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How to Make Money Online Without Any Products or Services (Episode 16)

Matt McWilliams has worked in small business and online marketing for most of his life. He said that he could never make it in a “real job.” At the age of 23, He was fired by his dad. At the age of 25, he was arrested and faced up to 42 years in prison. 

But by the age of 27, he was an executive in a thriving start-up. They won the Best in Business Award from the Nashville Business Journal that year and by year’s end had 50+ people working for them. Matt was personally leading a team of 12 people… and had no clue what he was doing. He knew he wasn’t a good leader and everyone else knew it, too. He was their first employee and helped start the company above the CFO’s garage. 

Matt managed to get fired from there but went on to find success at a new company. And in 2010 Matt was recognized as the top Affiliate Marketing Manager in the world by the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards. He left that company and went back to the previous company. Yes, the one that fired him. Eight months later, the CEO left and the company laid off more than half the staff. Matt was one of those people. Firing number four.

So in November of 2011, he was unemployed, had a brand new house, a six-month-old daughter, and a stay-at-home mom to support. He came to realize that he should try and change the world. He also resolved to never again be dependent on an employer for income or others for approval. He wanted to leave a legacy. He says he has failed at almost everything he’s tried the first time but usually learned from those mistakes.

Matt published the book Internet Marketing From The Real Experts and has published countless articles in industry trade magazines. His consulting company, Matt McWilliams Consulting, Inc., has clients all over the country in various industries ranging from educational courses to consumer goods and the financial industry. 

Today he helps online business owners and brands, small and large, to leverage the power of partners to grow their businesses. He teaches you how to make money as an affiliate and how to work better with affiliates. He’s known as “The Affiliate Guy”.

What you will learn

  • What affiliate marketing is really about.
  • How to make money online with no products.
  • The power of using other people’s networks to grow your business.
  • The importance of doing for powerful learning.
  • Why failure is the ultimate teacher.
  • Why business is a team sport.
  • The secret sauce of leveraging your time to increase sales.
  • Insider tips on how to start an online business in a few simple steps.
  • The fastest and easiest way to grow your business leads.

Transcript

Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. Today we have got Matt McWilliams, who is a friend of mine. I've known him for quite a long time. We've actually hung out in the States in Spokane and actually walked the woods. And I'd like to introduce Matt. I've been wanting to do this for a while. Matt interviewed me recently, so that's a little bit of an incestuous relationship, really, but that's okay. Yeah, we're just good friends, one of my American buddies, and great to have him on the show.

Jeff Bullas: A little bit about Matt before we have a chat. Matt has been fortunate enough to spend the past decade plus, yes, that makes him really old, as you can see, working with some of the most amazing people. He has worked with companies and entrepreneurs like Ray Edwards, Brian Tracy, Lewis Howes, Shutterfly, Peter Voogd, Jeff Goins, and more. He helps online business owners and brands, small and large, to leverage the power of partners to grow their businesses. He teaches you how to make money as an affiliate and how to work better with affiliates.

Jeff Bullas: Matt is known as the affiliate guy. So welcome to the show, Matt. It's great to have you here and you see your smiling face from the other side of the world.

Matt McWilliams: Yeah, man. This is so cool. I still can't get over the fact that we're able to do this. You're literally in a land like a hundred years ago would take... This type of communication would take months. Like I would write you a letter and then three months later I would get a response, and that would be our communication. It was basically impossible, and here we are. I don't know. I just am blown away by it and it's so good to be here.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Well, it's fabulous to have you here. And I totally agree with you. I still don't take even getting in a plane for granted. At the moment, that's something we certainly don't take for granted. But the fact that you can even get on a plane and be on the other side of the world in less than 24 hours, and you're flying at 40,000 feet, and you're traveling a thousand kilometers an hour, and it's minus 50 degrees outside and you're sipping a glass of red or a champagne. And we're Zooming here. Everyone's Zooming. Zooming has become like Google. It's a verb now. It's not just a brand name. So we're Zooming today and we're capturing this both in video and audio, and just like you, Matt, I still live in all of the tech that enables us to connect.

Jeff Bullas: For me, social media too, was a little bit along those same lines. Went, "Wow, we actually can... This intersection of technology and humanity that allows us to connect the tribes all around the world and find your tribe even. So welcome. Now, before we leap into what you've done in the past few years and also about your business, you're in the affiliate game, okay, affiliate marketing. Now, a lot of people don't really understand what affiliate really means. That's a little bit of a tech term, business term, that's tossed around within the digital marketing world... Before we leap in and find out more about how you got started, can you tell us what an affiliate actually means?

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. I mean, the concept, Jeff, of affiliate marketing, I always joke, I mean, it's been around for 5,000 years, probably since the dawn of man. I mean, I always have this picture of two Roman guys, I don't know Roman names very well, so we'll just call them the Vesuvius and Sisyphus. They're like in their togas there in Rome, and Vesuvius takes Sisyphus to this guy, and he's like, "Hey, you need a lawyer? This is your guy. You need a good dinner, this is your guy." And the owner of the restaurant looks at the Vesuvius, gives him a little wink, and is like, "That wink means dinner's on me next week because you sent me a customer." That's affiliate marketing.

Matt McWilliams: All we did 30 years ago was add technology to it. And so, the concept of like, "I'm going to refer people in need of a product or service to that product or service in exchange for some type of reward. In this particular case, Vesuvius's case, there was a free dinner next week. In this particular case, it's called a commission. I mean, the concept has been around since the dawn of time. And so, that in a nutshell really is what affiliate marketing is. It's, hey, I have followers. I have people that are on my email list and follow me on social media. I have a pretty good idea of what they need. I know where the gaps are in their business.

