Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Power of Changing Your Frame

Posted on August 11th, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I woke up today at 7am.

My return flight from Vilnius left at 6:40 this morning.

I had every intention to be on that flight, but I missed it. My mistake will probably cost me well over $1,000 depending on if I can get a refund for my plane ticket and how much it will cost me to purchase a new flight home.

This is an incredibly painful situation to be in. From a monetary standpoint, I have just lost a meaningful amount of money. From a psychological standpoint, I have created anxiety and fear.

The pain of my circumstances should have caused me to desperately seek conflict resolution. There is anger about missing my flight and fear about not knowing what I will do and a whole bunch of other emotions flying around in my brain.

In the past, I would have viewed this situation as a disaster. I would have allowed my emotions to cloud my decision making. When I woke up and came to the realization that I missed my flight, I didn’t go to my computer and immediately start finding a solution to my problem. Instead of making phone calls and booking a new ticket, I deliberately avoided conflict resolution.

I understood that I couldn’t change what had already happened, I could only control my path moving forward. So I grabbed a cup of coffee and told myself that I would consider my options once I was finished. While drinking my coffee, I had quite a few realizations.

The first shift in my thinking occurred when I examined the situation from a completely objective viewpoint. I asked myself why I was going home in the first place. My answers were because I wanted to get back to work and start implementing and because I had a Mavericks event in Connecticut to go to next week.

These are two very valid reasons to return home. There’s also the psychology of home in general. Home is our base. It’s a safe place. The whole idea of having a home puts your brain at ease because it removes the fear of the unknown. What goes up must come down. When you travel, you know in your mind that it is only temporary and that at the end of the day you will always be able to come home.

That’s why when presented with the realization of not being able to return home, any normal person would have launched into a mad rush to solve that problem and put their mind at ease. But when I took a step back and examined my reason for wanting to work, I asked myself was that really valid? Did I really need to return home in order to work? The answer of course was no.

I’ve designed my business to be completely location independent. I did that very deliberately. Returning home to work was not a valid reason. The only reason I decided to go home in the first place was because my brain was seeking equilibrium and the idea of home was the solution. In terms of finding a flight right now to return home, working was not a valid reason to base my decision.

I then looked at my 2nd reason, which was attending the Mavericks event. Attending that event will provide incredible value to me so to me it is a valid reason to make my return travel decisions. But that event doesn’t occur for another 7 or 8 days.

So now I’ve overcome the false objections I put up in my mind of having to return home in order to work on my business. I’ve identified that my driving emotion for returning home was the desire to reach equilibrium and I made a conscious decision to accept the unknown of not returning immediately. I also have a clear reason for returning to the US at a specific date in the future.

Until that specific date, I have no valid reasons to return home. This is an incredible freedom.

I’ve been talking about freedom and taking actions to achieve freedom for years. But I was blinded to the fact that I have already achieved freedom. It’s been right there in front of me this whole time and it took getting hammered and passing out around 3am and missing my 4:30 am taxi to the airport for me to realize it.

The frame in which I view this situation has now been reversed. It’s now a question where will I go in the 7 or 8 days that I have and why will I go there. I was invited to go to Poland with a bunch of guys from the camp. I could go there and I could have a lot of fun with them.

But I’m not going to do that.

The real underlying idea here is that safety and fear have control over my decision making. I’ve now made progress in understanding those driving emotions. Going to Poland with the other guys would be a great time, but it would also be the safe thing to do.

In order to achieve growth, I need to hit fear and safety head on and challenge myself by traveling somewhere alone. I think that by being alone and relying solely on myself it will remove so many more false barriers that I have put up in my mind.

Yes I am returning to the States in about a week, but now I need to seriously question myself on why I am living in Philadelphia. At the end of the day, my decision to live where I have been living was based on safety.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had the opportunity to meet quite a few nomads. I think it’s a cool and trendy topic for conversations which is why many people set out on their journey in the first place. But somewhere along that journey they come to their own realizations and have their own mental breakthroughs.

I’ve just had 1 major breakthrough in my thinking and I’ve identified that safety is the limiting force in my life at this point. If I can overcome safety then I can remove myself as a limiting factor to my own success in both my personal and professional lives.

When I frame it this way, my path forward becomes incredibly clear. I can now use travel as a vehicle to challenge my limiting beliefs. The purpose of travel for me is not to fuck off and vacation to a new city every couple of days. I have very firm business development goals that I want to achieve that would be compromised by a nomadic lifestyle like that.

As I see it now, the next step needs to be settling down in another city or country where I am consistently placed in situations that are out of my comfort zone. Sure, there will be additional trips to check out cool places, but I’ll be settled enough to achieve my additional goals.

In a sense, my path as developed so far is very paradoxical. I’m challenging the idea of home as a mechanism for safety and comfort. Yet my solution is to essentially settle down somewhere else.

When I think critically on how I landed on that solution, the primary reason was because I need a certain level of consistency in my life in order to achieve my business goals. So now I need to ask myself how can I marry using travel as a vehicle for challenging safety as an emotional driving force in my decision making with the need for consistency so I can achieve this other set of business goals that I have.

The solution for that is to travel to new places for an uncertain amount of time. Settle down for the purpose of reaching consistency in my professional life. While I am in this new city I need to continuously place myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone. I then need to be aware of the fact that I will eventually become comfortable again. I will build a group of friends and life will eventually develop into a new set of routines.

Whether this takes 3 months or 2 years is irrelevant. The idea is to be conscious and aware that this will happen and to have the courage to once again pull myself out of my comfort zone. This process needs to repeat until I have achieved the goal I set out to accomplish in the first place.

 

When I first sat down to write, my goal was to challenge the emotion of safety. But challenging safety is not the goal. Challenging Safety is the solution to my problem. Travel is how I will achieve that solution.

The goal is achieving objectivity, becoming a more rational human being, and overall personal growth.

At the very core I think everyone has some driving force to become better. Whether it’s in achieving progress in a sport, growing their business, or developing better relationships it doesn’t matter. We all want to be better at something in life.

The reason we are not where we want to be is because of our limiting beliefs and because of the frame through which we view the world and approach our decision making.

If we can understand how to change our frame, then we can unlock true freedom. We can understand that anything we want to achieve in life is truly possible.

The path becomes clear and it’s our responsibility to take the actions necessary to get there.

As I’m thinking about this and reading through everything I’ve just written, I have to say that I’m truly terrified. Getting up and taking action to plan out my next couple days in Europe is absolutely terrifying for me. Not because I don’t think I can handle myself for a couple days on my own.

What scares me is that I know that planning out these next few days is just the first step. When I take that step, I can never go back. That step is going to lead me into a series of decisions that are going to completely change every aspect of my life.

I feel like I’m in a red pill blue pill situation in my life. By exploring my ideas and writing it all down I have an idea of what it will be like to be awake. But to awaken, I Need to make a whole bunch of decisions that I don’t Want to make.

It’s going to take a lot of courage to set out on a journey to actively conquer emotions. So far I’ve only examined Safety, but the scope of this journey is going to be much much wider than that.

Regaining My Stride by Michael O’Donnell

Posted on August 6th, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I got accepted again into Sovereign Academy and I’m totally siked to be going back to Lithuania! After everyone is accepted, they create a Facebook group for us so we can start communicating and introducing ourselves. Just like last year, there are a ton of super interesting people doing all sorts of business ventures all over the world.

When I did my introduction, I talked about Cave Tools and what I was hoping to get out of the camp. It was funny because one of the other members, Casey, commented that his girlfriend is the lead industrial designer for a company called Outset Brands and wanted to know if I ever heard of them before.

When I first started Cave Tools, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing so I contacted a bunch of manufacturers in the US to see if they could make my grill brushes for me. Outset brands is headquartered about 10 minutes from our house in Newtown (I moved out to Philly in June). When I called them up and asked about manufacturing they basically just said no and blew me off because I would be a direct competitor. Almost like if Pepsi called up Coke and said, “Hey, can you make some soda for us and put our label on it?” I didn’t really know what I was doing so I just moved on.

Anyways, Casey’s girlfriend is their lead designer which is a pretty crazy coincidence. We met up the other night for drinks to get to know each other before camp. Just like every other BlackSmither I’ve ever met, even though we are complete strangers we had a million things in common to talk about. We had a couple drinks and then went over to an Art Gallery in Old City to meet up with his girlfriend. I’ve never been to an Art Gallery before so it was a pretty cool experience. He knew the owners and pretty much everyone there because he goes every month and has invested in a couple pieces.

It was cool talking to his girlfriend as well because she designs products like I do, but from a totally different approach. When I design products, it’s a data driven thing where I just pick out the features I want and then get the manufacturers to do it. For her, she has entire design books of sketches that she draws up and tries to pull in different themes into the designs. It’s much more of a mix of engineering and aesthetics versus shooting for solving market needs.

Outset is also at a different stage of business though where they already have a full product selection so they are just designing different variations of every product. Where they may have 20 different grill brush designs, I would only ever have 1 until I fill out my catalogue of products.

 

Getting Accepted into Maverick Next

I’ve mentioned the Mavericks (Probably rather unintelligently because I didn’t know much about them) on my blog in the past.  In short, they are a group of 7 and 8 figure business owners, mostly based in the US. They cover a wide range of industries, but in particular, almost every major mover and shaker in internet marketing is either a member or connected to the group in some way.

Shortly after Blacksmith Camp last year, one of my friends, Jock posted something on Facebook about how he was attending the Maverick Next summit. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever heard about Maverick Next. Next is the Maverick Version of Sovereign Man where they look for young entrepreneurs and try to mold them. To join Next you have to be under 25, but once you are in you are allowed to stay until you are 28 years old. At that point, you are expected to be doing at least $1 million per year and apply to the main Mavericks group.

In order to get accepted into the group you have to be doing 6 figures per year in revenue in your business. They also look heavily into your character and experiences. They are also looking for people who exhibit “Maverick DNA” which they basically describe as the intersection between Business Growth & Profits, Entrepreneurial Lifestyle, and Impact Driven Objectives. There’s obviously much more to it than that, but those are the 3 main areas.

After Aruba, I found out that the Mavericks were putting on their own event in Connecticut August http://gocampmaverick.com. This camp is bad ass! The way I imagine it is like being in the movie Heavy Weights where they have a giant lake with tons of activities and they even have the big blob thing that launches you into the water. The only difference is that the attendees consist of about 300 – 400 of the most influential business owners in the country. Oh…and all of the lodges are luxury cabins and there is unlimited top shelf drinks for 4 days.

On the sales letter it mentioned that 100 spots were reserved for Maverick members and Next members. The remaining 100 spots would be open to the public, but special priority would be given to people who were personally recommended. Attendance was application-only “to curate the ideal mix of entrepreneurs, business leaders and impact makers from a multitude of fields together in one remarkable place.”

