Episode 290

Affiliate Marketing for Course Creators with Dean Holland

Learn about affiliate marketing for course creators with Dean Holland in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS. Dean has a lot going on with his businesses, and he shares some great tips for online course creators in this episode. Dean has worked with running his own education-based business online and with affiliate marketing, and he has a book called The Iceberg Effect.

Affiliate marketing for course creators with Dean Holland

Dean left school at age 16 and became a waiter at a restaurant, and eventually moved up to chef and to part of the management team. After learning those skills, he started a mobile food truck where he could run the business on his own with the knowledge he had acquired after 2 years of working in the industry.

He ended up being robbed by 3 guys who stole all his equipment, and the experience shook him a bit, as he was pretty young at the time. So he ended up going to work at a pub. Dean then turned to the online space trying to find extra ways to make money online, such as network marketing, filling out surveys for cash, etc.

Between 2004 and 2008, Dean had been going through online programs looking for ways to make money in $100 course programs and other get rich quick methods, and along with lifestyle expenses that left Dean with around $60,000 in credit card debt.

Dean responded to an email where someone was offering 10 free tickets to a live event for the first 10 responses. While attending that live event, he got the advice that the solution to his credit card debt issue was to stop hiding the truth from himself, and that he should start a blog being honest and sharing his experiences with making money online. That is what kicked off his blog site and affiliate/education journey online.

One common mistake many online course creators make with their websites is trying to bring on affiliates too early before they’ve sold courses to validate their offer, and they end up ruining relationships with possible affiliates by not having a solid product in place before trying to scale.

To learn more about Dean Holland, be sure to check out DeanHolland.com where you can pick up a free copy of his eBook called The Iceberg Effect in which he dives into more strategies and actionable tips on finding success as an affiliate marketer.

At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett:

You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett:

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. Today we’re joined by a special guest across the pond. His name is Dean Holland. Welcome to the show, Dean.

Dean Holland:

Hey, good to meet you, Chris. Happy to be here.

Chris Badgett:

This is going to be a great conversation. Dean’s got a lot going on across multiple levels that are relevant to a course creator. He has an education company himself. He is a master at affiliate marketing, and he’s been on the entrepreneurship journey. There’s a lot we’re going to get into around that, and he has a book which is called The Iceberg Effect. You can check that out at deanholland.com. But first, before we get into affiliate and books and all this stuff, I noticed on your website that you have a video where you talk about your journey and the hard times, I call it the valley of despair, the trough of despair. I went through that. I didn’t really become an entrepreneur until I was… I’m 41 now and I didn’t really step into it until it was 32 or something like that. What happened to you? You talked about being in debt and you were hiding it and stuff like that. What happened there? What was the transition like before the trough and then going into it. What happened?

Dean Holland:

For me, it all began before we even got online. You mentioned about becoming an entrepreneur. I started at an offline business. It was my first ever thing. It was just… I’m making it sound better than it was. It was a mobile food truck. Because I left school at 16. I went straight to work as a waiter, serving tables in a restaurant. And then from there I became a chef and eventually went on to become part of the management team in that place. And because I’d learned those skills over like… this is in about two years. I did it pretty quickly. I then thought, “Well, I can do this to myself. I don’t need to work for anyone.” I got a mobile food truck, which pretty much all I could get my hands on the money to afford. And that started doing really well. I went from really minimum wage doing the job I was in to making anywhere between 300 to 500 a day, working only part time, hours in the food truck.

Dean Holland:

But how I ended up finding internet marketing as a business model is, I had to… I closed that business down in the end because I actually got robbed one day by three guys and they stole all my equipment and it just shook me up a bit. I was only pretty young, I couldn’t do anything. I ended up going to work at a pub. And from there I’d gone from earning hundreds a day in my own business to now back on the same wage I was on with the day I left school. It was a real shock to the system and that’s what actually caused me to start looking for stuff online. That was back in… it was 2004 now. Well, 16 years ago, which seems insane to say. And I liked your name for it. What did you say? The valley of despair, or?

Chris Badgett:

Despair.

Dean Holland:

Yeah, I like that name because I would definitely describe it as some kind of pain like that. I did the typical thing, I’d look in online ways to make some extra money, something like that. I wasn’t thinking about making a fortune, to be honest. I just… I was just in my early 20s. I wanted to be going out with my friends, they were all out drinking and partying and out with girls. And there I was working seven days a week in a pub serving drinks but no money. And I tried all these different things from network marketing to… even stupid things, to be honest, which I can laugh about now. But like the whole filling out surveys for cash, and-

Chris Badgett:

That was the first thing I did. I signed up for the survey for cash and I was like, “This is [inaudible 00:04:02] the guy just took my money,” or whatever it was. It was funny. I’ve never mentioned that before publicly I guess. But that was around that time. It was around 2004.

Dean Holland:

Oh, no way. No way.

Chris Badgett:

Maybe we signed up for the same program.

