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How to Build Remarkable Products with Ramit Sethi…

This week on The Copyblogger Podcast, Tim Stoddart had the opportunity to speak with entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, and founder of iwillteachyoutoberich.com, Ramit Sethi.

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In this week’s conversation, Tim and Ramit dig into tricks for great copywriting, going for “big wins” to move the needle in your life and business, and product development that serves your audience better.

In this episode, Tim and Ramit talked about:

  • How Ramit defines a “rich life” and the origins of the concept of “big wins”
  • $3 questions vs. $30,000 questions
  • The myth of shrinking attention spans and the value of long-form copy
  • Why you need to challenge your own assumptions about the best channels for your business
  • Suggestions on how to get started
  • And much more!

The Show Notes

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Transcription:

Tim Stoddart:

Hey, what’s up everyone? My name is Tim Stoddart, welcome to the Copyblogger podcast, thank you so much for joining me. My guest today is a gentleman that really needs no introduction. Today on the podcast we have none other than Ramit Sethi, Ramit is the founder of iwillteachyoutoberich.com. He is a man that has a lot of personal impact on my life, I’ve been reading his work for years and years and years and he’s a real pro. You’re going to get so much out of this conversation. We talked about effective copywriting and we talked about what it means to go and try to go after the big wins and spend your time making decisions and working on projects that are really, really going to move the needle in your life and in your business. We’ve talked about writing how you talk so that you can write conversationally and so that your audience can build a really, really good relationship with you.

And then finally, we talked a lot about product development and we know the Copyblogger audience is always curious about how to make better products so that we can serve our audience better and Ramit is a real master at that. So you’re going to get so much out of this podcast. I was really privileged to sit down and have this conversation with him and without further ado, please help me welcome Ramit Sethi.

Tim Stoddart:

Hey Ramit, thank you so much for joining me on the Copyblogger podcast. I really appreciate your time.

Ramit Sethi:

My pleasure, thank you for having me.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, so you really are a man that doesn’t need too much introduction. Over the last 10 years, you’ve grown a really sustainable audience and you’ve provided a ton of value to people, myself included. But before we started the recording I was just talking a little bit about how much your work has affected me in my life and I’m sure I can say the same for many other people. But for the people who aren’t familiar with your work and aren’t familiar with the, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I’d like to please just open up with giving you some time to introduce yourself and talk about some of the messaging that you’ve brought and given to us over the years.

Ramit Sethi:

Sure. So my name is Ramit Sethi, I’m the CEO of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. And I know this site sounds like a total scam, it’s not. I’ve been writing the site since 2004 when I was a student at Stanford and I believe that most people want to live a rich life and I believe that most of us have gotten advice, it just doesn’t quite fit in with the way we want to live that rich life today. And most of the advice out there that we’ve heard when it comes to money is cut back on lattes. And the fact of the matter is cutting back on $3 lattes is not going to change your life in any sustainable way. Most of the money advice is basically by somebody who’s probably 30 to 40 years older than us, doesn’t really look like us and wagging their finger at us, telling us all the things we can’t do with our money. I didn’t want to live like that. I wanted to spend, I wanted to buy around drinks for my friends.

I wanted to use psychology to automate my money and then I wanted to get on with my life. I don’t want to sit there and run Excel simulations every day, so I started writing about money. But a rich life is really more than just your Roth IRA. And since then we have expanded into business, so we’ve helped tens of thousands of people start businesses. We’ve expanded into careers. I can show you how to get 10 or $25,000 salary increase, and we’ve expanded into psychology as well. All of this at iwt.com.

Tim Stoddart:

I love that you started off with your concept of buy all the lattes you want because I repeat that to myself pretty often when I’m going out to a coffee shop and I’m just sitting down doing some work and relaxing and enjoying myself and then you look at your bank account and you see all those little tiny transactions when if you add it up, it just doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. However, I’ve always been curious and I’m really excited to ask you about the origin story of this because this whole concept of living a rich life and as you say, focusing on the big wins, was that something that you just sort of developed over time as you started writing about it or did you have somebody that influenced you to really come up with that methodology?

Ramit Sethi:

The concept of big wins is that if you get the five or 10 big wins right in life, you never have to worry about $3 lattes or $7 appetizers and there are five or 10 really big wins in life. Some of them are financial, right? You want to invest automatically as early as you can. You want to have a great job and make sure you’re paid what you’re worth. Or you could go and start a business, but they’re also other ones that are non-financial. If you get married, you want to marry the right person, that’s one of the most important decisions you can make in your life. And if you get that right, then your decision about whether to paint the drywall, I don’t know, I don’t know anything about renovation. But getting that decision right is so important and anyone who’s married, certainly anyone who has kids knows that.

