Caleb O’Dowd has been called one of the top marketers in the world, and learned copywriting from the great Gary Halbert himself.
How has he attained his level of skill and what does he know about the world of advertising that many online marketers could profit from? Find out in this SuperFastBusiness interview.
03:00 – Practicing versus teaching
06:16 – What living with a legend was like
08:00 – Separating beginners from the pros
09:26 – A transforming life experience
14:26 – What makes Caleb remarkable
17:24 – Always getting things done
21:40 – What you don’t see is the preparation
23:54 – The six things it boils down to
29:07 – The Moneyball theory
33:17 – Is it really that simple?
34:58 – When you love what you do…
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to Superfastbusiness.com. And this is Episode 716, which we publish at SuperFastBusiness.com. It’s also on Apple and YouTube and Facebook. And I’m just chatting today with Caleb O’Dowd about marketing. Welcome, Caleb.
Caleb: Thank you very much, James. It’s a pleasure to be here.
James: I love our chats, and we speak fairly often. And it’s certainly educational for my part because of the sorts of things you’ve been up to. You have a long list of accomplishments. I think probably too many marketing talents for just one human. You are a specialist in direct response mail, you’ve done newspaper advertising, CPA marketing, webinars, coaching, masterminds, video sales letters, and Facebook group marketing. In fact, Joe Schreifer (hopefully I’m saying that right), is one of the top marketers in the world, and he says you’re one of the top marketers in the world. Because Joe is the chief publisher of Agora Financial, which is a 350 million dollar company. So what did you do to impress Joe so much?
Caleb: Oh, well, Joe is an awesome guy and an absolute brilliant marketer and and a brilliant leader as well. And we actually met, John Carlton invited me to be a guest speaker at his event, one of his masterminds, and Joe was in the audience. And it just so happened that a guy asked some questions about newspaper advertising and I was uniquely qualified to give a complete A-to-Z, step-by-step breakdown of exactly what this guy needed to do to succeed. And afterwards, Joe came up to me and was like, “Hey, that was really, really amazing. I’d love if you would come to Agora Financial and consult with us.” And I ended up going there several times and hanging out with them. They’re an amazing bunch of guys doing really amazing things, and I think in part, in great part, the reason why they’re so successful is because they got Joe driving the car there, so I guess that’s how it happened.
Practicing versus teaching
Now your skills, you’ve been using them for a few purposes, but because I’ve gotten to know you a fair bit, you’re using a lot of your own skills just to grow your own business, which I think is quite clever. And also, you’ve been teaching people some of these skills in various different formats. Do you prefer being a practitioner, or an educator?
Caleb: That is a really great, great question. I suppose, you know, I lived with and worked with Gary Halbert – that’s how I got into this whole game. And Gary told me that you can reach a very, very high level of skill by running your own stuff, being a practitioner, doing your own things, running your own business, creating your own sales campaigns. But if you truly want to take your skills to the next level, he believed that teaching what you do to other people was a way for you to take your own skills to a whole other level.
And I didn’t really believe in that at the time. I took it, obviously, you know, if he said it, it was true. But I didn’t kind of believe, I didn’t understand the depth of what that really meant until I actually started teaching. And I would say that teaching and sharing what I have done with other people has significantly increased my own depth of understanding and even my own depth of knowledge and skill and even how I go about things.
And in fact, being in a position to kind of take, you know, when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re working for yourself and you’re doing your own things, you end up kind of being in a place where everything you know, and all the skills that you have are kind of in your DNA; it becomes part of like, muscle memory for you. And you end up forgetting what you know, because you’re doing it so often it becomes ingrained in who you are. But what I have found is that teaching other people has forced me to develop structures and and step-by-step strategies and plans and you know, all of that kind of just building a structure around what I do. And that has actually helped me in attempting to put a structure to a lot of things for people so that I can convey my own knowledge and skill to those people. I’ve actually been able to significantly increase my own ability to execute on a lot of the stuff that I do as a result of putting all that stuff in place. So I can’t say that I prefer one over the other. I think they’re kind of a hand in glove, they go together, at least for me anywhere.
