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In this episode, serial entrepreneur Shawn Casey takes us behind the curtain of how he went from lawyer turned Internet Marketer, generating over 300,000 customers and creating wealth through product creation and affiliate marketing.
Mark Thompson: Hello, everybody. Welcome to today’s podcast. I am joined by none other than Shawn Casey. Shawn is an internet marketer. He’s been doing this for over a decade. He’s one of the first guys that I actually started following when I got into the internet marketing business. I’m super excited to have him. He is the CEO and co-founder of Success Development International and the creator of WebFire. Thank you, Shawn, for joining me today.
Shawn Casey: Hey, I am glad to be here, Mark. Thank you for the opportunity.
Mark Thompson: Of course.
Obviously, you’ve been doing this for so long. I say this in a nice way, that you’re one of the dinosaurs, with guys like Mike Filsaime and some of the others that had been around for a while. You’ve done so much. You’ve created so much wealth online, generated millions of dollars, I think, over 300,000 customers. I wanted to focus today on how you went about doing this, creating products and also generating a list of buyers, which in turn generated affiliates commissions through that list.
Before we start to dive into that, I know that you used to be a lawyer back in the old days. I wanted to talk about that, this is an interesting story, how did you start from being a lawyer to turning into a serial entrepreneur online marketer?
Shawn Casey: The short version is that while practicing law I discovered what most lawyers discover, and that is that practicing law is not all that much fun. Most people that come into you have a life-altering problem. They’re getting sued, they’re getting divorced, they’re in a business battle, something bad is happening. It’s not a happy place to be most of the time. I generally like to be a happy guy so I was looking around for something else to do, and I got involved in local real estate investment association and they held a lot of seminars for real estate investors. They’d have speakers come in from all over the country. Those speakers were selling information products to the attendees. They were selling them how to study courses and coaching programs and other seminars and workshops and things. I eventually got involved with one of them who ran a rather large company named Ron [Degran 00:02:12].
In 1995, I took over running Ron’s company down in Jacksonville, Florida. We went through 4 big years of huge growth. We’re actually on the Inc. 500 2 years in a row and and built that company up a lot all using direct response marketing principles. Direct response marketing is simply where you will run a promotion looking for response, you’re looking to generate a lead or an inbound phone call or visit to a website and turn that into a sale. Direct response marketing works very well for the Internet.
In 1999, at the beginning of the year, I actually left that position as CEO of that company to primarily focus on the Internet business I could see this is going to become the greatest direct response medium of all time. When we did infomercials back in the day on TV, and still this is the case, enormously expensive to create them, very expensive to test them and see if they would work, whereas even back in 15 years ago, you could create easily a web page or run an ad, and in a few minutes for a few dollars find out whether or not your idea would fly. If you didn’t try another one, we would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to test ideas before that. It was just a huge opportunity that I’ve been fortunate enough to take advantage of ever since.
Mark Thompson: Okay. How did you transition into creating Internet marketing, training programs and software, which I assumed you didn’t really have a software background?
Shawn Casey: That’s true. I still don’t have a software background. In fact, I started off on the info side. The first book that I created was called Mining Gold on the Internet. I created it because back in 1999, 2000, 2001, there were a lot of people selling real crop because people were just anxious to get in on the gold rush. They would buy anything. [inaudible 00:04:06] like, “Hey, I know what’s working because I’m going to actually do it. I’m going to create this book called Mining Gold on the Internet, which was I think 22 ways, they were either free or low cost that you could do marketing online. I started selling it. We actually sold6 more than 100,000 copies of that book. I’m proud to say there are people who got their start in Internet marketing that today are very successful from that book. It was the first thing they ever read, followed, did.
I talked to 2 different people at Traffic & Conversion Summit last week, in fact who had that exact experience. From there, I kept trying to create software as create successful info products and high-end coaching things. I was always really bad at software. I would hire 3 programmers to get something done and none of them would get it done. They would all take my money .
