In the episode:
01:25 – Is Doberman his real name?
03:47 – Storytelling and influence
09:35 – Market before product
12:55 – A copywriter’s heresy
15:18 – Just what is sales?
16:54 – Ambitiously lazy
21:05 – Nothing beats face-to-face
23:44 – Learning from Gary Halbert
28:55 – From making arrests to writing copy
31:29 – A book as a lead-in
35:19 – Two and a half years ago…
38:58 – Old school timelessness
42:48 – What to love about Dan’s book
46:42 – You don’t need a huge list
James’s book Work Less Make More is in Amazon – Grab a copy today
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James: James Schramko here, welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. And to get us very productive in 2018, I’ve brought along a dear friend, actually someone I’ve been aware of at least a decade who trained under the greats of the greats, was actually mentored by the late, great, amazing Gary Halbert. It’s a name you may have heard before and we’ll talk about why that is the case. Also a very good relationship with Dan Kennedy, who is another marketing powerhouse you’ve probably heard of. And my friend here is an expert in selling and we’ll actually cover a few broad topics today around that and then we’ll zoom in on a couple. But I would love to welcome to the call, Dan Dobermann.
Dan: Hey, James. Thanks for having me on. I’ve been looking forward to this, so thanks a bunch.
Where the “Doberman” comes from
James: Is it true Dan Doberman’s your real name?
Dan: So I’ll tell you how this came about. My real last name, I would prefer that like, nobody ever knows that or uses it cause it’s some bastardized French name that I think one of the US immigration people thought it would be really funny to spell it the way he spelled it. So it’s supposed to be Galipau or Galipaux, which is a fairly common French Canadian last name. But when my great grandfather emigrated to the US they just put it on as paperwork as Gallapoo. And I think, you know, that poo on the end, I’ve been the butt of many jokes because of that.
But I didn’t come up with this Doberman nom de plume on purpose, it was on accident. I used to have a business in the bodybuilding niche and I wrote an article about my Doberman being all lean and muscular and how I’d gotten you know, fat and bulky and out of shape and I was starting on a plan to become like my Doberman and I signed that article Doberman Dan and it stuck in that niche and everybody started calling me that and I thought, that’s great. Finally after decades of being teased about my last name, I can drop it. I’ll go with this one. So that’s the story behind that.
James: Isn’t that interesting? Some people crave having a nickname. With a name like mine, Schramko, you get some weird nicknames. Some of the strangest ones have been, like, John Carlton for example calls me Shrakmo or Shrak, just short. He just prefers the spelling of that and he tried hard to convince me to change my name officially to match up to the improved version of what it could be. Then those kids at school would do some crazy stuff like shcrambled-eggs-ko or whatever. No one seems to be able to pronounce it even though it’s pronounced exactly as you would expect.
Dan: I don’t understand how anybody could ever possibly mess up your last name. It’s spelled exactly like it sounds.
James: It’s really phonetic, you know. Interesting, but that’s not why we’re here, to talk about names.
Why stories sell
But one thing about that is, you’ve already shared a story straight out of the gates in the first few minutes, and I think that’s something you’re extremely good at and you talk about it in your book, which is called Just Sell the Damn Thing and I actually became aware of your book because I was, how else do I say this? I was looking on Amazon for my own book. It sounds terrible doesn’t it, when you say that?
Dan: No, I do the same.
James: My book’s brand new and I was pretty excited to see some of the reviews and where it was ranking in Amazon and I kept noticing your book, Just Sell the Damn Thing, pops up right next to my book. So when people buy my book, it’s saying you should check out Just Sell the Damn Thing and I figure, well, Amazon is pretty smart. Maybe Dan’s book is a good book.
So of course I purchased the book and I read it and it was just fantastic. Because I’ve known you and I’ve known where you came from and we’ve shared some time together at a live event, which is something I’m often talking about on this podcast – the importance of just getting out of your chair and going to a physical event and meeting other humans. And I’ll be interested in your take on that as someone who’s probably spent a fair bit of time behind a typewriter.
But story is something you talk about in your book. It’s something that comes up in selling. It’s been mentioned many, many times on this particular podcast over the 500-something episodes that we’ve had, everyone from Andre Chaperon through to Clint Paddison. We’ve had brand experts coming in talking about hero’s journey. Why is story interconnected with selling and persuading and influencing?
Dan: I think somebody much smarter than me with a lot of letters after their last name could explain it in a much more compelling way and give the science behind it. So I’ll give you my every man’s street psychology version of why I think that’s so.
First of all, stories are how cultures and civilizations have passed down their origin stories, their culture, their religions for thousands of years so people are accustomed to hearing stories. Also, you know, the brain responds to that much better.
