Craig: Hey everybody. This is Craig Ballantyne. Welcome to another Internet Independence call. We are going to help you move your business forward with the help of a very special guest. We have ETR publisher Matt Smith, who I met way back in 2008 through Yanik Silver’s mastermind. You can actually read the full story of how I met Matt at internetIndependence.com/most-interesting-man-in-internet-marketing. Matt, welcome.
Matt Smith: Thanks, Craig. I appreciate that. I have to say, when you sent that article I felt a little bit embarrassed. Though I aspire to be the Dos Esquis spokesman, I’m not quite there.
Craig: But it was all true. I just wanted to put a little extra into the story with that label, but I just wanted to show people how we met because so many people have heard me speak but haven’t seen you speak. Those who were at our one day Early to Rise got the chance to see you speak and do the hot seats and it was a really valuable experience for people.
Is there anything else you wanted to add about your background in addition to that article that I put together where you and I met and how we came together with Early to Rise? Is there anything you want to tell people about the actions you took for success or any of that business that you’ve ran that you think are worthwhile talking about right now to introduce yourself?
Matt: I think the biggest thing is, first of all, I do not consider myself an internet marketer. I consider myself an entrepreneur and a problem solver is the way that I would classify who I am and what I do. I’ve built a number of businesses over the last dozen years and most of them have been online just because it’s a lot easier and supports the lifestyle objectives that I have.
I think one of the biggest things that I want people to really understand is that when I first started I was an incredibly money motivated individual. I know that some people start off in that place and other people are blessed to not have to necessarily start off in that place because they’re in sort of a better position. But, ultimately once you achieve some level of financial success it becomes about something far more important than the money.
It isn’t necessarily something totally altruistic, but if you’re interested in actually taking the step from being a money-getting person, and I think primarily that’s what I view internet marketers as – I see them as people who create a set of circumstances that allow them to add enough value to be able to make money. At some point though those people either go away or they figure out that what they need to be doing is focusing on building a real business that has much longer term perspective and long term view.
I came about this from the perspective that I was definitely money motivated at first, that was primary driver and I understood I had to create value in the world to get it and I created a lot of transactions like any internet marketer would. Ultimately that shifted for me, and I know for you it’s kind of always been really that way where you’ve had a much longer view on things. And a lot of people do.
But, that’s a big distinction to make is that if you want to build a real business the actions you have to take are fundamentally different than the actions you’ll take if you’re simply trying to create money today, or this month, or even this year.
Craig: Cool. Let’s move into what is missing from a lot of people’s businesses when they get started. That’s what we’re really focused on now. A lot of people listening to this call have an idea, they don’t have an idea, they’re kind of somewhere around that spot. So let’s talk about the importance of a big idea and what that is compared to just having a regular idea.
Maybe we can even use that abs workout guy from the hot seat that we did in the Early to Rise bonus day, because he had an idea but he didn’t have a big idea, and there was a real big difference there.
Matt: It really is. There are a lot of different things about a big idea, there’s different areas you can focus on. I think normally as marketing oriented people we focus on the big idea as it related to a product, but I think it really goes beyond that into the big idea for your business in general.
But, let’s just focus on products for this part. What you want to do, and actually I think this idea is covered really well in Yanik’s new book – it’s called Maverick Startup, I don’t know if you’ve got a copy of it yet, Craig. You should check it out. He has a whole chapter devoted to big ideas and he has a few examples in there that are really good.
He brought one of them up when we were with this guy in the hot seat. This guy had to create a product that basically talked about how to have great abs, it was Unleash the Abs Within, I think was what the name of his product was, so it was kind of a play off Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within.
He definitely had great abs and he probably has great content in general, but the hook wasn’t there. Part of the reason the hook wasn’t there, and when I say hook I’m replacing that with big idea, but a big idea has to immediately your USP, your unique selling proposition, to everybody who reads it and it has to do it very quickly and very easily.
Yanik has some great examples in his book and he talks about The Real World, the show. That was probably the first reality television show, I think. It was certainly the first megahit that was out there. Just think about what’s all contained in that phrase.
The thing about a big idea and the thing about words in general is that words have emotions tied to them. There’s a lot of pieces to each word that conjures images, thoughts, or feelings in the minds of anybody who reads it.
A big idea has an emotional impact and it has a deeper meaning in the mind of a prospect or in the mind of partners or other people you might work with than a little idea does. Generally they have to be very specific and they have to conjure these other emotions or these other images in the minds of the person who reads it.
So The Real World is a great one. He also talks about Eight Minute Abs, that was the example he used with this guy. He said, “Obviously you can’t do Eight Minute Abs because it’s done, but you need something like that. You need something that conveys in just eight minutes a day you can have these.” That’s a powerful idea. It seems very simple to a prospect to look at that and go, “Wow, if that’s true that’s amazing and that’s definitely what I want. I can do eight minutes.” So that’s one good one that was in his book.