James: Well, I think they feed themselves. And the great illustration of that is earlier, you mentioned you met a great contact who turned into paid work through being invited as an expert to present on a topic. So I think when you volunteer your expertise into new circles, then other people discover you, and the flame takes off and away you go. And now you’ve got this cycle. And then when you work on those projects, it forces you to look inside your DNA and your brain and pull out that intellectual property and package it and turn it into checklists and frameworks that you can use over and over again.
James: You and I were chatting about a famous copywriter recently who strained his formula into a sort of a checklist that he could use over and over again to repeatedly get great results. And then he, of course, can then sell that information. So it’s a whole wonderful world, this information product business, where you don’t have to deal with physical stock if you don’t want.
What living with a legend was like
I’m wondering what it must have been like living with Gary Halbert for all those years in Miami Beach.
Caleb: It was amazing. You know, it was such an interesting experience. I was a young kid from Ireland; I was 21. If you think I have an Irish accent now, you should have seen me when I was 21. And he was 67. So there was a major clash in terms of age and, obviously, wisdom and experience and all that kind of good stuff. So for me to go from being a 21-year-old testosterone-fueled, high-energy, you know, kid from Ireland to living with a 67-year-old man in Miami Beach was a huge, it was a very interesting experience to adapt myself to. But it was amazing. He was a truly genius type of guy. You know, he was so many different things in one. He was my boss, he was my mentor, he was my psychologist, he was my best friend, he was a father figure to me. He was, you know, the biggest pain in the arse that you could ever meet, depending on the day you meet him. And on top of all of that, he was just one of the most brilliant marketing advertising direct response minds that ever lived. I know that that’s a big statement, hard to quantify, but I think anybody, anybody who’s really anybody in this game would reference him as being one of the most profound figures in direct response marketing. It was amazing. He was a very high-level guy.
Most people are always amazed to learn that he never actually taught me how to write copy in the way that everybody thinks that you would teach someone to write copy. Like, he never taught me how to write a headline, never taught me any of the kind of conventional things that everybody kind of looks to learn when they embark upon learning how to write copywriting. Instead, he lived in a world of principles and concepts.
Separating beginners from the pros
And I remember him in his own words, telling me, like, you know, the beginner always wants the tips and the tricks, the shortcuts, the hacks. But usually by the time the beginner gets to hear about them, they’re so overused that they’re just no longer effective anymore.
The professional looks for the strategies and the tactics. And certainly strategies and tactics are very, very powerful. But there’s an egg timer on how long they last. If you don’t believe me, just ask any SEO guy about what it took to get a page to rank on Google 10 years ago in comparison to what it takes today. You know, there’s a whole, the same tactics, the same strategies, they’re effective for the window of opportunity that you have to use them. So while tactics and strategies are brilliant, there’s an egg timer on them. They eventually get old and tired and outdated.
“Principles and concepts, that’s where the alchemist works.”
But principles and concepts, that’s where the alchemist works. That’s where the true master of the game operates. Because the concepts are timeless, the principles are timeless. You know, and Gary lived in that upper realm. He was constantly, everything that we did, we were working on strategic principles, high-level marketing and advertising concepts. And everything that we did, going about projects, launching businesses, creating sales campaigns, writing sales copy, solving business problems, marketing problems, everything was achieved via a deep understanding of about maybe 10 or 12 of those principles. I actually intend to write a book called The Principles of Alchemy. There’s about 10 or 12 of them.
A transforming life experience
So it was an amazing experience. I went from being, you know, a high school dropout, I never went to college, you know, pretty much not going very far in life, to hanging out with one of the greatest marketers and advertisers the world has ever known. And I ended up living with him for three years. I ended up learning all of his high-level concepts and principles, and it really set me up for life. It allowed me to get into, start, I don’t know how many businesses by now, but quite a number of them. It allowed me to get into various different markets. It allowed me to employ various different business models, get into multiple different channels. It was really a transforming life experience.