Matt McWilliams: What's important, Jeff, is I know what gaps I'm not going to fill. We really focus on email, building your list, monetization with affiliate marketing, and running affiliate programs. Those are our three things. If you need help with, say, how to set up a quiz funnel, I'm not the guy. That's Ryan Levesque. I have a link, I'll refer you to him. And so, it really allows you to fill in those gaps where you're not the expert and you don't want to be the expert. But your audience still needs help and they value your opinion, and they trust your opinion.

Matt McWilliams: And when you recommend something, why would you not make some money at it? And so of course it turns into a great way for somebody to monetize their platform. Having affiliates turns into a great way to grow your business, which I'm sure we'll talk about some of the benefits here. But that's really what it is, in a nutshell.

Jeff Bullas: Great. Yeah. Because a lot of people don't understand. They see the word affiliate, they're going, "What's this?" So great to have it summed up very simply with a lovely story and analogy. Glad the two guys names started with V. Don't know why that happened. You've been in running small businesses, and I was reading in one of your bios on your website and you said, basically, you've never really worked for anyone. Or you worked for small businesses mainly because you couldn't hold down a normal corporate job.

Jeff Bullas: You got into small business and you were working with your dad. I think it was one of the first things. Tell me how you got into business and working with your dad.

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. I mean, you're totally right though. I can't work for other people. I've been fired four times, twice by the same company, and once by my own father. So I've got that going for me. I mean, not many people get fired by their dad. Yeah. So what happened was I came out of college. I was actually playing professional golf for a little while, and I had an injury. Still have it to this day. Actually, I've got two bones out of alignment in my left wrist. And every now and again, even to this day, I'll do something where I'll catch like a heavy door and it will knock my wrist back. And it's like, "Oh, it hurts."

Matt McWilliams: But, of course, imagine propelling your golf club into the ground, four or 500 times a day at 100 miles per hour and see what that does to it. And so, that flared up. I quit playing and I started teaching golf with my dad. Well, the problem with that is I'm a terrible golf instructor, at least with beginners and intermediate players. I'm cool with my friends that are at the same level I was. I was actually pretty good at that, but I had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner and I sucked at teaching. But I was great at the marketing.

Matt McWilliams: And so, one day I discovered... We were doing these golf schools. I was 22 years old, and my dad and I would do these golf schools. We'd have like four students each pay about $1,500. We would teach them for about 15 hours total, between the two of us. We would work with them together. I'm doing the math on that right now and that's $6,000 in a weekend for 15 hours of work divided by two. That's making 200 bucks an hour at the age of 22. That was more than all my friends made at the age of 22.

Matt McWilliams: And so, I was like, "This is amazing. What would happen if we had eight people at this school? Well, we would double our money. What would happen if hypothetically we could have like 10 or 11 or 12? All of a sudden, in a weekend, I can be making almost $10,000, which was just insane amount of money to me. It was an insane amount of money to my dad. And so, I went on Google and I started bidding on keywords. Now, just to be clear, everything I'm about to say is not replicable in 2020. It wasn't replicable in 2007.

Matt McWilliams: But I went on Google and for 10 cents a click, I would get about 200 clicks a day. And I would convert about one and a half to two people a day. During the peak season, about half the year, I'd convert almost two people a day. During the off season, we'd convert about a half a person to a person. And for 20 bucks, I could acquire a $1,500 to $2,000 customer. So lo and behold, you come to the website, and you had one of two options. You either paid me 1,500 or $2,000, or you left.

Matt McWilliams: There was no opt-in. There was no list building. There was no follow me on Facebook. There was no pop up that exited and said well... You either gave me a lot of money or you left. That was it. I had no list, but I was getting about one and a half to two customers a day, and for half the year. I woke up one day and sure enough, here I am at the age of 22, and I still live with my mom. I had no expenses. I had like $200,000 in the bank. That's not supposed to happen at the age of 22. I had no idea what to do.

Matt McWilliams: My dad, thankfully, he could see that there was a problem though. I had this weird dichotomy, Jeff. This was back when we had, on my desktop, we had a ding that told us when we had a sale. I'd be in the other room and I'd hear that ding and I'd be like, "Yes, 2,000 bucks. Crap, I have to teach that person how to play golf. I really don't want to teach that person how to play golf. I love the marketing, hate the golf instruction side."

Matt McWilliams: Growing up, I mentioned I played professional golf. My best friend and I were at the golf course every day together, competing against each other, always competing, trying to get better. And we always used to say there was one thing we never wanted to do in life. We never wanted to grow up and teach old ladies in purple sweaters how to play golf. That was our thing. We did not want to be like the guys that they were all Americans in college and now they were golf instructors.

Matt McWilliams: Well, here I was, a golf instructor. The exact thing that I said I didn't want to be. One day, I'll never forget it, we had 12 students. That was our max, 12 students times an average of about $1,750 a person that they paid to be there. I mean, you can do the math. I mean, it's literally over $20,000 in a weekend divided by two, my dad and I, right? And this 70-year-old lady in a lavender sweater starts walking towards us. I don't know if you remember, the original flip phones. It had the 0.2 mega pixel phone. I pulled that thing out, took a picture sideways, sent it to my friend that I'd grown up with. His name is Hunter. And all he said was, "Kill me now."

