My guest today is the founder and CEO of Digital Marketer, under which he blogs and coaches for the Digital Marketer Lab and other training courses. He started marketing online from his dorm room in 1999 and has worked in over 500 different markets.
In the last three years, my guest and his team have invested over $15,000,000 on marketing tests and generated tens of millions of unique visitors.
My guest is also a sought after public speaker and consultant and his work has impacted on over 200,000 businesses in 68 countries.
Now, let’s hack …
In this 36-minute episode Ryan Deiss and I discuss:
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Jonny Nastor: Hack the Entrepreneur is part of Rainmaker.FM, the digital business podcast network. Find more great shows and education at Rainmaker.FM.
Voiceover: Welcome to Hack the Entrepreneur, the show which reveals the fears, habits, and inner battles behind big name entrepreneurs and those on their way to joining them. Now, here is your host, Jon Nastor.
Jonny Nastor: Welcome back to another episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. It is so, so very cool of you to join me again today. I’m your host, Jon Nastor, but you can call me Jonny.
My guest today, he’s been around for a long, long time online. If you go back to the early 2000s in online marketing, there was a few big, big players, and my guest today is one of those. I’ve been following his work for over 10 years at this point, so I’m very, very, very excited to have him on.
Today, he is the founder and CEO of Digital Marketer, under which he blogs and coaches for the Digital Marketer Lab and other training courses. He started marketing online from his dorm room in 1999 and has worked in over 500 different markets.
In the last three years, my guest and his team have invested over $15 million on marketing tests and generated tens of millions of unique visitors. My guest is also a sought-after public speaker and consultant, and his work has impacted over 200,000 businesses across 68 countries.
Now, let’s hack Ryan Deiss.
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Welcome back to another episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. Today, we have a very, very, very special guest, somebody I’ve been wanting to speak to for like possibly a decade — long before my show, but Ryan, thank you. Thank you for joining me.
Ryan Deiss: Really, a decade?
Jonny Nastor: It’s got to be. I would say three or four years before I ever figured out how to create a business online, you were part of that whole scene that I saw existed originally. Aren’t you the original forefront of Internet marketing?
Ryan Deiss: Yeah, I shudder to think of some of the crap that I put out back then, but I appreciate the fans.
Jonny Nastor: I don’t verbatim remember everything. Don’t worry. I don’t remember that way, but there’s a couple of, I would say, three of you guys from that original that I would love to talk to. I got to speak to Jeff Walker already, and now you.
Ryan Deiss: I’ve got some good stories about this crew and how that happened, but to the extent that people care, for the most part, they don’t. That’s awesome. I’ve been a long-time listener of this show, so it’s cool we had a chance to meet and finally connect.
Jonny Nastor: Yes. All right, Ryan, we’re going to jump straight into this.
Ryan Deiss: I’m ready!
Jonny Nastor: Ryan, as an entrepreneur, can you tell me what is the one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes so far?
Ryan Deiss: I think if I were to go back and look, in the beginning, it was accidental, but the overarching philosophy of every business that we’ve started and everything that we do today is that they’re all market-centric. I’ll explain what I mean by that. Most of the people that I see who have a big hit and then they’re gone, and you’ve seen these things — the one-hit wonders.
It doesn’t just happen in business and entrepreneurship. It happens in entertainment. It happens in fashion. I think about like the piano key tie. Do you remember that? Do you remember the piano key tie?
Jonny Nastor: I kind of wish that would come back, actually.
Ryan Deiss: Maybe it will. This is the thing about businesses that are built around a product is they’re here, and then they’re gone. Tastes change. Trends change. Fashion changes. Stuff goes in and out of style. Things get old. Then they come back again. I’ve always been in a number of different markets. I didn’t start out in ‘Internet marketing’ and talking about it. I started out launching different businesses and different things to try to just make extra money. Then people said, “Oh, can you come and talk about this?” The next thing I knew I was an ‘Internet marketer.’
Jonny Nastor: A really good one, too.
Ryan Deiss: I still don’t believe that’s necessarily a thing. I always said I’m a business owner. I’m an entrepreneur who happens to do digital marketing, but that’s probably another topic. Anyway, all that said, for me, I always wanted to make sure that, when we went into a market, that we really were there to serve that market.
I tell my team this all the time: “I don’t want to be the guy that invented the piano key tie.” That guy, I’m sure, made a lot of money until he didn’t. I want to make sure that every business we build is Chanel. Chanel has been around for decades, and they will be around for decades because Chanel advocates for a particular type of woman. That woman’s tastes can change. As long as they’re listening to her and they’re there to meet those needs, then they will change along with them.
If you look at all great companies, they do this. You look at Apple. Throughout the years, Apple has advocated for a particular type of person. That’s where they can roll out all these different product after product after product. They were originally Apple Computers, and then they’re just Apple. They’re like, “No. If we’re going to truly serve this market, then we need to give them lots of stuff.”
I think that’s a big thing. One of my overarching philosophies is a product does not a business make. A product does not a business make. You have a business when you live to serve a market, and now, there’s no sacred cow products. You launch a product, and it does well — or you launch a product, and it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. You move on to the next.
You’re constantly trying to iterate. You’re constantly trying to bring the new and the great to your market and just figuring out, listening — what do they want? “How can I serve you today?” I think that’s been the thing that’s kept us around in every market we’re in. That’s why we’re still there. We never got fixated on a product. We got fixated and fell in love with a market.
Jonny Nastor: I love it. “A product does not a business make.” You make it sound easy. Would you have an example of the last market that you guys entered, or a market that you entered? I’m sure people are listening and like, “Okay, well, that make sense, but do I enter the Chanel market?” Do you know what I mean? “Or do I enter the Nike market?” I know you are in some interesting markets right now, which I have no idea how you would have decided to end up there.
