Selling to Your List
I am really excited about this session and I wouldn't have been a few years ago, so I want to tell you why I don't tell you a story about how I came to do this to be here because as you all know by now, um, seven or eight years ago, I started working for a nonprofit as a copywriter, and then over time I graduated to marketing director than a communications director, and two years ago, I had the stream about becoming a writer, and I realized that this was something that I was gonna have to pursue on my own that I wasn't going to be able to do this, that my job, which was hard, uh, but I started doing it as a hobby, and I got a book published, and slowly I started to build an audience online and, uh, eventually was able to quit my job and work full time for myself and support my family doing things like this. So I want to tell you how that actually happened, because that sounds like a great story. I've heard similar stories, I remember dreaming of this idea of making money online and thi...
nking that sounds like how to tame a unicorn I mean, it sounded like magic to me, and I didn't believe that was possible, so I want to tell you how it happened oh, so, as I mentioned a few years ago, out of frustration, I started a blogger, I just wanted tio publish a book some day, and so I didn't know what I was going to write about on this block, but I knew that it was good to, like have an area of expertise, tohave a topic that you were going to talk about, and I knew that it was good to not just talk about me, but talk about things that I was dealing with and try to help people solve their problems. And so they say, write what you know, and so I started writing about what I've been doing for a number of years, which was teaching and training other writers and helping marketers and people working for organization, helping their stories spread and helping brands. S ro and so I started writing about writing and marketing and how communicators and writers and even entrepreneurs could get the attention that their message is deserved. And so, as you know, I sort of doing this is sort of building an email list and about a year into the process, I had an email list of about ten thousand people which was costing me, I think about one hundred fifty dollars a month and all of a sudden had a pretty expensive hobby. And I none of my hobbies cost that much, you know, like I don't go regularly for, like, hot air balloons or rent lamborghinis on the weekend like I'm not used to spending a bunch of money on those kinds of hobbies, and I wasn't making much money at the time, and so I knew that I had to do something to at least make this hobby pay for itself, and all I really wanted was to write and be heard, and I was doing this through the newsletter, and I realized that maybe my dreams had been a little bit too small, and so I shared at the beginning of this course. How some of you are thinking about your dream about what you would do if you had a large email newsletter list of people showed up at your doorstep every single day and wanted to hear what you had to say, and some of you I challenged, we're thinking a little bit about it a little too small. You were thinking about if I could just have this, then everything would be all right, and I want to challenge you to think, what if you could have ten times that? Not for yourself, not for your own ego, but because the world needs your message? The world needs your product or program or service. Would would that be okay? Will that be okay with you and would the world somehow be a better place because you were sharing this with more people I've talked to you guys I've heard your stories I know your hearts and I think it would be and so I do want to continue to push you in that direction because I play things safe and I thought uh I I just want my words to be read I never wanted to start a business never took a business class in my life in college I was a spanish major and I took I was a pretty good student except for the one economy class that I took where I scraped by with a c and the irony is now I'm going back to my college and I'm teaching some entrepreneur class uh and I'm going to tell him let's see that I got um so how did I get to this point? Well it wasn't anything that I did in and of itself it was simply creating a place or an audience could connect with an idea and then this audience could connect with me and they could connect with each other and then idea could spread and that's really what makes up a powerful movement it's what makes a great community and it's what you need for your blawg for your business for email newsletter in order for this thing to grow and so uh I realized I had to start making money off of my list, and I have talked a lot of people, and I remember talking to one woman who is a online entrepreneurs helps other people online, business people succeed, she had a seven figure business, and she said, how many people are on your email list? I said, I want to, like, monetize this thing, I don't I don't really know what that means, but I think there's like a switch that you khun turn, we're like dollars start coming in. I just need to know where the switch is if you could. If you could help me locate that, that would be really helpful. Uh and she said, well, how many people are in your email lists? And I said, I've got about ten thousand people on that email list and she said, oh, that's a six figure business and I said, no, actually it's not that it's cute of you to say it's a negative three figure business, it cost me one hundred fifty dollars a month. Teo, do this s o I just, like, want that number to maybe be closer zero s o that if we could go positive, that would be even better, andi, she goes no like the bottom line is you have a business here you just haven't leveraged it yet and when you have an audience there's an opportunity to make money and you have a responsibility to do that I go ok whatever she was no no no you have a responsibility to your audience to charge them because it's going to allow you that income is going to allow you to invest mohr into how you conserve them and so selling she said is just serving people and so when I say the word sales what do you think of what do you think of pierre some guy going door to door trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner or encyclopedias yeah yeah what else when I say sales are selling what do you think