Dean Holland:

Yeah, quite probably. I was probably the guy that tried to get you to sign up for the survey. But yeah, and I was trying all these different stuff. And eventually I found affiliate marketing, just promoting other people’s products for commissions. I thought, “Well, this seems like the easiest option here. This is the one that I think is going to work.” But my valley of despair or whatever it is went on for like four, four and a half years. I didn’t make a single sale online, nothing. Not even a lookie random commission that just showed up, just nothing. There was nothing at all.

Dean Holland:

And between 2004 to 2008 I then ended up getting five credit cards. It was like, this is where I was at rock bottom now. I had gone from, “Oh, look at all this fun stuff that looks easy to make money with.” I got my first credit card, max that out. Then I got another one. Same with that. And after I got… I had five credit cards all but one of the maxed out, I managed to get a bank loan to consolidate all my debts into one thing. And I was like, “Well, that’s perfect. I’m going to just stop using credit cards, stop using debt, consolidate it all.” And I did the worst thing that nobody should ever do in that situation. I paid it all off and then I kept the credit cards. And I started using them again.

Dean Holland:

And by the end of 2008, I was 24 years old at that stage, I had over 60 grand on credit cards and loans. And because I was not telling… I still lived with my mom at that stage, she’d never really used credit cards or anything. She’d always raised me to be more along the lines of, if you wanted something you say booked for it and then you get it. That’s always what I’d been brought up to believe.

Chris Badgett:

So you kept it in the shadows?

Dean Holland:

Yeah. I didn’t even… she didn’t even know I had one credit card. And there I am. And I’m having to… where things just spiraled out of control for me is because I was having to pretend I didn’t have debts, obviously if your friends, or your family, or somebody wants to do something, I can’t be like, “Oh no, I’ve got no money.” Because why shouldn’t I have money? There’s no reason for me not to have money. I’m working a full time job so I had to just carry on as if everything was good, which is where the credit card situation just got worse, and worse, and worse. And there’s still a turning point. How did that all change? I actually went to a internet marketing seminar in London, here in England-

Chris Badgett:

So you put it on.

Dean Holland:

Yeah. It was the first time ever that I’d actually seen people I had read about online. It was a very weird situation for me at that stage because I’m just shy and quiet and was hiding the reality of my life from everyone. And there I am at this event and I’ve got people around me that I’d been buying products from for years.

Chris Badgett:

Well, hold on one second there. I wanted to ask, when you’re getting into this debt, you’re paying to go out with friends and live and stuff, but were you also putting a lot of money on courses and digital products and stuff?

Dean Holland:

Oh yeah, massively. Massively.

Chris Badgett:

Like $2,000 courses and things.

Dean Holland:

Yeah. For me it started small because this is one of the things that always gets asked by people. Sometimes I meet people and they’re like, “Oh, you’re lucky. I got a hundred grand in debts.” But then I meet other people and they just can’t figure out how did I get in such a mess. It just doesn’t make sense to them.

Chris Badgett:

Well, it’s funny because we started with the same thing, that a hundred dollars survey, I’m going to give you all this stuff. You just kept going. For me, I was like, “I’m never going to get burned again.”

Dean Holland:

Right. I see. I was just stupid. I was like, “Oh, I’m just going to keep doing this. This feeling is fun.” But the products and courses I was buying early on, they were pretty cheap because I didn’t have that tolerance to thinking that you should spend thousands on a course or to get help.

Chris Badgett:

Were these like Warrior Forum, a hundred dollars kind of tricks?

Dean Holland:

Yeah. I bought loads of stuff on the Warrior Forum and obviously there was ClickBank that was much more popular back then than it probably is today. But eventually what happened is the more in debt I got, the more desperate I became. And the more desperate I got, the more I started to think, “Well, maybe the answer is in buying that expensive course. Maybe I’m just buying the wrong stuff.” And I remember I bought a $500 program once. And that’s where it began. And what ended up happening for me, I started getting phone calls. And back then I didn’t understand what was actually happening. I’ll never forget, I got this phone call, I’d bought a product off ClickBank and it was a phone call and it was like, “Oh, the…” I can’t remember the owner now. But, “Oh, whoever made this product, they’ve asked me to give you a call. They want to work with you.” [crosstalk 00:09:01] stupid me I’m like, “Oh, wow. Really? This is incredible. How lucky am I!” And it was like, “Oh yeah, it’s going to be… it’s a six week program.”

Dean Holland:

And it was… looking back now, it was a full on boiler room situation. It was like, how much credit do you have? Can you get any more? It was aggressive. It was awful, but I just fell for it. And it was the first time I’d spent bigger money, I think was it $5,000 or $6,000 on one credit card. And that ended up being a complete scam. After three weeks of weekly calls, they vanished. And I was like, “Oh no.” But now, now I had a five grand on a credit card. Now I was more desperate to figure out how am I going to pay that back? It just got way out of hand.