About 5 year or so ago, I hooked up with a guy named Brian Koz who’s currently my partner. He, although he’s not a programmer, really has a neck for specking out and getting programmers to create great software. Now, the ideas that we have actually get turned into real software that works fabulously and continues to work. We’ve sold I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people into different software programs, both one time and recurring that we’ve done over the last few years. It’s an amazing.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. It’s interesting listening to your story. I have a very similar story as well. I started in info products and naturally went over to software. I want to ask you why did you go to software?
Shawn Casey: I think that there are 2 … Anything additional has tremendous margins. You have the cost of creating it but after you create it, the margins to sell it are a lot. The per unit market is very inexpensive to sell. You may make a podcast and if we sold access to this podcast, after we’ve gone to the work to make it, selling it and delivering it, it’s very easy online. The same thing is trued for software of any video products or things like that.
One of the big differences is that you got … With info products first of all, anybody can copy you. I would, in fact, tell you that if you’re going to start out on the info product business, you should copy something that you know has worked from someone else. When it comes to software, it’s a lot harder for people to copy it. In an area where people can easily create and copy info products and so you get price pressure because the answer for a lot of people, if they’re not good at marketing is to just load prices on the same exact thing.
With software, you could create some very unique things, some features that will really make a difference in a user’s life and their business, and you can command a much higher price and have a greater profit margin in your product than you can necessarily do with info products. Yes, I’ve sold info products for thousands of dollars and still do, but it’s easier to sell software for thousands of dollars where it has the appropriate value.
Just so people re clear, it’s not that we make a piece of software that costs $100 or like, “We’re going to sell this for $10,000.” Now, if you did something extraordinary that no one else could do and it’s worth 10,000 to you, we would do that, but generally, that’s not the case. You’re talking about … WebFire before we ever started from letting people into beta, we spent $100,000 in development. This can get really, really expensive. Now, a lot of our other one-time still software is a lot lower cost to develop, of course. You want to have good quality development so that your customers will be able to use it and maintain the use of your software for a long time. You got to put some decent money into it.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. The next question is going to be somewhat loaded, so it might be a difficult question to answer. Like you said, you want to sell a piece of software for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, that type of product requires a ton of investment and time and knowledge. What do you say to the person who’s just starting out? It sounded like to from what you did, you started with information products, which were relatively easy to create. Creating e-book really just requires some knowledge and some basic writing skills, and then working your way up the ladder to things that are more complex software. Is that the direction you took?
Shawn Casey: Yes, that is.
Mark Thompson: Okay. For people that are just starting out, is that what you would recommend that they do is start off with something that’s relatively easy low risk and then work the way up?
Shawn Casey: Yes, I think that people get overwhelmed a lot of times by the Internet when they go try to start selling on it. I understand because today it’s harder than ever to do what most people want to do, which is they want to understand everything about the Internet before they start promoting anything. I had to be frank with you, Mark, I don’t understand everything about the Internet. I’m sure there’s things invented today that I even haven’t heard of yet and may never hear of. It’s too big, too vast a place.
If you can understand some of it, how to promote on Facebook or how to sell a clink bank product, then you have all you need to know to actually get started. You can promote and make mistakes and make money and learn and get smarter and better and just get going. I always suggest that people start as affiliate, first of all, selling somebody else’s product. Even if they have an idea for a product in mind, I’d suggest you go find the closest possible product to that product and start promoting and learn, number 1, if you can be any good at promoting because let’s say you want to make a course on how to manage type 2 diabetes. There’s, I’m sure, course out there on that. If you were to go find the top 2 or 3 or selling courses and start generating traffic for them or promoting for them as an affiliate, you could, first of all, make money doing it; secondly, you could prove that you can generate traffic and the type of traffic you generate would buy that product.
