May 2007 Secrets to Their Success Interview About Secrets to Their Success Secrets To Their Success is a private web site where they share the stories of successful e-business owners. Their goal is to combat some of the negative "nobody's making it on the Internet" attitude by sharing stories of people who ARE successful online -- providing both inspiration and general e-business strategies and tips to readers. The site has been a smash hit with thousands of subscribers, and more are signing up every day! Sign up for Secrets to Their Success and discover the real insider secrets of successful work at home entrepreneurs. Highly recommended - Click Here for Details. Feel free to share this ebook to inspire others as long as the content is not changed in any way. Readers of this report also have access to a special free video titled “Insider Secrets - 5 Ways to Make Money Online This Week without Spending Money.” To get this free video, go to: www.PublisherAcademy.com Discover How One Man's Passion for Internet Marketing Built a $337,000 Business -- And Bought Him Freedom From the 9-to-5 Life FOREVER! Ronald Douglas Duckett of RecipeSecrets.net Ron sure knows how to get a lot done in a little time! Since starting his online "copycat" recipe-sharing community at RecipeSecrets.net, he's taken nearly every aspect of his business and put it on autopilot. In the beginning, automation was an absolute necessity. Ron had a busy 9-to-5 job and a young family that needed his attention -- and nobody wanted to get in line behind his entrepreneurial dreams. But Ron quickly realized that the true secret to his success would be to spend less time on the mundane daily tasks of running his business, and more time on growing it. That's why RecipeSecrets.net saw revenues of $337,000 last year -- and ALSO why Ron was able to leave his job at the age of 32! Not only that, but he only spends about 20 hours a week working on his website -- period! Read on to discover how Ron built his bustling community based on an idea from an old print offer he received in the mail -- and turned it into a customer addiction! Snapshot of RecipeSecrets.net Featured Site: RecipeSecrets.net Launched: 2003 Traffic: Over 130,000 unique visitors per month Revenue: $337,000 Target Market: People looking to reproduce recipes from well-known restaurants. Product/Services Cookbooks, ebooks, paid subscriptions and access to Offered: recipe-sharing community Top 3 Marketing 1. Automate your business to save yourself hours of work Strategies: every week 2. Use compelling copy to build strong relationships with your customers -- and keep them coming back for more 3. Use affiliate programs to get other people selling your products FOR you! Getting started on the Web QUESTION: Ron, to start with, would you mind giving our readers some background on what your business is all about. Ron: Well, there are a bunch of different ways we generate revenue but, in general, we are in the publishing business. We're a publisher of cookbooks, eBooks, online newsletters, blogs, and user generated content. We utilize the Internet as a vehicle for marketing and monetizing our content. Our most successful website, RecipeSecrets.net was established in 2003 and has become a popular cooking community with over 45,000 forum members and 115,000 newsletter subscribers. What makes RecipeSecrets.net unique is it's a place where home cooks can discover and share popular restaurant recipes (Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, TGI Friday's, etc). Our members test these "secret recipes" at home and provide feedback to the community. QUESTION: Can you tell us about how you got started on the Internet? What was your first web site, and how did you grow and expand from there? Ron: I was actually introduced to Internet marketing in late 2000 by a former classmate while studying for my MBA at Baruch College in New York. He had graduated and got a job working for a company that did email marketing for AT&T and other companies promoting cell phones. Many people will be surprised to know that I'm actually an introvert who has never been good at direct sales. However, I remember being blown away by the concept of making money on the Internet just by sending emails to promote a website. It's like having your own virtual salesperson without ever having to do face to face sales. Imagine having a global store front that's open 24 hours a day and presents your best sales pitch to customers for you even while you're sleeping. And on top of that, you can automate it so that you're following up with customers who don't buy on the first visit. Even though I was a fresh-faced newbie who didn't have a clue about Internet marketing, I was energized. I was hungry. I felt like for the first time I knew what I wanted to do in life and I was determined to make this work no matter what. I wish I could say I was a chef who woke up one day and decided to start a cooking site which became an immediate hit. The truth is I had several sites before RecipeSecrets.net that weren't nearly as successful. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been successful a lot sooner. I initially started out selling products through affiliate programs and resale rights. I also wrote a couple of ebooks about making money online -- even though I wasn't making much myself at the time. Heck, back then you should have seen how excited I would get over a $10 commission! I didn’t know much about niche research or how to analyze the supply and demand of a market. However, what I did know was if I took action and continued to put my ideas out on the web, something was going to stick. And eventually it did. I stumbled upon the idea for RecipeSecrets.net from an ad I saw promoting the resale rights to 20 "secret restaurant recipes" in print through the mail. I had a lightbulb moment and thought this would make a great eBook to sell on the affiliate network ClickBank. At the time there were no other programs like this on ClickBank and I thought affiliates might be interested in promoting it. I put up