Episode 86 | Posted on

Upleveling Your Online Marketing with Storytelling and Authenticity with Joel Comm

Once you understand the basics of marketing, there are a few key strategies that set true (and possibly viral) success apart from being simply adequate. Here’s one: the secret to going viral isn’t really secret: it’s to tell a story that’s so compelling in some way that other people want to retell it for you. Another key is offering swag that’s memorable and that people will keep, not just (yet another) pen or USB stick.

Today’s Guest is Joel Comm, an internet pioneer who has been around since the early days of the world wide web. In addition to his work online, Joel is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, and has recently released a new one: Self-Employed: 50 Signs That You Might Be An Entrepreneur. We discuss the key strategies of marketing, including going viral, storytelling, and the art of providing valuable swag.

In this Episode

  • [01:16] – Joel talks about his new book, which he explains is interesting because you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to read it. He then discusses his other books (of which he has 15 total).
  • [03:22] – We learn about Twitter, such as how to get verified and how to get a lot more followers.
  • [05:29] – How many Tweets a day is a good number, and how many is too much?
  • [06:24] – Joel shares his views on whether Twitter is a dying platform and his somewhat surprising perspective on where it’s going in the future.
  • [08:31] – We move onto another social platform: Facebook. What does Joel think is the secret sauce to going viral on Facebook? As he answers, he reveals the importance of two things: being compelling and being authentic.
  • [12:17] – Stephan draws out a thread of what Joel has been saying, which is that vulnerability is important. He then reveals that he has done this himself by sharing his story of being a foster child when he was younger.
  • [14:21] – For Joel and his business, what was the impact of being vulnerable in his TEDx talk?
  • [15:48] – Joel talks about his iFart app, explaining the reasoning and process for creating it, and its success (which was so great that it’s still available today).
  • [18:42] – What are Joel’s tips for getting TV appearances? As he answers, he explains the importance of writing books, because the printed word elevates you to a higher position in the minds of others.
  • [20:15] – Joel discusses which of his books created the biggest impact for him in terms of business.
  • [22:36] – Does Joel recommend getting a co-author, or is the positioning better if you write a book yourself?
  • [24:19] – Joel offers a quick overview of what AdSense is for those who aren’t familiar with it.
  • [26:30] – Joel lists some of the things that you need to do to be successful on Adsense. Content is still king, he explains, so you need to create good original content (and do so regularly).
  • [27:14] – Stephan shares his own experiences with Adsense, and reveals that his daughter was successful with it when she was just a young teenager.
  • [29:05] – Does Joel have any case study examples of anyone who was amazingly successful because of Adsense?
  • [30:08] – In response to being asked about some of his favorite tools for researching keywords, Joel explains that he doesn’t use Adsense much anymore. Stephan then lists some of his own favorite tools.
  • [31:48] – Joel talks about his Kaching button, which he reveals has been successful because it meets the criteria for good swag.
  • [37:20] – Stephan talks about Joel’s description of swag that works versus swag that doesn’t. He then talks about the difference between books and swag. He and Joel then discuss standing out while adding value.
  • [40:09] – People come up with some really interesting things to hand out, Joel says. Stephan then reveals an out-of-the-box marketing campaign he used successfully.
  • [41:46] – What are some of the key things people need to do to turn their expertise into cash? Joel discusses using an “ethical bribe” to get people to exchange something of value to him (their name and email address) for something of value to them (a 19-page PDF he created).
  • [44:29] – Now that you’ve driven people to your offer and have an email list, what would be the process for the next step of a product launch?
  • [47:11] – Joel offers some secrets to success if you were about to launch a hypothetical $97 ebook. Part of his answer revolves around live video, which he explains is very powerful.
  • [50:25] – What does Joel recommend as a platform for live video?
  • [51:53] – Joel talks about a third-party tool for live video. He then recommends that people brand themselves appropriately if they’re going to do live video.
  • [54:14] – Joel offers listeners a discount code to get a .live domain. To get it, go to joel20.live!
  • [54:49] – Who are some recognizable names who have .live domains?
  • [55:26] – Does Joel have a final, life-changing tip or nugget of wisdom for listeners? He reveals that there is a philosophy in business right now of hustle and grind, and he’s strongly opposed to it. He then reveals a better solution and explains what leads to deeper happiness.
  • [58:25] – Joel explains how to get in touch with him if you want to work with him.


Hello and welcome to Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer. I am super excited to have Joel Comm with us today. Joel is an internet pioneer. He’s been around for several decades of internet marketing, the early days of the World Wide Web. He’s a New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, got a brand new one out. Self-Employed: 50 Signs That You Might Be An Entrepreneur, co authored with John Rampton who has also been on our show. A great episode, definitely check that out. Joel is a professional speaker, a futurist, and influencer as well as being a serial entrepreneur and an author. Great to have you on the show, Joel.

Oh, thanks for having me. Always great fun.

Let’s talk about this new book and how it can relate to an entrepreneur or a marketer listening to it and how they can up level, take it to the next level in their business?

This book that I did with John Rampton is really interesting and you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to read it. In fact, there are a lot of people wondering, “Am I cut out for being an entrepreneur, for this self employed lifestyle?” The 50 signs, or each chapter, you know you’re looking at 3, 4, 5 pages most on some chapters that can help you determine, are these characteristics, as I’m reading this, does this apply to me? Chapters like you know you’re an entrepreneur when your imaginary friend is Steve Jobs, or no one will you give you a job and that’s just fine, or you’d rather have an office instead in a spare bedroom. It’s like a checklist you can go through and see if you’ve got the makeup of an entrepreneur. For those of us that aren’t entrepreneurs and self employed, we need all the encouragement and support we can get so this book is really a great reminder and affirmation. This is why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m basically unemployable. I can’t work for others. I think the takeaways are there whether you’re currently working for yourself or not.