Now, having made some money, you could continue to make that money and then you could go ahead and write your book, your course, your info product on how to manage type 2 diabetes, and you now know how to generate traffic for that. You know what the buyers are like. Now, you could shift them over into buying your own product. You don’t have to go through the horrible learning curve that most people go through, which is they going to create a product and months later, some of them, not most of them, but some of them will have created some product and then they struggle to create create the sales process and the ad process. Then finally, they’re ready to try generate some traffic and they’re worn out mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically, and they’re overwhelmed and now they don’t know where to start, and then the hit the point of fear that all entrepreneurs hit but many don’t realize that keeps them paralyzed.
My friend John Reese, and you probably know John from back in the days, he’s not that real visible on the IM community in a while. John and I were doing an interview. Much like this, we were having conversation about people starting things up. He said that what he noticed of himself and others, and I’ve done notices of myself, this is not a criticism of John is that because we’re human, we get right to the point of releasing a new product and we get nervous. It’s like going for a job interview. People are going to either go thumbs up or thumbs down. If you don’t release the product, nobody tells you that it sucks, nobody ignores, nobody fails to buy it. You never give people a chance to buy it otherwise.
What do we do? We’re like, “I think it’s almost ready but my friend, Susie, that I’ve known in college who I haven’t seen for 20 years, she’s a graphic designer. I’m going to send her the graphics to look at. When she gets back to me, I think it will be ready.” It’s, “My cousin is a colorist down at the hair salon, I think she will be really good at telling me whether or not I put the right colors on the page to match them up.” We go through all of this justification for why we’re trying to perfect the product or the pitch or the sales letter or anything else without even finding out whether or not anyone will buy it.
That point of fear is hard to overcome for many people the first time out, and they have no basis to know what would happen. You have another hurdle that you have to job in order to be successful online. Easier to overcome that being an affiliate.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. It’s really just about imperfect action and making tweaks along the way. I think you bring up a good point, which it seems like this is how everyone, not everyone, but the majority of Internet entrepreneurs start out, if you can figure out the fundamentals of Internet marketing, which is list building and learning how to drive traffic, the rest can come relatively easy. To me, the product creation side came very natural to me. Once you could figure out how to build a list in audience, then it becomes much easier to monetize. Did you find the same thing?
Shawn Casey: Absolutely. One of the very first things I started doings way back in 1999 was generating an email list. In fact we’re generating email leads for venture capital funded companies in the dot-com boom who are buying those leads from us to build list because eve back then, everybody knew that having a list was going to be a very, very profitable thing. Didn’t know what it was going to look like. Didn’t know who’s going to know it. A lot of them didn’t know what they were going to sell those lists. They just knew having a list was good and people are investing crazy money in those lists. It works.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. I agree. I want to talk about, you said that you sold 100,000 copies of your first e-book, was that correct?
Shawn Casey: Yes.
Mark Thompson: Okay. How did you do it? Was [it all 00:14:46] through affiliates?
Shawn Casey: Selling it was in ad buys and things that we did. Most of it was through affiliates, a lot of it through strategic partnerships with some bigger companies. They were generating a lot of traffic where we split the front-end profits and in and some cases, the back-end profits with them. I actually went looking for big strategic partners. One of them, there’s a company called 6-Figure Income, which was really big back in early 2000s. It’s a multi-level company that was primarily based around information products and trainings and things. We became one of their standard products that people could buy every month because I had to buy a new product every month to maintain their qualification in the company. Our product became one of the products that they would buy. That was one of my best joint venture deals ever because the way it got set up. Just quickly, there’s a difference … We refer to in the our industry JVs like they all are really joint venture partners, but mostly they’re affiliates.
Real joint venture would be where people are doing something together, like if Mark and were to co-create a product or something together. What I was doing with these guys, they were going through a period of fast growth. Things are really accelerating. I actually flew to Lincoln, Nebraska to consult with the beyond the owner and the CEO and the Chief Operating Officer about what was going to happen to them as they continue to grow because as I had been through this, with growing this Inc. 500 company just a couple years before. My value to them in this relationship was really not related to the fact I had spoke I wanted them to sell it. It was something else I could give a value to them that would really help them prepare for what was going to become a life-changing experience as the company grew, and they didn’t know what to do next and what was going to break once you go through really fast stroke.
