Influential Following


“Are you a leader?”

She felt like she had never led anyone before, so she answered the question with an honest “no” and sent in the application. She knew the university was looking for leaders (they had said so in their advertising), so she did not expect to be admitted.

A few weeks later she received this response from the admissions committee:

Dear Applicant,

This year the university will admit 1,455 new leaders to our incoming class. We thought all those leaders would need at least one follower, so we are pleased to grant you admission.

Read More

Working for Yourself: Case Studies Needed

Rerouted-Stream Friends and readers, I’m still going through all the notes you wrote in the recent product development survey.

First of all, GREAT feedback. I’m amazed as usual. I know you’re probably getting tired of hearing this, but I really appreciate the fact that so many of you are enjoying the site.

To be perfectly honest, I hope I never get used to it, because I don’t want to take your time or opinions for granted. I closed the survey at about 300 responses just because I had so much data to look through and I don’t want to miss anyone. I do read every single word you have to say, and we’ll do another survey later on.

So… what did I learn? A lot of things.

Read More

Live from Heathrow Terminal 5: Knowing Your Audience, and a Quick Survey


Greetings from the colossal series of structures known as Heathrow Airport, 45 minutes from central London on the underground. When the new Terminal 5 opened a while back, it was a huge mess. Thousands of travelers were stranded, the computers failed, and luggage had to be driven to Italy on a truck.

Many months later, Terminal 5 is quite nice. While I’m sure there’s a lesson somewhere in that, at the moment I’m just happy to be traveling again.

After avoiding the U.K. for at least two years due to the drop of the dollar, I’ve returned on a quick stopover between Washington, D.C. and Port Louis, Mauritius. I turned my 7 hours of transit into 31 by moving my onward flight back a day, and then used the extra day to stay with Naomi, Jamie, and Jack Dunford – otherwise known as ittybiz.

Read More

Sitting Out the Global Recession?


I’m about to get on a plane and head out to Washington, D.C. by way of Seattle and Chicago. After a few days there, I’ll begin a longer journey to several countries in Southern Africa. Expect more about the trip later. For now, something else has come up – specifically, the small matter of the global economic recession.

Unless you live on another planet (you never know), I’m going to assume that you’ve noticed it too... and there are probably as many opinions about what’s happening as there are readers of this post. Today I want to look at one specific question:

"Is it possible to completely avoid the effect of a serious global recession?"

Read More

Expanding the Pie


It’s time for a confession: lately I’ve been stuck in a mindset of scarcity. Instead of focusing on abundance, I’ve been thinking about petty things. Naturally, I don’t like this, but I’m not sure how to fix it.

One of my heroes is Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man who runs 200-mile relay races as a solo competitor, runs 24-hours straight on treadmills in Times Square, and generally just runs a lot. Like anything else like this, some people “get it” and some people don’t.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Dean where he was asked about some recent criticism. Apparently some people are upset that other people think he is awesome. Instead of responding with “WTF?” – a response I would have found suitable -- Dean gave a very cordial and thoughtful answer:

I’m not trying to take more of the pie for myself. I’m trying to make the pie larger for everyone.

Read More

Creating a Legacy Project


In the spring of 2007 I was feeling stuck. As amazing as they were, the four years I had spent in Africa were fading off into the distance. In my new life I had migrated to Seattle, entered graduate school, started a new business, and began traveling independently to faraway places during school breaks.

These were all good projects. Grad school, check. New city, check. Business, travel, volunteer work, marathon training, check. But despite the fact that these were worthwhile ways to spend my time, I knew something big was missing:

I had no legacy project, and it really bothered me.

I thought of a legacy project as something I’d create that would outlast me; something I could point to years from now and have more than just memories to show for it. In other words, I wanted something tangible and documented for anyone who wanted to see it at any time in the future.

As I was looking for a new focus, I considered a few options that initially seemed to be good choices ...