Chris Badgett:

What’s the turning point where you started to climb out of the swamp? Or at least had the glimmer of hope that something is going to… “All right. I think I’m going to make some progress here.”

Dean Holland:

Like I said, I went to that event and what ended up happening is I asked a guy there, just before he left at the end of the weekend, I said like, “Just tell me what I need to do. I’m not afraid to work. I will do… give it my all. Just tell me what to do.” And he gave me advice that actually scared the life out of me. He said, “It’s time to stop lying.” And not… It wasn’t that I was lying, I was just hiding from the truth. He was like, “It’s time to stop that. You need to start being honest.”

Dean Holland:

And he said, “The best thing that you could actually do is go home, start a blog and actually start sharing your real experiences that you’ve had trying to make money online.” Because unbeknownst to me back then, I think we probably, maybe a lot of people go through this. When you’re in that situation, you feel like you’re on your own. You feel like nobody else is going to be going through what you’re going through, because maybe I’m just stupid and no one else is going to have been as stupid as me. [crosstalk 00:10:54].

Chris Badgett:

You look at Pat Flynn or somebody, and it’s like, “Oh yeah, he’s just making a million a month or whatever it is. I must be an idiot.”

Dean Holland:

Right, exactly. And his advice was that to start a blog and start actually being honest about how… what I’ve gone through trying to make money online, trying to start a business. And I really didn’t want to do that because obviously at this stage still nobody knew what I was into, the mess. But it was really one of those situations where it’s like, “Look, you’ve got this guy that’s by all accounts making tens of thousands a month online and he’s telling you this is what you should do.” If I don’t do it, I might as well just give up because that would just be stupid. To me, there was only two choices, to give up or just listen to what this guy says and do it. And that’s what I did. And actually, you can still see it to this day because I didn’t understand what WordPress was.

Dean Holland:

And when he said go and start a blog, I went home that same day and I tried to find out what is a blog. I didn’t even know. And I found wordpress.com. And I thought, “Oh, this is what he means I start this.” Hey, you can actually still see it. It’s still online today. It’s deanholland.wordpress.com. You can see the very first, it was October 20th, 2008. And that if you scroll to the very first post, because it was about maybe three or four posts before I realized, “Oh, I should have my own hosting, and I should host this blog. There’s a different… there’s a better way of doing this.” But you can actually see that first post. And I said my first goal is to make $1 because I’ve just spent years not knowing how to do that. If I can make $1, I’ll have proven to myself it can be done. And that really was the turning point. I actually started my… I earned my first affiliate commission five weeks after that post.

Chris Badgett:

I think that’s amazing. And the thing is, the reason why I wanted to talk about it too is that it’s a taboo. And when you become an entrepreneur, what… you said 60 grand in debt. If you were to go to an expensive private school, 60 grand in debt is totally accepted socially. And your mom would probably be proud of you. Like, “Awesome. He’s going to Harvard or whatever, Oxford or whatever.”

Chris Badgett:

But entrepreneurs go to do something often, not always, but I did this called the school of hard knocks. And it’s lonely. It’s isolating. There’s no… you have to initiate everything. It’s not… it’s just a completely different approach than higher ed. Not that higher ed’s bad. I did college. It was cool. I got some good stuff out of it. But it’s not accepted. Entrepreneurs are both hard on themselves, their families are hard on them in general, and society is hard on them until they’re successful. And when they’re in the valley of despair it appears from the outside, they’re like, “When are you going to grow up or get out of this phase?” It’s like a total thing. That’s awesome.

Dean Holland:

When are you going to get a real job?

Chris Badgett:

Yeah, that’s cool. Well, thanks for sharing that. It says on your website on deanholland.com, I want to find the words, you said a training, coaching and education company. How do you see those three words as being different, or same? You’ve mentioned all three. I’m just curious. Training, coaching, education, how are… Are they just different or you just kind of different flavors of the same thing?

Dean Holland:

I would say probably different flavors or different forms of the same thing, maybe. I would classify listening to this podcast as training.

Chris Badgett:

Learning.

Dean Holland:

Yeah.

Chris Badgett:

Hoping somebody would get a result, which might just be understanding themselves better.

Dean Holland:

Right. Yeah, exactly. I think there’s different levels. I guess in my mind, when I would say something like that with those similar words, I guess to me there’s different levels or different depths of training, I guess. You could say mentoring and coaching. Is there a difference between them? I would actually say there is. But yeah, I think there’s different ways of learning or different depths to training as such. I suppose that’s what I’m getting at with that.

Chris Badgett:

And what got you to get out of the building or out of your isolation and go to that first event, to get out from behind the computer and go meet some people in your local area?