We were doubling millions in revenue year after year. You know what’s going to break, like your financial systems and customer service systems and different things, and where to be ahead of the curve. I helped them with that. They in turn, got my book sold by the thousands of copies every month. Then we did have regular affiliates. A lot of people who bought the book became affiliates.
I mentioned people are talking to a lot … I don’t know if you know [Andy 00:17:31] Harrington…
Mark Thompson: I know.
Shawn Casey: Who’s [inaudible 00:17:33] do his own stuff, was actually John Reese’s JV manager, affiliate manager for quite a while. We were just talking in San Diego. He was telling me again, he got his start on Mining Gold and was an affiliate for it. That’s the first money he ever made online. Now, he’s successful. He was at Traffic & Conversion Summit. Lot of different ways to do it. For all of our products now, we love affiliate traffic but we also generate traffic of our own where possible to sell our products because that’s so much more controllable stream. We love affiliates as I know you do, Mark.
Mark Thompson: One of the pitfalls that I see time and time again are people that try to create something and they want to do everything on their own. They’d be brand new to the industry. I do coaching, just private coaching. They want to do everything themselves. They want to create the product. They want to try to get affiliate partners onboard. One of things that people don’t realize is hey, if people don’t know who you are, they may say, “You have a great product” but they not probably not going to follow through and promote you. I think what you’re talking about with creating those strategic partnerships with other people, it makes them mutually invested into your product, right?
Shawn Casey: Right.
Mark Thompson: That’s how I got started as well. When I created my first product, I didn’t sell it under my name. I sold it under someone else who had influence in the space. Guess what? That opened up the door to tens or hundreds of affiliates that I would have never been able to connect with before. In the future, guess what? Those affiliates started promoting the for-future products. Is that how you got the snowball rolling? Just started…
Shawn Casey: Really, I was so old in this that I the lone wolf initially. That is a process that works very, very well. I’m sure most people on this call knew who Frank Kern is. Frank is a friend of mine. Here’s how Frank got known in the IM world. A process that he’s [inaudible 00:19:37] teaches people as guilt by association. We both really love a better name but it fits. Frank was an affiliate for Mining Gold. He was the #1 affiliate. Called on the phone 1 day and ask if he could talk with me. Of course, if your #1 affiliate is selling a lot of stuff for you and wants to talk to you, you talk to him. He said, “Hey, Shawn, I put together this thing and I’d like you to promote it. By the time we were done, we would be partners in it.”
We were partners in a product called Cash Flow Circle, which was one of the very first online membership programs. We charged [inaudible 00:20:13] trial into $99 or $97 a month. People got all kinds of training videos. [inaudible 00:20:19] had just came out, video was bran new to the world. We gave people lots of training and monthly interviews every month. Our first monthly interview, we interviewed Robert Allan. They’re really cool membership. We promote it and got affiliates to promote it, but it was Frank’s launch out from being a guy who was doing very good and in front of the IM community. It launched him out into his own orbit so to speak because he leveraged off of my list and the people that I knew. That got him up and running. He’s obviously gone way beyond that with his own ventures and events and everything else. That’s where he got his start.
For those of you who were like “I couldn’t be like Frank Kern” I have to tell you honestly, Frank is a guy who just works hard, studies, applies what he learned. Frank, if you’ve ever seen him on video or seen him on stage where he looks so comfortable now, we were going to teach a 2-day workshop. He said to me, “I’m completely weirded out. I have no idea how to stand in front of a room and talk.” On a webinar … At that time, on a teleseminar, we didn’t have webinars back then. “On a teleseminar, but I don’t know what I’m going to do standing in front of a room side to teach an event on Las Vegas [inaudible 00:21:42]. You just talk for an hour just to get used to it.”