Read More

Site Update: You, Me, and Your Group

Group Conversation
Group Conversation by Mr. Willie
In the nine months that people have been following along so far, I’ve met up with readers in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, New York, Tunisia, and Cairo – and many of you have sent other invitations that I haven’t been able to accept (yet) due to schedule conflicts. In the second half of 2009, I hope to get more organized with this and start doing a few meetups that are planned in advance so more people can come. Every week I hear from someone I’ve missed on a recent trip, and I want to get to know more of you. I also want to begin connecting with groups of people (especially small businesses and non-profits), and one way I’ll be doing that is through some limited teaching and speaking. Over the next few weeks I’ll be planning out the first part of my 2009 goals and schedule. I did this recently with travel planning, and next week I’ll do everything else. Naturally, I thought I’d let you know what I have I mind with the group work, in case you have an idea about an opportunity that might benefit both of us. I’ve worked with groups for about six years now, as a leader, director, board member, and outside agitator. After shying away from consulting for several years, I now do it twice a week for people seeking to solve specific problems. I want to do something like this next year on a limited basis for a couple of groups who are doing great work. What I Can (and Can’t) Do The short summary is that I challenge groups to be remarkable. I talk about combining personal goals and service to others, as well as finding a way to do what you want while helping other people at the same time. I like to honor people who are doing great work while encouraging them to go further. I’ll tell a few good travel stories in any talk I give, but there’s usually a hook – I want to help, not just entertain. I also like facilitating workshops on lifestyle design and being on roundtables with cool people. Collaboration is good. I feel at home with small businesses, non-profit organizations (especially groups working on international development), and churches that aren’t afraid of being challenged. Unfortunately, charities and non-profits are not immune from the lure of mediocrity, but thankfully there are a number of them that really want to change the world. Those are the ones I enjoy connecting with. Lastly, I am not a good person to do motivational speaking in the traditional sense. I’m not going to tell a car dealership to go out and sell, sell, sell. If I was going to talk to a car dealership, I’d probably tell them they were in the wrong business, and they’d probably tell me to leave. I’d like to avoid that, and besides, the market for salesmanship is well-covered. For group meetings or speaking opportunities, I’m looking mostly at starting here in the Pacific Northwest (from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, Oregon) because that makes the logistics easier, but of course I’m not one to restrict anything based on geography. Show Me the Money Charity Donation My speaking and teaching service is currently in beta mode, which doesn’t mean I’ll give it less of a 110% effort. All it means is that I don’t want to get paid for it yet. I do need to have my travel expenses covered, and if your group normally pays outside speakers, I’d like to donate the money to a charity that we both agree on. But otherwise, I’m willing to do this at no charge for the right group. If you’re changing the world somehow, the least I can do is help out where I can. If you represent a group that would be interested in connecting, please send me a note with details. ###

Read More

Survey Results: What I Learned from 250 of You in 34 Countries

Survey Results - from 34 Countries!
Globe by Bumblebee

Yesterday I met with a friend of mine who is going to live in the Sudan for at least the next year. She’ll be in Khartoum (the capital) half of the time, and in Darfur or South Sudan the other half.

A real-life aid worker! I used to be one of those, before I moved back to the land of lattes and 9-to-5ers. Those were the days, right?

Talking with someone who’s leaving the U.S. for Darfur (and is actually excited about it) was a good reminder of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Whenever I find myself getting away from that persistent and urgent question, something always happens that reminds me of it again. Hearing from many of you through the survey last week was another good reminder. It caused me to realize, yet again, that I have a good thing going over here and I need to be extremely devoted to keep on improving it.

I’ll tell you more about that, but first, here’s how I did the survey.

I stopped the survey at the first 250 responses, because 250 is a good sample size and turned out to be quite diverse geographically. If you missed out, don’t worry – I’ll do another one after we get the site redesign up and running. Also, you can always write me or post a comment on any post.

Also, a note on surveys -- if you have any kind of business web site or even just a personal blog of your own, I highly recommend doing your own survey to learn more about why people come to your site, what they like best, and what you can improve on. I use SurveyMonkey for this – they have a free version, but the $19.95 monthly version provides many more options. Barring that, you could also do a manual version and sort the feedback yourself in Excel.

Who You All Are

OK, on to the information. In addition to the largest group of readers from the U.S. and Canada, I heard from people in all of these countries:

New Zealand, Germany, U.K., Netherlands, Russia, India, Belgium, Austria, France, Slovakia, South Africa, China, Bulgaria, Bahamas, Romania, Mexico, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia, Kenya, Argentina, Finland, Croatia, Liberia, Israel, Lithuania, Spain, Sudan, and Poland

Most of those responses came through in the first few hours. I knew from the site statistics that you guys are from all over the place, but it’s a different feeling altogether to hear from you.

I’m so glad you all are reading – thanks so much for being so cool.

On the survey, I asked a few open-ended questions and a couple of general, introductory questions:

What do you do during the week?