Dean Holland:

Well, it was all a very fortunate… well, quite lucky story actually, in honesty. I was… because of all the products I’d bought in those first four years, I was getting, gosh, 20, 30, 40 emails a day from all the different subscriptions I was on. And I just happened to open up my, it was Yahoo mail account I had at that stage and there was a subject line. It said, meet me in London. I’m paying. And I was like, “Oh, what’s that?” I opened it up and one of the guys whose list I was on, which ended up being the one that gave me the advice about the blog, he put an email out to his list and said he was going to be attending this event. And he said he knew the person that was one of the people behind the event and he said, he’s given him 10 tickets.

Dean Holland:

He said, “If you reply to this email and you’re one of the first 10, I’ll cover the cost of your ticket and you can come to the event.” And that’s how that actually came about. I actually didn’t reply straight away because… a lot of people can’t believe this now because they see me today and I come across a lot more confident. But back then I was the most introverted, shy, quiet person you could ever possibly meet, very badly that way.

Dean Holland:

And I actually didn’t reply immediately because I was really scared of going to something like that. As crazy as that sound. I was that introverted. I didn’t… Still to this day I’m not very good in crowds, in all honesty. I just like to… I’m more of a to the side kind of guy. I observe, I listen, I watch, I take it all in. But to put myself in that environment was daunting to be honest. But that’s how it came about.

Chris Badgett:

You sound a lot like me. I’m exactly the same. I was actually just at a big event in Atlanta and they put me… the seating assignments were assigned and I was in the corner. I was in the corner, on the side. I was like, “Perfect.” That’s where I’m the most comfortable. Well, you have a podcast called Just The Tips with another guy named James and that’s where I heard about you. And then the reason I reached out to you is you… there was a episode, I think it was actually two episodes that you did back to back where you guys banter a lot, which I find funny.

Chris Badgett:

But then you got into some real meat and potatoes around affiliate marketing, which is cool. And you were just… you had a lot of insight and I thought it was very good. For the audience here, there’s people who are beginning course creators and there’s other people that are advanced, probably already moving with affiliate programs and whatnot, but what… There’s the… and just for anybody who’s not aware, affiliate marketing is where you sign up for an affiliate program and you get a unique link that you share on social media, email, or other ways. And if somebody clicks through and buys, you earn a commission.

Chris Badgett:

And as a course creator, or if you have a membership site, having an affiliate program is a good idea to help with sales. I don’t recommend adding it until you’ve already got… you can already prove that your thing is working. And some people try to add affiliate too early. I see it more of a scaling strategy and than a starting strategy. By all means start with it if you want to. But what are some hard learned lessons and truths you found in affiliate marketing that a course creator could learn from?

Dean Holland:

Great question. I think you’ve just actually touched on one of the biggest there with what you said. I think a lot of people do rush to the affiliate path as a course… as someone with a product or service to get affiliates promoting their offer. And they… A lot of times I see people do that before they’ve proven the offer and optimized it themselves. And I think it’s-

Chris Badgett:

Same for paid advertising. Before you go do Facebook ads, make sure your offer converts. Right?

Dean Holland:

Right. And I think a lot of people get that… get it really backwards. It’s almost like… the way I would personally look at it with when people jump to having an affiliate program and get into people promoting their stuff too soon is like they don’t want to take the risk on it not working themselves. They’ll offload that responsibility. And they almost use their affiliates to then optimize their offer. And I think is such a dangerous thing to do because those relationships, they can be burned really easily. And I think a lot of times what people don’t realize when they’re starting out is how powerful having even a small number of heavy hitting affiliates promoting your stuff can be. We’ve had individual affiliates, we’ve paid over a million dollars in commissions to over a two year period. Just one person promoting our stuff.

Dean Holland:

But if I’d have gone to that person and have them promote our stuff before I’d optimized it, before I knew it was converting, I’d have probably… they’d have probably promoted it once and never again because they wouldn’t have got a return. I think that’s one of the biggest, biggest things is make sure you’ve got your offer and your conversions all dialed in first. Because then you can confidently go out to affiliates and say, “Look, I’ve got this offer. Here’s what the product is, here’s what it’s all about. Here’s what the funnel looks like. Here’s the conversions we’ve seen to date.” And you’re going into that relationship then in a much stronger position.

Chris Badgett:

How do you approach an affiliate that’s…? It’s one thing if they’re maybe similar size to you, but what if you’re going after a big affiliate where you’re like a minnow approaching the whale? How do you do that?

Dean Holland:

It’s a good subject. It’s not… Typically, it’s not easy. And like you said, the bigger that affiliate is, or the bigger that name is, or that personality, generally the harder it can be to break through that wall and get to them. There’s a whole… And then if you’ve heard about it, read about, the whole… what’s it called? The dream 100 strategy that’s a bit more, I guess, longterm. You’re playing the long game that is. That’s all about identifying who the top 100 affiliates are in the perfect world, who you would like to promote your offer. And then doing things over a long period of time, on a consistent regular basis, to try and almost get the foot in the door to open up that line of communication with those people, I know.

Chris Badgett:

Which may take years.