the sales page through ClickBank and began contacting other cooking-related sites to promote it. In retrospect, the site was awful-looking and the salescopy was even worse. Many of the affiliates I contacted laughed at me but eventually a few decided to promote it. Before I knew it, I was making sales. More and more affiliates started to catch on. The traffic was increasing. Visitors were subscribing to my free newsletter. I was building my list. It was actually working! I dropped everything else I was working on at the time and spent all my free time trying to improve the site and maximize the value of the traffic I was getting. Today, what was once a little mini-site promoting an eBook has become a business with five self-published cookbooks, an active community, a popular blog, a responsive weekly newsletter, an online store, and several successful spin-off sites with related themes. Each addition became its own profit center and combined to produce multiple streams of revenue. QUESTION: Do you operate any other web sites right now? Ron: I've learned through experience that you shouldn't discuss your sites with other marketers because you're just inviting competition. I have many sites under different pen names but here's a few that I'd like to mention: http://www.sendmerecipes.com/ -- a paid membership site for home cooks looking for specialty recipes and meal planning solutions. http://www.foodpals.com/ -- a viral social networking site for people passionate about cooking. http://www.publisheracademy.com/ -- features a free newsletter that shows you how to build a six-figure publishing business even if you don't like to write. QUESTION: Can you give us a feel for the size of your site -- in terms of the number of employees, the number of offices, the annual revenues, and profits? Ron: We're actually just a small home-office-based operation with myself and two part-time employees. In 2006 we had a gross revenue of $337,000 -- and it only looks to be on the move upward from there! QUESTION: How long did it take for RecipeSecrets.net to start making a profit? Ron: RecipeSecrets.net started making a profit in its second month. Being that I didn't initially spend much, it sure didn't take much for it to be profitable! The site really started to generate significant profits after about six months... and that's when I knew that I was onto something huge! Take your passions and make it happen! QUESTION: Can you give us some background on yourself? Tell us a bit about your career experience before you got started online. Ron: I attended Stony Brook University on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a BA in Economics. I went on to get an MBA in Finance and Investments from Baruch College and also completed the CFA program to become a Chartered Financial Analyst. I worked for five years as a Finance and Strategic Planning officer for JPMorgan Chase's Mutual Funds Servicing division. In 2003 I left JPMorgan Chase and accepted a position as a Corporate Finance Manager for TNS. I stayed there for about 4 years and I'm happy to say that at age 32, I just recently left my 9 to 5 to pursue my entrepreneurial goals full time. What I find particularly inspiring is what I was able to accomplish with my Internet business while working on it part-time. There's no excuse not to get started with pursuing your dreams, no matter what else you do for your "day job." QUESTION: What compelled you to take the plunge and start your own Internet business? Ron: Ever since I can remember I've wanted to have my own business. I was the type of kid that would knock on doors to shovel the neighbor's snow in the winter and set up a lemonade stand when the weather got warm. As a teenager, I would buy items wholesale from Manhattan and rent a booth at the local flea market to sell them on the weekends. After college and throughout my years working in corporate America, I was always looking for a better way. Although I was making pretty good money, I couldn't see myself in the rat race for 40+ years. Prior to getting started online, I tried many different moneymaking ventures including selling long distance phone service, premium cooking cutlery, and even Amway products but I didn't enjoy what I was doing. While I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I was never good at going after people for their money. It's a much easier sale if you can get the people, who are actually interested in buying, to find you. In the end, starting an Internet business was a good fit for me and became my passion. QUESTION: How much time and money did it take initially to get your web site up and running? Did you design it yourself, or did you hire someone to do it? Ron: It cost me only about $125 to initially get my website up and running. I designed it myself in FrontPage but paid a freelancer to do the graphic work -- header, eBook cover, banners, etc. To start it was mostly sweat equity and software I got from my tech friend at work. As the site made sales, I began investing some of the money back into it. Get others to promote your business FOR you -- and watch your profits soar! QUESTION: Who is your target market for your business? How are your customers finding you online? Ron: RecipeSecrets.net caters to people looking for copycat recipes, but anyone interested in cooking or recipes will find something of interest on our site. Customers are finding us online in a variety of ways: • We have a lot of user-generated content, which search engines love. Our community is constantly adding new content which gets indexed by the search engines. • We have many affiliates promoting the site as a result of our products being listed on multiple affiliate networks including ClickBank, Shareasale, and ClixGalore. • We re-invest a percentage of our profits into paid search campaigns managed by a third-party company that specializes in pay-per-click advertising. • And lately we've been focusing on getting more word-of-mouth traffic with our social network and through "buzz worthy" viral emails. QUESTION: How much traffic are