biggest things, and also this applies to being online,

and marketing online because when you’re marketing online it’s pretty much

the same thing but to a mass group, is to just to be conversational with

people, be real.

Andrew: How do you do that? That’s so tough because if you and I are going

to be transactional, I know that I could have a conversation with you. I

could ask about the goals, I could ask about how to structure our way to

get to the goals and I have an easy conversation. But I remember going back

to when I was a teenager and when I got my first job. I didn’t know how to

make conversation with people, to just chit-chat with them. To see how

things are going, you and I chat. You and I before the interview started.

AJ: Right.

Andrew: …we talked for the first time in, I don’t know, it’s been two

years since we talked before?

AJ: [Yeah].

Andrew: I didn’t say, how are you doing? How are you enjoying life?

AJ: Yeah. (?)

Andrew: I just said, “Let’s talk about your (?)”. You’re shaking your head.

Teach me now. Apparently I still need to learn this stuff.

AJ: Well, at the same time, one of the most important things I did learn at

that time was that telling is not selling, it’s asking questions. That’s

what I did. When I talked to these people I was genuine. I genuinely cared.

I’m not here about making a quick buck. If I could feel that this isn’t the

right fit for somebody, OK, cool. Then I’m not going to force…

Andrew: What kind of questions did you ask?

AJ: I’d ask questions like, how long have you been in the business? What

are you doing right now? What are the major challenges that you’re having?

If you were able to fix those challenges by learning what to say and what

to do, how much would that help your business?

Andrew: I see. First of all, you’re asking them so you get some information

and you let them do some the talking. Then you also want them to answer to

you the value that they’re going to get from this program instead of you

telling them.

Instead of saying, “This is going to be worth tens of thousands of

dollars,” you want to say, ‘If it was helpful, how helpful would it be?’

Then they say tens of thousands of dollars. Now they own that statement.

That’s one of the things that you learned?

AJ: Right. It’s about finding the pain and the pleasure points. Some people

are more motivated by pain. They’re more motivated by the fact that, hey,

they’re not going to have enough money to feed their family a couple months

down the line. Or some people are motivated by making a lot of money. Hey,

I want to make six figures next year. OK. Well, I can teach you exactly how

to do it. This is exactly what you assign for the course.

So, it’d be different conversations like that, and then it’d be handling

objections because people are all day long going to give you excuses as to

why they can’t. It’s just a normal part of things, and that time it was

just really about understanding that you’re going to get five or six of the

most common objection. Then it’s just learning about handling it.

Andrew: So, you would write down your five or six objections and you’d be

prepared to answer them. What were some of those five or six objections?

AJ: Maybe stuff like, I don’t have enough money to attend this seminar.

Andrew: Perfect. So, if someone gives you that answer, and you probably get

it a million times a day from talking to a million prospects a day, what’s

the answer when they give you that issue? What’s the answer that you gave


AJ: Well, I’d go into the same thing about, well that’s exactly why you

need to attend this event.

Andrew: I see.

AJ: You want to be in the situation where you are…

Andrew: It’s not that you’re fighting with them and saying, “Hey, you can

afford this because you buy latte all day.” No. You agree with it. You say,

“No. Money is an issue, that’s why you need this.” You don’t argue with

their point. OK.

AJ: At the same time, it’s like the fact that you can’t afford $300 to

better your career, to make more money is exactly why you need to attend.

Then it’s just really about breaking down the ridiculous. $300 a month,

what is that really? That comes down to each single day. You just make it

very logical for people, and at the same time, you put a lot of emotion

into the mix.

To put emotion to the mix, you really have to be genuine with people. One

of the major things that I’ve learned in my life is that you have to be

genuine. One of the guys I’ve worked with a couple years later down the

line, his name is Neil Schwartz, he owns the #2 Century 21 office in the

entire country. Very successful man. Very successful.

The one major thing I learned from his is if you just be genuine with

people, you’ll automatically connect with them at a level that most other

people don’t. As opposed to trying to be that slick, slimy salesperson

trying to make a quick buck.

Andrew: How do you build a genuine connection with someone who’s a stranger

over the phone, who you have a clear ulterior motive when you’re talking to


AJ: Well, it really comes down to yourself. It’s hard for me to say, hey,

be genuine, or it’s hard for you to believe if I’m genuine or not unless I

actually care. You have to, as a human being, actually care about other

human beings and making a difference.

Andrew: I see. I see.

AJ: It’s not something that you can teach, it’s just your inside self, your

self-realization, your own morals, your own ethics. At the end of the day,

that’s what you’re portraying to people. The moment you screw that up and

you lie, you just tarnished your entire reputation.

Andrew: What if you’re a robot like me, and you just have a specific goal

in life with every conversation? You know what? I’m kidding, but it’s

really reminding me, I didn’t have a human conversation with you. It would

have taken me 60 seconds. It would have taken me maybe three minutes tops

to say, “Hey, I see you shaved your head a little bit closer. How are you

enjoying life now?”

You know what? I didn’t do that. That was a little bit weird now that I

think of it. I think I might need some cues to remind myself to do this.

What about more of the slick stuff? I do understand the real personal

connection that you need to have with people.

You and I, I remember sitting down at Santa Monica Boulevard over coffee

talking about some of the seminars that you used to sell. You told me some

really cool things that you guys did to get people to buy. Give me one or

two of them here.

AJ: Yeah. I used to study a lot of (?) and (?) programming.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

AJ: A lot of that just dealt with how to build rapport with people. Well,

one of the concepts that makes most sense is that it’s not about you, it’s

about the person in front of you. So with everybody, everybody reacts and

behaves in a different way, and at the same time a person could use this

for good and evil, it could go either way. So, if I’m legitimately trying

to build or form a connection with you, I’m acting like you, I’m being like

you, I’m talking at your speed of voice, I’m talking with your same

tonality, I’m making similar body movements as you are, and on a

subconscious level, over time, you’re going to naturally feel really

comfortable with me because if you actually thought about the people that

you hang out with the most, you’ll realize that you guys are very similar

in how act and how you communicate, and how you move, and how you talk.

It’s very similar and if I come and manipulate that, for good obviously, B

is for bad, but if I manipulate that same feeling with you without you

knowing it, you’re going to subconsciously feel (?). And it would be using

techniques like that with people to just build credibility and trust.

Andrew: You told Jeremy Weisz, our producer, that you were on one early

phone call, nervous, talking to a prospect and your coworkers were in the

background, and they were whispering looking at my notes, they were saying

to you, ‘Go for the close, go for it!’ and so you just said, ‘Hey, what

credit card do you want to use?’ You assumed the close and he said, ‘Visa’

and you went on to sell him a telemarketing seminar for 1,000 bucks a

month. From telemarketing to selling seminars at 1,000 bucks a month that

helped you get there. That’s an assumptive close, you’re just assuming the

close with him, what else did you learn?

AJ: That was at my real estate job when I was working at the My Priority

Organization and that was one of my first sales and that was, my mentor at

the time Patrick Ferry, who was teaching me sales from knowing zero, zilch

about anything to just making me do it, just making me take action. And one

of the things that I learned is that if you just take action on this

information that you learned, you get amazing results. It’s like I have all

these books and I may not finish all my books but at the same time I read

enough to pick out certain ideas that I think are compelling enough and I

just take action on them. And me doing that is a lot more than a person

does reading an entire book and doing nothing with it. So taking action on

whatever it is that you know.