Awesome. You have a bunch of other books. What are the topics? What do they help in terms of the objectives and the benefits for the reader?

There are 15 books now which is just amazing to me.

Oh wow.

Three editions of Twitter Power. The latest is Twitter Power 3.0: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time. I believe it might be the top selling book series in Twitter that’s available to date. Then there’s The AdSense Code which teaches people how to make money with Google. There’s KaChing which is five different methods for leveraging your expertise and your knowledge into an online business and a bunch of others. Anybody who wants to see my full catalogue, they can just go to Amazon and search for my name.

Cool. Let’s talk about Twitter. How do you get verified on Twitter for example? How do you massively increase your following and how do you add massive value so you’re worth following?

Three questions there, the first one, getting verified. If you go to support.twitter.com, just type in the search form, verify, there’s actually a form that you go and fill up request verification now. They opened that up again to the general public some time in 2016. It was one of those things that they had early on and I got in under the radar there and then they closed it off and there was like this mystery. Nobody knew how you get verified but now you can go try and some people get approved and some people don’t and honestly, I don’t know if there’s a lot of rhyme or reason to it. Certainly, if you’re a public figure, an athlete, a musician, a broadcaster, you’re a CEO, those types of things, you’re more likely to get verified but I also know peers that are none of those things that have gotten verified. It’s worth going and trying. What was question number two?

How do you get a lot more followers?

You have to engage all social media about putting the social in social media so that means you have to put out quality content and engage with other’s content. The more value you bring to the conversation, the more likely that people are going to engage with you. They’ll start perhaps by following you back and then they look to see what kind of tweets you put out there. The more that you bring value, the more people are going to engage and tell others to follow you and retweet you and favorite you. It’s a very organic thing. There are times that I’ll go and I’ll look for people that perhaps are talking about a certain topic. I’ll go follow a bunch of them to see, “Alright, I’m trying you out. Let’s see who’s got something to say here.” Those that are bringing value or peaking my curiosity, I’ll engage with them and often when I do, those people will follow me back. There’s a time investment to it and there’s a personal investment. It’s not something that you can really automate. You have to put in your dues to get people to like, know, and trust you.

You have to put in your dues to get people to like, know, and trust you.

For sure. How many tweets a day is a good kind of rule of thumb? How much is too much?

I don’t know that there’s a tried and true number. I’ve done everything from 1 to 25 or 30 tweets. It’s really if I have something to say, then I’ going to tweet regardless of how many other times I’ve tweeted. I do use a social media tool called Buffer to schedule a bunch of posts so that I’m regularly putting content out there. For me, I believe that’s about a dozen a day. There are other people that do 100 or so. I think personally, that’s kind of over kill. I don’t want to dominate somebody’s Twitter newsfeed but as long as what I’m posting brings value, I think that if people don’t like it, they’ll either tell me or they’ll unfollow me.

Do you see a long term future for Twitter and for marketers who are utilizing Twitter or is it kind of a dying platform that we need to move away from?

If by dying you mean 320 million active monthly users, that’s one way to look at it. That’s a big number. Even though Facebook is approaching 2 billion, 320 million is still a massive user base. If you’re talking about dying in terms of their stock and their net profits, that’s a different story. If for the previous reason and not in spite of the latter, I think Twitter will survive but I think that their current leadership has been doing a horrible job at monetizing a platform, I think that live video was really the salvation for Twitter. I’ve been predicting for about a year and a half that live video would be the way to go. They’ve integrated the periscope app with Twitter so you can go Twitter Live from within the app. Now that we’re seeing Twitter sign contracts with broadcast networks so that they can become a 24/7 broadcast network of their own, there’s some signs of hope. Ultimately, I see Twitter being acquired by one of the big six media companies whether it’s ABC Disney, or Comcast, or one of the others. I think once it’s a broadcast network that appears on our smart TVs and there’s original content with the social element bringing value in a way that other broadcast networks don’t, there’s not of social aspect to Amazon Prime, to Netflix, or to Hulu unless you go to their Facebook page and talk about stuff. Twitter has an opportunity to become a broadcast network and have the social element totally corresponding to what’s happening right now. I think that would be a great use of the site. I hope it doesn’t go away.

You’re bullish about it. You think that it’s worth marketer’s time to invest in it and to cultivate your presence on Twitter, correct?


Let’s move onto another favourite social platform, Facebook. What do you think is the secret sauce to going viral on Facebook?

I think the secret sauce to going viral anywhere falls under the same umbrella. Ultimately, we’re not creating viral marketing. You don’t just say, “Okay, I’m going to create something viral.” What we have to do is look at it from the point of view of we’re all storytellers. The story that we tell either grabs people’s hearts and/or minds or it doesn’t. The purpose of storytelling is to tell a story that is so compelling in some way whether it’s the profundity of the information or the way it inspires or motivates the heart or the way it makes you laugh or cry or just entertain you so it entertains you with silliness. Whatever that is, the point is to tell a story so compelling that other people want to voluntarily re-tell it for you. That is the essence of what something going viral really is. If we focus on telling compelling stories through our posts, whether it’s on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Snapchat, or anywhere, then the secret is not really secret. You’re just posting stuff that other people find valuable and because they find it valuable, they want to tell others.

Isn’t there something in that that is a, I think a crucial distinction that it’s not just valuable that they want to share it with others but it makes them look better by the act of sharing it?