  • 62% Work for Someone Else
  • 32% Work for Myself
  • 17% Go to School
  • 8% Retired / Unemployed / Professional Surfer
I gave people an “other” field here, and got a range of responses. Several people said they currently work for someone else but were “working on changing that.” Someone just said, “Be awesome” – I liked that. Others are authors, programmers, stay-at-home parents, and an assortment of people who do more than one thing.

What do you enjoy the most about the site?

  • Personal Development and Lifestyle Design: 58%
  • International Travel: 22%
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business: 20%

A number of you (at least 30) said that you like all three and did not want to choose between them. Sorry about that! Forcing the choice in the survey helps me to see the trends, but I don’t have any plans to change the general topics. Several people noted that they were originally interested in travel or entrepreneurship, but like how I incorporate those topics into personal development. Thanks – I do my best.

I have tried from the beginning to stake out a general marketplace of ideas without being highly-specialized. This was not necessarily a strategic decision, by the way – it was more just a reflection of who I am and what I wanted to write about. I am absolutely terrible at working on anything I’m not motivated by, so that’s why I write about unconventional living through several different activities.

A Few Highlights

Here are a few quotes from the survey:

Keep up the 'tough love' writing, don't go easy on us! I need a good kick in the pants most of the time!

Me too. That’s why I do it – for all of us who care enough to push beyond mediocrity.

I think more could be done on the topic of aiming big. Achievable is all good and well, but the best growth comes when you seek for something you fear may be impossible.

Well said. Thank you.

More interviews / case studies / specific details of how people are living unconventionally, following the recommendations in your ebook, etc.

Yes, we are reviving the profiles series soon and will be featuring more people.

As much as I love your long, thought-through essays, I'd love to see more short posts as well.

This is a tricky one. I like the way this person put it, because a number of people took one side or the other (“I’m glad you write longer, more thoughtful posts” vs. “The posts are too long.”) I’m thinking about finding a way to do a mixture of the two without compromising the style I’m getting comfortable with.

More step by step advice would be great. I love action steps!


Maybe more real world tips on running your own business


Specific outlines of how you plan out so many trips at once

A big request was for more detailed planning resources, especially for international travel and solopreneur world domination. Thanks for asking. It seems some of you guys like knowing all the details about how I do what I do, so this is part of the plan.

Lastly, I enjoyed this request:

Free beer! Just kidding.

Well, if only you hadn’t said you were kidding…


Please note: at least 200 out of 250 responses said something very interesting or helpful. If I haven’t mentioned it here, please know that I have read (and re-read) all your comments. In fact, I didn’t ask for email addresses in the survey, but I wished I could have written most of you back personally. If you’d like, feel free to write me on the contact form to say hello or ask a question.

Survey NotebookImprovements and the Road Ahead

More and more, I feel a sense of responsibility to continue moving onwards and upwards with this project. When I started nearly 10 months ago, I thought that I’d write mostly about my travel adventures and the goal of visiting every country. I’m still committed to that goal and am looking forward to making more progress in 2009, but the focus has definitely shifted to something much bigger.

This is due in large part because of you and your input, and for that I’m grateful. I have learned a great deal along the way, from successes and setbacks alike. If I haven't always gotten it right, stick with me. There will be more learning and personal ass-kicking involved along the way.

In response to the more personal information that it seems people enjoy the most of all, I’m also going to stretch myself a bit in this area.

For example…

  • I’ll tell you exactly how my new small business is doing, including actual revenue and expense figures

  • When I travel, I’ll tell you exactly how I do it (specific itineraries and tips), where I stay, and how much money it costs

  • My next non-commercial manifesto will be called 279 Days to Overnight Success, and it will detail how bloggers and other solopreneurs can create a new, full-time career in social media in less than one year

  • I’ve earned 140,000 Frequent Flyer Miles in the past few weeks through an interesting experiment, and I’ll show you how this worked and how you can do something similar

  • So far I have at least 75 invitations to visit readers whenever I stop by their cities. I would love to do more of this, and we may try to plan group meetups if there’s enough interest

Last but certainly not least, after the site redesign is done (see below), I want to find a way to make a few experiments more interactive. It will be fairly low-tech – I still write with a pen and notebook most of the time, after all – but the goal is to provide more accountability for everyone who says they are going to travel somewhere, start their own business, or do something entirely different.

Disclaimer: This is a Work in Progress

In short, creating the content for this site and everything related to it is going to be my most important priority for 2009. I am really excited and think about it for several hours a day.

At the same time, however, I want to be very careful not to promise too much. One of the things I heard from several people, especially those who have been reading for a while or who have purchased an Unconventional Guide, is that I underpromise and overdeliver.

