Dave Stokley from NicheVirgin interviews Mark Mason About Niche Marketing…
Mark: I’m very excited to have Dave Stokley on the line. I’ve often talked about how a lot of things in internet marketing and having a business are just about taking action and doing stuff. Dave just contacted me and here he is on my show.
Dave, tell everybody a little bit about yourself and why you’re on the show today and what we came up with here.
Dave: Sure. I’ll just give you a quick intro here. I don’t have any background in internet marketing or anything to do with computers whatsoever. I was a Chemistry major in college and I went to law school, and I work for a large bank now. I think, like so many of your listeners, I want that freedom to be able to do what I want when I want to. I’m not necessarily committed to ever quitting my job, we’ll see what happens there. I’ve always worked in the background following your blog, your show, and guys like Pat Flynn and Spencer Hous. I just reached the breaking point where I had to take action.
I thought about just trying to launch my own niche sites, but then I realized I’m in this interesting position where I really know nothing but there are all these great resources, so I’m going to try to put everything together. My goal is to help those people that have absolutely no background in this type of stuff and provide them with a resource. Also, I guess I want to be a partner or friend, someone to follow along with and see that hopefully you can do it even knowing nothing about it.
My site is called NicheVirgin.com and there’s not much on it right now, but I’m going to start launching it soon. It’s going to take you from day one, someone knowing nothing about any of this stuff, to building a profitable site.
Mark: What I like about this is you’re a normal guy – obviously you’re a smart guy with a degree in Chemistry. I’m an electrical engineer, I don’t do chemistry, I consider benzene rings basically chicken wire. You have that degree and you’re an attorney as well. With a science degree as an attorney, does that mean intellectual property?
Dave: No. I was thinking about that when I went to school, but it seemed a little too dry for me.
Mark: It’s very dry.
Dave: I actually got interested in estate planning and that kind of stuff.
Dave: I did that for a little while and now I’m working for a large bank, working on trusts.
Mark: Very good. I’m familiar with that and the very careful wording needed to properly execute trust.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Mark: So you’re a smart guy, you’re obviously motivated. The thing I liked about this was basically what you’re going to try to do is document your journey. I love it because that’s the way I started out years ago, which we’re going to talk about.
The idea that you proposed is that you had questions for me that you wanted to know about. I immediately recognized that if you had those questions some of my other listeners would have similar questions. So today we’re going to flip things around and you’re going to interview me. That’s kind of wild, but that’s what the plan is. Right?
Dave: Yes. Turning the tables on you.
Mark: I never do this, but it’s your show, go ahead.
Dave: Cool. I thought we’d just start by talking a little bit about where you are now to give people some background. I’m sure people that follow along regularly already have an idea, but I thought if you could share some info on the success of the sites you’ve built so far and talk a little bit about your subscriber base and podcast base, just to let people know where you are today.
Mark: Absolutely, it’s a great question. I’ve been at this on and off since 2007 and I currently hold a pretty demanding day job, it’s a 50-60 hour a week gig. Some weeks are not quite that bad, but it’s a big job and it pays the light bill. For me, internet marketing is free of the pressure to make sales to pay the bills. That gives me a lot of freedom to do things.
Since 2007 I’ve done everything from Adsense sites, I’ve done a lot of experiments, and I’ve made money with those sites. I’ve also done a lot of affiliate marketing sites and I’ve been documenting that journey on my blog at LateNightIM.com, which a lot of my listeners read.
Once upon a time, that started out as MasonWorld.com and now it has been rebranded to Late Night Internet Marketing because most of my stuff that I do happens late at night after the kids go to bed, because in addition to that job I have a family that I’m very devoted to and enjoy quite a bit.
Your question about success. One of the things that people have listening to me for a long time know, I don’t quote a lot of numbers. There are a lot of reasons for that, one of which is staying away from quoting detailed numbers keeps me out of trouble with the FTC and other people, because I don’t make any claims about what your success might be and I don’t make any claims that you can be successful like me, or a lot of the things that you see internet marketing “gurus” do. But, I can give you some ideas.
I’ve built sites that I’ve shared publicly and this is typical and relatively easy to do, sites that make between $5 and $500 a month without a lot of effort. An example of one that I did recently is the Corn Sheller site. I’ve talked before about an intellectual property law site that I had years ago. And I’ve had various other sites that make some amount of residual income per month, but they’re not $2,000 a month Adsense sites like, for example, Pat Flynn has built with the Security Training site. That’s typical.
