Let’s talk about how to make some money.
Better yet, let’s talk about how to start your own “kitchen table” direct response business… even if you don’t have any money to get started.
That’s not EXACTLY true. You do need a little money to get things going… about $200 or less.
If you’re so broke you don’t have $200 bucks, (Believe me, I’ve been there) sell your television to raise the seed capital you need.
Even if your project doesn’t work out, you’ll STILL be better off, in my most humble (but accurate) opinion. Your TV isn’t doing anything but wasting your time and lowering your I.Q.
Successful people have big libraries. Broke people have big TV’s.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it cuz it’s true.
Let’s move onward, my soon to be kitchen table entrepreneur amigo.
What exactly is a “kitchen table” direct response business, you ask?
It’s a business you start “boot strap-style” at your kitchen table with very little money, equipment, inventory or… actually… without much of anything at all… except that rarely used gray matter between your ears.
I started my business with nothing but a yellow notepad and ball point pen… literally. And 16 years later, it’s STILL supporting my bad habits of sleeping indoors and eating… along with a few other guilty pleasures.
Knowing what I know now… if I had to do it all over again…
This is EXACTLY how I would start again today…
But with a few little tweaks I’ll reveal later.
Let me take you back a few years to my exploits as a teenager in Barberton, Ohio.
(Actually… more like a couple DECADES… but let me delude myself, OK?)
I was the typical skinny kid tired of getting sand kicked in his face. I wanted to bulk up so I could kick some ass when necessary… and hopefully attract a few ladies. (I’ve accomplished both, by the way.)
So I started buying muscle magazines, bodybuilding courses, nasty-tasting protein powders… and other assorted “goop” that was supposed to transform me into a mini version of “Aaahnold” in 6 to 8 weeks.
None of that stuff actually did that… but some of it DID get me closer to my goals. So I was hooked… and was a rabid mail order customer of bodybuilding products.
When I discovered this mail order/direct response business stuff, naturally, the first niche I chose was bodybuilding. After all, I was already a customer in that market and I understood the hopes, dreams and desires of the customers.
Plus, I figured I was going to continue reading bodybuilding publications and buying products in that niche anyway… so I might as well make a few bucks, too.
If I would have chosen a niche like mini donkeys (which is probably a pretty good niche) I would be bored to tears. As profitable as that niche might be, I have no interest whatsoever in it. No matter how much money I make, it would feel like a J-O-B.
But the bodybuilding niche was FUN.
My very first little project was initially a dismal failure. But after some tweaking, it was a success. Not a HUGE success… but it put some extra coin in my pocket and eventually grew to where I was able to quit the dead-end civil service job I had grown to hate.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about what YOU think about me.
No, seriously… enough small talk. Let’s get down to business.
Here’s a “blow by blow” of…
First Kitchen Table Entrepreneurial Venture
It all started when I wrote a little bodybuilding manual called A Genetically Average Joe’s Guide To Gaining 20 lbs. of Muscle In Eight Weeks.
Stupid title, I know. That’s what my friends said, too.
See, I made the mistake of sharing my little project with a few friends and co-workers. They made fun of it.
But hey… at least I was doing SOMETHING. They weren’t doing anything but MEDITATING about their “great business ideas”… and accomplishing NOTHING.
It’s interesting… those same people are STILL thinking about that business they’re gonna start “some day.” And they’re still broke, in debt and stuck in dead-end jobs they hate.
A bit of advice from your old pal, DD…
You probably don’t want to share your plans about starting a kitchen table direct response biz with your friends and family.
In most cases, their response will be less than positive. This post explains all about the dream stealers and how to handle them. If you plan on “raising your head above the crowd” I highly suggest you read it.
But I digress.
So to sell my little self-published manual, I took out a classified ad in one of the muscle magazines.
I wrote some spellbinding copy which I was SURE would whip my market into a rabid buying frenzy… and the checks would come swooping into my mailbox by the thousands.
The classified ad said…
“How a genetically average Joe can gain 20 lbs. of muscle in 8 weeks.
Send $7 for manual to P.O. Box 69, Flunkyville, OH 44203″
The magazine had a stated circulation of 100,000. I was really “conservative” and expected a 10% response.
I only printed up twenty copies of the manual because that’s all I could afford. I planned on printing the other 9,980 copies as soon as the orders started rolling in.
Hmmmm… let me do some advanced direct response calculations here:
10,000 orders x $7 a copy = $70,000…
Minus $75 for the classified ad…
Minus $30,000 for printing the manuals =
$39,925 left for me!
That was a lot of money for me back in 1995. I was dreaming of telling my boss to “shove it”, buying a Porsche, Rolex… and paying my rent on time.
Guess how many orders I actually got.
Go ahead… guess.
One pathetic little order.
And it was from a patient at a state mental hospital.
After all my time and effort writing the book, slaving away on my brilliant classified ad copy… and waiting two months for the ad to come out… only one person was crazy enough (literally certified crazy) to buy my book.
But did I get discouraged and give up? Nooooooooo… not by a long shot.
Heck… if you had seen the string of failed business ventures and moneymaking schemes before this one, you’d probably be shocked. (I’ll share those in a future issue. I’ve learned WAY more from my failures than successes.)
Maybe I was just too stupid or too stubborn to give up… but I KNEW I could start a successful mail order business.
So I plodded along at least trying to fall FORWARD.