That is exactly what I want to hear. I am well aware that trust is hard to gain but easy to lose – and I prefer to keep it.

There is no shortage of ideas for how to take this to the next level – podcasts, more photos, more videos, and so on. These (and others) are all good requests, but I want to make sure whatever I do is going to help those of you who spend your time following the journey. I also have to make sure I can keep up with whatever I start, and if I stop doing something, of course, I’d better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, you have long-standing permission to kick my ass.

Site Redesign

As mentioned, we are almost ready to set up the new site design. Someone asked, “Why change the design? It’s nice, subtle, and works well enough.” Yes, it is nice and subtle – and that is what’s wrong. In the survey, someone else gave the answer better than I could put it myself:

Forgive me if I sound crazy. You write about a robust and vibrant life. The layout of your site seems dull. Just doesn't seem to reflect who you appear to be.

You’re not crazy -- you are correct, and that is the crux of the problem we’re addressing. Stay tuned. I know there are many designers and web gurus out there who read this site. Once we upload the new structure, I’ll be looking for your input and critiques.


Thanks (again) to everyone who took the survey last week. 34 countries! Wow. I'm amazed, and incredibly humbled. Thanks as well to everyone (many more than the 250) who takes the time to read the Art of Nonconformity every week. I have a lot of work to do for all of you.

The next part of the work will come on Friday, when I’ll tell you all about Round-the-World plane tickets – how I use them to travel to 20+ countries a year, how you can buy your own, how to optimize the itineraries, what to watch out for, and so on.

See you then!


Read More

In Defense of Multitasking

Image of Mac Multitasking by WilliamHartz

Question: Are you the kind of person who works on more than one thing at a time? If so, you’re a multitasker, and depending on who you talk to, you may get the sense that you should feel guilty for a bad habit.

It’s hard to find defenders of multitasking these days. I asked about it on Twitter last week and heard mostly negative comments. “Multitasking is a myth… it slows down your productivity… drains your focus” and so on. It all leads me to wonder --

Am I the only one who enjoys multitasking? Should I feel guilty for doing a lot of things at the same time?

The web is full of multitasking critiques. Most of these entries contain a similar argument: when we try to multitask, we’re not able to focus on more than one thing at once, so we continually shift back and forth between different tasks. Every time we switch between tasks, we lose the time it takes us to change gears and refocus. Then, before we get fully immersed in the new task, another distraction comes along to pull us somewhere else.

How We Work

The problem is that multitasking is simply how many of us have shifted our styles of life and work over the past decade. There may indeed be some negative consequences as a result, but I think there are also benefits. Instead of reverting to a practice of "one thing, one time," perhaps it’s better to find a way to adapt to changing technology and lifestyle patterns.

You can always turn off the PDA or close down the browser, right? If you can’t, that’s a self-discipline problem, not the fault of multitasking. I confess to having that problem from time to time, but I also tend to get a lot done over the course of an average day.

I read a great book recently called The Power of Full Engagement. In some ways, it was another case against multitasking, but the authors spent much more time presenting an alternative model of work. The model highlights energy management instead of time management, something which I’ve always found to be an anomaly. (You know, how we can’t manage time.)

By focusing more on our energy (how we feel, what we’re capable of at any given time, and so on), we can schedule projects and tasks according to our own individual capacities.

Multitasking Tips

If you’re like me and enjoy keeping a lot of balls in the air, perhaps some of these tips can help:

  • Every day select two “most important” goals. These goals should become more important than all the other work you like to do. You can still multitask, but make sure these two things get done even if nothing else does

  • Make technology serve you instead of the other way around – if you struggle with learning a new tool, give up on the struggle (maybe the tool is not right for you)

  • Use multiple monitors – I do most work on my laptop, but I also have my desktop running at the same time. I keep mind-maps and another browser window open on the second monitor

  • The project and task list are the most important. Work off this, not all the other things. You can have Twitter or Gmail going, but keep the list in front of you too

  • Add several breaks into your schedule. I stop for 10 minutes every hour and do something completely unrelated to work. I read magazines, go in another room, walk around, etc.

Multitasking with Beer and Phone
Who Says Men Can't Multitask? (Image by SM)
Maybe It’s Just Me…

How do you like to work? Are you against multitasking? Do you think it hurts or hinders your productivity? Feel free to tell me I’m wrong...