James: Yeah, and it must have been pretty awesome when in one of his issues of his famous newsletter, he referred to you as one of the 10 best copywriters in the world.
Caleb: Yeah, he did. Yeah, it was pretty awesome. You know, I’ll squarely admit that that compliment came, I believe, more so as a result of the education that he put me through, rather than, you know, any kind of raw talent that I had. I think that I just had a really great teacher; I had an absolute master strategist that knew how to get the best out of people in the most unusual ways. And I think that if there was a compliment there, I think that compliment would be best assigned to the fact that I just had a really, really great teacher.
James: And he did some things on a big scale. And of course, this is really about Caleb and not about Gary. But to understand Caleb, you need to understand where you came from, because you ended up becoming the largest direct marketing advertiser in the whole of America for several years running. You must have picked up something from that coat of arms style campaign where it was on a mass market.
Caleb: Yeah. I mean, I picked up so much. I mean, you know, like the entire way that I look at marketing and advertising and business and probably life as well is looked at through the lens of what Gary taught me. So yeah, you know, Gary was the self-labeled Prince of Print, and he very much understood how to tap into markets, how to uncover, you know, people’s secret hidden desires, knew how to squarely promise things to people that would get them to jump out of their chair, take out their credit card and just buy with reckless abandon. He understood scale. He understood how to scale. I mean, he was a genius. You know, he was a bona fide genius when it came to marketing, advertising and everything that we did. He was a swing-for-the-fences type of guy. The most disappointing result of all for him was a mildly successful, profitable campaign. He hated that.
Caleb: He would derive more pleasure from a campaign that bombed magnificently than he would from a campaign that was mildly profitable. He either wanted to bat it out of the park and have a success that he could turn around and tell everybody about and wear, like, a medal of honor on his chest, he either wanted big, big, big successes to talk about, or else he also equally loved talking about magnificent failures. But the thorn in his side, so to speak, was the mildly profitable campaign.
So I ended up with this attitude of just always swing for the fences, always try and make it the biggest, greatest success that it could possibly be. And it sounds like that is the right way to go, but it left behind an awful lot of campaigns and businesses that could have been tested and tweaked and turned into something magnificent, but just never saw the light of day. So I kind of carried a lot of that with me. But yeah, he taught me a lot about scale and taught me how to sell; he taught me how to position, taught me how to advertise, taught me the whole game.
James: Well, I certainly took that on with your webinars. Your last two webinars have done almost $20 million in sales from just two webinars. So I’d call that a swing for the fence.
Caleb: Yeah, great.
James: Hopefully you have a slightly more stable private life compared to Gary. You know, he used to write about in his newsletters, so we’re not talking about anything that you didn’t publish, but he had some crazy experiences in life. And, of course, you’ve settled down in Miami Beach there with your wife and little baby, Jacob. So I guess maybe you’ve refined the model slightly.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean, at least, you know, I’m happy with where I am in life now. I spent, I think, about 14 years living in different countries. So I used to move from one country to the next to the next to the next. But I met my wife and you know, had a baby. And I’m very, very happy with this new chapter in my life. So I’m a dad now and I look forward every day to going home, chillin’ out playing with my son, and I’m watching him grow up. So I feel like I’ve got a good thing going on. Yeah. I think more stability than what Halbert would tell you he had in his life, for sure.
What makes Caleb remarkable
James: What I’ve got to appreciate, having spoken to you quite often, because we get to talk about business on a regular basis, is I’ve observed your insatiable curiosity. You go deep. You really want to wear whatever you’re investigating, you know, as deeply as possible. And you also research and question every aspect of it. You taught me a new saying, that you had a stone in your shoe, which was that, you know, you were troubled by some aspects of a certain thing we’re talking about, and you really wanted to just investigate and understand it. And I think you were looking for the principle in it, rather than the tactic in, you know, as you’ve described today. So that’s what I think separates you, you’ve got that persistence.