After reading the sales letter, I immediately sent Sophia (Yanik’s cousin/event planner I met in Aruba) a private message on Facebook. I opened up with a friendly comment about Aruba, then mentioned I heard about the camp and intended on applying, but said that I don’t know if I even qualify as someone who could be recommended, but if the opportunity arose for her to please think of me. It was a really well crafted, friendly message that wasn’t pushy at all.

Sophia never responded.

Remember, I also messaged Yanik after the Vegas event on Facebook and he never responded either.

At this point I felt like shit. I had built a nice little friendship with Sophia and for her not to respond meant that I totally overstepped my bounds. I felt really awkward and kept over analyzing things. I figured I must have come across as a taker instead of a giver and like I was trying to take advantage of her position for benefit. All that type of stuff.

In the middle of the whole ASM Launch debacle I also saw a picture posted on Facebook of the whole ASM crew and Sophie out on a sunset boat ride relaxing after a long day of work. Of course she would be there with them during the launch helping coordinate things. With all the rumors that were being spread and the inevitable talk about how Jarod (and Me lumped in) was trying to catch them in a lawsuit her perception of me was probably destroyed.

In my head I just wrote it all off because there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do was still apply when the camp opened up and see what happened.

Then, a couple days after getting accepted into this year’s Blacksmith Camp, Sophie messaged me! She said she had been having tons of issues with her facebook and didn’t realize I had messaged her. I didn’t even need to apply to the Maverick Camp, she would just streamline me in and give me a VIP discount price that they give the Mavericks themselves. She also wanted to put me in touch with Dima, who runs Maverick Next.

Just like that I was in!

This happened on a Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I was introduced to Dima via email and we set up a call to speak the following week. Then at 10pm at night, I randomly received a call from Dima while he was driving in his convertible to New York. He mentioned that he knew it was really last minute, but he organized a lunch with Ramit Sethi in New York on Thursday and wanted to throw it out there in case I could make it.

My dad and I have been following Ramit since he came out with his 1st book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, in 2007. He’s one of those guys that just absolutely kills it and I have been following his advice for years. Of course I would drop everything and shoot up to New York in the morning to go meet him!

I caught the 7am train up the next day and met up with a bunch of the other Next members for lunch. Turned out that Ramit wasn’t eating lunch with us, but we did have a full hour and a half blocked out with him in a conference room on one of the top floors of a giant building down town. The conference room was leant to us by some giant real estate development company and had an amazing view of the entire city with floor to ceiling windows.

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There were only about 10 of us total so it was a real intimate meeting. He loved that we were all firing off real high level strategic questions to him instead of asking tactic style questions like “What tools do you use for X” For me personally, I had just gone through the firing process with Dorothy and was reevaluating a lot of my management techniques so I got a ton of actionable advice from him.

One of the key things he said to us that really stuck with me was “If apples don’t increase bananas and bananas don’t increase apples, then don’t sell bananas”

As young entrepreneurs we all have a tendency to dip into a lot of different things. For me personally I have been considering launching another brand for diversification. A lot of us have multiple different businesses or services we provide as well.

The key to that statement is focus. You need to focus on what’s working instead of spreading yourself too thin. Also, sometimes you have to turn down work even though it will make you money because it will not help you advance your long term goals. This is a concept that has been repeated multiple times in the last 2 books I read, Traction and Built To Sell.

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After hanging with Ramit we hit up a happy hour and all got to hang out some more. We also chilled with a venture capitalist that owns an incubator in New Jersey which was pretty cool. Then at night we had a full dinner planned and did this crazy experience at the McKidrick Hotel called Sleep No More. I never got home until around 1am that night.

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The Next’ers that I met in New York were really cool and interesting people as well and now that I’m a Next member we all talk very regularly. Matt owns a travel company that takes people on trips to Cuba (Newer company since the law changed. On pace to cross $1 million by early next year). Larry and Perry are twins that sell their own brand of Chiropractic products and they are also copyrighters. Through introductions from Next they have written copy for Eban Pagan, Ryan Deiss, and tons of other super high unreachable Internet Marketing icons. They also wrote the entire sales letter for Real Social Dynamics which is basically the dating company of Mystery from the book The Game. Daniella is tough to explain, but she does productivity coaching type of consulting. She’s 25 years old and at the time we met in New York she had just finished up at Facebook headquarters and was preparing for a session with Congress! Dimitry owns a brand of Turkish towels sourced from a small village in Turkey. Casey runs Hackathons in exotic places all over the world where programmers from all over the world meet up to co-work together and have fun at the same time. Denice runs a fairly large EDM magazine covering everything that goes on in the industry. I introduced her to my friend Pete who is the photographer that took the picture that is now the cover for Alice in Wonderland’s new album. Zion runs a suite of about 10 wordpress plugins and also does web development. He’s a “Connector” that knows everyone. He’s only 23 and he has 3 or 4 full time employees in his agency. I also met Ally, who is Sophia’s partner that helps with all of the event planning for the Mavericks.

New York was basically my interview for Next and I got accepted. Once accepted, they gave me access to a shit ton of information products on everything from copywriting, to funnel design, an entire financial education course, meditation courses, and all of the recordings for the past 9 years of the Underground Marketing Conference. I also got personal email welcomes from Yanik and each person that helps run the Mavericks. I forget her name because I haven’t used her yet, but basically the one girl is there if I ever need an introduction to someone she will try to make it happen.

The next week I had an hour long call with Dima discussing where I am now and where I want to be. He asked me a lot of tough questions that really made me think about my goals and what kind of impact I want to make on the world and things like that. After our call he also asked me to take the Kolbe Index and Wealth Dynamics personality tests.

I have taken the Myers Briggs in the past and I’m an ENTJ, but the Kolbe and Wealth Dynamics tests are much more business personality oriented. I didn’t think I would get much out of them, but I really learned a lot about myself and it put a lot of my successes and failures into perspective.

Without going into full detail about my personality results, I’m a creator. I thrive on creating new systems and solving complex problems. Once I’m done building a system however, I have very little patience to sit there and run it. I just move on to the next thing. This correlates so strongly with so many examples in Cave Tools it’s scary.

The test also told me that my ideal business partner would be an operator. Someone who can take everything I build and ensure that it is properly implemented and ran on a consistent basis.

I never really thought much about finding a business partner before, but after being in a lot of conversations recently on the topic, I’m definitely way more open to the idea. With the right operator, I think I could seriously increase my potential exponentially.

Now that I’m a Next member, I also have a new weekly mastermind group. They sub niched everyone out, so I’m in a small group with just the people in Ecommerce. Each week is a mix between accountability / getting shit done and discussing new strategies and techniques.

Group Members: Arielle is a part of Kaliedescope Global which is some type of crazy conglomerate I can’t wrap my head around. Somehow a bunch of the Mavericks combined their $1 million plus companies into some giant holding company to pool resources. They are in all sorts of niches and I even found out they acquired Jock’s (from Lithuania) business brokerage company last year. Arielle is in charge of a couple different supplement brands. The other day she had somebody else in the organization sending her a list of like 200 products coming out of Mexico that she was supposed to take and launch a new brand with. Crazy stuff. Larry and Perry are in the group with their Chiropractic products. Chris is from London and runs a $1 million plus ecommerce store of electronics products. He uses a dropship model and has suppliers all over the world that ship to the end user. He is also considering launching another business and setting up an office in India with one of his partners doing something else. There’s also Bren who is Dima’s roommate in San Diego. Bren does marketing consulting for high level type of clients and ecommerce brands. A new girl named Sarah also joined, but I haven’t had the chance to meet her yet. She’s an affiliate marketer from New Zealans.

As frequently as they can, Bren and Dima bring in super successful entrepreneurs to do private webinars with us and teach us the kind of stuff that people would never sell in an information product online. They pull back the curtains and dive deep into their businesses and strategies.

 

Webinar with Anjit – CEO of MindValley Media

The first Next Webinar I jumped on was with Anjit from MindValley http://mindvalley.com. They are based out of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and are currently doing about $35 million per year selling all sorts of information products. Anjit is an absolute beast when it comes to entrepreneurship. In the last 6 years he’s built 5 different 7 figure companies.

I learned a ton from Anjit on this 1 hour webinar. He spoke mostly about how to scale and automate things in your business. Basically everything in their business is templated out. He describes it as creating universally deployable business assets.

Anjit is also a huge practitioner or the business management methods taught in Traction. He went through his entire KPI process that he uses to manage all of his employees and even gave us his templates so we could use a similar system. Since this webinar with Anjit, I’ve implemented the KPI scorecard for Caecilia and Marian and their productivity and accountability has sky rocketed.

Youtube Ads Webinar with Zane Miller

This webinar was a fully detailed case study of how Zane spent $700 in Youtube ads to generate over $66,000 in sales on affiliate offers.

I’ve always known about Youtube ads, but never really gotten into them because it takes a lot of work to produce a professional commercial. This is apparently true for most internet marketers because 80% of the YouTube ad inventory goes unsold every day.

Lots of supply and little demand means that you can get dirt cheap views around 3 to 4 cents each. You can also target specific videos or even full youtube channels that you want to run your ads in front of so the targeting can be very specific.

I recently got my first campaign up and going so I’m interested in how it will perform. I’m using the video file from the infomercial and driving visitors into a 20% off meat claws coupon funnel http://buymeatfork.com

The most important takeaway from the presentation for me was he taught us how to remix videos under the creative commons license and add them to our own channels. We get about 10,000 ish views per month on Youtube based on the cooking videos I made and edited myself. It’s a lot of work to do those videos so we only do them every so often.

By searching for videos under the creative commons license, I can literally take professional cooking videos on any subject and modify them with my own branding and calls to action and then add them to my channel.  Here’s an example of one we added https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSeYSYECzZs

I’m hiring someone now to be a full time youtuber for me. Basically I am just going to abuse the hell out of this loop hole and have them add about 3 new videos per day every single day to our channel. We are going to cover tons of different topics and target all sorts of keywords. Every video will be overlaid with calls to actions that go into our coupon funnels for each product. It’s going to be ridiculous!

Satori Method Strategies for Higher Performance and Higher Consciousness – Tristan Truscott

Ever wonder what it’s like to spend an hour and a half hanging out with a true Zen Master?

This was a really really interesting call. There was only about 7 of us on the call so it was extremely personal. We started off by discussing the 4 aspects of healing: Conscious Mind, Subconscious Mind, Energy Body, and Physical Body. Then we went into talking about meditation, spirituality, and daily rituals and things like that.

This one is tough to write about because the concepts are so abstract, but I got a ton out of it.