He also talked about how you see these little snack packs, the 100 calorie packs of Ritz Crackers and all this stuff. The basic idea is that counting calories is too difficult, so we’ll count them for you. You don’t have to worry about how much you eat, just eat one bag and you’ll be fine. It’s so simple and it solves a problem that people have.
Everyone who is sort of health conscious will pick up whatever product they buy and they’ll spin it around to look on the label, look at the calories and all these things, and they’ll make nutritional decisions based upon the label. But, it’s difficult and it’s hard to know whether or not it’s good and if you’re still making a good decision even if you’re trying to be smart about it.
So they’ve taken that knowing that it’s a problem people have and knowing that people want to do well, they want to do well but they’re not doing well, and they solved that problem by simply creating the 100 calorie packs. To me that’s a huge idea when you think about it.
It started with one thing, I think it may have been little Oreo cookies or something like that, and then now basically every product that company owns is available in a 100 calorie pack, and it’s because the idea took off in such a big way because it conveyed immediately in the mind of the prospect exactly what it was, “Even though I’m going to have some Oreos, well at least I’m only going to have 100 calories of Oreos.”
Craig: And then I think one thing that we really need to touch on, you mentioned this first in your introduction, is about the adding of value and the solving of problems. People that are stuck with no product idea simply just have to go back to “What can I do that adds value? What problems can I solve?”
Is there anything else that you want to add into that? And then they come up with their big idea, but a lot of people are struggling with product ideas. So is there anything at all that you can add to that formula or just in general that will help people maybe find something that will work for them?
Matt: The key thing, as you said, is understanding what your prospects’ problems are. Understanding them intimately and then prescribing a solution that has real specificity to it. That’s the thing with the 100 calorie packs and the eight minute abs, the specificity there is where the big idea comes from.
One thing I would say is that when we talk to people who are struggling with creating a new product often times I find that they’re trying to create products to serve a market that they don’t really understand that well. If you’re having a great struggle with it, I would reexamine the specific market you’re trying to enter. You really want to enter a market that you fully understand the problems of that market.
If you’re a parent you understand the struggles of trying to potty train your child or trying to get them to go to sleep at night, or sleep through the night, or to not hit their brother. Whatever it is you understand the frustrations of that. Or if they act out at a restaurant and you feel embarrassed or whatever, you understand the emotional pain associated with that problem and you’re much more able to communicate with that prospect because of it.
For instance, if I decided I think attorneys have a lot of money and I really want to sell products to attorneys, so I’m going to go after the lawyer market and I’m going to create a product that serves their needs. That would be a huge mistake, because I have no idea what these people think about at night, what keeps them awake, what their problems are, the fears that they have specifically relating to their job and their duties.
So you have to intimately understand the marketplace on an emotional level if you want to create a product that really solves their problem. And then once you know that then add a lot of specificity to your prescribed solution.
Craig: I was just reading the other day that the woman who created Spanx, I think they’re like some type of undergarment thing and it’s a billion dollar company now. There’s no way that company could ever be created by a guy because a guy would never know what it’s like to have problems wearing that type of clothing and not have whatever Spanx do for you.
So clearly that’s intimate knowledge of a marketplace and they’re not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, like in the lawyer example. You’re forcing something versus looking at your expertise and figuring out what you can bring to the marketplace.
The last thing on this is, again, some people just struggle with – I don’t know if it’s just confidence or having that breakthrough and figuring out whether or not they can serve the marketplace that they’re best suited to serve. And I think everybody has a good idea. It’s like the old phrase, everybody has a book in them.
Anything else to add to people who really do have that affinity for a marketplace and are just kind of holding back because they don’t think that they have something or they don’t think that what they have is worth it, anything to add there?
Matt: Actually, I read an article about this topic a couple days ago that had to do with technology companies, software developers. The subject of the article was that if you are the person who created the product you will always feel like it’s lacking, you will never feel like it’s as good as it should be. It’s just part of the nature of it.
You always kind of have that self doubt about it all. The truth is that a lot of the products that we use every day, and this is specifically talking about the software end of things, the person behind them only see their flaws. They have a hard time actually seeing the great value that those products bring. They just see, “I’ve got to work on it a little more. I’m going to fix this later.”
It’s perfectly natural for anybody when they’re launching a new product to think that it can be better, because it always can be better. But, it’s important to have iterations of your product. You get something out there that does add real value and then have it in your mind that you’re going to improve it constantly to make it better to better solve the problem of your prospect.
So I think you have to understand that it’s perfectly natural and you have to understand that there’s really no way around it. Even if you sell $10,000,000 worth of whatever product you have in mind the market will validate it and say, “This is a great thing,” or else they wouldn’t have bought $10,000,000 of it. And yet I guarantee that the creator of that product will still sit there and go, “I really could have done better.”
So it’s perfectly natural. Just understand that that’s the way it is and then it set aside and do what you have to do. You have to get the product out there.