you seeing to your site? And where is your traffic predominantly coming from? Ron: In 2006, we averaged 212,739 visits per month with 138,134 unique visitors per month -- and growing! From what I can see in our statistics, the traffic breakdown looks something like this: • 64% Direct address/Bookmarks • 16.3% Links from an Internet Search Engine • 19.5% Links from an external page • 0.2% Other Use keyword-based advertising to drive targeted traffic to your website QUESTION: What are you doing to collect the opt-in e-mail addresses of potential customers? Ron: Visitors regularly sign up for our forum to request recipes and be part of our community. There is also an opt-in box to sign up for our newsletter on practically every page of the site offering free sample recipes. The sales pages that affiliates send traffic to have both a sign-up form in a visible location and an exit slide-in window (which is not considered a pop-up by PPC standards.) QUESTION: How often do you make a point of contacting your leads and previous customers? Ron: We publish our Recipe Secrets Newsletter once or twice per week. Besides promoting our own products, we also promote other related offers such as health, fitness, weight- loss, supplements, cookbooks, etc. QUESTION: How much emphasis do you place on search engine placement and optimization? Ron: We don't claim to be search engine experts. There are probably a bunch of things we can do better in that regard. However, our search engine-optimized V-Bulletin Forum produces fresh user-generated content which the search engines index every single day. Our Secret Recipe Blog also does really well with getting high rankings for important keywords. I believe that fresh content is the best hope of search engine success for most businesses, because it's been shown to be the easiest and most effective strategy, no matter what your niche. QUESTION: Have you ever bought online advertising? Ron: We regularly spend advertising dollars on Pay Per Click ads. It's been great for building our list and selling backend items such as our membership site and cookbook package. We also buy E-zine ads from ArcaMax and other companies during the holidays and for new product promotions. QUESTION: Do you advertise or promote your business offline? What are the results? Ron: We get a lot of word-of-mouth traffic from people trying our recipes and sharing the site with their friends. We also package free promotional items such as branded magnetic calendars and mouse pads with outgoing orders. Build a strong relationship with your customers with compelling copy and winning offers! QUESTION: Tell us what types of strategies you employ in your customer mailings, Ron... Ron: I think our marketing and copy techniques have evolved over time according to our customer response -- we try different things to see what appeals to our audience. One strategy that has really been beneficial is one I call "Pre-Selling." Pre-selling is the art of warming up subscribers, getting them in a ready-to-buy frame of mind before you hit them with the hard sell. This is an extremely effective way to boost the conversion rate for anything you sell. Don't just send people to a page to buy, give them an honest review of the product. Tell them what you don't like about the product as well as what you do. Establish your credibility with them. People like buying from people they know, like and trust. You can get your website visitors to know, like, and trust you. It's a skill you can learn. QUESTION: You've talked a lot about the importance of building trust and credibility with your customer base, Ron. How do you use content to build trust with your target market? Ron: People want to buy from you, but they are naturally skeptical. They have limited time and would prefer NOT to spend their time researching what you're offering. Providing them with social proof gives them a reason to feel confident in what they're buying. People use the experiences of other people as a strong indicator for what they can expect. Whenever possible, you should ease their fear of buying by showing them how happy other people were after purchasing the product. One of the things I've done in the past was to create a product information blog prior to launching a product. I would allow a select group of people to get an advance copy of the product in exchange for sharing their positive experience with others on the blog. This public feedback was a GREAT motivator for customers. Before we knew it, there would be comments on the blog like "I can't wait until you release this product, please save me a copy." Testimonials really work -- we're living proof of how they can drive sales. QUESTION: How else do you drive sales with the copy and offers at your site? Ron: Scarcity has actually proven to be one of the most powerful marketing techniques for my business. People have a higher perceived value for something if only a limited amount is available. People hate to feel like they've missed out on something good. If you can provide a valid reason for why there is only a limited supply, you can create an irrational degree of urgency to buy that item. Find any good reason to have a limited supply or limited time sale as long as it's legitimate. Holidays work well for this -- especially Christmas, since inventory goes much more quickly around that time of year. You can even get really creative with it as long as it's real. Then again, I've even had sales for silly reasons such as: • "The First Ever IRS Shakedown Sale! Help Ron get out of hot water with the IRS! Limited time sale ends April 16th." • "The Getting Evicted Fire sale -- We're moving our inventory to a new warehouse and all items must go to avoid storage fees! Only 437 cookbooks left at these incredible wholesale prices." These are just some of the marketing strategies which have helped me achieve multiple months of $50,000+ sales in 2006. QUESTION: Do you believe these strategies make your business stand out on the 'Net? Ron: What differentiates me from my competitors is the relationship I have