When I realized that I forgot to sell one of the three sponsorship spots for this interview, I tweeted about it and asked if someone could step up and buy a last minute ad. Ben of Site5 immediately offered to help. If you’re a tech entrepreneur, you probably already know that Ben’s company, Site5 Hosting, is the inexpensive way to bootstrap your Ruby on Rails, Python, or other applications. Now, you also know that Ben, the guy behind Site5, is a great guy. Thanks, Ben.
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Finally, this program exists because of Grasshopper, the virtual phone system that entrepreneurs love. You probably already know that Grasshopper will allow you to add extensions to your phone and call forwarding and voice mail via e-mail and so much more. What you may not know is that Grasshopper is run by entrepreneurs like you and they’re cranking out hit companies. Grasshopper.com.
Here’s your program.
Andrew Warner: Hi, everyone. It’s Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you build an online education-based business? Laura Roeder runs a training company in which she teaches small businesses how to create fame using social media and online marketing. My goal for this interview is to learn how she did it and to ask her to teach us how we can duplicate her success. Laura, welcome.
Laura Roeder: Hi. Thank you.
Andrew: So before the interview you said you feel comfortable saying what your revenues were last year. What are they?
Laura: Yes. For 2010, I was right around $300,000. For 2009, I was at $125,000, so I’m proud to report that we’re growing fast.
Andrew: So $300,000 in revenue selling what?
Laura: Selling training programs on how to use social media and online marketing to promote your business.
Andrew: By training program, do you mean a membership site? Are you selling e-books? Are you selling webinars? What’s the product specifically?
Laura: I sell video training. I have a few different programs. I have a few that are specific to tools, like one called Backstage Pass to Twitter, one called Zero to Facebook, that teach you how to use the tool, both from a tactical perspective of what’s going on with the interface, how do I use it and a strategic perspective.
All my training is done in video. You pay a one-time fee and you get access to the site forever, updates and all that good stuff. We are always refreshing our programs because they do get outdated, so that’s one of the benefits, you pay for it once and you get all the future versions. We do it in video so that you can see my screen. When you buy something from me, you’re seeing exactly where to click, exactly what it looks like. A lot of people tell me that they like to watch it once all the way through and then go back and put their screen side by side, implementing exactly what I’m explaining.
Andrew: I see. And how many videos come in a package?
Laura: It depends on the program. We have been doing longer videos, like, you might get one or two 90 minute videos, but we’re actually moving now into breaking things down into little chunks instead of one long video, little chunks of different features, both for users to make it easier to skip to what they want and for us to make it easier to update. Because when we want to change one little detail in the middle of a long video, it’s kind of a problem now.
Andrew: But a product might be a 90 minute video that you create yourself. I’m guessing you use a screen capturing program like ScreenFlow to capture what you’re doing on the screen, capture your voice. And how much does that sell for?
Laura: My programs run from $197 all the way up to the thousands of dollars.
Andrew: So something like a 90 minute video where you teach people how to use Facebook could sell for how much? $195 minimum?
Andrew: Wow. That’s incredible.
Laura: The Facebook one I think is $300. Yeah. Actually, someone asked me once. I was telling them about my business and they were like, “Oh, so what production studio do you use in L.A.?” And I’m like, “There’s no production studio. It’s me at my house on my computer with my screen.”
That’s the benefit of showing your screen. You really don’t need any high-tech production. You just need a good mic and something to record your screen and that’s all the user needs to get a high quality video.
Andrew: All right. In fact, what tools do you use specifically? What do you use to record your computer?
Laura: I use ScreenFlow for Mac. The microphone that I use that I’m talking into right now is a Blue Snowball, which I sort of like and sort don’t like. It picks up everything and I work from home, so there’s occasional meows in my training videos at times. What else do I use? That’s about it. I just use ScreenFlow and sometimes iMovie for video editing.
Andrew: Okay. So iMovie comes with your Mac, ScreenFlow about $100.
Laura: Yeah, about $100. And a Blue Snowball is about $100 as well.
Andrew: I used to use a Blue Snowball. I took it with me to Argentina. I brought it back to the U.S. It worked perfectly for me until I dropped it one point, and now I think it has a little bit of a hum, so I replaced it with this microphone. Very simple equipment. Easy to buy from Amazon. In fact, I think the Blue Snowball sells for about $50 now at Amazon, so it’s gone down in price. What about for selling online? What tools do you use to process orders?
Laura: I use Infusionsoft, which is a system for processing orders, for affiliate stuff and also for e-mail marketing all in one spot.
Andrew: Okay. And what does that sell for?
Laura: Infusionsoft sells for a few hundred a month. They have a few different plans.
Andrew: You’re paying a few hundred dollars a month?
Laura: Yeah. We pay, I think, $300 a month.
Andrew: Okay. And to broadcast your videos, what do you use? Do you use Vimeo? Do you use Wistia?
Laura: Actually, I’m still looking for the perfect solution. Right now, we use mostly S3 and just play them with Flowplayer. We’ve experimented with using, is it Vimeo or Viddler? I always confuse them. The one that allows commercial use in their plan, which I think is Viddler, but it got outrageously expensive really quickly. So, if they’re listening, you guys should call me and make a deal because I’ll use your service, but it’s too expensive right now. I’m always looking for that perfect video solution that can play it the fastest at the lowest cost and the easiest. Video has been a challenge in that way.
Andrew: Yeah. People don’t realize that video is expensive to broadcast, and a lot of services don’t allow commercial use at all, and the only time you’ll discover it is when people actually start using your video and you get a lot of traffic to your video. And that’s a time that you don’t want them to pull your video for terms of service violation.
Laura: Right. And, you know, that’s the great thing about Flowplayer, actually. Even in their free version, they do allow commercial use.
Andrew: Okay. And Flowplayer means basically grabbing a file off of your own hosting system, which in your case happens to be on Amazon, and you play it that way.
