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Nehal Kazim: Hi, this is Nehal Kazim from Ad Tips for Ad Pros, and today I have Clayton Johnson from The HOTH. What’s up, Clayton?
Clayton Johnson: What’s up, dude? Thanks for having me.
Nehal Kazim: There you go. If you’re not watching this video, we’re in person side-by-side in Medellín, Colombia. So also, if you here any kind of noises, that’s because we’re … It’s the authentic
Clayton Johnson: Taxi cabs, dogs yelling, loud bachata music blasting. Reggaeton.
Nehal Kazim: Everything. So the reason I have Clayton on here is because we’ve actually known each other for some time now, and the way we met was very odd. I used to see his ads on Facebook all the time, and they used to have so much text. I’m like “How is he getting away with so much text on his ad?” And then when I moved down here-
Clayton Johnson: It’s a secret.
Nehal Kazim:When I moved down here, we randomly met at a rooftop where we were both living at the time. And so anyways, the reason I got him here is because he went from spending, or making around $5000 a month in his productized SEO agency to the point now that they’re doing consistently over one million dollars a month. And there’s a lot of different things that happen when it comes to that growth, whether it’s with paid advertising, with the overall management of the business personally and professionally of how you’re actually managing that growth and your belief systems, and there’s so many levels to that. Instead of talking about all of that, the thing we’re gonna talk about today’s offer development and the overall dynamic nature of the offers you are making in order to go and scale your business from $5000 a month to a million per month. And so that’s why I have Clayton on.
Clayton Johnson: Nice.
Nehal Kazim: So thank you for doing this.
Clayton Johnson: No problem, dude. Thanks for having me.
Nehal Kazim: Sweet. So tell us about what it took. Like what was the actual first type of offers you guys created and where you started, because then we can go from the journey.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. I think probably the best way to tell this is to kind of work through that history, because there’s so many factors involved. And I know we had a comment on that group that was like “How do we dial the offer in?” Like it’s a singular offer to get to one million bucks a month. So I think if we go through the journey of kind of like how it happened, that can explain a lot, and maybe give some context for where you’re at right now, so you kind of put yourself in the shoes and see what the next couple steps are, and then also plan for the future. You know, like maybe a year, two, three years down the road. Where you’re gonna go next.
So yeah, when we started the business, the business really started very simply. We have … SEO, if you think about it, it’s like extremely complex. There’s lots of different things you could do for SEO. Everything client could be completely different. So we started as a productized service. So we started with just one offer. We had one product, which was a really simple link-building product, and I think the offer point was like at 60 bucks per month. Or not even per month. It was just like a one time thing.
Nehal Kazim: Okay.
Clayton Johnson: And we might have had a second one that was like a couple hundred dollars per month. Or, sorry, couple hundred dollars. And that’s where we started to like … As a lean startup, dude, almost every product, even now, what we try to do is we try to put something out into the marketplace and see if that works before you invest a ton in it.
Nehal Kazim: So a lot of people who start in SEO don’t go that route.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: So they say “I saw a case study from this one dude.” Or “I saw some other guy doing really well and I saw his PayPal transaction, and so I wanna make that same amount of money, so I wanna charge 1000 bucks or like 1500 or whatever.”
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: And so you guys started with $60 or like $200. That makes no sense. Why did you do that?
Clayton Johnson: Because I think our target was a little bit different. Like to actually service a real client and be like “We’re gonna fully manage your SEO,” that can mean a lot of things, and we just didn’t have the capacity at that time. So we just focused on productizing the service.
From my previous experience, I worked in businesses that were also service-based businesses, but they were really difficult to run, and I saw the reason that it’s difficult to run is because you’re doing something custom for everything.
Nehal Kazim: For sure.
Clayton Johnson: Right? When you’re able to productize a service, that makes it so it’s like literally a production assembly line, and it makes it so much better, because the deliverables up-front, I can sell you what the deliverables are gonna be. I can show you what they’re gonna be, and there’s no kind of question. I can produce that consistently every time, and that makes it 1000 times easier.
Nehal Kazim: And for people who are into service businesses, sorry, who have a service business, what we’re gonna do in the group … I’ll make a note here. We’ll makes sure to give an example of what a actual manufacturing line, like actual delivery line looks like from Clayton’s standpoint, because I’ve seen it. And he’s helping me systemize a bunch of our own processes and change my perspective on a bunch of things. And so what we’ll do is we’ll put that in the group. If you’re not already in the group, it’s adtipsforadpros.com, and that’s a Facebook group, and so I think that would be super helpful.
Clayton Johnson: Yep.
Nehal Kazim: Cool. And so when it comes to that first offer, I think that changes a lot of things. The decisions you’re making. Because most people when they think of agencies or service businesses, it’s like “How can I get the most amount of money?” And “I’ll hustle in the beginning, I’ll figure things out, and then I can increase my prices or change my offer and go from there.” And so once you guys had those offers, what happened next? How did you even get those people to buy a $60, $200 offer?
Clayton Johnson: I mean this is like the very beginning of the business, and this was kind of back in the day. I mean this was like 2010. So we actually launched on a forum. Like just literally put up an offer on a forum, and it kind of took off and started earning a few thousand dollars a month from there. And then after that, I think there was just like a various myriad of beginning entrepreneur type stuff. Just kind of throw things at the wall.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: So we went to a couple conferences, we tried a couple AdBlasts. You know, just did a handful of different things. In the beginning it wasn’t super strategic, but it was enough. If you’re a hustler … We kind of, I would say it was probably the hustle phase. Right? You just try a bunch of different stuff, and that got us up to 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars a month. Something like that. Just hustling.