Matt McWilliams: Now, you know, Jeff, that a good female friend does what? If you know females, they put their arm around... They'll call you. They will call you and say, "Oh honey, I'm here to talk anytime. Do you need to talk about this for four hours?" What does a good male friend say? A good male friend writes back and says, "Ha ha, sucks to be you." So he writes back, says, "Ha ha, sucks to be you." Thankfully, my dad could see, in that moment, and in those months, that while I loved the marketing and I loved the money, I hated the teaching and I sucked at it, and I was actually dragging down his golf school.

Matt McWilliams: And so, he did the best thing that ever happened to me. The day after my birthday in 2003, he fired me. I mean, it was hard. It sucked for about a couple of days, but I had some side clients doing some marketing for them and building websites for them. So thankfully, not only did I have a crap ton of money in the bank, but I actually had pretty decent stream of income coming in from those side gigs that kept me afloat for a while, while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. That's how I got into marketing.

Jeff Bullas: [inaudible 00:13:03] It's a great story. I was a teacher for a while and I can understand it's fun to do certain things. And some things you're not meant to do in life. And, to me, standing in front of teenagers teaching secondary school was not my thing either. So you've actually left. You started this marketing. So essentially you become a consulting company, is that correct?

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. That aforementioned friend, Hunter, about two years later, reached out to me and said, "Hey, we're starting this company. Do you want to be a part of it?" And I said, "No." And if that was the end of the story, it wouldn't be a very good story. But he persisted and I eventually relented and joined the team with him. We started this company selling leads to insurance agents. Well, there's a big problem though. I had burned through quite a bit of that money, and what little I had left, I really wasn't willing to spend on a company, just to start up with him.

Matt McWilliams: And so, we didn't have a ton of money when we started this company. And in fact, not only did we not have very much money, but we burned about half of it pretty quickly on some pretty stupid marketing. When I say burned through half of it quickly, I mean, we spent over $5,000 and made $8. Not that we made 5,008. No, we made $8. We lost $4,992. This was 2004 into January 2005. We spent about $5,000 on banner ads. Now I say the date specifically so that nobody just bursts out laughing, like, "Really, you spent $5,000 on banner ads? Who would do that? You're an idiot."

Matt McWilliams: It actually seemed like a smart thing to do in 2005. So we're sitting there one day. We have no idea what we're going to do. If we're going to keep this company afloat, we like a magic solution that somehow allows us to make money before we spend it. I had heard, I think, two days before of these people called affiliates. I didn't really fully understand what that meant because, to me, I associated affiliate with like in a radio station. You're an affiliate of this network of radio stations, or you have the local... I don't know what you have in Australia, but you have the local CBS affiliate or ABC affiliates.

Matt McWilliams: And so, I didn't really know what it meant, but I'd heard about them. And so, we started doing this research, and it was like... I hate to exaggerate, but it was like the heavens opened up and the miracle solution to our problem was right there in front of us. We could bring on affiliates, they send us traffic, we make money, but we don't pay them for 30 days? That's too good to be true. Google makes you pay upfront. To use 2020 terms, Facebook makes you pay upfront. LinkedIn makes you pay up front. You have to fund the account then you spend the money. We didn't have any money to spend really. So this was like the miracle solution.

Matt McWilliams: I mean, I still remember it was about this time 15 years ago, I spent a three-day holiday weekend where I literally was at the office like 17 hours a day, three days straight, doing nothing but learning how to find affiliates, how to work with affiliates, how to get them to actually promote. Fast forward, about 18 months later, we had a $12.6 million affiliate program. And that was really how I got into this space, which ultimately led to all those people you mentioned before, us working with some of the most amazing people and companies in the world. It all started from basically the dire straits that were in, like necessity of, "I've got to make money before I spend it. What do we do?"

Jeff Bullas: Essentially, affiliates were your distribution. In other words, they brought traffic to you. They brought attention to you. How were they driving that? Was that through their email lists? How was that?

Matt McWilliams: Back then it was through everything, and it still is kind of true to this day. This was before social media. You can take that out in 2005. But they had email lists. They were doing paid traffic at their own, trying to, "We're going to pay them $8 for lead. And if they can capture a lead for $7, well, awesome, they're going to make a buck. They were sometimes running banner ads. They were better at it than we were. Again, that's the beauty of it. It was like we didn't have to get good at everything

Matt McWilliams: In today's terms, of course, there may have a huge Facebook audience. They might have a huge Instagram following. They might have a huge Twitter following like yourself and can do some stuff that way. And so, yeah, I mean, there's all kinds of ways for them to drive traffic, which is really just the beauty of it. It means you have your own distribution channel. You have your own people out there, that they figured out Google. They figured SEO. They figured out Facebook. They figured out LinkedIn. They figured out Instagram, and you don't have to figure it all out.

Matt McWilliams: So when I look at our affiliates now, when I look at our top 20 affiliates, I would say there's no more than four or five of the top 20 that are the experts at any given one thing. We have a couple of guys that are just big on Instagram, a couple of guys that are big on this. That's the beauty of it. When we were first starting, we didn't know what we didn't know. And going out and paying Google... By 2005, three years after I'd started in the golf instruction space, I mean, it would cost $2 a click instead of 10 cents a click in our niche.

Matt McWilliams: Well, at $2 a click, if we're converting 20% into a lead, and our average lead sold for $8. I mean, we lost $2 every time we had a transaction. That's not a good business model. We literally could not afford... We could not profitably figure out how to do Google ads until about 2007. It took us two and a half years to figure those out. But in the meantime, we had tons of affiliates who had figured it out. In fact, they figured out how to do it, where it cost them, because we would make eight, we'd make nine, we'd pay them seven. And they figured out how to do it for 6.99 or less. And more power to them, we just hadn't figured that out yet. But that's the beauty of having affiliates.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So the power of actual collaboration and partnerships, isn't it? The term that's tossed around all the time is business is a team sport, and certainly people think they want to do it all on their own. But the reality is that you really need to have both a team to support you internally, that can leverage you. Then to leverage your marketing, you need to collaborate and partner up, and affiliates part of that. So you've done this business. You're in this business. What happened there? How long were you in this partnership?

