How I Went from Near Bankruptcy in My First Year to Six Figures With No Contacts, No List, and No Business Experience
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I know, I know.
You read the title and said to yourself, “Uggh. How many times can I read one of these marketing articles telling the story of rags to riches? So played out!”
You know what I have to say to you?
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I don’t care if you’ve heard this story before. You know why?
Because it’s relevant!
And for another reason.
Mine isn’t a rags to riches story. It’s a rags to comfortable middle class story. And one of the best ways for people to learn is through story. So I’m going to tell you MY story.
While stories like mine seem to permeate the internet they are SUPER valuable for people getting started in business, people experiencing a downturn, or just anyone who needs to know that other people JUST-LIKE-THEM have been able to overcome the challenges to find success.
So there I was.
It was the mid-2000s and I was 25 years old. I had spent the previous two years working for a dog training company in Boston, dog training being my passion.
My wife had become pregnant, as is wont to happen.
We had already decided that whenever we had a baby that she wanted to stay home with our kids.
There was a problem, though. Boston is expensive! And a dog trainer salary was tiny…
So we decided to move to Utah where we had previously lived. I didn’t think there was any way we could make money training dogs, so it was decided that I’d go back and try that college thing again.
Hopefully getting a college degree would make me a real adult, worthy of a job where I could go to an office and stuff, using words like ‘synergy’ and ‘let’s unpack this’, in between trips to the water cooler.
As it turned out, I was only able to suffer through a partial semester of college before quitting in a fit of insecurity and self-loathing.
Here I was now, with a young child and, oops, another child on the way.
Did I mention that moving from Boston to Utah cost a few thousand dollars and just those few thousand dollars put us in a position where we were almost bankrupt.
I’m talking, one expensive car repair and it would have been game-over.
Have you ever been there? Or felt something similar?
Even though I was just a kid and had no business experience my back was against a wall.
I was trying to support my small family, with another one on the way, with a $12 an hour job in a factory working graveyard shifts as the sole provider of our small family.
I had two things going for me:
1- I was (and still am) a bloody good dog trainer
2- For years I had been studying marketing. Everything I could get my hands on. Anything free, that is. But I understood the basics of website conversion, sales, copy and public relations.
So I was going to use dog training and copy to get myself out of this problem. Here’s how I did it:
– I put together a website that was copy and story driven designed to create leads. I put an opt in form on each page (something that dog trainers STILL aren’t doing a decade later even though I have a podcast and have been preaching this for years to other dog trainers) and started doing basic SEO to get traffic.
I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve only realized this later, but if you’re at the top of your game and truly niched you will almost ALWAYS find that your competition isn’t doing what you’re doing.
You may think I’m wrong. You may say that you’re in the weight loss niche, for example, and plenty of people are killing it in your niche and that competition is hard.
But you haven’t truly niched down, more than likely. You’d probably find that your ACTUAL niche is fat loss, muscle gain, within 50 miles of Denver, especially for women who work a 9-5 office job.
And when you discover your EXACT niche, you’ll likely find that your competitors are fumbling quite badly.
I understood my niche.
I knew that I was marketing to women who were between 25 and 45 who lived within a certain area in Utah who had problems with dog aggression.
I wrote to that person. I got to know that person. All of my copy, all of my emails were designed for that person. SHE was my niche, and I worked hard to treat her right and learn to better solve her problems.
I can promise you that if you’re starting, if you’re starting over, or you’re somewhere in between…getting to know the person that you are uniquely put on this earth to serve is one of the best ways to grow or save your business.
– I got attention.
I put together a site built for my ideal customer and then I got attention to that site.
I was in a tough spot, though.
I was able to do some free stuff to build my SEO but if I was going to make some real money I needed to get some real attention.
And I didn’t have any money for advertising. Not a drop.
I paid $10 a month for my website builder and hosting (this was before WordPress was so popular) and that was about the end of my budget.
So here’s what I did.
I found out that April was National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. Every month has a million ‘somethings’, no doubt that this month has something dedicated to what you do as well.
Utah’s biggest morning show had three DJ’s who were all animal fans. So I called them. Over and over. To their business line, not the on the air line..
Finally I talked with one of the DJ’s and informed them that it would be almost criminal if they didn’t dedicate some time to this national special month.
She agreed and asked me to write an email she could share with all of them to see if they liked the idea.
I labored over an email dedicated ONLY to how talking about dog training on the air would benefit them and their listeners. I gave ideas for what could be talked about and how I could help.
In other words, I made it simple for them to say yes. This radio show needed content EVERY DAY. I just made it easy for them by laying out exactly what the story would be and how I could make it happen.
That first time I went on the radio I came home to over a dozen voicemails of people asking for help with their dog (I couldn’t even afford a cell phone, they had left messages on my landline).
The spot was so successful that soon I was going on the air every week. That lasted for years and got a ton of eyes on my website.
That first year I brought in about $107,000.
You may be wondering what else I did besides having a website and getting on the radio.
A ton of things!
Most of them did nothing to grow my business and only kept me in busywork.
At it’s core your business is only three things:
1- A killer product or service
2- A platform that educates people about your product or service (in my case a website)
3- Putting eyeballs on that platform
I wish I would’ve understood that better from the get-go.
I wasted time on things that were tangential to those three things.
But I did enough of those three things that I was able to grow myself a little business that has now grown much bigger over a decade later.
What are you doing that is tangential to those three important things? How can you hone in on ONLY paying attention to making sure you’ve got a killer product, a killer platform, and plenty of eyeballs on that platform?
This is a guest post by Ty Brown. Ty tripled his business in two and a half years using stories and persuasive copywriting. Now he speaks, writes, coaches, and consults with other businesses on how to do the same. Find him at Ty the Speaker.