of these cars uh sweet talking don't need rhyme marshals I we still feel this way about sales people sometimes right? You go into a store and you're looking around you go into a store with the intent of probably buying something at some point right like let's be honest you're going into a store because you want to purchase something you know what do you say when the sales person says hey can I help you just looking? I'm just looking I have no intent of ever buying anything here I'm going to try and these eleven outfits and leave them this is just a hobby that I have I just like trying on new I like the smell it smells good uh you don't because you don't like feeling forced to do something that you don't want to do and that so we think about we think about selling but as I mentioned I think a better definition of selling is really serving and I have a friend who's a great realtor who's a really good salesman and I told him this story about when my wife and I were trying to buy a sofa by a couch for our home we're going all these different stores were doing it on like columbus weekend where they've got some ridiculous sales so like we were driving ourselves crazy trying to go to all these different stores by the end of the day so that we could get the best deal before these sales went away and like that's if you want to look for an opportunity to find couples you know, marriage counseling and coaching go you know, go find some sofa shops and furniture stores when there's a major sale going on because that is stressful. And so I remember walking into this one furniture store and I saw this met this guy was probably in his fifties and he had this like big like elvis do you know, like, you know, nineteen sixties seventies elvis big, full but it was like all grey hair and didn't really fit you know, his blue suit and it was just really interesting and, uh, you know, we were starting to look at some different sofas, and he just kind of kept pushing us and pushing us and pushing us, and we were ready to buy something and, you know, I tried to like how go with, um and, you know, I had cash that's planet these crisp one hundred dollars bills and, uh and he just wouldn't budge on the price and and he kept, like, using scarcity language to go look, you know, like time's going, you know, like times ticket and the deal's not going to be going on for very much longer, and I got a lot of people who want to do this, I'm looking around there's, nobody in the store, and I thought, well, you know, maybe just give me a deal or help me out here, and he just like he kept pushing, it wasn't so much that I didn't get the deal is I just felt like he just kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and we just kept feeling mohr and more pressure, and I could tell that my wife was feeling very uneasy, and so I said, well, you just give us a minute to look at it was okay, but I just can't guarantee this is going to be here very much longer s o he walked away and I said how you doing? She goes I'm ok if you want to get this we can get it and I said you know, like I kind of wanted this couch but I don't want him to get my commission I know you're going to get a commission and I don't I don't want to get it cause he's pressured us into this and if we buy this he won and so we walked out of a store ah walked away from a product that we wanted but because the sales process was so aggressive it turned us off and we said no like were people of principle and we don't we don't want to feel pressured into this and and he made us uncomfortable and I told them a couple of times you know, okay, I hear you but we're just kind of trying to figure this out and that process led to us not buying not because we didn't want the product not because we didn't need a couch we did I just didn't like the process and this is what people think when I think about selling a lot of people our online audience there was a lot of negative connotations rejection a car dealership pushing negative forced but actually one stands out joseph jude says actually I have no problem with sales I was a sales person on and I did decent at it but I have to feel good about the product and that's hard when I'm selling my own product that's actually when it kind of falls apart for them well that's a good that's a good salesman and that's that's a good thing for us to explore. So when I was telling my realtor friend a good ethical salesman about this experience with the sofa, I said I said he was just he was just trying to sell me, you know, like he was just being two sales and he goes because jeff that's not sales that's being a jerk he's just a jerk he's just a pushy guy and he's probably not a very good salesman he said selling is just serving and he had a successful real estate business and he was I don't ever try to get people to do something that they don't want to do I try to help them find something that's going to help them I help try to help them find the house that they want I try to serve them and a good sales person a good server, a good waiter uh a good flight attendant is somebody who is there to make your life easier to help you get to where you're going to buy what you want on to make you feel good about the process that's what good sales is and so what my friend help what we do is he helped me reorient my mind around what I thought sales wass and what I realized was there's a lot of people that are actually doing bad sales out there and we just equate that with sales in general and much like we talked about with marketing yesterday marketing is just helping worthy ideas spread sales is just serving it's, helping people find what they need or want and then making them feel good about the process so I was still hesitant, you know, as I started my block and I had this email list that was about a year old now ten thousand people it was costing me money are still hesitant to try to make money off of it and I had done that thing were like, you try toe put ads on your block and it was very unsuccessful I got at most like a couple hundred dollars a month, which was nice, but it kind of cluttered up my blawg and I had heard that a better way to make money online is to build an email list and then to create products that you could deliver straight to those subscribers and I thought, I want to try this I don't know how to do this I started asking people about how you do this how do you take an email list and