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. I left there in November 2008. I actually went back for a little while in 2011. But after I left there, that was when I started beginning to spread out. When I left there, effectively what happened was I initially thought what I needed to do is find another job. That's what, I don't know, logic, society, whatever tells us. If you have a job that pays X, you go try to find another job that pays a similar amount of money, and you just go work for them.

Matt McWilliams: What happened was I went out and I started talking to people about working for them. I applied to some different places. We went through a bunch of interviews, and I got a number of offers. And I was like, "Well, I can't really decide between these." I remember driving down, I feel like I was driving to the airport or something one day. I don't know where I was going, but I was driving somewhere. Oh, I was driving to an interview, and to go interview these people. I was talking to another company that wanted me to come work for them. And I was just open and honest with them. I said, "Listen, I've got about five or six offers. I really don't know which one to take. I'm actually going to meet with another company that I think would be a good fit right now. And I'm just letting you know that you're in some competition. You've got like a one in five chance of me saying yes to you right now. There's nothing against you, dude. I mean, if you were the only offer on the table, I would be so excited about it."

Matt McWilliams: He said, "Well, have you thought about doing consulting? Have you thought about, is there a way for you to say yes to all of us?" And I went, "Oh." Ding, ding, ding. And it hit me in that moment that the reality is, when somebody hires me, when somebody hires anyone really, truth is you hire somebody to work 40 hours a week. Most positions, not at all, when hiring their mind share, you're hiring them to do marketing, or run an affiliate program, or something like that, if you hired them to be full time, only about 20 to 25% of their time is actually spent on something that only they can do. The rest of their time is doing things like scheduling meetings and responding to a message or blah, blah, blah.

Matt McWilliams: And it occurred to me that, if I wanted to work, for me, a traditional 45 to 50-hour week, I could work with 10 companies, give each of those 10 companies the best of me, give them the best of my mind share. But the other stuff that they're hiring me to do, like scheduling meetings and the this and that, and the setting up, all the stuff, I can hire people to do that for me. I can build a team, they can do those things.

Matt McWilliams: If anybody's wondering how this works from a math standpoint, is I hired or they hired my company to do the full-time thing. Our company is making just about what would be the equivalent of a full-time salary for that position, whatever that might be. I'm then spending, I've got five of them, I'm then spending about 10 hours a week. It ebbs and flows. Some weeks I might only spend six on one, and 18 on another. But generally speaking, they're pretty evenly divided. I'm then hiring out the equivalent to about one and a half of those full-time salaries.

Matt McWilliams: So, for the same amount of time, I'm making two and a half to three times as much money. That's how the math worked out on that. But it allowed me to, not just have to go work for one company, allowed me to serve multiple companies, allowed me... At any given time, I would be working with companies in vastly different niches or niches, and just getting all kinds of cool experiences. I got to work with Fortune 100 companies, as well as startup entrepreneurs.

Matt McWilliams: I got to work in guitar instruction and in photography, in parenting, in retail goods. I got to work with publicly traded companies. I got to work with companies that were literally in the process of being bought by hedge funds. So I just got exposure to all these amazing, different things. And I got to be in the background, and I got to learn from them. I also got paid a crap ton of money for it, as opposed to going to work for somebody else. That was like I'm pigeonholed. That's the only experience I'm going to have.

Matt McWilliams: So it was a pretty cool thing to be able to do that for... And still do it to this day. I do less of it. Now we don't work with as many clients. We have courses and programs that we now are able to teach others how to do what we do, but still to this day, I work with clients in all kinds of niches that... Sometimes I don't even understand the niche, but I know my thing. I know how to run an affiliate program. I know how to get results in that. But I get to learn about all these cool things.

Jeff Bullas: You're scaling yourself, and essentially, it's a services business that's scalable because you're getting other people to do the work for you. The business is called mattmcwilliams.com. Is that what it is or...

Matt McWilliams: That's the website. Yeah, mattmcwilliams.com or the affiliateguy.tv. That's all of our videos and podcasts and stuff. Yeah.

Jeff Bullas: Talk to us through your business model in terms of today. Okay. So you're doing this consulting, you're scaling yourself, you're running... In other words, someone wants email marketing done to sell their guitar lessons or whatever, and you hire an email marketing subcontractor to work for you, that helps you deliver to your client. What's your business model today, because we've worked together a little bit in the past and we've caught up at different Masterminds in the USA. Tell us a bit about how the different parts of your business, I suppose, for our listeners to understand what you really do.

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. Today we have a few different parts of our business. We still do work with some clients, very limited, very picky about who we work with today. And that can range from running their affiliate program and working with them to run it. We have a coaching program called Your Affiliate Launch Coach. We actually coach entrepreneurs. Our target audience for that is entrepreneurs who are at the very low to high six-figure level. So basically anywhere in the six-figure level. Once they usually hit about seven figures or so, maybe like 1.5 million a year, typically, they're going to be ready to go out and hire somebody full time to run their affiliate program.

Matt McWilliams: Typically, when you're under about a hundred thousand with your business, you're not ready to really scale rapidly with your affiliate program. But we found that if can go out and... If you're making about 100,000 to 900,000 a year, we can help you rapidly scale your affiliate program by coaching you, basically, giving you our playbook. You're going to execute the playbook. We're not going to execute it for you. But we're going to give you the playbook.