Profiling Webinar with Blake Dunkley

Blake is a high level consultant that helps 7 and 8 figure businesses that are stuck and haven’t been growing for a couple years. He has an excellent track record of helping these companies break through and then as part of the deal he actually gets a percentage of their lift over the next couple years.

For this webinar, Blake was going to profile a couple of us based on our language patterns and the underlying beliefs systems that he could pick up on by the way we speak. Apparently before the call he had profiled Dima and was eerily accurate in his assessment. First up was Lawrence. Blake asked him how he would describe himself. After about 2 sentences of a response, Blake told him to stop and then went off on his assessment.

He told Lawrence a lot of things about himself and about the obstacles he was most likely facing in his video production company. To me, I’m thinking this is some type of hokey pokey fortune teller trick mixed in with business consulting and coaching. But it turned out that he hit the nail on the head and they had a super productive conversation.

After Lawrence went, Dima writes in the group chat that he wanted me to go next because he thought it would be beneficial for the group to see me profiled. I took it as a compliment, but at the same time was very nervous because I now had to be in the hot seat in a very vulnerable position in front of 10 other Nexters.

By the way I was speaking he had said he figured I had a fairly systemized business but wasn’t quite there yet with where it needed to be. I then explained to him how I had been implementing some of the principles from Traction and how it has been night and day in terms of accountability over the past month. As we were going back and forth, my key question to him was along the lines of “Do you think you can run a $100,000 company on the processes of a $5 million dollar company and a $5 million dollar company on the processes of a $30 million dollar company, or do you think it has to be an iterative process along the way as you continue to pull yourself out of your comfort zone?”

This launched us into a whole new line of conversation and he agreed with me that it needed to be an iterative process. Dima said that was one of the best questions I could have possibly asked him.

Towards the end of him profiling me he started going on about how founders reach a certain point where they need to hire a CEO to take the business to the next level because they are not capable of doing so themselves. I’ve heard this line of talk quite a few times before and instead of taking it I challenged him on it. The way I see it, there is a path in life that the CEO who takes over the large companies follows so just because the founder started the company doesn’t mean that he can’t as a person integrate those same CEO skill sets into his arsenal and take the company to the next level.

What I wanted to know was if he thought founders are typically limited specifically because of the personal connection to their own company, or if he thought it had to do with skill sets and development. At the end of the day what it comes down to is how flexible you are and how willing you are to change and adapt based on the set of circumstances in front of you.

Paying it Forward With a Webinar of My Own

I’ve always been a big believer in Paying it Forward and trying to add as much value as I can when I join a mastermind or a group like Next or Blacksmith. Sure, I could sit back and just benefit from all of the knowledge being shared, but it doesn’t hurt me to share. When you share and contribute it positions you as a leader in the group and it always comes back to you in the end.

For this webinar, I went over my entire process for tracking sales data an projecting inventory and future sales for my products on Amazon. I also provided my exact spreadsheet in a template form and gave instructions on how to have a VA automate the entire process

 

Wrapping Things up With ASM Elite

With the exception of a couple coaching calls I think I still need to do, I’m pretty much done with all of my requirements for ASM Elite. It took me about 2 days to put together all of the materials for the trainings and everything, but I’m really happy with the results. The one video in particular which I have received a ton of very happy positive feedback about was the video on setting up your 100K per month business Infrastructure. So I decided to include the video here in this post

 

 

Bulking Up Training Resource Center and Implementing KPI Scorecards

Up until this point, my training resource center has been primarily geared towards the marketing department. I’ve had tons of trainings for Caecilia regarding customer service, but they have all been scattered throughout in dropbox and various folders on my hard drive.

I took the time to build out an entire customer service training center for her now and it’s really sweet. On the home tab of her area I renamed her title as our Customer Experience Manager. Instead of providing customer service, which is reactive, she is now in charge of architecting our customer experience, which is proactive.

She now has full control and authority over which customers we give refunds too and/or ship out new products to whenever issues arise. She also has her own set of coupon codes of varying discount levels that she can hand out to customers to incentivize future purchases.

She’s encouraged to be as personable as possible when communicating with customers and to tell short stories to help relate to them whenever they send us messages. This way she is starting to create a real bond with our customers and overall increase her likeability.

While she is now writing longer response emails than previously, I’ve also given her a full set of training on how to create closed loop emails to reduce the amount of back and forth. For instance, in the past if a customer had an issue with our thermometer accuracy, she would respond by asking them if they have attempted re-calibrating yet. That would initiate a response from the customer and then she would need to respond back again as well. This interaction could take a couple days to complete, which overall increases customer frustration.

Now with a more closed loop style response pattern, she asks them if they have tried recalibrating yet and then attaches a pdf instruction guide with an embedded youtube demonstration video in it so she covers all bases and there is no need for a response from the customer unless there is another issue.

We also have an entire product specific FAQ section in there to cover every possible question customers have about each product. This section is editable by Caecilia so any time a new question pops up, I provide her with a detailed response and she adds it in.

While everything is now almost completely templated out, she understands that she can pick and choose from each response and customize it so it is geared towards that specific customer and their needs.

Overall since implementing this new system, I’ve seen a major increase in the overall happiness from the customer responses and people are way more likely to leave product reviews because they genuinely like her. One customer the other day actually responded back a couple times just because he enjoyed talking to her and he told her how he loved the spelling of her name and thought it was very beautiful.

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Hyacinth Connect also now includes a full set of training on Accounting and Bookkeeping. For a while I was hesitant to not do the bookkeeping myself because I felt it helped me keep a better eye over the financials of the company. However, I’ve been placing a large focus on only doing high leverage activities lately and bookkeeping was something that would take me a good couple hours each month to complete.

I ended up hiring a CPA in the Phillipines who is well versed in US accounting principles and does bookkeeping for multiple US clients. I created Read Only access accounts to all of my credit cards and bank statements for her so she has access to all of the reports but could never harm me if she wanted to.

When I was accepted into Maverick Next, I was given access to an entire info course on Wealth Dynamics. Basically the info course covers all of the financial knowledge you need as a business owner whether you are running a small business or a real estate investing company. There’s tons of good information in there that I am still working through.

Inside that course they also have a full 14 part video series teaching you everything you need to know to run Quickbooks. I downloaded the entire Quickbooks course (Sells for $399) and added it into the Accounting section of Hyacinth Connect as a supplement in case Liz ever runs into any snags.

I don’t expect her to need those videos that much because she works in Quickbooks every day, but the point is that all of the information and systems are set up now for me to not have to do the bookkeeping myself.

When she finishes reconciling the books each month, she saves all of the reports into my dropbox so I can print them out and add them to my hard copy financial binder. By printing everything out and adding to my binder, it forces me to review the numbers each month so I save all those hours and still stay on top of the financials.

I’ve now implemented a full KPI scorecard for Caecilia (Customer Experience), Marian (Social Media and Blogger Outreach), and Iris (Youtube Marketing). Inside their Hyacinth Connect is a full explanation of their incentive plans outlining the objective goals that they need to reach.

Each set of goals are evaluated on a weekly basis and they are given a score. Over the course of a month they are allowed to miss up to 10% of their KPIs without getting in trouble. If they miss more than 10% then they are given a warning and we set up a call to go over a plan to make sure they get back on track. If they get 3 warnings in any trailing 12 month span then they are subject to potential termination.

If they reach all of their KPIs in a given month, they are given a 15% bonus based on the wages paid during that month. Typically Filipinos receive what’s called the 13th month bonus at the end of the year. Around December you are supposed to give them a bonus equal to 1 month’s pay. This is expected in their culture and has nothing to do with performance.

In the incentive plan description, I’ve explained how we are no longer doing the 13th month because it has been replaced by the new performance based incentive plan. A 13th month bonus equates to about 8% over the year, so at 15% per month, they are eligible to receive almost double the bonus they would have received in the past.

Since implementing the KPI scorecards for everyone, accountability has been at 100%. Something I have never been able to achieve before! They love it because at all times they can view their scorecard and they know exactly where they stand and how much extra money they will earn if they complete their job successfully. When I met with each of them to review their incentive plan, I made it very clear that my job as their manager is to make sure that I give them as much help as possible so they can hit their bonus every single month.

They know exactly what their metrics are and how well they are doing so nothing slips through the cracks. Instead of me following up to make sure they are on track, they are updating me daily on their progress. If for instance, Marian is falling behind on her blogger outreach for the month, she puts in the extra hours herself to make sure she hits the mark.

By making everything performance based and objective, I now have employees working from home in a different country regulating their own work schedules and putting in as many hours as needed to get the job done. That’s fucking amazing!

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Overall between Marketing, Customer Service, and Accounting we now have over 75 detailed operating procedures accompanied by instruction videos to cover every task. The operating procedures are also integrated into our task management software Asana so they have to check off each step as they complete it so the little details don’t get skipped.

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Here is an example of the Marketing Operating procedures inside Hyacinth Connect. I use an index system for everything to make it easy to reference certain procedures. For example, all Customer Service procedures are named using Strategy ID: C#.

The only thing that isn’t fully documented out in the business right now is the operations side of things. This is a job that I will eventually fill or start to train once I hire my first American employee.

 

Exploring the world of Patents and Intellectual Property

My business is built around selling commodities. Selling commodities is extremely difficult because there is such a low barrier to entry. We have 100s of competitors popping up every day on each of our products and under cutting price and copying our listings. It’s just the nature of the game. Eventually, I know that I need to start getting into patents because it will give me full control over a product category.

I’m not an inventor, so I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for potential patent licensing opportunities.

About 2 years ago I did some web development work for a freelance chef that does home cooked meals for wealthy families. Recently her husband contacted me because his friend Gene had developed a new product he called the Rackula.

It’s a regular kitchen spatula, but it has hook like grooves cut into the back so you can use it to pull out the oven rack. You open the over, pull out the rack, use the spatula to get your food, then use the grooved front of the spatula to push the rack back in.

rackula

This guy is an inventor, but he has no experience or knowledge about how to manufacture at scale. We spoke on the phone a couple times and went back and forth regarding potential deal structures.

His goals were to get the Rackula in retail outlets like Walmart and Costco and he claimed to have contacts there that were willing to go ahead with it assuming he could get them manufactured. To me this was a lot of hype because he didn’t have any written letters of intent and he didn’t even have a clue about what the final cost of goods sold would be to get the things made.

Regardless of it that kind of deal was on the table, I knew I could sell them pretty well online. I started out by speaking with my Meat Claws manufacturer and sending him the design specs of the product because I know they are experienced in developing plastic molds. I quoted out the cost of developing a custom mold and sorted through different handle designs so I could figure out an estimated COGs for the product. This process took me about 1.5 weeks. During that time, he was emailing me every other day asking for updates.