On the other hand, I have built sites that made significantly more than that and I’ve had days where I’ve sent out an email and made $4,000 – $5,000 in a day. This sounds like a lot of money, but it’s way less than a guy like Pat Flynn can generate. You can think of me as 10% of Pat Flynn kind of guy. I’ve known Pat since he first got started, I’ve known him since he was at the point that you’re at. He can generate something on the order of $50,000 – $100,000 a month. I’m not doing anything like that.
Pat’s also doing it full time. He and I have had a lot of conversations about what my business would be like if it were full time. I don’t know if I could ever even want to really contemplate catching Pat Flynn, but I can dream about those kinds of things.
Dave: Absolutely. Obviously you’ve had a lot of success with this, especially in relation to the fact that you have a day job. To get to that point you’ve got to get started. Like I said before, for me getting started has been a major obstacle. I think a lot of that struggle has to do with uncertainty because I don’t know anything about this stuff, combined with everyone wants to look good in everything they do and fear of looking stupid.
When I look at people like you and Pat Flynn, even though you may not be on the same level you’ve both been successful at this stuff, there are times when I feel so far behind that it’s almost paralyzing. Did you face any of these types of obstacles when you were getting started? If so, how did you get through them?
Mark: The obstacle that I remember quite distinctly, and I’ve told this story a couple of times, but the short version is in 2007 the company that I had been working for almost 20 years was going through some reorganization and while I wasn’t affected, people that I knew very well and cared about a great deal were affected. It made me realize when it comes to these sorts of things, this can happen to anybody.
I had seen an episode on the Today Show in one of those little segments they do, it was about a guy who was a retired hardware handyman, and he had written down everything that he ever learned about fixing houses on a really ugly website, and he was making $11,000 a month in Adsense.
I thought, “If some retired guy with a screwdriver can make $11,000 a month, certainly I can.” I was kind of a computer geek at that time, I still am. I know how to build websites, but I didn’t know anything about marketing.
What I remember in trying to get started wasn’t so much a fear of how to start, but it was just some simple stuff like not even knowing what all the words meant. I’d read an article on a website – and it was hard to know who to trust – and I wasn’t sure what was fact and what was fiction, and I didn’t even really know what they were all talking about, I didn’t know any of the words.
That’s what I remember, just that steep learning curve. Eventually what happened to me was I found some podcasts. And I found a guy, he’s no longer in the internet marketing space, who I could follow and develop a relationship with. I was able to learn about Adsense from that guy, he’s name is Gary Conn. He’s still out there, but he has moved on to other forms of business. I hooked up with Josh Spaulding around that time, I started following Andrew Hansen, and then I ran across Jason and Jeremy (at the time they were going by the online names Sterling and Jay) over at Internet Business Mastery.
I just started following and interacting with those people. Little by little I started to put it all together.
Dave: Awesome. For me personally, I’m kind of fascinated what people these days are calling mindset and how it impacts success. The things that are fascinate me about it are that you can see a clear difference in the way that people who are successful think and their view of the world.
You also read and see a lot that nobody is born with that mindset. It’s something that I’m working on really hard and probably will be working on for a long time. Were there any changes you observed in your own mindset as you went through the process? Anything that you specifically worked on in that regard?
I actually listened to your interview with the guy that lives down the street from you this afternoon.
Mark: Jason Jones.
Dave: He had some really interesting things to say about that and I was just wondering if you had anything to add to that area.
Mark: Dr. Jones is super brilliant, he’s a really smart guy.
Dave: It’s fascinating.
Mark: If you get close to him your head starts getting warm because of all the brainwaves coming off that guy.
First of all, I’m not absolutely sure about whether or not people are born optimistic or pessimistic, whether it’s nature or nurture. But I can tell you that in general I’m a pretty optimistic person and always have been, my glass has been half full ever since I was a little kid.
Having said that, I think everyone, even optimists, have what I refer to as limiting beliefs. Sometimes those limiting beliefs are the kind where there’s a little voice in your head that says, “Who cares what I have say?” Sometimes it’s fear of failure, sometimes it’s a fear of success.
We find people who have funny ideas about money, for example. They don’t feel that they deserve to have money or they have some experience in their past that leads them to believe that only evil people have money. My view of money is the more money I have the more people I can help – that’s just a really simple philosophy, the more money I have in my pocket the bigger my reach is to go do cool stuff that benefits people in some way. Not that that’s the only thing that I do, not that I wouldn’t also go on a diving vacation to Belize with some extra money, but my general philosophy around money is about helping people.