What I discovered was early on most of the advice in the world is focused on minutiae. It’s focused on things like should I have 20 grams of protein after 11:00 PM, but make sure that you’re only having one gram per pound. When in reality, what most people need to do is track their food a little more closely and exercise regularly. Same thing with fitness, same thing with business. Most of the advice you see out there is, here’s what you need to do in terms of 2,500 characters per page and the sub headline should never say this word. When in reality you need to write like you talk and you need to write 10 times more than your writing. That’s how you become a great copywriter. Okay? And the origin of this is that I don’t want to have to wake up and look at the prices of a bag of salad if I go to buy it in the grocery store, it drives me insane.

And I know this because when, both my parents are immigrants and we have four kids in my family. So my mom stayed home and she would take us to the grocery store and we would never order or we would never buy a bag of precut vegetables. No way, what a waste of money. Of course, we’re going to chop it ourselves. So I learned that sense of frugality, but over time I realized I don’t want to have to worry about $2 here or there. I want to focus on bigger, more important things. And if I get those right, then the details, the minutiae, the $3 lattes will work themselves out. I frankly think it’s just a much more fun way to live and it lets you accomplish a lot more with a lot less work because once you get those things right, the rest works itself out.

Tim Stoddart:

I think it is too, and I’m going to transition a little bit into your actual brand because as we talked about before, the Copyblogger audience is very interested in writing and content marketing. But just to touch on that a little bit more, I think anybody listening can get so much value out of that whole idea because I myself know that when you think about the bigger picture and you don’t stress the small stuff too much, it’s allowed me to just live my life with a little less anxiety, like worrying about these little decisions. And most importantly, it takes away a lot of decisions in my life which really helps me. Like I can’t remember the last time I looked at a gas price. This is the closest place for me to buy gas, okay, great. I’m going to go fill up my tank, move on and not worry about it, so I love it. That concept has done a lot for me and again, I think a lot of people will get value from that.

Ramit Sethi:

Thank you. I just want to point one thing out, I think what you just said is so important. The gas example, we all have an example like that in our lives where it’s a tiny number and yet it has a disproportionate impact on how we feel. We feel guilty or nervous or just dumb, like why? Why did I overspend on that? And the fact of the matter is that too many people focus on $3 questions when they really should be asking $30,000 questions. A $3 question is about coffee or gas. A $30,000 question is, have I set up my investments automatically? Do I have a great business and I’m focusing on creating amazing products for amazing customers and I have my KPIs down pat, right? Those are $30,000 questions. Is my relationship solid? You can’t even quantify that, but if we focus on those $30,000 questions, it is so much more powerful than getting mired in the weeds, mired in the details of these $3 questions.

Tim Stoddart:

Absolutely. I love it. So moving to a little bit more of your website and the work that you’ve done over the longterm, Copyblogger is in the content marketing and you’re very well known for your commitment to good writing to long form emails. I’ve heard you describe your emails as flowery, and I think that’s a really good word to describe them. Your landing pages, I’ve watched some debates you have on Twitter with real short to the point, landing pages are better for conversion and your mindset is like, no, let’s get it all out there. Let’s have super, super long detailed landing pages. So my question here is, has long form copywriting always been part of your personal strategy? Or again, was this something that you developed this technique over time?

Ramit Sethi:

Well, thank you for saying that and I do love to write, so I think if you love to write, yeah then you’re listening to this podcast and you’re reading, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, you’re reading Copyblogger, you’re reading long form copy. Now that doesn’t mean all copy has to be long form. If I’m texting my wife, I’m not sending her 30 headlines and a subhead and a CTA at the end, it’s like, if you’d like to meet me for dinner go ahead and click this button. I’m not going to do that, okay? That would be insane. Actually, maybe I’ll try that now that I think about it, see if the conversion rate is higher. I will say that I built my entire brand on making my free material better than anyone else’s paid stuff. And I believe that that is a powerful way to think about how good every part of your brand has to be, every part.

So I give away 98% of my material for free and I want that free material to be better than other people’s premium courses because if we accomplish that, then people are like, oh my God, they’re giving this away for free. I wonder what’s in their premium programs. And I have to say that our premium programs are not cheap, our flagship program is 2000 bucks. We have programs from few hundred bucks to 10 or $15,000. You don’t get somebody to trip and fall and swipe their credit card for $10,000. It’s never going to happen. And this is the crux of your content marketing strategy is if you are creating premium material for premium customers, then you need to understand that your customers are really smart. They’re not stupid, they’re not going to trip and fall and charge their credit card and they’re not going to be sort of dazzled by these crazy claims.