And of course, I think it’s great that you have an unusual accent in your current residence. Like, in the United States, you stick out, as I do. It’s probably good for your brand. Everyone knows Caleb in the highest circles, and with great reverence as well. And I think to be able to master so many different disciplines, you know, like, you’re not just doing newspaper ads. You’ve got onto video sales letters, you’ve got on to the webinars, and that was sort of modern tech. But even more modern than that, you’ve been blitzing it with Facebook groups. And now, and the things we’ve been talking about more lately, coaching and masterminds in more of a sort of business market. It’s been fascinating to watch you just take it on and demolish it, applying all the Caleb stuff to it, and just switching it on using those frameworks and templates. It’s fascinating to watch.
Caleb: Thank you very much, man.
James: You’ve been building out a project, ROITips.com, and that’s been interesting. In a pretty short time, you gathered kind of an A-list group of marketers in that place.
Caleb: Yeah, it’s been great. You know, I’ve been a big fan of everything that you’ve been doing for so long there, James, and, you know, to have the opportunity to learn from you, you know, all of the great things that you do with membership sites and recurring payment business models and everything, it’s been an amazing opportunity to learn from you, and I’m very, very excited about growing my ROI Tips business. So, yeah, it’s been great.
You know, I love the recurring business model. I’ve come from business models where it’s not that, but I think anybody who’s really smart in marketing these days understands that it’s all about recurring income. And you know, to be able to generate a sale that automatically triggers the generation of further sales without further effort, I think is just a very, very smart business model to be in. And I think that, you know, I’ve done an awful lot of it. I’ve done high ticket coaching programs that were $80,000 all the way down to $97-a-month continuity programs. And I’ve learned a lot, but I’m learning an awful lot from you as well right now. So it’s great. Yeah, so ROI Tips has been brilliant. It’s like, I guess the general idea is I’ve learned an awful lot of stuff over the past 14 – 15 years rather – of doing this and, you know, just being in a position to be able to turn around and share some of those tips and some of those tactics and secrets with people has been a blessing thus far. So I’m very excited about it.
Always getting things done
James: Something you do well is you implement. We talk about stuff, and then the next time I talk with you, you’ve done it. And that is actually quite rare. A lot of people have excuses, or they get busy. You just do it. One thing comes to mind, actually, was we talked about what platform to use. I made a recommendation. Like, the next morning, you had already started collecting sales from that. Like, you went in, set it up and turned it on, and away you go. And it must be interesting for you as students to see that variation in the approach to execution.
Caleb: Yeah. I guess I kind of, again, I think I learned it from Halbert, you know? When I was working with Halbert, we never had one thing that we were working on. It was always 15 things that needed to be worked on. We were just always in a position where we had to get things done. And therefore nothing sat on the shelf for long. And I just, you know, was living that kind of life where things had to be done and done and done and done and done and done all the time, everything had to be completed, tasks had to be done. And I never had the opportunity to think about not getting them done.
So I always found in my business that it’s better almost to make a mistake than it is to stand still and get nothing done at all. At least if you make a move in the wrong direction, you’ve made a mistake. You’re learning, you’re moving, you’re course-correcting. And believe it or not, even if you’re going in the wrong direction, you’re actually still on the way to accomplishing what you want to accomplish. But the guys who stand still and do nothing and sit and ponder, they’re not learning, they’re not accomplishing, and they’re not moving towards the objective. They’re not taking a step closer to the attainment of their goals. So I do believe making a wrong move is better than standing still.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong. It’s worth doing it badly, because it’s in doing things badly that you learn how to do them masterfully.”