I suppose some people do that. I don’t think like that. I guess if we’re going to get inside the head of the consumer, of the dysfunctional people out there, maybe that is something. I don’t share what I share to look a certain way. I share because it resonates with me in some way. If we’re talking about the silly Facebook games that people play where they recognize a horrible tragedy, “Let’s all just take a moment to share this if you care.” I don’t really play those games and I don’t see too many other people in my circles that I follow play these games but I also recognize I’m in a different space and the general public might have something like that. It’s part of how they share things. It’s a great question though because I don’t think about it that way because I think the key to succeeding with social is authenticity. It’s about being real. I gave a TED talk a few years ago and the whole thing, it was called Being Human in the Digital Age. It was a 14 minute talk and in the first minute of the talk, I laid myself bare. I shared some of my deepest struggles about my divorce, my wife leaving me, some of the addictions I’ve dealt with. I wanted to make the room of 2,200 people that were there at the Opera House in downtown Denver, I wanted to make it a safe place for them to be able to open up and translate that to social media. I’m not saying we put all our dirty laundry out there. There’s a time and place to share but I think keeping it real is important. People can smell fake. More than ever, that’s why we call it fakebook many times because if somebody is just trying to pump themselves up and make themselves look like something that they’re not, what they’re really doing is creating work for themselves. It’s like lying. If you tell a lie to one person and then you tell one to another person and you tell one to another person, your stories are changing. You got to remember who you told what to. Eventually, it all comes around and the truth comes out. It’s just much easier, I’ve discovered in social, to just be who you are, realize that not everybody is going to like you. It’s never going to happen and be okay with that.

Authenticity, crucially important. You’ve got another addition to that which I think is just as important, vulnerability. For example, I shared on my social media that I was a foster child when I was a teenager. Most people wouldn’t know that and that doesn’t have anything to do with business, or marketing, or SEO and yet, I want to just put it out there and to share my story. In fact, I went on some TV stations last year during the month of May which is the National Foster Care Awareness Month, and told my story, and how it was actually a wonderful gift for me to be in foster care for those three years. I think I spread some light and made a difference by being vulnerable in that way. It’s not just being authentic and being real but opening your heart and just sharing stuff for the purpose of making the world a better place and not just being transparent because transparency and authenticity I think is just table stakes. It’s just the way you need to be. But if we take it the next step and be vulnerable, then we create what Kevin Kelly calls the 1,000 True Fans.

You’ll get no argument from me, my friend. That sounds great.

I’m amazed that you had this TED talk where you shared in that vulnerable, authentic way. I’m going to include a link to that talk in the show notes for this episode. What was the impact for others and for your business and so forth of being that vulnerable where there are people who came up to you later and said, “You actually changed my life with that talk.” Did you have some business opportunity present itself and they said, “Actually, things turned for me and I decided I wanted to do business with you when I saw that talk.” Anything like that?

Yeah. I definitely had a lot of people come up to me after the talk and then message me and I still, several years later, see people at conferences, when they come up to me and say, “I really enjoyed your talk and thanks for being so vulnerable.” I’m not really keeping score of how it’s impacted. I look at it as just another lego, the building block of my life, of things that I do, and I’m hopeful that the various things I do, whether it’s that talk or another talk, a podcast, a blog entry, on social media, that people will see a sum, a totality of how I live and what I think and what I believe in. I just want to make a dent wherever it is I can in whatever way that happens. I know I’ve gotten business as a result. I just don’t really track it. I just do me and trust the process.

I think the point for our listeners is that the more authentic and vulnerable you are, the more the universe conspires to make amazing things happen for you and for your business. That shouldn’t be the incentive for you but it’s a great side benefit. Also, I love how irreverent and playful you are. A great example of that is your iFart Mobile app which did really well. You want to share a little bit story with that?

Back in 2008, I had already owned the first generation of iPhones and Steve Jobs was the CEO of Apple at the time. He said, “Let there be apps.” They decided to try this App Store to test and see if people would create third party applications that Apple would then make available to iOS users. As soon as they said let there be apps, I had a team at that time out of our office at Colorado. I pulled my principal leadership into the conference room and we started whiteboarding ideas. We came up with one that was launched within the first month called iVote Mobile. It was one of the first thousand apps in the App Store but it was after we finished that one that when somebody mentioned let’s create a fart machine, we all laughed being a staff of primarily men, that we thought, “Okay, let’s do it.” We figured we’d take three, four weeks max. This is not complicated code. The thing came out in December of 2008. With a little clever marketing and some press releases, it got a ton of coverage and rocketed within a week to the top of the iTunes App Store. Not just in the entertainment category but number one in the world in a number of countries. It sold a ton of apps and to this day, it’s still available for iOS and Android. We like to say over a billion fart served. It’s done quite well. Got a lot of media coverage and publications all over the world. It got me on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Bill Mar talked about it. Kathie Lee Gifford demoed it on the Today show. It just cracked her up. Celebrities of all stripes have referenced it. Back when it was hot, I remember Lance Armstrong tweeting that Robin Williams was over for dinner and he was pranking him with iFart. Rolling Stone did a cover story article with George Clooney a few years ago. In it, George said he loved fart. He has iFart on his phone, which of course just rocketed us up the charts again and again. It’s one of those things that keeps coming back. Somebody somewhere talks about it. It makes us one of the most talked about apps of all time. Definitely, maybe the most talked about novelty app that’s at the App Store.

That’s amazing. The doors that that opened for you, like being on the Daily show and everything, that’s phenomenal. Any tips around getting TV appearances? I had 11 TV appearances last year. That was my first year of doing that. I got some training from Clint Arthur, who is another guest on Marketing Speak. Another great episode. Listeners, you should definitely check it out. What are your tips for getting TV, celebrity positioning?