Andrew: Did you tell me yesterday in our pre-interview that you actually use WishList Member?
Laura: I used to use WishList Member. That’s a great system. Now I use something called InfusionWP that specifically integrates with Infusionsoft for delivering private content.
Andrew: Okay. And both WishList and InfusionWP are ways of keeping people who haven’t paid for your content out of the content and giving access to the people who have paid you.
Andrew: All right. Any other tools that we should know about? I usually don’t get this tactical, but somehow I got curious about it and I know my audience keeps asking for specific tools. So I figured we’d talk about that. Then we’ll talk about how you built your business, and then we’ll circle back and get information for my audience on how they could do a similar business.
Laura: Yeah. Basically to sell online training programs, if you want to use the same model I do, all you really need is Infusionsoft, InfusionWP, and then you need a way to take money, which means you can just use PayPal, which is the easiest way to get started, or you do need to have a merchant account, which is what I have, where just like you’re a retail store and you want to take Visa cards, you have to do the same thing when you’re an online business.
Andrew: Okay. And Infusionsoft, you said was, you were paying about $300 for it. But I’m imagining that that’s because you’re doing so many sales right now online, and when you got started there was, and there probably still is for my audience, a cheaper version of the program.
Laura: I think they do have . . . they either have one for $100 or $200 a month. I don’t know off the top of my head, but yeah.
Andrew: All right. Before I continue, why do you feel so comfortable? I understand giving me the tools that you use and the prices of the tools that you use. Why do you feel so comfortable telling me and my audience what your revenues are?
Laura: I lost you.
Andrew: Sorry. We lost the connection there for a moment. The question I asked is why are you telling us publicly what your revenues are?
Laura: Because part of my business is teaching people how to have the success that I’ve had. People come to me for social media training, but I’ve also branched my business more and more into teaching people how to have an online business, and I wouldn’t want to learn something from someone who hasn’t done it personally. So I think it’s really important to let people know that I have had success and I have made money in this business model to prove as much as I can. I guess I could still be making up the numbers, you never know, but I like to offer up as much proof as I can to be legit and also because I think people should talk about money more. I think most of us have been raised to be scared and embarrassed and ashamed talking about money. I think just opening up the conversation in whatever way I can is only a good thing.
Andrew: Well, I appreciate you doing that. You know the level of sophistication of my audience. These are people who are building their own web apps. These are people who have businesses that are up and running. Any of products a good fit for them?
Laura: Yeah. You know, actually, “Creating Fame.” I have some that are more tactical.
Laura: So if you’re already super tech-savvy, you don’t probably need the Twitter one, you don’t need the Facebook one, although, honestly for the specific strategy, you could be very tech-savvy but not really understand the strategic side of Facebook. But probably for this audience, the best fit is the “Creating Fame” program. “Creating Fame” is a lot more based around big picture strategy. I don’t go into detail. I go into strategy tactics, but not like, “Here’s how to use the Tweet button.” “Creating Fame” is all about how to make a name for yourself as the number one go-to person in your field. It’s really best for businesses that use personal branding in some way, whether you are a service business or whether it’s a business where you’re just the face of the company.
Andrew: Okay. All right. So we’ll let people go and check that out and get a sense of what your products are by checking out a product that’s a better fit for them than some of the others. All right. I’m curious about how you got here. How did you start off?
Laura: I started my business as a web design business, just making websites for local businesses where I lived in Chicago. I would go to networking events and I would meet people who ran businesses, because when I started my business, I had zero clients. I didn’t know any potential clients. So I said, “Well, I guess business owners go to networking events.” So I spent a lot of time doing that. I’m very familiar with all of the chambers of commerce of the city of Chicago, and there’s lots of them. I was doing that for about two years.
I’ve always just been interested in the social web. I’m 26 at the time we’re recording this, so I grew up with the Internet. I’m really that first generation that I chatted with my friends on AOL in fourth grade. I taught myself how to code websites in junior high. Whatever the social web meant back then, for me when I was younger, it meant making the webrings for the fans of the bands that I liked at the time. Bringing people together online is just something that’s always been interesting and fun for me. I’ve always been involved in social media just using it for fun and starting to see how it can be used for business.
So a few years ago, I started hearing all this interest in using social for business from my web design clients. They would come to me saying, “I heard you have a Twitter account. What’s that all about? People are talking about this.”
And also, I would always give them advice about online marketing, which I thought all web designers did, but I found out, actually, it was not so common among web designers. I always viewed that as the freebie giveaway stuff. My job was web design. If they wanted to chat about strategy or social media, that was fun. But people kept telling me, “You know, people would pay you to teach them how to use Twitter.”
And I thought, “That’s crazy. Who can’t figure out how to use Twitter? That’s dumb. Who would pay for that?”
But I kept hearing this more and more and I was getting sort of tired of my old business model, so I just gave it a shot. I think my timing was really good. In our world, you and I and the people that are listening, social media doesn’t seem super exciting anymore, I guess. But for a lot of businesses, it’s still very cutting edge. Most local businesses, if they have a blog, if they’re using Facebook, if they’re using Twitter, they can still get way ahead of their local competition. So I think my timing was sort of right, I guess, in jumping on a trend, and I just found a lot of success really early in people who wanted to learn these things in an accessible way.
Andrew: I see. Okay. And so now you see that people are interested. What do you do with that? Do you offer one-on-one classes? Do you start to offer consulting services where you do this? What do you do?
Laura: So when I first started, when I first moved from web design and for me that meant that I fired all my web design clients, because I knew that if I kept any clients around I would not be able to get out of that business, so I fired all my web design clients. I tried to do corporate consulting and I say “tried,” because I did not succeed in doing that. I thought that’s what you were supposed to do to be a well respected social media consultant, because people asked me, “Who have you worked with?” They wanted to hear Coca-Cola, and I was like, “I don’t know. Have you been the dry cleaner in Marina del Rey?”