I often think as well that, you know, and this is a Halbert saying, anything worth doing is worth doing wrong. It’s worth doing it badly, because it’s in doing things badly that you learn how to do them masterfully. And it’s very difficult even for the top guys to sit down and pull off a masterpiece from the get-go. Usually masterpieces are not born – they’re grown, they’re developed, they’re pieced together, they’re morphed into a masterpiece over time. But the guys that never get going, or the guys that sit and try and pull off a masterpiece, usually never get there. They’re the guys that just never get there.
So yeah, when I’m teaching students, you know, an awful lot of what I got to tell them is just, shut up and move. Shut up and move. Take a step. It’s okay if it’s the wrong step; it’s okay if it’s a mistake. The whole purpose of marketing, you know, everybody who is successful at marketing, everybody who is successful at advertising, the journey to success is paved with failure. It’s paved with mistakes, it’s paved with the testing things out, for them not to work out, and then for you to sit down and question why that didn’t work out. It’s that process of figuring out what went wrong that leads you to gain two things. Number one, experience; number two, skill. And you know, when you have experience and you have skill, the quantity of mistakes that you make starts to become less and less and less over time. It never completely diminishes. I used to, you know, on many occasions, watch Gary Halbert, one of the greatest of all times, make plenty of mistakes. So it never really goes away. But yeah, taking massive action is crucial. I think done is better than perfect. Action is better than meditation. And making a mistake is better than standing still.
James: Such powerful advice. And when I look at documentaries or I think about top-rated music acts over history, they all put in the hours. They put in the time, they got good at their craft. I’m thinking about my surfing and how many times I got smashed and broke things and had stitches and run over reefs and all sorts of things on my journey to improving. You have to start. You’re going to take a few falls in the beginning. You know, we both have babies right now, right?
James: And it sucks when they fall over as they’re learning to walk, etc. But it’s part of the journey. Like, we don’t stop and give up.
James: We just keep at it. And that persistence I’ve observed in you, and the tenacity of how you just grasp this stuff.
What you don’t see is the preparation
What other things do you know to be true that you think most marketers miss?
Caleb: You know, I think there’s levels to the game. So I mean, if we’re talking about most marketers, we’re probably talking about the guys that are maybe kind of in that phase where they’re still really honing their chops and stuff like that. You know, I think there’s a dozen different ways to answer this question. What comes to mind most of all is the preparation that’s needed to succeed. So we just talked about taking massive action there and getting things done, and I think that that’s critical, but the level of pause and and planning and strategizing that goes into things, I think, is very underestimated. You know, that it’s the whole thing of like, I’m big into UFC, so like, you see someone who comes into the ring and he’s looking really good, and the bell rings and he knocks someone out in like, 15 seconds, and you’re like, oh my god, that’s so easy. What you didn’t see is the months and years and decades of honing the craft and the skill and the strategizing and the planning that goes into like, being able to pull that stuff off.
You know, I always tell my guys that, look, if you want a breakthrough result, you’ve got to put in a breakthrough effort. And this kind of idea that you can just slot into a market and just kind of pull something off with ease has not been in any way my experience. I think if it looks that way for anybody seeing me do it, I would question whether you see how much time, energy, preparation, planning, strategizing and masterminding goes into doing that kind of stuff.
So I think the journey to mastery, part of that journey is about understanding the preparation work that goes into it. So I just did a training there recently on how to create an avatar. And I do this stuff all the time, but I had forgotten how valuable that was to somebody that didn’t really know that. So I shared it with my tribe there recently, and it’s actually gone down as one of the very like, according to the guys, they referred to it as one of the greatest trainings that I’ve put out so far, which to me is amazing, because it’s kind of the least sexiest thing that I have to offer. But for those guys, it was the most profound training that I put out.