Nehal Kazim: But how many offers? Like you go from $5000, or just like surviving. Just running the business and doing alright. In going from even that step, what changed in the offers?
Clayton Johnson: Not that much actually.
Nehal Kazim: Really? Okay.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. Just because we had like a very easy to understand production assembly line offer, and also something that people could order multiple times, because people always need more links. That seemed to work really well for us.
Nehal Kazim: Gotcha. Well I know from the ways that you guys are starting and the way you positioned your business, it was designed to scale. And I think this is a challenge for a lot of businesses, including agencies, where as soon as you try to scale there is actually a lot of different people that you need or systems break very quickly. And so when it comes to even going from 5K to 30K, what had to change operationally just to support that?
Clayton Johnson: Well, what was kind of cool was like when I started doing this, I made a very big point in the beginning to make sure that everything was scalable. From the beginning. So like I said, I came from a business, like service-based business before, where systems were not really implemented that well, and so I read that book, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. I think that’s what it is.
Nehal Kazim: I think so.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. It’s awesome. It’s all about making systems in your business. And then the second one I read was Built to Sell, which is also about building your business so that it’s actually sellable. So like it’s not just you doing it. And so from the beginning I knew the importance of making systems for everything. So everything that we had, it was totally documented. We could totally piece it out, so from when an order came in to the confirmation to every single step that had to happen after until it got delivered to the client. It was all totally documented and super scalable. We could throw more people in it if we needed to. So that’s what we had designed from the beginning.
Now not everybody has the tools in the beginning to do that. We literally ran off of Google Docs. Like our entire system ran off of Google Docs up-
Nehal Kazim: Wow.
Clayton Johnson: … until like 10, 20, maybe even 30 thousand dollars a month when we made our first big hire, when we hired a developer to build out a custom system for us. So …
Nehal Kazim: Got it. So I know when it comes to scaling the business, you can focus on a lot of different things. Just to even go from that five to 30, was that primarily hustle, or did you guys start doing advertising that was consistent? What allowed you to do that?
Clayton Johnson: To be honest, the consistent growth didn’t happen until much later on.
Nehal Kazim: Okay.
Clayton Johnson: In the beginning, from everything that I can remember, it was just hustling, trying different things. You know what I mean? There was no particular thing that I remember that really significantly grew us. And actually, it became a point in that journey where we actually kind of stalled out because we didn’t have those consistent marketing systems.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: We had good systems for operations, and our product offering was such a good market fit at the time that we were able to scale that, but eventually, if you don’t have the marketing systems in place, you’re gonna stall out and you’re gonna be like “Dude, what went wrong?”
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: And that’s when the real growth really started.
Nehal Kazim: And so when it comes to paid advertising, a lot of the focus of the people in this group, people who are listening to this podcast, for them, the main thing is they’re trying to spend money and make more money than they’re spending that month. But I think that your perspective is very different than the average advertiser’s, because you’re not trying to make money per se on that first month. And the unique nature of your business and the perspective that you have is that you are a master of offers, but then offers that have a very wide variety. Different price points all the way through, where people are spending, like you mentioned, $50, and that’s the only thing that they’ve ever spent with you, versus hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so when you’re looking at paid advertising and growth, what do you think is different to how you look at paid advertising versus the average person?
Clayton Johnson: Well there’s lots of things. The first thing I would say is that the biggest problem I see is people make it hard on themselves. Like, right? They’re like “All right, I got one ad, and I got one offer and one funnel, and I’m one-time, and I gotta make that work. And if that doesn’t work, my business is gonna fall apart.” So what I have as an advantage to me is that we had, by the time we actually started ads, we got a handful of products at different price points, and people were able to go and buy those multiple times. And for the different types of avatars that we had. You know, some people would come in and buy right away. Some people would wait a little while. Some people would purchase over and over and over. So we had a lot of different people coming in the funnel, and we had enough offers that it made it so that if someone came in once and they didn’t purchase immediately, that doesn’t mean I’m dead.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: You know, it’s not like a webinar where I got one shot and I got one product. So my first thing that’s really important, the big benefit that we had is that we’re not making it hard on ourselves. You know what I mean? So think about that. Don’t make it hard on yourself when you’re running those paid ads.
Nehal Kazim: But what does that mean for someone who has like a coaching business, or has an e-commerce business. Like for them, they have one or two offers that are working, and they might even have just Facebook or Instagram as their main traffic source.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: And then you’re telling them to not make it so hard. So how could they use that in their business?
Clayton Johnson: Well with us, what we do is … I mean it’s versus simple. Like internet marketing 101, we put people on the list. Like people might be interested in your front-end lead magnet right now, but who knows when they’re actually going to convert. Right? And so we put people on the email list, and we just continually send them out cool stuff all the time.
Stuff in SEO changes all the time. We come out with new articles every month. New cool stuff happens. We got new offers, we got new products, we got new questions, new trainings, new everything’s always coming out. So we put people on the list, and people sometimes buy right away, and sometimes not.