For More Reading (External Links)

Think You're Multitasking? Think Again
I Don’t Multitask
LGE Performance Institute
The Art of Multitasking (Fast Company)


RSS Feed | Email Updates | A Brief Guide To World Domination

Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Read More

Affiliate Marketing That Doesn’t Suck

Image by Geek&Poke

Now that our second Unconventional Guide is out in the marketplace, and the first one continues to sell every day, I’m ready to open up the affiliate program for these and future guides.

I’ll tell you about that in this update, but I’ll also tell you why most affiliate programs aren’t worth your time. If you have a web site, blog, or any kind of business, this should help you learn what NOT to do with affiliate marketing.

The short version is:

1. Most affiliate programs are heavily weighted in favor of the merchant. The merchant gets a lot of exposure and pays a token commission to its affiliates.

2. Then again, most affiliates don’t do any work or make any sales. In some cases, this can be as many as 98% of affiliates.

3. To fix this, the merchants need to restructure the terms and the affiliates need to add value somewhere.

My goal with the project is to create an affiliate program that doesn’t suck. That may not sound like a lofty goal, but as mentioned-- most affiliate programs are fundamentally flawed.

Here is how I’m trying to fix that with the small Unconventional Guides business:

1) By Application Only. We have to know each other somewhat before you can promote something I offer. This is not meant to sound elitist; it’s just that I don’t want you to waste your time with something that is not going to help you. And of course, I also need to maintain the integrity of the brand, so I won’t allow any promotion through unsolicited email, mature sites, etc.

2) High Commissions. I pay 51% on everything, meaning that my affiliates will make more money than me. I’ll also be adding a few bonuses to the program as more people get going with this.

3) Customized Promotions. This is where the affiliate’s work comes in. Putting up banners and hoping someone will notice does not work very well anymore (if it ever did). It’s better to take the time and write up something unique about what you choose to endorse. Why should people buy it? How will it help them?

On my side, I’ll help a bit with the custom promotions. If you have a high-traffic site or other responsive community, I’ll give you a special discount code exclusively for your readers. This will help increase sales and also ensure that all sales are 100% credited to you. If you want to do an interview for your audience, I’ll do my best to accommodate your request.

Regardless of whether my program is a good fit for you, think about these questions when deciding what you are going to share with people who trust you.

  • Do I believe in the product enough to tell my friends and family about it?

  • Is it truly win-win? (Will my visitors benefit from these endorsements or ads? Will I sufficiently benefit from taking the time to do this?)

  • Is the merchant credible, both in terms of their general practices and with the specific products being offered?

  • Is there any way I can use this to compliment something I already do?

If you can answer "yes" to these questions for a particular opportunity, it's worth considering. If not, there are better things you can do with your time and energy.

If my program sounds like something you’re into, send me a note with some info on how you plan to promote the guides. I’ll get back to you shortly.


Read More

Trust and Authority: A Marketing Lesson

Trust and Authority: Shop Yourself Happy
Image by Estherase

As promised, here is the analysis and full results from the latest product launch. But first, a few notes on trust and authority – the good kind, not the kind you should fight against.

Having established that all purchases are highly emotional, and that buyers conduct an elaborate, internal analysis about price and value whenever they choose to purchase something, let’s talk know about trust.

We experience a certain combination of fear and trust whenever we buy something. The fear is that we will have wasted our money; the trust is the expectation that we haven’t. We look for immediate validation. Is the first song on the record good? Does the first article in the magazine hold my attention beyond the title?

If trust is confirmed, good. If not, we get worried. That’s why it’s important, whenever you sell something, to work hard at establishing and keeping the trust of your customers. Validation can come in many forms (and it’s good to mix it up a little), but the more, the better.

“Working for Yourself” Case Study

Two weeks ago, I launched my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. I completed this one after a month of writing, including an all-night session in Sri Lanka, and a few days of recording audio after I had returned to Seattle.

It was no exaggeration to say that I was hesitant to create a product that had to do with making money. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with making money – we all need money, and I prefer earning it on my own instead of working for someone else. Aside from robbing banks, those are the only two options (and I suppose that bank robbers are technically self-employed).

I was hesitant because I knew that when you sell something even remotely related to finance and employment, certain people get twitchy on you. They think you are up to something suspicious, even if you have an established reputation you probably wouldn't want to squander.

By the way, most rational people don’t do this, only those who were suspicious or skeptical to begin with. The rational prospects look at the offer, consider the qualifiers and “reasons why,” and then make their decision based on the value consideration. If yes, they buy; if no, they don't -- but they don't usually think less of you for it.