I tried explaining to him that it takes some time to do the due diligence, but he didn’t get it. He was really pushy and wanted everything done immediately. He also kept trying to tell me exactly how he wanted the design to look like. This made sense because he was the inventor and patent owner, but I had to keep reinforcing that this was not a partnership. The deal we were doing was on the right for me to manufacture a product covered under his patent. The ultimate design and colors were up to me and would be determined by my assessment of the market.

Once I ran the numbers and knew that it was financially feasible, I initiated the conversation of compensation to see what he wanted. His response was that he didn’t know what it was worth and he hoped I would treat him fairly. Not the smartest negotiation tactic there, but I’ll take the leverage.

I did some research on patent licensing deals to see what the standard was for this type of thing. I also reached out to my Business Attorney to see if he was capable of writing up the contract or if he had any references for me to use. Ron had done a few patent licensing deals in the past, so he gave me some good advice such as how to limit the number of licenses he can give out to minimize competition and also adding restrictive paragraphs into the contract so he couldn’t take my packaging designs or anything like that.

Since I would be putting out the money for the mold and manufacturing the product, I didn’t want Gene to know what my final cost of goods sold was. This ruled out making the license based on a percentage of COGs. Instead, I offered Gene a fixed rate of X cents per unit.

Gene responded to my email very aggressively saying that he was upset about my offer and that all licensing deals were based on a percentage of revenue or profits on the product. At this point, he had been very pushy on time constraints and now he sent a very aggressive email instead of just picking up the phone and discussing the offer. To me, this came across very unprofessional and I knew that if we moved forward he was going to be very difficult to work with.

His concern however about basing the license on revenue or profits was valid. But it was only valid in the traditional retail sense. In traditional retail, you are selling B2B, not B2C. The Rackulas would have a set sell price and we would know exactly what the revenue/profits would be based on how many units were sold. When you are selling B2C online it’s a much different ball game.

Prices fluctuate every day and your cost per acquisition changes on every single sale. It’s incredibly difficult to determine an exact profit per sale on a product when you are running so many different advertising campaigns and each has their own metrics.

I wrote out a full explanation of this for him via email and then told him I would follow up with a phone call the next day after he had a chance to read through and understand the differences. We spoke again and worked everything through, so at this point we were pretty much down to writing up the final contract.

This whole process was going on right around the end of our infomercial test market. While I was waiting on Ron to get back to me on a couple more questions regarding the contract, I found out that the infomercial failed. I went from expecting an immediate profit from the initial order of around $20,000 to having close to $40,000 of tied of cashflow on the meat claws inventory.

Based on my financial turn of events, I wrote Gene an email explaining that I would prefer to “shelf” this project for about 3 months and then circle back to finalize the deal. Gene flipped out in another email to me explaining that he wasn’t going to let his future sit on a shelf and not to worry about ever contacting him again.

Again, this was something that I have to say I thought was very unprofessional. At no point were we in an exclusive negotiation. I would expect him to be pitching his ideas to other companies just like he should have expected me to be considering other product opportunities and have other things going on in my business. Just because the deal isn’t a go right now today doesn’t mean that it couldn’t work out at a later date if the opportunity was still on the table.

When I think about the psychology behind our interactions, I think his mindset is probably representative of most inventors. In all of our conversations he approached things with the mindset that he held all the cards. As an inventor, he’s obviously proud of his product and he owns the patent on it. But all he has is a product. The manufacturing expertise, distribution, marketing, and business skills are what ultimately determines the success of the venture.

Granted, I wanted to get in on the opportunity because it was a chance for me to do my first patent licensing deal, but In a small size company I always need to do an opportunity cost analysis and compare against other potential opportunities. For me, there are a ton of products out there that I can launch and only a limited supply of time and money to launch them.

Salad Spinner Research

At the beginning of this year I had set a goal to have at least 10 products out by Christmas time. That goal was never reinforced on a week to week basis, so I definitely let time get away from me. Instead, I got caught up too much in operations and systems building and all that kind of stuff. Those activities are very important to the business, but far and above, product development is the highest leverage activity and is responsible for growing the business.

Now that I am on this whole KPI and accountability kick, I’m starting to prioritize product development over everything else because it is the most important factor to our growth and success. Currently, I am looking at grill lights, a burger press that forms the meat for you and you can store in the fridge or freezer, and salad spinners.

When it comes to cooking tools, there are normally very few patents involved. Salad spinners are definitely the exception to that rule. I did my research and came up with a list of improvements on the current designs out there on the market. I then reached out to 5 or 6 manufacturers to start negotiations. None of them brought up the topic of patents to me in any of our talks.

After speaking with the new manufacturers I decided to also message my Meat Claws manufacturer to see if they made salad spinners as well. Mike and I already have a strong relationship so he immediately brought up the patent topic.

Salad Spinners are patented up to the hilts! Apparently it took OXO 5 years to develop their 1 touch spinner model, which is the most popular model on the market. After they developed it, everybody flooded in and started patenting every other close variation or tweak on the design that they could.

For a little bit I was scared and figured I would just move on to other products instead of mess with patents. When I was out with Casey his girlfriend told me the OXO story and said I might as well go nowhere near it because it’s not worth it. But then I figured, the reason nobody else is really selling salad spinners is because of all the patents. If I could do a design that wasn’t locked down by patents, I would at least have protection because any new comers would have to put in serious research before launching a salad spinner.

So I rolled up my sleeves and spent about 3 hours mining the USPTO for all of the patents out there on Salad spinners. There were over 63 patents regarding the spinners, 39 of which were relevant to what I was going after.

I’ve never done patent research myself before, but after reviewing a couple I got the hang of it real quickly. Patents are either Design Patents, which are about the look and feel of the product (Very weak to uphold in court), or they are Utility Patents, which have to do with specific functionalities (Aka OXO’s one touch model). On a side note, Gene’s Rackula patent is a design patent. If I ever wanted to do it, I could just make my own version with the same functionality and modify the design slightly to make it unique.

Each patent has to do with 1 specific improvement on design. To protect another improvement you have to get another patent. With this understanding, I could quickly scroll to specific sections of the patents and disqualify them from overlapping with the models I was considering. I kept track of everything in a spreadsheet with links to each patent and a short description of the core functionality that each patent covered.

After scrolling through my finished spreadsheet, it was interesting that the vast majority of all of these patents are held by only 4 companies. Progressive International, Chef’n Corporation, Lifetime Brands, and Kwok Kuen So, Kowloon (Some Hong Kong Company).

patentresearch

These are basically the only 2 types of models that I can move forward with right now.

20150723_111418Before receiving the samples, I was all about the model on the left with the knob because it is way more aesthetically appealing. However, in my testing I found that the model on the right is way more functional.

The problem with it though is that as soon as I tried it out, I didn’t understand that there was a locking mechanism to hold the handle flat. I push down on it and the plastic piece came flying right off. This is definitely a potential concern for customers so we are going to have to modify that piece a little bit.

When we finally start manufacturing these bad boys, I’m also going to have my graphic designer put together a really professional brochure style guide that goes with it. I know going in to this that my model is not going to be the best on the market. But I can still sell for a few bucks cheaper than the OXO model and use packaging and the detailed brochure guide to increase the overall perceived value of the product.

 

Run In With Meat Head from Amazing Ribs

The Amazing Ribs website gets over 3.5 Million Page Views per month and is the ultimate resource for anything and everything barbecue. When we designed our meat temperature guide we basically just looked at the guide they had and used the exact same layout, but change the wording around.

I did a ton of research on copyright law beforehand to make sure that what we were doing was completely legal and above board. Now that the temp guide have legs under themselves and are selling, we’re on the Amazing Ribs radar.

On June 16th I received an email from Meat Head (Guy who runs Amazing Ribs) freaking out and telling me I’m violating his copyright by selling our version of the guide.

I responded by telling him I did all of my research before making the guides and that temperatures fall under commonly known information, which cannot be copyrighted. Furthermore, the design was no doubt inspired by his layout, but we made modifications and changed all of the wording around, which also ensures that we are not infringing on his copyright.

I then sent him links to official documents that backed everything up and told him I’m not looking to make any enemies here and just wanted to let him know we made absolutely sure what we were doing was above board.

His response was somewhere along the lines of “You know I’m extremely angry and trying my hardest to be nice. Why would you want to poke me in the eye with a stick like this? You know how powerful I am in the BBQ world, if you want to remedy this you need to start paying me a licensing fee”

I sat on the email for a while before responding back. Legally, I’m perfectly entitled to sell the magnets and I’m not doing anything wrong. But at the same time, do I really want to bump heads with the most influential person in the entire industry. One Negative tweet to his 70,000 followers could be incredibly damaging to my brand. Is it really worth the risk when I consider how much total profit the magnets bring in?

We went back and forth for a while and finally I proposed that instead of pulling them from the market and taking a loss, that I would remove the listing from our website and then just sell out of the remaining stock on Amazon and stop making the magnets. I would do this because I agreed that the look and feel of the magnets were too close to his and I wanted to remain friendly. But, I did have intentions of redesigning the magnets and continuing to sell the new design in the future because at the end of the day, temperatures are publicly available knowledge.

He agreed and I thought everything was cool. Then a couple days later he emails me again asking where we stand. I responded by just reiterating everything we agreed upon. Then he sends another email back about how powerful he is and how I am now a competitor and one of his enemies.

This made me furious. This guy is basically trying to abuse his position of power so nobody can sell anything that he decides to claim. I wanted to just tell him to go fuck himself, but I sat on the email again and based on the advice from my dad, I just never responded.

The thing that pisses me off the most is that his entire business is built around articles and tutorial type of information. He has an information business and I have a products business. Yea, we overlap on 1 small area, but that doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. If he took that same approach with everyone else, he would be going after every single blog on the internet because he is king bbq and nobody else can write any articles. Ridiculous.

For now it’s quiet on the home front, but I know that I’ll be hearing from him again as soon as the new design gets launched.

 

More Amazon Issues

I don’t know if it was me or Caecilia, but one of us clicked on a link in a phishing email by accident. Next thing you know I’’ in my seller central back end and I see that we now have about 50,000 products listed in our inventory. All sorts of cameras and electronics products.

So I jump on the phone with support because I think there is a glitch and someone else’s back end is showing over my account. As we are mid conversation, I get booted from my account and can’t log back in. The support rep sends a password reset, which gets me back in. Then 30 seconds later I’m booted again and pw resets wont work.

These fuckers took over our entire account, changed all of the settings around and even changed all of our company policies to say that if you want to order you need to email some bogus gmail address.