Andrew: OK. Give me one thing that the seminar guys do that’s sleazy but

effective? Not necessarily the one’s you work for but you’ve been in the

industry, one sleazy but super affective thing that we’re not supposed to

talk about?

AJ: It’s not really a specific technique it’s more so just forcing a person

to fork over a credit card even though when you know they really can

absolutely not afford $1,000 a month and a 12 month contract. And that’s

the way the contracts were set up for the technique back then, it has to be

12 months, it has to be $1,000 and some people just can’t afford it. They

might be able to afford the stepping stone program, which is $300 a month,

but not the $1,000 a month so they would force people into, well not

physically force, but emotionally force people to sign up. Whether it’s

like, ‘hey, my wife’s not going to let me do it’ and then kind of egging

them on saying, ‘who wears the pants in the family’ type of thing. So it’d

be more so along the lines of emotional persuasion. It’s not the coolest

thing to do.

Andrew: The disturbing part too, is that people who are the most fragile at

the toughest parts of their life are the ones who are most vulnerable to

this kind of close, to this kind of a pushy close, and that’s what seminar

people do.

AJ: Because people are in such an emotional state when they go to these rah-

rah events, for example, when Tony Robbins does his seminars, he gets

really super excited, there’s lights that are flashing on in the

background, like white lights, and what happens is when it comes time for

him to do the sell, those white lights flash on again and what he’s doing

is he’s anchoring people to that white light. This hand movement here, so

when he’s selling he’s getting people back into that natural state of


Andrew: I see. So if you guys were going to mimic him, what you might do is

get people to clap at key motivating moments, like a certain kind of clap,

not clap like you would at the opera, just like WHAP.

AJ: It’s something that weird. If you’re trying to anchor somebody to feel

a certain way, you’ve got to do something weird, like his claps are like


Andrew: So it would be some weird claps, like, we’re all going to make it,

right? Weird clap, they all do it, a light goes off, and we’re going to

leave our mark on the world, right? Weird clap, light goes off. And then

later on he’s making sales pitch and he’s saying, ‘This thing only costs

1,000 bucks, but we want to change the world, right?’ and then we all

WHACK, clap our hands, the light goes off, and now he’s all right. So,

that’s basically the kind of stuff that you were doing. It’s exciting

because you’re making sales. It’s exciting because you feel like you’re

mastering yourself. It’s exciting because you feel like you’re helping

other people master themselves. And you’re also seeing all the money in

this, and that’s when your cousin comes to you and he says, “I see an

opportunity.” What’s the opportunity?

AJ: So, the opportunity was that he was also a coach for the Mike Berry

organization. So, when Mike sold a person a $1000 a month coaching program,

that person would be under his wing and his guidance for a 30-minute call a

week. Great program. He did an amazing job there, and all that kind of good

stuff. What he wanted to do is, he thought bigger. He wanted to create his

own coaching company. So, he did that. He started that process, and then he

invited me to the opportunity of this vision. And it was amazing. And

obviously, it’s easily sold, because I already thought so highly of him, I

forked over my cash instantly. I made good money as a kid, and I forked

over instantly. And our company was going to be set up in Las Vegas. And,

you know, I quit my job, and I’m gung ho about this. I know I won’t be

making money for the first, like.

Andrew: You moved to Vegas.

AJ: So, what I did was, we had our company in Vegas, and I got an apartment

in this kind of like crummy neighborhood. I didn’t want to spend too much,

because I had forked over a lot of my money. And, yeah, I lived in Vegas

for about six months. Gnarly time, very gnarly time. I was under 21, so I

couldn’t do a lot of things.

Andrew: And they ID pretty heavily there. Why didn’t the company work?

AJ: Why did it work?

Andrew: Why did it not work?

AJ: Why it didn’t work? Because we started this and geared it toward loan

officers and real estate agents. And this was the exact time that the

economy hit really hard for that particular market. Where people weren’t

getting deals, and it was just a miserable time. It was like a ghost town

for real estate agents and loan officers. It was bad. All these

regulations. Stated income loans didn’t work like they used to. It was just

a bad time. So, it was hard for people to pay money for these seminars

because they were just struggling so hard.

And the only reason why we were able to get to where we got, we had to

maneuver the industries. We got out of just loan officer coaching, and went

into more life coaching, and just general business coaching. And my cousin

even got to the point where he was coaching poker players on mindset. He

was actually working with Phil (?) and really big poker players for a

little while too, and UFC fighters. no, it was just a really weird industry

we got into. But at the same time, it wasn’t a profitable industry. It was

just a lot of money being spent, and I saw nothing of it. I even had to get

a card. I was excited to get my first American Express Card. It was

connected to my Social Security Number, though. And I put a lot of the

company money on it that was supposed to get reimbursed, never did. So, it

was like ten grand, and I had to pay it out of my pocket, because it ended

up going to collections.

Andrew: You know, the average guy who has issues with his business, like if

he’s running a software company and the software is not selling well, he

feels really down about himself. The woman who runs that business is going

to doubt her ability to succeed at anything. But when you are selling

success to other people, when you’re trying to teach other people how to be

successful, and you are struggling yourself, that, to me, must mean you go

into this ten-times worse situation. Describe to me what was going on when

you guys were coming at this as success coaches, and at the same time on

the inside, failing.

AJ: It was terrible. It kind of brings me back to what I was talking about

earlier, genuinity [SP]. I felt really bad about what I was doing, I can’t

speak for him. It just felt terrible taking people’s money, and then taking

some more, giving them some bullshit program that was just regurgitated

information that wasn’t even that amazing. And it worked. He was an amazing

salesperson that did a fantastic job of making that happen. But people

didn’t get results, and I personally felt bad and guilty. And over time,

just as I felt worse and worse and worse, I got to a point where I just

couldn’t take it any more.

And I remember a time where I was in Vegas. One of the things that my

cousin taught me besides persistence, is just a strong work ethic. I used

to wake up, get to work by 7:30 and stay there until 12:00. Because, like I

said, I looked up to him. So, he said anything less than that was, like,

not acceptable type of thing. In other words, you’re not working hard

enough. And I’m like, “Okay, cool. I’ll do it,” 7:30 until 12:00 at night,

I was there, just doing something. Whether it was trying to get him to

speak at certain events, or just trying to get people to sign up for

something, I was trying to do something. I even got him to speak with

Deepak Chopra at an event in Canada one time. Stuff like that. It was

amazing, all the things that we were able to do, but at the same time, it

just wasn’t profitable. And I remember one night . . .

Andrew: Do you remember one time where you felt like a sham and what you

did about it?

AJ: Yeah. I was going to say that. This one night, I was sitting, and our

office was at the Howard Hughes Center. So, this is right next to the Las

Vegas strip, it’s literally one street away. We paid a lot of money for

that office. And I remember sitting in one of the offices, and there was

view of the Wynn Hotel, and I was so miserable, felt so depressed. And I

just remember looking at the Wynn. I’m like, “God, I want to like get to

the level where I can enjoy stuff like that, but I am so far away. I’m

like, I’m stuck. What am I going to do?” It was just a terrible time.

Andrew: And your voice, I’m sure, changes when you are feeling that way.

And your ability to come up with ideas. You’re smiling.

AJ: Everything. It all hit me like a ton of bricks, you know?

Andrew: Were you dating?