Dean Holland:

It definitely can. I know… Russell Brunson has been a mentor of mine over the last few years, and the one he’s been talking about a lot lately is his relationship with Tony Robbins and how-

Chris Badgett:

Which he’s been working for like six years or whatever, right?

Dean Holland:

Even longer, I think. I think it was about 10 or 12 years that he’s been… had him on his dream 100 list as somebody he would love to have him promote his stuff. And only in the last 12 or 18 months has he done so. And now they’ve even got a company together. It’s like that took like 10 years to get that person to promote for him. But he just stuck at it. And that’s not to say, I don’t want to put anyone listening off thinking like, “Well, what’s the point if it’s going to take 10 years?” That’s Tony Robbins. This is a guy that doesn’t need to promote anybody.

Dean Holland:

But I would say, in all honesty, one of the biggest things that’s not to be underestimated is the quality of the product. I honestly think and I’ve got the good fortune of having seen the cycling that I always put… that goes on in various industries, and how things come about. And I think a few… Going back several years, I used to always see and believe that the person with the best marketing would always win. I used to see so many really bad products selling like crazy. And it always just looked like he or she who has the best marketing will always win. And to a degree, I think there’s still a lot of truth to that today. But I’m noticing a shift coming about that actually I think we’re heading to a much better time where it’s the best products will win.

Dean Holland:

And you’ve got to have the good marketing with it. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t just have a great product as we know and no one’s just going to show up. But at the same time, if you cope well together now the best product that you can create along with the best marketing, those are the people that I think are really going to shine through. And I think if you can be that person with your course or service, whatever it is that you’re providing, you’re going to put yourself in a much stronger position anyway to be able to start approaching affiliates because you’ll have the reputation, you’ll have the student results, the client case studies. And that goes a long way.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah, that’s super important. It makes me think about Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, who… Back in the day, I didn’t buy it because I was burned from that survey. You might’ve bought it, but what I did do is every year… now this has been like 10 years or however long now, eight years. Every year, or twice a year, I watch him launch that product. And I sit on his launch list and I watch him do his training and I… he gives away so much value in his product launch that I’m always learning. But what really fascinates me is I’ve seen internet products come and go, coaching programs come and go, but Jeff put his flag in the ground. He’s like, “Product Launch Formula. I’m going to keep doing it better and better. I’m going to help these entrepreneurs get results and figure out how to launch a product.” And it’s just one course redone over, and over, and over again. I’m like, “Dang! That is awesome.” I don’t know. And I’m… he has affiliates, and… to promote him. It’s rock solid, right?

Dean Holland:

Yeah, exactly. And I think, by that… that’s to me is a good example that probably is some good advice for people listening. The only reason he’s been able to do that, and I think he’s probably the go-to example in this case, is he’s created something that isn’t just a short term thing. People are always [crosstalk 00:24:49] to learn how to create and launch their courses, their products.

Dean Holland:

I think that’s a very smart thing for people to often consider. I used to create… I’ve created courses in the past on WordPress because that was the first thing I learned. I really studied what is WordPress and I really learned that whole world of WordPress quite well years ago. I remember some of the first lead magnets I’d use to build my list, I wrote a thing called the Blog Setup guide. And that was the first time I started to see like, oh, WordPress kept changing their interface, and their dashboard, and different things kept changing. And even though the core stuff was pretty similar, I kept creating these tutorial videos that show people how to do stuff. And then literally it could be whilst you were recording the video they changed something and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to do it all again.” I think that’s something to look out for.

Chris Badgett:

That’s the hard thing about teaching software is because it changes a lot. Whereas, for example, Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, it’s more about the theory. And the tools don’t matter as much as the sequencing and the stacking and everything. Well, let’s talk about your book, Dean, The Iceberg Effect – The Untold Secret of Affiliate Marketing Success. Why’d you write it? What is it?

Dean Holland:

Why did I write it? Gosh! Sometimes I ask myself that. That was in the… that small little book where it felt like it took me 10 years to write.

Chris Badgett:

Did you write it yourself or a ghost writer?

Dean Holland:

I did. No, I wrote every word. It was… I never… I’m not actually very good at writing. It was a very hard thing for me. I’m just not very good at… I can talk. I don’t seem to be able to… they always said about me at school. They always said I had an analytical brain. I wanted to go from problem to solution in the fastest time possible. They always told me from a young age that like story writing, I always cut out the middle. There was never a middle. It was like, here’s the start and here’s the end. There was never any substance between it. It took me about… probably about 18 months to write the book. And it’s not the longest book in the world. You can read it in three hours or something, two hours, it’s really quick. But I wrote it.

Dean Holland:

The book is primarily, I know obviously we’re talking a lot of your audience is course creators, but this book, it gives an introduction to everything that we do as a company and things, but it primarily then focuses on being an affiliate as opposed to gaining affiliates if you like. It focuses on the affiliate marketing business model. Because I know there’s, as you do, there’s several different types of business models that people can choose. And I think, I personally, if I look at my journey, affiliate marketing was the thing that enabled me to make a full time income and quit my job in 2009. Once I’d done that and I was promoting products, and again I kept documenting on my blog, people started asking me if I could teach them what I’d done.