I was working with smaller businesses. But I thought to sound impressive I needed to work with large businesses. So I tried to do all these consulting contracts, and I didn’t know what I was doing and I wasn’t really interested in it. I never wanted to work with big corporate businesses because small businesses are so much fun. You can work with a small business, and you can tell them how to write a blog post. Then they say, “Oh my God! Someone read my blog post and then they came in and now I’m making more money!” and they’re so excited. That level of excitement, I don’t know, I guess just I get more excited about the small business.
So I came to this problem basically which was, I want to serve small businesses, but I don’t want to build an agency. I knew that wasn’t really the model that I was after. So, how can I serve small businesses that can’t afford to pay me tens of thousands of dollars, but I need to make a living and I want to have a very profitable business? So the idea of online training just made sense. You can have price points that a few hundred bucks or even a few thousand dollars is a lot cheaper than any sort of ad agency, marketing consultant, whatever that you’re going to hire. It’s a way for me to have a profitable businesses and serve small businesses. So that’s how I came to that model, and it’s a very successful model for me.
Andrew: All right. Who were you modeling at the time? Who did you look at and say, “This is the kind of business that I want for myself.” And I’m spending a little longer asking this question because I’m waiting for your video camera to come back up. It looks like it froze here. There we go. It came back. It’s coming in slowly. Now we’ve got it fully. So who are you modeling?
Laura: I learned the business from Eben Pagan. If you’re in the Internet marketing world, you know who that is. He was actually one of the first people I met when I moved to Los Angeles. I actually ended up winning a contest on his blog, and then we lived nearby so I ended up meeting him and I started going to all his conferences. At that time, he was working on quarterly conferences in L.A. all about how to run an online businesses. I was able to get mentored by him a little bit, learn from his programs, learn from his conferences, and that’s where I learned pretty much everything about how to sell online, direct response marketing, how to make online training programs. I went to his conference and I learned how. Then I went home and I made my first program and I just sort of learned from there.
Andrew: Eben Pagan is the guy who got fame by teaching guys how to meet women, right?
Laura: Right. Right. Yeah.
Andrew: And then he taught marketers how to be marketers the way that he marketed those how to meet women programs.
Laura: Exactly. They still have the whole dating . . . it’s called “Double Your Dating.” They have the whole dating business, and then they had so much success, they started teaching people how they had the success online with the dating business.
Andrew: I see. Okay. How much did you spend on his program?
Laura: His program . . .
Andrew: Roughly. I just want to get a sense of how much you invested in your own education. Did you spend any money? Did you just win a contest and got to take his course?
Laura: I know that I got [interference] on the contest and so I don’t want to say . . . I don’t want to mess things up for him at all by not knowing what the retail price is. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on conferences. I’ve hired mentors for $20,000.
Andrew: Okay. And this is over the years? Over about two or three years?
Andrew: Okay. All right. What do you remember or what are some of the most valuable takeaways that you left his course with? I want to learn what you absorbed before you started out.
Laura: One of the biggest, most important things that I learned from Eben is the concept of “sell them what they want, give them what they need.” What “sell them what they want, give them what they need” means is there’s a difference between how you position things to people to get them to buy it, and then, as the expert, what you know they actually need to know in order to be successful. Because whenever you’re teaching people something, there’s this sort of paradox in that they don’t necessarily know what they need to ask, or they don’t necessarily know what they need to learn. So somebody might think that . . .
“Creating Fame” is a good example. Sell them what they want. People want to be famous. People want to be known in their field. Inside the program, I talk a lot about building a passionate community and how important it is to connect with your community. “Connect With Your Community” is not a very exciting name for a program. I, as the expert, know that that’s a really important facet to creating fame, but “Creating Fame” is a much more exciting name and that’s what they’re immediately after.
A lot of people make the mistake of coming in through their expert hat and being like, “Well don’t these people know that they need to know the 15 steps to selling effectively?” But nobody wants to buy that, and then you’re not able to help anyone because nobody’s buying it and you’re not teaching anyone what you know.
Andrew: Give me another one, maybe from one of your other programs. What is a “sell them what they want” and what’s the need that you give them after they buy?
Laura: I have program called “Zero to Website,” and that’s a program about how to make your own WordPress website. That’s a program that I’ve struggled with marketing because making a WordPress website sounds really complicated, but I actually can teach you how to do it in an hour, which is the crux of the program. So it’s like how do I make people believe that they’re going to be able to have a website that they’re going to make themselves in just an hour? It’s almost a hard sell because it almost sounds too good to be true. And it has the word WordPress in the title to let people know what it’s about, but something called Zero to Site, that’s something that they want. Okay, I’m at zero and I want to have a site – Zero to Site.
If I was letting them know that it’s how to create pages and how to tag them correctly and make them appear in the navigation and that was the title of the program in some awkward way, that sounds hard and complicated and they don’t think that they can do it. I show them that they can do it inside of the training. So that’s another example.
Andrew: That’s a great example. I love the examples and I love that tip. How about something else? Maybe two other things that stuck out, that when you were first listening to Eben Pagan, new in this industry that you said, “Aha! This is useful.”
Laura: Oh man, I have so many. You’re putting pressure on me right now to think of the very best stuff.
Another one that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I don’t remember when I heard him say this, but he talks about a business is made up of doing the right actions every day.
A lot of people are looking for . . . we’re all looking for, as humans, the one magic thing that if only we had this it would unlock the secret to success. You know? That one advertising channel or if you hired that one person on your team. And it’s just natural. I’ve just accepted that humans are always going to chase this. So when I find myself going into that thought pattern, it’s like, “Know what? That’s going to happen, but I know better.” Which is how people market everything, basically, is saying, “Once you hear this one interview, this is the secret that you need.”