Matt McWilliams: And so, we have a very intensive coaching program called Your Affiliate Launch Coach. And so, those are two big parts of our business. We have one, two, three, four, five, we have five courses that we have now, very extensive courses on email list building, monetizing with affiliate marketing, finding affiliates, running an affiliate program. Then we have another next-level list-building course as well. We have about a dozen mini courses. These are courses on a specific topic, like how to build this page on your website, a resources page, specifically about turning your email list into cash. We have a little mini course on how to just set up your affiliate program.

Matt McWilliams: We have a mini course on, gosh, about another eight or nine mini courses. I can't even think of all the ones we have, finding affiliate programs, preparing for promotion, all these mini courses that we have as well addressing very specific needs. And so, courses are a big part of our business. We have a mastermind, and it's a big part of our business as well. But then the other part of our business, it would make sense, of course, about 40% of our annual revenue to this day is promoting affiliate offers.

Matt McWilliams: You promote a lot of the same things we do, and we see each other on the leaderboards, and sometimes you beat us and sometimes we beat you. And that's the beauty of it. With us, a lot of times, it's just we promoted more than you. And then sometimes you promoted more than us. And so, we found that that being about 40% of our revenue, is a really good mix for us because it allows us to serve our audience and be able to... Like we talked about earlier, we would introduce them to products and services that...

Matt McWilliams: We're not going to create. Like I said, we're promoting Ryan Levesque's quiz funnel masterclass. I'm not going to teach anybody how to set up a quiz funnel. I have no interest in that. But I think they're awesome, and I want you to learn. So here's Ryan. I know nothing other than what I've learned from Stu McLaren about setting up a membership site. So why would I try to teach you how to set up a membership site? But I think they're amazing. Our membership site, that's another revenue stream for us. We have a membership site called Affiliate Insider Monthly.

Matt McWilliams: It's been amazing for us and it's been amazing for our members. So, here, go to the Stu. Let him teach you how to do this. Same kind of thing like this microphone here. It's a great microphone, the ATR 2100. You can find it on Amazon for, I don't know, 70,80 bucks. People ask me all the time, "Matt, your quality of sound is so good. What microphone do you use?" "This one." I'm not going to ever create... I'm not going to build a microphone. I don't know how much it would cost to get a CAD designer to come up with the... I don't understand how it works. You know what I do? I plug it into my computer and it magically works. Why? I don't know. Why does it sound so good? I don't know? Why do other microphones not sound so... No idea. I just know this one sounds good and I'm never going to make anything like this.

Matt McWilliams: And so, I get to recommend them. Like we talked about, it's a way for me to serve my audience. And so, for us, that's about 40% of our revenue. Though our courses are about 40%, and then the other 20% is coaching and consulting.

Jeff Bullas: All right. That's a great insight into what you're doing currently. Essentially, you're running pretty well, a virtual business, actually. So you're running this business from home?

Matt McWilliams: I'm literally in the basement of our house. And if this microphone wasn't so good, I feel like I'm selling the microphone here, if this microphone wasn't so good, you would hear my children stomping like a herd of wild Buffalo upstairs. I mean, they're literally five feet above me right now. So I'm home. My wife and I run it from home. We have a team member in Idaho, team member in Washington, two team members in India, and then contractors all over the world. So we're totally virtual, totally in. There's not a single person on my team that's less than three hours in terms of time zones away. The closest members of my team are three hours behind me in terms of time zone. The closest member distance-wise is over 2,500 miles away.

Matt McWilliams: And so, like we were talking about earlier, the magic of Zoom. We're meeting on Zoom and we're planning stuff on Zoom. We do meet in person and we hopefully will get back to that after the whole pandemic thing. But we do meet in person a few times a year, and that's always great. But we never get any work done. We never get any work done when we meet in person. We just sit up goofing off the whole time and having fun, and doing stupid stuff together. And so, we get our productive work done on Zoom with a whiteboard and other magic stuff that our project manager does that I don't. Again, there's so little that I understand. It's almost comical. But it's just the magic of technology, really.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. It is pretty amazing that we can all have these businesses that run from your home office and you can have a virtual team right around the world. Let's dig into that a little bit. If someone's wanting to start an online business, and there are many people who want to do this, and want to start from home, they're over-commuting, that maybe even lost their job. So, Matt, what would you recommend? Where would someone start if they want to start an online business?

Matt McWilliams: Yeah, I'll tell you, the very first thing I would do is I would determine who my avatar is. Your avatar is, 99% of time, it's some variation of you at some point in the past. Your avatar is a very specific person and is ultimately going to be your ideal customer. For me, the longer I go along, the farther I am or further I am away in terms of time from my avatar. My avatar is actually me 14 years ago. When I first started this particular business, my avatar was me five years ago. Well, it's nine years later. So it's 14 years ago.

Matt McWilliams: And so, it's you at some point in the past. There's no wrong time. People think, "Oh, I have to be the world's greatest expert. I have to have letters behind my name that signify I got some sort of degree," and that's all crap. You don't need letters behind your name. People don't want people with letters behind their name. Yeah, they want people with letters behind their name if they need brain surgery. I do not want you, Jeff, watching a couple YouTube videos and maybe even practicing at home on your operation game and then saying, "Matt, here. Come here. I'll do brain surgery." I want somebody with letters behind their name and like 20 years experience, okay? Different situation there.