So I’m admittedly a heathen these days. I occasionally get dragged to Catholic mass very occasionally by my wife, who is very Catholic by the way, because she’s from Latin America. She’s from Colombia. But other than that, I’m not a church-going guy. But I did go to church when I was young and that was the whole deal there of indoctrinating the children. It sounds like such a terrible word to say, indoctrinating, but that’s how religions pass along stories. The brains respond to that.
“We humans are accustomed to stories.”
I mean people that you could just beat them over the head telling them something and it’ll never sink in. When you tell them in a way that’s a story, then for some reason the resistance is down and they’re more open to the message. And like I said, guys with PhD or MD after the name could explain the brain science behind it. But yeah, we humans are accustomed to stories. So why not just go with the flow and use what people are used to to get your message across?
James: Is there any situation where you’re not telling a story in your sales letters or emails or messaging to clients? Or is it something that’s just automatically there?
Dan: I’ve been doing this so long. A lot of the stuff I do, I guess I’ve gotten to the point where, what do they call that? Unconsciously competent. It’s like when you’re been riding a bike so long you just get on and ride the bike, you’re not even consciously aware of all the subtle little things you do to keep that bike upright and moving forward. And that’s how it often is when I’m writing.
But when you ask that question, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that. But I think if I go and look at most of my emails, sales copy I’ve written, and even editorial content, which to me is all sales copy. Even when I’m writing editorial, like I’m writing my monthly news or a book, in my opinion that’s sales copy because what I’m selling is a philosophy. I’m trying to sell my philosophy to people, just like Ayn Rand used fiction to get across her philosophy. So I think Ayn Rand books are sales copy.
But as soon as you asked that question, I started thinking, I thought, yeah. For all intents and purposes, most of what I do is just stories. Even when it’s stories about myself, you know? Instead instead of saying something like, “Here’s how to write successful copy…” and then just start telling, I’ll tell a story about all the struggles I went through trying to write my first piece of copy. That’s a really good question, James. I don’t think anybody asked me that. But as soon as you asked, I thought, yeah, most of what I do is just storytelling.
James: I’ll bet you say that to all of the guys. You know, one of my goals for this podcast is to get a response like that. I want a response from a guest such as, “That’s a great question,” or, “I haven’t been asked that before.” Because I have to be the advocate on behalf of the listener who’s not here, who is probably screaming at the speakers, “Ask them this!” and I have to think about what that is probably in much the same way as when you’re writing a sales letter. You have to be thinking about the person who is reading that sales letter and anticipating all the things that they might be going through – their state of mind, their questions.
Product before customer?
In your book, you broke down quite a lengthy process, actually, around going through the customer avatar and you gave quite a few tips on what sort of things you might think about when you’re thinking about who the letter is for. It seems obvious to a copywriter that you should start with the audience. But how often do you think people are just starting with a product first and then trying to backfill it with the customer? Do you see that occasionally?
Dan: Yeah, actually I do see that, more than occasionally. I see that a lot. Somebody already has a product, or they went about developing their business backwards, at least backwards as far as I’m concerned and backwards as far as I’ve always started new businesses. And the first thing they did was come up with a product and then so the first challenge they have is well, who do I sell this to?
I have never ever done that. And you know, not due to my brilliance. The only reason I’ve ever done that is just because for the past almost quarter of a century now, I’ve just been standing on the shoulders of the greats. So I learned from some of the best of the best that that’s a backwards way of doing things.
“The first thing you do is you find the market.”
The first thing you do is you find the market. So you find the people who are already buying something, and then that pretty much tells you what product you should develop or source or create or write, if you write information products, and sell that to them.
But yeah, a lot of times people will come up with the product first and then try to figure out, who do I sell this to? Well, that makes your marketing person and your copywriter’s job quite a bit harder. And a lot of times, the proper response is, who do I sell this to? Well, nobody, because nobody really wants it. If you would have done the market research first, you would have found that out.
James: I imagine for product owners, their first confrontation of this is when they think, ‘Oh, I’m going to hire a copywriter.’ They do their research, ask around, they find somebody who’s good, got a great reputation, and they talk about engaging the copywriter. The deal’s made (maybe not for $40,000 like Ed Dale in the book. Great story, by the way). But then they’ll probably get the application or the prep worksheet, which will be asking a zillion questions or hopefully the copywriter is asking a few questions, and then the product owner or creator sort of grinds to a halt.
It’s like, ‘Hang on, I don’t know any of this stuff.’ And that’s when they realize that the copywriter is going to need some kind of a brief to get down the path, unless they’re a savant.