So the right actions every day is thinking about . . . being successful is not some holy grail or uncovering some big secret. It’s actually quite boring in the everyday work, but it’s that commitment to the right actions every single day, and that’s what builds up a successful business. Because I think we can spend so much time chasing something better, so much time brainstorming or thinking of new ideas or trying to find that next big thing, that we sort of forget, no, I already know what to do. I just have to keep doing it day in and day out. And if you do, you’ll have a successful business.
Andrew: I see. Okay. So get past the need to find the one magical solution. That’s something that stuck with you. What do you think a magical solution that somebody getting into your business would dream of having?
Laura: Well, of course passive income is the biggest thing that people get excited about.
Andrew: You know what? I hate that phrase. The whole idea of passive income. It’s like a get rich quick phrase because people who are working really hard and are dying to stop working hard dream of a time when they can just let their money do the work for them or when the business will bring money for them. And they imagine that for successful people, the cash just rolls in that way, passively. Sorry. I just had to go off on a rant there.
Laura: No, it’s true. Everybody is chasing the passive income, and there is certainly leveraged income. There are some ways to make money that are easier than others, but your always going to have to do some sort of maintenance work. One of the biggest things in online business that I don’t understand is people have this idea that there’s no customer service, which is really odd. I don’t know why people don’t think they have to serve their customers when they sell something online. They’re like, “I just put out the e-book,” and then it’s just passive income. Well, no. Human beings are buying that e-book and they don’t know how to download it, they don’t know how to unzip it, they want to ask you a question about what you wrote. You’ll always have to deal with customer service whenever you’re selling things to other human beings.
What I’m finding now, because now I’m in a place where I really am building my business towards passive income of really building up marketing systems to bring people in and have them buy things without a launch. But it’s a sequence. People don’t just come to your site and buy things the first time. And now that I’m building that, I’m seeing that it’s a hard way to make money. I can do it and I’m excited about moving towards it, but building something where you can truly just put in traffic and have sales come out the other end, whatever time frame that happens in, that’s difficult. You have to have a lot of traffic and you have to have really tight marketing systems. It takes a long time to build.
Andrew: I wrote a note here to come back and ask you about the sequence that you have and the sequence that you advise others to go through. But I’ll come back to Eben Pagan. One more idea or technique that you learned from him that has helped your business.
Laura: He talks a lot . . . and I’m actually doing a program right now all about systems, which is more moving toward, again, the running a business side of a business as opposed to social media. Systems is just something that I love, that I have sort of a natural proclivity for, and it’s something I’ve learned about from him as well. He says whenever you have a problem in your business, look at it as a failure in the system, not as a failure in a human being. When an e-mail goes out and it has the wrong subject line, a lot of people are quick to, “Someone F’d up. What did they do?” Being mad at the person. But he says instead, “Well what systems did we not have in place that made it so that the wrong subject line goes out in an e-mail? Are we not doing a test to send them out? Is that not part of the system?”
So thinking of everything really systematically and thinking of how you can not waste time, how you can put things on repeat, thinking of every problem that you have in your business. Not just letting yourself solve it on the surface, but really look deeper and see why did this happen and how can we put something in place to systematically prevent it from happening again.
Andrew: I see. I get that. All right. So you go to Eben Pagan’s . . .
Laura: The way he says it is, “People don’t fail, systems do.”
Andrew: All right. So you go in, you take his class, your learn from him, you decide you’re going to go create your first product. What’s the first product you created?
Laura: The first product I created was “Your Backstage Pass to Twitter.”
Andrew: Your “Backstage Pass to Twitter”?
Andrew: Okay. And what was that? What was the product that you were creating? Was that a video? Was it the screencast the way you talked about earlier?
Laura: Yeah, so you can still go buy it. It’s been updated since then. I’ve created my programs the same way since day one. It was always a video of my screen, and it started out the way it still is. It’s a series of four videos. The first one’s more tactical of going over the interface and exactly how to use everything. I have one about . . . of course now I have to remember. I do teach you how to get more followers, how to use Twitter to sell. Oh, and then the fourth one is about Twitter culture and basically how to interact with people on Twitter and all the weird little things you need to know about what’s kosher and what’s not and what people are expecting.
Andrew: 90 minutes seems really short to many people, but I know that creating even the minute and a half commercials that go before my videos takes me more than a minute and a half. It takes me sometimes half an hour. I would like to think I’m pretty good now that it takes five minutes, but it took in the beginning especially a few hours just to get the ideas down, to know how to get the rhythm down, to know how to keep it tight. How long did it take you to create that first hour and a half program?
Laura: The way that I do most of my programs, actually, is I do them as live webinars and then the programs become the recording. And that works really well for me, because when I’m doing something live . . . first of all, my advice with video always is don’t edit, because if you don’t edit, you’re going to have to go with what you have. And a lot of people, when they record video or audio, they’ll start talking and then they’ll say, “Oh, I messed up. I said that word wrong. Start over.” Where, if you know you’re not editing, when you say word wrong, you just keep going, you don’t start over. So when you’re doing something live, you’re forced to be in that mode, and I just find my energy is a lot better live. Even though it’s digital, you can feel the audience, you can feel the people watching. So I record things live. And also my style is I tell stupid stories during my programs. I keep things entertaining, and it lets me off the hook for doing everything perfectly. People know when they buy things from me, I’m not reading off a script, so I’m going to say a word wrong. They’re going to hear me say something stupid that’s a bad example. Whatever it is, that’s all part of the fun from my perspective.
Andrew: You know what? That is fantastic advice. I wish somebody gave me that advice before I started doing any video online. You do start to get self-critical. You start to aim for perfection. You start to catch flaws that nobody else will pay attention to. It is so much better to just do it live and have an audience there and know that because that audience is watching, you can’t stop.
What’s interesting though is that you had people to watch you in your webinar. How did you get people to watch you in your webinar?
