Hope you’re comfortably seated and have a refreshing beverage handy, this may take a while. 🙂
I’ve been doing sales and marketing for as long as I can remember. I started my first business when I was 17 years old (a T-shirt shop in Daytona Beach, Florida).
Over the course of my life, aside from a Navy stint, I’ve done every kind of sales gig there is. Whether it was electronics, office equipment or even real estate, selling has always been in my blood. Almost as much as wanting to be in business for myself was.
My first foray into online marketing was back in 1991, with Destiny Travel Group. That was my rapidly-growing travel agency with offices in Orlando and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. To say that I was an “early adopter” of online marketing would indeed be an understatement. In fact, my online marketing activities pre-date what everybody called The “World Wide Web” back then. My travel company was doing it before the “all-you-can-eat” days when internet access was metered and painfully slow via dial-up modem (I feel old just saying that!).
Despite the insane limitations in service and the technology of that era, we managed to successfully market travel services and products on networks like Compuserve, AOL, and Prodigy. What’s more, we did it on a truly global level.
Once the web emerged in early/mid-’90s, I decided to get out of the travel business, which thanks to the internet was now in rapid decline, and because an ill-conceived partnership was ruining things. I decided that it was time to start an internet/online-marketing consultancy. The writing was on the wall, the nascent web was where I needed to be.
WorldMarket Services first unveiled itself in Gainesville, Florida in 1994. I ran it out of the 1-bedroom apartment I shared with my then-wife. We moved the company and ourselves to Los Angeles in 1996. Within three short years, it grew from a two-person operation to a thriving company with 8 inside employees, and twice as many outside developers and admins.
Despite our relatively small size, we somehow managed to build an enviable worldwide clientele. We also built our own in-house state-of-the-art data center from scratch in Downtown LA. A feat that was virtually unheard of for such a small company to pull off during the “dot-com-boom” days.
Within just a few short years, WorldMarket evolved from a tiny web shop into a rapidly growing full service managed hosting/web development firm. It was then acquired by a larger company in 2001. After that, I co-managed another hosting company based out of Vancouver and ran their data center, until they too acquired my share not long after that.
And the common thread in my successful ventures?…
I wrote every word of copy that we ever used to market ourselves and sell our services. From the online classified ads that I posted on the nets, forums and bulletin boards, to the copy on our websites, all the way down to the tri-fold brochures that we gave out at trade shows. I wrote up everything.
I attribute a huge part of my business success to my ability to write persuasive copy. I realized that I had a knack for it early on. It was clear to me that people responded positively to whatever I wrote, and took action. I didn’t think much more about it than that back then. If anything, I was just glad that I was able to leverage this innate skill in a beneficial way.
Over time, I made it my goal to learn more about copywriting, so I can do it even better. I read all the copywriting bibles by Ogilvy, Halbert, Kennedy, Bly and many others. I also learned how to effectively test my copy so I would get better and better results.
To cut to the chase, my copy did much of the hard work and selling for us. Thus, we were able to compete with the bigger players, and without the massive marketing budgets that they had.
At the peak of the “dot-com-boom”, it was obvious that my colleagues and competitors were shelling out big time for copywriters, marketing firms, and consultants to develop their sales presentations and marketing materials. During our many lunches, meetings, and conferences, they would complain endlessly about struggling to increase sales. They would go on and on about how much capital and VC money they were burning on stuff that just didn’t work.
Then there was me, essentially a one-man band when it came to our company’s marketing dept. Yet, it made all the difference. Everything I did, just seemed to work, no matter what.
Looking back now, it was clearly the key element that gave us an edge. To think that a ridiculously small shop operating out of an 800 square foot office space in Downtown L.A had the ability to not only compete with the bigger guys, but to even beat them the vast majority of the time, that was pretty cool.
Things eventually got to the point where our longtime web clients started asking me to write their site copy for them too. Most of them were becoming frustrated about wasting money on marketing gurus and copywriters, who weren’t delivering results. They liked how I wrote copy for our stuff, and figured that I can do better for them.