AJ: No. At that time I wasn’t dating, I was working literally 7:30 to


Andrew: Was it also partially because you felt, “Who would want me because

I’m not doing so well.” No?

AJ: So, actually, I was dating at the time. And I got to the point where I

had to start driving back home on the weekends. I finally convinced him to

let me be okay with that. So, I used to go to Vegas on Mondays from Orange

County, and come back on Fridays, and then I’d have time with my girlfriend

on the weekends. But eventually that relationship diminished, and a lot of

it was because of the whole way things were structured.

Andrew: Beyond the time, how does just being at that low point influence

your ability to date? Your ability to be with this woman?

AJ: It’s terrible. I mean your self-esteem is down. Your confidence is

down. She makes more money that I do. I mean, in a world, even though women

are successful and make a ton of money, sometimes more than men, at the

same time it hurt to be in that position where, shit, my girlfriend makes

so much more money than I do, and she has to support me. It’s not a good

position to be in.

Andrew: I feel, never mind she has to support you. First of all, she’s

making more money than you, but you’re not making anything at that point.

You’re going deep in debt. You’ve got 2% of this guy’s business, which is

nothing. But more than that, I think we start to feel, I’m trying to

channel how I felt at the time, but I can’t come up with a specific example

for me, so I’ll go more broad. I think we start to feel like, who would

want to be with us? You’re making a mistake by being with me. You’re not

going to want to be with me long term.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of other people who don’t care. You see them,

you live in Southern California, or used to. You see these guys in LA, they

walk around and they’ve got nothing going for them but confidence, like

they’re the man. And they are dating these women who have money, who are

giving them cars, a room in their house. I don’t know how those guys do it.

Their self esteem is not at all impacted by it.

AJ: I have a couple friends who are like that. They are just comfortable

with who they are. There’s nothing wrong with either or, it was just the

situation I was in at the time.

Andrew: Did you have to beg for money?

AJ: Did I have to beg for money? No, but I felt really guilty taking money

from my grandpa, who offered me money when I was back in Orange County. He

was like, “Hey, do you want a couple hundred bucks?” “Yeah, that would be

great.” And it’s a terrible feeling, terrible feeling.

Andrew: All right. How did you get out of it?

AJ: I eventually got in a huge fight with him, and that kind of leads us to

when I broke my foot in the car and all that kind of stuff. I got over, and

said, “Hey, I got to get out of this,” and quit the company, went in

different directions, and had more feuds with him over the fact that he

owes me money. That wasn’t going to happen. Left the car at my house. Broke

my foot. I remember a time when he did drop the car off at my house and I

finally told my mom. My mom works at the bank, so she’s always critical

about my credit score, and I had to tell her what happened and she flipped,

she freaked out.

And I remember having a meeting, it was me, my dad, my mom, and grandpa,

and my grandpa’s brother and his wife. It was like a meeting of the elders.

And I was just sitting there, just like slumped over. And they’re just

talking about how much I f’d up and how to fix the situation. And it was

just a terrible spot to be in. I was so embarrassed. I spent so many years

preaching how I didn’t go to college, and I’m going to do well, I’m going

to do amazing. And the whole time they’ve been, “You’ve got to go to

college. You’ve got to get a degree. Go back to school, just go back to

school.” It was just an embarrassing time to feel defeated. That’s when I

felt defeated.

Andrew: And you know what? And for a lot of people this wouldn’t have as

big an impact as it would on me and on you because we’re not just going out

every night and partying. People who do that feel alright, I deserve to

have some pain as a result of it. You’re working hard and when you hard and

you still end up in a situation like this, first of all you can’t believe

it and it seem like it took you a long time to believe it and second, you

don’t know what to do to get past it and part of the way that you got past

it, in fact before I move on I should say that your memory, I’m sure, is

not 100% when it comes to your cousin.

My ability to ask questions to get the ultimate accurate answers is not

really, no one really has the ability to do that. You’re just going through

your memory and remembering what you can about your cousin and I’m helping

you do that. Basically what I’m saying is hey cousin, don’t sue us. We’re

not trying to give an accurate 100% representation of your relationship

with him but if you come here and do this interview, cousin of AJ’s, I

would love it and you can give your side of the story or what you remember

as your side of the story.

All right, you went to school with Neil Patel, this guy was great at

getting traffic, who is now a co-founder of KISSmetrics and then you

reconnected with him. I guess you saw a girl on MySpace who had a tattoo of

Neil Patel on her back? What was this? How did you and Neil Patel, who you

went to school with, reconnect?

AJ: So, I knew Neil back when I was in high school. He was one year older

than me, and we had a business class and we used to compete in this

business class for the highest grade and I remember at the time he used to

tell me about his Internet stuff that he’s starting up. I’m like oh, cool,

awesome, hey I want to get in and this, I had like the entrepreneur spirit

at that time and he got me into this industry selling black boxes on EBay

and I’m like making a couple 100 bucks here and there.

Andrew: With this black box?

AJ: Black box to let you get all the cable channels.

Andrew: So this, in high school, he had you selling these boxes?

AJ: So, I was selling with him and I was making some good money like $500,

$600 for a person in high school is a lot of money but my dad eventually

found out and he got really mad and he told me to just get out of it. But

anyways, I used to have a lot of fun with Neil. We used to joke around in

that class and he ended up getting the higher grade but I was number two so

it was good enough. But we eventually parted ways and I didn’t see him for

such a long time. I ran into him during my short time in college but that

was about it.

And then after my experience with my cousin, like broken foot, all that

stuff, I used to go on the Internet a lot and another ex-girlfriend at the

time, we used to talk about doing Internet business. She actually

introduced me to a Tim Ferriss book, “Four Hour Work Week” and it’s

exciting now because I’m actually, [?] actually works with Tim Ferriss at

marketing so, it’s awesome. But what’s amazing is she introduced me for our

work week and we got into this conversation about starting a business and

we really liked going to restaurants all the time. So, [?] restaurant view

site and that was pending at the time. I was working on that. That was one

thing that’s going for me. And then one day I saw Neil Patel’s name

tattooed on some girl’s lower back. Turned out it was a fake tattoo just

for a joke.

Andrew: I remember seeing this on his blog and I guess you saw it on


AJ: You can probably see it if you Google his name. It’s really funny. But

anyways, I hit him up. I was like hey, what’s going on? Let’s connect,

let’s meet up. So I met up with him and I remember going back [?]. I’m like

hey, what’s up, what are doing, what are you up to? And I’m being friendly,

like, trying to get to know what’s going on with him and he told me he’s in

Internet space and Neil’s a really humble guy. He doesn’t brag about how

successful he is and how amazing he’s made a dent in the Internet space. So

I didn’t know any of this.

So, I just started talking to him like oh yeah, I’m kind of doing some

Internet stuff to. I think it’s going to be really awesome and I told him

about restaurants reviews and stuff like that and then he’s like don’t do

it. How much money have you put in? I’m like, maybe a couple grand. He’s

like, get out, cut your losses. Just trust me on this. I’m like really? And

then I’m like OK fine, I decided to cut my losses and then we ended up

stopping that obviously it was great decision because I didn’t know about

the Yelp at the time.