He gets to the front of the room, we sell on what he’s going to say. I left the room because I was making him nervous. I got back in an hour or maybe 45 minutes, break already. He says to me, “I got done what I was going to say in 15 minutes. I didn’t know what to do, so I just tell them all to take until you came back.”
Mark Thompson: You got to start somewhere.
Shawn Casey: Now, if you’ve really seen Frank come in a room of hundreds of people from stage while wondering around barefoot, he’s come a long way.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. That’s so funny.
Shawn Casey: Again, he got his start. As an affiliate, they moved in to product creation and everything else that’s followed there.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. It says a lot to about just getting out of your comfort zone. One thing I have known, and I’m sure you’ve seen just from the evolution of the Internet, video has become such a large part of product creation, building your brands, everything. One of the things I was never comfortable with years back was being in front of the camera. I just forced myself to do it. In the beginning, it was just really just me in front of the camera and just recording it and just seeing how I presented myself, and just like anything practice makes perfect. Now, it’s just second nature and same thing with what Frank was doing the first time you threw him up on stage.
Shawn Casey: Exactly. Exactly. He did very well once he had to be up there. Obviously, he’s gone on to do great things and help a lot of people with his marketing.
Mark Thompson: Great. Before I let you go, I wanted you to just briefly talk about WebFire. I know that’s your main businesses in a box per se. For people who don’t know what WebFire is, if you wouldn’t mind, just a quick few minutes about what it is and how it can help other Internet entrepreneurs.
Shawn Casey: Sure. WebFire is our suite of software that focuses on traffic and lead generation for any web business. It doesn’t matter if you have a website or not. We’ve got tools that help. They go through a broad variety. I won’t run all that down right now. We had WebFire members were about 4 years now and we’re heading into WebFire 3.0, which is going officially to the existing members less than week from now. The general public will get access or can buy access shortly thereafter. The new version of WebFire takes all of this to a whole new level.
We’ve built a lot of automated tools to do a lot of things that will make you get your leads, do things like … For instance, we’ve always had unlimited tracking for ranking of websites and webpages, but now we’re taking things 1 step further with [cutting 00:24:42] some artificial intelligence that tracks automatically all of your websites every day to see if the rankings have gone up or down. The moment we see any adjustment to your pages or to any of our members’ pages, we alert you. The system is constantly checking for updates that you could make to your pages that we’ve seen work for other people. For example, somebody finds that adding these kind of links into their page or to their page has boosted them up on average of 20% in that search engine rankings. We’re going to notify you if we see that you’re missing that, that you should add that to your pages.
Literally, it’s like having Big Brother in your own Big Brother in this case looking on over your shoulder and automatically managing all of your sites and their rankings for you and keeping track of everything, so you won’t be wondering what happen if all of a sudden your traffic dies off. You’ll know if your page went down, why we think it went down. Or if it went up, what you did that was really good and you keep doing more of it. Just got a lot more automation that we’ve ever had before on top of the other powerful tools. We’re very excited to demonstrate this coming up here in a couple of weeks.
Mark Thompson: Yeah. A full disclosure, I have been an affiliate for WebFire. It’s been fun to see the evolution from 1.0 up until 3.0 coming out in a few weeks. I’m super excited to get under the hood and play with some of the new tools. I know you guys had been working hard behind the scenes. I know you can go to webfire.com and check it out. I’ll have a link for you guys in the show notes below, so you can check it out if you want to. Again, at full disclosure, I am an affiliate. It’s an amazing suite of products. It’s been fun to see the evolution.
Thank you, Shawn, for coming on and sharing your story in how you got started in all about product creation and affiliate marketing. It’s been fun to learn from you just over the last 7 or 8 years that I’ve been in the industry. Thanks for coming on.
Shawn Casey: You’re welcome. Appreciate the opportunity. I wish everyone to have a very successful business.
Mark Thompson: All right. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.