How a Twice-Bankrupt, Alcoholic Stutterer Turned His Professional Speaking Career into a Billion Dollar Movement

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Dan Kennedy Tribute

Dan Kennedy is suffering from what is considered a terminal illness—with his wry humor—which you can see from today’s update he asked to be posted under his letter. It’s an important time for some overdue reflection on the impact Dan has had on the world of business.

Everything I know, teach and produce for clients is the result of what I learned from Dan Kennedy.

Dan is an expert in so many fields: marketing, copywriting, sales, multistep marketing, direct response, infomercials, books as sales letters, licensing marketing systems, consultative sales and more things than I can think of to list here.

One skill that Dan had the most pride in was that after he delivered a sales presentation from the stage his audience and the resulting buyers liked him more after they bought him than they did before. Dan could have been as manipulative as anyone to maximize short-term revenue. However, Dan prizes long-term customer relationships over short-term cash.

And when you make this switch in your thinking, it changes everything you do.

I purchased my first Dan Kennedy book around 1996. I’ve been Dan’s customer for more than 20 years, paying him more than a million dollars. While Dan has always focused on maximizing his revenue from any given opportunity, he has also understood that you never trade cash at the expense of building relationships.

In the last 20 years I’ve watched hundreds of “successful” marketers build what, from the outside, looked like huge business empires, but with weak customer foundations, these “empires” crumbled under the weight of their greed.

When you chose to build relationships over generating short-term cash, it changes everything about what you do.

Dog Whistle

This is the most often misunderstood and overlooked gem I’ve ever heard Dan teach. The trouble is it’s difficult to appreciate the pitch of a whistle you cannot hear.

Let me give you an example of someone Dan respects, Warren Buffet. Buffet is who he is because of his performance, yes. But his ability to attract investors to Berkshire Hathaway is part of the reason he delivers such consistent performance.

Warren Buffet often repeats his two rules of investing; they are:

Warren Buffet’s Two Rules of Investing

1. Never lose money.

2. Refer to rule #1.

He gets a huge laugh and thunderous applause each time he presents these rules at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting to his audience of 20,000 millionaires who have each heard the rules a hundred times.

Buffet isn’t just fishing for laughs; he’s using these rules as a smart dog whistle that you don’t hear unless you’ve lost a bunch of money in the stock market.

If you have lost money in the stock market, you understand how hard it is to make it back. You’ve got to get huge returns just to get back to the market rate of return. And if you are retired, there’s nothing scarier than seeing your retirement savings decline in value, especially because of some advisor’s mistakes.

Plus, Warren Buffet often campaigns against high fees charged by money managers. Most people see this as a kind of public service Buffet is doing based on his insider’s perspective. It may be authentic, but it’s also another dog whistle that attracts investors away from “expensive” money managers to Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett has figured out how to use these dog whistles and others to attract investors to Berkshire Hathaway.

Few people ever understand how to create dog whistles, and thus their sales copy sounds like hollow hype. Just like my copy did until I figured it out.

Using dog whistles makes your customer think your offer was created exclusively for them, distinguishes you as unique in a crowded marketplace and attracts buyers like a pack of hungry hounds.

Always be selling

As a member of Dan’s VIP Mastermind Group, I traveled three times a year to spend two days in Dan’s basement with 19 other entrepreneurs. In 2005, with the sadness of Dan and Carla’s recent divorce looming over the meeting, Dan offered us this word of advice: “Always be selling.”

In terms of marriage, this means never taking your spouse for granted. Always treat her as if you just met her and she’s the most important person in your life. It took several years for this lesson to sink in, for both my marriage and my business.

In your business, recognize that every web page, email, conversation, invoice, customer service conversation, presentation, newsletter and anything you produce is a sales message. You may have some mundane administrative information to present to your customer, but that’s a sales message, too.

The confirmation email your customer receives after purchasing a product from you has the highest open rate of any email you send. Is that email optimized from a sales standpoint, or is it just an administrative acknowledgement? I shake my head when I see letters or emails go out to customers that were written by the accountant. They are the worst.

The content you write is a sales presentation. Dan is the best in the world at creating compelling content that sells you on him and the ideas he’s presenting. Dan has used customer case studies to teach similar concepts over and over again, but he makes each telling feel brand new because it features a unique story.

When you are in the relationship business, you can never take a day off. Every day is a day to tell stories, demonstrate your value and grow your relationship.

Innovation

From 2006 to 2009, I worked with three different information marketers who were serving the mortgage broker niche. One expressed frustration to Dan that his longtime members were defecting to buy from the newest guru. Of course, my friend thought the new guy’s content was crap, while his own was the only worthy option.

Dan told him, “Customers will always chase after the newest bright, shiny object.”

If you’ve followed Dan for a while, you’ll notice he has always turned himself into the newest bright, shiny object. During the last Great Recession when marketing became expensive and conversion was difficult, he turned himself into a sales guru and taught how to improve conversion rates to generate better ROI on your marketing investments. In recent years, he has illustrated his copywriting expertise with website-based sales letters and video sales letter scripts.

Rather than allowing yourself to be replaced, replace yourself.

There are seven relationship keys that I’ve noticed (swiped?), documented and used to grow my business. I’ve covered only three of these relationship lessons here, but I have a lot of examples and worksheets that could help you implement my seven relationship secrets into your own business.

I’d like to make all of these lessons available to you, including examples from my Dan Kennedy archives as well as examples of how I’ve applied these lessons for myself and my clients. Plus, I’ll also provide you with worksheets I created that helped me implement these strategies.

And as Dan would most appreciate, my tribute to Dan includes an offer for you: register today for Growth Summit.

Growth Summit is October 23-26, 2019, in Denver. Colorado is the perfect place to reconnect with many of the people Dan Kennedy has impacted over his long career. Growth Summit will feature a Dan Kennedy tribute as well as a program built on his business-building principles.

When you check out the agenda, you’ll notice I’m a speaker on the program, and I’m going to update my session to cover everything I’ve outlined here and more. Here’s an updated session title and description I just sent to the No BS Marketing team to update the website:

How a Twice-Bankrupt, Alcoholic Stutterer Turned His Professional Speaking Career Into a Billion-Dollar Movement
In a time when most marketers’ customer value is measured in months, Dan Kennedy’s customer lifetime extends for decades. Although an introvert, Dan has always projected a personality his customers rallied around. Reading a newsletter became a “time-out” moment to enjoy as well as to learn. Dan’s relationship marketing strategies are the most difficult to understand. This session features Dan’s “dog whistle” strategy that attracts buyers like a pack of hungry dogs while everyone else wonders what happened. Dan’s mission-based marketing makes customers feel like they are a member of a movement rather than a customer trading cash for stuff. This session also explains Dan’s decision-making approach to determining what he taught and how he taught it to maximize customer buy-in and long-term engagement. You’ll learn all this and a whole lot more. This session is exclusive to Growth Summit and will never be offered in any other venue or at any other time in the future.

Are you in? Register now.

The best honor I could bestow on Dan is to turn my Dan Kennedy tribute into a sales pitch. I can never be Dan, but I live to carry on a fraction of what he taught me. I hope to see you at Growth Summit.

About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.
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