Dan: So true. I think we copywriters have been known to use hyperbole and I would have to plead no contest to that, occasionally. But a lot of copywriters in their self-promotion and self-aggrandizing talk about the miracles they’ve pulled off with their copy and that they took this failing product of this failing business and they wrote this brilliant copy that would make William Shakespeare weep and all of a sudden it turned things around and they launched and they sold 40 bazillion dollars’ worth of product in 0.3 seconds. And so those stories abound amongst freelance copywriters trying to get you to write them a check.
Copy is not magic
So this might sound like heresy coming from a copywriter, but the copy, although important, is definitely not the most important thing. I mean, it all comes down to the market, to knowing the market. And knowing the market means you know what they want to buy. So it’s all about knowing the market and coming up with the right offer for the market. Once you’ve done that, you’ve cracked that code and you’ve got the offer, then you’re 80 percent of the way there.
Now you could scribble out some some really mediocre clunky-sounding copy with a crayon on a dirty bar napkin and as long as you have the offer right and the big idea right, targeted towards the market, matched with the market, you’re 80 percent of the way there. But now take that formula though and add really world class copy to it. Now, you’ve got the formula for a big success.
But copy is not some magic thing. I’m so crude. I’ve often said brilliant copywriting won’t sell a turd. I just saw a copywriter’s website this week who said the product is irrelevant. This guy honestly believes that his copy is so good, your dog can poop in a box and his copy can sell it. Unless he has some magic powers that I don’t, I would have to say that is wrong.
James: I would too. And I’m so glad to hear you say this, because as a coach I’m getting a lot of questions around conversions and offers and selling, because this is as close as you get to the Holy Grail, I think. I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book, which is called Work Less Make More, available on Amazon. And this chapter, it talks about – well, I say it pretty bluntly – what if you don’t have an offer that converts? Then you can’t make an income. It’s as simple as that. And what you just touched on at the end there with the copywriter and the turd in the box ( and I am really liking the dog theme here by the way, Doberman Dan) is I think a lot of this comes back to your fundamental values and what you think selling actually is.
Now, you put a definition of sales in the book. I think you were talking about something to do with the transfer of enthusiasm or something along those lines. Am I right?
Dan: Yes, that’s exactly right.
James: Right. And probably you got that from somewhere like Brian Tracy. Now I came across a definition that I thought was really useful, and it was talking about it more as a scientific process that if you were to look at it, like in a laboratory, you might say a sale is the process of change from one situation to a better alternative situation, and that’s about it.
So the only reason people buy is to be better off and that fits with your model of the greed motivation. You sort of push that button pretty hard in the book. You listed a whole bunch of reasons why people buy, the motivations, but definitely people do get wrapped up in greed and I’ve never seen a greater example of that than the current cryptocurrency craze where people have literally lost their mind. Almost everyone in my market has downed tools on their normal traditional business and they’re just obsessed with these 500 percent gains they’re making each day. I worry about where that’s going for them.
So back to selling and the turd in the box. I guess for that person to sell the dog turd in a box, they’re probably going to have to find someone who would be better off for having that, which might be some very eccentric collector or someone with a miniature bonsai plant that needs a particular type of dog feces to get the nutrients to survive or something. There may be a very rare scenario where someone could be better off, but you’d have to look at it and say look, perhaps that’s just not good for humans to be selling that.
A reformed workaholic
I guess you could call me ambitiously lazy. I’m certainly not afraid to work. I have worked really hard in various periods in my career, harder than any human being probably should have, and I still really find what I do really interesting and I like it. So I still work hard. More balanced now, because actually you said something that changed my life at a mastermind we were at. And it’s also in your book, Work Less Make More, which is excellent by the way. I bought that at about the same time you mentioned “Hey, we’re book buddies on Amazon.” I went and I thought, I didn’t know James had a new book out. So, excellent book.
You said in the book, but I was fortunate enough to hear you say it in person, and you said, “Everybody talks about, oh, you’re leaving money on the table.” Well, you said, “I’m going to say it differently. You’re leaving life on the table.” And when you said that, that was a huge epiphany. That was like getting hit upside the head by one of those big Olympic forty-five-pound weights. It was at that point, James, that I realized: you know what? I’m out of balance. I mean, thank God I have all these opportunities and projects to work on. But I’m out of balance, to the point where it was affecting my health and the relationship with my wife. And I was glad to see that in your book, Work Less Make More, because it was a reminder I have a tendency to get pulled back into doing too much.
I’m not afraid of hard work, but I don’t need any more challenges in my life. Just trying to get good at jazz guitar improvisation over the past 30 years – I’m still not good at it, by the way. That’s enough of a challenge in my life. I don’t need any more challenges. So for business stuff, I just want to get to the money right away.
