Q. Clint, to start with would you mind giving our readers some background on what your sites are all about (i.e. What kind of value, opportunities, etc… do you offer your visitors)?
A. Debt Free in Three is all about showing individuals how to get out of debt as quick as possible. Using some proprietary techniques, along with old school knowledge we created a step by step plan to show absolutely anyone how to get out of debt faster than they ever imagined. A large percentage of my customers can be debt free in as little as 3-5 years.
Q. Can you tell us about how you first got started on the Internet? What was your first web site, and how did you grow/expand from there?
My first website was a mortgage website back in 1996. I got involved with a company that would buy land from individuals and split the profits with me. I never made a dime off of it, but I learned a lot. From there I have tried several other websites from the SMC you see on the late night infomercials to a mall website. I haven’t really grown or expanded, just kept trying new things.
Q. Do you own any other web sites? (Richard, if you own others sites, please feel free to list them here with a brief description of each – more publicity for you!)
Wow, I own several websites now but really only one that I use to make money. The rest are for fun. I like keeping up with the weather and I have a website that is connected with my weather station here at the house. Camden Weather I have owned Mission2000 for years.
Never really done anything with it, but I life the name. Specialty Collectibles is my SMC site. It hasn’t profited since it’s existence but I keep it for a tax write off mainly. I also have several sites that just redirect.
Q. Can you give us some background on yourself? Where did you come from? What was your experience before you first got started online?
I have always been into technology since about age 12. I joined the Navy right out of high school and was a Nuclear Machinist Mate on a submarine. From there, I became a bartender and moved on to my first technology job providing tech support for an internet service provider. I eventually became a computer tech and a software developer before my most recent site became successful enough that I didn’t have to work anymore.
Q. What compelled you to take the plunge and start your own Internet business?
I have always known you have to work for yourself to be truly happy and wealth. I am not wealthy yet, but not having to answer to anyone is one of the greatest things I have ever experienced. I actually started this website at the request of a friend who had done the same thing and kept telling me how I should write a book. Eventually I took him up on it and wrote my first book in about a week after work.
Q. Can you give us a feel for the size of your site – in terms of the number of employees, the number of offices, the annual revenues, and profits?
Currently I am the only employee. I don’t ever really see that changing but who knows. One of the reasons for my success in my opinion is that I personally answer all emails and I am there for one on one coaching with anyone who needs it. Customer service is the key to success. Period. We only have one office and it’s my home office. This year I expect about $200,000 in revenue from strict sales and I hope to implement a subscription based portion that is bringing in at least a few thousand a month residually. I should be able to profit $100,000 or more after taxes and expenses.
Q. How long did it take for your sites to start making a profit?
I started the site in February and was making profit in March.
Q. ) How much time and money did it take for you to initially get the site up and running?
I spent about a week writing the book and about another week creating the website. All told, it cost me about $200 to get everything going.
Q. Did you design the site yourself, or did you hire a web designer to do it for you? Can you tell us a bit about this experience?
I designed the site myself but I did pay a professional copywriter to do my ad copy. That is the best money I have ever spent. I have been developing websites for years now but this site really couldn’t have been easier. Almost anyone could copy one of these sites and simply change it for their product.
Q. Who is your target market? Where can your visitors be found online?
My target market is anyone in debt. However, that actually turns out to be more middle aged women than any other single demographic.
Q. How much traffic are you seeing to your site (unique visitors vs. repeat visitors)? And where is your traffic predominantly coming from?
I get between 200 and 1000 visitors a day. Most of them are new visitors, probably 90%. The other 10% are my clients who are just logging in to their account. Most of my traffic comes from eZine ads I place and traffic exchanges. I get very little traffic from the search engines but I hope to change that.
Q. What are you doing to collect the opt-in e-mail addresses of potential customers?
I learned early on that collecting email addresses was extremely important. I normally have an exit popup that offers to give away a couple of free gifts to anyone who will join our list and use that to market to the ones that didn’t buy.
Q. How often do you make a point of following up with your leads and previous customers? What sorts of offers do you typically follow-up with?
I always follow up with my leads and customers. I have autoresponders setup that automatically email them at strategic intervals with new features, free gifts and affiliate offers that make me money.
Q. In order of importance, could you please tell us about the top 5 marketing strategies that you use on a regular basis. What percentage of time does each take? And what kind of return does each produce?
eZines are my top marketing strategy. Those ads pull really well and are very cost effective. That is currently the only advertising I do. I have tried AdWords, and Overture with no success. I use ClickBank as my payment processor so I have a lot of affiliates working to sell my product for me. eZines take practically no time. I create an ad for the eZine and just keep paying them to run it over and over again. It couldn’t be less work. I usually earn anywhere from 100% to a 500% return on my money with almost every ad.