Andrew: I see. First of all, Neil is not that modest. Neil is good at

telling you how great without telling you how great he is but at the same

time he has this part of him that will take to Macaroni Grill. When I went

to dinner with him once to talk about, I don’t know, talk about my

business, he also took me to Macaroni Grill and he drove his mom’s station

wagon with him, mom’s kindergarten whatever, something on the back. He’s

good at letting you know and he’s also good at holding back. And his

analysis, you’re right, is spot on. He can tell you where the business is,

where the money is right away and he can also tell you where it isn’t. What

was it about this business that let him know that there wasn’t going to be

money there. Yes. Yelp was around but there are competitors in the

restaurants review space that are competing with Yelp?

AJ: Well, I think it was really the obvious. It was the fact that I was a

new(?). I had no technical background, I just had this idea that’s

obviously inexistent. I had no vision of creating this amazing company like

the founders of Yelp did, or any of the other competitors. I just wanted to

make a quick buck online. I thought, “Hey, restaurant reviews sounds

exciting.” It was easy for him to see that, and for me, it’s easy for me to

see that with other people now, too, being emerged in the industry as much

as I am.

Andrew: I see, and he told you right away, “Look, just start a blog. It’s

easier to set up WordPress quickly. It’s an easy first thing to get going,

and then later on, if you want to do something technical like restaurant

reviews, you could get back into it.”

The blog that you started. . . Sorry, I’m just now taking over your story,

but I’m realizing your pacing has been very slow in this interview because

I’m so eager to learn every bit of it: what happened with your cousin, how

you sold, seminars and so on. I’m looking at the time and realizing I

haven’t been pacing this well, that’s why I’m moving a little faster.

Then you launched a blog. What was the blog?

AJ: It was a blog called

Andrew: Sorry, the connection broke out. OK.

AJ: Yeah. A lot of it was just me giving all the knowledge

I’ve spent learning about sales and psychology and just putting it on

paper, so to speak, so just writing about it and just talking about it.

Also, at the same time, what I was doing was, this was around the same time

that my mindset was just in the gutter. I was in just a really shitty spot.

I used to write about changing my mindset and making that shift and how I

should be. I kept writing about that, hoping that it would influence myself

to. . .

Andrew: And this is to yourself you wrote that, or on your blog you told

everyone this is how I should be?

AJ: Well, that was my intention of writing it was regurgitating it out

there. I used to get people that would interact in my comments. It got a

lot of engagement. I remember it getting a lot of readers. Neil was the one

that helped me set it up. I remember being at Starbucks with him at the

time when we set it up and installed it, hosted it and all that. It was

really cool.

It ended up becoming a really successful blog. At one point, even Tony

Robbins tweeted my post out to a million plus of his followers and that was

probably the pinnacle of the blog’s success, but it was a great

accomplishment for me.

Andrew: You also created a product that you were trying to sell. How did

that do?

AJ: It didn’t do well.

Andrew: Why not?

AJ: I made some. . . Well, I wasn’t. . . It was just me, like, “Hey, let me

put a book together and let me just steal somebody’s sales copy and just

reword it and let me just put it out there and sell it.” With the knowledge

I have now and the amount of time I’ve spent learning about marketing, I

would kill it, but back then, it was just throwing it out there and hoping

to see if it works out there.

Andrew: You’re going to tell us in a little bit what you would do now to

kill it, right?

AJ: I paid like $600.

Andrew: $600. OK. I’m going to come back and I’m going to ask you what you

would do today to kill it. There’s one more part of this story that I want

to get to before we hear how you get traffic, how you market products like

this book that you sold, or products like the one that Salesforce and your

other clients are doing.

Let’s see how you even got into this. You were working for Neil Schwartz,

who was a coach, I guess, right?

AJ: Yeah, he was a coach for the Mike Ferry company in (?), and then, he’s

also the one that owns the number two Century 21 office in (?).

Andrew: He comes to you and he says, “Look, I need you to do some social

media marketing for me. I don’t know what it is, you know what it is. You

do it for me,” he says.

AJ: At that time, same time when I met Neil and the same time I broke my

foot, I made another decision in my life that I was in the gutter. This was

about the time my girlfriend, a different girlfriend broke up with me. I

was just miserable, like this was another state of depression. I wanted to

go puncture a hole in my cousin’s car. I was that pissed (?) selling me out

of. . . This is when I decided, “You know what? I can’t be angry any more.

I have to let that go. I have to let that part of myself just disappear and

focus on what I want to accomplish.”

When I made that decision I started thinking more clearly. Then I’m trying

to figure out, “Who can I call? Who can I connect with to figure out a way

for me to go in that direction?” I remembered Neil Schwartz, who was an

amazing guy when I used to know him at the company, so I call him up. He’s

like, “You know what? I’m actually looking for a social media guy.” I

didn’t know much, but I’m like, “OK. Cool. I’ll figure it out. Yeah.”

Then I go to his house in Beverly Hills, really nice house, met his wife. I

get into this long conversation about my goals, my dreams, and what I want

to do. He’s like, “OK. Cool. I want you on board. How much do you want to

get paid?” I have no idea at this point, “Oh crap, I’m about to make some,

like, money.” This is new, I’m like, “$2000.” He’s like, “OK. Cool. $2000.”

Andrew: $2000 a month?

AJ: $2000 a month.

Andrew: Is that too low in retrospect, considering the amount of work, or


AJ: I don’t know. I guess for the amount of knowledge I have it was fine.

Andrew: OK, and you were just getting started, all right. So you had the

client, you were doing work for him. You also got other clients from Neil


AJ: Yeah. Like Neil started introducing me to a couple people because I did

a lot of copywriting work so he introduced me to like the white pages

people and I started doing random work for some of their campaigns or some

of their websites and earn some extra cash and it was great. A lot of it

was used to pay people off that I borrowed money in the past. But at the

same time, from then on I started becoming more of an entrepreneur. I

started researching more. I started understanding the Internet a lot more

and how it works and how to get a message across to people. It started

making more sense to me.

Andrew: What’s one thing that you learned back then when you were doing

copywriting work for White pages and for Neil Swartz’s site, what’s one of

the basic things that you learned that gave you quick results?

AJ: Well that’s when I discovered the power of email marketing and

blogging. Before I had my own blog and what I’ve learned I didn’t think

much of it but then when I started working on Neil’s blog, and it wasn’t

mostly Neil’s blog, I was like holy crap, there’s a way to make a lot of

money from this.

Andrew: What was it you learned from Neil’s blog?

AJ: Affiliate marketing.

Andrew: Oh, affiliate marketing.

AJ: Discovered affiliate marketing working for Neil Swartz’s blog and I

connected with a couple different vendors in the industry. I’m like hey

we’ll sell your products to your listed agents and did and made several

thousand dollars a month.

Andrew: And you created a blog post where you were basically talking about,

what was the blog post like that did so well?

AJ: It was, like I do a direct, like, hey this is the product you should

buy because it’s to obvious. Just my experience with dealing with

salespeople you can’t just slam in front. You’ve got to be really ninja

about it. So I would write different posts about this is how you make more

sales and by the way, you should use this system because it’s going to help

you make more sales faster and then people would sign up for it and then

I’d get residual income.

And like I said, I was making several thousand dollars and we were

splitting it because Neil gave me the opportunity of making it even though

it’s his name on the blog. So we were splitting it and I was like, holy

crap this is a nice little extra income. I’ve got to figure out more ways

to do this. So, then I started looking into more areas of affiliate

marketing and a couple other side business.

Andrew: And this is, again, Neil Swartz, who you were doing this for?

AJ: Neil Swartz, yeah.