So instead of messing around and trying to sell dog turds to bonsai tree owners which you know, there may be, or bonsai tree growers that are maybe a couple of hundred in the US and even less in Australia, who knows? I want to find a group of people who are just rabid about buying something and sell them that. It’s just easier that way.
And in that way, you know what? I don’t need to be a brilliant copywriter. I don’t need to obsess over the copy for two to three months and practically sweat blood producing this piece of copy, like you do when you write for a company like Agora, and I write that stuff, and that is literally sweating blood for three straight months as opposed to when I started my first business in the bodybuilding market.
I was new at this and my copy was very mediocre. In fact it only approached mediocre on a good day. But I found a market who was rabidly passionate about a particular topic, which was gaining muscle, and were already spending money on those products. So now it was just a matter of me presenting my offer, even though my copy was half-assed. It was the right offer to the right market and that’s all I needed.
So if anybody you know has made this copywriting thing or producing sales copy or emails that sell, if you’re intimidated by it, you think it’s difficult or you’ve listened to all these freelance copywriters who talk about sweating blood for four months to produce their copy, and how it’s an art and it takes decades to craft – no, it doesn’t. What it takes is you matching the right offer to the right market and then just bang out a quick email that explains it in a logical, concise manner with as much clarity as you can possibly drum up.
James: Wow! Yeah, drop the mic. Just sell the damn thing. This is so refreshing to hear because a lot of my clients, they’re on the hunt for the copywriter to get that magic sale happening and I’m constantly saying, “Look, let’s just look at the customer’s solution here. Let’s see how we can help this person be better off and communicate that to them.
The advantage of in-person encounters
As someone with a sales background, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a copywriter by any stretch, I write my own emails and,even my team have put together a lot of our product reviews and they write the pages on our site and I just sometimes come and clean them up. But I think – today, just this afternoon, I’m hopping on an airplane and I’m flying up to Brisbane to meet my customers at a community meetup that we have for SuperFastBusiness members and then I’m going to go down to Melbourne and meet my SuperFastBusiness members in Melbourne – but nothing replaces spending face-to-face time with my audience, with my customers, my paying customers and listening to them and sharing ideas and finding out what their frustrations and challenges are. It’s actually impossible for me to mess it up from then on, because I know what to create, I know what they need and I know how to help them be better off in the future. And when you’re on a recurring subscription program, it’s essential to keep your finger on the pulse, as you would know because you’ve got a subscription newsletter business, right?
Dan: I do. Yes. And the fact that you came from an in-person, face-to-face sales background, and you continue to get face-to-face with your customers, as far as producing sales copy that gives you a huge advantage over the typical copywriter.
Most people who become copywriters are really introverted. They want to hide behind their computer and stay at home and type things that they hope will make millions of dollars. But guys like you who’ve got the real in-person sales experience, you’ve observed people, the kind of reactions you get by seeing certain things and certain words. You’ve figured out what to say, what not to say. That’s a huge advantage over the nerdy, introverted copywriter who doesn’t want to get out of the house and just hide behind a computer to write copy.
James: Yeah, it’s a valid point. Or in some cases, like Kevin Rogers comes to mind. He spends an awful lot of time in the carwash making videos. And that’s totally cool. That’s fine.
Actually, one of my most recent guests on this podcast was John Carlton, who was my first podcast guest. And we did a little tour, a road tour of a few events many years ago, and he pretty much derided me for my quick glossing over of copy on a couple of slides in my presentation.
What working with Gary Halbert was like
I’ve got so many copywriting friends and actually one of my really dear family friends now are the Halberts, Bond and Kevin. And they’re just good humans and lovely, lovely guys and they’re continuing their legacy of their late father Gary, who you actually worked with. You had a very privileged scenario where you were literally sitting next to him doing copy and learning lessons from the great. Can you just give us a paragraph or two around it what that was like?
Dan: That was life-changing. I mean, talk about cutting years off the learning curve. Now when I started working with Gary, I already had a successful business. That was my first mail order business. So this was back in the day, back when the Internet was not really a viable media. I didn’t start selling online until 1996, and even then it wasn’t truly a viable media.
So back then, a kitchen table entrepreneur like me with a very meager bootstrap budget, the only options we had were some sort of space ad, either in newspaper if it was a mass market product, or magazine if it was more of a niche offer, or direct mail. And radio, TV, they were just out of the budget for a kitchen table entrepreneur. So that’s how I cut my teeth on direct response marketing, and that’s how I launched my first mail order business with magazine space ads and indirect mail.