I posted my experience with this failed project in an old mail order discussion board on AOL. A magician and direct marketer named Tony Blake told me to call him if I wanted some help… free of charge.
A half-hour phone conversation with him helped me turn things around.
One of the most important things he told me was I didn’t want to sell a book… I wanted to sell a “system.”
So I added some bonus reports, software, an audio recording and eventually a video. The price was bumped up to $49.97 then $77, $97… and finally $177.
Instead of trying to sell directly from a classified, I started doing small two-step display ads in the muscle magazines. The ad directed prospects to a 24-hour recorded message where they could request a free report.
I’m sorry I don’t still have the exact ad I used… but it was something like this:
Attention Hard Gainers…
FREE report reveals how to gain
20 lbs. of muscle in only 8 weeks.
Call the 24-hour FREE recorded message:
I’ll never forget how excited I was the first time I checked my voicemail and had 44 messages.
I wasn’t as excited two hours later after transcribing them all by hand. That sucked out loud.
I got smarter down the road and found a voicemail service that transcribed the messages every day and sent them to me by e-mail. (That was really cutting edge stuff back in ’95.)
I sent the callers my free report which was a sales pitch in disguise. It was just a simple letter with a headline at the top and the body copy typed in a courier font.
If you promise not to make fun of it, I MIGHT let you see the actual sales letter.
OK, here it is.
I know there are a lot of things wrong with it. When I wrote it I knew practically NOTHING about copywriting and I hadn’t read ANYTHING about how to write copy. I didn’t even know there was information available about copywriting. I just modeled my letter after the ones I saw Dan Kennedy using.
But it converted 10% of the leads into buyers.
Not bad, huh?
Oops… hold on a sec. I forgot an important part of the story…
About six months before all this… when I was struggling with one of my previous business ventures that later crashed and burned, I had gotten turned onto Dan Kennedy through some kind of lead generation ad.
I don’t remember the details but I DO remember he sent me this long sales letter crammed full of copy. The headline was so compelling I immediately plopped down in my nasty, broken down second hand sofa to read it word for word.
I bought Dan’s Magnetic Marketing System for $397 which I thought was a FORTUNE at that time. I mean… who in their right mind spends 400 bucks on a crappy-looking book in a 3-ring binder?
Me and several hundred thousand other smart people… that’s who.
Anyhoo… I carefully observed how Dan sold me his $397 Magnetic Marketing System and I figured I could do the same thing with my bodybuilding product.
So I swiped some of Dan’s ideas. Most important… sending the same free report to the non-buyers a few weeks later with a big “SECOND NOTICE” stamped in red at the top like this:
And then sending the same free report to the non-buyers a few weeks after the second one with a big “FINAL NOTICE” stamped in red at the top like this:
The combination of the “SECOND NOTICE” and “FINAL NOTICE” reports brought in an additional 8% sales.
I probably could have gotten more sales if I would have kept following up with the leads. I stopped after the “FINAL NOTICE” mailing because I didn’t know any better.
Dumb mistake. Don’t do that, OK? Keep following up with your leads until it is no longer profitable.
So I had a little system going… all operated from my kitchen table.
I transcribed the leads… addressed the envelopes by hand… stuffed the sales letters into the envelopes… and made my daily trek to the post office.
I created something from nothing… armed only with my wits, a yellow notepad and a ball point pen… and had perfect strangers sending me money every day.
It was sooooo exciting.
I was bitten by the bug and realized I would probably be in this business for the rest of my life.
Let’s review the investment
and materials needed to get this going…
* Kitchen table and chair – My Mom had given me these so my investment was zero.
* Yellow notepad – I bought a 3-pack for a $2.99
* Ball point pen – I think I used one that was left in my work shirt… so total investment… zero.
* Small lead generation ad in the muscle magazine – approximately $100. The rate card for that size ad was about $400… but I begged and cried about how broke I was and got a better price.
* Initial printing of the sales letter, stamps, envelopes, etc. – $50 or less.
* Voice mailbox – $12.95/month. (They run about $20/month these days.)
Total investment – $165.94
Is this how I would start today?
Yup… but with one additional step.
I would test my two-step campaign with Google Adwords BEFORE running it in the magazines. The call to action would be to have the prospect opt-in with their e-mail to receive the free report.
I would test and tweak everything online until the lead-gen ad and free report were all humming along at “concert pitch”… and THEN I would start rolling it out in the magazines like I described earlier.
I would also test and roll out in direct mail… but that’s a subject for another newsletter.
I just recently completed this entire process with a new lead generation campaign.
I tested it online using Google Adwords and the results were really good. The conversion to buyers was OK, too.
But when I took it OFFLINE in the magazines… the response was overwhelming!
And so far… with only the very first follow-up mailing (snail mail… NOT e-mail) the conversion to buyers is 300% better than the online results!
With my ongoing direct mail follow-up sequence, I fully expect to bring in at LEAST another 50% to 60% more buyers than my initial mailing is converting.
So look at how much money… and how many new customers I’d be missing out on if I ONLY did this online.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…
If you limit yourself to ONLY online marketing…
you’re leaving a HUGE amount of money on the table!
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Don’t do that, OK?
All the best,
P.S. Would you like to start your own “lifestyle” business like this and make a few extra thousand (or a few extra HUNDRED THOUSAND) a month?