I don’t consider myself a media expert by any stretch. Most of the appearances that I’ve had have come to me by invitation. I think there are definitely those who teach ethical ways of getting media through publicists or through establishing a real credibility so that you become the authority in your field. The one way that I can speak to, that’s been effective for me is through writing books. I’m a believer that authoring books, physical books, not ebooks, that are professionally published, not some cheap createspace, self published thing that looks like your neighbor’s dog designed it, I’m not saying you can’t do professional create space but unfortunately, the vast majority of the books that people self publish look self published. But I believe that your book is a ticket to higher credibility. There’s just something about the printed word that automatically elevates you to a higher position in the mind of others. One of the reasons I do books besides getting information out there is the result of authoring a book leads to media engagements, speaking gigs, joint venture, potential possibility, podcast interviews, guest article interviews. All these things come as a result of the credibility gained from a professionally done printed work.

Of your 15 books, which one created the biggest impact outcome for you in terms of business?

There’s been a few that are different. The AdSense Code in 2006 put me on the map as a marketer and hit The New York Times in business week bestseller list. It got to number three on all of amazon.com.  The credibility that came from having those accolades was huge and got me a lot of business. Twitter Power came along the very early phases of social media and Twitter and so that established me in the social space and got me speaking gigs and media about that. KaChing positioned me in a wider online business space. It got a different type of media attention and engagement. Again, this is the point and one of the reasons that I do so many varied titles is A, because my interest change and I don’t want to be the guy that just talks about one thing because my life is not just one thing. B, because I understand that variety opens up new doors. I have peers that are known in the internet marketing space, some others, in the social media marketing space. Others are known in the entrepreneur space. Others in the affiliate marketing but if I look at all these different niches, there are about eight of them or maybe more, that I’m very connected in and it spreads my relationships out across multiple niches within the tech and business industry. That’s the reason that I did this book with John Rampton, Self-Employed. Yes, it’s an entrepreneur, it’s a business book but it’s not techy. It’s not social media. It’s not about building an online business. It’s specifically geared towards anybody that wants to work for themselves. That could open up new doors for new keynotes to new audiences.

For sure. Getting a co author, is that something that you recommend or do you think it’s better positioning if you’re the solo author of a book? I have The Art of SEO. I’m a co author on that but that’s really the book I’m most known for. I solo authored Google Power Search and that doesn’t have nearly as much brand effect. What’s your opinion on getting a co author?

I’ve done both. In this case, John came to me and asked if I want to co author a book with him. I have wanted to work with him for some time and I thought it was a great idea. I said, “Yeah, this is something that’s very doable.” When you have a co author, it relieves a lot of the burden of actually creating the content. On Twitter Power 3.0, I brought in my partner Dave Taylor and he did a lot of the heavy lifting on that particular edition of the book because I had already set the foundation for what we had. I don’t find that it took away from my credibility at all. I don’t mind lending my credibility and authority to a worthy co author in the same way. I think having one author or two authors is not a big difference. If you’re in a book that is a multi authored book, like I’ve done two books called So What Do YOU Do?: Discovering the Genius Next Door with One Simple Question. Those books, one book had 40 co authors and another one was I think 36 or 37. The goal of that was for me to put the spotlight on those particular authors and their stories. It’s a little different when you get into that type of thing but I’m always happy to co author with somebody that’s worthy.

Let’s talk about The AdSense Code since that was a major important book for your evolution and got lots of accolades. AdSense, Google AdSense is a great monetization opportunity for website owners and marketers. What would be some of the secrets to success for making money off of Google AdSense?

Maybe it would be helpful to give a quick overview again of what AdSense is for those that aren’t familiar with it. Google takes in billions of dollars in ad revenue every year. They’re certainly not the only ad game in town now that Facebook is commanding so many dollars but Google still is the biggest search engine and there’s a lot of room for advertising. Because there’s such a demand for ads, the more places they have to show those ads, the better. They came up with AdSense as the other side of the Google AdWords. AdWords is advertiser’s spending money. AdSense was an invitation to publishers, those with their own websites, to take a piece of code that Google would give them, place it on their website and Google would automatically deliver ads from their inventory of advertisements to those websites. The really beautiful thing about the program that works so well is that the ads would change on every page that was displayed and they would be contextually relevant to the content on that page. If your page was about pet care, then you’re going to get ads related to pets. If your content on your site was about photography, guess what, you’re going to see camera ads and so on and so on. Whenever a visitor to your website would click an ad that appeared on your page, Google would share a piece of that revenue with you, or other words, [kaching sound]. That’s my Kaching button. We could talk about that too because that’s funny. I discovered in 2004 how to generate some substantial passive income just by putting Google Ads on my site. I was making upwards of $500 to $1,000 a day, passive income, with Google Ads, where previously, my sites were hardly making anything. There just wasn’t a great way to monetize. This is after the first .com bubble burst. The market took a turn and it took a few years for things to turn around and I really give AdSense the credit for turning my business around. I wrote ebooks that were popular and then I wrote this book and so some of the things that you want to do is A, content is still king. You don’t want to game the system. You need to be creating original content on your own website in order to display AdSense. You need to be consistent and regularly develop this original content and then you need to test the different ad block placements. Google let’s you choose different block sizes. There are different colors, different places. You could put them on your page. Testing these things, where do you get the greatest click through and financial reward. You end up making more money this way. Of course, the book goes deep into detail on these things but that’s how I made a lot of money doing this.

That’s amazing. I’ve made a fair amount of money off of Google AdSense as well. Not as much as you but I had a couple of sites that were making five figures a month. I ended up selling them. One was writers.net. It was a community of published authors and directory and just forums and so forth. The other was Innsite for a bed and breakfast directory. I sold that one to for a decent amount of money, six figures ended up back in the day. Both of those sites I started in the 90’s, very early days of the internet. I was excited when AdSense came out, that I could finally monetize to a much greater degree those sites that had a pretty rabid fan base that were consistently using the site. Then my daughter got into it, my oldest daughter. She made a website when she was a kid. At 14 years old, she launched a site called neopetsfanatic.com. She’d make $100, sometime over $1,000 a month in the passive income from Google.