Nehal Kazim: Could you give a breakdown, or you know, generally, of how many offers you have and what would be the one offer that’s been generating the most amount of revenue?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: Because most people, they’re in e-commerce or service-business. They have maybe one or two offers max, and that’s what they live and die by. And usually it’s one traffic platform as well, and there’s a little bit of nurturing and different ways to close those people, but there’s not that much sophistication. So how many offers, and what would be your best offer? And if you wanna say how much it generates, that’s up to you.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah, sure. So basically, like I said, we started the business with like essentially one offer, and then we expanded that to have like three different types of link-building products. That got us up to a certain point, but our real growth came in the next handful of years when we expanded to like literally 15 offers. We have 15 different SEO products, and sometimes with each one of those there’s multiple different types of packages you can buy. Right?
Nehal Kazim: Gotcha.
Clayton Johnson: So that was awesome, because we could serve way more customers. You know, whoever you are, we probably have a package for you. But it also came with the problem of like “Which one of these do I choose?” Right?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Now you got so many offers. So then we created our best offer ever, which does like four times the revenue of any other product. Four or five times. And that’s basically done for each service, where we take all of our products and we give you the best ones for you.
Nehal Kazim: Gotcha.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: And so for people who are listening, I wanna make sure that becomes super clear, because for most businesses, they don’t actually have, especially if you’re a service-business, you don’t have a productized offer, and then on top of that it usually isn’t a way that you can combine a bunch of your productized offer into a higher offer that’s worth a lot more and is on recurring and people are paying for a relatively long period of time. And so when Clayton says something like that, the first thing is “What are …” If you’re a service business especially, “What are ways that you could productize as many of your offers as you can?” And then from those, package them up in a way that they allow you to scale not only from a delivery of that offer or each individual offers, but then also, when you combine them they have way higher perceived value, and it becomes a no-brainer for them.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. I think, dude, to be honest, if you were running a service-based business and you don’t have productized services, you should have productized services, unless you have these offers that are super, super expensive and super custom. Here’s the reason. You know not even … You don’t even have to offer those as productized services, but you need to have them, because essentially a productized service means you have a check list. If you’re gonna do this process, you’ve got this checklist. So you should be able to offer almost everything you have as a productized service, in my opinion. That allows you to make sure that as you scale, you don’t have to be the person that’s doing everything, and you also be able to sell the business one day. You know what I mean?
Nehal Kazim: So whenever Clayton and I talk, most of our conversations are either about growth, or they’re mostly on like systems and structures and SOPs, things like that. And I would love to potentially bring him on again for like the actual operations side, because that’s one of his specialties. But when it comes to the offer, just going back to that, what was the point where you guys went from a handful of offers to like 15. What happened on how people actually interacted with you? Because how you deal with the new deals and new people who are interested is very different now than I’m assuming you were doing it then.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. I guess it changed quite a bit overtime. I mean for us, a person can hit on almost any one of our products. You know, like our audience is so wide and varied that we don’t know what exactly they’re looking for when they come to the funnel. Our first lead magnet that really killed it was just a simple list of the best tools in our industry.
Nehal Kazim: Got it.
Clayton Johnson: It was just like “Get this list of the 50 best SEO tools.” So that’s super general, right? We don’t know if that person is a local business owner or a magnet. You know? So what we did is we have a simple email funnel that kind of delivered value and pitched each one of the products throughout that sequence. So it’s probably 10 to 20 emails, and we’d be like “Hey, what’s up? Welcome here. Here’s the main strategy we would recommend for most people.” And it kind of pitched each one of the products somewhere through. And then over the course of the next two weeks or so, we’d hit them off with different angles, and we’d be like “Dude, if this is kind of a problem you have, like let’s say you need a reviews for your local business or something, we have a product that helps with reviews. If you are … You need content. You know, for your website, blogs, we have a blog.
Clayton Johnson: for your website because its not on blogs. We have a blog. We pitched that. So basically we fill out that sequence that strategically work people through our entire product offering. Felt where you’re at the time and then also offered people a chance to just get on the phone so we could just straight shot you to where you needed.
Nehal Kazim: And so, when did you guys start adding the phone because as a product size service, you want people to just go and buy your things and then you deliver them and they’re happy and ideally they order again.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: Or not, and that’s the end of the relationship. And so, when was that transition and how did that change how people bought?
Clayton Johnson: Well, we had a salesperson from the beginning, not necessarily from exactly the beginning but very early on we hired a sales person. But for a long time we had that sales person there and were just kinda like do stuff. Like when people sign up, call em or something? We don’t really know and we’re like, if you have somebody there to answer the phone or answer product question that sets a huge next step. Like just to be able to be like yo, this person is dedicated to helping people on the phone because I don’t know, at least in the U.S., people love talkin on the phone.
Nehal Kazim: Right?
Clayton Johnson: Even if it’s just like hey man I just wanted to make sure you’re real.
Nehal Kazim: Right?
Clayton Johnson: Cool. Okay. That works, now you’ll purchase. I think depending on your industry, especially SEO, like SEO a lot of people, there’s a lot of business that painted like a gray picture over the SEO industry. So, for us, gaining that trust and being like real people. That was really important. But, over time as we started ramping up our marketing, what we try to do is really help the sales guys. Instead of being like, we need you comin in and closin deals and hard sellin people, like a lot of businesses do. I don’t like that at all because I think that hurts the customer, it forces products down their throat that they don’t need. So, we just really worked on inbound marketing. In terms of driving leads through marketing, developing a relationship with our content and then giving them the opportunity, when something sparks their interest, to book a call with one of our sales guys and that’s great because the leads are qualified. They’re very interested by the time they get on and the sales guy doesn’t have to like ram something down their throat, they don’t have to sell em because they’re already warmed up with all the content stuff we delivered. So, that was really valuable.