actually make money off of it? Aside from just having advertising especially with anne mellis like mine or I had engaged readers who wanted information from me what do you do? So I asked a friend I said, how do you do this? And he said, well, you need to first have a survey and then you need to find out what people want and then you need to deliver it to them and then he said, you need to let them pay you for it and this is an important note because I was really unwilling toe let people pay me and towards the end of this year of delivering consistent messages to my audience trying to help them I'd given them free e books I had done webinars I had done all kinds of free stuff because I wanted to help my audience to the point that people started e mailing me about a year into the process they said, hey, this is great jeff, thanks for another free book that's really? Yes, well, but can you like, can you give me something that I could buy from you? Is there a way that I could pay you for something? And I was like, no, I don't have to worry about that don't worry about that and I got people that's a no, no, no I really want to pay you've delivered so much value I'd love for you to offer something that I could bye and so there was this sense of of users were before reciprocity where you add enough value that there becomes this sort of psychological inequality where a person who's gotten so much value out of an exchange starts to feel guilty and uh it could it could be difficult and and I want to remind you of a friend that always picks up lunch or you know, somebody who's always doing favors for you and you can never repay the favor it can become uncomfortable and so when you let somebody pay you you know, as a content creator it does actually kind of brings uh equality cem stasis back to the relationship and it can relieved that sense of frustration for people and so as crazy as it sounds, at least it did sound crazy in my mind for a long time one of the ways that you conserve your audience is by letting them pay you. So how did I do this? I did a survey and like anything I put a little piece of bait attached to and I said, when you fill out this survey it'll take you a few minutes I just have ten questions about how I can serve you better as readers and I've got some thoughts and some things I want to create and I want to hear from you uh when you finish this I will send you a free e book and the e book was something new that I had created based on my experience of building an online platform and building a large list in a popular blawg and I had gone to my sister's college to speak to their journalism class about how I had done this and I just took that speech that hour long speech and I turned it into any book I used the keynote presentation that I put together for it and I just kind of filled in some slides and made a short the book that was about five thousand words and so I got about a thousand people to take that survey which was phenomenal and all these people got this free e book and in that survey I asked, uh if you could if I could make something for if I could build something that would help you become a better writer or build a larger platform or do something that that I have done that maybe it would be helpful to you uh what would that be and what would you be willing to pay for it? And so I had two different questions that were multiple choice questions and was like do you want an e book? Do you want an online course? You just want more free blawg post what do you want from me? And then I said, what would you be willing to pay for this product five dollars, ten dollars, twenty dollars, fifty dollars, one hundred dollars, two hundred fifty dollars, five hundred dollars what do you want? And the results astounded me. I had lots of people saying I want I want to learn more about writing from you. I want to learn howto build a blawg and I'm willing to pay people saying twenty dollars, some people said one hundred dollars, five hundred dollars I got all kinds of, you know, interesting responses and I realize that for every price point I could create a product and there were enough people that have taken that survey that I could create something for each one of those price points, and if they weren't lying, people would buy it. So the friend who told me to create the survey also said, by the way, I saw that you put price points on there just so you know, most people will pay more than they say they will pay and and that's true, the market will always sustain more than you think it will, but those were I mean, it was it was good to know that basically I was asking my readers something I was really scared to dio if I tried to sell something, would you buy it? And they said yes, absolutely, we would love that, so what I did was I created a short a book based on that one I gave away for free and I told people that I was doing this and I created like a bundle occurred in two short e books based on this thing that I'd already created given away for free and a month later I sold it on my website and in a weekend I made about fifteen hundred dollars which was like a paycheck to me and so I was like oh my gosh this works its magic uh I just paid for my email for the rest of the year and I think I just spotted the unicorn this's amazing on I thought I could do this every month I could make fifteen hundred dollars every month this would be amazing well so I sold that for a little while but I wasn't really proud of that product so I took it off off the market and then I spent a few months creating another one and within the first month or so of launching that it was the same product but instead of it being a five thousand word e book it was now a twenty thousand word e book and it is your writer a book that you guys get for free when you registered for this course uh and within about four weeks I had made about fifteen thousand dollars off of that and all of the sudden the game really changed and I thought I think I could do this and at the time my wife was pregnant and she's getting ready to have our son and we're talking about whether or not she could stay home and this was a dream that she had and we were where dual income family we could not survive on my income I was actually raising a salary I was raising a salary for the work that I was doing with a nonprofit eso it was, you know, money was tight and hard and I told her I said they are going to make it so