I’m going to give you an example. We had a program called Earn 1K, years ago we developed it. We showed people how to do freelancing, how to start earning money on the side. Now in our testing, we discovered that we could help people earn $10,000 and even tens of thousands of dollars. Because once you figure out how to freelance, if you’re charging especially a hundred bucks an hour or 250 an hour, then that number scales up fairly quickly. But when we wrote that copy, earn $10,000 on the side, tens of thousands, people stopped believing it. This was early on. This was around 2010. So we actually had to take that promise and under promise. That’s why we called the program Earn 1K, because for our prospects at the time who primarily had nine to five jobs, they found it unbelievable that they could earn $20,000 on the side.

So what we did was we said, fine, Earn 1K and we dialed in our copy, we under promised. But once they got in, they started to generate tens, 20, $30,000. And then when we took those testimonials and those stories and we use them to continue fueling the marketing. The key there is people are not stupid, you need to make them a promise that is fair and reasonable even if you are under promising, which is better than saying we’ll make you a million dollars tomorrow. The only people who are going to join that are people who are looking for a quick fix or a silver bullet and they’re going to be the first to refund. So again, if you’re building a premium business for premium customers, you’ve got to know your customers are smart, your prospects are smart, and you have to treat them with respect in your copy.

Tim Stoddart:

I love how you said that, and you mentioned that a couple of times, so I can tell that this is something that you thought about, but how you say your customers aren’t stupid. I fear sometimes that in the internet, especially with social media content, which I don’t have social media, so I can’t relate to that as much, but I fear that when we sell products or we give out information, we try to make it as like bite sized as possible because there’s this mentality that attention spans are really short and you only-

Ramit Sethi:

Yeah, that’s a lie.

Tim Stoddart:

It’s a lie, yeah.

Ramit Sethi:

It’s a lie.

Tim Stoddart:

And I’ve never ever not gotten value out of spending a day, two days, three days, sometimes a couple of weeks out of writing something that I feel really, really, really good about. So if you could just like go into a little bit more detail about that, I think people would appreciate it so much.

Ramit Sethi:

I love, love this because people are smart. Everybody needs to stop repeating these old chestnuts of, there’s no attention span. There’s a famous story about a long form sales page and somebody from outside the direct response industry looked at it and said, “Who would ever read 50 pages of sales copy?” And the copywriter laughed and said, “Only the buyers.” And that is really important because every one of us has something in our lives that we would read 50, 60 or frankly unlimited pages about, and it could be your balding, it could be you’ve got a six month old who just won’t stop crying or go to sleep. It could be you’re renovating your house and you just discovered you forgot to factor in this thing and now you’re going to spend $80,000 more on your bathroom.

We need to understand that people who have a problem are looking for great solutions and they’re also looking for someone who just frankly understands it. This premium thing is another lens to view the world through that is really important. I had a friend, not a friend, an acquaintance, this becomes important in a second. He emailed me and said, “Hey, I created this course and nobody’s buying it.” Is was a $2,000 course. I took a look at it and if you’re an experienced copywriter, you can easily see when someone knows what they’re talking about versus someone who’s just playing copy. And I wrote him back and said, “When was the last time you bought a $2,000 program?” And he writes back immediately, he says, “Never.” Expecting other people to buy a $2,000 program from him, but he has never gone through the emotional journey of buying it himself. He’s never scrolled to the end of the page. He’s never said, is this going to work or is this just hot air?

He’s never said, are they going to try to scam me out of my refund? No, he just thought to himself, I got some stuff. I’m going to put it out there on a sales page, I’ll copy the same style of writing as everybody else and then they’ll buy it from me. How many people listening here deep down are kind of like, oh yeah, I’ve done that. Maybe a lot because if you haven’t ever gone through that purchase process then you have no idea what it’s like, this is what I mean by respecting your prospects. People, they want to sell something at $2,000 if they’ve never done it themselves, why should anyone else pay them? And this is the critical thing about a premium customer base and premium products. So I buy a lot of different programs in books. I buy books by people who make less than I do. I go to courses, everything from the Disney Institute to hiring a personal trainer.

If you’re in self-development and you want people to buy from you, it’s really important that you truly immerse yourself in it because again, your customers are smart and they can see someone who knows what they’re talking about versus someone who’s just writing copy.