Nehal Kazim: So, I know a lot of people who are listening to this podcast are the type of person and people in the group and I know the majority of these people aren’t doing content marketing.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: So, you’re in the SEO space and you sell content for a living. And so, what is your perspective on content when it comes to growth and having systems with using content?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah man, I put a post up on my Facebook the other day and I think this really capsulates what I think about content. Which is that, every day, people are coming to you and if you’re gonna sell them a product they have questions, right? And you have a pitch that you’re gonna give to them. You have all these different things you wanna say to explain your product, your service and how it fits into the market or whatever. But that only exists in your mind.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Right? So what you need to do is put that out there. You need to write articles that explain these things. Like every facet of your product, every question that someone asks. Because if someone asks, I’m pretty sure most sales people would say, I get asked the same questions every day.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Okay, if you get asked the same questions every day, there’s a better way. Okay? Just write out the answers, okay? So, write out the answers, put it in blog posts, so if somebody has a problem. The way I explain it is like, when people came to us, anything that prevented them from buying we wanted to create resource for them. So they would say, we sell links, okay they come to us be like okay what should the strategy. I’m like okay cool, I’ll write an SEO strategy up. Here’s an SEO strategy and they’re like okay but what about, I don’t know what anchor text to use? How do I do the keyword research before I buy your link? I go okay, here’s how to do keyword research. What about getting penalized? I go, here’s how to build links and not get penalized. So every time that there’s a question, objection, anything like that, write an article about it.
Now, what’s cool, is that becomes an SEO strategy because you can optimize that. If people are asking you on the phone, they’re probably searching it on google too.
Nehal Kazim: Right?
Clayton Johnson: So, it becomes your SEO strategy that way you start getting organic ranking and organic traffic starts flowing in. Then, you can take that and also becomes your pay traffic strategy, right? Because we run Facebook ads to all these posts, right? This is, we take all our retargeting and just run it right there. You can also turn your posts, good ones, into lead magnets. Right? So you lead campaigns with that same content.
Then it also becomes your email marketing strategy because you take that content, all those posts that you wrote are objections and you send an email. You write a little auto response sequence and you go hey, we just put up a new post, and do you ever have this question? Well, we have the answer here.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: So, every time this whole system starts workin out, but it’s all, the content is the core of it.
Nehal Kazim: So, if you’re listening to this, that’s a lot of information. You can actually use this in your business very simply. So, what I heard is that first thing, understand and become aware of what are the actual problems or recurring themes in your business? So, for him, it’s their sales objections. That’s one of the most powerful and the closest thing he can do when it comes to earning money or closing the deal is awareness of what the actual problems are and what are the friction points? If one person’s having it, there’s probably a lot more that are having it, they just haven’t expressed it to you. Maybe, not expressed it verbally, or that you just don’t know yet. So, the fact that you might not even be looking at those opportunities, that is a challenge. It’s the same thing that we’re doing in the Facebook group right now. We asked what are the different standard operating procedures that you would want for your own media buyer and people are responding with what is it that would help them run their Facebook ads better. And so, the first part, in your business, whatever type of business you’re doing, what are the actual objections people have? That’s step one.
Step two is how do you convert that objection into an opportunity and that’s what he was saying was how do you put that into articles or into content, into assets that help you convert people, but add scale. So, instead of having the same conversation over and over, now you’re doing it in a scalable way. So, first is awareness, then you’re actually converting it into assets.
Now that you have assets, the third step is repurposing, because now you’re repurposing that same asset into a lead magnet, into a retargeting piece of content, into an email content and into SEO asset that actually brings in more traffic consistently and so all of these tools and these assets, you only created it once, but now they’re getting repurposed in multiple ways, just to make you money in an automated, systematic way.
So, if you’re looking at the outcome, it sounds like so much work. But, if you actually took this same approach of saying first, I just wanna be aware of what my objections are and what people are saying. If you’re not collecting that or asking that, that’s step one.
Once you know what those objections are, convert them into an opportunity by converting them into an asset. So, that’s what content he’s talking about, and now that you have assets, you can repurpose them into whatever other channels you want, like email, like actual blog post, like retargeting ads or even on the phone, if you’re selling over the phone of direct links.
Clayton Johnson: Yes. Exactly dude. My sales guys, every day, they’re like, I didn’t even know we had these blog posts. They’re like almost every object there is, there’s a blog post on our website that explains it.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: And has it all mapped out and basically they love it, it’s a resource for them. I like to say this, is that it does sound like a lot of work, but there’s two things. One, after you create these pieces of content, they will become your little marketing soldiers that will go on and sell for you like every day for years. There’s blog posts that I wrote four years ago, that are still selling Hoff products.
Nehal Kazim: That’s awesome.
Clayton Johnson: It’s that question as an entrepreneur, you’re trying to train somebody, like dude I should just do this myself instead of making an SOP for it. It’s kind of like that. Yes, just take the time, cause in the long run it will save you a billion hours. Actually, it won’t save you a billion hours, it will actually allow you to grow. You’ll still be the one on the calls saying all those things, but if you set these up, you can use these little market soldiers as little assets and pummel every type of marketing towards them and they’ll just sell for you everyday for years.