The six things it boils down to
And I take a long time to get clear on who the the prospect is. I develop a very in-depth understanding of the prospect, like, his or her urgent problem. I used to do this stuff with Gary all the time. You know, he used to talk about how in advertising, one of the secrets to success is to know exactly what it is that you have to say to get people to give you their money. And like, that is a very high-level art. And it does break down into formulas, it does break down into strategies. And you know, essentially at the end of the day, it boils down to six things. There’s six primary reasons why people buy something. They buy because they have a want, they buy because they have a need, and they buy because they have a desire. They also buy because they’re afraid of something, they have a fear. They buy because they have a frustration, and they buy because they have an urgent problem.
So if you understand, you know, first and foremost, if you pick a niche, that’s a hot niche. Secondly, you pick a prospect that has an urgent problem. Because urgent problems, people are all things being equal, people have skin in the game in order to solve a problem urgently. So when you’re targeting an urgent problem, you’re dealing with a motivated buyer from the get-go. So you pick a hot niche, pick a hot prospect, and then you build out an avatar. So you find out what that person’s wants, needs, desires, fears, frustrations, and problems are as it relates to the urgent problem that that person has. So then when you’ve got that avatar created, and you understand what all of those things are, the advertising almost writes itself. The offer you know, this idea of a Mafia Offer, that’s like a cool lingo out there these days, an offer you can’t refuse. How you create Mafia Offers, like, the clouds don’t open and a bolt of lightning doesn’t hit your temple and you just come up with this stuff. The art of creating Mafia Offers stems from the art of deeply understanding your prime prospect’s wants, needs, desires, fears, frustrations and problems so that you know exactly what to offer your prospect, and in that way your offer becomes a hand-in-glove fit.
And it’s that kind of preparation work that I feel is that kind of thing, because there’s a lot of other kind of preparation work that I feel is missing in the, you know, the toolbox of an awful lot of guys who are coming up and looking to take their game to the next level. Because all of the really serious guys that are pulling off, you know, high converting advertising in large volume, they’re all into that. There’s no other way that you can do it. There’s no other way you can do it. You can knock off sales letters and you can pull off winners on the back end to a warm email list, and all that kind of good stuff. But if you want to break sales records, if you want to blow up companies, if you want to dominate channels, if you want to take over the lion’s share of the profits in a niche, that’s an A-game. And the A-players are, you know, guys that put an awful lot of work into preparing for success on that level. And I think that that would be one of many answers to that question. And it’s a great, great question, by the way.
James: Yeah, that’s so deep. You know, you reminded me of so many things. I’m sitting here with a broken air conditioner in a Sydney summer, where the whole country’s pretty much on fire. I could tell you a hot niche right now would be air conditioner repairs. You cannot get a guy to come here within the next two weeks.
James: It doesn’t matter what it’s going to cost. In my mind, I think it’s probably going to cost up to $8,000 to replace this air conditioner, but I’ll pay it. I’ll pay it today to be cool. You know, hot market, urgent need. You nailed it. And I was thinking about, you know, how people often like to talk about what they’re going to do, and they brag a lot on social media. That’s kind of like the Conor McGregor, thinking he’ll go into boxing.
James: Without the deep training and preparation in that particular skill, and then he’ll get flattened.
Caleb: Yeah, totally.
“If you take the tools and the framework, and you go deep, then you’ll get the success.”
James: So, I’ve observed that about you, and I’m so glad you made the point. And everyone who I’m working with at a high level, they just go in deep in the prep, not because they’re perfectionist or they’re overlaboring, it’s just because there’s no shortcut to that. And if you take the tools and the framework, and you go deep, then you’ll get the success. I’m thinking like a builder. If you get a great screwdriver or a hammer, you know, you get the right tools, you still need to work with a master builder to learn how to actually use them. And what are the right projects to work on? What foundations do you need for it to last? And, you know, where do you get your return on investment? So I think there’s been some wonderful topics put in there. And I kind of borrowed that question from Peter Thiel about, you know, the truth you know, that others don’t. I think that’s probably partly an element that you would put in your copy when you’re educating a consumer, why they need what you have.