So I’d already had a somewhat successful business. I wasn’t getting wealthy, but I had made enough money in 12 months to get free of my civil service job, so I wasn’t a raw rookie. I’d learned a lot through making a lot of mistakes on my own and losing a lot of my own money in the process. So when I finally started working with Gary, it was like just pouring rocket fuel on the fire.
“Like pouring rocket fuel on the fire…”
Halbert was truly a genius with this marketing stuff. And I don’t know if he intended to do it this way. So I spent about a year and a half with him, and I think four months of that he was actually staying in my guest bedroom in my home in Costa Rica. But he never actually sat down and taught me anything in a traditional way.
He just let me observe what he did – when he talked with clients, when he brainstormed big ideas. He and I would brainstorm ideas for the copy together. When he’d write his newsletter, when he’d do his research, he just let me observe. He never sat down and said, “Well, this is why I’m doing this and this is why I’m doing…”
And he let me figure it out on my own. And looking back, I now know that that was just pure genius, because it allowed me to figure out these lessons on my own. Sometimes, that took years. Sometimes it took more than a decade. Some of those lessons I didn’t even learn until after he’d passed away. But I remembered like, oh yeah, I remember when Halbert did this.
So that was just the opportunity of a lifetime. Now I worked really, really hard to get that opportunity and did things that – I have not seen any other person who personally mentored with Halbert, I never saw any of them go to the extremes I did to get on his radar. But it was worth it. And yeah, I’m extremely grateful for that.
The guy truly was a genius when it came to… You know, this backs up what I was saying. Halbert’s genius was, you read a Gary Halbert piece will you find brilliant prose and all these wonderful word choices and a great rhythm to it and an alliteration that sounds really nice? There’s a copywriter named Bill Jayme who used to write this really eloquent copy that just copywriters drooled over. No. When you read a Halbert piece, you know what it is? It’s clarity. It’s like you’re sitting in a diner in the Midwest having a conversation with an everyday blue collar man.
So that’s part of it, the way you write that conversational style with clarity. But his big genius was just cracking the code on the big idea. And it backs up what I was saying. You don’t need brilliant copy and all these wonderful word choices and power words and copyrighting pyrotechnics. You need a guy who can crack the code on the big idea. And then once that’s done, just write with clarity, that barstool conversation, as John Carlton calls it. And that was Halbert’s brilliance.
“You need a guy who can crack the code on the big idea.”
So we’re combining a couple of ideas here. If you know your market and you come up with a big idea that resonates, then the rest is the fait accompli.
James: We struggled with the big idea for my book, and in the end the lady helping me put it together, Kelly Exeter, came up with work less make more, and I think we finally got it. Now, I’m getting constant references to four hour work week, but it’s like the version for someone with kids or a real job that’s more relatable. So it’s spot on in terms of where my audience are at. A lot of them have worked very hard.
From policeman to copywriter
You’ve mentioned hard work quite a few times. Probably stems from being a police officer in the old days. I imagine that face-to-face time was quite eye-opening.
Dan: I had no idea how much those experiences were going to help me in business and in writing persuasive copy, but yeah, I mean they helped a lot. When you’ve got to basically persuade people to do something they don’t want to do… Like, little five-foot-six me who weighed all of a 145 pounds at the time by myself had to persuade this seven-foot, 345-pound guy in to let me take him to jail after he had assaulted his girlfriend with a pointy metal thing – it wasn’t a knife but it did cut her – and I’m thinking, this guy could flick me with his finger and knock me out. You have to figure out how to handle those situations and the right words to say and the wrong words to say. That’s paid off well for writing sales copy.
James: You’re striking a chord there. And no guitar pun intended. When I was doing repossessions, I had to go and repossess an ex-convicted bank robber’s car and it wouldn’t start and he was getting noticeably agitated and he leaned over from the couch to me and I was about, just for context, I was about 21 years old. It’s in a very undesirable part of southwestern Sydney. No offence to anyone who lives there, but it’s pretty rough. It’s kind of like the Detroit of Sydney, and definitely no offence to anyone from Detroit, but even the cab drivers in Detroit told me the place stinks.
Anyway, I’m there, and the guy leans across. He’s got tattoos and a mullet haircut and he’s got the arms cut off his flannelette shirt and he just leans across and he goes, “If that guy doesn’t start the car, I’m gonna shoot you.” And then he’s looking across at his baby and he says, “If I didn’t have a baby I would have already done it.”
Dan: My gosh!
James: And then all his mates come around on their Harley Davidsons and this is like 10 o’clock at night, it’s pitch black, I’m hearing this rolling thunder, like rrrrrrr, pulling up out the front, just one after the other. I just thought, I’m done for.
But you know, there’s something about surviving a life-threatening situation that makes life a little more interesting anyway, right? You’re still trying to play guitar and I’m still trying to surf. These challenges are enough.