Craig, I’ve heard you say before that there’s somebody out there who because of your particular life situation or the product you create it’s going to have an impact on them that a similar product in the marketplace will not, and that by withholding that product from the marketplace you’re essentially condemning that potential buyer or not giving them the benefits that your product could provide.
I think that’s definitely a good way to look at it. But, I don’t think it gets over the issue that people are going to feel insecure that their product isn’t good enough. So you just have to understand it’s natural. Understand that completely, you’re always going to feel like you can do better and you always can do better. But, take that idea, put it in a box, and then do what you have to do to get that thing out there.
Craig: That’s great. I appreciate that. So now we’ve got our product created and the person is starting to get some sales and some traffic to their website. The next thing I want to talk about is something that very few people have in their business and that is what you call “the number.”
The number is a number or set of numbers where somebody needs to be monitoring this on a regular basis and by knowing what the number should be it tells you whether or not your business is moving forward. That’s my understanding of it. Why don’t you take it and go a little bit deeper with that?
Matt: All right. I think that anybody who is responsible for driving the growth of a business, whether it be the entrepreneur or the CEO all the way down to anybody who is responsible for pushing the business forward, it could be a sales person, it could be a media buyer, it could be an affiliate manager, anybody who is responsible for that needs a single specific number that they watch like crazy. They need to become addicted to it, obsessed with it, and they see it every day many times during the day.
If you’re in a startup mode or if you’re in a product launch mode that number will change, because at certain stages you need to really focus on a conversion rate, for instance, or you need to focus on the EPC, the earnings per click, from all the traffic you’re driving there. So it will change if you’re in those really fluid environments of startup and product launch.
But, once things settle into any kind of a groove, and specifically once you have role players like people who have a job and their job makes them responsible for being an affiliate manager for instance, they absolutely must have a single number, a number that they can impact every single day.
Obviously you can make the argument that no one is in total control of what happens in the marketplace and what they’re able to effect. That’s true. But, if somebody has a great day, if you go to work and you have your best day ever because of a great media buy or a great joint venture you set up, that specific number is going to reflect it. If you have a day where you decide not to show up to work, you just didn’t answer the phone and didn’t check your email and decided to watch movies all day instead, then that number is going to tank.
So if that number is significantly affected by your behavior on a daily basis, then you know you have the right number. It needs to be a single number that you’re watching religiously. At certain levels of the organization it could simply be just watching revenue per day. And I like the per day number, by the way. I don’t like the per month, per month is not actionable and you don’t know what went wrong. Per day you can tell.
If you have somebody who is responsible for creating promotion for you then EPC might be the number, that’s their big focus is trying to get that EPC number up as high as it can be. If it’s a media buyer than I’m really going to want to know what the cost per acquisition was on every new sale that they created. That’s going to be really important because potentially you could lose a lot of money or make a lot of money depending upon that number.
You really have to become obsessed with this number. Everyone has their own, they very rarely are shared by everyone else. I’ve seen large organizations that everyone is focused on net revenue, which is revenue minus refunds. To me that can be a huge mistake, because how is somebody who is responsible as an affiliate manager, for instance, in a big organization they can’t move that number up on a day-to-day basis in any observable way, because there are so much stuff going on. But, there are certain things they can measure.
Everyone at every level of the organization should have a number every week, a number that they’re looking at all the time. I like setting goals with people on a weekly basis, personally, in our organization. And there are two areas where you form this number. One is kind of an activity based number and one is a results based number.
So if it’s a new person and you’re trying to get them trained it doesn’t make sense necessarily to tell them, “Now you’re responsible for making sure that the EPC is,” whatever, $3.40. That doesn’t make sense. But, you can set activity goals that are based around contacting a number of affiliates per day, for instance.
So the number changes depending upon the person and where they’re at in the organization and in general what the objectives of the organization are. But, if you’re a single operator, and I know a lot of the people that we work with start off that way like we did, Craig. You have to be able to look at your business and understand what is the number in your business that when that number moves it has the single biggest impact on the business.
It’s not revenue. That’s what you think it is, but revenue is kind of a big number and it’s above the number that’s the leverage point. It’s usually far below that. It could be a conversion rate number, it could be the number of partners that are sending promotion for you on a weekly basis, or it could be the amount of money that each customer spends with you when they leave the shopping cart.
You have to be able to look at your business and drill down into specifically what that number is and then become deeply obsessed with that number. And when you do you will see remarkable changes in the business that will of course effect the revenue, will of course effect all of these different things. But, it’s actually a lot deeper than that and is a lot more movable by you in your daily actions.
Craig: Cool. There’s a book that I highly recommend everybody read called The Secrets of the Rockefeller Habits. They recommend that every employee has a number, including for customer service like how many questions do they answer per day. So definitely good level thinking for anybody that’s running a solopreneur business or if they have employees.
Anything else on the number before we move on? I think we’re going to go into that position of strength next.
Matt: I think we’re good on the number.
