Entrepreneurship is a journey. If you’ve never built a business before, if you’re not making at least seven figures a year, that’s a sign that you haven’t mastered the skill set yet to become an expert at something. Entrepreneur and founder of Self Made Man, Mike Dillard, says a single skillset one needs to acquire has to be sales. It doesn’t matter if you know Facebook advertising or Google AdWords, if you can’t sell online remotely, you’re done. Mike’s first piece of advice is to go out, learn how to sell, and master direct response and copywriting. Once you can do that, the world opens up to you quite quickly. Mike has been building his audience and newsletter now across three different companies for the past ten years. He thinks it’s a matter of always delivering value, always having their audience’s interests at heart, and really involving them in your life story and the story of your businesses because at the end of the day, if we can create the outcome that they’re looking for and help them achieve that, they are customers for life.
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How To Sell Online Remotely with Mike Dillard
Our very special guest is Mike Dillard. He built his first million-dollar business by the age of 27 in 2010. He founded a financial education company to teach others how to achieve financial freedom through investment strategies, commonly reserved for the wealthy. He acquired 8,600 paying customers in seven days. Combined, his businesses produce more than $60 million in revenue without any outside funding. His primary company is Self Made Man, which provides over 500,000 entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need in order to achieve their goals in life and business. Mike, thanks so much for joining us.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.
How did you get to 500,000 people like that? What was the secret?
It’s been a journey. I’ve been building my audience and newsletter now across three different companies for the past ten years. I’ve had people follow me and subscribe to my work from that entire time who still read. I think it’s a matter of always delivering value, always having their best interests at heart and really involving them in your life story and the story of your businesses and those companies are in three different industries and yet those folks have followed me from company to company, just because we have a fantastic relationship.
As an entrepreneur, when you were building that following, did you have a customer acquisition cost that was allowable or was it by rule? Just trying to get an idea of someone could sit down and say, “I can get a customer for $8. Let’s go spend $250,000,” but you’re only going to get $30,000 then. How does your model work?
In my very first company, we relied a lot on affiliates and affiliate marketing in our referral program. I’d say that produced about 90% of our opt-ins and customers. I quickly found that with affiliate marketing you don’t have control over your growth, other people do. We learned that lesson the hard way and then in my second company ever since then, we haven’t really had affiliates because we need to control our traffic, our revenue and our growth. Everything I’ve done since then relies on paid media. For the past two years specifically, I’d say 95% of our subscribers and customers are done through paid Facebook ads.
We drive those folks to an hour and a half long training webinar, which does a couple of things. If someone’s going to register for a webinar, they’re very committed to acquiring that knowledge. They’re going to enter in their real email address 99% of the time. We sell a product on there that’s about $1,500, which allows us a ton of room from an ads bin perspective to go out and really advertise quite heavily. On average we will get 700 to 1,000 email subscribers/webinar registrants every single day. That’s the way you take control of your traffic, your revenue and really scale your business fast as opposed to trying to do it through hustle and hard work and SEO.
It sounds like you are getting great results on Facebook. What are you doing so that you’re not 100% dependent on one social media platform?
That’s the risk we’re on right now. We’ve been playing around with Google AdWords and trying to get that to convert, but frankly after three months we’re still struggling to get that to work. We’re moving into Instagram here in the next two to three weeks and so we’ll start heading down that channel as well. The project that you and I had talked about a little bit before the call is going to give us a bunch of new abilities that will allow us to start going into YouTube as well and Twitter and Snapchat, now that they’re going to have a paid ad program as well. We’ve got our main arrow. You’re right, if something happens to Facebook, that’s our entire business and it’s a pretty risky place to be so we’ve got to diversify.
I’ve had three different Facebook ad accounts shut down in the last x number of years one. We’ve had clients that were spending millions of dollars a month on Facebook ads and one day Facebook just said, “Sorry, we don’t want your money anymore.” You already know it. I’ve learned it the hard way multiple times. I’ve got the scars. I would say don’t just be dependent on Facebook but you don’t need my advice. We’re talking about Self Made Man. You’re trying to reach entrepreneurs, any testing of LinkedIn?
Not yet. That’s on the to-do list as well. That’ll be an interesting audience because it’s primarily, I’d say more on the business corporate side, B2B. That’s absolutely an avenue that will head down because the quality of the individuals there I think is quite high.