Nehal Kazim: So, how do you go from doing hustle marketing to having like consistent systems to drive traffic to your offers predictably? Cause that sounds like, I’m assuming, might be your next big inflection point? Was it or was there something else?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. I think there’s a handful of different things. But, when we started launching Facebook ads and started running pay traffic, I think that was a huge inflection point for us. What I decided to do, which I think, for me personally, there’s a handful of things that happen. You’ve heard like kind of the story a few times, I’ll try not to go too far off scope.
Nehal Kazim: It’s all good.
Clayton Johnson: But, as an entrepreneur, you’re gonna have to wear different hats at different stages of your business, right? One big thing that happened to me is that, SEOs hard, dude. And selling SEO with the constant Google updates, it was really like emotionally draining. There was a time when we, probably like every business, has something like this, like Facebook ads, like Facebook changes the algorithm, or whatever, almost every business has something hard about it. It can be really emotionally draining, but one thing you gotta do, that’s really important to me is like you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens and it’s all on you, you have to take that responsibility and as hard as that is sometimes, its actually like liberating. Because you stop blaming everything else. So, I did that and I was like man we’re not growing, well okay, I’m gonna take that responsibility. So, why is it not growing?
So, at that time I was running ops, like I was an ops guy. Now, I knew a lot about marketing or I thought I knew a lot about marketing. You meet a lot of marketers that talk, like I knew about retargeting, I could talk to you about SEO, I could talk to you about all kinds of different stuff all day.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: But, could I produce a really good system that would consistently drive leads and sales? Still hadn’t done it. So, I took a look at my daily schedule one time and I realized that most of the tasks that I had were operations tasks. I was in meetings, emails, all that kinds of stuff and as an entrepreneur, I think it’s super easy to get busy with busy work and making yourself feel like you’re doing good, right?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: But, I realized that my actions didn’t line up with my goals dude. The goals were to grow and so you have to look at are these actions going to get me more customers? Are they going to help sell more things? And I was like shit, no they’re not. So, I had to actually change my daily schedule and put time in that said this time is only allotted for straight marketing activities. Right? And just as I’d developed systems for operations, I needed to develop systems for marketing that says, when the lead comes in here its gonna go through this system and then at the end predictably we’re gonna get this result and if that does work we’re gonna be able to scale that. So, that’s what I worked on for, a long time to create.
Nehal Kazim: When you’re doing that, it’s usually at a point where you’re at an emotional low.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: And there’s usually that trigger, was there, that trigger was painful enough for you to do it. What was the reason that you actually did something about it?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. There’s a handful of things. I’ve talked to a multiple entrepreneurs about this and they say that like almost always before the best stuff happens, something really terrible happens, right? And I’m thankful that nothing really terrible, terrible happened in my life, it’s just that I hated Chicago winter time right?
Nehal Kazim: Gotcha.
Clayton Johnson: I hated it enough that I was like depressed and I was like oh my God I have to get out of this. So, I sold everything I had and I came down here to [inaudible 00:27:27] where there’s perfect weather every day, if you ever wanna come. That was a painful enough thing where I had to change and I was like really intent on growing and changing at that point. And that’s when I looked at everything I was doing and changed my morning routine, I changed the goals that I had and I started actually really setting goals to be honest. Instead of just showing up and being like I hope this works today. Like setting a real goal, figuring out what I need to do to do it and then set the time to actually execute that stuff.
Nehal Kazim: What was the first like biggest goal that you set? Because I saw your Evernote and I saw your breakdown. So, how did you actually set that goal? And then we can talk about how you got there.
Clayton Johnson: Man, I don’t know if I remember exactly what it was. I think at the time, we were fluctuating between like eighty to a hundred thousand dollars a month. And I think I just set a goal to five exit, just do five hundred thousand dollars a month. I think that was the first goal, cause that was enough to make it like life changing, but I really had no, there was no like real this is exactly what I wanna do with this five hundred k, I just thought that would be a good growth goal, that would change everything.
Nehal Kazim: But, then when you actually scheduled your time, that was based off of like what? Like a two hour block, right?
Clayton Johnson: I think it was like a three hour block.
Nehal Kazim: Okay.
Clayton Johnson: I think what I did is because let’s be realistic, people are like yeah just do marketing all day. As you and your business you probably have lots of responsibilities. So what I did is I just said the morning time was made for marketing and then afternoon was when I could do operations. So, I would get up and I got a morning routine going. I was really good. I got up and went and got grateful for what I had, got my body moving, got to the Tony Robbins move your body thing.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Then, head down to the coffee shop, write what I’m grateful for, hit the gym, come back, then take a shower, then that was only marketing. I didn’t even check my email. Actually, had a program that blocked my email so I could work on these marketing tasks. Setting up that system that I was talking about. Whether it’s like writing these five articles or creating this one lead magnet or setting these up in an auto responser, whatever it was to create that system, I just progressively went through that and for like months I just did that nine to twelve or so, whatever it was, and like aggressively only worked on marketing. Eliminated all distractions, like no phones, no anything, until I had that system created.