I’m happy I was on the phone with support as this happened because he forwarded me over to the fraud department. They immediately locked down our entire account and made it so the hijackers couldn’t withdraw the payments balance, which at the time was around $15,000 that Amazon owed us. We then had to sit and wait for 3-4 days until they did an investigation. Throughout the investigation our account was locked so we couldn’t sell anything. Of course this happens to us in the middle of the summer. Eventually we regained control and fixed up our policies and everything again. I didn’t do the actual calculation, but we definitely lost between $5-10,000 worth of revenue because of this hijacker.

A few weeks later I noticed that Amazon kept splitting up my parent child variations. This one was totally on me. I had been exploiting a loop hole in their “SizeName” variations template. Typically SizeName is reserved for small, medium, and large versions of the product. What I was doing was selling my entire book of products on each page and classifying them under SizeName variation. Instead of “Small” my size names were “Grill Brush + Digital Thermometer.”

This strategy worked for a good 2-3 months and brought in a bunch of extra sales across all the product lines. Amazon was on to me now though so I had to fix everything up so I was in good standing. I used bulk upload templates to automatically fix all my listings and change them from SizeName to ItemPackageQuantity, which means how many units they get per order.

Instead of selling 2 different products, I could still sell different quantities of each product and give discounts for the higher quantities. This worked for every product listing but the meat claws. In the back end, there is a field for “Package Quantity” for each product. Once it is set it is stuck like that in the system. When I originally created the Meat Claws product on Amazon we put the number 2 in there because there are 2 per set. But it really is supposed to be a 1 because you get 1 box with the order.

Instead of fixing it myself, I called up support and had them walk through live with me the process of fixing the listing. The system is so fragile that even with the support rep helping me, it got confused over trying to change the ItemPackageQuantity field. The only solution was that we had to delete the Meat Claws product listing and wait 24 hours for the system to clear before adding it back in again.

We did that and lost a full day of sales. The next day I called up support again to help me re-add the Claws back in. Everything got messed up again and we had to delete the listing again and wait another 24 hours. On the third time around we finally got everything to work and get back in there, but then it took another 3 days for all of the reviews to come back to the listing.

At the end of this whole mess, we ended up losing probably about 4 days worth of our regular sales volume on the Meat Claws, which of course resulted in another couple thousand dollars of lost revenue.

This time it was all my fault though because I should have never been exploiting the loophole in the first place. Definitely makes me wonder if it really is worth it to exploit short term tactics versus playing by the rules. We probably made more money while the strategy worked than we lost in those few days of missed sales, but it easily could have been much worse.

My Quest To Become a Polyglot

For quite a few years I have thought that it would be really cool to be someone that spoke multiple languages (polyglot). When I was in Ireland I did the Irish Rosetta stone for a few months. Picked up some key words and phrases, but never got anywhere close to conversational.

When I was in Montreal, I religiously did the French Rosetta stone every day for a couple months. Again, I never gained even close to the fluency results that I was hoping for.

About a year and a half ago I read an article on Tim Ferris’s blog about language learning. In the blog it talked about this guy and how he has broken down language learning to a science. Based on the techniques he follows, he can become conversationally fluent in a new language in 3-5 months. The blog post was really awesome, so I decided to add the book to my wish list on Amazon.

A couple months ago I finally read through the book and I have been learning French ever since. So what is the secret sauce behind this technique?

First off, the technique revolves around spaced repetition learning. When you are trying to learn something, you can jam it into your short term memory with rote repetition or you can use spaced repetition to drive it into your long term memory. There is a bunch of science behind why spaced repetition works, but the idea is that you learn something and then right as you are about to forget it, you learn it again.

The practical application of spaced repetition is using what is called a Leitner Box. A Leitner Box has 7 levels to it and if you can advance something all the way past the 7th level it is mathematically ingrained into your long term memory and you will never forget it. On level 1 you learn a word. If you get it right it goes to level 2. But on Level 2 you may not see that word for say 3 more days. Each time you get it right, the word advances another level and the spacing gets longer. On level 5 you may not see the word again for 1.5 months. If at any point you miss the word, it drops all the back to the 1st level and you need to advance it all the way up again.

Managing all of this on your own would take a while and get confusing, so we use a software called Anki that manages this whole process for you. This is the core tool of the process.

Now we need to make flash cards that we will use to learn and review the words. Instead of school where you may do a full section on Greetings and then a full section on Fruits, we start off with a Frequency chart for the language. The frequency chart is the list of the top 600 ish words used in everyday conversation in the language. This way we are focusing on the absolute most important words and shooting straight for conversational fluency.

Next we need to associate a picture with each word. In my opinion this is where Rosetta stone fails. In Rosetta Stone they provide all the pictures for you already so there is no meaningful connection made in your head that links the word to the picture. Just the whole process of searching for a picture of a baseball player throwing a ball for the verb “jeter” forms a bond in your mind.

So we add in the picture of the guy throwing the ball, the word Jeter and we go to Forvo.com to find an audio clip of a French person saying Jeter. Now when we study we see the imagery, we can read the spelling, and we can hear the pronunciation of the word on each flashcard.

Note that there is no English involved at all on any of the flashcards. This is because you don’t want to be constantly translating back and forth in your head. You need to use images and study French completely in French if you want to really learn it.

The system itself is great, but what really makes it incredible is the ease of use. If you want to become fluent then you need to study a little bit every single day. I often skipped days of Rosetta stone because it’s hard to find time to sit in front of your computer to study every day. With Anki, I load everything up on my computer and then export the file into my dropbox. On my phone I have the Anki app and I just import the card deck directly from dropbox. Now I can quickly study whenever I want because it’s on my phone and it gives me reminders if I haven’t studied yet that day.

I have been at it daily for probably almost 2 months now and according to Anki, I have 592 cards in a Mature State and 459 in a Young/Still learning state in my memory. That’s a lot of progress right there! Just the other day I started a 2nd deck where I am now learning the verb conjugations. Getting all of the tenses down has been a little more difficult than just learning the vocab, but in another month I expect to be able to start putting full sentences together for tons of different conversation topics.

[Update – Writing this from Chopin Airport in Poland while waiting for my flight to Lithuania. I just left Paris with my sister for 4 days. I never got a chance to study conjugations as much as I would have liked because of all of my recent travels. However, I was very conversational in Paris and could understand and get across whatever we needed in any situation. Another month or two and I think I’ll be able to hold full conversations about a variety of topics]

Ramping Things Up Into Hyper Drive – Mike O’Donnell

Posted on March 25th, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I can’t believe it has already been a month and a half since the ASM event in Vegas. I’ve made a ton of progress over the past few weeks in terms of ramping the business up and getting ready for the madness of summer.

 

A large part of my progress can be attributed to the fact that Caecilia and Dorothy are managing almost all of the day to day tasks in my business. I’ve winded down Hyacinth Marketing so I only have a few clients left. I upsold the remaining ones so I’m actually making more money on them and streamlined the operations so I’m personally doing less work.

 

For the first time in my life, I can truly say I’m spending the majority of my time working on my business instead of in it. Instead of getting bogged down with day to day tasks, I’m building a lot of systems and delegating more and more to Caecilia and Dorothy.

Leveraging Big Data From Big Companies…For Free

 

I’ve been experimenting with scraping for about 2 years now. I’m not a programmer, but I can understand the core elements of html and css and piece things together to do what I want them to do. Up until this past month, I would consider myself a complete novice when it came to scraping. Now I would consider myself an absolute expert. I’m doing tons of cool shit with scraping and am honestly addicted to it. I just want to scrape websites for the sake of scraping them just to see if I can do it!

 

One of our highest ROI activities is to give free products away to bloggers in exchange for a review. We reach their entire audience and get a review out of the deal. Some bloggers get upwards of 30K views per month, so it more than pays for the small cost of shipping the product out to them.

 

The other day I told Dorothy to build a list of about 100 bloggers that we could use to send products to. It took her at least 5 hours and her list was shotty at best. I knew there had to be a better way. There’s a website called www.tomoson.com that I used in the past, which connects brands with bloggers so you can do reviews. I canceled my subscription though because it was $90 a month and the only real value they have is a trust score that lets you know the blogger isn’t going to disappear on you before leaving a review. So I started thinking about it and figured why have Dorothy do all the leg work when these guys already have all the information on the bloggers compiled?

 

I started doing some more research into scrapers and spent about 4 hours one night getting nowhere with it. Later that week I tried again and was able to get some of the data I needed but not all of it. On my 3rd foray into cracking Tomoson, I was able to scrape their entire database of bloggers. Approx 18,000 to be exact, and completely categorized by niche in a tabbed out spreadsheet. Boom Baby! I’ll get back to how I’ve utilized this in a bit…

 

Shortly after scraping the Tomoson database, I commented on my friend Pete’s post in our Blacksmith Camp (Lithuania Entrepreneurs) facebook group and mentioned how much of a bad ass I was. A few days later Pete messaged me and told me he was developing a new software that hostels could use to run/manage their businesses. He was wondering if I could get a list of all the hostels in Europe.

 

All that “wasted” time I spent figuring out scrapers turned out to be pretty helpful because I was able to get this one on my first try. I went over to Hostels.com and scraped their entire database. In 4 hours (scrape time. My time approx 30min), I sent Pete a tabbed out spreadsheet of every country in Europe, broken down by every city in that country, broken down by every hostel in that city. I think it was about 26,000 rows of data in the spreadsheet!

 

Pete was obviously ecstatic about the goldmine I just sent him and he offered to pay me anything I wanted for it. I told him that since he was starting a new venture to save his money until they are cashflow positive. At that point he could pay me whatever he thought it was worth to him.

 

A few nights ago I was speaking with Justin’s wife Dreama. She recently started her own paleo chocolate pyramids food brand. She’s doing really well and starting to pick up distribution all over Vancouver. She also has a local celebrity Cross Fit/Radio personality as her brand ambassador helping her promote the chocolates.

 

She knew from speaking with Justin that I was using bloggers as a source of PR and wanted to see if I could teach her anything. Her case was a bit difficult because she can only ship locally since it is a refrigerated product. That means we could only use food bloggers located in Vancouver. Very niche case in terms of scraping big data, but I set out to see what I could do.

 

In an hour I found a list on UrbanSpoon of Vancouver food bloggers. Scraped the entire thing and sent her all of their information along with the categories of food and restaurants that they typically review. She absolutely loved it and sent the whole spreadsheet over to her intern who is now contacting all of them!

 

I also sent Dreama my entire operating procedure for blogger outreach (20pg) and youtube tutorial video explaining how I set up all my systems and have my outsourcers managing the entire process for me. It felt really great to be able to give back to Dreama and Justin like that after they have given me so much over the years.

 

Remember my business partner Ben from Montreal? We had a chance to catch up the other day after not having a serious conversation for almost a year. We’ve kept in touch over facebook, but honestly no excuse to not have a good convo in that long. Ben is a fast learner, so I actually spent about 15 minutes and explained exactly how to scrape to him and what softwares to use and gave him a quick live tutorial.