Do you have examples of transformations that have occurred with any of your followers, people that taking your advice? I’m sure you’ve seen some things.
A few years ago, I wrote a book that has sold a couple hundred thousand copies. That book spawned probably a dozen to two dozen different businesses that are now probably bigger than mine. Young guys and gals in their twenties are finding this, having a light bulb, getting into work and here they are, five, ten years later just crashing it. One of the things that I think is interesting that we implemented two years ago, it’s really important to me that the people you’re selling a product to, especially if it’s on the $1,500 to $2,000 price range is that it gets used and that they have a great experience and that they put it to work. How could we align ourselves from a culture standpoint and a business standpoint to put ourselves on the side of our customers and their results because at the end of the day, if we can create the outcome that they’re looking for and help them achieve that, they’re our customer for life. The amount of goodwill that’s created is lifelong at that point. Two years ago, we implemented a pretty interesting moneyback guarantee for all of our courses and all of them come with a 30-day money back, no questions asked.If we can create the outcome that people are looking for and help them achieve that, they are customers for life. Click To Tweet
If it’s not a good fit, we’ll give you a refund. In addition to that, we created something called the completion challenge. We offer every student twelve months to actually go through the course and implement what we teach them and if they do that within a year and send us their work, we give them 100% of their money back. For me, that puts us on the same side as far as what our agendas are. It allows our conversion rates obviously to increase because the risk is lower. They’ve now got a year but it puts the onus and the responsibility on them at that point. For those who finish, we get a glowing testimonial almost every day from somebody who finishes. They get a check and they’re a customer of ours for life at that point and an evangelist.
A lot of times, we have courses that our struggle is first you’ve got to get them to buy it, then we’ve got get to take the shrink wrap off the darn thing and then implement it and actually get the result. I love that your guarantee has conditions attached to it. Almost incentivizing them a further way other than just you bought it, you should do it if you wanted the end result. You can have it for free if you’ll just do the darn thing.
People can’t believe it. They’re like, “I actually got a check.” It’s been a cool strategy that we’ve implemented.
You do podcasting too, Mike. You have your own?
Self Made Man Podcast to where we started it about two years ago and we average about 150,000 downloads a month on that. We do an episode a week. A lot of people ask me if they should start a podcast these days and my advice to them is absolutely yes. If you have an existing audience or customer base and you want to build rapport with them and strengthen the relationship, which is why I started mine. If the ROI from a goodwill perspective has been off the charts but if you want to start a podcast from scratch without an audience, in order to turn that into your platform, I would choose a different route at this point because it’s a really long uphill battle. There’s not a lot of money in it. There’s no way to put paid traffic towards it to grow it unless you’re selling other products that you can dump that money into it.
For many episodes you’re going to hear crickets. You don’t have enough listeners if you’re starting from scratch, unless you’re going to buy a lot of traffic like you say. It’s not an easy process. These transformations, some of these companies that have taken off and grown like that, do you ever partner with any of these folks or is this only, good luck to them and they’re off to the races on their own?
They usually become friends because if I see someone who’s really using my stuff and they’re taking action, I love to start helping those folks. Many of them have been running annual events for their customer bases and those are really the only events that I’ll go speak at and I’ll speak for free. I’ll fly out there just to support them because they did it, they really put the effort in.
For the entrepreneurs who are going through Self Made Man, what are you finding are some of their biggest challenges?
This is such a journey, entrepreneurship. It starts with choosing a company name at this point, which especially if you want to find a matching domain name is incredibly challenging these days. I’ve spent a lot of money for the last two company names, domain names that I’ve purchased. One I had to pony up $50,000. The second one was $25,000. I’m starting there. My biggest piece of advice, if you’ve never built a business before, if you’re not making at least seven figures a year, that’s a sign that you haven’t mastered the skill set yet to become an expert at something. Whether that’s bringing a specific area of expertise to the table already in your former or current career, maybe as a doctor, a nutritionist, fitness coach, whatever it may be or going out and acquiring a single skillset which in our particular case in online marketing, it has to be sales.