Andrew: OK, then you went through so many Neil’s here, two actually is not

that many. Then you went to do some free lance work for Neil Patel.

AJ: And then I started working for, like, Neil wanted my help because he

realized I started doing one, I started getting it. I spent a lot of time

learning it. If I want something badly enough I’ll spend the time to learn

it. So then I started helping him with [?] in his blog. I started helping

him with his blog posts, his commenting. Just copywriting work, just

whatever I could help him with. I wanted to know why he was so successful

and to figure out, like, I wanted to model his success. I wanted to see how

he made decisions. I wanted to see how he talked to people. Why is it

people give him so much money to consulting. I wanted to figure all that


Andrew: What did you learn by sitting at Neil Patel’s side and watching him

work while you worked for him?

AJ: Well, one of the things that I learned that worked really well for me

is, and I learned this from him, is that entrepreneurs, investors, they all

love scrappy people and I remember a time where Neil actually set me up

once with five meetings with these DC’s, I met them in Seattle. I was

pretty nervous, really intimidated to meet these really smart, educated

people and the only thing I remember Neil mentioning from the past was they

love scrappy people. That’s the only thing I have. I don’t have an

abundance of knowledge to talk to about VCs or whatever. So I was like, OK,

let me take the scrappy approach. So, I went to these meetings and met

these five VCs and showed them how scrappy of a person I am and hard

working I am and I won’t…

Andrew: What were these meeting about so you can go work for their

portfolio companies?

AJ: These were just meeting for him to introduce me to these people and by

the end of those meeting I think I had three or four of those DC’s that

wanted to give me money for my affiliate business.

Andrew: So, to fund your affiliate business?

AJ: Yeah, they wanted to give me money for my affiliate business.

Andrew: What was your affiliate business?

AJ: I didn’t move forward with that.

Andrew: Oh, I see. So you had an idea for an affiliate business. He

introduced you to…

AJ: It was just me doing affiliate marketing but scaling it but the method

I had was working and I was creating residual income, I was growing. So,

obviously, it was to get a couple hundred grand to start buying bigger

sites, building them out, leave me SCO work involved and making affiliate

marketing and I did get into it by myself but I decided not to take their

money and bring them on board because it wasn’t something I was super gung-

ho about. I didn’t want to go super crazy into just building these random

sites. I know their plans.

Andrew: OK. All right. I understand the scrappiness. One of the things I

notice about, this is becoming an interview as much about Neil as it is

about you, but he’s a part of your life so it’s worth including. One of the

things that I remember was that I was having dinner in Argentina and this

guy who was also at this dinner said, “Oh, you also know Neil Patel? Do you

know that story where-?” And then he starts telling me a story where Neil

got some deal that he didn’t deserve to get and then I told him about a

story how Neil’s mentor got the guy at Verizon to give him not just an

iPhone for free, but the cover for an iPhone or some non-sense like, they

tell these stories all the time about how scrappy they are and they, people

share them and they keep continuing this legend of the scrappy. What was

the story, what were the stories that you learned to tell investors to

show, hey I’m really scrappy?

AJ: I would tell them the story about when I worked with my cousin. I

worked with him for two years and I would show up 7:30 to 12:00 every day.

I was making no money. I told them what I would do. I would always be on

the phone, always be on the computer, I was always doing something and when

I’m not doing something, I’m learning. I spent a really great deal of time

just learning, whether it’s from blogs or the Internet, or going to

seminars or whatever it was. And I have an interesting story actually about

creativity. There was a time not too long ago, several months ago, where I

had this epiphany. And It was just a weird day; it was a really weird

experience I had. It felt really surreal to me. I’m not sure what it was

exactly that activated this feeling. Maybe it was because I went to

Berkeley area and I didn’t go to college myself and I’ve always lived

college vicariously through other people, no experience in college. So when

I went there it felt like a really college town. Maybe that’s what

triggered it.

Anyways, I started thinking all these, I started thinking more systematical

and realizing wow, there’s so many ways I could apply all these

systematical techniques to Single Grain and our business to acquire more

leads and create funnels and these sequences. It just felt like an epiphany

to me. And then when I realize is that I became, I don’t know if creative

was the right word, but I felt creative or inspired or something. So I was

like, how can I figure out how to manipulate this feeling. I want to get

more creative ideas. So I started researching creativity and how people get

inspired and how people get epiphanies. It was interesting. I spent a lot;

I dug into a lot of books. The most interesting technique that I got from

it, was that, and I mixed this with meditation which I can tell you in a

second how amazing meditation has been to me recently, but when we’re

creative sometimes our creative ideas are sparked by our daydreams for

example, right?

Andrew: By what?

AJ: Daydreams. Like when you daydream.

Andrew: OK.

AJ: You’re daydreaming and all of a sudden, oh crap, I just got this idea.

Kind of like how it happened to me. But what the problem is, is that when

you daydream you go from level one daydreaming to level two daydreaming

where you get more into that dream. Kind of like an inception type of

thing, right? And I realize that when I daydream I just get off into the

world and then I don’t even remember what I’m talking about. So one of the

things I learned from meditation was about breathing and how when you focus

on your breathing you become more conscious of yourself. So what I did was

every time I find myself daydreaming, before I get lost into level two,

level three daydreaming, I envisioned myself catching myself and holding

myself in level one daydream. It sounds weird. I don’t know if you’re

getting what I’m saying.

Andrew: I’m getting it. I’m not sure if we can teach it within this

interview, but we can at least give people an understanding of what you’re

doing, which is what we’re getting.

AJ: All I’m trying to do is like, when you’re in level one daydreaming you

can basically do whatever you want. You can say, “I’m the king of this

world.” Whatever you’re doing, start sparking ideas. And then what you can

do is you can spark those ideas into reality. And I started doing that and

it’s actually working in the sense that I’m putting a lot of these new

systems together for Single Grain that’s helping…

Andrew: Let’s get to Single Grain. I want to continue the narrative and get

also to how you market online. Looking at my notes, I’ve got notes on you

everywhere man, everywhere. But it’s helpful; it’s helping to get to the

right spots in this interview. Neil introduced you to someone who then was

also doing SEO business. Who was this person and what did you guys do


AJ: Sujan was Neil’s cousin. He introduced me to him; I think it was back

at a conference in Seattle. I think it was SMX advance. He just told us to

hang out and like, maybe share our thoughts with each other. Because I had

some SEO clients myself that I used to work with personally. Then he had

Single Grain and he worked with a couple of clients as well. He told us to

just hang out and see if we clicked. It’s kind of like he set us up on this

date to see if we liked each other. I met him and he was a really awesome

guy. One thing about Sujan is that he’s very systematical. I personally am

not that systematical but Sujan knows how to put the right systems together

so everything starts working automatically.

Andrew: For example?

AJ: For example he used to be really fat and he lost a ton of weight. And a

lot of it was because he had the right systems in place for following a

very strict diet, for exercising periodically, and it was only, I think, a

year where he lost a ton of weight. When he told me that story and the way

he sets up, like, if something’s working and then he changes it after a

certain period of time. The way he was explaining it to me was like wow,

this guy really understands systems well. He’s really smart and really

scrappy in the sense that he knows a lot about Internet marketing. To the

level of technicality that is beyond what I know. I’m like, this is


Andrew: You were saying he had this systemized way of looking at the world,

he knew how to do online marketing. You were starting to learn how to do

online marketing. And you guys decided to get into business together and

that’s how you formed Single Grain, the company that I introduced at the

top of this interview, right?