 

The next day he messaged me and was super excited.

 

“I mostly cater to professional services and IT firms… I attended an event for IT CEOs 2 months ago and I now have a list of all the participants, their title, their emails, the size of the business
[9:24:03 AM] Benjamin Beauregard: powerful shiznit!
[9:24:13 AM] Michael O’Donnell: It’s your new secret weapon
[9:24:26 AM] Benjamin Beauregard: you’re my new secret weapon
[9:24:31 AM] Benjamin Beauregard: lol”

 

Amazon has a list of what they call Hall of Fame reviewers. The status is determined by how many helpful votes your reviews have. If you get a review from an HOF reviewer it’s a big deal and you can literally see your sales increase over night because they are thorough reviews and people trust them.

 

So of course, I went ahead and scraped the entire list of HOF reviewers and all their contact info and now added it into our product launch to get at least 3 HOF reviews on every product and have them voted up to the top so they are front and center for all potential customers.

 

Was that enough examples of how bad ass scraping can be?

Building a Blogger Out Reach Process For Mass Publicity

 

Scraped data is cool, but you need to have the systems in place to be able to utilize it. Sweet I now have 18,000 blogger’s information, but do I do with it?

 

First thing I did was ship the excel spreadsheet off to Heidi to clean it up and make all of the data look nice. She’s my data entry girl and she spent probably about 10 hours working away at the spreadsheet. I definitely don’t envy that job, but she didn’t mind. After Heidi was done with it, the spreadsheet was pretty much ready to import into my new CRM system, Highrise.

 

We trimmed the list down to about 9,000 bloggers in our niche (Mommy, Food, Home and Garden, etc.) and added custom fields so we could tell what products they reviewed and when, what their unique blogger id was, address and shipping information, etc. Pretty much everything we would ever need to know about each blogger was uploaded into the system and is easily searchable. I can now do a quick look and find only US based bloggers who have reviewed our grill brush, but not our grill set, use rafflecopter for giveaway promotions, and has X amount of social media following. It’s pretty sweet!

highrise

 

So now that we had this entire searchable database, it was time to build a process so we could efficiently work it. I streamlined Dorothy’s gmail address into the CRM so she could send emails without ever having to leave the system. I then created template emails (initial contact, reviewed different product in past, 1 month follow up, etc.) that she could literally click 1 button and would auto populate the emails for her.

 

The goal is to get up to 1 giveaway per product per day so we have a constant stream of blog reviews coming in from around the internet. We did about 30 giveaways total over Christmas to generate that ridiculous amount of buzz we got! She spends about an hour per day on blogger outreach right now. I can only imagine what it will be like when we get up to full speed.

 

Dorothy does all of the communication with the bloggers to set up the reviews. We then give them the option for us to ship it to them or for them to buy from amazon and we refund them the money. This is sweet because we are generating sales velocity on amazon from giveaways as well. She then gets their shipping info and sends it over to Caecilia.

 

Caecilia goes into the backend of our fulfillment and sends out the product to the blogger. She then responds to Dorothy’s email with the expected delivery date of the product. Dorothy communicates with the blogger and then sets a 1 month reminder in the CRM system to follow up if the review hasn’t been posted.

 

Once the review is posted, Dorothy adds the link to our SEO software and promotes it on social media to help generate more traffic. She then pins all of the pictures to pinterest and adds the blogger as a contributor to the pinterest board. This means that any time in the future the blogger uses our products, they can pin a picture to our board. We are effectively leveraging our bloggers and customers to build our social media presence on Pinterest! I’ll talk more about pinterest later, but this is ridiculously beneficial because they are doing all the work for us.

Implementing Professional Helpdesk Software

 

I never knew how powerful and useful helpdesk software could really be. Now that we have it, I’ll never go back. Just having the peace of mind that it brings to the business is providing the foundation for my rapid listing expansion that I’m working on in the next couple weeks.

 

Caecilia used to respond to customers by logging in directly through Amazon. I get customer emails in my outlook as well so sometimes I would respond. On some occasions emails could be marked as read, but never responded to. It was just a very amateur way of handling customer service from an operational standpoint.

 

With HelpScout, emails are never marked as read or unread. They are just open or closed and it keeps all communication together so no customer is ever over looked.

 

I also added in Smart Automation into the help desk. Now, when emails come in, they are automatically tagged based on the product the customer ordered and the channel they ordered through. Using those tags, we can sort the emails into different folders. By having the sales channel on there it helps keep things so much more organized. Did they order a grill brush from amazon, a meat claw set from shopify, or maybe a bulk order of 3 thermometers and 1 grill set from 11main.com? With auto tagging it makes the back end operations so much smoother.

 

When Dorothy sends emails to Caecilia, they automatically get tagged as blogger outreach and ship now. We also tied the help desk over to our CRM so everyone automatically gets added into our CRM system and tagged in there so we know their information and purchase history. Even if they have purchased from different websites and different times, we can merge the data based on overlapping information (ex: email) and create 1 profile for them. All of this is done automatically.

 

I used to have a bunch of Notepad documents in Caecilia’s dropbox for our frequent responses. Just like I did in the CRM, these are now templated out so she just clicks a drop down and 90% of the work is done for her.
Before we had the help desk, I really had no way of measuring Caecilia’s effectiveness. Now we have all sorts of automated reports that can tell me what is going on in customer service with just 1 quick look

scout convesions

scout productivity

 

 

See the average response time? We need everything to be under 24 hours. In my opinion, she is really toeing the line. We had a conversation about response times this week because a couple slipped through to 48 hours. In the past when that would happen I would normally catch it and respond myself. Now I get alerts when these things happen and I can more effectively manage our customer service. It’s Awesome!

Tying Everything Together With Task Management Software

 

I really struggled with training Dorothy over the first couple months. I had my detailed written outlines and video tutorials on how to do everything. I knew she went through them all and I did some live demonstrations with her to make sure she completely understood everything. But time and time again she would mess things up or skip steps.
I started looking into the Hyacinth Connect (my training resource center) analytics and it was obvious that after going through the training she never really went back to reference them. When you have 38 Steps involved in publishing a blog post, you can’t possibly do it all right by just keeping it in your head. You have to follow the system and constantly refer to your framework. Same thing goes for our video submissions which have over 24 steps involved.

 

The number of steps involved may seem ridiculous, but I want to make sure we get the absolute most benefit out of every piece of content we product in terms of publicity and SEO value. We are going for super high quality on everything instead of just churning out content in mass volume.

 

In Dorothy’s Hyacinth Connect dashboard she has access to almost 30 different operating procedures and trainings on various tasks that she is supposed to perform. Caecilia has about 8 different tasks that she is required to perform. In the past I had them giving me daily reports, but that didn’t really do much to ensure all of the tasks got done on time. Not every task is a daily task and I already have too much on my plate to keep track of everything they are doing and making sure it was all done on time.

 

Setting up Asana (Task mgmt software) has been an absolute game changer in terms of management and productivity. I can now create tasks and assign to either Caecilia or Dorothy and know that it is going to get done. If it doesn’t then I can track and follow up on it. In order for Dorothy to start a blog post, she has to duplicate our Blog Post Template Project, which already has prepopulated in there all 38 steps in chronological order. There is no skipping steps or missing anything because she literally has to check off each box and mark is as complete before she can advance.

Example of Standardized Product Launch Template with Tasks and Sub Tasks

Example of Standardized Product Launch Template with Tasks and Sub Tasks

 

Dorothy is finally starting to catch stride and she is doing an awesome job. I’m finally using her at her full potential and I can tell just by talking to her that she is absolutely loving her job. There is firm structure in place so she always knows what is do and how to do it, but there is a ton of freedom involved as well and I let her use her creativity and I respect her input.

 

Caecilia on the other hand is having a little bit of difficulty adopting to the task management software. She has never really had much structure when working with me, so this is more of a change for her. She is also still an hourly worker so she has to manage other clients as well. Hopefully soon I can full time her and then make sure she completely adopts into the new processes and ways of doing things. She’s at about 30 hours per week now so come summer time we should have plenty more work for her.

 

I also downloaded the Asana app on my phone so I can see what is going on on the fly. Since Caecilia is struggling to adopt at the moment, I actually subscribed to her task feed. Whenever she completes a task I get a notification on my cell phone. She doesn’t know that I am being notified, but in the mean time it is helping me keep track until she becomes better.

Heading Back To Lithuania For Sovereign Academy?

 

A little early to jump the gun on a guaranteed acceptance, but I’m liking my chances. I just submitted my application video for this year’s camp last week and I’m amazed at the amount of progress I’ve made in just 6 months. It was also really cool to compare my 2014 application video with my new 2015 video. I ran this one by my dad before submitting and he wisely advised me to modify my ending to give a stronger What’s In It For Me reason for Simon to bring me back.

 

2014:

 

2015:

 

A few days after I submitted my application video, Simon posted this message in the Facebook group.

simon1simon2simon3

 

I know this year’s camp is going to be even better than last year.

 

Remember I ran into Yanik Silver in Vegas? When I was speaking with him I was asking about the young entrepreneurs camp that he runs called maverick next. Their website is still set up to apply for last year’s camp, so I PM’d him on facebook to follow up and remind him who I was. I’m on their list now so I’m going to apply for that camp as soon as registration opens http://mavericknextsummit.com/

Infomercial Production Has Commenced

 

I mentioned in my last post that we were working on an infomercial for the Meat Claws. This whole thing came about when I randomly stopped by the Parcel Place in Newtown to ship out a box. The owner mentioned that I had a bunch of mail in my P.O. Box that it was accumulating because I hadn’t checked it in a while. That’s the address I use for Cave Tools, but I never thought to check it regularly for mail. Inside was a letter from Landmark Direct.

 

From there we started talking and basically the deal they gave me was that they would shoot the infomercial for $7,000 with professional actors and everything like that. Then they would run the infomercial as a test market for 2 weeks. If I sell the target number of products during those 2 weeks (300 units) then they will purchase wholesale from me and I have to give them the TV rights on the product for a full year.

 

I wasn’t planning on doing any TV advertising over the next year so I was completely fine with giving up the TV rights. $7,000 is a bit expensive for a video, but they are doing a professional job on it and I will own it either way. If I pass the test market, they said they will purchase about 10,000 units at wholesale straight up. Basically, if I do well in the test market, I will turn a 20K ish profit over night. It’s a very TV Infomercial type product in my opinion so I am pretty confident we will do well.

 

The cool part about them running all the tv ads is that they only have the rights to phone sales direct from the TV. Everything else still comes through me and I get all the increased exposure and brand recognition.