If you don’t know how to write direct response ad copy, if you don’t know how to have a persuasive argument and to communicate persuasively via email or video, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if you know Facebook advertising or not or Google AdWords. If you can’t sell online remotely, you’re done. That is always the piece of advice that I give. The first piece of advice that I give to folks is to go out and master skillset ideally, direct response, copywriting, learn how to sell. Once you can do that, the world really just opens up to you quite quickly.
What kind of trade shows or trade organizations do you either participate in or recommend people to focus on for making good connections?
In this space specifically, I think the Traffic & Conversion by Digital Marketers is probably the highest quality event out there each year. There are a couple of good masterminds out there as well depending upon what you’re looking for. I think Keith Cunningham’s organization is absolutely fantastic, if you’re looking to learn how to become a business owner instead of an operator. Meaning, how do you take yourself out of working in the business and put yourself in the role of working on the business? Learn how to manage your financials, your cashflows and hire and fire. I think Keith’s program is fantastic for that. I’m a part of a group called Tiger 21. There are about 550 of us throughout the world. Typically high net worth individuals who’ve had an exit. I haven’t had one yet but that’s what I’m working on and our focus in that organization is really investing deal flow, legacy, teaching your children about money and philanthropy and things like that.
They launched in Tampa I believe.
I was the founding member of the Austin chapter and it’s been awesome.
You talked about the challenges that your entrepreneurs are facing as they come through your platform. With all the success you’ve achieved, what’s your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is moving from the operator to the owner role. I’m used to doing everything myself. When you’re the face of a brand and you’re the teacher, you’re the educator, folks want to hear from you. I can’t really outsource my marketing or my copy. They’re buying into me and my leadership. It’s a very leadership asked based business and getting out of that and starting to build an asset and a company that is independent of myself and my face is my biggest priority. That’s what we’re transitioning Self Made Man into in the next two to three months, is more of a platform where essentially, I’m now the chess board or at least providing the chess board and other people are the chess pieces on the board. I can take myself out of it and really play the game at a bigger level. That’s what I’m focused on is hiring a team, building culture and that whole transition piece, which is interesting because it’s a completely different skill set from what would get you from let’s say zero to seven figures, in order to go from seven to eight or nine.When you're the face of a brand and you're the teacher and the educator, folks want to hear from you. Click To Tweet
Talk a little bit about the platform we were talking about ahead of the call, if that’s allowed.
The advice that I would give to folks is to think strategically about what you want out of your business five to ten years from now. Starting an expertise-based business like I’ve run over the last ten years is probably one of the easiest to start. It’s very easy to make six, seven figures and even eight, but there is no exit from it. I can never sell my business because it’s me. Tony Robbins can never sell his business because it’s him. That is fine until it’s not anymore.
Around five, seven, ten years I’ve been doing it, I’m a little burned out. I’m ready to build an asset that has value that’s independent of myself, so I can sell it. I can have an exit and I can go do different things. For folks who are just getting started, I would just think about what you really want five to ten years from now. Engineer that backwards and make sure that you’re on that track. I think one of the primary questions to ask yourself is do you want to build a company you can sell or not? Those are two very different companies at the end of that question. I think that’s critical. The platform for me is my strategic move into that path, if you will.
One of the biggest questions we have that was relevant on Shark Tank was, what is the exit strategy? We’ll begin with the end in mind because so many people would come in as private companies and they want $100,000 for 10% of their private company but when will we ever be able to cash out or have an exit if you’re going to stay private all your life. It’s obviously a very appropriate thing to be thinking about from the very beginning.
Kevin, do you mind if I ask you a question?
Sure, go ahead.
One of the biggest questions that I’ve been asking myself recently is we’ll be launching this platform in February. We’ll be profitable, we’ll have revenue, we’ll have a lot of customers from day one. Should I raise $3 million to $5 million, if the valuation is acceptable, to essentially scale quickly because I’m of the opinion that others who have means and the ability will see what we’re doing and say, that’s a great idea, that’s great opportunity. I’m constantly debating that question for myself.
The best advice is to think about how you could expand the business and utilizing other capital obviously. Especially if you think that there may be some other people coming in that might compete against you. In the world I’m in where we’d launch a product, in the old days I would launch a product, give the idea, I put it on QVC, somebody else would see it. Then we didn’t have the capital to put it in all the stores. They’d knock us off. They make the real money. We’d sell $10,000 a month on QVC. They’d sell $80,000 a week in Walmart and Walgreens. We started raising money and then that’s how we did our deals because we said, before we even put it on QVC, we would test it, show proof of concept, then raise the money around it, so we were able to capture the whole market.