with my list. The number-one focus of my business is growing my list and creating responsive subscribers. My competitors really don't have a clue in this regard. It's relatively easy for me to launch new products or promote affiliate products because at any time I can get thousands of people to my website for free just by clicking "Send." Choose the right tools and software to run your business -- and save yourself HOURS of effort! QUESTION: How many hours per week do you spend running your business, versus growing it? Ron: I don't spend much time at all running the day-to-day operations of the business. My assistant handles all the customer support and processes outgoing orders with our fulfillment company. We don't store or manage any inventory -- our fulfillment company handles that for us. The majority of my time is spent on marketing and growing the business. I would say I spend five hours a week running the business and maybe 15 hours growing it. The business pretty much runs on autopilot. I outsource many of the mundane tasks to freelancers. QUESTION: So outsourcing tasks has saved you effort in the long run? Ron: Over the years I've become an expert at managing my time and running an efficient business. I make it a point not to start new functions that can't be automated or outsourced and require a significant time commitment. Outsourcing has DEFINITELY been one of the keys to my success -- after all, why should I spend hours doing it when I can pay someone a little bit of cash to get it done in minutes? Time is money... that's something a lot of people forget when they're getting started online. Just because you're essentially paying yourself doesn't mean that you don't value your own hours! Balance content with "pitch" and see success with your mailings QUESTION: What unique challenges exist for companies in your market? Ron: I'd say there are two major challenges which I'm faced with: 1. The battle for the subscriber's attention. People have limited time and you have to compete with every other marketer in their inbox. You have to do something to keep their attention and to make them actually look forward to your emails. If you don't you'll be considered just another annoyance that gets the delete button. 2. Competition from other marketers who steal your ideas. There aren't any significant barriers to entry on the 'Net. Anyone can put up a site and be in business the same day. Therefore, there are always people looking for successful sites to copy as their own. They'll let you do all the research and test the market. Once you've done the work and start making money, they jump in with a suspiciously similar site and start stealing away your customers with a lower price or different spin on your idea. The way you deal with these challenges is by growing and building a relationship with your list. By the time competitors steal your idea, you've already established a long term revenue stream from your list. QUESTION: What is the biggest mistake you have made since you first launched your web site? Ron: I've made so many mistakes over the years that sometimes I feel like I've succeeded despite myself. That being said, no one has the perfect website. We can always find something to improve on. Although, I've been successful online by many people's standards, I'm still learning new things every day. As far as my biggest mistake, I'd have to say it was not maintaining contact with affiliates. I should have been communicating with my affiliates regularly and motivating them, but instead I let the list go cold. Once I began sending emails to them again the response just wasn't the same for that list. When you do this business part time, there are some things that just won't get done. This was one of them for me. QUESTION: What major mistakes do you see other Internet businesses making? Ron: One of the major mistakes I see other Internet businesses making is not taking the time to build trust and credibility with their lists. Many newsletters I see are either the boring corporate types or the "pitch me products every day until I unsubscribe" types. Very few understand how to pre-sell. Very few understand how to influence readers by blending their pitch into their content. Very few understand how to make the customer imagine themselves reaping the benefits of the product without feeling like they're being manipulated. Take ACTION on your goals -- and watch your dreams come true! QUESTION: What would you consider to be your major business achievements? Ron: I think my major business achievement was taking a small mini-site and turning it into a six-figure publishing business with multiple steams of long-term income. QUESTION: What do you think has helped to make your business so successful? Ron: I think what has made me successful is I love what I do. I don't consider it work because I actually enjoy it. I'm generally interested in reading and learning everything I can about this business because it really is my passion. QUESTION: Where do you see your business one year from now Ron: Now that I've finally gone full time, my goal is to turn this into a million dollar per year business in the next few years. I plan to continue doing what I'm doing but on a larger scale and at a faster pace. I'm also planning to get more involved in consulting and helping other Internet entrepreneurs achieve their goals. I'm proud to say that I recently helped my protégé Debbie Weaver launch her first site, DevotionalCafe.com, and she's on pace to do $50,000 in sales this year. QUESTION: What advice do you have for beginners who are interested in selling over the Web? Ron: Get in the game. Do something! Take action. Your home run idea often comes after you've already hit a few singles. There is a learning curve -- this is not get rich quick. Finding a successful person to emulate will reduce your learning curve dramatically. Everything you do online should be to build your list. It doesn't matter whether it's your customer list or your free subscription list. You should consider it a sin against the Marketing