 

I also priced the wholesale rate of the claws lower than I normally would for them. That way they can be profitable longer and they will run more advertising. My product inserts drive people back to the website so they can claim their free bbq recipe book. On the bonus page, I add them to my retargeting list and I also make additional offers to them. The way I see it is that this TV campaign is going to create an absolute firestorm of exposure around my brand and all of my other product sales will go up as a result.

 

I’ll post the video on the blog once it’s finished (only a few days left), but in the meantime, check out the script we agreed upon for the video. It’ll be interesting to see how closely the video comes out to what is written in the script.

Meat Claws Script #4 – Final

The International Housewares Tradeshow

 

I am so happy I did not get a booth for the IHS! I applied back in October or November and was told they were already sold out of booth space. In my head, I was just thinking I would lay a folding table out, put up a Cave Tools banner and call it a day.

 

This thing was huge! All of the biggest brands in housewares (think every product at bed bath and beyond) were there with massive booths. I’d bet the average booth spend was somewhere in the $15,000-$30,000 range. Companies built these giant structures and would send anywhere from 5-20 employees and execs to work the booths. Some even had private meeting rooms built so they could meet and negotiate with big purchases like Walmart and Target.

 

I think if anything I would have really hurt my brand by showing up as an exhibitor. Not that it really matters though because the biggest thing I learned at the tradeshow was that I definitely don’t want to go the whole retail route. It is such a cut throat game with everyone hocking the same products and fighting to the bottom on price.

 

I would grab a pizza each day and sit at a random table. Normally I would try to sit with purchasers (I could tell bc of color of their badge) and pick their brains about how everything works and what matters to them. Really interesting stuff. According to one guy, IHS is all about who can put on the biggest show and spend the most money. Kind of like puffing out your chest to show how relevant you are so the big box stores buy your stuff.

 

If I really wanted to get into retail for bbq products then the National Hardware Show would be the best place for me to go. I could go that route and try and pick up more retail accounts, but I don’t see it happening. My quality is way better than your standard mr bbq or Weber, but from a pricing standpoint I can’t compete. The price I would need to sell at doesn’t justify the marginal quality increase for the retail stores. In stores there isn’t much “selling” of a grill brush that goes on. People look at it and the price and toss it into their cart. Online I write full sales letters to show the importance of each feature and I can justify the price of the brush.

 

Online and retail are completely different environments and business models. If I went retail I would need to deal with returns, ship in pallets and change all my packaging to point of purchase displays. It would just be a totally different animal. It would also probably cost me a shit ton more money and take way longer to turn profitable. I spoke to one guy that spent 2 years and about $250,000 of his savings to develop his own soap dish and start getting it into stores. What a fucking idiot! He put his whole savings into it and is nowhere near close to breakeven. I can buy soap dishes in China and start selling them tomorrow and be in the green in 2 months.

 

When I normally go to events and shows they are entrepreneurial events. All of the attendees are business owners. This was such a corporate event and everyone was an employee for the most part. Totally different type of people and atmosphere. Made me so glad I’m not working in corporate America anymore. It’s hard to explain, but it just really bothers me.

 

The tradeshow was held in McCormick Center. The place was giant. I’m talking 4 full days of just walking up and down aisles of booths for 6 hours straight just to see everyone. The pamphlet book of companies was about 2 inches thick.

 

One of the funniest things I picked up at the show was the strong preference for American companies. You have to understand that all of these big companies like Cuisinart and Kitchenaid do exactly what I do and manufacture their products overseas in China. But everyone there is an employee, not a business owner so they don’t realize that it’s all the same shit. They understand the products are made in China, but they don’t make the connection that all of the Chinese manufacturers that the tradeshow hid in the back are actually the ones that make all of the stuff these American companies are selling.

 

People looked down on the Chinese section in the back because it was all “Low Quality” Chinese products. But when you walk back there you see all of the same products that all of the Big American Brands are selling. Execs from the American companies would go at great lengths to meet with the Chinese in private meeting rooms or far away from their booths so nobody would know who they were actually meeting with. It was actually quite hilarious.

 

I spent a good amount of time going around to American brands, taking pictures of their innovations and then going back to the Chinese section to negotiate with suppliers and see if they could do the same thing. I’ve looked at bamboo cutting boards before, but never saw one with magnets like this one American brand had. So then I went back and met a Chinese mfg and discussed it with them and they can do it for me. The magnets are a cool feature because as soon as you’re done the knife just sits right there.

cuttingboard

 

A lot of companies would also hire really cute girls to be their sales reps for the show. I would go up and talk to them/hit on them just to see their rehearsed pitches. It was really funny cause they knew what I was doing but they couldn’t not take me seriously because they had to work. A lot of times I would ask the rep or company if they would be open to letting me private label from them. AKA, They would order from their mfg and then put my packaging on it. This makes no sense because I would just cut them out and go to the mfg myself. By asking them about private label though, it would bring down their guard and I could ask a whole bunch of pointed questions about the product and sales. There was one product I really liked that the rep told me how they manufacture in Vietnam. I never would have found that product, but now I know exactly where to look.

 

One morning I was particularly hung over walking around and I came across the Mr. BBQ booth. Taking pictures is very frowned upon at the show because nobody wants their stuff to be exposed. I came across a double grill brush model and started asking a lot of questions about it and also taking pictures. I’ve seen a lot of these things popping up online and they claimed they had a patent on it. I called bull shit on the guy and he looked into it and their patent was pretty much worthless. He then started asking me some questions and I just told him we sell bbq products in our store.

mrbbq

 

I then went to the other side of their booth to get away from him. I proceeded to take pictures of a bunch of their packaging and picking up and feeling the weight of a bunch of products. The next guy that came over was seriously pressing me on questions and was getting pissed at all the pictures I was taking. Finally he read Cave Tools on my badge and asked me straight up if I was a competitor. I was like yea we sell similar products, I’m just checking out what you have. At that point he escorted me out of the booth and told me not to come back haha

 

In terms of products and ideas, I would say it was a successful show. I’m not at the liberty to just launch a whole bunch of new products right now because I already have so much stuff going on, but I got some good ideas and contacts with manufacturers. Also got some competitive pricing on my current manufacturers.

 

I am planning on launching 1 new product though that I picked up at the show, a grill degreaser spray. The company that makes it is Parker and Bailey up in Massachusetts. They have been around for years in the cleaning chemical business and are made in the usa. I asked the President about private label and he seemed open to the idea. Called him up on the phone when I got home and the wheels are in motion. This is a little more difficult than usual though because they don’t do packaging at their facility. Normally they just ship a pallet to a retail store.

 

So I’m working with a packaging facility up in Boston that should be able to do what I want. Basically Parker and Bailey will make a bunch of bottles for me and then ship them about an hour away to this packaging facility. They will then box them up in my Cave Tools designs, put the insert cards in, and then ship them all out to my Amazon warehouses. The average retail price of the degreasers is about $7.99 in stores, but online with my marketing I’ll get in the $12-17.99 range for them. My landed COGs after packaging and all the shipping will be somewhere in the $5-6 range. After advertising and sellers fees and stuff I should be able to turn a 30-40% profit margin on the product. Sounds good to me!

Rapid Product Listing Expansion

 

When we were out to dinner one night in Vegas, Shane made a comment about how you can use merchant fulfilled listings to list multiple products together. He didn’t really elaborate more on the subject, but said it was a huge game changer for him. So I wrote it down and started mulling it over.

 

In the past, all of my stuff was Amazon fulfilled. AKA a person orders and Amazon ships it out. Merchant fulfilled would mean I would have to ship it out so I always stayed away from that due to scalability issue. But the thing with merchant fulfilled is I can still parse the order over to Amazon and have them ship it out of their warehouse like normal. The only difference is that the process isn’t automated. We would have to do it manually for every order.

 

I do this when we sell on other sites like eBay for example. It’s kind of a hassle though because of the admin work involved. However, now that I have my kick ass help desk in place with auto tagging based on sales channel and product, the idea didn’t seem too bad anymore. All I needed to do was teach Caecilia how to ship products out and handle orders from multiple locations.

 

With FBA, everything has to be packaged together for you to list it. For example, If I wanted to sell 2 grill brushes at once, they would have to be packaged together in 1 sku so Amazon knew what to ship out. With merchant fulfilled, I can sell 2 grill brushes on a listing and they don’t need to be packaged together. When someone orders it, Caecilia just ships 2 individual brushes out. Same with combo listings now. I can sell a product listing of Thermometer and Meat Claws. When somebody orders it, she just ships one of each and they never have to actually be packaged together.

 

I already have people buying 2x and 3x of tons of products now where in the past that would rarely happen. If you think about it, they used to have to change the quantity field to get more. Now it’s right in front of them and they can see a discounted price for higher bulk orders. This is instantly increasing our average order value and profit per order.

 

This is a monster discovery! Think of it from an online real estate standpoint now. On my grill brush listing, I was always targeting the word “Grill Brush”, but now I can sell a 2x grill brush listing and also target “Barbecue Brush”. I can then sell a 3x listing and target “BBQ Brush.” The possibilities are endless and I can now take over a whole range of keywords to increase my exposure.

 

Normally with a new listing you have 0 reviews and 0 traffic going to it, so this would be super difficult to get the momentum behind it all. But what I’m doing is using parent child relationships. Normally they are reserved for things like sizes or colors. You wouldn’t want separate listings for each variation of the same T-Shirt, the reviews for the blue color would also be similar to the white color, so parent child brings it all together under 1 Parent Listing.

 

Each child can rank for their own target keywords, but when you click to view the child you see all the other children. So if you stumble across the 3x listing by searching “bbq brush” you also see all the reviews I already accumulated on the 1x brush and you can purchase the 1x brush at the same time. Basically they borrow credibility from each other and there is no lag in building momentum.

 

Between multiple quantity of the same product and mixing 2 or 3 products together as one listing, the possibilities are now endless. At my current product catalogue I can do something like 800 listings. I’ll never be able to do that many, but the point is that I can take out any keywords I want. I’m even targeting keywords like “gifts for men” which get massive search volumes. Normally I would never go for that because it’s too generic to get serious momentum and rankings behind, but with the borrowed credibility of reviews and the fact that all traffic on the product can see it under the parent listing, it makes total sense.

bulklisting

 

It takes a while to write and optimize each listing, but I’m starting to get pretty good at it. Let’s just say I can get about 80 listings up by next month. What is stopping me from copying and pasting those 80 listings over to eBay, NewEgg, 11Main, Fancy, and every other ecommerce site online?

 

The answer is nothing! I’ve already built the pricing and shipping models for 7 other stores so I can know exact financial stats on each site so I’m always maintaining margins. When people order on all those other places, it used to be a major bitch in admin. But now everything is auto tagged in our help desk and Caecilia is managing all of the multichannel fulfillment orders and shipping them out to customers.