Nehal Kazim: Right. I think a lot of this starts with depending on what your intention is and depending on what your goals are and what you actually set those intentions and you know how to operate, and then at that point you can ask yourself a lot better quality questions because until then it’s like I want more money. Or I wanna grow. Grow, what does that mean? What do you actually do today?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: And so, once you actually made that decision, you created a number, five hundred k, what did you do in terms of figuring out what you should be doing? Because what you pretty much did is you said, here’s a goal, here’s times, and then let me figure it out as I go.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. So, initially I had no idea what the numbers would be, right?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: But, I knew that there’s a very simple explanation, or very simple marketing system that I could create. Which is essentially this, essentially let’s run an ad to a lead magnet with an optic, then I’ll put people on an email list and then try to sell them things.
Nehal Kazim: Right. That’s super complicated.
Clayton Johnson: I’ll try to sell them things and if I put a dollar in here and then like we’ll just see what comes out the other end and if it’s more than a dollar that’s good, we’ll just keep doing that and that’s kinda what I did. Like created a series of emails that had our top questions in it and kind of pitched our products throughout, gave people an opportunity to get on the phone.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: And then set up a couple different lead magnets and one of them beat the other ones in terms of cost per lead and then just ran that. We’re like okay man run it to lead magnet, put people on a list, sell that stuff, track it.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: And it actually worked. It worked pretty decent. We didn’t get money back that day because we don’t try to sell, we’re not like hey what’s up, I’ve never met you before, here’s an offer, please marry me. We just said like here’s some cool stuff and that worked out pretty well.
Nehal Kazim: And, Jeremy, who’s in the group right now.
Clayton Johnson: What’s up Jeremy?
Nehal Kazim: He’s a hot customer and he’s saying your onboarding package kicks butt.
Clayton Johnson: Thank you!
Nehal Kazim: So, there you go.
Clayton Johnson: And actually, it’s got a lot better over time. I think this is a good point to make. A lot of times when you’re starting out you’re like oh, I have to do this crazy complex system and actually it can be
Clayton Johnson: … you’re like, “Oh. I have to do this crazy, complex system.” Actually, it can be paralyzing. Especially if you know a lot.
I knew enough about marketing that it’s kind of paralyzing, because you’re like, “Well, if we send people to this page, then we should have retargeting going on it. And then, we should probably have a messenger bot campaign after that.” I’m saying, “Dude, you gotta start somewhere. So, just start super simple.”
It was like, this, to a landing page, to an email series, and that’s it. We used Mail Chimp up until we had 150 thousand people on our list. You know what I mean?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Actually, up until this year.
Nehal Kazim: Clayton and I speak a lot about different marketing campaigns and advertising stuff. I have to hold back, because Clayton actually executes what he says he’s gonna execute. When we’re speaking we decide not to speak about specific types of campaigns, because it just is … You get excited, and then you feel bad that you’re not executing.
The conversations that Clayton and I have are like, “No. No. No. Here’s exactly what I’m gonna work on, here’s the thing that I need help with right now.” And then, the majority of the conversation that we end up having is, “Are you gonna do this now? Do you want to talk about this or do you just do the stuff that you’re already doing?”
Majority of the time it’s like, “No. No. No. Right now is not the time to talk about this, because I’m executing A, B, and C.” The discipline that he has and the type of people that he’s working with on his team are focused on executing right what’s in front of them.
There is no guilt, or shame, or disappointment of not implementing chat bots or not implementing other stuff. There’s always a pursuit for growth, but it’s not paralyzing.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s super important, man. We talk a lot about offers on this and I think I kind of want to bring it back to that, just because … Dude, the best, most complex webinar campaign with the sickest landing pages, and slick retargeting, and weird automation sequences … Nothing can beat having just a dope, amazing offer that actually connects with your audience.
You could literally just have the worst opt in and if the offer is what your customers care about, that’s the most important thing. If you have the best thing ever and you have a shitty offer, then it doesn’t fucking matter anyway.
Nehal Kazim: Leandro, in the group asked, “What was your process of coming up with the offers that you have?” Because, I’m sure they evolved significantly and it’s not just like, “Well, I’m gonna try this offer. Let’s scale it.” How is it that you actually got the offers that are the most successful today?
Clayton Johnson: Well, there’s a lot of points to make about this. What we did is just aggressively put out offers, because you don’t know. We’ve surveyed our customers at different times, we’ve kind of asked them what they wanted. That can sometimes yield good results and sometimes people lie, because what people say and what people do are way different. It’s crazy.
The best thing we can do is … I remember there was a time when we really pushed ourselves, because we were like, “Man, we could come out with one offer per year. That’s about what we can handle.” And then, there was one year where we came out with like three or four offers in that same year.
Nehal Kazim: Nice.
Clayton Johnson: We found out that we could do it if we push ourselves to do that. We push ourselves to put out offers and some of them worked and some of them didn’t. It’s crazy. There’s offers that I was like, “Dude, I don’t even want to do this. This is not a good offer. Ugh.”
I put out there and it explodes. Makes me mad. There’s other offers where I was like, “This is the best offer, this is so sick to design this.” And then, people like, “I don’t know.” You know?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: You don’t know what your market really wants. My best thing is we always start it thinking as MVPs. We try to launch them with putting as least work as we could to launch them and that worked really well for us. That allowed us to test something, snipe it in, and then if it worked, then we can scale it.
Nehal Kazim: Can you talk more about how you’re actually testing that offer in the initial stage? Because, you have assets now which is like an email list. You have a chat bot list, you have retargeting lists, and of course you’re using webinars.