It’s Kind of Like Saying Who You Vote For

This week I received my early voting packet for Washington State, and I was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama. In 12 years of being an eligible U.S. voter, this is the only time I can remember being genuinely excited about electing a candidate. There are a lot of good reasons to vote for change, but for me one of the most important is that this election has the chance to restore America's standing in the rest of the world.

If you don’t like Obama, do I worry that you’ll be turned off by my saying who I voted for? Not really. I have friends who support John McCain, and I don’t suddenly think their opinions are invalid just because they have reached a different conclusion than I have. I read blogs that are somewhat critical of both mainstream candidates, and as long as they don’t hit me over the head with too much rhetoric, I don’t mind.

It’s only the people who decide that you are a bad person or somehow naïve for expressing an opinion who will get upset.

I don’t care much for intolerance anyway, so if someone stops reading because I say I like Obama, then I think they’d probably be offended at something else sooner or later.

In the end, I decided that the same kind of principle holds true for creating a product about finance and self-employment. A few people get mad because it’s “not what you are supposed to do,” and a lot of other people will happily support you. Others decide it’s not right for them, but that’s OK – because they still care about other things you’re doing. I'll show you all three groups in the analysis here.

When I launched the first guide on Discount Airfare, I was careful to explain my controversial (apparently) opinion that artists should be allowed to make money. I did that to preempt the complaints about selling a product, lest I be unfairly accused of "selling out."

This time I took the qualification process even more seriously, clearly explaining several good reasons to not buy my product at the beginning of the launch process. I did this because I wanted only the customers who I knew would be thrilled and find the product very useful to them.

The Launch Day

I always get up early when launching a new product. In this case, I set the launch time for 7am PST, and I usually need at least 45 minutes to review everything before the actual launch.

I used to launch products and web sites at 8am EST, which meant that after I moved to Seattle I’d need to be up around 4:30 a.m. to accomodate this preference – but I decided that 10am EST would be just fine for this one.

Test… test… test.

There are always a few surprises when you sell something new. No matter how many times you test things, something will always go wrong for someone. The order link won’t work, the thank-you message won’t go out, the site will go down – count on it. This is why it’s good to stay close to the phone and email during any launch.

This time I got up at 5:30 a.m., ran through all the logistics, placed a test order, and so on. A few minutes before 7:00, I made my coffee and uploaded the order page to the site.

The Response

Some of you said you liked how I was willing to share real sales figures in a recent update. I’ll do the same thing here.

My initial goal was to sell at least 100 copies of this product in the first week. Within 24 hours, almost exactly 100 copies had sold, helping me reach the goal six days early. Yay!

More copies have continued to sell every day since then, and a number of people have asked about setting up a consulting session – something I didn’t really like to do before, but now I’m considering as a limited commitment for people who have already started their very small businesses.

The total conversion rate from the first week of regular readers was about 3.4%.

Since 1% is a general marketing baseline and I deliberately tried to disqualify people from buying the guide if it wasn’t a good fit for them, I thought that 3.4% was great. If anything, I want to be sure that I don’t focus too much on this side business while I continue to work on the more important goals of getting my book contract (more on that in a moment) and building our community here.

After all, even though I sold about $4,000 in the first 24 hours, the figure of 100 buyers represents only a small subset of readers. I have to keep the focus on the reason why people come here to begin with: to hear about unconventional strategies for life, work, and travel.

You guys are why I am doing it, whether you buy something or not… although naturally, I greatly appreciate the support and endorsement of your investment.

Good News / Bad News

The bad news was that, like last time, I heard from a few people who were upset about something that seems fairly irrational to me. Without fail, these comments come in from people who have never bought anything, and in fact have never communicated with me before.

I’m going to quote from one of these emails below for your consideration:

You preach about everyone being the master of their own destiny, but expect everyone to buy your [expletive] ebook on making money. This was a good blog until you blatantly tried to rip us off. How could you possibly try to [expletive] tell me what to do?

At first I thought this guy had meant to send this message to someone else. Expect everyone to buy? Blatantly try to rip you off? Tell you what to do?

I’m at a complete loss as to how anyone could get these ideas. I actually told people why they shouldn’t buy the guide, offered a more comprehensive guarantee than any I’ve ever heard of, and said that the primary goal of the guide is to help people create their own freedom to do what they want. Ironic, isn’t it?

There’s not much I can do in these cases except say, “I wish you the best” and move on – never argue with a crazy person, my mom likes to say -- but it does make me a little sad to hear how misguided someone can be.