 

Right now my plan is to get as many up on Amazon as possible. Then go through and copy and paste to all the other websites. I have most of my formulas and spreadsheets built and automated now. I just need to add in sales reports for each of these other websites and tie it into my inventory management spreadsheet. Sounds easy, but it’s much more difficult than it looks. I’m fine if reporting lags behind a little bit though until I get it all figured out. I know because of my models that the listings will be very profitable on the other sites, it’s just about getting the reporting to catch up.

 

Pinterest Advertising For Dirt Cheap Traffic

 

One of the big takeaways from the Ezra Firestone mastermind I did in Las Vegas was to get set up doing Pinterest advertising. A few years ago when Facebook advertising was new, it was like the wild wild west. You could get tons of cheap traffic on any offer you ran and turn it profitable. Now that everyone is advertising on facebook, it is way more expensive and harder to turn profitable.

 

With Pinterest, we are right at the beginning of that cheap stage. The difference between pinterest and facebook is that facebook is all about interest targeting based on things people have liked in the past. Pinterest on the other hand is a futures engine where people pin things to boards that they want to get in the future.

 

The promoted pins are also native to the news feed. This means that there is very little difference between a regular pin and an advertisement. People can’t really tell the difference. The strategy here is to drive people to an engaging article and then use that to sell them or you remarket to them later to sell the products to them. It’s a much more indirect way of selling to people than just driving an ad that says buy my shit.

 

So the way I set it up is I look on sites like Buzzfeed and Zergnet for viral type of headlines. Things that people click all the time. We then write an article about it to get people to the page. I’m testing out a soft sell on some products and a hard sell on some others to see what works and what is converting. Total sales on the campaign right now are in the red, but a huge indirect benefit is that I am building a large retargeting audience that we can continue to market to so sales will come in later that can be attributed to these campaigns.

pinterest

 

The actual numbers I am getting right now on the Meat Claw campaign are pretty outrageous. 1,181 visitors for only $60. At $0.05 per click all I really need to do is make like 1 sale per 200 visitors to be profitable.

 

I installed heat maps on all of my landing pages, so once I get a little more data, I’ll be able to see exactly how people are interacting with the articles and the website once they land. We’ll make the necessary tweaks and we should be able to turn pinterest into a cash cow for us.

Preparing For ASM 5

 

ASM 5 is launching in April (couple weeks) and Jarod and I are starting to prepare now. We have our own affiliate system ready so our members can promote our group to their family and friends and receive commissions. Jarod has also been working on developing more software for ASM Elite.

 

I actually backed out of the software side of things so I didn’t have to fund it and I gave him full ownership rights. In my opinion, getting into software development would be too much of a split focus for me at this time. I think there are also a lot of big dogs in that arena that would end up blowing us out of the water anyways. They can reverse engineer our stuff just like we did to our competitors. The only difference being that they have full time employees working on their software where Jarod and I would be piecing things together ourselves.

 

Jarod really wants to build his own software company so I’m happy to step out of the way and let him go for it. I still get to use all the tools for free anyways, so really all I’m doing in giving up the potential profits from a business opportunity that would make me pull my hair out anyways.

 

We have software, we have our affiliate system, we have our strategy we used last time for scraping interested people and contacting them. In terms of our offer, most of that is going to fall on me because I am the marketing/strategy guy. I’ve decided that our angle this time around is going to be more on the done-for-you side of things. We surveyed all of our members to get their opinions on us in the beginning before they purchased, what their thoughts and feelings were about ASM, what they need the most, etc.

 

Turns out that a lot of people need guidance on the actual processes and workings of running the company. I have tons of processes and guidelines I am willing to share (not giving up the house on marketing techniques though) that will be super helpful for them. The angle and the sales letter I am going to write will end up being a lot about how everyone is offering them so much Extra information when the biggest problem people face is execution. People want to know that they aren’t going to fail and our done for you scripts and processes and training will help you run your business like a pro and make sure you don’t fail. It’s going be good

 

We are also adding a lot more training into our members area. Jarod did a 30 minute presentation on the entire patents process. I just did a 45 minute presentation on outsourcing. We’re also going to add in some advertising modules in there so our content is bulked up. We’ll have a list of recommended softwares and step by step operating procedures for them to use.

 

The way I see it is that this is going to be the biggest launch ever. They just bought Amazing.com. Last time around a lot of people weren’t super trustful of amazingsellingmachine.com because they didn’t know who they were. With Amazing.com there is an instant credibility boost. Kyiosaki and Richard Branson promoted last time. This time I can see them pushing even hard and getting more big names to promote as well. Jarod and I just need to scalp the followers of these big names just like last time and we are golden. The only difference is we split things 2 ways instead of 3 ways. I would love to get an extra $30K ish dropped into my account, I really would 🙂
This is also the last time they are launching the course in the U.S. After this launch they are setting their sites on Europe and other parts of the world. Luckily for us…

I Leave For Aruba In The Morning

 

At the Aruba mastermind, one of the biggest action items is to get every single one of us up and selling in Europe. They will take us through all of the tax requirements and get our businesses set up so all we need to do is ship our products over and we can start selling. In terms of future ASM launches, this will position us as having the international experience necessary to mentor new students.

 

Originally when I was considering the whole Europe thing, all I could think of was that I would need to start a whole new brand because bbq isn’t huge in Europe. But apparently I don’t need to set up foreign bank accounts or a foreign corporation to start selling there, so in the mean time, I might as well send some products over and test the waters. Plus I’ll be able to deal with VAT issues and stuff like that on an already established business instead of adding that on top of all the new business regulations associated with a new foreign entity.

 

Coincidentally, I just got off the phone 10 minutes ago with an Amazon Canada rep. He is part of the recruited merchants team and his job is to help get Cave Tools selling in Canada. They are going to map all my listings over and help streamline the entire process so I can start selling in Canada as soon as possible. All I really need to do is ship products up there and I should be good to go.

 

Canada definitely isn’t going to be near the demand as the US is, but it will be an extra sales channel and less competition. There are some international duties I need to pay to get the products over the borders, but that’s it really. After that, I don’t need to pay any taxes in Canada from what I understand.

 

I was going to have to do this anyways for the UK, but currency conversions will be interesting. For instance, I’ll be paying for products in USD to China, but then when the products sell they will earn CAD and then Amazon will pay my bank account back in USD. Currency rates fluctuate so this could be interesting and it will definitely add a wrinkle to my spreadsheets to track all of this shit and make sure I know my numbers. I’ll also have to adjust all my pricing in Canada and the UK to accurately reflect the currency differences.

Injecting Cash Into The Medium Rare Bloodstream

 

My biggest issue last year was staying on top of inventory. Now I not only need to be on top of American inventory, but Canadian and UK and whatever other countries I decide to target in Europe. I could go into all the retarded issues and regulations I had to deal with to get my line of credit and loan, but it would just take up space and infuriate me. In short, it took an extra 3 weeks to get the money and the government owes me $250 that they probably aren’t going to give back.

 

Anyways, I now have access to a little over $100,000 worth of capital to use in the business. Aruba alone cost $15,000 but I paid for that mostly with my commissions from last ASM launch. Only about $5,000 of it came from the bank money. Besides the remaining payment on the infomercial, almost all of that money is going towards inventory and new product launches.

 

I calculated that about 80K is going to go towards just stocking up now for my core products to make sure we don’t face stock out issues over the summer. The other 20K is going to go towards ordering new products. Just like that, all the money is spent.

 

My goal for this summer is to string multiple 100K months in sales together in a row. Once my next 2 shipments get into inventory (been waiting at the dock still because of the strike), I should have a retail value of about $220,000 worth of inventory. That’s only about 2 months worth of inventory on hand at projected/desired sales levels. When you have a 90+ day supply chain that’s not enough inventory. I just placed a bunch of inventory orders yesterday, so we should be able to have some reinforcements coming in in about 60 more days. From there I will monitor and continue to place more orders as the sales increase. If I have to, I will do some plane shipments, but really hoping to do as much ocean as possible.

 

In terms of inventory requirements in Europe and Canada, I’m not sending a whole bunch right at the outset. I need to take care of my primary source first, which is America. I’ll most likely test the waters with 500-1000 units of each product and then measure to see how things go to see when I should send more inventory. The cool thing about adding international markets is that I don’t need to go through manufacturing just for them. I can group my manufacturing together into larger order quantities so I get better pricing. Then just split the shipments up based upon demand.

What’s New in the Life of Mike O’Donnell, October 6, 2011

Posted on October 6th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the 2 weeks since my first customer visit a lot has happened. On the 29th I revisited the Millevois to show them the results of my video testimonial experiment and I have to say, I knocked it out of the park. The video monopolized the first page of Google for the term “trustworthy Philadelphia mechanics” with 6 links on the first page and 2 links fluctuating on the more competitive term, “Philadelphia mechanics.” After presenting my results and discussing local search in more detail, we decided that the best way to position the Millevois was as a used car deal because there is a lot of room for growth in that area. The energy after this meeting was amazing, and both Mark and I left with our minds spinning about how great of an opportunity we had.

I followed up again with them yesterday to present my strategies for how we could position them in the used car dealership market. This is a very, very competitive SEO category of search terms, but through my research I figured out that we could break through the competition using LSEO. The basis and energy for this meeting should have been just as positive and productive as the last meeting, but in all honesty I gave a poor presentation and we both left the meeting very blah. There are tons of statistics out there on the importance of non verbals in effective communication and even though my words and facts were straight, my non verbals were horrible.

So what happened to me? Well, we started a new training on Wednesday mornings in work which forced me to wake up at 5:30am to get to work earlier. I didn’t sleep much the night before so I was dead tired, and on top of that, I was mentally strained from a long day at work. I should have known better to make a customer visit yesterday when I could have easily stopped by today and given a much better presentation. Mark could feel my lack of energy and it translated to him as a lack of confidence in what I could do for him. All the great momentum I built up with the video results seemed to go out the window. I was able to salvage the meeting and make sure we were both on the same page, but now I sure as hell know that I need to be on top of my game the next time I stop by to see them if I want to close this deal.

Apart from the sales process, I have been making progress on the business building side. I have been in contact with a small group of people from the LMASS conference who have successful Local search businesses. We are in the process of creating a mastermind group which will include a bi-weekly conference call to discuss different local search techniques and strategies. We are all in different geographical areas so this will be a great forum to bounce ideas off each other and build our businesses. I am also in the process of adding SEO services to the my product line. This isn’t final yet, but more to come in future posts. I’m also in the process of designing a website which I plan to launch in December/January so stay tuned.

 

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