Laura: So in that first one, what I had was a newsletter, basically. One of the first decisions I made in my new business is that I was going to get serious about putting out content once a week. And that’s something that I teach in “Creating Fame.” You have to get serious about creating regular content. It doesn’t have to be every day, but just doing good content once a week and actually sticking to it will set you so far above most people, because most people don’t stick to it because it’s hard to stick to it because no one’s reading in the beginning.
Most people, they start doing the good content once a week for three months, and then they say, “I’ve been doing this once a week for three months. I still haven’t gotten any comments. My traffic is still low.” Then they give up and they stop. But I made a plan, and I made a commitment that every Wednesday I was going to start this newsletter called “The Dash” and I was going to give a little tip for how to do social media, something you can use right away, which I’ve stuck to and I still do.
So I started that in January of 2009, the first week of 2009, and I started building a small audience because it was really good content. I made it really easy to share. I did all this social media integration to make it easy to share. And people knew that it was reliably good content that would come out every Wednesday. So I started to build up a small audience from the newsletter and also from people on Twitter. That’s sort of the irony is that I’ve gotten so many of my leads from social media, so clearly I need to be getting some offline leads now so I can teach them social media.
But I just started to build up a small audience, and what people don’t realize is you don’t need a lot of people at all, especially for a webinar. Nobody knows if they’re the only one listening. They don’t know. Thankfully I had more than one, but even if I had had one, I would have put on a great class for that one person, and I would have known that they were there listening and I wanted to give them the best experience that I could.
So when you’re starting out, you don’t need a ton of customers. People always tell me, “I want to launch a program” or “I want to launch this or that, but I only have 500 people on my list.”
And it’s like, “Well how many people do you want to buy the thing?” And they’re like, “Well, I would love it if 20 people bought it.” Okay, well you have 500. If you had a list of 20, you could sell something, because they’re on your list, they’re interested in you. You don’t need tons of people.
Oh, you’re muted.
Andrew: Oh. I hit mute. A buddy of mine is in the office right next door, and he’s always wheeling and dealing and talking with people and getting excited. So whenever I see him get super excited, I hit the mute button. As you were saying, there’s so many questions that came to me. So let me fire off some of them. First of all, let’s go back to the technology. What software did you use for the webinar?
Laura: I used GoToWebinar. Another thing I did to fill that class was I did a free promotional webinar, which is another marketing technique I use a lot.
Andrew: So a free promotional webinar, and is that what you ended selling? That product?
Laura: No. The free promotional webinars are different from what’s in the paid programs.
Andrew; So that’s just way of getting people to give you their e-mail address and sign up. All right. You used GoToWebinar you said, and you use ScreenFlow to record your screen to sell in the future?
Andrew: By the way, this is golden. I really don’t do info product interviews here because I tend to think my audience isn’t into them. But every time I think my audience isn’t into something, but I think it’s still interesting, I should just say, forget it, the audience can just . . . they’re going to love it anyway or just say just do it anyway because I’m interested and I know that they’re going to love it. And I know that they’re going to love this one. So where am I? See, if I had editing, I’d go back and I’d edit that statement out. I’d say let’s just keep the thing flowing. It’s a good thing that I don’t have to waste time with editing.
Here’s the other thing that I noticed, and I’ve been noticing this a lot in my interviews. You said you started “The Dash” as an e-mail newsletter. As big as blogging is, people who are marketers, everyone from info product marketers like you to software vendors like my buddy Noah Kagan, with AppSumo, are so e-mail hungry that I’ve got to ask why. Why e-mail first?
Laura: Because e-mail is going to my customer instead of asking them to come to me. That’s the biggest difference between e-mail and any other sort of online marketing. When I’m sending you an e-mail, I’m showing up where you are. I’m hoping that you’ll come to my blog, but when you’re asking a customer to come to your blog, you’re asking them to take time out of their day to add a different stop to their Internet route. That’s why Twitter and Facebook are sort of in between. That’s what’s great about social media. They’re already on Twitter. You’re part of their stream. They’re already on Facebook. You’re part of their experience. But even then, it’s sort of an extra site that they’re going to, depending on how they use them. E-mail is the only way for me to show up where you live online.
Andrew: All right. I remember from doing interviews live that when there are just a handful of people in the audience, it gives you one mood, and when there’s a huge number of people in the audience, it puts you in a whole other state of mind. When you’re just starting out and you have maybe two people in the audience, doesn’t that weigh on you? Don’t you sit there thinking, “This is no good. No one’s going to buy it because I only have two people who are watching?” Doesn’t it start to play psychological games?
Laura: It sucks. I’m not going to lie. When only two people show up, it sucks and you wish that you had more. But I really think that something that sets successful people apart is that I think that people who are successful give it their all 100% of the time. And I think that’s a vicious cycle that people get in that holds them back is they do their first webinar and they only have three people, so they do a crappy job. Where, if you do your first webinar and you give an amazing performance, those three people talk about you, and those three people love you and tell their friends and might buy something from you. It can be disheartening and it can be hard, but you have to give your 100% all the time and that’s how you build that great reputation.
Andrew: All right. So how did yours go? The first one.
Laura: I think it went well. I don’t remember. What’s funny is I usually don’t remember how many people I had on things because, at the time, it seemed like a lot for me. I’m guessing I had maybe 100 people on the webinar, and at the time, that was . . . or maybe I even had 100 sign up. Maybe I didn’t even have 100 live on the webinar. At the time I was just really excited that anyone was showing up, because the people that I had . . .
When I started the newsletter, I did have, I don’t know maybe like 300 people that were on that list, but those were from my web design business in Chicago. They were all local to Chicago. They knew me as a web designer. They didn’t know me as a social media person. And so I didn’t really know how it was going to go. But that’s another mistake a lot of people make. You just have to start with what you have and take what you’ve got. I had this thought of oh, I can’t bother them with social media. But if they’re interested in their websites, it’s close enough.