Dean Holland:

And that led me eventually to actually create my first course, which is what I did. I went from being an affiliate to now being a course creator and selling my own products. And I went from being an affiliate and maybe making $2,000 or $3,000 a month initially to then offering my own products. My very first course that I sold, it made about $13,000 in sales in its first week.

Chris Badgett:

Wow, that’s amazing. And what was the topic?

Dean Holland:

It was called Starting With Marketing. And it was basically just teaching what I had learned, which was how to start a blog and use a blog, how to build an email list and how to then promote affiliate offers to that list. It was really just all I’ve ever done. And I think this is all I still do to this day is I just share what I’m doing. It’s like I’ve never proclaimed to be a genius, a 1,000,001 different things. All I’ve ever done is learn something from other people smarter than me, and then put myself in a position to be able to share what I’ve done with other people. And it seems to have gone pretty well in that sense.

Dean Holland:

I went from the affiliate marketing model to a course creator model. And now I think the way I’ve now evolved is, I’ve got… I’ve stopped being just a home based business working out of my… just on my laptop at home. We’ve now got a 2,500 square foot offices in the UK. I’ve got multiple full time team members and I’ve really focused on trying to create this education company that is going to be here for a very, very long time. And as I look at my journey over 10 years, it really consists of three phases in my mind. It was affiliate marketer, then product creator, course creator, and then becoming more of like… I don’t know, a boss if you like, or whatever you want to call it. Somebody that… now I’m not the one doing everything. If I want to go on vacation, the business still runs and operates, there’s no problems.

Chris Badgett:

That’s quite a journey turning pro like that, all the stages. And I think course creation and affiliate can go hand in hand. You can get affiliates for your course, but I recommend every course creator, if you put your customer the center of your business, not your product, the reality is your customer… your product helps your customer. But they’re probably going to need some other tools and resources. You just slap a resources page on your website and you list out other useful tools. And if they happen to have an affiliate program, why not capture a piece of that revenue while you’re helping your student or learner?

Dean Holland:

Yeah, 100%. I love what you said there as well. I think sometimes a bit of a trap the people with their own courses they get stuck in is they view it as like, “This is my customer. I don’t want to share my customer.” And I say that laughing because I think for a while I thought the same. And I was like, “I didn’t want to tell my customers about other people. That’s mine.” But then you wake up a little bit and you realize like, “My customers, they’re buying from everybody else anyway.”

Dean Holland:

Like you’ve just said, the easiest thing in the world is a course created to add additional revenue is like, what complements what you’re teaching or what do people need? For me, a good example would that be when I did that Blog Setup guide, there was a couple of things people need. They need a hosting account to be able to install their blog and they need an autoresponder to build that list. I was promoting a hosting company and AWeber as an autoresponder back then. Still to this day from that warm report. I know it’s not big money in any way. I get between… usually between $120 to $250 a month from AWeber. But I’ve had that now every month for 10, 11 years. And it’s all like, I only ever had it in that report. And we’re not talking it had mass exposure here. There was a couple of thousand downloads of that over a year.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah. That’s awesome. And I think AWeber, if I’m correct, they have a recurring affiliate program?

Dean Holland:

Correct. Yeah.

Chris Badgett:

Which is a little bit unusual. A lot of affiliate stuff is a onetime commission, but if you get a recurring commission, how cool is that?

Dean Holland:

Yeah, exactly right.

Chris Badgett:

As long as that customer stays with them.

Dean Holland:

Yeah, exactly. And there’s so much stuff like that for course creators to do. Like, if you’re going to teach someone to create a course, how are they housing that course? What can they promote? How are they building the sales pages to promote that course? How… everything that’s inside there. I’m sure most course creators, they don’t have a hosting company, or an LMS company, or a photo building company and all this different stuff. Be the one to introduce those to your customers.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. Well, what… Who’s your perfect customer? Who’s your ideal customer? What are they like?

Dean Holland:

Good question. I’ve been adopting this. This is one of the major shifts we’ve gone through over the last couple of years. Because to be honest, I… by nature of what I’ve done and what I’ve gone through, when you tell the story, it naturally attracts a particular type of person. And one of the things that I always used to do, like we just started this podcast, I’m a complete open book. There’s more lessons to be learned from me, I feel. From the bad times. [crosstalk 00:32:39]. Yeah, the bad stuff. There’s more lessons in that. I do talk a lot about that.

Dean Holland:

But I think one of the things I’ve noticed over the years, and this isn’t to be critical or disrespectful to anyone, but if I talk about, “Oh, I was in $60,000 of debt and I turned it around,” it attracts people that are in… that can resonate with the message. And I think that’s obvious for all of us. What story you tell is what’s going to resonate with people. If I talk about loving football or soccer or whatever constantly, and business, I’m probably going to attract people that have that similar interest.