Anyway, I know that the vast majority of people don’t think that way. Such is life with any kind of marketing in the blogosphere, even the no-hype kind. I posted the email here not because I’m upset, but so you can see that there will always be critics out to write you off whenever you do something of interest.

The lesson for me in this case is to avoid being distracted by random, negative messages like that. Before the end of the first afternoon two weeks ago, I had 60 new customers who were excited about the new product. I should have been thinking about those 60, and then the additional 40, and then everyone else who is happy -- not one negative message that I don't feel is valid.

Here is a sampling of the feedback from new guide owners:

First of all, congratulations. You've put together a great guide. It's helpful, realistic and down-to-earth, and I think it's one of the best ebooks I've read in a while. Very well done, and I hope it gets picked up widely!

Every bit as good as I'd expected, so many congratulations on putting together such a fantastic resource. I know a lot of people will benefit from it, including me. I've been in business for more than twenty years, and my view is that it's loaded with invaluable tips and top ideas which I'll be putting into practice myself.

I especially enjoyed the strategies for starting a microbusiness - especially the parts where it's broken down into pros, cons, and next steps. Including actionable items that I could get started on NOW is extremely helpful, especially for getting me to get off my butt.

I have about 50 reviews like those so far, both from the new guide and the first one. I’ve also asked people to send in suggestions for what could be improved in a future version or an email series I’m doing for the buyers. The feedback I’ve received thus far from many of you has been excellent. We’ve already issued some new material on the basis of those comments, and more will be on the way.

What’s Next

I have three more Unconventional Guides outlined, but at least two of them won't be written until early 2009. For now I want to continue promoting the current guide and working with the affiliates who are selling it around the internet. I’ll probably do a short post on the unconventional affiliate program in the next couple of weeks, but for now if you’re interested, just check out that link and let me know.

My number-one, most important work priority right now is finishing the latest version of my "real book" proposal (it’s up to 40 pages; who knew such a thing had to be so long?) and getting the process for the publisher shopping fully underway.

Next spring, I want to take the business side of things further and do a series of webinars for those who are interested. The webinars will be like the guides, only in multiple sessions and highly interactive. Anyway, more on that later – as mentioned, the proposal completion and book shopping are the most important projects for me at the moment. Onwards and upwards.

Lessons Learned

Miraculously, I don’t think I made any huge mistakes with this product launch. I’m certainly open to constructive feedback, and I realize there are things I could have done to increase the sales further, but overall I’m happy with the results.

Here’s a couple of technical points, for those interested in the details:

  • I haven’t quite made up my mind yet about using different domains for the different products. For now, the Discount Airfare guide and the Working for Yourself guide still “live” directly on this site, although I also have a simple structure set up on I should probably decide what I’m doing with the navigation before launching the next product

  • Someone asked why I am using e-junkie and PayPal to facilitate the payments when I say in the guide that having your own merchant account is a better solution. Good question. The short answer is that I don’t want to comingle my bank accounts (at least, as little as possible) and we are coming to the end of the 2008 tax year. I didn’t really start this project to make money, but if it continues to do so, then I’ll probably incorporate a more complete payment processor in the beginning of 2009.

(If those two statements don’t mean much to you, don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything terribly important.)

The Best Lesson

When people trust you, they know you are going to put out good work. Some of them are actually willing to pay for it.

I’m tremendously grateful for that trust. Thanks so much.

And for everyone who does not want a very small business, as promised, I am not “selling out” (whatever that means). As you can see from recent posts, I will continue to write about lifestyle design, world domination, unconventional travel, and whatever else I come up with that you guys enjoy.

### RSS Feed | Email Updates | A Brief Guide To World Domination | Unconventional Guides: Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Read More

How to Create an Incredibly Convincing Satisfaction Guarantee

Image by whalt

Here’s an idea: if you sell something, think about why prospects don’t buy from you.

I don’t mean the unqualified people – there are always good reasons why people should not give you money.

But for the qualified prospects -- people for whom your product or service is a good fit -- why don’t they buy?

Maybe you haven’t done a good job with the sales copy, maybe they’re not in the right place at the right time, or something else. But at the heart of the matter, people are afraid, skeptical, or just plain not convinced.

To help prospects come over to your side of the fence, you need an incredibly convincing guarantee. This guarantee has to go far beyond an offer to get your money back.

The basic, “money back within 30 days” guarantee is no longer very convincing. It’s expected. It is the norm.