The key thing there is not giving away too much, not giving away too much control, all those kinds of things. Generally, depending upon the market value and all of that, a $3 million raise is usually something. There’s a great appetite from people out there that want to get in on something that has a nice upside. Also, if it’s already proven, that makes it even easier. There are also those crowdfunding, are you familiar with Regulation A plus, for example?
I’ve thought about that because obviously I have a huge following. I could crowd fund around in 24 hours and fill it. The difference is you now have a lot of individuals who may be in your audience, who are not very sophisticated from a financial perspective. Let’s just say you’ve got 10,000 people who invest $1,000, whatever it may be. They probably have different expectations about how a business is run and the amount of time it takes to see a return on their investment. I just don’t think that that would be something I’d want to deal with rather than, I want to go take on some strategic investors like yourself or Mark Cuban.
The jury is definitely still out on Regulation A plus and that’s certainly one of the things to consider if you wanted any other kind of thoughts or investment bankers. You’re in Austin, there’s probably a bunch of good guys down that way. I used to go to New York and LA and there are a lot of appetite for deals that are priced at the right, especially if the risk isn’t too bad and there’s a good upside. I think if $3 million to $5 million can help you 10X your business, then I believe it’s a good thing to explore. In a worst-case scenario, at the end of the day, if it’s available and for whatever reason you decided not to, what can be so bad? You turned it down and don’t pull the trigger but didn’t know that it’s available and there it is. This is what I’m going to do with it. You can see those numbers as long as you’ve got control and you don’t have any major issues with your operating agreement and stuff like that. I would definitely say it’s certainly worth exploring, if not even saying holding the trigger to say yes.
That’s the way I’ve been thinking as well. Thank you. I appreciate that very much.
Mike, for those of our listeners and viewers who are interested in learning more about Self Made Man and everything else you’ve got going on, what is the best place for us to send them?
MikeDillard.com would be great.
Thanks, great episode and we will see you next time.
About Mike Dillard
I’ve always believed that the greatest achievement each of us can strive for in life is to have the ability to create the world around you, so that it matches the dreams in your mind.
This is how the most advanced city in the world sprung from the desert sands of Dubai in less than 10 years.
How Bugatti built the 253 mph Veyron. How Steve Jobs created the IPhone. And how Paul Allen And Burt Rutan built Spaceship 1.
Whatever that dream may be in your mind… Whether it’s unlimited time with your family, a new dress, the chance to work full-time for your favorite charity, to design your dream home, or change the future of mankind through your leadership…
Having the financial means and the courage to say, “yes, I can make this real if I want”, is the ultimate expression of freedom that each of us can experience.
I approach life with a core belief that anyone can accomplish anything. That not only can one man or woman make a difference, but that it’s one man or woman who always makes the difference.
Hi, my name is Mike Dillard and I’m grateful that that our paths have crossed. My mission, and my purpose is to empower those who want to change their life, and change the world for the better, with the knowledge and skills they need to do so.
If you’re an entrepreneur, or want to become one, I believe I have some insights and experiences that can help you make an incredible impact in the lives of others.
When I’m not working, I do my best to experience as much as I possibly can during the short window of time we all have here…
In 2008 I received my first taste of motorsports during an off road excursion trip driving through the magical place that is Baja Mexico. I was hooked. Six months later I found myself on the starting line of the longest, and most dangerous race in the world… The Baja 1000.
If you’re one of the few people on the planet who’s ever had the privilege of a steak dinner and a cold beer at Mike’s Sky Ranch, we’re clearly kindred spirits…
Today I spend my free time racing in the SCORE and HDRA off-road series, and with the construction of the new Circuit of The Americas racing facility here in Austin, I’ve started to transition my focus to road racing in an effort to follow in the footsteps of my friend Patrick Dempsey.
When I’m not flying down a track at 160 MPH, you’ll find me at my ranch in the Texas hill country chasing chickens, feeding goats, tending to the organic greenhouse, or pinging steel with some 7.62.
And when I’m not in Texas, you’ll find me waving a stick at some trout in the mountains of Colorado, or traveling the world in search of the best food and fun that it has to offer.