A lot of us over-segment our businesses, and this is another huge mistake I see all the time. People are like, “Oh well, I do divorce counseling, but I also do family estate planning, so I have to have to have two different Twitter profiles for those things.” And it’s like, they’re close enough. Your customers know that you do more than one thing. They’re not confused. People make it so complicated.
Andrew: All right. A hundred people, that’s a lot of people to get into a webinar. To get 100 people to show up at the same place at the same time online is tough. How did you do that?
Laura: Twitter and e-mail and really encouraging people to tell their friends. I used social a lot. Just simple things like putting out a tweet and asking people to retweet, putting buttons on your sign up form and on your thank you page where people can share it easily on Twitter and Facebook. And this is, again, what “Creating Fame” is all about. You have to give people good content, but you also have to have people wanting to be part of what you’re doing.
In “Creating Fame,” we reference the book “Tribes” a lot, Seth Godin’s book, “Tribes,” because he talks a lot about how . . .which, actually, I have sitting right here. Good prop. He talks about how you have to have a movement that people can be a part of. I think that’s sort of the magic that’s missing from a lot of businesses and the magic that the really successful businesses clearly have in spades. Groupon is a great example. Groupon has so much personality. Coupons are really boring and generally sort of associated with grandmas, but they put so much personality into their business that you want to be a part of it, you want to talk about it. So that’s an important factor.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s great. That’s absolutely true. Even their unsubscribe page, when you unsubscribe from their e-mail, is fun. I posted a video of that once on my website, and I got maybe 15,000 hits just because it was so interesting that people forwarded that on. When was the last time an unsubscribe page got that much attention?
So you put this thing out there. What do you learn from the first one? What do you look back on after it’s done and say, “I should have done this differently. I could have done it that other way. I missed an opportunity there.”
Laura: One thing that I’ve just gotten better at is making good offers and making stronger offers. I think a lot of people think it’s cheesy, but people love to get a good deal. People love bonuses. Limited-time offers work really well. I think when I started out, I was kind of like, oh that stuff is kind of cheesy and kind of sales-y and kind of too much, but it’s just true. Again, going back to Groupon, the whole idea of Groupon is that it’s a limited-time offer and then it’s a really good deal.
Whatever you’re selling, the truth is that just works, and I think I was afraid to use those more . . . I don’t know what I thought they were. I guess I thought they were cheesy techniques, and so I would just sort of do a webinar and be like, “If you want to buy it, here it is.” It was just a very soft pitch at the end.
But now, I’m not afraid to spend a good time on my webinar talking about the program. I tell people, when I do free webinars, I say, “Here’s what the webinar is about. I’m also going to tell you about this program.” So no surprise, I’m going to sell you something. And I’m not afraid to do, “Here’s a bonus you can only get today. Here’s this for the next 48 hours.” People really like that stuff. It helps you sell your program, and people love getting all the extra bonuses. So I’ve learned how to get better at making great offers.
Andrew: Where can people check out your e-mail newsletter, “The Dash”?
Laura: On LauraRoeder.com, you can sign up for it on the homepage.
Andrew: All right. For the transcribers, it’s LauraRoeder.com. We have every interview transcribed right after it’s done. I want to make sure that they get your name spelled right.
All right, that brings me to the sequence that you brought up earlier. What is the sequence? Is it website to e-mail to free webinar to paid customer? Did I get that right? What is the sequence?
Laura: Here’s the thing. There is no sequence for every customer, and I think that’s an area where Internet marketing is really changing and some people are on the change and some people are getting left behind, because the way we use the Web now, you can’t put people through pages in the order that you want them to. Social media allows people to share everything. The unsubscribe page is a great example. Do you really want people sharing your unsubscribe page? Maybe not. Maybe you really just meant that for the one person, traditionally. But then you put it on your website and everybody saw it.
You can’t operate in this mode where you’re like people are going to see this page and then that page and then this offer and then that offer. You have to let it be a little more fluid. The old idea was that first you sell the cheaper program and then you sell the more expensive and then you sell the most expensive. That’s not how my customer flow works. I just look at my data. A lot of people are with me for eight months, and then they buy a program for thousands of dollars. Or some people buy something the first day they come in. It just depends.
You basically just want to have a steady stream of content and offers, really. So I know that I have steady content in my newsletter every week. I know that I have steady content on my blog every week. I plan promotional webinars regularly. I plan new programs regularly. The basic flow is get somebody to sign up for my newsletter, which would probably often happen through seeing me on social media. They get content from me. They’ll get an offer at some point to join a live webinar, and then they might buy something based on the webinar or they might never buy something but tell people about me, or they might buy something from my site before they hit the webinar.
Andrew: Okay. What else do I need to cover here? How do you know what products to launch?
Laura: I am not a market research person, meaning I don’t do any market research. For me, knowing what products to launch is really having a pulse on . . . really it goes back to the “sell them what they want, give them what they need.” And what to offer is a balance between what are people asking me for and what do I want to share, either just from a creative point of I have this inside of me and I want people to know about it, or a more strategic point of what do I want to build into the library of my business. Social media makes this really easy, in my opinion, because you’re able to put your customers in the fabric of your life. You’re able to sign on Facebook and sign on Twitter and constantly have that background noise of what your customers are talking about and what blog posts they’re forwarding and what webinars they’re attending from other people. I think it’s very easy to keep your ear on the ground to what customers are interested in. And then you have to look at what are people actually willing to pay for, which means, in my space, what can I genuinely say will make someone more money and grow their business?
Andrew: I think I talked to one of . . . in fact, I know I did. I interviewed one of Eben Pagan’s partners, Chance Barnett, and he told me that before he creates a product . . .
Laura: I know Chance.
Andrew: You know Chance. Another guy who is in your area. You’re in Venice Beach, I think, California?
Andrew: So I met him . . .