Tim Stoddart:

I’m really glad that you ended on that line because I wanted to go back into that a little bit more. You mentioned your friend, he went through the process of writing copy. And I think it’s safe to say that if you study it hard enough, copywriting can be a little formulaic, right? There’s acronyms and there’s sequences and stuff that we can all follow, which we can consider the science of copy. I know that’s just kind of semantical, but let’s call that the science. But then there’s the other side of it where when I read your stuff and when I’ve read Brian Clark’s stuff from Copyblogger and the people that I follow, I feel personally like it’s them that are writing for me and they’re telling me a story and I can relate to them.

And I think you’ve done a great job and other people as well, but maybe for people that are just getting started, this is such a good lesson and it’s something that really comes from experience with how do you follow a good formula of copy and at the same time add your own personal stories, your own emotion. It sounds like you’re telling me the best way to do that is to immerse yourself in it and put yourself in your potential customers shoes, but how do you navigate that? How do you figure out how much of yourself to share and how much of it is formulaic?

Ramit Sethi:

Well, it’s a great question because there is an art and a science to copywriting, there really is. And you can kind of see this, I think a good example is haircuts. So if you go to Supercuts or a $15 haircut, you walk in, it’s whoever is there that day and they sit down and the first question they ask you is what? What do they ask you?

Tim Stoddart:

What do you want? What are you looking for?

Ramit Sethi:

What do you want?

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:

Bingo. What do you want it? So you got to say, and especially most guys, they don’t know what the hell-

Tim Stoddart:

I have no clue.

Ramit Sethi:

Yeah, a little shorter. How short? I don’t know. Just like a little, don’t go too close. Right? So you start the process over every time. Compare that to a high end salon or a stylist where you go in there and what’s the first thing they say?

Tim Stoddart:

I can totally see your point. They look at you and they tell you what they think you need.

Ramit Sethi:

That’s exactly right. That is exactly right and that is a profound difference. So a $15 haircut is going to ask you, a hundred dollar haircut or however much it is you are going there so they will tell you what to do and the best part is you actually love them for it. You go there specifically because you want them to share their expertise and advice. That’s the art part of copy. Now of course you need to be trained and it doesn’t matter if you’re a 15 bucks or 10 times that, you need to have some basic training. Probably at the higher end you have more training. But what you discover is that a certain price point, whether it be copy, haircuts, restaurants, everybody can cook an egg. Everybody can cut a strand of hair, but it becomes really the differentiator is the art that’s in copy the voice.

So I’m going to give you a couple of examples in copy. From my own copy, people reading about personal finance, it’s some of the most boring copy you’ve ever read. Hey everybody, it’s really important to set a budget and also make sure you’re investing early because compound interest … It’s like, oh my God, I’m going to jump out a window just listening to this. That’s my own voice. But what if you actually have a different point of view on money? I did because I was young, I was in college and I was like, I don’t want to sit and count the grains of rice that I’m eating so that 600 years from now I can have 10 grand in the bank. No, I don’t want to live like that. That’s how I would talk to my friends and that is exactly what I would write on the page.

Now the people listening, you might not have a voice like mine. You do not want to try to copy someone else who has a different voice. But one of the best things you can do is to think about your voice in its most natural state. My guess for a lot of people is when you’re out with your friends, whether it’s at a bar or a house party and somebody is saying something like yeah, that drives me crazy, and then you go into a rant or your perspective on something and it could be, that drives me crazy too because blank, blank, blank, or it could be, well, you know what? I can see why you think that, but there’s also something else to consider, a more compassionate perspective. Whatever your voice is, try to record it and then try to put that into copy.

One way people can watch this if you actually want to watch me do it, I did this YouTube video. It’s called How to Write Emails That Get Opened With Ramit Sethi and I showed people right there live, I wrote an email that went out to hundreds of thousands of people and I showed people how to weave in a story and how to really make it capture people’s hearts and minds. If you can do that, then you’ve become, you’ve mastered the art and science of copy and that’s when it becomes very powerful.

Tim Stoddart:

That is such an amazing example with getting the haircut, it’s so much easier to visualize but I suppose my next question is how did you get to the point? How did you build yourself as an authoritative figure to where they come to you and they look at you as an expert? Do you do that by giving away free content?

Ramit Sethi:

Free content matters. Yes, I’ve done that exactly in the early days, yes. But if you just give away free content forever, that’s not necessarily going to turn you into an authority. The key is that your content actually needs to change people’s behavior and change their lives. So I will give you an example from my own business, and this probably generated millions of dollars for us over the years. When I was in college, I had a small group of friends and we would practice interviewing with different companies, okay? We were juniors and seniors and after our interviews, roughly every week or so we would get back together and we would compare notes. What did we get asked? What were the best answers?