Ryan Deiss: Yeah. For us, this is another thing. I think a lot of entrepreneurs limit themselves to the markets and the things that they are passionate about. You hear that a lot. That’s why you have a lot of people talking about content marketing and talking about all this different stuff — because that’s what they’re passionate about.
For me, I’m passionate about business. I don’t have to be really excited about, for example, when we went in to the survival and preparedness market, I wasn’t that passionate about that. I don’t even like camping, but I knew that people were. We always have, in these companies, someone who is passionate about it. I don’t think you can remove passion from the process. It just doesn’t have to be you.
I see myself as a publisher. I see myself as a producer. I see myself as an owner. Just like with a sports franchise, it’s not the owner of the team dribbling the basketball down the court. They’ve got professionals that do that.
For me, when we go into a market, I just want to know that it’s there, that there’s a market that has begun to aggregate, and they’re looking for stuff. When we went in the survival and preparedness space, we saw an opportunity. We connected with someone who was passionate about it, and we went into that market. That’s how Survival Life was born.
We then found that, in our list of survival people, we actually had a lot of women on that list who weren’t really interested in the survival stuff. They were interested in the gardening type things that we published and homesteading and those types of deals. We spun off another property, and some of them were interested in more projects.
Same thing, we own MakeupTutorials.com. Another property there’s a market there, people who love beauty. I’m not passionate about makeup, but people are. So let’s go and serve them. I think if you don’t limit it to what you know and you go and find the people who are passionate about it, the opportunities become endless.
Jonny Nastor: I find it really interesting, because like you said, how you don’t consider yourself an Internet marketer. You have Digital Marketer, and you do teach how to market and how to write copy, how to do SEO, like paid traffic. You do teach Internet marketing stuff there, but at some point, you decided, “Wow, I’m going to go into 20 different markets as well,” to make more money, obviously, not just try and force it to grow this one avenue, which is brilliant.
Ryan Deiss: I’ll speak to that just a little bit. I was in a bunch of different markets before I was teaching Internet marketing.
Jonny Nastor: Oh, okay, so then you became known, obviously, for Internet marketing.
Ryan Deiss: Yeah. That was accidental. I launched my very first business from my college dorm room in 1999. I was selling different types of software and plugins. I was selling pop-up blockers, oddly enough. I was selling different types of virus removal things. Then I got into the e-book side of it, and I had e-books on how to make your own baby food and all this other stuff.
I was in over 200 markets and just going to different marketing events as an attendee. I would talk to the speakers, and I was just telling them what they’re doing. They’re like, “Oh my gosh, you should be speaking on this.” As I got to know these different people, then they started asking me to speak on their stages. When I would speak, people would say, “Can you create a course on that?” “I guess I can.”
You mentioned Digital Marketer. Digital Marketer, really, it’s current incarnation is only about three years old. That’s because I finally said, “You know, there’s a lot of people here.” We were doing big events. We do Traffic & Conversion Summit every year.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, which is full house.
Ryan Deiss: Traffic & Conversion Summit, I think we’re going to do our seventh one. In 2016, it will be our seventh Traffic & Conversion Summit. We were doing Traffic & Conversion Summits when it was just me and my business partners saying, “Hey, let’s just do an event for the folks that are on our list.” People would show up. We didn’t have a website for the marketing side of our business. We would produce the occasional product and give it a website, but we never treated it like a company.
It wasn’t until I said, “No, there’s a market here that we can serve,” and in our market that we served with Digital Marketer is small business owners. That’s our big thing. We want to serve business owners and the agencies serving small business owners. That’s the market that we advocate for.
You see us teaching and talking about marketing, but there’s a lot of things that we used to talk about –launching a book on Kindle and doing all this other kind of niche side things — that we don’t talk about anymore because Digital Marketer is market-centric. The reason that we chose the name Digital Marketer is because I knew there was going to come a time where the term ‘Internet marketing’ would become passé.
There are also just so many chucklehead Internet marketers out there calling themselves Internet marketers, and they’re really just, again, chuckleheads. That’s just trying to be nice instead of using more colorful language. It’s a family show after all. I also realize it’s not about the Internet. It’s mobile. It’s digital. It’s everywhere. That’s why we did that.
Everything that we’ve done has come out of recognizing that there’s a market and saying, “I think we can serve this market. Let’s do it.” The decision — and this is an important point. This is especially important for all the entrepreneurs out there — most people preach focus, and I believe that focus is important. I can do focus in chunks, but I also know that I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I want to go in there. I want to tinker.
Part of the reason that we launch so many different companies that we go in to so many different markets is because, if I don’t start something new, I’m going to break something old just so I can then go in and fix it. I know I will do it because I’ve seen me do it. I’ve seen me do it so many times. That’s the reason we go into these different markets. Opportunities everywhere. We just grow and grow and grow. Each time we do it, we bring on more team members, and the things have grown from there.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it’s amazing. “We have to launch something new or else I go back and break something old.” Obviously, when you were starting out and solo, or earlier on like 1999, you didn’t have this huge team around you. Did that hinder you? Because that seems to be an entrepreneurial thing, right? We want to jump from thing to thing. We want to try a whole bunch of different stuff.
Oftentimes, it completely holds us back. It completely stops us from actually focusing at least long enough to make something work, then move on to something else, and let that keep going. How did you rectify that in your head and in your business when you didn’t have these people that you could push into a market, push into an idea, and then you could go tinker with something else?
Ryan Deiss: It was totally dysfunctional, and I ultimately imploded. I said...