Gods to allow traffic to leave your site without giving them an incentive to subscribe. You don't have to be an industry guru to make good money online. You only have to be a guru to your list. You can control how they perceive you by using the power of words. Give them what they want and they will be captive for you to work your magic. Learn the psychological triggers that make people buy things. Don't subscribe to gurus who don't teach you anything. If they do nothing but pitch you products, don't waste your time -- unsubscribe. There is a difference between receiving a newsletter and being on someone's pitch list. Don't give up. It will happen for you if you stick with it, keep learning, and keep taking action. I'm not just saying that. It's not a question of if but when. QUESTION: Finally, how has running RecipeSecrets.net affected your personal and professional life? Ron: My Internet business has enabled me to provide a better lifestyle for my family. It has helped us afford a lot of nice things such as the recent purchase of our dream home in the hills of Glen Cove, NY. It has allowed me to save and invest enough money to comfortably leave my 9 to 5. But perhaps the most important thing it will allow me to do is live my kids' childhood. We have a 2-year-old daughter and we're expecting a son in August. I will be there to watch them grow up and to enjoy the childhood years that you never get back. The freedom to do that is truly a blessing. My goal now is to help others to do the same with my free newsletter at PublisherAcademy.com . I’ve prepared a special free video for new visitors who sign up titled “Insider Secrets - 5 Ways to Make Money Online This Week without Spending Money.” To get this free video, go to www.PublisherAcademy.com Secrets To Their Success Interview Glossary In the list below, you’ll find some of the terms we use in the interview questions for our Secrets To Their Success profiles. Affiliate An affiliate is someone who sells another business's product in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Running an affiliate program is a great way to boost your sales revenue. There are two types of affiliate programs out there: one-tier affiliate programs, where people sell products for another business, and two-tier affiliate programs, where affiliates can sell another business's products and recruit new affiliate members to the program - and whenever one of the affiliates they've recruited makes a sale, they get a percentage of that sale as well. E-mail promotion An e-mail promotion is a sales promotion that you introduce to your mailing list via e- mail. For example, if you have a new product to offer, or if you are running a sale, you can alert your leads and customers to this by sending them an informative e-mail message that explains the product or sale and encourages them to visit your site to learn more about it. Newsletter A newsletter is a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly publication that can be sent out via e-mail. You can use a newsletter to offer information to your customers’ information that suits the needs of your niche market. You can sign up visitors to receive your newsletter through an opt-in e-mail offer on your web site. Once you have your visitors’ opt-in information, you can also send them mailings to market your product or service. Your newsletter, however, should always have a minimum of advertising and a maximum of valuable content to keep your readers interested. Niche market A niche market is a group of people who are searching the Internet for a solution to a problem and not finding many relevant search results. They share a need related to a common interest and, therefore, are the perfect group of people to develop as a customer base. By developing a product or service that satisfies their shared need, you can build a profitable business! Opt-in When you opt in to a mailing list, you give someone your e-mail address, usually by entering it into a web form. By opting in, you give them permission to add you to their opt-in mailing list and send you e-mail - usually in the form of a newsletter or e-zine. You might also fill out an opt-in form in order to be entered in a contest, or to receive a free eBook or whitepaper. Pay-per-click A pay-per-click search engine is a lot like an auction - it allows you to bid for top-ranking positions under keywords of your choice. You pay whatever you bid whenever a visitor a visitor searches on your keywords and then clicks through to your web site. Prices typically range from five cents to numerous dollars per click-through for popular keywords. The top two pay-per-clicks are Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. Traffic Traffic is the people who visit your site. A high-traffic site is one that gets a lot of visitors. Traffic can be measured in terms of hits, pageviews, impressions, and visitors (see below.) One "hit" represents one file loaded from a server. A page that has five graphics along with the page text will produce six hits every time it is completely loaded. This is what we refer to as a pageview. Pageviews can generate one or more impressions, depending on how many ads are on the page. An impression refers to a single showing of an ad. The kind of traffic we want our clients to receive is targeted, quality traffic - traffic that is interested in your product -- that converts into actual sales, and not just a series of hits that amounts to nothing but a number. Unique visitor This term simply refers to the number of first-time visitors who come to your site during a given period of time. A person is only counted as a “unique visitor” the first time he or she visits your site - repeat visits aren't tallied. Unique visitors to a web site or web page are tracked by their unique IP addresses, which are much like online fingerprints. However, a person's IP address can change over time. The number of unique visitors can be misleading for this reason. Repeat visitors can sometimes be counted as unique visitors because their IP addresses have changed.