Dean Holland:

And when… I used to focus a lot on that piece of the story because it was very emotional to me, if you like, very hard hitting with me and my experience in it. But the problem is, like I said, you always used to attract people that didn’t have any money, they’re maxed out on credit cards, and they’re looking for that fix because it’s like, “Well, it happened for you. I’m attracted to you because you must be able to help me out of this same situation.” And we’ve had to, for our own sanity in all honesty, had to adjust the type of customer we attract. And I’ve started telling a bit of an evolution from that message. Instead of focusing heavily on that debt side of things and the downside is more like, yes, we mentioned that, but then focus on what have I learned since? What’s the reality of how you can turn things around?

Chris Badgett:

And there’s a lot of work to be done.

Dean Holland:

There is a lot of work to be done. In fact, if you visited… if anyone looks at the sales page for my book, it’s free, but if… sales page, it actually has a whole paragraph that’s like this book is not going to… you’re not going to read this book and get rich. You are going to have to put in the time. It’s going to cost you some money. And instead of telling that story of like, “Oh, rags to riches, I was broken, now I’ve made millions,” it is now like, “Look, this is the reality of situation. I’m going to be the one to tell you the things I wished someone would have told me in the past.” Is like, “Yes.” Sorry, go ahead.

Chris Badgett:

I think it’s cool when you have a course, or a product, or service to have that two column layout, who this is for, who this is not for and just save yourself the… just help people better understand if they’re a fit or not.

Dean Holland:

Definitely, yeah. Because I think when… I think what naturally happens when people start out with their courses is they want to start making sales, they want to start earning some money. And I think what you have to be wary of and just cautious of is, don’t try and sell to everybody. Because whilst you might get the money, if the customer is wrong… I actually spoke at Funnel Hacking Live, Russell’s… Brunson’s event in 2018, and I did this whole 30 minute presentation and I had a bit of… a little bit of humor. It’s just my style at the beginning. And it was like how to be rich and miserable.

Dean Holland:

And I explained because we did a few years ago, we were just selling to anyone and everyone, bringing in hundreds of thousands a month in cold sales. But I was just sitting at home miserable not wanting to look at the computer because there was so many of the wrong type of customers for my business. And I really… coming back to who is our perfect customer, I really now try and focus on somebody that is in that situation probably, or in the frame of mind I was at the end of 2008 where it’s like, I’d… for four years I’d believed all the riches untold claims with very little work, and all this. I’d gone through all that. I realized it was all ridiculous. And now I was ready to do the work.

Dean Holland:

It was around about 2007, 2008 I realized that, “Oh, this is business. I’m going to have to learn what a business is and how this business thing works.” Before, I was just trying to make a bit of money. And then I was like, “Oh, this is business. I’ve got to learn how business works.” And that’s the type of customer now that I love to work with. Someone that’s probably tried a lot of stuff already. They’ve been through the junk and now they’re like, “Okay, I’m ready to really take this serious. I’m ready to do what it takes. I need some real help.” That’s the point where I’d love to come in and say, “We’re ready.”

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. That’s super cool. For the course creator out there, one of the things I see happen sometimes is when they start studying internet business or online marketing, sometimes they lose focus on their… for some people like you and I we’re in the industry or whatever, but I’m thinking of a alternative healthcare practitioner or somebody who is a parenting expert, or new baby coach, or whatever it is, I see them sometimes get seduced and lose focus on their core and they’re like, “Oh, this internet marketing thing. I should be… I should teach that.” I think… I don’t know. Do you see that happen? Do you have any comments on how to help people learn from internet marketing but don’t become… you don’t need to switch your topic to internet marketing? Do you have any comment on that?

Dean Holland:

Yeah, it’s funny. I know this happened a lot as well. I think people are… I think a lot of times what happens is internet marketing as an industry, the premium prices that you can command for your course is in that industry and helping other people in business and things, they’re pretty excessive. They’re pretty big. I’ve paid Russell over a hundred grand to work with him. And I think a lot of times what happens is there’s people in other industries that maybe the premium pricing in that industry is a fraction of what they see other people being able to charge. You mentioned-

Chris Badgett:

You may not able to start a $30,000 mastermind for new parents who don’t have any money and they’re at home. Right?

Dean Holland:

Right. Exactly. And I think probably that’s what happens in a little way is people… I think it’s the same with just human nature in life, people think the grass is greener. And they’ll say like, “Oh my gosh, you’ll sell like Jeff Walker. You’re selling all these courses for $2,000 a time. I can. Here I am having to sell this $50 thing a hundred times a day to make the same amount of money.” And I think there’s that sort of thing. But as I look back over the last 10 years, I sometimes joke, my first big success was in 2010. I started a membership site. It was $97 a month. And within three months it had gone from new idea to 115,000 a month. But I had such little actual life experience in business at that stage that I thought that was going to last forever.