Craig: Okay. So position of strength. You kind of touched on the affiliate stuff, which is an area where this is applicable, finding new joint venture partners and stuff. But, the first time I ever heard position of strength was from you. It’s very good for negotiating and for brokering joint venture deals. So why don’t you explain what it is and then how it applies to not just affiliate stuff, but everything in general?
Matt: Okay. On the high level position of strength is obviously the opposite of position of weakness. A position of weakness is neediness. So really to maintain a position of strength you have to not need other people.
When you think about it from a philosophical life perspective I think it’s critical that you not be needy of others to be happy or to achieve what you want in life. That’s sort of a good disposition to have. Frankly, that disposition is very attractive to others. People are generally repelled by people who are needy and very attracted to people who are strong and have that position of strength.
So there’s a basic sort of subtle subconscious magnetism to this whole thing, honestly. It’s a pretty subtle level and I don’t want to get into a lot of the nuances of some of this communication that you can actually use. But, I will say that the basic disposition is not being needy.
We can talk from a strategic level, like how to not be needy. Like I said, there’s a lot of specific tactics you can use to do that. I would say though some of the tactics that I employ, I actually probably go overboard with this. If everybody did what I do to maintain position of strength the world would probably not function in any reasonable way anymore, because it can definitely go overboard if everyone is doing it.
The basic thing is that in any relationship in your life, and I mean really any relationship in your life, the most attractive disposition you can have to a potential partner, to a spouse, to anybody, is to convey that you don’t need them.
You want them, but you definitely don’t need them and you’re prepared to walk away if necessary with no hard feelings, only in good faith, and yet you have a lot that you can add to their life, a lot of value that you can create. So that’s the basic disposition of a position of strength. I think it’s useful in really every single relationship in your life.
So how do you get position of strength? From a strategic level it’s relatively simple. You want to have value to offer. You want to have something you can bring to the table that can solve the problems of other people. It’s the same as selling a product fundamentally.
If it’s with a potential joint venture partner or something like that it could be that you have a list and your list certainly would love to hear more from this person or learn more about their products, so you say that you can offer the value of that list to them. That’s a pretty basic thing that I think seems obvious to everybody.
The other way that you can achieve a position of strength is that you can build a reputation. So even if you don’t necessarily have something that is real measurable like a list, if you have something – actually, a reputation in my opinion is much more powerful than having a list or having some basic value like that. But, having a reputation of somebody who does certain things in a certain way is incredibly attractive and powerful to people. Reputations are very powerful in the marketplace and in relationships and anybody you interact with.
A lot of people are just starting off and they go, “Build a reputation? I don’t even know where to start with that.” And it makes sense. But, going back to what we talked about in the very beginning about being somebody who is creating transactions in order to get money versus somebody who has a view of building a real business.
I think one of the keys to achieving that is you have to have this weird balance between a complete and utter impatience with what’s going on where you feel like stuff must move faster, you have to have that urge, that fire in the belly to make stuff happen today, and yet you have to do all that with eye on the long term, and specifically an eye on the long term in terms of your reputation and relationships, because those two things will ultimately give you a position of power, a position of strength in all of your interactions.
I would say the third way to have a position of strength or to enter into a relationship in a position of strength is to be introduced by somebody that this person respects. So when I’m talking about position of strength I’m always talking about it in relation to an interaction with a single individual. It’s hard to look at it on a global level.
So if I’m talking about that I want to have a position of strength with Craig, it isn’t that I want to have a negotiating position, that I want to have leverage on him or anything like that where I want to be able to work him over in a negotiation. That’s not it at all. What I want to do is I want to enter into the conversation taken pretty seriously, not looking like somebody who came off the street.
Craig is approached regularly by people who want him to do something for them, so I need to make sure I’m differentiated from those people right away. Part of it is having unique value to offer. Another one is that if I have a reputation that he’s attracted to, or the other way it could be that I could be introduced by somebody he has a lot of respect for.
So the way you start is you have to work on yourself. You have to really work on not being needy. You can approach people with the value that you do have and not expect something in return. That’s the easiest way to get started. If you approach somebody and you’re looking for a quid-pro-quo, you’re looking for something in return for the value you give then actually come off as needy.
You want to come off as generous, you want to come off as somebody who has more than enough. I was having a conversation with somebody last year and he said, “Your whole sales method, you sell by not selling.” I’m like, “I guess, that’s how I sell, by not selling.” And the truth is I sell by not selling because I don’t care if you buy.
I have the ultimate lack of neediness because I simply don’t care what you do. If you want to do business with me, great. If you don’t, no problem, someone else will. So not having that neediness is key, but then also deeply wanting to add value to the lives of people around you and the people you want to have relationships with.
Craig: Cool. That really is a lot of having an abundance mentality, but at the same time putting yourself in a position where you don’t need anything. And then in addition to that just making sure that you’re going back to what you said at the very start of the call, which is being a value adder in every situation. Does that pretty much sum it up?