With regard to beliefs, I think what’s really critical for people who feel stuck is to ask themselves why. Really sit down in a quiet place and say, “Why am I stuck? Why am I not taking that next step? What is it?”
“Is it that I feel overwhelmed?” If you feel overwhelmed, then you have to break things down into small tasks.
“Is it that I’m worried I might mess up and fail?” In my business, failure is what we call learning and that’s a good thing.
You just have to get your mind wrapped around these things, but you have to know to go do that first and that means really being introspective and figuring out what it is that’s holding you back.
Dave: Right. I think that’s part of what’s tough about it is that everyone has different limiting beliefs, there’s not a one-size-fits-all. You really have to be, like you said, introspective. You have to look inside yourself and really figure out what’s going on. I think a lot of people just don’t do it, don’t even think about it, or they struggle with it because it’s a tough thing to do. There’s no class on that in college.
Mark: Yes. Most of the things that make people successful aren’t covered in college, which is baffling to me. It’s even more baffling to my buddy Sterling – Internet Business Mastery’s Jeremy. He’ll go so far as to say that the education system is so broken in most cases it’s not worth doing.
You and I both have a handful of degrees. I’m not on board with that idea, I think there’s a lot of intrinsic value in formal education. But, I do see his point. There is a bunch of stuff missing and the downside of formal education is that it tends to pigeonhole people, slot them into bank jobs or engineering jobs, it tends to put them in those boxes and in a lot of cases that limits people’s potential.
Your point about education not covering all the stuff you need is very well taken.
Dave: We could talk for hours about that, so we’ll try to go a different direction here.
Mark: For all the kids out there, just to be official, I think you should go to school. The very simple reason why is that education is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you.
Dave: Absolutely, I agree with that too.
Back to what we were talking about before, when you were first getting started I went back and read some of your original posts and I read about your initial Elvis Presley website experiment. I was just wondering if you thought that was a useful experience for you and whether you learned from it, and if that’s how you would do it again if you were going back to day one.
Mark: That Elvis website was very fascinating and really came at a time when I didn’t know exactly what I was doing and was trying a lot of stuff and trying to write it all down. That site never made a lot of money. It did make some money, but it never made a significant amount of money.
I still own that site. Sometimes I think about going back to it now that I know what I know and trying to monetize it. But, it turns out that the research I’ve done since then indicates that it may not be worth my time. That Elvis memorabilia can make money, but I’m not interested enough in it to really do it.
The answer to your question is yes, in general strategically I would do exactly the same thing to get started. In fact, that’s what I usually tell people; pick something that you’re interested in.
I would still do all that from a strategic standpoint, but from a tactical point of view I would use a lot of different techniques. I know so much more about how to properly build a website now, how to decide whether or not a niche is going to be profitable. I wouldn’t choose Elvis, probably, and I would choose different kinds of monetization, and I would definitely use different search engine optimization techniques to drive traffic to the site.
Dave: Obviously you learned from all of that, so it had to be a good thing to build your confidence if you’re getting traffic and making a little bit of money. I think that’s probably how I’m going to start too, I’m going to pick pretty specific niche keyword and build a very small site around that. That will be my initial case study and I’ll try to expand from there.
Mark: I think that’s a really good idea. One of the things I distinctly remember from that, and I’ll probably never forget it, is the first search term I ever ranked was something like “collectible Elvis Aaron Presley neckties,” or something crazy like that. I remember writing that article and putting it out on the site, I don’t even remember what I did for promotion, and all of a sudden I was ranking number one for that search term.
I will never forget it, I thought, “Wow, this is a little glimpse of what’s possible. If I can do this for this obscure term, what if I can do this for something that matters? That would be really amazing.” And that’s kind of the way you peel the onion on these things.
Dave: That’s really cool. That’s exciting to hear, I hope I can duplicate it and hopefully show other people how to do it too.
Mark: I’m positive you can. I see people start from scratch and do this all the time, so I know that’s possible.
Dave: Good. Since my site is called Niche Virgin, I wanted to ask if you could go back to internet marketing virgin Mark, even going back to before you got started; were there any regrets you had or any big mistakes you made? Why kind of advice would you give yourself in the early days, looking back?