Dan: I agree.
Getting things automated
James: Back to your point about hard work. I think the point wasn’t missed in your book, what it was saying is, don’t expect the magical, easy shortcut. You’re not going to just chance upon a solution that takes off like crazy. You can’t just hire away an expert to sell a turd in a box. There will be work involved. And then something else I liked, you said something along the lines of you put in that work, then you get an easier outcome down the track. It’s setting you up for later on to pull off, to – not those words, but to back off a little bit and the machine takes over. You talk about how you get this thing automated.
And I guess there’s a great example here of your book. It’s clear that your book is a lead in to the next part of a sales sequence. Do you want to just give a quick overview of how that works? I am interested as an author. I never thought I’d be able to say that, actually. But what happens when someone buys the book, you’ve got a website set up there at justsellthedamnthing.com, and you’ve got a special offer on the book. How does the funnel actually work?
Dan: So, first a damaging admission, as we copywriters call it. That’s where you mention something about the product that’s not ideal. You know, to build rapport with the prospect, and also to show that, ‘Hey, you’re not overhyping this thing, there are some faults with it.’
So I started publishing a print newsletter, paper and ink newsletter back in 2011, and that’s what it started out with, a paid newsletter subscription. And it has grown into a membership, which I call the Marketing Camelot, and I don’t call my members “members”, they are “knights” in the Marketing Camelot. So now my knights, they continue to get the the good old-fashioned paper and ink newsletter delivered by the postal service every month, and they also get access to content on a membership site, and they get a monthly webinar with me.
And when I launched this thing, when it was just a newsletter, I still had my nutritional supplement business and I just had this brain fart of an idea around Christmas time. Like, hey, I want to launch a newsletter, just like Gary Halbert had a newsletter. No planning, no prethought. It was totally ready, fire, aim. And I launched it.
And it’s kind of just been a sideline thing all these years. I’ve never had a front end for it, James. It’s just been people who have found me through word of mouth or people who stumbled upon my blog by pure, dumb luck SEO, because I’ve never done any real SEO for my blog. And it’s just kind of been chugging along that way all this time. I have never had a real front end.
I sold the supplement business, kind of took some time off. Kept the newsletter and the membership going, but enjoyed a little time off. And then I started, as Halbert used to say it, prostituting out my brain for hire as a copywriter after I sold that supplement business. And you know, that’s been the focus and my membership has always been a sideline thing. Finally, I am going to focus on my own business as a full-time business and scaling back on client works. So this book is the front end for the membership. It’s not going to take long to give you the whole rundown of how this thing works, if you want to hear it.
James: Yeah, I’m curious and I think that’s the topic that I was talking about at the event where I spoke at and you and I met, was automating that recurring income. And I’m pretty sure you were sitting there thinking, yes, this is exactly what I need.
Two years and a bit ago…
Dan: It was exactly what I needed. What’s embarrassing is that that was two years ago, or was it longer?
James: Two and a little bit years ago. I remember clearly because I had all my stuff stolen. It was a challenging situation for me, being there at the Los Angeles Hertz terminal in my underpants and T-shirt, with not much else. No wallet, no phone, and I’m fatigued from my surf, I’m dehydrated. It’s taken four hours for them to bring my car back to the place because I had no key and then I’m trying to use the free iPad in their customer service lounge to get a hold of someone on Facebook to come pick me up. Ended up getting Kevin Halbert, but it got my password and then it froze, so it took me another hour or so to unlock the thing and get my Facebook off the public. It was just a nightmare. Thank you for reminding me.
No, it was about two and a half years ago.
Dan: Welcome to California! That is how we treat all our tourists. We sell their stuff and leave them naked on the beach.
James: It was actually Halloween and they just robbed me blind. So the thing is, Kevin Halbert was just so good. I’ve never been so happy to go to Target and buy a pair of cheap jeans. There’s something about not having pants that, you know, you miss what you don’t have sometimes.
Dan: It sucks that it happened, but you have to admit it made a great story.
James: Well, the interesting part is like, I managed to find this Turkish towel, like this shawl sort of thing. I wrapped it around my waist like a Sulu and I’m walking across the pedestrian crossing there and so I had flip flops and this like, skirt and a shirt and I’m walking across. And then there was this Polynesian sort of looking gentleman, an islander type, and he had flip flops and a Sulu and a shirt but obviously in his native floral pattern, and he gave me like this sort of appreciation nod, like I’m one of him. If he only knew. It was a heck of a day. Kevin said I looked shattered when he came to get me.
Dan: Well, when you were on stage, you certainly wouldn’t have known you had gone through anything like that.
James: Oh, it hadn’t happened yet. It was just after.