Matt McWilliams: When we talk about parenting, do you need to have a master's degree in parental therapy to be a parenting expert? No. Do you know what you need? Kids? You need kids. That's what you need to be a parenting expert. You discovered something, as a parent, that worked to get your kids to go to bed at night without screaming. Share that with people, charge them money and run a business. So get clear on who that avatar is. Give them a name. Our avatar's name is PETE. I'll just say as a side note, Jeff, we always write our avatar's name in all caps. And so, it's P-E-T-E. Wait P-E-T... Yeah, I'd spelled that right.

Matt McWilliams: It's because, if I'm looking at this right here and I'm reading a document that talks about our new course and how it's going to serve PETE, and I'm reading through it, and I see something capitalized on there, it's like a subtle reminder that this is all about PETE. This is all about serving PETE. So that's our avatar. Give him or her a name, and everything you do goes back to that avatar. And once you get that crystal clarity on who you're serving, here's the thing. Your audience is already out there.

Matt McWilliams: People think, "I don't know how to find my audience." There are already congregations of your audience out there. There are Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups. There are people following people on Instagram. There are people liking pages on Facebook. There are people following people on Twitter. And that's your audience. I'm going to make up an example of something I don't know the first flipping thing about. That's gardening. I've never gardened a day in my life. I don't even know what the tools are called. There's soil and seeds and you need some water. That's about all I know.

Matt McWilliams: But if you want to go out and you want to teach people organic vegetable farming at home, like you want to teach them how to set up an organic... actually, I would love to learn how to do this. So if anybody's watching or listening to this and you know how to do that, reach out to me on social media and tell me your website. I would like to go to it and learn. You're going to teach people how to do organic vegetable farming in their yard. It could be fruit too.

Matt McWilliams: There are already communities out there of other people who are interested in learning how to grow their own vegetables, learning how to grow their own herbs. People who eat organic, vegans, and so on and so forth. There are already those communities that are out there already. What you then do is you go out and you participate in those communities. You become a valued member of the community. You engage with the community members. You help them. You serve them. You share your knowledge and wisdom with them.

Matt McWilliams: Here's what will happen. They will ask you to start a blog. They will ask you to start sharing stuff. They might even say, "Can I pay you for some consulting? Could you advise me? Could we do like a Zoom call and you look at my asparagus and tell me what I'm doing wrong?" Again, I know nothing about gardening, so that might be far fetched, but they will start to tell you... This is exactly what happened for me nine years ago. I started sharing comments. I started participating in the groups, and then the questions started popping up repeatedly, like every single day, Jeff. When are you starting to blog? When are you starting to blog? When are you starting to blog?

Matt McWilliams: There's a thing on, I think it's on archive.org, and you can look up mattmcwilliams.com. And you'll see that from about... I actually owned the domain back in 2004, and then I gave it up. If you look from 2005 to 2011, there's some dude in Oklahoma named Matt McWilliams who had mattmcwilliams.com. He just blogged about random stuff. When I saw that the domain was going up for sale, I jumped on it, and you can see that right around then, 2012, I started blogging about the topics that I was told that I needed to blog about.

Matt McWilliams: Wasn't affiliate marketing at the time. It was actually personal development type stuff. That was a direct result of people saying, "Matt, when are you going to start a blog? When are you going to start a blog?" And so, you go out there and you start creating that content to serve your avatar. I mean, that's the hardest part, building that audience. You go out, you create a lead magnet. The best example, I'll go back to my dad. People ask me all the time, what the heck is a lead magnet? What makes a good lead magnet?

Matt McWilliams: Let me give you an example that I thought of a couple of months ago, that I realized my dad, who never owned a computer, and I know of, never gotten on the internet in his entire life, passed away in 2005, that he had the best lead magnet I've ever seen. He was a golf instructor, as I mentioned, and I used to watch him. He would walk up and down the practice tee, and he would look for somebody. He would look for this move, and I don't have enough room to make a full golf swing. But they'd make a golf swing and it's like, terrible." And they'd do it again.

Matt McWilliams: So what has he done? He's identified someone who's in pain. He's identified someone who has a need. And he would go up to him and he'd say, "Hey, can I make a quick suggestion?" And then, "Yeah." He would watch him for a couple of swings and he'd get them to do one little thing. You call that in marketing parlance a quick win. You want a quick win, something simple. They'd hit a drive and they would turn to him and go, "Oh my gosh, that was the best drive I've ever hit in my life. Kevin, how do I give you money for more lessons? And he would sign them up to a $2,000 instruction package.

Matt McWilliams: That's a lead magnet. It's that quick win. I mean, I always liken it to, if somebody comes to you and they say, "Oh man, my back is hurting. I can barely move. It's killing me, man. And you say, "Oh yeah, great." Here's the mistake most people make in digital course world, in the online world. They'll go, "Okay, great. Here." And they write something down, and they give it to you. And it's a list of 37 exercises that you need to do to improve your back in six months. Also, you have a chiropractor's appointment for two Tuesdays from now.

Matt McWilliams: That's a terrible friend. He just said, "My back's hurting." Give him a Tylenol. Give him an ibuprofen. You can give him the chiropractor appointment, and you can give him the 37 exercises. But he came to you in severe pain. You give him the Tylenol, and you think of that lead magnet as like the Tylenol to their problem.

Matt McWilliams: You've built a potential audience. You've found your audience. You have a lead magnet. That's what gets them to subscribe. Of course, the whole process goes on from there, Jeff, that we don't have nearly enough time to get into. But from there you build subscribers, you continue to engage with them, creating content. We share a very simple way, one of our courses on creating content, where it's basically you just identify the same problems you had when you were where your audience is. Maybe that was three months ago, maybe that was six years ago, wherever you were.