How do you go about that first initial test? And then, you can work on scaling from there.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. Usually what we would do is … Let me try to … The best way to kind of describe it, because it happens different ways, different time periods. But, more or less we always start with … We try to start with the offer. What do we think that our audience would like?
Just being in the industry I know enough to see other offers going out and kind of see what people are talking about or whatever. And then, create the sales page or whatever. And then, we have our custom system and stuff … A custom backing where people order.
But, actually a lot of times what we’ve done just to test things out is we keep it as simple as possible and literally have a Wufoo form, because I couldn’t get dev to do it fast enough. I’d literally take a Wufoo form and put that on our website.
We’ve collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through Wufoo. Okay? Literally, bare minimum. That would go to like a spreadsheet and we would just have somebody fulfilling the orders in a spreadsheet.
We don’t do that anymore. Well, I would still do it if I had too. You know what I mean?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Even at the level that we’re at right now, but I’m just saying we really try to just put up the sales page with a Wufoo form, write a couple emails or even like a little warmup sequence to get them ready for the offer, and then, “Dude, if you guys want to try it, here it is.”
Additionally, if you have a lot of people on the phone or whatever we’ll take a top sales guy and be like, “Okay. You’re the only one that can offer this right now. We’re gonna let you start funneling people into this to get their feedback.” It just depends on where you’re at with the business.
Nehal Kazim: Your business has changed significantly, in the sense of the number of people involved and how much complexity there is for every offer that you have.
Clayton Johnson: Yes.
Nehal Kazim: Can you talk about that? As you stack more offers, how that changes the operations of the business, but also your inability or ability to scale?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. 100%, dude. If you’re a small business, if you’re like … If you’re like a startup or you just have a handful of people on your team … A couple people or 10 people, it allows you to create offers really quickly, because you’re probably in the same room as most of the other people.
It’s pretty simple, so I would take advantage of that. For those couple of years when you grew and you launched 15 offers, or launched 10 new products, or whatever it was it was just that process. It was like, throw up a sales page, show it to the people in the business, and then get it done and see if people like it.
As your business grows you gotta be a little bit more strategic about product offerings now, because now I got a sales team that needs to understand the offering, and understand the complexities of it, and answer questions for customers.
We got a support team that needs to support it, we have a dev team that needs to actually create the process in the back. You have to be a lot more strategic. In the beginning you … But, throughout your whole business you’re always focused on systems. Your systems just to become gangster and more gangster, like all the time. You know?
Nehal Kazim: Right. Can you give an example of your highest converting offer, your most profitable offer in terms of what it does and the price point? Just so people understand what is it that you guys sell and how it works?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. Sure. Well, I don’t know if it’s our most profitable offer … Probably is our most profitable … It’s our top revenue one-
Nehal Kazim: There you go.
Clayton Johnson: … by far. Which, is essentially our done for you SEO service. The pitch is kind of like this. It’s like, “Okay. We have all these different a la carte products and you can take anyone of these and make your own strategy.” Which, is good for a lot of people.
It’s all wholesale, but if you’d like us to do it, what we’ll do is we will dedicate a campaign manager to your account, we’re gonna go through specific research products that we have. It’s gonna get you easy wins, it’s gonna speed up your results, and also have a strategic longterm plan for you.
And then, we’re gonna utilize all of these little products that we have in the best kind of mixture, exactly custom made for your website. Okay? What we did is … Here’s a big question in the service industry. Is like, “Dude, every website is different. Every campaign, every business is totally different. How do you create an offer that makes it easy to buy with all these different types of-”
Nehal Kazim: Sure.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. It can be so different for every campaign. What we did is we go … I’ve seen this a lot of times. This is a big problem with agencies. It’s like it’s so hard to buy from an agency, because you have to apply, and you get the consultation, and 40 years later you get proposals, and then there’s a PDF that needs to get shared around.
What we do is we just say, “Look, whatever your … ” This is the biggest thing. At least in this market where you have between five to a few thousand dollars a month. People’s biggest thing is their budget, dude. You know what I mean? It’d be great if you’re not worried about budgets, but a lot of clients are worried about budgets.
What we did is we took … We said, “Look, we’re gonna sell this thing. This managed SEO service in $500.00 increments.” Right? Our lowest package is like a thousand bucks. Starts at a thousand dollars, and then whatever your budget is … It’s a thousand, or 15 hundred, or two thousand, or 20 thousand, or 30 thousand, or 40 thousand? Whatever your budget is, that’s what you’re gonna get.
For that budget, we’re going to buy all of our … Essentially, buy all of our product and services. You get them at wholesale price and so that offer was bananas, dude. We launched it and it slammed faster than anything else we’ve ever done. So, yeah. That worked really well.
Nehal Kazim: But, do you think that was … It did so well because there’s such a deep level of understanding from the education standpoint with your list, because they’ve already been seeing other offers? Why do you think it did so well?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. Because SEO’s really complicated and finally we just go, “Hey. We’ll do it for you?”
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: So simple.
Nehal Kazim: It’s so hard.
Clayton Johnson: Right?
Nehal Kazim: Who would have thunk?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah.
Nehal Kazim: Got it. Now that you’re at a million a month and … It’s more than that, but as you guys are here how are you looking at growth in the next stage of your business? Because, how you’re looking at it at five thousand a month is a lot different than a million.
How are you guys looking at it now? If you can share what your company looks like today in term of people and how you guys operate.