That’s fantastic. I love hearing that.

Yeah. In fact, it launched a whole career for her. She started speaking at conferences as a teenager. She spoke at BlogHer, the DMA Annual Conference and so forth as a teenager. 16 years old, she was speaking at BlogHer. Pretty cool!

That’s wonderful.

I’m very proud of her. She’s 25 now so she’s all grown up and she’s actually an SEO consultant, another example where I have a relevant interview for you, listeners. Check out the Chloe Spencer interview on Marketing Speak. Do you have any case study examples of somebody who went from zero to hero or had some amazing success stories because of AdSense?

Yeah. I’ve received just so many testimonials. I’ve had people tell me they became millionaire because of my book. There’s a whole folder full of fantastic testimonials of people that made money reading this material. It’s changed. It’s more important than ever to be creating original compelling content consistently. It used to be a lot easier. Of course, there’s completion for ad dollars now because Facebook is bringing in so many.

Part of this is to think about what can I create that’s valuable, useful, interesting, humorous, whatever that targets keywords that are high pay out sort of keywords and not the ones that nobody is searching for and nobody is paying for in AdWords, correct?


What would be some of your favorite tools for doing keyword research and seeing which keywords are popular and keywords are paying out with the high value per click?

Like you, I sold my AdSense revenue generating sites a few years ago. They did quite well to unload those. They made a lot of money for me over the years but I actually do very little AdSense myself right now because I don’t have it on my main site which is my blog. I choose to keep it free of ads and I don’t really work other content sites. I got my speaker page and a couple of communities. I’m kind of out of the mix right now. However, I know the Google keyword tool is still probably up there as the best one to use. It’s free. Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and use it. I would also imagine that Facebook, in the ad account, is a fantastic resource for doing resource for doing keyword research.

Some of my favourite keyword research tools include, you mentioned Google Keyword Tool, now it’s called Google Keyword Planner. That tool is great and free. Also, another free tool is Google Trends and Soovel. Those are all awesome free tools. But then my favourite paid tools, there’s Keyword Explorer for Moz. I don’t know if you’ve come across that one. That’s amazing. Also, Searchmetrics. They have this thing called the Topic Explorer which is incredible. It’s got a whole visual interface to it. Some great tools but great paid tools are definitely worth the money. Let’s move to KaChing. Let’s hear you story there and why our listeners need to know about the story here and read your book, read the KaChing book?

There are really great takeaways here in this one, KaChing came out in 2001 and yet the principles of it still ring true today. The subtitle is How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays. It starts with the premise that everybody has value to bring and everybody has information to share. There are a number of ways to share that information whether it’s through a blog that can be monetized with advertisements, whether it’s through affiliate marketing or information products which you can sell. I love selling info products. It’s all digital ones and zeroes. It’s all air. It doesn’t require any shipping or packing. Whether it’s through a membership site or even through coaching or consulting, all of these are ways that you can make KaChing. The reason I made the button is as I was writing this book, I had some really successful launches and made a lot of money online. For one of my launches, I setup my Outlook email so every time a sale came in, it would make that KaChing sound, play a wav file. I thought, “Man, it’s so encouraging to hear that. I think that the KaChing sound could be inspiring for anybody in business whether they’re an entrepreneur, whether they made a sale, they want to make a sale, they want to get fired up, whatever it is, having it around just makes people smile and so I looked for a Kaching button. I was inspired by staples easy button. That was easy. There’s got to be a Kaching button. There was no such thing so a friend of mine had some contacts, a manufacturer and I said this is what I want. I want the button. Looks like an easy button but it’s green with a white dollar sign on top and this is the sound that it plays. We had it made. The goal here was to create a piece of swag that would accomplish the goals of swag. There are three goals that you want to have in mind when you create swag. I could tell you right now that another horribly designed t-shirt, or a mouse pad, or a pen is not going to accomplish these goals. If you’re writing stuff down, take note of this if you want to create something that will be memorable. First thing is you want to make sure people open it. If what you’re sending them, their curiosity isn’t enough to even see what’s in this, then you failed. Step two, you want to get them to use it. If you give me a pen and it goes in my drawer or in the trash, it’s never even been used, if you give me a USB stick, like half of the other vendors on the expo floor with your presentation on it, odds are I’m never going to look at your presentation because USB sticks are common. You want something that people will try. They’ll use it. Third and most importantly is you want to make sure it’s something that they will keep. I came up with this Kaching button knowing that it met all those objectives. Curiosity will get people to open it. Anytime I hand them to somebody, they open it. And then they try it. You don’t get a Kaching button without pushing it. It’s not possible. It’s like giving a person dying of thirst a glass of water. They’re going to drink it. In this case, they’re going to push the button and they’re going to keep it. This is not something that you just throw in the trash or put in a drawer. This is something that lives on your desk. I have people telling me all the time that they have a Kaching button on their desk. The initial goal was to send these out with review copies of the books so that you can get the attention of the editors that will be reviewing them but then I had people saying, “Can I get one?” Consumers wanting them for their own desk.

First thing is you want to make sure people open swag. If what you’re sending them, their curiosity isn’t enough to even see what’s in this, then you failed. Click To Tweet

I want one.