Dan: Oh, it happened after. OK.
James: Just after.
Dan: Well, what’s embarrassing, so I heard you talk two years ago and I realized, ‘yep, this is exactly what I need to be doing.’ I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different clients writing their copy. But I’d gotten out of balance, and I was not saying no to things because I would get flattered that someone I admired or a really successful business like Agora had asked me to write copy. And you know, they’re the best of the best and I was so flattered.
I’m saying yes to all that stuff and I’d gotten out of balance. And then I heard you talk about how you’ve structured your business and your life and I’m thinking, yes, that’s exactly what I should be doing. I mean, I already got the membership going, I’m just going to adapt what this guy is doing. So I wasn’t really quick to implement, but I finally got it going now.
James: Oh, look, it’s actually not easy. It’s probably a similar process to anything that you’re starting out. It’s not easy to convert and to build a membership, especially without help and knowing where the pitfalls are. Because there’s a lot of competition and there are definitely people occupying the space, but it’s a matter of finding your own clients from your own place and just enhancing what you have.
The timelessness of old school
I did want to just brush on this topic of old school, because you’re kind of a pioneer in a way. You’ve been in the medium before it was a medium with the Internet. In 1996, I remember waiting for my browser screen to fill the page for about five minutes. I had a baby in a cot beside me and that’s how I filled my nights, while I was the nervous parent making sure the baby was okay. It was my first little kid, about 1995, I think it was. And it was so slow and the Internet was really only good for looking up the Loch Ness monster or aliens at that time. There was not much happening from a business perspective. And now you’ve been doing a physical print newsletter and you’re going online, but I think you said in the book a lot of the stuff you’re talking about is timeless.
Dan: It really is. Media changes a lot, but it’s changing faster and faster with online media, or at least how you can use it or if you can use it or even if it’s even affordable for a company that doesn’t have deep pockets.
But all this stuff that we’ve been talking about, persuasion – I used to call it persuasion in print, now that’s an outdated saying since it’s not just print on paper, it’s now words on a website or words in an e-mail or words on a webinar – so, persuasion through the written word, the spoken word, that’s all timeless.
The Robert Collier letter book is old. I don’t know how old, a hundred years old? I’d think, a hundred years old. I’m still making money with that. So I’m standing on the shoulders of Robert Collier.
When you read Gary Halbert’s old newsletters (which thanks again to Bond and Kevin Halbert for keeping his legacy alive and keeping that information available on the web and on the Internet), you read that, that stuff is old. I mean he wrote a lot of that in the 80s – still totally relevant.
Breakthrough advertising written in the 60s initially, I believe, maybe 70s, so that’s old. I’m still making money with all that stuff because persuasion, how to (sounds like a terrible way to say it but) how to manipulate emotions…
James: I don’t think manipulation is a bad thing because the example I use in my presentation to a bunch of bloggers about selling, I said if I needed brain surgery I would want my brain surgeon to be manipulating the tools very effectively.
Dan: That’s a good analogy.
James: There’s positive manipulation as well as negative manipulation, and if you’re manipulating someone… Let’s say you’re manipulating a very overweight person to eat healthy so that they could be better off. I think that’s okay.
Dan: Absolutely, because that could save their life.
“It’s always the struggle to help people help themselves.”
James: Yes. It’s for them to be better off and and sometimes, and I think you mentioned this as well, you’ve got to overcome that built-in resistance and the inertia. It’s always the struggle to help people help themselves. You can use some tools to motivate people where they may otherwise not be motivated.
Dan: All that stuff that I learned in direct mail, it all applies to any media. It definitely applies to online media. That stuff is timeless. Now, when it comes to online marketing, though, I mean things change rapidly. If we’re going to talk about generating traffic with Facebook, what may be relevant today may be totally obsolete tomorrow. So that stuff does change.
But I tried in the book to cover stuff that’s timeless and relevant regardless of which media, you know? It’s not a book about how to do Facebook advertising or the best place to advertise.
Things to love about Dan’s book
James: I love the example you put in there where you’re running ads on Facebook to get prospects who probably aren’t that interested anyway, and your average sales are nothing like what it could be if you just focus on buyers in a medium that already works. There’s such pertinent lessons in there.
And you also talked about the launch models being a nice tool in the tool kit but it’s not a business and I actually had almost the exact same reflection in my book, in the No Compromise chapter, Chapter 9 of my book talking about the problems and challenges that can happen if you make your business center around the launch modality.
And there were so many other things I love, like you talking about, make people jump through a few hoops and apply, and you had the story of the people lining up for ten dollar bracelets and the lessons behind that. And letting people get straight to the purchase, if they want the higher-level product then they’re a different type of breed than the prospect that’s sucking on freebies for a few years. I think there was this classic, you said instead of trying to find a needle in a haystack you’d rather a box of needles. I love that. That was a great quote.