Matt: Yeah. Another thing, we all do have real needs. But, if you’re needy nobody wants to help you. So you’re probably not going to be able to take care of all of your needs. You’re going to need customers to sell your products to, so you need them. But, being needy and coming off as needy is fundamentally weak. Instead you have to have the approach of “I’m here to help you if you want to be helped. I’m here to add value to your life if you want me to add value to your life. And if you don’t, that’s totally cool.”
You kind of have to have a little bit of faith that your needs will be met if you’re adding enough value. That will all happen if you’re adding value.
Craig: Great. Now, kind of a related topic is something that you wanted to speak about, which is goodwill and how you’ve been thinking about this a lot. Why don’t you tell us about creating goodwill in the business and how that all intertwines with what we’ve talked about so far?
Matt: Okay. Can I add that, because you wanted me to talk about content too? I’m going to tie that into that, if you don’t mind.
Craig: Okay. Let’s talk about goodwill and then why content as king is kind of making a comeback.
Matt: Okay, good. To me these go together very well. I’ve been thinking a lot about goodwill lately. Goodwill is actually an accounting term and it sits on a company’s balance sheet. So as a company’s brand is created and as it grows it actually accrues value in something that’s called goodwill on a balance sheet.
At first I used to think that it was kind of silly, that it didn’t make sense to me that so much value could be associated to goodwill. But, now I think that if you’re transitioning from transactional to building a real business you start to see how goodwill is really what it’s all about.
Given the fact that most of us are involved in business on the internet and a lot of us are involved in selling information products, which essentially are digital ones and zeros that no one can see and hold in their hand, I think that particular business model is extremely challenging to build goodwill in, and thus it’s very hard.
I think this is why most internet marketing oriented people end up focusing only on the transactions, because it’s really hard to build something more substantive because the nature of the transaction itself is actually goodwill negative. And I’ll explain what I mean. Honestly, this is a topic I could talk about for two hours, but I’ll try and do it in just a couple of minutes.
Most people on this call or most people listening probably have an iPhone. I’d bet most people do, except Craig. That’s just because he’s such a good Canadian and wants to support the Canadian phone manufacturers.
Craig: The shift that’s going down.
Matt: It is going down. But anyway. If you have an iPhone and you hold this thing in your hand there’s something – I bought my iPhone out of my service contract, so my iPhone cost me almost $900. As I’m holding it in my hand I know it was really expensive, but I look at it and I can appreciate it in a way that is really unique. It’s certainly unique to digital products.
I can see that the designers of this phone really poured their heart and soul into this product. There is an enormous amount of attention to detail and energy, effort, and love that went into this product. I can see it and feel it every time I use it, every time I touch it I can experience it.
So when I went and bought that phone and it was really expensive and I made a rational decision to buy it, when that transaction was done there was something leftover and that something is still there, and that’s goodwill. Essentially, to me, goodwill is like the transmission of the heart and soul and love that’s put into the products that you create.
This is very difficult to do in a digital way. And I believe especially when you combine digital products with direct marketing ideas, because of this. When you buy a digital product, like when you buy a song from iTunes, to use Apple again, you know what you’re getting at least. In fact, they let you preview a third of the song before you even buy it.
So you leave it at least knowing what you’re getting. You buy it and you can’t touch and feel and hold it to necessarily appreciate all the heart and soul that went into the product in the same way that maybe you can the iPhone because so many other senses touch it. But, the product still at least is an equal transaction.
I believe that most digital transactions, and I know this is kind of complicated so let’s just think about this for a second. Most of the time when someone buys a digital product when they leave they feel just a tiny bit screwed after the purchase. It’s probably on a subconscious level. It’s not that the product wasn’t good and it’s not that they’re so angry they’re going to ask for a refund. They’re not even angry.
At the end of the transaction I believe that there is this sense that you kind of owe the customer instead of the customer owing you. Whereas with my iPhone I feel like I still owe Apple, I feel like they did something for me. Even though I overpaid for the product I feel like I still owe them because I went out on the transaction. But, in a digital product where it’s almost impossible for the person to feel and touch and really experience the deep love, effort, and energy, and heart and soul that went into the product creation, it doesn’t convey that goodwill in the same way.
So my basic thought on this now is that we as companies who sell primarily digital products primarily online, especially leveraging direct response strategies in order to that, have to work really hard and come up with new innovative ways in order to create that goodwill because the simple transaction, the simple sale of our product fails to do it and in fact is destructive to goodwill in the way it’s usually done.
And as this relates to content, I think that content is a way that you can add to that goodwill in the digital transaction or in the digital environment. For instance, if you are creating a digital product and someone could see the heart and soul and effort, if you could convey that to them somehow through other content the effort that you put into the product, then that may make them appreciate it more and understand how important it is and understand that there’s a lot of love and effort put into it and it’s not just something you sat down and wrote overnight and put in a PDF file and are now selling for $30 online.