Laura: I’ve been to the farmers’ market, the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market with Chance.
Laura: I’ve been to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market with Chance.
Andrew: Oh, cool. Yeah, he’s a great guy. So one of the things that he said here that my audience loved is that he fakes programs, offers them for real, and then based on the uptake, he creates it or ditches them. So he’ll say, “You know, I have this idea for a program. I don’t want to build it and have nobody buy it. I’ll offer it for sale, and if enough people buy it then, boom, I’ll create it. And if not, well then I have only a few people to apologize to because I don’t create it.” Have you tried any of those kind of tactics?
Laura: I always do that because I sell every program before I create it. Again, that’s just sort of the nature of my model, doing things live. So I’ll sell it. Then we’ll have the live training, and then I’ll sell the recording of the live training as the package program. So that’s really how I do everything. I’ve never had to sell something and then not do it, but we do look for what are customers for and asking questions about the program. So maybe we’ll have a program where people will be asking a lot, “Is there a forum? Is there a forum?” And then we’ll be like, well, I guess people want a forum, we’ll throw in a forum. So you can adjust the program and improve it or make changes based on the feedback you’re getting from people in the sales process.
Andrew: Okay. So in addition to the videos, what else do you offer? Do you offer a forum yet?
Laura: In my “Systems That Sell” program, which is the new program all about systems, there is a forum. I usually don’t offer forums. Actually, I strongly advise against forums in “Creating Fame” because forums are another space for your customers to go, and unless you’re willing to put in the time to keep up a really good one, they don’t add value and they add a lot of work for you. A dead forum is the worst. It doesn’t serve your customers. It makes you look bad. It makes your business look like nothing’s happening.
I’ve shut down forums. I used to have a forum when I first did my “Creating Fame” program, and it was very active during the live program. Then I kept it open, and then people started complaining that no one was posting in the forum. So I just shut it down because it was just making people unhappy. It wasn’t adding anything. So with “Systems That Sell,” we’ll see. The program hasn’t really gotten started yet. If nobody’s talking in it, I’ll just say, “This isn’t really working guys,” and I’ll just shut it down.
Andrew: Yeah. I’ve actually seen that happen to a lot of people who are selling videos, e-books, membership sites. They’ll give me access to their stuff because we’re friends, because they met me through my interviews, and I’ll see that the forum is just empty, that there’s nobody there. It’s tough to create a community, and it’s especially tough to create a community of people who are paying. There are a few people who do it really well. Guys like Rand over at SEOmoz, he’s got a jam-packed community there. But it’s really tough.
Okay, so forums are tough. What else then do you offer if not forums?
Laura: Most of my programs have a video training along with all the different ways you can digest that, which means you can download it, you can do it as an audio, you can read the transcript. You know, pretty standard. And then they’ll have just whatever resources. When you buy “Zero to Site,” for example, you log into a website, it has different pages on it with the different resources. So in “Zero to Site,” since it’s about making WordPress sites, I give you all my favorite free templates, so there’s a little gallery of my favorite free templates. I give you my free plug-ins and the link to those. Just sort of whatever else you would need to implement the program.
Andrew: Okay. What else do I want? What else do I have here on my list? What do customers want? Is there one way to describe it?
Laura: Customers want to feel like they’ve spent their money well. That’s really important. I think a lot of people think so much about before the sale that they kind of forget about after the sale. And forums are a great example of that. A dead forum makes people feel bad. Even if it doesn’t matter, even if they never use it, it just sort of feels like, “Oh, I thought this was going to be really exciting and now it just sort of sucks.”
And there’s a lot of little ways where things can sort of suck for your customers. I hate canned customer service responses. We don’t do any canned auto-responders, because I think they kind of suck. They just make me feel like, “Oh, I guess that’s not so great. I guess somebody couldn’t take the time to reply to me.”
It’s a leap of faith to spend money, and they don’t want to feel stupid. They don’t want to feel like they put in their $200 and not . . . for whatever reason, even if the program was good, maybe there was some other detail that made them feel like this wasn’t . . . they didn’t really appreciate the $200 that I gave them. So that’s something that I’m always trying to improve as a business owner. How can we make people feel like we really value the time and money that they’ve invested with us?
Andrew: There’s something else that you said a lot in this interview that I wanted to come back and ask about. You use the word “we.” Who’s “we”?
Laura: My team right now is me and three other people, though we’re hiring right now, so we’ll see what happens next week. For me, it’s me, a project manager who is actually here in L.A., but we rarely meet up in person. It’s all virtual. We have someone who does customer service in Hawaii and someone who does implementation stuff, making websites, technical stuff in the Philippines.
Andrew: Okay. All right. I think I got through all my questions here. For my audience, I know we covered this before, but if they want to do this, let’s give them some action steps. What can they do if they want to get started? What’s the very first thing that they should do?
Laura: The very first thing you should do is decide . . . I’m all about content marketing. It’s how I’ve built my business. I think it’s a great way to market. I think it’s a great way to create fame. So I’ll focus on that. For content marketing, which, if you don’t know, means doing a podcast, a video, a blog, a newsletter, some form of regular content, decide what you’re going to do, decide how often, decide what the theme is, what you’re going to offer people, and then make an editorial calendar. This is something that I talk about in “Creating Fame” that is very, very rarely done. It’s shocking how little it’s done.
Most people have so much trouble writing their blogs because the way they do it is they go, “It’s Wednesday. I have to write a blog today. What a disaster. I have no ideas. I haven’t written anything.” It’s a really difficult way to get things done. So, if you’re writing every week, if you can write down 20 topics that people ask you questions about, and the shorter your posts, the better, in my opinion. They don’t have to be long. If you give people a bite-sized piece of information, they love that.