Yeah. We started selling them and shipping them and that became a pain. That’s when fulfilment by Amazon came along. They said, “Hey, send us your stuff. Put the bar codes on it. We’ll sell it for you, we’ll ship it, and we’ll send you a check. We’ll take our nice, little commission.” I sent, I don’t know, 1,500 or so buttons to Amazon. They sold a lot of them at $19.99 a button, no less. The most expensive button on the site and it makes sense. It’s a money button. It’s like an elite item to have. I price tested it. At $12.95, $14.95, $17.95, $19.95, we sold just as many at $19.95 so I said, “Well, that’s the price then.” We sold all of those. I had 2,000 more made and we’re running low. They sell on Amazon. All you gotta do is look up Kaching button. They sell everyday like clockwork. I could look today. In fact, let’s see. Three of them have sold today. It’s a lower day but there’ll be more that’ll sell before the day is out. Amazon sends me a check so every other week, I get a direct deposit and I get to say [kaching sound]. I have to manufacture some more soon. I’m the sole manufacturer of them so it’s fun. It’s one of those things that started out as a marketing tool and has turned into a physical product that sells religiously.

That’s amazing. I love that story. Of course, I’m going to drop a link into the show notes for the Amazon page to buy the Kaching button.

Everybody wants one. It’s one of those things that’s just so simple but it can really—we’re entrepreneurs. Again, the self-employed thing whether we’re in sales, or marketing, or we’re just trying to start up our own business, we have a retail operation. You put that little Kaching button in your day and I guarantee, it will lift your spirits.

That’s great. I love the distinctions you made about swag that works versus swag that doesn’t. You got to be able to know that it’s going to be opened, it’s going to be tried and kept. I think one key difference that people need to understand about books versus other things that they’ll send out or just the normal swag, is that books you keep. People do not throw books out. They might donate a book but they’re not going to throw it out whereas you get brochures or you get swag at the trade shows and so forth, all that goes in the garbage.

It does. Business cards too. I can’t stand it when people give me business cards. They go in the trash. If you want to contact me, I tell people, “Don’t give me a card. Are you on Facebook?” Most say yes. I say, “Open up your phone. Send me a friend request right now. I’ll open my phone. I’ll accept it. This is how we stay in touch.” If you’re not there, I’ll give you my email or I’ll say, “Contact me on LinkedIn.” There’s just no reason for paper. Novel books keep my attention too. Not books that are novels but that are interesting curiosity. For example, I just saw my friend Stan Phelps at MarTech. We were both there as influencers for IBM Watson and their marketing team. He handed me a little pocket size book which was excerpts from his Purple Goldfish book. When I say pocket size, it’s like 3×5. Tiny little book and he pulled it out. It was a business card for him. It was so novel. I’m like, “This is cool.” I felt like I want to do one of these now. This is super cool. This is attention getting. Don’t do a standard business card and don’t please, for the love of all things pure and holy, don’t give me some thick business card that’s made of titanium or whatever because you think that is going to stand out. I’m going to somehow keep that and put it in my drawer. What you’ve done is just given me a weapon but I’m not interested in having a weapon. This card will hit the trash faster than paper ones because it’s heavier.

It’s a way to stand out but it doesn’t add value.

No, it doesn’t.

Titanium business card just stands out without adding any value but if you have a book that you give to somebody, kind of like a big business card. Here you go. I give people my Art of SEO book which is 1,000 pages. They look at me differently after I’ve given them that book. That is a substantial tone and it looks legit. It adds massive value as well as being distinctive and memorable so I like that distinction that you’re not trying to just grab attention and be different for difference’s sake but to add value on the process.

People come up with some really interesting things. I’ve been handed some really weird swag that the owner of it, they just think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’m thinking, “You have no idea how quickly I’m going to throw this away when I get back to my room.”

You could also mail stuff that you’ve tested. Make sure that it is openable and people will open it, try it, and keep it. For example, we would send via FedEx in a FedEx tube wool hunting socks. At the time, we got client Cabela’s to rank number one for wool hunting socks and just hunting socks in just different fermentations in Google. That was the tie in. You’d get a pair of wool hunting socks via FedEx tube if you were a prospect. Definitely got noticed, who gets tubes that often, right? It’s pretty unusual. When they opened it and it had socks in it, they loved it. We got some really big accounts from doing that. Think outside the box is basically what I’m saying.

There is no box, my friend.

Exactly, there isn’t. If somebody wanted to do info marketing, besides reading the KaChing book and learning about info products, membership sites, and coaching, what would be some of the key things that they would need to do to turn their expertise into cash?

You got to have a website. I know social media is a great avenue and I’m on the social sites and I use them but people do get accounts closed. They do lose their Twitter, their Facebook accounts and what happens then? Everything you’ve built, you can’t reach them anymore. It’s important to have your own website with a squeeze page where you give people an offer. For example, I’m going to do it right now. I’m going to do it through an ethical bribe. An ethical bribe is where we bribe people to give something that they hold of value in exchange for something that they see a value. In this case, the thing of value they have is not money. It’s their name and their email address. We hold on tightly to that. We don’t subscribe to just anything. What I offer people is a product, it’s a PDF I put together called Live Video Playbook. The Live Video Playbook is my eight step process for doing killer live videos to brand yourself to get greater engagement, to make more sales, to get more customers, and it’s a 19 paged PDF. If you want to see what a squeeze page looks like that is powerful, go to lvplaybook.com. When you download the stock, you’ll see what a professional looking document should look like to give people. You gotta have that because without building your own list, it makes it very difficult to then communicate with your customers who’ve indicated that they’re interested in you. Having email software, I use AWeber but there’s MailChimpConstant Contact, Direct Response, GetResponse, there are others that you can use. That way, you can have a newsletter that you can mail out to people, you’re able to send them content, send them offers, drive traffic to other sites, or places, or podcasts, or what have you. I think that that’s probably the most essential thing that you can do online, is that series of events.

As Frank Kern says, the money is in the list. So if you neglect list building, you missed the train.