For Example

I haven’t eaten at Taco Bell in a long time, but ten years ago when I didn’t care about my health, I used to spend quite a lot of time and money over there.

Back in the day (and maybe now still, I have no idea), they came out with what they positioned as an amazing guarantee: “If you don’t like it, we’ll eat it.”

In other words, if you weren’t happy with your cinnamon crisps, they would refund your 59, 79, or 99 cents. I was new to marketing at the time, but I still remember feeling skeptical about this offer. If I hadn’t already been a Taco Bell customer, did they think this offer would bring me in the door?

I mean, my average bill for a full meal was about $2.70, so the risk was very low. They were promising to give me $3 back? Not convincing.

This is why you need to go above and beyond to convince skeptical prospects.

Not many businesses get this, but some do. Look at Zappos, which has done very well selling shoes and service. At Zappos, they actually encourage you to order multiple pairs of shoes and send back the ones you don’t want. They pay the shipping both ways, so you have effectively no risk. That’s incredibly convincing, since the idea of buying shoes online used to be considered strange and unmarketable.

For another good example, look at Kiva, provider of economic empowerment from Afghanistan to Zambia. Kiva facilitates loans between rich people (like you and me) and motivated entrepreneurs in poorer countries. They currently have a 98.6% repayment rate, which is good because the first objection most people have when they hear about loaning money to a farmer in Uganda is, “Does that work? How will I get my money back?”

98.6% is pretty convincing, I think, especially when our own banks in New York and Frankfurt aren’t doing so great these days.

As for me, you may have noticed that I will be releasing my second information product on Wednesday.

It’s called the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself: Creating Freedom through a Very Small Business.

I’m excited about it, and I know it will help many people. Since I’ve previously explained who it won’t help, I thought it would be fair to explain who it will.

Here is the goal:

  • In the short-term, the guide will help a lot of people start very small businesses which earn at least $200 a month.

  • In the long-term, some of those people will build out a series of very small businesses to escape the tyranny of traditional employment.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

I don’t want to guarantee too much, because as I’ve said before, self-employment is not for everyone and it takes a lot of work. But I also don’t want to guarantee too little, so that’s why we’re doing something unique.

The 60-Day, $2,400 Guarantee

First, the typical satisfaction guarantee applies. If it doesn’t rock your world, you get your money back. No problem.

But here is the second part.

In the first section of the new guide, I will be asking everyone to take the time to set a couple of goals for the new business they are going to start.

My second guarantee is that I will refuse to accept your money if it doesn’t work for you, according to these specific metrics:

Satisfaction Effectiveness Guaranteed

If, after 60 days, someone has read the guide, listened to the audio files, and put in a fair effort on their part (they will be the sole judge) but has not been able to start a project that earns at least $200 a month, then they get their money back even if they like the guide.

In other words, the burden is on me to deliver, or I don’t get paid a dime.

A minimum of $200 a month x 12 months = $2,400 minimum. There are no geographic restrictions or other fine print.

See, I want my products to actually help people. I’m interested in mass accountability, and this is the latest experiment.

What You’ll Get

The Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself consists of an online guide and downloadable MP3 files:

  • 55-pages of strategic and tactical info in a professionally designed report

  • 3 25-minute MP3 audio downloads

  • 1 Special Bonus (it’s not from me, so I’m not allowed to say more yet)

  • Free Updates for 6 Months
There are no shipping charges and everything will be delivered through instant download right after purchase.

As for the cost, in the future I will probably price the guide in the $60-89 range, but we’ll kick it off this week for less than that – probably around $45 or so, with a small discount for everyone on the newsletter list.

And in the end, the people who buy it will succeed at a measurable rate far greater than the purchase price, or I will insist that they keep their money. No exceptions.

Fair enough?

Oh, and one more thing: since I know this won’t be for everyone, to make it fun for the whole group we’ll be posting a few specific case studies beginning 45 days after the launch. The goal is to feature real-life stories showing exactly what kinds of "very small businesses" have been created as a result of this project.

Since I don’t know exactly what will happen, this should be interesting… but my hope is that we’ll get some people willing to show actual web sites and sales figures.


What do you think? Am I crazy to offer this kind of guarantee?

AND… if you already have a business, what kind of Incredibly Convincing Guarantee can you offer your customers? Is there a way you can rock their world so they keep coming back to you?

See you all on Wednesday morning…


RSS Feed | Email Updates | A Brief Guide To World Domination | The Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare

Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Read More