How One Man Built a Multi-Million-Dollar Business

I met someone at ETR’s Wealth Club Bootcamp that rekindled my interest in niche marketing. His name is Matt Furey

If you read martial arts magazines, you may recognize the name. His full-page ads are always in the ones that cover submission grappling and mixed martial arts. I love his ads — Gary Halbert/Dan Kennedy-esque promotions based on vintage concepts like “catch wrestling” and “combat conditioning.”

It was a pleasure to introduce the crowd to Matt. But it wasn’t until I had the chance to talk with him later that afternoon that I realized what a terrific success his business was. In less than six years, he has gone from a student of direct marketing to a master of it. If advertisers awarded degrees the way martial arts academies do, I’d give Matt an ETR black belt.

Matt’s ads are bold, engaging, and entertaining. And his ideas about fitness and self-defense are solid. What most impressed me about his success, though, was not that his business was making millions. It was that he’d learned so much about marketing in such a short time.

Six years may not seem like a short time, but it is. If you don’t believe me, put this article aside in an envelope marked “Open in Year 2010.”

Matt’s considerable success is impressive not only because of how quickly he learned, but also because of how much he has done in such a relatively small marketplace. The martial arts world is dominated by low-income earners and drifters. To build a business in such a market is an enormous accomplishment.

As I said, Matt’s business is less than six years old — but sales have already topped $4 million. Even more impressive perhaps is how Matt has generated buyers. His leads are mostly derived by placing full-page ads in martial arts magazines.

When he began, Matt didn’t have the advantage of superstar status as a competitor. Don’t get me wrong; he’s one serious grappler. Definitely not a guy you’d want to scrap with in a parking lot. But his success came the old-fashioned way: by applying fundamental direct-mail principles to this largely overlooked market.

Let’s take a quick look at some of those principles:

1. Begin with a product that has a unique selling proposition. In Matt’s case, his “combat conditioning” program launched his business. Based on a variety of relatively dated exercise techniques, Matt created a new idea about fitness. The idea that certain extreme forms of calisthenics could get you in better shape (and faster) than hours using fancy exercise equipment or working with coaches. It was an appealing idea and it caught on.

2. Create a personal relationship between you and your customers. Matt learned his copywriting from Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, and the like. It is friendly but in your face, irreverent and intelligent. Each of his space ads carries a photo of him, as does his website and e-zine.

3. Package your back-end products to sell well at relatively high prices. Matt told me that he once asked his readers “What would you rather buy? (1) A book on marketing for $29. (2) A series of books on the same subject for, say, $69. Or (3) a large binder with the information organized in sections?” All three options included essentially the same information. But his customers wanted the expensive packaging, 3 to 1.

4. Network. Matt is very easy to talk to, very relaxed about making deals, and very fair in his judgment of what fair means. As a result, it’s easy to work with him. Within 24 hours of meeting him, I was suggesting half a dozen ways we could work together.

You’ll hear from Matt in tomorrow’s message — and more about him in the future.

[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.]