Let’s talk about launches and how this figures into the process and now you got a list, you’ve driven people to your amazing offer, the ethical bribe and you have this list, now you want to monetize it and launch some sort of information product. Maybe it’s an ebook, maybe it’s a video training, a membership site, what would be the process that you would recommend to get the most bang for your buck?

In terms of a product launch?


You got to continue providing content to people. Buying from somebody is a process of getting to know, like, and trust them. That happens when they continue to receive value. Think about how we market is really no different from how we build relationships in real life because guess what, it is real life. We don’t just walk up to total strangers and say buy my stuff. We demonstrate to them that we care about their success, that we have the credibility, authority, and expertise to know what we’re talking about and that we can help them through our products, or goods, or services, whatever we offer. Once you’ve got your email list, then continuing to add value by providing information, by providing inspiration, by being entertaining, whatever it is that your audience is looking for, if you can meet that need, then meet it. What happens is the longer you do that, the greater the relationship becomes. If you encourage those people to engage with you via a survey, via comments or feedback, or via social media, now you can actually get to know them. They can get to know you on a personal way. When you’ve done that successfully, making a sale is not hard. It’s a real short hop to a transaction because people see you as the authority and they know, like, and trust you. Content and information and value added ongoing on a regular basis before there’s any kind of ask, and then when the ask is made, it’s not an ask, it’s offering more value but this time, for a fee.

Let’s say that you’re launching, let’s say it’s an ebook. Let’s say it’s a $97 ebook which would be a pretty price.

Which I’m familiar with because my AdSense Secrets was $97.

Great. You’re adding value and engaging with the community via social media, learning what their biggest pain points are and so forth through surveys. Now, you’re ready to do the launch. Your price point in $97. You’ve got a super valuable offer in terms of this ebook. It’s going to deliver serious results for the readers. What sort of secrets to success will be important for our listeners to know? Should they be using Jeff Walker’s product launch formula approach? Should they do live videos? What sort of approach is going to make this an actual launch instead of just posting it?

The risk is sounding cliché. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Jeff Walker’s formula is fantastic. If you haven’t read Product Launch Formula, then get it. I was in a Mastermind with Jeff back in 2000, I want to say, before it become a thing. I was there when he actually discovered Cialdini and began implementing what he learned for his first product which has nothing to do with marketing. It was I believe in stocks, in trading, was his first info product. I watched how he then coached and helped others. I can validate that it’s great stuff. Some of it has been over and done by a lot of people. Once a formula is put out there and used so many times, people begin to recognize it. You have to adapt a little bit and make it your own. Be creative. I’m a huge fan of live video right now. It’s one of my core focuses. In fact, when we’re done today, I’m getting ready to go and broadcast and train people how to do a talk show on Facebook using a third party tool. I believe that live video, next to publishing your own book, is the second best way to get you message out there because the playing field is so much level now because anybody can go live. I’ve seen people that go live and become overnight success stories. They’re a few and far between but it does happen. All you gotta do is take a look at a Chewbacca mom and this pain went on Facebook live. She stepped in her car, her minivan, or her SUV, whatever it was, after coming out of Cole’s department store. She put on this Chewbacca mask. She was so tickled with it, she wanted other people to see. She bust out into infectious laughter then we all laughed with her to the tune of 160 million views. Something like 4 million reactions and shares and it got her on Good Morning America, the Today show, Ellen. She didn’t predict that. She wasn’t in it to sell anything but it does demonstrate the power of live video and how passion and something that really connects with people can go viral. Think about live video. Anybody can do it. Facebook Live, Periscope, and a number of other tools are available for free. Whatever it is you want to share, you can get on live video. Just start sharing it and start engaging with people and building those relationships and take the time to nurture and build it overtime. I’ve seen in a lot of people that were unknowns before, now known for their live videos and the content and the value that they bring to people. That’s why I did this playbook. It’s because I want to get people started.

That’s great. I love live video. You have multiple opportunities, Facebook Live of course, which we’re just talking about but also YouTube Live and Twitter. Periscope is now integrated into Twitter and there is a bunch of third party, other tools like Ustream and so forth. What do you recommend as the right platform or do you need to be on all the platforms? Where should we focus our energy?

I think like any social media, it’s impossible to be everywhere. I don’t want to should on everybody and say you should be here, you should be there. You’ve got to discover for yourself what your favourite platform is. There are some people that broadcast only on live.ly, which is owned by the musical.ly people. There are kids that have audiences of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people that watch them. It’s the only place they do it because it’s where their audience is and it’s where they have fun creating their content. Whether you’re on Instagram Live, or Facebook Live, or Periscope, or live.ly, or any of these other platforms really depends on what you need, what is it you’re trying to accomplish, where is your audience, and where do you have the most fun. What do you like doing? If you’re not having fun creating content on a certain platform, then odds are people viewing it aren’t going to either. That said, Facebook does have the greatest reach and the greatest opportunity. The latest numbers are 1.94 billion monthly users on Facebook. If you’re trying to hit the masses all over the world, then that’s one way to go. Instagram has 700 million users and there are a lot of other avenues that you can go and test, try, and find your home.

Instagram has 700 million users and there are a lot of other avenues that you can go and test, try, and find your home.

You are going to be talking about a third party tool here in a little bit for live video.

I could tell you about it.

Yeah, yeah. What do you recommend?

It’s called BeLive.tv. Facebook is now starting to roll out the ability to invite one of your videos to your live. You could do a split screen and talk to people. Kind of interview format, talk show format but it’s still not rolled out to everybody. Even in that, it’s very limited but belive.tv, that’s the website, you just go there, it connects to your Facebook and you can set up and instant talk show that’s got some really cool features like they’re rolling out screen sharing and photo sharing. You can have in their talk show format up to three people on the screen at a time. It pushes directly to Facebook Live, to your personal, your page, your event, your group, wherever it is you want to post it just like you can post on Facebook. This tool lets you do it. The basic version is free right now. I think at some point, they’re going to start charging for some of the additional services but I love it and I’ve actually become a brand ambassador because I’m such a heavy user.