Mark: Keep your wallet in your pocket. I think one of the big things that I see people do is they’ll spend money on a course and they won’t quite finish and they’ll get onto the next thing. I think it’s really important that you pick something and someone to follow and something to do, and stick with it until it’s profitable, and not jump from thing to thing. This bright shiny object syndrome will kill you.
Spending $10,000 is not really nearly as important as identifying something that you really believe works based on your research or whoever you’re following, doing that until you figure out how to make it work, and not just keep getting credit card out for this quick fix and that quick fix, this new software and that shiny object. It’s really more about working your way through.
That’s the big mistake – I’ve certainly made that mistake and I see people make that mistake. That’s probably the biggest piece of advice that I would give. Somehow that’s a combination of keeping your wallet in your pocket and finding somebody who is doing it the way you want to do it that you can follow and trust, and maybe who even offers a course that you can buy, and go forward in that way.
Dave: That’s an interesting lead in to my next question. I wanted to ask if back in those days, or even today, was there anyone who acted as a mentor for you along the way? If so, how did you find them and convince them to share their expertise with you?
I know a lot of people see others out there who they like the way they’re doing things and they have a couple questions for them, but sometimes they figure they’re too busy to even answer an email or anything like that. What’s your experience there?
Mark: Sometimes they are. Certainly sometimes I am. Most things in life, and I think this is particularly true in business – when I was 18 I was dating a girl who I was madly in love with in high school and Top Gun had just come out. I remember we would drive around and her dad was a sales guy, he had these Zig Ziglar tapes on closing the sale, and I remember because that was my first introduction to Zig. I’m a big Zig Ziglar fan.
One of the things in these tapes that this guy lent me was the idea that you can get everything in life that you want by helping other people get what they want.
Dave: I’ve heard that.
Mark: It’s really true. At least, it has been my personal experience in every walk of life, not just internet business, in my day job, all of it. The same thing applies in building relationships with people online.
They’re just people. If you go to those people with your hand out looking for something, you’re going to get one kind of response. If you legitimately go to people with an attitude of “how can you contribute to what they’re doing, how can you help them be successful,” you create reciprocity and those relationships develop. A lot of times you’re not even looking for anything, you’re just trying to be part of what’s going on. People respond to that. They notice and they respond to it.
Pat will tell you one of his big breaks came just from the fact that he was doing that, participating in Yaro Starak’s community and not really asking for anything. He was commenting on Yaro’s blog and got a shout out from a Yaro and it helped his blog take off, at a time when Pat was really considering giving it all up.
He was considering giving up the blog that eventually turned into Smart Passive Income, he was going to shut it down because nobody was listening. He was creating amazing stuff, he just needed that tipping point. He got that just by being Pat and just being generous and trying to help people that really didn’t even need his help, and the reciprocity came back to him.
I think that is a generally valid concept that you can apply all over the place to build those kinds of relationships.
The people that affected me were some people who aren’t blogging anymore. I mentioned Gary Conn. Caroline Middlebrook had a blog that was similar to Pat’s blog now, she’s still around but she doesn’t blog about internet marketing anymore. I mentioned Josh Spaulding and Andrew Hansen. At that time, Andrew Hansen had a product called Niche Marketing on Crack that was my first introduction to affiliate marketing. There was Jeremy and Jason.
Some of those relationships were created by just being an avid follower and commenting on the blogs. Some of them were created because I bought their products. In the case of Jeremy and Jason, Pat and I were both charter members of their very first membership product at Internet Business Mastery Academy and we got to know them really well that way. Jeremy, Jason, and I are still friends today. I was just talking to Jason the other day, he’s in Paris now; I’ve held his child, I know his wife, and we’ve had dinner together.
You just build these relationships and if you put genuine good will into things, good things happen.
Dave: I can definitely attest to that. I’ve only been doing this for a couple weeks now, but I’ve been surprised at how open the community has been to me. I’ve reached out to a lot of people. I think from the outside it still seems like a Wild West kind of thing with a lot of lone guns out there doing their own thing, cranking out these sites and making all sorts of money and writing about it.
I’ve had a really warm welcome from the community. It’s pretty clear that you walk the walk, too, because you’ve got me on your show and you certainly didn’t have to do that. I really do appreciate that.
Mark: Well, thanks. I thought it was a really good idea. Probably – hopefully – there are lots of people out there like you that have these same questions, so it’s good to go through this.
Dave: Absolutely. I think we’ll wrap it there, unless you have anything else to add.
Mark: I have some questions for you.