AJ: That’s when we got together and clicked and…

Andrew: What’s the percent breakdown in the business? Who owns what?

AJ: I can’t share that.

Andrew: It’s not 50-50. Clearly, he owns a majority. Do you own more than


AJ: Yeah.

Andrew: You do? OK. And when I said it’s a multi-million dollar company,

you guys doing over $1 million in sales a year, right?

AJ: Correct.

Andrew: What’s the net margin? I mean, are we talking about over $1 million

a year but you’re spending $5 million a year in expenses? Is it profitable?

AJ: It’s profitable. I can’t share the margins but yeah. We have a really

great system, we have great employees, and we’re very strict on how we

actually spend the money. We’re not spending a million to make a million

type of thing.

Andrew: Any outside money in this business?

AJ: No.

Andrew: You guys doing more than a quarter million in profit?

AJ: I’m not going to get into that.

Andrew: I shouldn’t have smiled. You saw me smile. That’s when I knew the

poker face went away, that was a mistake. I’ll have to work on that.

AJ: We do well. Our margins are really well and we do well. Again, a lot of

it is because Sujan is really good at making things systematical and making

sure that we’re not wasting money on things that we shouldn’t waste it on.

Andrew: OK. Who goes after the clients, you or him?

AJ: I go after the clients. I do the sales part of the company and then

sometimes he, he’s been in the business a lot longer than I have so more

often than not he introduces me to a lot of people. Then we just get them


Andrew: All right, so now teach us. Now I’ve got somebody who’s listening

to me, more than one somebody but let’s bring it down to one person who’s

listening who said hey, at the top of the interview Andrew said he’s going

to show us how Single Grain does killer marketing for these big brands and

also for hustlers like Tim Sykes. I listened to this whole interview

looking for the key moment, they still didn’t hit me with it. We have an

obligation we have to live up to. What do we tell that person? What are

some of the killer marketing systems that you guys have put together?

AJ: Well, a lot of, like, with SEO comes down to link building. The way we

like to break it down, and these numbers aren’t 100% accurate, but we put

it at 10% of it is the social signals of things, 30% of it is the on-page

factors, and then 60% of it is the off-page factors, which is the link

building. Most people have the hardest time doing the link building because

it’s very difficult to get links.

One thing I recommend that works really well for us is that we’ve been

fortunate enough to build relationships with a lot of different website

owners and web masters. The way we build them is by just going to different

events, different seminars. It’s because of that inventory of links that we

have access to, we can scale our link building methods in a very, in a

completely legitimate way that most others can’t. My advice to people that

are trying to do SEOs themselves is you need to go to these different

events and make relationships with these types of link builders.

Andrew: Who are these types of people who are link builders who will send

you links on command?

AJ: They don’t send it on command. It’s usually for an exchange of


Andrew: What do you give them?

AJ: We give them content, you know? More often than not these web masters

have a lot of sites that they make money off, like, ad sales. They’re not

super savvy, they just have a lot of blogs. They’ve just been around for a

long time. So what we do is, we have writers on staff and we pump them free

content and they’re more than happy to do it because it just helps their

blogs brain. At the same time, we put links on those articles.

Andrew: Do you give them content and you end up getting links on their

articles. You have a database full of these people?

AJ: We have a lot of people we have access to, yes. And then from that site

a tree with a lot of different sites.

Andrew: OK. What else to you do?

AJ: We also have a lot of social media power in the sense that we have

access to a lot of power accounts, like the Diggs, the Reddits, the

StumbleUpons of the world.

Andrew: How do you get those? You weren’t in this space and passionate

about Digg long enough to have assumed some of that.

AJ: They’re not my personal accounts. We just have access to personal

accounts. Whether it’s our employees or just people we know, we have access

to these power accounts, so we get to utilize them and it allows us to get

certain blog posts on the top of Digg or make them go viral on Stumble and

stuff like that.

Andrew: So you just hit these people up, and you said: ‘Hey, look. You’re a

dig player. I need you to submit this to Digg and then you go to twenty

other people you have on IM. Is it IM that you use to talk to them?

AJ: Our people who do this? Yes. I personally don’t do it.

Andrew: So you have people who would then go on IM and say go hook this up?

AJ: Or help load this up, or help get this out there. Push it to your

network. Whatever. Sometimes it could take days, but at the same time, it

works really well for some people.

Andrew: Who do you have internally who can do that? How do you hire people

who have access to all these people?

AJ: Sujan does all the hiring, everybody we have. We have 14 people now.

We’re in San Francisco. San Francisco has a lot of talent, so we have a

very strict process of who we hire. We’ve just been fortunate enough to

have done a good job so far doing that.

Andrew: What else do you do?

AJ: We also do PPC management, (?), so that’s been going really well for

us. We have an amazing PPC expert at our office whom we’ve hired and he’s

building our department and we’re managing a lot of money for a lot of big

clients. That’s going really well. A lot of that is in relation to emergent

optimization that we’re doing for our PPC clients and building awesome add-

in pages and making sure that people are getting ROI from what they’re


Andrew: All right. I have to drill down further and give people a lot more

concrete things that they could do. Why don’t we start with if somebody’s

listening to us and they don’t have all these people who are connected to

them with Digg accounts and Reddit accounts, what do they do to use social

media to start getting some links and traffic?

AJ: One thing, there’s this one client. She’s in the health industry and

she used to have about 30,000 hits a month. That was her traffic. It was

not bad. It was decent. But the thing that took her to where she’s at

today, which is half a million visitors a month, is very good content. I

know it sounds really as if I’m trying to avoid the question, but really it

was just really good content with solid headlines. It was utilizing an

email list which was 2,000 people at the time, and now it’s at 42,000. It

took about 7 or 8 months to do.

Andrew: All right then. Let’s go one step at a time. Great content. How do

you get it? I try to hire good writers. I remember even emailing Neil and

saying, “Dude, how do I hire some good writers? Do you know any?” And he

goes, “Nope.” This is a guy who introduced me to everyone, but not writers

because it’s hard to find good writers who can do this stuff.

AJ: Good writers are very hard. I don’t disagree with you. As an agency

that writes a lot, we have to be able to write ourselves on a consistent

basis. We even have several employees who spend most of their time managing

these writers other than me who has approval out of the articles. Writers

are difficult to find and that’s why it’s very important that you spend

good money for content. There are a lot of people who are spending $15 or

$20 on content, but there’s a huge difference between a $20 piece of

content and something like $60 or $100 content.

Andrew: Have you systemized your writing? Do you have a set need?

AJ: It’s a program called Trello. I think it’s still free.

Andrew: Yes. Joel Spolsky created it. Yes. Sorry.

AJ: It’s a good way to systemize it. Then you can have multiple writers,

multiple boards, whatever you want to call it, for different sites. That

works really well.

Andrew: Oh, man. The connection’s going really funky on me. Let me see if I

understand this. Let me repeat what I heard. Tell me if I got it right. You

go to Trello and there you can create a list, in fact it’s basically a

collection of lists, and one of your lists is the template for how to

write, where you say, look, the first word needs to be this or the first

sentence needs to be that, the second paragraph needs to do that, step-by-

step what people need to do when they’re writing for you. Yeah, like step

by step what people need to do when they’re writing for you. Yes.