I see it a lot. You get the logo for BeLive in the top right. Very clever. It’s like in the early days of Hotmail integrating the get your free web based email and every email message that went out.

Right. Along those same lines, Stephan, I recommend that if people are going to do live, that they brand themselves appropriately. Up until really the last year, having the .com was everything. If you’re going to have a website, if you can get the .com, have it. Yeah, sometimes you may do it in a hyphenated name, or a .net, or .org, or a .us, or info but now that the top level domain names are treated pretty much equally by Google, there’s all kinds of opportunity to SEO your sites properly and I’m a big fan of .live which is different than BeLive. .live is a domain extension that name.com offers. For example, I own joel.live and I can’t get joel.com but I can get joel.live. It speaks more about the brand of what I’m doing than the .com does. Somebody is searching for Joel Live, they’re more likely to find me at joel.live than a joelcomm.com. People can go to, actually, there’s a discount code which I’d be happy to share if that’s okay with you.

Yeah, sure, by all means.

They set up a website because I talk so much about .live in my own site. If you go to joel20.live, it automatically puts a 20% discount in the cart. So if you get a regular .live domain name to brand yourself, it should discount you 20%.

Cool. Who would be one of the most recognizable brands or names that have a .live domain?

I haven’t looked at the site recently but Adam Levine, Maroon 5 had a .live. There are different brands and businesses. There are some of the extreme sports or broadcasting a lot of live video and they’ve got .live domains. I think they actually have on the site a list, a catalogue of those that are using these.

Very cool. I like it. We’re about out of time. Do you want to share one last nugget, pearl of wisdom, life changing, business changing tip for our listeners?

Life changing, so I’ve got to come up with something life changing right now.

Why not.

I’m going to keep it real simple. Because I’m going to base it on where I’ve reversed engineered my success and discovered this. There is a philosophy, almost a business religion theology going on right now. I’m really opposed to it. It is the religion of hustle and grind. It is the idea that if you work your tail off and you work the weekends and you stay late while your competition is having happy hour with their friends, that somehow, that’s going to put you ahead. I have a newsflash for you. Unless your name is Gary Vaynerchuk, that is not true for the majority of people. What it will do is it might make you a boatload of cash and get you the big house, the fast car, and whatever else you think is going to bring you happiness, but ultimately those things do not lifestyle, a quality of lifestyle, experiences and the people that you surround yourself with, the relationships, that’s where the real value is. That’s why I have a podcast called Fun and why I’m writing a book about fun. I’ve looked back at my own career and I’ve discovered that much of the time that I spent “working,” the alleged hustle and grind was actually time spent spinning my wheels missing out on additional time with my kids and family or additional time experiences or just resting and enjoying. Carpeing the heck out of the Diemes. I think there’s a tendency especially with younger people to believe in this false religion of hustle and grind. I implore you to not fall for it, to make the most of the quality of your life, and instead of working hard, learn how to work smart which means the right email to the right person at the right time, the right contact, the right phone call, the right event. Show up in your daily life and seek to do good for others without always expecting something in return and trust the process that when you do that, good will come back to you and you will have more than cash full of money, which I’ve had and I’ve not had and I could tell you having is better but I would rather have quality of life. There you go.

I love that. I love it. Basically, it’s like intentionality over hustle. Intentionality is so much more important and reaps so many benefits in your life in comparison to just hustling and grinding like you say. I hope all of our listeners take that on board, that amazing advice. If somebody wants to work with you, I know you are offering consulting services, how would they get in touch?

Go to my blog joelcomm.com and just click the contact link. You’ll find a nice form there that will allow you to mail me directly. I get all of those straight to my email box.

Awesome. Thank you so much Joel. This was huge fun and a very real, authentic conversation. I really enjoyed it. I’m sure our listeners did as well. Thank you and thank you listeners. Be sure to go to marketingspeak.com and checkout the show notes, the transcript. We’ll create an action item checklist for you based on the recommendations of Joel from this episode. All that is available at marketingspeak.com. Thanks listeners and we’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. This is Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Boost my Twitter profile by putting the ‘social’ in social media. Reply to comments and conversations – the more value I offer the more my engagement increases.

☑ Use Buffer to schedule posts on Twitter to regularly put content out throughout the day. Bring value by scheduling dozen or so a day.

☑ Post personal content on social media that other people find so valuable and compelling that they want to share it with others and retell my story.

☑ Choose a favorite social media platform by analyzing my preferences and habits to choose what I am comfortable with in growing my online community & influence.

☑ Write a professionally published book to establish myself as an expert in my field and to open new doors and media opportunities.

☑ Create original, compelling content on a consistent basis and target keywords to make AdSense websites that earn money.

☑ Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Soovle, Moz Keyword Explorer, Search Metrics Topic Explorer.

☑ Create swag with these 3 goals in mind: Make sure people will open it. Get people to use it. Make sure that it is something that people will keep. Joel’s KaChing button.

☑ Have a website of my own to promote my expertise and have a squeeze page to promote offers of what I am selling or to have a lead generation PDF to get email subscribers.

☑ Continue to provide value and inspiration once I have my email list built because people buy from people they know, like, and trust. Then it will be possible for me to sell items that offer additional value.

About Joel Comm

Joel Comm is an internet pioneer, New York Times best-selling author of 12 books, professional speaker, futurist and influencer. With more than 20 years of doing business online, Comm has found success in online marketing, blogging, podcasting, video creation, social media, software development and mobile applications. As a consultant, he regularly works with small businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

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