Mark: You’re going to talk about your internet marketing journey on Niche Virgin and you’re going to do some sort of internet marketing thing, so you’ll have something to talk about.
Mark: I’m not talking about revealing a specific niche at this point, but have you given thought to what kind of internet marketing you’re going to do? Is it going to be affiliate marketing, are you going to build Adsense sites, are you going to try to do some eBay related thing, what are you thinking?
Dave: I’m going to try to experiment as much as possible and try to give people a wide view of everything. I think what appeals to me is the affiliate side of things, for the most part – Amazon and the different affiliate programs.
From what I’ve heard, Adsense can be a tough road to hoe. I’ve also read the horror stories about Adsense accounts being shut down. I don’t know that I’ll ever get that big, but it’s just a scary thought.
What really appeals to me is the affiliate type of thing, but if I stumble across a good keyword or a good niche that I could build an Adsense site around, I certainly won’t hesitate to do that, especially as a case study type of thing.
Mark: Sure. Adsense is a fickle mistress. My Adsense has been closed in the past and I still don’t really know why. Actually, I read something online recently, I don’t know if it’s true or not, that Adsense is actually being sued.
The story was that some former Google Adsense employee was no longer working at Google and had come clean that Adsense (and Google) wasn’t being completely fair in a lot of cases when they shut those accounts down. They’re trying to drum up a class action lawsuit. I don’t know about all that, but it’s interesting. I can tell you that from my point of view my account was closed down completely arbitrarily.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to start. I like it because you can not only attack the problems from a keyword standpoint – “my foot hurts” or how to cure acne or whatever – but you can also attack the particular solutions – Bob’s Skin Ointment, or Joe’s Foot Massage Cream – and that gives you lots of avenues of attack that you can always fall back to Adsense as well. So I like affiliate marketing as a place to start, it’s pretty well known that’s my position.
That sounds great. I think people would be very interested to hear that kind of journey. Again, it’s at NicheVirgin.com. I think you’re just barely up and running, but people can subscribe over there. Is that correct?
Dave: Yes. I have a simple page up explaining what I’m doing and a couple of paragraphs with the email subscription box on there. You can head over to the site and stick your email in. As soon as I start posting content, which I think will probably be mid to late June, but look for it definitely by July 1st at the latest.
Mark: That sounds fantastic. Dave, I have one piece of parting advice for you, if you’re interested.
Mark: I think one of the most valuable things I could tell you about starting down this journey – and this one of those physician heal thy self things, because I struggle this with myself, so I don’t want to pretend like I have all the answers. The most valuable piece of advice that I’ve ever come up with for people that are going down this journey is try to do something on your business every day, even if it’s only a few minutes. That will keep it top of mind, there’s lot of neuro-linguistic programming reasons why that’s important. That will keep the momentum going.
If you don’t do that, then days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and all of a sudden you haven’t accomplished anything. On the other hand, if you do a little bit every day, even if it’s just a little bit, sometimes that will turn into a lot and some days it won’t, but at the end of months, quarters, and years, you’ll be amazed at what you can build when you integrate all that together.
That’s my parting piece of free advice and it’s worth every penny that you paid for it.
Dave: Great. I appreciate that, and I will. I think they call it the 20,000 mile march or something like that.
Mark: That’s right, and it begins with a step. Congratulations on your first several steps, they’re starting to look like strides. I’ll be rooting for you.
What I’d like to do is plan on checking in with you at some later date, perhaps at the end of this year or early 2015, and let’s hear from you on where you are and see how things are going over at NicheVirgin.com.
Dave: All right, great. I’d love to. Hopefully I have some good news to report.
Mark: Dave, thank you very much. Have a great evening.
Dave: Thanks, Mark. You too.
Wrapping Things Up…
I hope you guys enjoyed that. I thought that was great. I hope that helped some of you and that some of you found Dave’s questions interesting and useful, hopefully my answers were interesting and useful as well.
If you have more questions, feel free to drop by the blog at LateNightIM.com, you can find this episode there (Episode 76) and I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions. Or if you have questions for Dave, feel free to leave those there as well. I’m sure Dave will be listening to this and will be happy to drop by and answer any questions that you might have.
I’ll be back on the air in about a week with another episode. I’m on the road, but I bought a new little microphone and I can’t wait to try it out. I bought an Apogee Mic, which is a cool little travel microphone. I’m anxious to try it out and I’ll be trying to record a little bit on the road, we’ll see how that goes.
I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks again for listening. Have a great day.