Caleb: Well, I still think you can, like, you know, this game of marketing and advertising, at least I will say cold advertising, you know, like, if you’re going out and you’re using paid dollars to attract people into your business, it’s like baseball. You know, there is no 100 percent success rate when you do that. You know, if you batted out of the park, or if you hit the ball with the baseball bat, four times out of 10, I think you’re considered like, one of the greatest baseball players. I don’t know anything about baseball, by the way.
The Moneyball theory
James: Well, have you ever watched the movie Moneyball?
Caleb: I have not, no.
James: Oh, it’s fascinating. And I think it’s relevant here. Because what that movie’s about is a team that was failing, and they were failing because the scouts were all trying to pick the best guy who could knock it out of the park, or you know, they had their own theories and quackery around who was good and why they were good and you know, left or right-handed or what their idiosyncrasies were. But what they really got success from was getting the statistician to discover the average rates and the most likely outcomes and then compiling a team not of the hyped-up A-players, but of people who are statistically going to cover the gaps that needed to be covered. And that team went on to win an unprecedented number of games.
And that Moneyball theory was taught to the Australian cricket team through a coach called John Buchanan. And he applied that to Australian cricket, and they were very successful. And then we actually got him to come and teach us when I was a manager at Mercedes-Benz on his dot matrix theory. They were teaching people to bat left and right-handed; they were teaching them to place the ball exactly where they wanted within a grid so that they started making it.
Basically what we’re coming back to is research and understanding and applying a process, rather than just winging it. And we took that process to dominate our sales. And I actually applied it into my own business, and that’s something I teach my team. And whether they know it or not, my students, by covering off that background research and data and having a methodical approach which I use a diagnostic for, we can cover the gaps and we can make sure that the result is gained. But I was fascinated to read in the copywriting books, even the very best copywriters, the ones who are the most loudly-applauded, still bomb like a fifth of the time.
Caleb: Oh my goodness, it’s even more than that. It’s often more than that. You know, it’s like, the thing you have to understand is like, not in the audience here obviously, like, my perspective is that, and you just said it there a minute ago, James, which is like, you need to get out of the realm of giving it a shot. Like, a hope-based marketing, like you just hope it’s going to work.
“Until you have a batting average, you’re just really kind of tooling around.”
You’re going to have a failure rate, no matter like, if you’re at the pinnacle. So Gary Bencivenga is like, the greatest living copywriter in the world. Like, the pinnacle of what’s possible for advertisers. And I think he had an 80 percent success rate, which means that he failed 20 percent of the time. That guy is considered the pinnacle. Like, there’s no one who had a greater batting average than him, which meant that like, you know, one in five times he went to bat, he missed. And he’s considered the best guy. So what you’re looking to do is you’re looking to get into a place where you’ve got a batting average, because until you have a batting average, you’re just really kind of tooling around for the lack of a better term.
James: Such a great distinction.
James: If you don’t have a batting average, you’re just a hacker. You’re just hoping to stag a victory, like a lottery winner.
Caleb: Yeah, that’s exactly it. You’re just buying the lottery, you know? You’re buying the lottery, and it’s worse than buying the lottery, because you’ve got to spend so much time, energy and effort and money to implement your game. So I think for me, you know, the smart guys plan and strategize more than anything else. So like, you know, the types of questions anytime I’m hanging out with like, really, really top copywriters, I always love to talk to them about like, how do you research? You know, like what do you do to research? How do you plan a project? Like, tell me what you do to plan things. Because the game is really won in that phase. Like, the success, you know, if you spend a month researching and two months implementing and you fail, you actually failed in month one.
Caleb: Everything you did on the following two months was a complete waste of time. Like, you fail on month one. You fail on the planning phase. So I’m always fascinated to learn how people plan and how they mastermind and how to strategize and the thinking that goes into things. Because really at the end of the day, that’s where the breakthroughs are. That’s where they come from. That’s where they happen. That’s where it’s all going down, in the planning and the strategizing and the masterminding of campaigns and advertising and businesses.