you don't have to work and it was my goal and so I continued to sell this e book I put on amazon and put on barnes and noble and everything I would pull out my phone and I would get the's notice vacations, the email and I would tell her uh somebody else just bought twenty bucks, thirty bucks, forty bucks, fifty bucks and it was just this little five dollars e book, but thousands of people bought it and I'm not very good at numbers. I told you guys this I am not great at spreadsheets. I had a separate business account that I had started when I started my blawg and it had no money in it because I had made no money um and and so all this money was going through paypal and then I was occasionally transferring it to this bank account and I just wasn't really paying attention to it my wife does all of the budgeting I didn't really I saw the money coming in I was going okay, this is a lot of money you know, it's thousands of dollars a month and every month that kept growing for several months in a row and then I remember sitting down with my wife and she was on her maternity leave and so she was she could do like she could do certain period of time uh paid leave and then she could take an extra month unpaid and so she was in that last month of unpaid leave where she just she just change she became a mom and she wanted to stay home and we're sort of dreading the day where she was going to have to go back to work and I remember that day sitting down in her bedroom and I like pulled out this uh you know this this checking checking account for this business account that I had and I wish I was showing her you know, the income and I said, ok here's that money there's that many remember we made that and then yet right there there's your salary and this was like september there's your salary for the year oh, and we're still going and and I I I've done it and it's, still, today is the moment that I'm you know, in all this stuff, it's a moment that I'm most proud of because I said they don't have to work anymore. You, khun, stay home when you can do what you want to do. I thought at that point, I just have to work two jobs because I replaced my wife's income, and now I'm just going to keep having tio work with a nonprofit, and I was comfortable with doing that, but that's not what happened because the money kept coming in and I took that e book and I turned it into an online course, and once again it didn't just grow by a little bit, it exponentially grew, and so by the end of the year, I would replace my wife's income, and then I'd replace my income and then replace my income again and again, and she started saying, when you quit your job and I'm like no, no, no, no, this was a fluke thing. This is never gonna happen again, and I remember sitting down with a friend and he said next year is going to be better and so you need to you need to quit your job because this is something that doesn't happen everybody and you need to respect it and take care of it and chase it and so I sat down with my boss, and I was so scared because he mentored me for years, and I sat down with him, I said, here's what's happened this past year, you've seen some of this happen, I've launched the book, and, um, you know, we did this course and actually staying home now, uh, and I don't I don't really need the money anymore, andi, I think it's, time for me to move on, and I just waited for him to say that he was disappointed or frustrated, or he'd be sorry to see me go, and I said, you know, the only thing that's keeping me here is this fear of disappointing you had a great relationship with my boss. This isn't one of stories are stuck in a cubicle, I was like, I got to get out of here, andi had mentored me, you know, this is my first real job out of college, and so I said, you know, the only thing that would keep me from doing this is my fear of disappointing you, and he said, jeff, because I'm not disappointed, I'm proud, he said, and frankly, I've been waiting for this conversation, I knew this day was coming, and I think, it's, time for you to go and and I don't want to hold you back I think it's time for you to fly and I want to I want to encourage you and cheer you on and to this day I mean we're still great friends we talk regularly on the phone and you know he continues to be a great fan so when I tell you that une mail list is about mohr than sending out a message or you know working on some you know, technical geeky behind the scenes tools and it's really about the people that you serve and the people that it's for uh I mean it when my book launched which was a lifelong dream member I told you ten years ago this was one of my goals and this dream came true within the year of writing that goal um I came home to surprise party at her house and on the card are on the table was a card for my wife and the card said it was never a matter of if it was always a matter of when and I knew from the beginning that she was my biggest fan cheering me on and I share that with you because this is bigger than you think and the potential not just to make money but to have an opportunity to serve people is so much bigger than you can imagine a week before I was here I was in africa in kenya visiting the sites of a women's workshop in rural no besa which is you know out in the country in kenya where these women who live in a leper colony who's on ly opportunity to make an income in their community is to either sell themselves for sex or beg uh I was at the site of this workshop this building that we were a part of paying for through through this business and through my blawg that we never would have been able to be a part of had it not been for me making this scary choice of leaving what I done behind and building something that was bigger any that that allowed us to help people that needed help and that generated income resource is tio you know change people's lives halfway around the world this thing is bigger than you realize it and I share that with you because it is an honor and it is a privilege to get to do these sorts of things and it's not something special that I did it's the power of a community and when you step up as a leader and say how to make change I want to do something different I wantto make the world a better place and you discount money you discount income which we sometimes feel is evil or bad or we just don't want to talk about it you are discounting the opportunity to make a real