Add pictures, add notes, whatever you want, and then the writer comes in

and looks at it. Then puts the article together, uploads it back. Puts some

kind of color label. This is how you would systemize it.

Andrew: OK, if I looked at this board would I be able to start writing for

you guys based on what you’ve got there?

AJ: Yeah, I would just have to explain the color system to you.

Andrew: Interesting. All right, so that’s how you systemize your writing.

AJ: Green means OK, go ahead and publish it.

Andrew: I see.

AJ: It’s really important because, and this is something that I tell a lot

of the companies to do. Especially, there’s a forming company that didn’t

have a blog at all. They were in the fashiony space. I told them to do it,

I stressed it so much. They finally did it and now they’re getting almost

20,000 visitors a month plus from their blog. It’s really that simple and

most companies don’t utilize their blog for company news [??].

Andrew: Company what?

AJ: Company news, like telling about…

Andrew: Yeah, what’s the advice that you gave her beyond write good

articles. You couldn’t tell a friend write good articles. You’d have to

give her something more specific so what specifically did you tell her?

AJ: For that particular industry I said look, you guys are in a certain

vertical of the fashion space so you guys need a blog that’s more broad. I

want you to cover the fashion space. I want you to not talk about your

products at all. None whatsoever. Write about anything fashion related.

That’s what they did. I told them you have to be consistent and that it

takes time. It takes a couple of months to do it. If you have special

promotional accounts it helps but it’s not necessary. They didn’t use any

promotional accounts. It took them a couple of months and now they’re

generating really good traffic.

Then what happens is that for most companies that do this method with that

traffic then you’ve just got to optimize the blog. Whether it’s to collect

emails or whatever it is. Then you can get that traffic to purchase your

products or your services. One of the epiphanies that I got that one day I

was sharing with you earlier was about creating sequences and funnels that

are really elaborate and that have assumptive closes and that don’t push

too much of the product until X days afterwards. You get these systems in

place and then you start building relationships with your email list and

you get them to purchase your product. One of the ways to drive them in

would be to your blog. It all starts at putting a powerful blog together.

Andrew: OK, so putting a blog together. Get some links going. You told us

what to write the blog about. Walk me through a little bit of this funnel

that you’d create for people or that our audience should be creating for

themselves. First step, come in for the blog. Second step, what?

AJ: First step they come for the blog but then you’ve got to convince them

to sign up for your email list. Whether it’s giving them some kind of

incentive but you’ve just got to give them some kind of value. The mistake

that most people make is that hey, here’s a free e-book or hey, sign up for

my list, get alerts. And then they just kind of continue to maneuver and

fix the wording on stuff like that. But what people have got to do is

they’ve got to really understand the thought sequence of the people that

are coming to the blog.

Sometimes that includes surveying them. Sometimes, you can use Kiss

Insights and put a survey on the bottom and ask them whatever questions you

want about understanding what type of person they are. Then based off of

the data that you collect from them then you start modifying the messaging

towards the type of audience you have. Then you start collecting emails

from that. Then with the emails you send them some kind of welcome…

Andrew: Hang on, let’s stop for a second just to make sure that I

understand everything so far. I understand what the blog covers. I

understand it’s now time for me to learn more about my audience. But you

said ask them some kind of questions but we weren’t specific. Let me see if

I understand the kinds of questions you want me to ask. You want me to pop

up one of those little Kiss Insight boxes on the bottom right of the site,

or anywhere that I want to survey them, and say something like what’s your

big challenge now? What are you worried about? What are you trying to

solve? What did you come to this page for?

You’re nodding. What you’re trying to do is understand what the person

wants and needs. And then, going back to the email collection box, if I

were running a fashion site and people kept saying to me I can’t afford all

of the clothes that I see in your pictures. Or I can’t afford all of the

clothes that I see in US Magazine or whatever. Then the thing that I would

offer them to collect their email address is something that said can’t

afford the hot styles? Here’s how to get them for cheap. And that’s how I’d

collect them.

AJ: Yeah, if you discover a pattern or a trend in the type of answers that

you’re getting then yeah. That’s how you start modifying the messaging.

Then one of the other things that people do a bad job at, especially bigger

companies, is that they start sending messages as the company. As opposed

to sending messages as a founder. When a person changes it from company to

people, because people like dealing with people, it’s a tremendous

difference in the level of engagement you start getting from clients. Also,

at the same time it’s about being conversational. Remember how earlier we

were talking about being conversational?

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

AJ: You know marketing’s the same thing. So, what I’m really doing, is

like, when I had that epiphany, what I realized is that a lot of the

techniques, you know, marketers use, you know marketers, the people that

are the “how to make money online” that make crazy cash with launch

sequences with all this cool fun stuff. I basically started applying that

for some of my clients and this worked out really well. Having that

conversation with the people…

Andrew: How do you, alright, so now I’ve got the email address and you told

me “hey, don’t come at them from, but come at them from

Robin Stern to make up a name.” And now Robin Stern’s sending them emails.

What are the emails that are coming to the user in a sequence?

AJ: First, you’re giving them whatever the incentive that you give them.

So, “as promised, here’s the incentive that I was talking to you about.”

So, you’re making conversation in a sense that, “Hey, I’m Robin and I’m

giving it to you now, so take it.” And over time, whether it’s a thirty day

sequence or a 4G sequence, whatever it is, you can offer them different

things like tips and flights. Whatever your blog is associated with or

talking about, those are the types of emails you want to start sending out

to people. They don’t need to be too specific. They don’t need to be that

big. They just need to be some valuable tidbits of information that you

want to give them. Maybe it could be about how to use that incentive that

you gave them. Maybe you gave them some crazy book and you’re just teaching

them how to use that book. And then over time, you slowly start mentioning,

by the way, we also sell this product. Oh, we also sell Red Dresses so you

may want to check them out.

Andrew: I see. And buy your red dresses from us.

AJ: Indirectly, dabbling in that and mentioning it, and then email number

seven, email number ten, you can talk about, ‘hey we’re doing this really

amazing special on red dresses today. You got to check it out.’ So it’s

more of a hard sale towards the end as opposed to being a soft sale over

time. And then…

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

AJ: I don’t know. Go ahead.

Andrew: No, no. What you were going to say, “and then…”

AJ: I was just going to say and then what happens with all those soft sales

and all those tidbits. You’re really just nurturing the list. You’re

building a relationship with people. You’re building a genuine relationship

with a person that I don’t get to talk to on a day-to-day basis other than

via email. So, I’m building the rapport with you so that over email seven,

email ten, whatever it is, it’s an easier sale. You’re more likely to

purchase from me because now you know me as a person.

Andrew: So, I understand how that would work with the Tim Sikes because

he’s selling CDs and videos about how to trade stocks, but would it also

work with, let me see, your clients are Yahoo, Sales Force, Cafe Press,

Mint, Zarley. You’re wearing a Zarley T-shirt. Would it also work for a

company Zarley that’s trying to get people to use their personal


AJ: Yup.

Andrew: … to do work?

AJ: I’m actually talking to Zarley right now and we’re literally setting

this up and putting it in place on a similar type of format, similar

system, except for them, it’d be more so of a person hosting a request. You

know the way their system works.

Andrew: The end is a person posting a request, not buying a red dress, but

you still also don’t want the email to come from Zarley. You want it coming

from an individual. You don’t want them collecting email. OK. So

essentially this is what you’re trying to do for them. OK. I want to tell

people about Mixergy Premium and then I’ve got to ask you for something

that’s a secret. I will break the secret, so that you don’t get in trouble.