Oh, this one really stumped me, and I know this sounds a bit psycho to people listening, like who the hell has an interview club? But that’s what we did for fun. Okay? I was a dork, so I got very good at interviewing and you can take those same principles and apply them to being a consultant or freelance pitching or any kind of sales. So we created a program years later the same Earn 1K program I mentioned, and we pioneered a concept called the briefcase technique. And you can Google that briefcase technique now and actually see it. What we did was we showed people, when you go into your boss’s office to negotiate for salary increase, here are the exact words you say to get a $10,000 or $20,000 salary increase. The exact words, the exact tone.

Now I put that in a premium program, but eventually we’re like, this thing is actually too good, we’re going to use it and give it away for free. Back to that old thing I said about our free material are better than anyone else’s paid stuff. So we excerpted it, we put it in a YouTube video, we wrote a post about it, and this thing went crazy. It went everywhere, Lifehacker, et cetera. The key is that we already knew this was working because we had proof, proof, proof, testimonials, stories, actual numbers.

Now, that free material spread and so many people have used it on YouTube, Lifehacker, et cetera, that when they’re like, oh my God, I got a $6,000 raise, what else can this guy teach me? They come to us and they’re ready. That’s the critical thing. If you are writing free material, better to write something that changes people’s lives, take the time than to write top 10 ways to do X, Y, Z. So I think that it’s really important to do free material, absolutely, I believe in that, but the quality is a huge component as well.

Tim Stoddart:

So you mentioned testing a few times, you mentioned testing with the Earn 1K title, with the title of the course. Even in that story you came up with a few different like mini case studies, so to speak. I’ve watched a video of you before talking about Jay Abraham and I know that you’ve read the book, Getting Everything You Can Out of All That You’ve Gotten, and in that book Jay Abraham has a chapter totally dedicated to testing. He says test everything. And I’ve heard you talk about that so much and it’s one of the things about your marketing that I find so fascinating because of how deliberate you are with it. So I think the question that people want to know most, but please feel free to elaborate on this, is like what are the important things to test? Big statement. I was like, hey, but is it headlines? Is it user engagement? Is it open rates? Like how can we make this small and start somewhere? What should we test?

Ramit Sethi:

Well, there’s a lot of similarities between those $3 lattes and many of the tests that people do. So for example, headline testing, okay, you could probably get an extra five or 10% opens if you test your headline on your email subject. But like is that really going to matter in the grand scheme? If you are sending out tens of millions of emails, if you’re J. crew or Banana Republic, then yeah, that actually matters a lot. But if you are creating programs with funnels where you’re not selling that often, like every day, that might not be the best use of your time. Just to give you an example, we stopped testing subject lines in our emails a long time ago, a long time ago. It doesn’t move the needle for us. If you actually, if your KPI is profit, how much better can you get on your open rates that’s actually going to flow back to profit. I actually think that for many businesses, not all, but for many, the answer is it’s basically zero. So we don’t do that anymore. And I know this is a big surprise to people because that’s the-

Tim Stoddart:

That’s a huge surprise, by the way.

Ramit Sethi:

That’s the first thing everybody talks about. It’s the same thing I was talking about minutiae. They want to talk about these tiny changes because they’re easy, but you got to zoom out and say, does it actually matter? You can get really efficient at testing, but is it effective? Another thing people test a lot is headlines. I think headlines on a sales page can work in terms of testing, but it really depends on how many people you’re getting to buy. So if for example, we are selling a $10 product, which we don’t do, but if we were, we would presumably be having a lot of lead gen, a lot, a lot of people looking at that, that could be worth testing. But what if you’re selling a $2,000 product and the number of buyers you get is relatively low. Like it could take you months to test that, months. Is that really where you want to spend your time? I’m not so sure.

Sometimes I think you need to test things. Things like … Like we do test our products, we do usability testing, we have an advisory council that we run our concepts past. We spend months agonizing on our table of contents, but it’s not necessarily an AB test. It’s iterative, it’s usability, it’s making sure this is good. We also run it past real groups of people. So we have a new program Earnable and this is one that we’re showing people, a lot of the concepts I’m talking about here in extreme detail. You want to start a business, you want to learn how to do copywriting, we show you this. In fact, we actually show you me writing copy right there on the spot with students and I’m going on tour and I’m going to help people write copy live. So if people are interested, they can go to iwt.com/earn.