Matt McWilliams: You just think, "What were the questions I was asking? What was I struggling with? What were the roadblocks I was encountering?" And then you just create content around solving those problems and answering those questions, showing them how to do the things that drove you nuts. What were the things that you spent four hours Googling, but once you figured it out, you can explain it to somebody in eight minutes? Then you create a video and you answer that question.

Matt McWilliams: We get questions all the time, and they're all the same questions. I haven't answered a new question, Jeff, in seven years. It's all the same stuff. It's, how do I do this? How do I do that? How do I set up a commission? Boom, I actually already have a video for that. And so, we're at this point. We've reached the point where we're just recycling content. But it's that idea of, just think of the pain points your audience has, and then create content to serve them and solve those problems.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's a great response, and thanks for that, Matt. Now, what are the biggest challenges you find for people? So they build a blog, they're building a list, they're creating content that solves pain points and solves problems. What are some of the biggest challenges that they need to address to actually monetize what they're doing?

Matt McWilliams: Usually, it's up here. It's up in their head.

Jeff Bullas: Mindset.

Matt McWilliams: "Oh, if I try to sell something, I'll lose subscribers." What is the value of a subscriber? Email list size, social media following, it's all vanity numbers if you can't monetize it. I mean, we've prided ourselves. Like I was beating people. I was finishing higher up on affiliate leaderboards with 10,000 people on my list than people with 120,000 people on a list. You give me a qualified list of 10,000 people, I'll beat most people in this industry with a list of five to 10 times larger. Not all. There's a few really good people out there.

Matt McWilliams: Ray Edwards is one of them. He can do a lot of damage with a small list. But I'm better at monetizing, and part of that is just the mindset of, "I'm not afraid to lose a few subscribers when I promote something. If I promote something that I genuinely feel is going to serve you, and you leave my audience, odds are you were never going to buy anything from me anyway. The people who leave and say, "How dare you promote? I can't believe you're trying to make money in your business." What do they do when they go to the store? Do they just expect like the store owner to be throwing rolls of toilet paper at them like "Here, take these." No, they sell them. That's what a business is, and I don't have any qualms about that.

Matt McWilliams: I make it very clear. I run a business. I'm going to serve. This year alone, we'll create more than 400 hours of free content. I haven't watched 400 hours of free content in the past three years. I can't engage with that much, because not all of it's for everyone. But we will create 400 plus hours of free content, and yet I still run a business. I still want to sell my courses, and my products, my services. And I want to sell affiliate offers where they're appropriate.

Matt McWilliams: And so, it really is a mindset of like, "I don't think I'm serving if I'm selling," and the total opposite is true. And the total opposite is true. Selling is serving if you do it right. Let me put it this way. It doesn't serve your audience for you not to monetize. And maybe sometimes don't I say that that's something that triggers for people, is like, "Oh, if I'm not monetizing, I can't continue to do this. My blog costs money. My platform costs money. It costs money to host and it costs money to do a podcast."

Matt McWilliams: YouTube is free, but you at least got to buy a webcam. It doesn't have to be the best webcam, but it can't be a $5 one either, and you need a microphone, and you need a microphone stand, and you need a computer. Like, really, you're going to run your blog off of a Windows 98 machine? Probably not. You need to get a new computer every five years or so. And so, these things cost a lot of money, and it doesn't serve your audience for you to be losing money.

Matt McWilliams: If you're running a hobby blog and you want to do it as a hobby, go right ahead. I don't care. But if you're running a business, businesses monetize. Businesses make money. By definition, businesses sell stuff and they make money. And so, the biggest roadblock always is up in their minds. And once people get through that roadblock and they realize, okay, I'm serving my audience by selling. I'm serving my audience by offering them things that are going to help them move the ball down the field, that are going to help them make progress in their lives, in their business. Then the actual selling and the monetizing part is really not all that hard.

Matt McWilliams: The next step is, typically, what you want to do is either create a product. I don't suggest that because you don't really know what your audience wants, or you want to start, for lack of a better term, you want to start throwing crap up against the wall and seeing what sticks. Let's say you're in the productivity niche, and you go out and you pick a course on time management and you promote it. Well, how did you do? Well, I made 10 sales. What was the price point? What was the messaging? What was the product about? It was about time management, $500. And I used this messaging.

Matt McWilliams: Okay. Now you go pick a course that's about health and fitness because that's definitely an aspect of productivity. But you only sell one. Well, what was the price point? Well, the price point was $200. It was actually less than the other one, and I still only sold one. Maybe my audience isn't as interested in health and fitness products. Maybe they're more interested in time... What about one on leadership? Oh, that one did really well. What about one on... What is another aspect of productivity? One on task management and technology.

Matt McWilliams: You promote these different products and you realize, oh, it's time management, leadership, and we'll go with task management. Goal setting, we'll go with that. So goal setting, leadership, and time management, are my three things that people are willing to pay money for. In fact, they're willing to pay a lot of money for, and they actually convert. Not only do you now know your three core pieces of content, but you know what maybe you should create a course or a product about.

Matt McWilliams: Then you can continue to promote other things here and there that fill in those gaps that you're not going to serve, but aren't necessarily the ones that are going to make the most money, but you still have a little bit of interest in. And so, that's why we recommend starting with affiliate marketing, Jeff, because, I mean, it's the best way to get out there and start monetizing, learning how to sell, learning what messaging works, putting together a promotional calendar, and all the things that go into promoting an affiliate offer, but you learn how to do them with no risk.