I’ll just ask you to confirm it and hopefully you will confirm. But I’ll

reveal it. Actually, in fact, you know what Mixergy Premium is. If you were

here in my place, trying to sell it to the audience, trying to get the

audience to go to to sign up for courses, what would you


AJ: Well, I’ve, my like, the way I’ve gone and developed all my knowledge

is through people that have done it before, people that are successful and

I’ve been into your Mixergy Premium before. I’ve looked at all the videos

and it’s like, having access to all of that up in one area as opposed to me

trying to filter through the entire Internet, finding, like, you know,

tidbits of people that say they’re amazing, and not giving away this and

that and selling expensive programs. I’ve seen your stuff and it’s really

good, and it’s very affordable for the amount of knowledge that people give


Andrew: A mutual friend, including Neil Patel, told me to increase prices.

Do you think I should or am I doing ok where I am?

AJ: I think you should, but you’ve got to just start [??]

Andrew: The what?

AJ: I have a lot of advice that I could give you over, outside of it, just

to talk about it more.

Andrew: You know we talked about you guys, I’ve, I know Single Grain. I’ve

seen the work that you guys have done for other people. We talked about

having you guys do for Mixergy. And I’d love it, but I’m so distracted with

trying to improve the courses, that I can’t get you the feedback. You guys

don’t just, the idea that you would just put up a landing page and close

sales was maybe a dream that I had when we first talked, but that’s not how

you work. What you want to do is talk to the customers and see why they’re

buying. You want to talk to potential customers and see what issues they

have, all that stuff is really useful, and we’re doing a little bit of it,

you want to do even more of it, and it means I have to interact with you

much more than I was able to when we first talked. Hopefully I’ll have a

little bit more free time so that we can do that. But I didn’t want to keep

letting you down by not coming back to you with the next project, and the

next survey, and so on.

AJ: When we’re doing this, for (?) for example, the first month alone is

really understanding the customer and the voice of the customer. Because

all the messaging is tailored to that, as opposed to just making the

standard changes and putting this, that, and the other thing. It just

doesn’t work that well. You don’t get as much of a (?) as you do when you

actually alter everything.

Andrew: I want to work with you, and I also want to see if you could do a

course for (?) premium members, but I don’t know what the course topic is.

Maybe we should just put it out there guys. If you want to hear from A.J.,

what course should he teach? What would you want him to teach you? Now

let’s see what people say to that. All right, would you be up for doing a


AJ: Of course. Definitely.

Andrew: Courses, of course [jokingly]. All right, here’s the thing, here’s

what I heard: Neil Patel always answers all the comments that come to his

blog. I heard that was you answering all those comments. That you were,

back in the days when you were hustling, you were pretending to be him

there, and pretending to be him in other places.

AJ: Are you asking if that’s true?

Andrew: Yes.

AJ: I’m not going to answer that.

Andrew: You’re not going to answer that?

AJ: No.

Andrew: All right, you know what? We’re . . . [laughing], you’re smiling,

that’s enough of an answer. You can’t ask me to edit this stuff out. Neil

Patel, actually when I was doing live events and I had him up on stage, he

admitted to having – he called them monkeys. He said, “I hired monkeys to

go and pretend to be me on lots of websites and that’s how people think

that I’m everywhere, but I’m not that engaged with all those sites.” Can

you confirm that? You said “yup” when I said the monkeys.

AJ: Yeah, he has a lot of monkeys. [laughing] Yeah, definitely.

Andrew: All right, here’s what I suggest: anyone who wants to see that,

Neil, when it comes to conferences, is very available. Go to Neil and ask

him these questions. I think if he tells you in private, you’re going to

get the good stuff. I don’t think I can get A.J. I don’t want to put A.J.

in a position where he rats . . .

AJ: Have a drink with him and then he’ll tell you.

Andrew: Are you going to ask me to edit that part of the interview?

AJ: Nah.

Andrew: We’re good with what we said. All right, you know what, here’s the

one thing I didn’t get to was just all this work, you’re finally here.

Jeremy, our producer, asked you what are some of the good parts of this and

here’s what you said, something that I can identify with, “It’s the simply

things that sometimes make this whole struggle worth it.” You said, “Look,

I used to have to go to check my bank account before I went to Taco Bell to

just buy food.” You remember that?

AJ: Yeah, of course.

Andrew: Now, when you want to buy something, you just go to Amazon, you hit

“buy now”, you don’t even think about it, it just comes. It’s an easier

life, you don’t have to worry about the basic nonsense of life now.

AJ: It’s absolutely amazing. The fact that you don’t have to check your

bank account when you’re making any kind of purchases is a great feeling.

At the same time, just to add something that I recently started doing again

which I mentioned before, is meditation. Meditation has been huge because,

as an entrepreneur, your emotions go wild as a roller coaster. It was Ethan

Shaw that told me that sometimes you get so excited you’re up here, and

sometimes when you get so depressed you’re going to be down here. The goal

is to keep it at that equal medium, that way, you’re always stable and you

can keep moving forward. It’s easier said than done. Until I came across

meditation. Now I catch myself getting into whatever mood, whether it’s too

much, or too little, and I level myself with my focus and my breathing. My

doing that has made an amazing difference in my life. Absolutely amazing,

where I’ve been so happy, so consistently happy over the last several

months, and a lot of it was because of meditation.

Andrew: Where did you learn to meditate?

AJ: My friend Max actually introduced me to it and told me about how

amazing it was and how he was doing it himself, and then I just started

reading a book on it. It’s called “Real Happiness”.

Andrew: “Real Happiness” is the book?

AJ: “Real Happiness”. I just listen to it at night time, and I’m

practicing, and it’s just amazing the way the book is done, and it teaches

you step-by-step how to do it, and now all day every day I’m just thinking

about breathing every time I get into that negative mind set. I even bought

these notes, these shower notes, for ideas that I come up with and I just

have ‘focus on your breathing’ written on it because you daydream so much

and I just want to keep myself focused and centered.

Andrew: I’ve heard that a lot in interviews. I meditate. It’s so helpful. I

don’t even know how to begin explaining meditation though in an interview,

or course here. I had one guy who was going to teach meditation, but he

must have backed out after he worked with Jeremy to put together the

outline. It’s a tough topic to teach.

AJ: It’s really hard, and honestly, I think most people won’t do it. I

haven’t done it for years and I’ve been exposed to it for a long time.

Unless you really badly want to do it. And again, if you do do it, you’ll

experience happiness, which is the end goal for most people. People don’t

realize that happiness is an experience that you should be indulging in

daily, as opposed to an end goal that you’ll get to when you’re successful.

When you have that mind set, things just start to align in place, and it’s

just awesome.

Andrew: All right. A great place to leave it. A.J. from,

thank you for doing this interview. Hey everyone, thank you all for

watching. If you got anything out of this interview, I always tell you to

do this, this is the way that we all connect with each other, we just shoot

an email to someone we’re interested in meeting. Someone who we’ve heard

and gotten something from. So, if you got anything valuable from this

interview, be a hustler, find AJ’s email address. Don’t ask for anything.

Don’t offer to hire him right away. Just say, hey AJ, thanks for doing that

interview. I’m going to do it right now, “AJ, thank you for doing this

interview”. Thank you all for watching. Bye.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.