Now with that program we built the table of contents, we tested it a lot. Then we actually brought people, we invited them to New York and they paid and we ran these concepts live with a camera crew, with students there in New York. And we improved even in some of those. And then, and only then is it ready to be put in to a full product, which is Earnable. That is the level where I think it’s worth it, I think these headline tests and things you can do them, but you’ve always got to ask yourself, what’s the max benefit I can get? And if the answer is the few, like a few pennies here and there, maybe it’s not worth spending time on.

Tim Stoddart:

Wow. So what we’re talking about here isn’t so much of an AB test concept where it’s a completely different way of thinking about things. What you’re proposing is we’re testing different ways, different concepts, user feedback, quality on our product. Because if we just go above and beyond and we offer such, such huge value to change people’s lives, then the headline doesn’t matter, people just know that it’s the best thing that you could do.

Ramit Sethi:

Exactly. So we wrote a sales page for Earnable, I don’t know how it’s going to end up being … I think it will probably be 70 to 80 pages long, right? We wrote that and the headlines there we’re not AB tested, they’re just awesome. How do we know that? Because we’ve been writing copy for 15 years, we know what’s good. People are not only coming to you for some AB lowest common denominator test, they’re coming to you for taste. They’re coming to you because they want to know what you have to say. So if you’re delegating your voice to an AB testing program, then what are they going to expect? You’re going to end up sounding like everybody else. People come to, I Will Teach You To Be Rich because they want the voice. They want a perspective, whether it be on gaining muscle, losing weight, starting a business like with Earnable or their personal finances, that’s what they’re coming for.

And I’m going to give you one other example. My approach also changes over time in bigger ways than AB tests. So years ago, I used to be not a big fan of social media for businesses. It’s just a lot of people were wasting time going on Twitter and Instagram, in my opinion and we still just saw massive results on email, okay? Eventually I started an Instagram account and my Instagram photos were horrible. Like I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t post on the feed for four months at a time. Like it was just awful. But then I went to Japan and I started getting really into Instagram stories because I was just in this amazing place and I was really loving the storytelling, so my Instagram stories started to take off.

One day, like eight, nine months later I posted a link to one of our programs just, I didn’t even know, but I just randomly posted it and we sold over $10,000 in one today. And I was like, wait, what? People actually buy stuff on Instagram? So this kind of blew my mind, I had no idea. But if you think about just trying new things and sniffing around to see what’s working, well I sniffed and I leaned in really fast. I was like, this is interesting. So we turned Instagram into an entire channel for us and it is totally different than my view used to be. I consider that more valuable than a tiny AB test because it’s now and in fact, in Earnable we put how we generated $23,000 in one day and we show the actual campaign that we used in Instagram. That’s the kind of thing that you can only find in one of our programs, but to get there we had to be able and willing to step back and say, man, I got to test my assumptions about social media itself. That to me is a test that’s worth doing.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah. Even just listening to this and listen to the examples, it’s expanding my mind more as well. The idea just to repeat once again, don’t focus on the minutiae, what are the big wins? Yeah, you had a big win with Instagram and so you thought to yourself, let’s see what kind of results that are the $30,000 questions-

Ramit Sethi:

Yes.

Tim Stoddart:

Is what you said before, I love that. Okay, I want to transition again slightly because you mentioned Earnable, you mentioned people looking to change different aspects of their life, whether it be fitness or negotiating for a raise. And I think it’s safe to say that you’ve built a brand around finance and money, but you’ve also had products around networking and copywriting and mental mastery and of course this new one, Earnable. So I’ve always been so curious with your ability to expand into different industries of development, was that something that you just decided to do or was that something that happened over time?

Ramit Sethi:

Definitely over time. And now we have over 20 different programs.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, it’s amazing.

Ramit Sethi:

So yeah, but that was just, it’s not overnight. I started off, my first program I ever created was an ebook, which I sold for $4.95 and I was petrified to sell it because I thought people would call me a sell out. And in fact they did. They were like, oh, I will teach Ramit to be rich, but what I didn’t anticipate was that there would be a quiet group of people who bought it, loved it. And that your buyers will almost always be your highest quality audience members, just because the people who buy are willing to put the time and money into self-development. So I will say that this was a slow, gradual process and you have to also remember that going to different price points and different modalities’ means you have to learn new skills along the way. For example, an ebook is going to sell differently than $100 ebook plus video and that is going to be really different than $1,000 product or a $2,000 product or certainly a $5,000 coaching or event program.