Matt McWilliams: I mentioned earlier, the great thing about having affiliates is you pay after you make the money. The great thing about being an affiliate is you don't have to do any of the work. I only make 40% of the money. Typically, that's the average commission, but I do 0% of the work other than the selling. Once they sign up for, say, Stu's course, I don't have to do any of the customer service. I don't have to create any of the lessons. I don't have to show up for any Facebook Lives answering questions. I don't have to do anything and I still got 40% of the money.

Matt McWilliams: He got 60%, but not only does he have to do all that, but he has to pay the credit card processing fees, and he has to deal with boom, boom, boom. If somebody doesn't pay the fifth payment on their payment plan, I don't do any of that stuff. That's the beauty of affiliate marketing.

Jeff Bullas: I think you've provided a good gateway for people that want to get started simply. And we could sum it up this way. That number one, start a blog on an area that you have a little bit of expertise. It doesn't have to be much, that you love writing about or love creating videos around. Create great content that solves the pain points, after you identified your avatar. Create a lead magnet. What I mean by lead magnet is, could be an ebook or a cheat sheet that people can download, but to get it, they need to give you their email address. So you're building an email list.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. You've got an email list of a thousand people. Basically, you can use that to actually sell someone your courses or someone else's courses when they do an affiliate launch or promotion, and they will take 40% of that sale. So really it's quite a simple way to start, as simple as that.

Matt McWilliams: It is.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, which has been great, Matt, to actually have a chat with you about this. I want to ask you one thing before we wind up, is what's the number one thing you would recommend people to take away from our chat today? I'm mindful of your time. So I know, top of the hour, you've got to go and do some more work and maybe chat... So what's the number one thing that you would basically recommend to our listeners?

Matt McWilliams: I would say the number one thing... I want to go back to what... In your summary there, you said you have to be a little bit of an expert, but you don't have to be the world's leading expert. The thing I would tell anyone starting out, that I would tell you, is most of us think that we have to be two miles down the road on the journey. We have to be miles and miles ahead of our audience and be the world's leading expert. I've reached that point, but I wasn't there when I started this.

Matt McWilliams: Most of us think we have to be two miles down the road when actually the better place to be, and sometimes I miss this, sometimes because I'm 14 years ahead of my audience, I'll admit that on occasion, I'll start talking about advanced topics and they're like deer in the headlights like, "What are you even talking about, dude? I'm back here, you're up there. I tell people all the time, like, "What's the better way to lead somebody?"

Matt McWilliams: If you have ever gone on a hike with a really fit friend, it's like going bowling with somebody who brings their own bowling ball. This guy has got like the hiking shoes and the backpack. I'm showing up with a water bottle and my gym shoes. And so, what happens? He starts going along and he's up there, and four miles into this thing, he's two miles up ahead yelling at me to hurry up. And I'm just getting mad at him. I don't want him as a friend anymore. What's the better place to lead from? Two miles up ahead yelling back at people, or standing right here one step ahead of them. You're still ahead of them. You can still see all the little dips. You can see when the path narrows before them. And maybe you've even walked this path before, and you reach back and you grab their hand and you help them along.

Matt McWilliams: That's a better place to lead from. The problem is most of us think we have to be two miles up ahead. You only need to be one step ahead of your audience, like one step ahead. And so, find something where you're one step ahead. Maybe you're still learning. Maybe you don't even know the next step. The cool thing is you can learn the next step and then share it with them, and learn the next step and then share it with them. And you just stay one step ahead. And so, find that area.

Matt McWilliams: If you are the world's leading expert or one of the world's leading experts, then certainly do that. I just know that that holds most people back, Jeff. So you find that area. You're one step ahead of them. You create that lead magnet. You said it best. You said a cheat sheet. A cheat sheet or a checklist. The best lead magnets are the ones that you can think of and create in an hour. Don't take four days to create a lead magnet. That is way too long. It usually over-complicates things, and it detracts from what we talked about. You want it to be a quick win.

Matt McWilliams: A checklist is a quick win. You give me that organic tomato farming checklist or whatever the heck I said. You give me the checklist where I just make sure I've got that, that and that. Yep. I did that. Oh, I need to go water them today. Check. Boom. That was worth me giving you my email address. And so, keep it simple and just make it that quick win that they can digest easily and get those quick results.

Jeff Bullas: Matt, that's a great bunch of tips there. And your story, the analogy was great. I think a lot of people think they have to be the world's best expert. They don't. They need to be one step ahead and they can keep growing from that spot. So I think that's a great tip to leave our listeners with today. How can they find you, Matt? How do they Google you? What do they find? What are they looking for?

Matt McWilliams: Yeah. So if you go to mattmcwilliams.com/bullas, we've got a special thing there for your audience, Jeff. So if you go there, we put together a quick start guide to getting started with affiliate marketing. This is something we actually just put together. It's based on a bunch of our content, but it is exactly what we just talked about. It's a lead magnet. Newsflash, you're going to have to give me your email address, and then I'm going to continue to send you amazing content and help inspire you to build your business.

Matt McWilliams: But it's a quick start guide. It's literally just the first few steps to getting started to running your first affiliate program. It is a quick win. It's not the end all be all to affiliate marketing or everything in there. We've got other free guides for that, but we'll talk about those later. But yeah, it's our quick start guide to getting started with affiliate marketing. So you can get up and running and really start promoting something within just a few days, not weeks or months. So, again, if you just go to mattmcwilliams.com/bullas, you'll find that there.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Thanks, Matt. That's been a fantastic tip. And also thank you for putting that resource together for our listeners. So, thank you very much. It's been great to see a smiling face from the other side of the world.

Matt McWilliams: You too,

Jeff Bullas: We look forward to catch up in real life sooner rather than later.

Matt McWilliams: I can't wait, man.

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