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. I think there’s … I’ll throw a book recommendation in here. I’ve been studying this, it’s Michael Masterson. It’s called, “Ready, Aim, Fire.” Basically, I love this book. It really talks about the different stages of business that you’ll go through.
I forget what his breakdowns are, but it matched up exactly with what happened with us, because as an entrepreneur you have to change what you do at every section of the business. There’s a point when you’re running a lot of different things and you’re really inside of the mix. You’re creating the offers and all that kind of stuff and you’re doing some of the production. You’re really in it.
And then, next stage of growth you really got to concentrate on having more than one offer. Serving your clients better by having more things. We did that. And then, eventually you’re gonna get a lot of employees. Right? Where we have a lot of different people … We have like an office of 45 right now. To give you kind of an idea.
But, we also have … Because we built our business on systems … For instance, we produce a ton of blog content. We have like 400 writers, but they’re not in the office. They’re just part … They log into our system, they request an article. It strategically goes through that.
The numbers, how many people do you have is a question with a bunch of asterisk on it. We got 45 people in the office and that’s a lot for a core staff. That doesn’t include or dev team, probably like 10 people that are out of the office and stuff like that.
As you grow … We’re in a stage right now, once you get like 20, 30, 40 people your business has to change. If you’ve never done management before, you have to learn management.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: That’s probably been the hardest thing for me, to be honest. Because, I love getting in there, creating product real quick, figuring out the operation, getting stuff done. We turn from a speed boat to like a cruise ship.
Like I said, when you’re a speed boat … Man, you can zoom around, you can change really quick. But, also a speed boat can be sunk by a little puncture wound.
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: We’re like a cruise ship now. It’s really hard to stop a cruise ship, but it’s a lot harder to change directions.
Nehal Kazim: Gotcha.
Clayton Johnson: There’s good and the bad, but you definitely have to change what you do at every section of the business.
Nehal Kazim: Right. I know we’ve been going on here for a little bit. When it comes to offers and how people are looking at it right now, what are some of your … How would you help someone in terms of scaling an offer? Because, I think what you guys did really well is you figured out a couple offers, and then you stacked them as you went.
Of course there’s different challenges operations wise, growth wise, et cetera. But, for a lot of people they might be under the million dollar mark and it might be even less than a few hundred thousand.
Once they’re at that point, for someone who’s in the early stages of their offer development and wants to use paid advertising, what do you tell them about offers to help them scale their business?
Clayton Johnson: There’s too much to say, I think. Maybe you can.
Nehal Kazim: Yeah. When it comes to paid advertising specifically, what would be your recommendation at that point? Because, there’s a lot of ways to look at offers and there’s a lot of ways to look at lifetime values and things like that. How do you look at offers in the early stages of your paid advertising?
Clayton Johnson: Not sure. For offers, I would say … Maybe I’ll take HOTH X as an example. Which, is our number one selling product. We were very confidant in it to be begin with and if you have a good offer you’ll know it from the beginning, usually.
Now, there’s an actual fact and I’ll share that asterisk. With HOTH X, we put a couple people on it and we knew people were gonna love it and stuff like that, but then when we launched the first webinar … Because we already had the list we didn’t really have to spend that much paid traffic on it.
We launched that webinar and it was a smash, so we started doing more webinars and now we can run paid traffic to that webinar. That worked out really well. Now, I said there was an asterisk. Sometimes you do know if it’s a smash.
There was a product that we have, it’s HOTH Blogger. It’s our blog product and that was the product that we launched that I was really excited about and people didn’t buy it right away, but I was really confidant in it. I think there’s something to be said about what your market knows you for.
If you get pigeon hold as one thing … We were kind of pigeon hold as a link building service, so our audience is used to buying links from us. When we came out with blogger they were like, “Oh. You guys do content too? I don’t know about that kind of stuff. I just know you as a link building service.”
I’d say that’s really important to know, because now that service is like our number two service. It just took a while for us to warm up our audience to that kind of stuff. You don’t always know if it’s gonna be a smash. I don’t know if that’s the answer that you’re looking for.
Nehal Kazim: But, there’s part of … A nuance of that is that SEO is growing and evolving as well. Five years ago links were everything. Where now, content is such an important part of it and so you guys are evolving as the market is evolving.
Clayton Johnson: Oh, yeah. I think that every business can kind of do that. People like to buy what’s hot. Right?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: Hopefully, your business can move fast enough to be on top of what’s hot. But, yeah. Overtime what we tried to do is just try to fill more of the questions for that market. The best thing that you can do as a business is pay for a customer once, and then be able to sell to them for all time. Right?
Nehal Kazim: Right.
Clayton Johnson: The more offers you have, the more price points, the more you can expand that value ladder the easier you make it on yourself to run that first lead gen campaign.
Nehal Kazim: Right. Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on here
Clayton Johnson: Oh, yeah. For sure.
Nehal Kazim: If people want to reach out to you or learn more about the HOTH, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Clayton Johnson: Yeah. You can hit me on Facebook or you can do, “Clayton@thehoth.com”
Nehal Kazim: I wonder if there’s a lot of Clayton Johnsons?
Clayton Johnson: There’s another Clayton Johnson in SEO. Dude, he has “ClaytonJohnson.com.” Oh, man. It’s so bad. Dude.
Nehal Kazim: We gotta hack him. All right. I will see you guys on the next episode of Ad Tips for Ad Pros.
Clayton Johnson: See you guys. “AdPros.com.”