Super different. Each one of those requires a different sales strategy. I will say that truthfully I think very few people can scale to multiple areas and I actually think that’s a good thing. I don’t think you should necessarily always be trying to grow to a different domain. In fact, we outgrew in some ways and it was a mistake. I’ll give you an example, at one point we created a food program and a fitness program. Now, what the hell does that have to do with creating a business? Now to us at the time we were like, yes, it’s all part of a rich life. So a rich life is broad enough that we can talk about a lot of things, that keeps me excited, but from a customer perspective, if you’re coming to learn about copywriting or starting a business via Earnable and suddenly we’re talking about how to make eggs, it can be very confusing.

So we actually pulled those programs off. We realized when we were humbled, we realized those require selling in such different ways that we’re not equipped to do it, and so we pulled those programs off. I think most people should focus, stay in the domain where you’re winning and slowly incrementally expand. It could be adding a higher end program, some personalization, could be adding just like a fun meetup once a month, whatever. But I think if it’s working, you should really try to understand why it’s working and go deeper there. The reason that I expanded was I don’t get off, it doesn’t excite me to only talk about money every day. I just, I don’t want to live my life only talking about that. I said what I wanted to say in my book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I released it in ’09, I rewrote it and re-released it in 2019. If you have a question about money, get the book, your questions will be answered.

But I think there’s so much more to a rich life than money. There’s starting a business, growing a business. There’s finding a dream job and then mental mastery. So I love that stuff, but I would just caution people, don’t try to do it too quickly. We made that mistake and was crippling, so focus on the things that are working and try to do a little bit more of those.

Tim Stoddart:

I really appreciate you sharing that insight. I think one of the things that I struggled with when I first started my online business and from talking to people, I get a couple of inquiries a day with people just asking questions as I’m sure you do as well. But it’s so difficult to know where to start because of what you said, people have interests in a lot of different things. And I think people feel like they can provide value in a lot of different areas, but one of the things that we have, one of the concepts that we’ve really dialed down on is this minimum viable audience. In a lot of ways it makes sense to try to speak to less people who are a lot more in line with what it is that you are actually trying to promote or provide to them.

So yeah, what a learning experience to try to develop some of those other products that are in the broad range of living a rich life, but at the same time maybe out of scope of what people thought that you were known for or what you could best provide to them.

Ramit Sethi:

Exactly. It’s tricky to know how wide and deep to go, that’s really that artistic part of your business. A few examples from my business. So if you buy, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, odds are, you probably have a pretty good job. You probably have a little bit in your checking account or savings account, you’re probably not in $80,000 of credit card debt. The people who are in that much credit card debt, they have very different needs and they tend to go to different authors on money, because there frankly are better people out there to talk about severe credit card debt than me, but if you want to know how to manage your money and how to blend money and psychology, if you want to know how to automate, if you want to know how to invest your money so you spend less than an hour a month, there’s no better book than I Will Teach You To Be Rich and that’s why it was reviewed in the New York Times, et cetera, et cetera.

So you got to know who you’re going after, that’s an example of how deep you want to go on your market. Now, wide, how wide do you want to go? That’s a whole different story. If you want to know about business and money, yes you should come to iwillteachyoutoberich.com/earn. If you want to know about business and like inspiration or business and sitting around a campfire singing kumbaya, don’t come to I Will Teach You To Be Rich, you’re not going to get it. You can hear it in my voice, you’re not going to get that. There are other people out there who are way better at affirmations and inspiration, but if you want to know how to run an actual sales call and listen in, or you want to know how to grow the business to 100,000, 500,000, a million and beyond, then it makes perfect sense to go to…

Tim Stoddart:

So I’ve read your book, I’ve read it twice. Anybody listening to this, it completely changed the way I think about money. It relieves a lot of the anxieties I had about money because just to summarize, one of the ideas is if you automate everything, you know how much money you have every month or every week, and then I can just live my life and spend my money without feeling guilty. So you mentioned the book a couple of times and I guess just to give you a little bit of promotion, absolutely, if that is something that you want to learn about buy that book. However, we mentioned a couple times in this podcast and I’m curious to learn more because I’ve never seen it on your website, but we mentioned Earnable, we mentioned this new course. Is this something that is already live for people to see and sign up for? Is this a new product for you?

Ramit Sethi:

This is a brand new product, it’s a brand new flagship program we’re creating. And I’ll tell you something we learned along the way. So we created several business programs, I think we have maybe five to eight different business programs, maybe more. We have one on copywriting called Call to Action.

Tim Stoddart:

It’s so good.

Ramit Sethi:

Oh, you did?

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, it was great.

Ramit Sethi:

Awesome. Oh, thank you for saying that, I appreciate that.

Tim Stoddart:

Sure.

