“You can view [running a business] as not just a job but as an honorable livelihood where you can, by using your imagination, develop the human spirit.” – Anita Roddick
A few months ago, real estate magnate and multimillionaire Russ Whitney sent his private jet to bring me and several of my colleagues to meet with him and his team at his headquarters on the west coast of Florida. It is a very convenient way to travel – office to limo to jet to limo to office.
As we seated ourselves in his conference room, Russ pointed out a hidden benefit of owning your own plane. “How else could we have gotten all this high-priced talent together on such short notice?” he observed.
He was right. We’d been promising to get together for years. But with conflicting schedules and so many last-minute obligations, it’s difficult to set aside time to talk about new business. Being able to hop in a plane and be there in 20 minutes really made the difference. (The chauffeur drives right up to the plane. You step out of the limo, climb on board, and the pilot starts the engine.)
It turned out to be a very promising meeting. My main client, which I was representing, was worth about $100 million the last time Russ and I got together. Today, it’s worth a whopping $270 million. And Russ’s organization has grown even faster. Back then, it was in the $50 million range. Now, they are making a quarter-billion dollars a year
Both companies are in the business of providing information to customers, and both market investment and real estate products. But our strategies are different. My client does most of its business through direct e-mail. Whitney Inc, on the other hand, provides most of its information directly to customers via seminars, workshops, and advanced educational courses.
The differences provide opportunities. We can help them develop an e-mail-based marketing program, and they can help us provide training sessions for our best customers. Over the course of two or three years, we should be able to make some good money together by teaching one another new ways to reach our markets and enrich the lives of our customers.
I like Russ Whitney. I like his energy and his casual wit. I like the fact that the employees who were working for him five years ago are still by his side today. I like the way he’s built his business from a mid-sized operation selling only one type of product to a sophisticated, substantial business that provides a variety of programs his customers seem to love.
When Russ and I last spent time together, he was already richer than anyone needs to be, and he could have sat back and let the business be what it was. But he wasn’t satisfied. He knew it could be better, and kept making adjustments and innovations until he discovered a formula that sent revenues skyrocketing.
As well as his business is doing, it has the potential for even greater growth. Whitney Inc. is delivering some of their information products digitally, via the Internet, which is lowering their costs. But they aren’t doing much marketing online. That should be a huge opportunity for them – and we will be happy to be involved.
Russ has an interesting success story. He was 20 years old and working in a slaughterhouse when he read a book on real estate investing and decided to try it. He became a self-made millionaire at the age of 27. He wanted to teach others how to duplicate his success, so he wrote his first book. He has gone on to write several best-sellers and has built one of the world’s leading financial education companies.
Since Russ is in the information business, I asked him what advice he would give someone who was just starting out in that industry. This is what he said:
“For long-term success in the information and education industries, you need long-term relationships with your customers. That sounds simple, but it’s not easy. Anybody can sell a newsletter, a special report, or even a seminar. But will that customer want to come back to you? And if he does, will you have something for him?
“Certainly your initial product, the information that draws the customer to you, must have value. It must show your customer something that is going to make a difference in his life. But what’s more important is that it has to lead to more information.
“The best way to do that is to work backward into your program and pricing. Think about where you want your customer to be. For example, at Whitney Education Group and EduTrades, our goal is to teach people how to build wealth through real estate investing and stock trading, plus how to be financially intelligent, run a business, protect their assets, and more. That simply can’t be taught in a single weekend seminar or in a newsletter. We modeled our training after conventional post-secondary education. We teach the basics and then we build on that knowledge with advanced training taught by experienced instructors who are actively working and investing in the areas in which they teach.
“We tell our students from the very beginning that we want a long-term relationship with them. When they enroll in our courses, we are on their team for life. After they have taken their initial training, we guide them into the specific advanced courses that will help them accomplish their own individual goals. That adds tremendous value to what we do and allows us to price our training accordingly.
“When your product has this kind of value, and when you are willing to make a long-term commitment to your customer, you will be able to charge more and see greater revenue from existing customers. One of the reasons we keep adding courses is that our students ask for them. They take all the training we have to offer and want more. That’s because they know we are committed to them and to their success.
“If someone just starting out in the information business (or any business, for that matter) makes the same commitment to their customers that we make to our students, they will have the foundation for success.”
While Russ and I don’t agree on everything (he’s tougher than I am when it comes to some things), in this case, I think his recommendations are correct. You must start by providing good, solid, basic information that you can build on if you are going to develop an information business that will be profitable long term.
As I’ve said before – both in ETR and at this year’s Info Marketing Bootcamp, it is crucial to start out with a fantastic front-end product that proves you have a lot to offer your customers. It should be something that showcases your company’s talents, grabs your prospect’s attention, and makes it impossible for him not to buy it. And once he has it in his hands, it should provide him with such top-notch information that it entices him to want to know even more. Then you can continue to upsell this customer with bigger, more expensive, and better products and services for years to come.[Ed. Note: You can find out more about Whitney Information Network by going to their website.] [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.]