Dan: I’ve made a lot of money with a list that I think most online marketers would probably laugh at. It’s so small. But I just focused on my buyers. Not initially, I mean I made a lot of mistakes and then tried to build a big opt-in list and when I went back into the numbers, I had to face the reality, like wow, 99 percent of the people that come on to this list are for all intents and purposes non-buyers. I lost money getting them on the list. So I’m just going to focus on those one percent.
Like, sellthedamnthing.com. I mean, I’m selling my book for a penny. Yes, plus the customer needs to handle shipping and handling too, but I don’t care if you just ask a penny for something, it increases the quality of your prospect many, many, many times more than just offering a freebie. Although I will say, so don’t get stuck in my dogma. In some niches, in some situations and some markets, perhaps the model of getting a free subscriber by offering them something is the best way to go about it. Like, if I were going to market something to a sub niche of doctors, like cosmetic surgeons, I would advertise in their trade journal and I would offer a free report.
James: That’s like a blog cost. It doesn’t really cost me much extra to cater for people who like to just listen and never take action and don’t want to improve the situation. And my buyers are in there somewhere. But it’s the same effort regardless, whereas it’s different if you’re shipping out a book, there’s a lot more effort involved in that.
James: It makes sense.
The book effect
Also, you know, we didn’t fully cover the funnel, what happens after that but I’m sure there’ll be offers of subscriptions, and that’s where your low front-end sale turns into a higher sale. And for me, some people are buying my book on Amazon. Several thousand people bought it already, which is amazing.
And I’ve noticed an uptick in my membership subscriptions, people coming along and joining SuperFastBusiness membership. December was my biggest month for a year and a half, because it coincided with the book launch and there is definitely a book effect. There’s no question in my mind about that. So it’s about an appropriate front end introduction that helps people get primed for what else you can help them with.
Dan: Absolutely. Coming out with this book was the smartest thing I’ve ever done for promoting my membership. And the people who bought on Amazon, I don’t have their names and emails and addresses, but yet, since I mentioned my Marketing Camelot in the book, they’ve sought that out and signed up as a result of buying the book. So I think it’s a really smart thing to do.
James: Well, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.
And just to to reiterate what you’re saying about buyers, for the first year and a half or two years online I didn’t actually collect opt-ins. I only built a list of buyers. And from my first 1000 names on my email address, that was enough to make a hundred thousand dollars in dollars in my bank account. So just collecting buyers only was my thing. It was like a radical innovation when I went back and put an opt-in on my site and started building an email list.
I’ve never had a huge list, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever gone over, like in AWeber it looks inflated because they were on multiple lists. But in terms of true number of buyers, you know, my multi-million-dollar-per-year business, and I’m just providing that for context purposes, it actually runs off a list size of around sixteen thousand seven hundred people. So it’s a lot to be said for lifetime value and knowing your customer and a subscription model.
So Dan, or Doberman Dan – it’s very confusing when your first name’s your last name. It could be Dan Dan. It could be Double Dan or just Ditto. But let’s just say Doberman Dan.
It’s been a pleasure catching up again. I’m thrilled to hear that you are applying these old school tactics. I say that as I’m sitting here with a book that just arrived from a secondhand book store that was printed in 1925. It’s called Masters of Advertising Copy: Principles and Practice of Copy Writing According to Its Leading Practitioners. And I can see Claude C. Hopkins is in here as well. So I’m expecting that it’ll be joyful reading this book and there’ll be lots of lessons. I know my competitors probably aren’t reading the book, which might give me an advantage. Let’s hope.
Dan: I think so.
James: We can check out Doberman Dan at justsellthedamnthing.com. I bought the book. I grabbed it on Amazon because it was sitting next to mine and Amazon is very good at the upsell.
And I just want to say thank you for sharing this stuff and I hope you’ll come back and talk to us more. We still didn’t cover a lot of the things I was going to ask you about. Dan Kennedy, it was amazing to read his forward, like, very powerful lead in. I must say the amount of respect he has for you should should say everything that anyone ever needs to know about your information. The book’s fantastic. Thanks for coming along and sharing.
Dan: Thank you for the invitation, James. I had a great time, I appreciate it.
James: Well, that’s it for this episode of SuperFastBusiness.com. That was Episode 568, Just Sell the Damn Thing with Doberman Dan. And if you liked this episode please share it with someone, mention us, put a comment. If you’ve got a question for Dan, you can ask on the blog post at 568. And always accepting reviews on Apple iTunes. Thank you so much.
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