That’s an example of how you might do it. The way we do it at Early to Rise and the way that Craig does it through his other publications, and frankly the way the largest online publishers in the world do it, is through daily editorial content that is excellent and is given away for free. The idea is that both our customers and noncustomers have the opportunity to see what we’re about and to receive value from us every day without us ever demanding anything in return for that.
So one of our basic philosophies is that we want our customers to feel like they owe us because we’re giving them more value than we’re ever asking for in return. Of course, creating great products is a key to that. Standing behind your promises and your guarantees is a key to that. All those basics are there. But, I think you have to go above that. I think you have to raise the bar well above that and content is a way to do it – free content, great content that’s intriguing and valuable, that makes a difference in the lives of your readers.
It can be video content, it doesn’t have to be text, it could be any type of content, but it creates value in the lives of your prospects in the way that you hope your paid products do. You shouldn’t be like, “This is secondary. I’m going to give away for free not my good stuff and I’m going to sell my good stuff. I’m going to give away all this other stuff for free that doesn’t really matter to me.”
To create that goodwill I think you have to put your heart and soul into content creation for free. There’s other advantages of content creation, which I’ll get to in a minute. Craig, I think this is what you meant by content is king now. The other issue of goodwill and the only other way to really create goodwill that I’ve found so far, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of months thinking about this, is what Vishen does over at Mindvalley.
What we do with content creation, with the daily editorial and all the publications that we have, I think Vishen does through aesthetics. It’s really important to him, in much the same way I suppose it was important to Steve Jobs, that his users only see things from his company that are valuable, that really convey a certain feeling. If you look at any of the stuff that they do it’s really all gorgeous. A lot of their phrasing is clever and unique that they use in their sales letters, which look totally completely different than most other sales letters do. They’re designed to create this brand value in the mind of prospects.
Direct marketers look at brand and they go, “That’s just nonsense.” And I understand that to some degree. But, I can tell you that it does have a unique effect on goodwill when the customer can see that someone’s heart and soul is placed into this and through great design you can accomplish that as well.
There’s probably other ways too, but the key is if you want to build a long term business you must start making deposits of goodwill. The easiest way to accomplish that is to help your customers see that this isn’t just about a transaction for you, that your heart and soul is going into these things that you’re creating, that literally your life force is being spent in order to try and add value to their lives. If they can see that in some obvious way then it will affect the goodwill in a very significant way, I think.
Craig: I wanted to mention two quick points there. In the latest Fast Company the editor mentioned about eight things that he sees in the future. One of them was design is a competitive advantage. That really ties into what you were saying about Vishen’s Mindvalley and Apple. It’s no longer just throw anything up and try and sell it’s, design is now an important part of the package too.
And then going back to the goodwill, my friend Alan Cosgrove he and I did an interview like this last summer and he said something about the way that they structure their business, and I’m talking about their online and their offline gym. They teach their clients – their clients being other trainers who are building their own fitness business – that you want to be the high point of your customer’s day.
You want to be something that they look forward to, kind of that third place analogy that Starbucks has so that people really look forward to going to Starbucks because they really only go three places in a day; they go to work, they go home, and they go to Starbucks, so that Starbucks is the high point in that person’s day.
Alan says that’s the way your business should be. Whether it’s an email newsletter or whether it’s a gym that you own, or whether it’s a store or whether you even sell clothing or iPhones, you want your business to be a high point. And from your experience going into the Apple store, from almost anybody’s experience who is definitely an Apple fan going to the Apple store is a high point in somebody’s day.
They’re really developing a great experience there and the person leaves with the goodwill. They probably don’t feel like they ripped off Apple, but they certainly feel like “I had a great experience, I got a good deal, I don’t mind paying this much for an iPhone. Now I’m going to go and I want people to call me all the time so I can answer it and when I’m answer it I’m just going to show everybody around me that I have the new iPhone.” That’s the message that comes from the goodwill, I think.
Matt: I agree. I think there’s a lot of ways to create it offline. I think that the best companies in the world do it and they do a great job of it. So the question you should always ask yourself is “How do we do it online?” I think if you’re creating content trying to do it of such a quality that your readers are happy to receive it, they know it’s coming and they’re waiting for it and it really makes a difference in their day. That shows that it’s not just about putting out content, it’s about putting out content that moves the needle in the minds of the people that you’re trying to affect.
Getting to the content is king thing, there are so many different issues with this. Just talking about from a traffic and an SEO perspective this is totally tactical, but I think it’s really important to understand that right now, and less so than a year ago, you’re able to employ lots of tactics to sort of get your stuff to rank high in the search engines.
But, I can tell you that Google and every other search engine out there are devoting enormous amounts of resources to trying to be more intelligent about their approach to help the good content and good information rise to the top of queries. Those tricks – and they are just tricks, eventually they will not work.
So farming out articles to other people just to write half assed because it has the right word count and the right headline is not going to make a difference even in the SEO perspective for your business in the long term. And it certainly doesn’t help your business in terms of building goodwill with prospects and customers.