impact because there comes a point where you run out of time and you run out of dollars, and I think there are two ways to think about money. One is thinking about money as a master, something that you work for, and certainly people do that and that's unhealthy, and we see how that can ruin and devastate people's lives and relationships. But then another way to think about money is this a means it's just a way to pay the rents? Ah, and if you have enough money, it's a way to help other people or build on organization, you know that that can change the world. I just heard about mark zuckerberg and how he took the bill gates challenge where he's going toe live off of a fraction of his income less than ten percent of his income and give away ninety percent of it. Uh, money is a means for great evil or great good, and I've seen it do great good, but in and of itself it is is a tool, and if you've been thinking, I want to start this newsletter, I want to do this thing, but I don't want to have to think about money, I don't have to think about sales, I want to push back and challenge you on that. There are some things that you're not going to be able to change in some, uh, things they're not going to be able to do until you let people pay you okay, this isn't greed. This is just letting people pay you for the value that you're already creating. What I found with my readership was the value is already there, they were just waiting for an opportunity to pay me, and the same thing is true for your audiences, and it may be true today, or maybe it's true a year from now or six months from now, or even a few weeks from now, when you started to build value and people see it and they're ready to pay you. So I want to talk about how you actually go about making that ask and getting people on board with what you have to sell now that we understand that selling this serving and money is a means to, uh, greater good or to simply by yourself. Mohr opportunities to keep creating to keep doing the work like what stephen press field says is, he says that the artist has to care about money simply because money buys you another season to create. Buys you a season so I get a paycheck and it allows me to create some or you know and actually pay the bills and keep the lights on and feed the kids and then I get another paycheck and you know so on and so forth otherwise our impact can be limited and our resource is will be limited so here's a here's little sales one oh one in uh you know my terms how you sell is with this kind of audiences you do three things you asked what they want and you go build or find it you create it and then you tell people about it pretty simple that's all selling is is it's how can I help you think about when somebody comes into a store you know really good salesman finds out what do you really want I love going into a restaurant and a really good server helps me to side what I want to eat on the menu because there's so many options I don't know I'm not the expert you tell me and a good server will help you do that a bad server which I re recently experienced will say you know I haven't really haven't tried that I haven't tried that you should try the chicken fingers that's the only thing I've tried on the menu I'm like you work here you're supposed to be the experts eh? So that's a bad sales person uninformed person but a good person has the answers is going to help you make the decision? So a good salesperson asked, how can I help you? What do you need? So in your email newsletters, you're going to ask, what can I do for you? And then when you find out through a survey, through all of these open opportunities for feedback that we've talked about and keeping your list healthy, you get those answers, you find out what they want. I think a survey is a great way to do that. If you've never done that with your readers, you should regularly do that. Adele east on on a yearly basis that may make sense to do it more often, but before you sell something, you need to know what people want, and then once you find out what they want, what they're willing to pay for on people are usually willing to pay for paying to go away. Ah, problem to go away or a solution is something that they can't find on their own, or they might know how to do it, but you make it easier, you know, and so they're willing to pay for convenience. So then at that point, when when you know what people want, you decide, ok, I can build this, or I can pay somebody to build this or I can go find somebody who already has this and then go to my audience and together we can sell it through some sort of joint venture and we can share the revenues I mean that that is that's basically affiliate marketing and it's a really effective way too make money once you have an audience so once you've got the thing whatever it is you've built it you found it you've created it now you have to do the really difficult part and have to tell your audience and you go ok it's time for you to pay me for this thing that you asked for and this was the part that I was most scared off because as it turns out uh something's about infomercials are right some things about those sleazy car salesman some of those tactics work and the res isn't that their right and they work is you know they use them because they work and so what I want to do and what I have done and when I want us to do is find ways to gather the good and let go of the bad from all of those you know, nasty marketing tactics but I want to encourage you to understand that there are some fundamental principles of selling that you would be wise to follow and if you don't follow them uh it's you're not going to maximize the sales and you're gonna leave money on the table and what that really means is not everybody who you could help with this product or service that you have is going to get the help that they need. Because you haven't done your job like that server that I met at the restaurant, you didn't do your job of helping them make the decision that they needed to make that was going to help them, he said. You know, I don't know. Uh, I've only tried the chicken fingers. And so you want to be informed. And you want to help your audience make the right decisions, that they can buy this thing from you so that you can continue to create and do great things in the world. And so that they get this awesome thing, that they need that they told you they already wanted.