Dean Holland:

I thought, “Oh, wow, all these people.” And it sounds stupid, we can all laugh. But that’s what I thought back then. I’d never had recurring income. And I thought, “Well, it was $97 a month, we had like 1,200 people in that membership within about 12 weeks.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s it. My life changed. I’m rich forever.” And every day I used to wake up about 7:30 in the morning. I’d get the notifications come through on the re-bills. And every day it was between $2,000 to $4,000 a day before I’d even got out of bed. I used to set my alarm, wake up, look at it and go back to sleep with a [inaudible 00:39:31] on my face.

Dean Holland:

But because I didn’t have the experience, this was one year, 18 months into doing it full time, I just happened to hit on this good idea, I started traveling. I was still living with my mom, bear in mind at this stage. I’m like 24 or 25 years old, making two, three, four grand a day in recurring income, living with my mom with no outgoings or responsibilities. I’m like… I just started to… Because I’d been so broke, I’d never traveled or been on vacations anywhere, I think I had had one vacation by the time I was about 22 in my life. I started going on vacations with all my friends. Anytime someone said, “Oh, we’re going to Europe, or we’re going to Vegas, or we’re going there.” I’d be like, “I’ll come.” I was to invite myself with everyone.

Dean Holland:

And I did that for about six months. I don’t think there was hardly a period in time I was home. But what happened in that time, unbeknownst to me, because I didn’t know how memberships worked, people were canceling every day. And that was February, 2010. By the end of that year, that business was gone. That whole side business.

Chris Badgett:

Businesses have a life cycle. They don’t always last forever.

Dean Holland:

Yeah, it’s true. But the membership site was on traffic generation, it was an evergreen subject. But just cycling back to why I say this with your question, sometimes I look back and I think, “I wonder what would’ve happened if I only did that for the next five years. What could have happened?” It went from idea to six figures a month, within 12 weeks. What would have happened if I didn’t go on vacations and didn’t just drop the business? What would have happened if I just kept doing what I’d done in the first 12 weeks for the next five years? Where could that have gone? Obviously we never know, but I’ve got a good inclination it would have kept growing.

Dean Holland:

And I think this is… Whenever I’ve… if I’ve got something that I believe in and it’s good now, I’ve really learned to cut myself off from continually pursuing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. And just a bit of advice I can share on that with everybody that works for me. Maybe not for everyone. I get a lot of ideas and this is… it’s a gift and a curse. I get the best ideas at the worst times, but what I’ve learned to do now is I have this… we use Trello as a project management tool, and I have this thing that I just call my wishlist. And everything that I think of so I don’t worry about forgetting it or I don’t immediately action it now and drop what I’m working on, I’ll just throw it in there.

Dean Holland:

And about once every four to six weeks I’ll just have a look at some of the ideas I’ve had and just see, is there anything that can immediately impact what we’re doing now or not? If the answer’s yes, then I’m willing to look at it. If not, I’ll just keep it there because one time in future maybe that situation will change. I’ve just… I think I’ve learned the hard way, like you said at the start, the school of hard knocks. The hard way is you jump from thing to thing until you realize sticking at one main thing until it’s successful, until you get it, where you want it to be is the best way to perform.

Chris Badgett:

That is awesome. Well, Dean Holland, he’s at deanholland.com, two Ls in Holland. Go listen to his podcast, Just The Tips. We’ll put the episode links below, but you did two a little bit ago about affiliate marketing that are really good. And go check out his book. It’s on his website at deanholland.com. It’s called The Iceberg Effect. Dean, thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your story with us and your tips because one of the goals of this podcast is to help course creators accelerate success not just in using tech, but all these other entrepreneurial things that happen in their life.

Chris Badgett:

And I love how we’re closing out on the beware of shiny object syndrome. And it’s cool. Don’t deny it. Give it a bucket, give it a place to put it so that your brain can relax and you don’t have fear that you’re going to forget that idea or whatever. But this is full of tips where the goal of this podcast is to condense decades into days so that you can learn from people like Dean. But, thanks so much for coming on the show. Is there any final words you have for the people or places where they can connect with you?

Dean Holland:

Yeah, just to say thank you for the invitation. I don’t do… I think it’s just probably other than my own, maybe the first was… probably the first ever time I’ve been on a podcast that wasn’t my own. I’ve enjoyed the experience. Thank you for the invitation and just to tell anyone listening, if… I think what you’ve just said is amazing, condensing decades into days. I think if people can just pull out just one thing that they hear from this episode and just focus on that, if it will improve where they’re going and what they’re doing, then they should definitely do it. Hopefully there was something in here for everyone.

Chris Badgett:

Awesome. Well, thank you Dean.

Dean Holland:

Thank you.

Chris Badgett:

And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results-getting courses on the internet.

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