“For some reason, I was stimulated by marketing and fascinated with how commercials would sell a product. So I got my degree in marketing.” – Carrot Top
At ETR’s Info Marketing Bootcamp this year, I finally got to meet Brad Antin. Brad, who runs The Antin Marketing Group, is an expert in small business and direct marketing – and I found him to be very bright and full of firmly held opinions when we co-counseled an attendee about a start-up business challenge he was facing. (“Do I need to learn the mechanics of the business myself, or can I let my son do that, since he’s the one who will eventually be running the business?”)
Brad has had an interesting career. He has (often with his brother Alan) owned and operated many successful businesses, including companies in manufacturing, wholesale distribution, retail sales, and mail order. “No matter what business we were in,” Brad told me, “we were always fascinated by the marketing.”
By studying the classic texts and testing out theories in their businesses, Brad and Alan gradually learned direct marketing. By the time Brad met marketing master Jay Abraham at a conference, he was so knowledgeable about the subject that Jay advised him to go into business for himself.
Encouraged by Jay’s suggestion, Brad and his brother wrote their own book on direct marketing – The Lost Art of Common Sense Marketing – and it became one of the best-selling marketing books of all time. (At the Bootcamp, Brad told the story of how he got Office Depot to sell 257,000 copies of the book. It’s a good story – one you can learn from. If you don’t have notes from the Bootcamp, I recommend you get our DVD recordingsof the whole event.)
When one of his clients, Bill Harris of Centerpointe Research Institute, asked Brad to take over the marketing of his business, Brad jumped at the opportunity. “I recognized that Bill had a great product and that his business was servicing a fast-growing industry. I was sure I could help grow his business,” he told me.
In the few years he had worked with Bill Harris as a client, Brad had helped the business grow from about $374,000 a year to about $5 million. And today, four years after Brad joined Bill Harris full-time, Centerpointe will do about $12 million.
During one of our conversations at Bootcamp, I asked Brad various questions about information marketing that I thought my ETR readers would ask him if they were in my place. I asked some questions from the perspective of someone with little business experience, and some that would be more helpful to someone who is already engaged in an active business.
This is what I found out:
1. Brad Antin on Choosing the Very Best Business
The most important decision an information entrepreneur can make, Brad says, is what kind of information he will sell.
“Sell what you love, because you need that love to drive you forward and succeed. Anyone can become an expert in just about anything, so long as he loves it. When you love something, you learn it more quickly. And you learn it without feeling like you’re working. And when you sell something you love, you sell it with passion and enthusiasm. That passion fuels your motivation. And that enthusiasm comes through in your advertising.
“It is so easy to make money in Information Marketing today. It’s so easy, in fact, that you don’t have to focus on the money-making part of the business. Just pay attention to the subject matter you care about, and make up your mind to learn it better than anyone else has ever learned it before.”
2. Brad’s Specific Advice on Becoming an Expert in Your Chosen Field
“Let’s say you love gardening. Go to the library and look up Bowkers Books in Print. This reference guide lists most of the books in print by subject matter. Look up the top 10 books on gardening published in the last two years. Buy all those books and read them and take notes on everything you read.
“Then go to SRDS, a directory that lists all the major (and many of the minor) magazines, newspapers, and newsletters. Get the volume on newsletters, and identify all the newsletters on gardening. Subscribe to those that look interesting. When you get issues, read them carefully – for both content and hints on marketing. Take notes on how you could apply what you’re finding out to your own business.
“Another important way to develop your expertise is to interview experts. By reading all of those books and newsletters on gardening, you’ll know who they are. Call them up and set up appointments. If you like their ideas, make notes and use them yourself. Don’t worry about being original. Just focus on getting the best ideas. If you take someone’s specific idea – even if you paraphrase it – give him credit. Most times, though, the ideas you borrow will change as you express them to suit your product and your audience. They will gradually become your ideas.”
3. The Art of Expression: How to Write Like a Pro
“As your knowledge increases, your ideas will get better,” Brad said. “Soon it will be time to begin writing articles and booklets and getting your name, as an expert, out into the marketplace.
“At this stage, most people worry that they don’t have the writing skills to do a good job. Don’t worry about that. So long as you express yourself the way you speak, your readers will be happy with your writing. Remember, they’re paying attention to the ideas. So try your best to express yourself conversationally, using pretty much the same words and phrasing you use when you speak. Don’t make the mistake of trying to ‘write like a writer.’ Your own voice is best.
“As time goes on, you will come up with all kinds of good ideas from your own point of view. That’s the way everyone becomes an expert.”
4. The Funnel: The Best Pricing Structure for Information Marketing
“One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make,” Brad said, “is in the area of pricing. Most beginners start with a $99 or $199 info product, and rush out to try to sell it. But that’s a mistake. A big mistake. My recommendation is to use a structure that works well for many info marketers. We call it the ‘funnel.’
“When you go into a new market, your customers don’t know you. To begin the relationship, you must start with broader topics of nearly universal appeal that are priced cheaply … or even sometimes given away for free. That’s the top of the funnel. And, of course, the goal is to get lots of customers and potential customers going into that funnel.
“As you provide more information to those customers, they will be willing to spend more money with you. The better they feel they know you, the more money they will invest in your products.
“As the relationship develops, the products become more targeted and the prices go up. Eventually, you can sell very high-priced products. That’s the narrow end of the funnel.
“Let’s say, for example, that you start with a free report: ‘How to Break Into the Info Marketing Business.’ Since it’s free, the customer is happy to get it and read it. If it’s good – and it has to be good – he’ll be interested in a low-priced offer from you. So he’ll respond to the $50 offer you send him for a book that is similar to, but includes more than, the report he just got for free.
“The $50 book delivers more than was promised and comes with additional, unexpected bonuses. The customer is impressed. Soon after buying it, he gets another letter from you, thanking him for buying the $50 book and providing additional ideas that you ‘couldn’t fit in the book.’ He is grateful for those free ideas and, to reciprocate, he’s happy to listen to your next promotion for a $195 manual.
“He buys that, and is similarly impressed with what he gets. Then he buys another, more extensive program for $495. And then, later on, an even more elaborate course for $895. Then he spends more than a thousand dollars with you for a seminar … and then $5,000 or more for personal coaching.
“That’s how the funnel works.”[Ed. Note: Want even more business-building advice from Brad Antin? Order ETR’s Info Marketing Bootcamp DVD Library , and you can watch Brad – and the rest of Michael Masterson’s League of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs – give their full Bootcamp presentations.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]