Is it really that simple?
And that’s why I love hanging out with you, man. Because, you know, you’ve got a lot of master plans, and I love to be exposed to that. I love hearing and learning from you, and just the high level of thinking and strategizing, and yet the simplicity of things as well. And I think that that’s how you know when you’re dealing with someone who’s particularly savvy and smart, is when it all sounds so simple.
James: I think that’s your favorite response when I explain something. You go, it can’t be that simple.
James: Yeah, it can. But, you know, as you said, to get to simple, that could be the diamond that took a lot of coal to crush, you know? It could have been decades of trying different things or observing, and then getting to the answer. And then when you present someone the answer, they’re like, Oh, of course. But it’s like, to get to that, it just took a lot of process to get to that. And they’re refined and they’re refined and refining and refining and you finally get to that end. And it can be installed and it can be effective, but it’s piggybacking the research and development that already came before it. Much like a wheel. You know, I don’t know who invented the wheel, but we can take that concept of a wheel now and apply it instantly to new things. But probably there was an evolution in getting to that in the first place.
Caleb: Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
James: Well, Caleb, it’s so fascinating talking to you about marketing. And it’s easy to see your imprint from the way that you came into the market, and as I’ve been able to observe with you, like, even though you’re high-level with application, you’re also willing to take on beginner’s mind with new concepts to put in the work to understand it and not think that you know it all because you already have mastered other aspects. But that’s what actually, ironically, it ends up with you actually knowing more and more, because you go through the process and then you do know it.
When you love what you do…
Caleb: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think, you know, I love what I do as well. You know, I really do. John Carlton told me I need to take every Friday off and make it Caleb day. And I was like, all right. He was like, just try it for like, a month. Like, do like four Fridays for a month and just do nothing other than what you really, really love to do. And like, by week number three, I was like, writing copy, planning new projects, you know.
“When you can find your passion and turn it into your business, I really do believe that that’s an X Factor.”
So I actually really love what I do. And I think that when you can find your passion and turn it into your business, I really do believe that that’s an X Factor. It’s kind of cliche, everyone says that. But actually, I think if you don’t really thoroughly love what you do, I question whether you could really be exceptionally good at it. So I love talking about this stuff, I love teaching it, I love doing it. You know, if I had a day off, I’d spend it working. You know, embarrassingly, I would, if I had nothing to do but just all to myself, I’d probably plan a new campaign, a new advertising campaign, a new business, you know, something of some kind. So I just really love what I do, man.
James: Man, it’s obvious, and it comes through, and especially the fact that you’ve been attracted to teaching that.
Go and check out Caleb O’Dowd at ROITips.com, that’s his website. He’s teaching people how to do these marketing activities that he’s become world-class at. Some of these skills, I don’t believe, are taught by anybody at anywhere near that high level.
So Caleb, I really appreciate you coming along and sharing your insights today. For our listeners, tremendously valuable, and there’s some key nuggets in there. You certainly dished out a few tweetables. Looking forward to reading the transcription of this episode, just to refresh myself, actually, as to the key insights. But in essence, your message is really you have to have a deep understanding, you have to do the work. There’s no shortcut to that. And that’s the pathway to mastery is to just get moving and to make lots of mistakes on the way. And you could almost judge yourself by the size of your mistakes and your wins. And don’t aim for mediocrity is a clear message.
Caleb: Yeah, yeah. Well, James, thank you so much, man. It was an honor and a privilege and a real feather in my cap to be on here and have this opportunity to chat with you and and maybe share a couple of insights with your audience. So thank you so much. I greatly appreciate it.
James: My pleasure. And you know, we get like, I don’t know, six to eight requests every day to be on this show. And I asked you to be on the show because I think what you do is fascinating, and that’s what I want. I want to keep this show for the listeners to be high quality and full of valuable, useful information. And you’ve certainly delivered on that, Caleb. I appreciate it very much.
Caleb: Thank you very much.
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