In fact, I just read something from Matt Cutts, who is this Google guy, and he talked about how people who were over-optimized are going to be penalized. I think he actually used the word punished by Google. Obviously it’s pretty easy to see when people are really dialing in all the tactical stuff in order to trick the engine and ultimately that will have a negative effect on you unless you have the content, the real valuable stuff to back it up.
So if you see search engine traffic as a big deal for you then you should focus on creating great content. That’s the only way you’re really going to be able to get search engine traffic in the future. It’s the way you get it now, honestly it’s the easy way to get it now is to put out great content. And in the future it’s probably going to be the only way to do it.
So I think it makes a big difference there too. But, I think the other more important issue is that people are so much more open to and interested in finding alternative expertise now than they were even five years ago and certainly a decade ago. It creates this unique opportunity for you, especially if you’re creating businesses like a personality business or something like that. It makes it possible for you to have a real effect on people’s lives if you’re putting out content that’s meaningful to them.
As somebody who is impatient and has a strong orientation toward direct marketing, the whole “if you build it they will come idea” sounds pretty stupid, but I have to tell you if you’re producing great content that people you’re looking to attract to you will come to you. They really will. And thankfully the search engines really help with that.
In the future if you want to differentiate yourself online the market is always going to get more and more competitive in terms of media buying and search engine optimization and all these other things and the key differentiator is going to be those who can create unique useful content. They’re going to win out. They’re going to get attention, they’re going to get people who follow them, they’re going to get people who trust them. And they’re going to get people who because they trust and like you they’re going to buy any product that you might recommend.
So that’s where I think the big opportunity is. One other thing that I’ll say about content is that if you are a content creator, if you do what Craig does for instance, and Craig raises the bar pretty high in terms of the volume and the quality of what he does, but even if you just take it down somewhere from there you have the opportunity, I think, to put yourself in a position to make a lot of money. Because those regular deposits you’re making with people in terms of goodwill you can convert that essentially into business anytime you want.
What you’ve done with Internet Independence I think is a good example, Craig. Early on you talked about there are two basic strategies to making $100,000 in 12 months. One is you do this big launch with joint venture partners. The second one is you produce great content for 10 months and then on the 10th month you release a product and all the people who are following you, because they trust and like you and they know that you’re in it for the long term, end up buying it. It takes a much longer term view to do it that way, but it does work – as you know.
Craig: Absolutely. With the content and with the goodwill we’ve shown people that it’s almost like you’re going back to basics and what worked 10 years ago before all these people started making a business out of trying to game the system and it’s going to reward people that are rewarding people that read their stuff and watch their stuff, who are getting value out of what they can create. That seems like what it’s going to be like to me. Right?
Matt: It just all comes back to value creation. If you’re adding value to the marketplace, if you’re solving people’s problems you will be rewarded. It’s really that simple.
Craig: Let’s skip ahead to the question I had on the reason for having a mission or vision or core values as the backbone of your business rather than the desire just to make money. Let’s talk about that next.
Matt: Well, there are a lot of reasons why you’d want that. As I said when we started off the call, I was very money motivated in the very beginning. I don’t know when that went away. At some point it sort of went away, maybe when I felt like my needs were met and all that. But, what I can tell you is that it doesn’t inspire your best behavior, it doesn’t inspire your best performance, it doesn’t inspire your greatest creativity. I think it really is sort of life-limiting and business-limiting in a way that’s hard to foresee, frankly.
Once you learn the skill of making money you realize that it’s actually not hard to make money. The philosophy of making money is adding value and then there are specific skills for doing it. But, there are some people who use this pretty cynically and you see it all the time. There is a lot of lip service, I think, given to having a big mission and a big vision and all that. And you can see right through it, frankly.
What you can see is that basically they’re using it as a way in order to market their product more. It’s like the idea “Will I sell more of my product if I give this portion of my proceeds to charity? If so, then I’ll do it. If not, then forget it.” That’s the way those things often come off. It’s just a simple business decision, “Sure, I’ll give some to charity if I’m going to make more money. But I’m not if I don’t.”
I think a lot of those visionary missions can come off that way. But, if you sincerely have a goal, a mission, a focus, then that is another way that you can convey goodwill in your marketplace. But, it extends far beyond your market.
Think of an example like Toms Shoes, and this is very popular example. You just want Tom to be successful, don’t you? I don’t particularly like his shoes, but I really want the thing to work because I think that what he’s trying to do is a cool thing. Is it executed as well as it could be? Is every dollar functioning in this charitable organization as good as it could? I don’t know. But, the guy is trying to do something really cool and he’s succeeding and I want him to keep doing that. If he didn’t have that vision or mission then I wouldn’t give a shit about his shoes. I just wouldn’t.
So the difference between the sincere mission, a sincere objective, and something that is used as lip service is obvious in the minds of the marketplace. It is truly obvious. So don’t do it because you think you have to have it in order to better sell your product. Instead try and find something you actually really care about and then convey that mission as best you can to the people around you, the people who work with you as your partners, and your employees as well.