Ramit Sethi:

And in fact I love copies so much that we created two other ones where we actually followed along as I wrote sales page copy and as I wrote copy for sales emails, it’s very voyeuristic, like you can watch through someone’s, I guess over their shoulder and I was going to say through their window, but that’s weird. You can watch over my shoulder as I actually write the copy that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars. So we had a lot of fun with that. But we learned that it’s a little lonely sitting behind your computer and watching videos and we learned that people want new information, not just what they recorded in the video seven years ago, but what’s new, what’s current. Like the Instagram stuff that we’re doing now, how are we doing it.

So we kind of re-conceptualize the idea of a program from the ground up and that was yes, we’re going to from the ground up record new ways of thinking about finding a profitable idea, testing it, doing it rapidly. We used to show people how it would take months and months of testing, we now figured out ways to compress that down very, very short to get your first paying client, sometimes in a matter of days. And then we wanted to be comprehensive. We wanted to show people, hey, if you want to learn about sales, we’ll show you our actual sales email funnels. We’ll show you our sales call recordings, we’ll show you what I DM people on Instagram and they go and buy a $2,000 program.

And the final thing we want to do was to connect people. So I’m going on tour across the country and it’s crazy, why did I only go on book tour for my $10 book when people don’t want to learn about starting a business from behind their computer, a lot of times they want to get in the room and be around other people. And maybe have copy written right on the fly live. So all of this is included with Earnable, that’s why we rebuilt it from the ground up.

Tim Stoddart:

I love hearing about that. We’ve been talking internally a lot in Copyblogger about how we’re trying to transition and I never thought of it that way where you say people are lonely behind the screen and I think that’s a good way to put it because I don’t think it’s a secret that with courses there’s not always a very high completion rate. And so we’ve been talking a lot about making them interactive where it’s an experience, it’s not necessarily a course. We’re not going to be presenting people with a criteria, we’re going to enjoy this experience together. And listening to you talk about this new program, it sounds like the experience is just as much a part of the material.

Ramit Sethi:

Yeah. I think you absolutely nailed it. And I think we all know what it’s like to be in a room where there’s magic. I had magic when I went … That feeling. You can’t get that feeling in other places, but all of us know what it’s like to be in that room. I remember being on book tour, I was in DC and I have a concept called money dials. What would you love to spend your money on? And most people have never thought of this, they are constantly feeling guilty about coffee, but they’ve never actually been asked, what do you love to spend your money on and what if you could quadruple the amount you spent on it? This is a question that most have never been asked. So there I am in DC and I asked this question and this young guy raised his hand, he says, “I love to eat out.” I said, “Awesome. What would you do if you could quadruple your spending?”

And his answer was, “I would eat out four times a week.” And I said, “Hey, I get that, but you’re thinking so linearly. Is there any other way you might think of about what you could do if you doubled, quadrupled, 10X your spending.” And the whole room gets quiet and he goes, “I actually have a list of every Michelin starred restaurant in DC, I would love to go and work my way down that list.” And I said to him, “Who would you take with you?” And he looks up and he goes, “My family, because they’ve never been able to afford to eat at places like that.” And that is the moment where the room was pin drop silence and you realized there’s magic in this room. You could never get that from watching a video alone in your apartment or house, kids screaming, sirens blaring, no.

If you want to start a business, it makes perfect sense that you would say, you know what? I’m giving myself this gift, the gift of a new program like Earnable and the gift to go for an evening and be surrounded with other people who are ambitious like me. That’s what we’re going after with Earnable, that’s why I’m excited to meet everybody listening to this across the country after you sign up at iwt.com/bird.

Tim Stoddart:

Wow. Even just hearing you present that and talk about that moment, I could feel like I was there. That was great, thank you so much for sharing that. Well Ramit, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for sharing some of your experience and some of your lessons with the Copyblogger audience, although we did mention it a couple of times, if anybody wants to learn more about you where can they find you and what’s the best place to interact with you personally?

Ramit Sethi:

You can sign up at iwt.com/earn, love to share some of the dates and events that we are releasing with this new Earnable program. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @ramit and if you ever watch me on video, read my copy and you’ll see, it sounds the same. It’s something for everyone listening here to think about is the highest praise you can get for your copy is that it sounds like you. So try to study the people you admire and you’ll know when your copy is really in.

Tim Stoddart:

I love it, man. Thank you so much for your time. I really, really appreciate it. To everybody listening, if you enjoyed this podcast, please give us a rating. Please follow us on iTunes, it’s the best thing you can do to support the show. Ramit, one more time, thank you so much for all that you do and for sharing this hour with us, really appreciate it.

Ramit Sethi:

Thank you very much.


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