Keep in mind that at the time I was a stressed-out CEO/network admin/project manager/etc. of an insanely busy web company. Yet for some reason, I was crazy enough to take on most of the project offers that they would throw at me.
And yes, I wrote winning copy for them too, at least for the most part. So much so that they just kept hiring me long after I sold off my web company and they weren’t even my clients anymore. They just couldn’t let go.
Fast forward a rather eventful eight years. I’m on the bitter end of an adventure-packed “temporary retirement”, which involved getting divorced and mostly cruising around the Western Caribbean aboard my 50′ sloop, and spending most of hurricane season in Europe. I decided that it was time to get back to working more, while weaning myself off the boating life. And not only because the 2008 crash put a noticeable dent in my hard-earned nest-egg!
(Side note: As much as I love them, it’s absolutely true what they say about boats being a “bottomless money pit”.)
I ultimately hired captains and staff to keep my beloved boat working without me for a couple of years on the Caribbean coast of Panama. She needed to earn her keep while I took on various projects and consulting jobs abroad.
And yes, I wrote all of the copy for the sailing business too.
And of course, it turned out to be insanely successful in what can only be called a quasi-lawless Banana Republic business climate. A part of the world that was an utterly unpredictable tourism market with fragile infrastructure. Many other captains tried to do what we were doing, only to mostly fail in a spectacular fashion.
Not long after selling off the boat to free myself yet a bit more, I made a decision. Copywriting was the one thing that I wanted to keep doing more than anything else.
There was simply no denying the fact that writing copy is what I do best, and why I have been able to succeed, despite the odds that were stacked against me. It was time to focus on that and stop letting myself get distracted by other stuff. I didn’t want to start another company, I just wanted to write winning copy and create value for others.
It took me a while to ultimately figure out that copywriting is more than just in my blood, it’s in my psyche.
I’m always studying it, analyzing what works and what doesn’t, and trying to get better at it. It’s the only thing in my life that has ever come naturally to me, (other than perhaps killing it on air drums!).
I attribute this uncanny ability to write winning copy to my passion for two things: selling, and writing. And what’s particularly interesting is that it never feels like “work” to me. I also love the fact that I can write from wherever I happen to be when yet another fun project rolls in. I make the most out of that benefit.
See, I’ve been a “digital nomad” long before it became a thing. I travel extensively, having been to and lived in over 60+ countries in just the last decade alone. Other than cruising my own boat for an extended time, it’s always been my dream to be a true global citizen. And I wasn’t going to wait until I was “retirement age” to do it. When people ask me where I live, I tell them… “Earth”.
So more than ever, I see a clear need by businesses of all sizes for quality copywriting and marketing know-how, backed by experience. This is the stuff that seriously increases the chances of success. I for one am committed to making my services accessible to ANY business, regardless of the budget they have to work with.
It’s one of the reasons why despite my relative success, that I still offer a relatively low-cost rewriting service. I’m a big proponent of paying it forward any way I can, and I continue to walk the walk.
The fact is for virtually any business operating today, a beneficial online presence is no longer an option. It’s downright critical to survival. It means the difference between success and failure. In my experience, the vast majority of companies and websites simply do it wrong, and it costs them dearly. My ultimate goal to help at least some of them get it right.
I aim to produce quality work and give solid advice. I want others to benefit from my three-plus decades of hard-earned real-world experience. Everything I know about business, sales, marketing, and technology comes from decades in the trenches and at “hard knock” school, (sheepskin not included).
To me, helping any business, no matter how small or large in this ever-changing digital world is a worthy challenge.
Because since making it through both the boom/bust times and having my own dreams come true, I’ve come to the realization that I need to keep paying it forward. And what better way to do that than by helping other business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals reach their own goals…
…and helping them realize their own dreams?
But then again, aren’t dreams supposed to be?
Thanks for reading. Hope it was worth your while.
Let me know how I can help you!