If you can write down 20 questions that people ask you and then just plot those questions on the calendar every week, you have half a year, basically, of blog content. And once you have the idea written down, for most people, it’s easy to just [interference]. If you want to write all the articles in advance, you’re an amazing person. Most people can’t do that. Go for it. But if you just have the idea and you know when it’s due, it makes it so much easier to create that regular content. And again, it sounds simple, but most people, in my opinion, they either give up or they create tons of content that is just filler. They’re like, “I have to blog every day.” So they just create a bunch of junk that isn’t really interesting to their customers.
Your content has to be interesting to your customers. This is another big thing in “Creating Fame.” Most people out there are creating content for their peers. Most dry cleaners are writing about the dry cleaning industry on their blogs, and their customers don’t care at all.
So create content for your customers, not your peers. Plot it out on your edit calendar and get it done is a great place to start with a business.
Andrew: Okay. And you said pick the medium. I’d like for you to pick the medium for my audience, because you’re the expert here, they’re coming to you, they don’t know nearly as much as you do. What medium do you recommend? Blog? Should they start with e-mail? Should they start with some other system?
Laura: I would start with a blog.
Andrew: Start with a blog.
Laura: It’s just the easiest and newsletters do have downsides. The hugest one is that you can’t share a newsletter inherently. People can forward it but very few people do. Blogs are much, much easier to share, much easier to get recognition, and [interference] posting on other people’s websites and letting other people post on yours is also very, very valuable. So start with a blog and I say [interference] write in it once a week.
Andrew: All right. Our connection is going in and out, so let me keep the rest of this interview really short. What else do I want to know? First product that they create, one piece of advice, what should that be?
Laura: Just create what your customers are actively asking you for and don’t get too clever and don’t think that you have to come up with the most innovative new thing in the world. If your customers are asking you how do I write an effective e-mail that people open? Maybe you’re a copywriter or something, I don’t know, and people just keep asking you, “How do I write a subject line that will get people to open it up?” And you’re like, “I’ve already written about this 50 times. It’s really basic.” If people keep asking you, it’s probably good fodder for a product. So write a product just about how to write subject lines that will get people to open up the e-mail. Don’t try to write your thesis about copywriting. Just stick to one little bite-sized thing that you know that they’re asking for and they can get value from.
Andrew: All right. I’ve got so many more questions, and I’m sure my audience has lots of questions ,but our Skype is going in and out. So let me suggest this. Is there a place for people to ask you questions or to follow up with you or maybe to suggest other products that you should create? How do they connect with you?
Laura: The best way to connect with me is on social media. I answer any question on Twitter that I am able to within 140 characters is my policy. I’m LKR on Twitter or on Facebook, my newsletter is called “The Dash”, so that’s what my Facebook page is called. If you go to Facebook.com/GetTheDash. Getthedash.
Andrew: Let me Google it. Facebook, The Dash, Laura. Let’s see what Google comes up with. Could it be Facebook.com/LauraDash?
Andrew: No, I see. Okay.
Laura: I think it’s GetTheDash.
Andrew: Ah, GetTheDash. All right. Let me double check that. I want to make sure we’re giving the right information. GetTheDash.
Laura: That’s right.
Andrew: It is. You just tested it.
Andrew: Facebook.com/GetTheDash. Ask her questions, get her feedback, check out her website. I’m really grateful to you for doing this interview.
Let me suggest this too. In fact, let me ask you this question so you can teach my audience how to do this. One of the reasons why this interview happened is you were very good at saying, “Andrew, I understand your audience. Here’s how I can present what I know to your audience.”
A lot of other people want to do interviews. I want them to do interviews. I want to find a way for us to work together, but I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know their business well enough, and they don’t seem to care enough about mine. So please, suggest to others how they could do an interview with me or how they could get an article written about them. What did you do? How did you do this right?
Laura: I have to plug “Creating Fame” again, because I spend a lot of time in “Creating Fame” talking about this. The first thing I did, which almost no one does, is that I suggested myself for an interview. The reason we’re talking today is because you posted on Twitter and you said, “I need interviews.” I said, “Hey, you can interview me.” A lot of people won’t do that. They think you can only suggest other people or he wouldn’t want to interview me. And I had that. I had that thought, because I thought, “Oh, well, he interviews a lot of dot com startups and they have millions of dollars in revenue and I don’t know if my business is big enough.” So the first thing I did was put myself out there, which is incredibly important and you have to make a habit of doing.
The second thing I did was I showed you that I had some basic level of understanding of what your site was about. By basic level, I mean really basic level. I mean like I’ve looked at the page once and maybe I’ve listened to half an interview. You don’t have to read everything in somebody’s website, but you just want to think, their perspective is they want to provide good content to their audience. Just think about your relationship with their audience and not even necessarily with that person. It’s not so much about if you like me. It’s about do you think that your audience would be interested in me. So that’s the context that you want to frame things in. I can teach your audience how to do this. Your listeners would really love this story I have about how I made this much money in this much time. Just give them one little tidbit of what their audience would like.
Andrew: You even saw, and we’re getting more specific for the audience right now, you even saw that I did a post about a lifestyle business and I got so many positive comments. People said, “Andrew enough with the Groupon. Enough with the founder of Sun. Enough with Gary Vaynerchuk. We’re not any of them. We don’t even aspire to be any of them.” A lot of people in the audience said that to me. “Give us more of these guys who are building lifestyle businesses that are happy and profitable and so on.”
And you said, “Andrew, if you want an angle on this interview, this is another angle you can take.” And that’s even after I said, “Yes, let’s do the interview.”
So I get maybe 22, 23 requests a day for people who want to do interviews with me. I don’t think I get even, on most days, even one person who does that kind of work. And I want to get more interviews here. I could use that kind of help from guests. So thank you for that. Guys, that’s great advice for doing an interview here or for getting a blog post or any article written about you. We will love it if you do that. So, Laura, thank you again for doing the interview.
Laura: Thank you.
Andrew: And guys, thank you all for watching. Bye.
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