Frankly, by the way, the only way you can attract good people into your business, if you don’t have employees now you’re going to want them at some point because it really improves your quality of life if they’re A-players, but the only way you can attract A-players is if you provide them with unique opportunity to accomplish their own goals and meet all their needs and give them some meaning and purpose behind what they’re doing.
Your made up mission statement that you’re using because you think it’s going to generate more sales for you will fail at that. They’ll see right through it. The A-players who could work for you, the A-players who could partner with you, and the customers you most want will see right through it.
So if you can develop a sincere mission, something you actually care about, and you can find a way to tie your business to it then I think that it will accomplish a couple of specific things. I think that your business will grow in a way that you never imagined, you’ll find support from people who don’t know you but will champion your cause as if it were their own because they think it’s cool what you’re doing, they think it’s a good thing and they think that you’re unique in the marketplace and you’re genuine. They’ll want to see you successful just for that reason.
And that can propel you in a way that’s difficult to imagine. I think it certainly has for Toms Shoes. So, a lot of different reasons why you want it.
I would say the other reason, there’s all this talk about having your passion tied to your business, and I know this is sort of an ongoing debate among a lot of people that I know whether or not you have to be really passionate about the business you’re in. I don’t think you have to be passionate about the business you’re in for you to be successful with it.
But, I do think that if you can combine whatever you are passionate about with your business then you can take things to places that they can’t go otherwise, because that energy and enthusiasm and love and care that’s put into your business is then understood by your customers in a way that it would not otherwise be.
Also, that extra passion makes it more fun for you. It means you’re doing something you really care about. By the way, of course what you care about will change. We all evolve and other things become of bigger priority to us. Whatever you’re passionate about makes coming to work more exciting if you can tie those things together.
There’s lots of examples of this where it works really well. Padagonia is a good example, the outdoor clothing company. Certainly passion is directly tied to the business and to the mission and all of that, and it’s made a huge difference in the business. Frankly, these guys wouldn’t have stuck with the business as long if it wasn’t tied to their passion. So passion can give you a long view, which is what you really need if you want to build a real business anyway.
Craig: It kind of seems to me like if somebody has been in internet marketing for five or 10 years it’s kind of like just forget everything that you learned, all these techniques and black hat strategies and behind the scenes stuff, because none of that is going to work anymore or it’s not going to work as well anymore.
It’s not going to work in Google’s case and it’s not going to work as well anymore in the case of a more (I guess) mature audience, and also because so many other people are upping their game that you can’t just do a shady job anymore and make money. You really have to bring something to the table and be really valuable. It seems like that’s the way it’s going to be right now, which is good for a lot of people.
Matt: I absolutely agree. I would say not only are those things changing so those things won’t work as well – they don’t work as well now as they did before, even a year ago, and they will work less well in the future. But, there will always be tactics that you can use and there will be levers you can pull in order to create money. Those are always going to be out there. I should not in order to create money, but to create transactions that produce money.
But, that is not a business. That is not a business. If you’re interested in building a business then you have to have a fundamentally different approach and you have to go way back and it’s all about value creation. That’s all it is.
Use the new tactics to create that value. Use the strategies, use the internet medium, use the low cost of getting the word out. Leverage all of those tactics that are there in order to add more value.
The thing is all those guys who are really focused on this tactical stuff you can always tell they are not in control of their fate, because if there’s a simple change by Google they’re the most crestfallen people. I mean, you feel like they’re going to go commit suicide because Google made a change and now all of a sudden all of this stuff that they’ve been working on for the last 12 months doesn’t work anymore.
That’s the way any sort of transactional relationship is. There’s no fundamental goodwill, there’s no real fundamental business. At the end of the day you can be swept under the rug, you can just be swept away and be gone in the blink of an eye.
And many people who are legendary internet marketers just disappear into nothingness because they never really got that idea that what they’re trying to do is build a real business and that all is about building real value and at the end of the day making sure that your customers feel like you’ve given them way more than you’ve ever asked for in return.
Craig: I think that’s a pretty good place to end our call here. I know we have other topics, but we’ll save that for another time. That just is a really good powerful message to finish off with.
Matt, is there anything else you want to add?
Matt: I think that’s good. Thanks for doing this with me, it was fun.
Craig: All right. I appreciate it. I hope everyone appreciated getting to hear from Matt, who I’ve talked about quite a bit and who has really helped me achieve a lot. We’ll be involved in a lot of stuff at Early to Rise and a lot of other cool stuff that we have coming along the way.
Thank you everybody for being on the call. We’ll be back with Matt again someday soon. If you get a chance to attend one of our live events we certainly would love to see you there and you’ll get a chance to have Matt’s insight as a hot seat into your own business or even just to watch him do one for another business, he’s very insightful. Thanks everybody for being on the call and we’ll talk to you soon.