Q. How much emphasis do you place on search engine placement & optimization?
I haven’t placed much on it, but I do realize it’s importance. I just recently hired an organization to help me get started with it.
Q. Have you ever bought online advertising (i.e. banner ads, e-zine ads, pay-per-click search engine campaigns, etc…)? If so, what kind and were the results successful?
Yes, I have tried banners, e-zines, pay-per-click, traffic exchanges, and link building. The only successful ones were e-zines and a couple of the traffic exchanges.
Q. Do you promote your site offline as well?
Not yet, but it’s coming soon.
Q. What have you done to automate your site?
Everything. It will completely run itself. The only requirement on my part is to answer people’s emails. I built the site in ASP, a common web programming language, to make it automated from start to finish.
Q. Could you please tell us about four online tools or web sites that you’ve found to be powerful resources for marketing your business or locating e-business strategies and information? What are they and how have they benefited you?
The first is directoryofezines.com. They catalog hundreds of e-zines and make it easy to find one to fit your needs.
Q. Could you tell us about the top software products that you’re using to automate your sites? What are they, and how much time have they saved you?
I am not really using any software products to automate my website. I do use Dreamweaver to design the site, including the ASP pages which I use to automate the site.
Q. How many hours per week do you spending running your business versus growing it?
I probably spend about 15 hours a week running my business and maybe 1 growing it. I haven’t really put any effort into growing it yet. It has grown on it’s on without much help from me. I can’t imagine how it’s going to explode when I finally do start growing it.
Q. What unique challenges exist for companies in your market?
Trust. Trust. Trust. Everyone seems to believe everyone is out to get them and take their money. Even as a member of the BBB, I still get a lot of people that just don’t believe my product will work until they buy it.
Q. What are some of the challenges you have personally experienced building and growing your site?
Developing a thick skin and ignoring everyone who says I can’t do it. I used to let it get to me when customers asked for refunds. I took it real personal. Now, I kindly give them their refund and wish them well. My refund process is so smooth and quick now that I even have testimonials from people who have gotten refunds. I even had a person re-order the program a few days ago that had gotten a refund about a year ago.
Q. What would you consider to be your major achievements?
Successfully marketing my site. I stink at marketing. But one of the best things I ever did was to hire a professional copywriter for my site at the start. My sales stunk. I paid a lot of money to have my copy written, but it has paid for itself many times over. I used a guy named Mike Jezek, MikeJezek.com and he was awesome. Just take a look at my copy. He wrote all of it, plus my follow up emails and they sale.
Q. What do you think has helped to make your site so successful?
Customer service, customer service, customer service. I made a point from the start to offer excellent customer service. I was tired of emailing other companies and waiting 2 days on a response. I have consistently answered all emails within a few hours of receiving them since the beginning. I never argue with my customers and I cheerfully give them refunds or help when they need it. Not many sites can boast having testimonials about the refund process, but I do.
Q. What is the biggest mistake you have made since you first launched your site?
Besides the price thing below, it would be designing a site that I liked instead of a site that sells. Sites that sell aren’t glamorous, flashy and full of links and buttons everywhere. They are simple, to the point, sales letters. Look at Google.com, one of the most successful sites in history. It is simple. Very simple. People are tired of all the distractions on websites. They want to see what they came for. Remember, every time you require a potential customer to click a link, your chances of losing them increase greatly. Keep it simple. There are all these 1 page sales sites out there for a reason. They work.
Q. Could you tell us about a “light bulb” moment that you’ve had? A moment when you’ve thought to yourself, “If only I’d known that earlier…”
The biggest light bulb moment I had dealt with my price. I had chosen a price I thought was good but then while reading in the Internet Marketing Center guide there was information on choosing the right pricing point. I actually upped my price by $5 and it caused sales to increase. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until after I had sold about 1000 books. That would have been easily an extra $5000 and that doesn’t include the extra amount I would have earned from increased sales.
Q. What major mistakes do you see other Internet entrepreneurs making?
Listening to those who say they can’t do it. Thinking it takes a lot of money to get started. Not finding a mentor before they get started. Before you start, find a website you like and email the owner asking them if they will help you get started. I have had several contact me and I have always offered to help.
Q. Where do you see your sites one year from now?
I believe once I get around to growing them, I could easily see their profits triple or more. Right now I put almost no effort into marketing them except for one eZine ad I have been consistently running for about a year now.
Q. What advice do you have for beginners who are interested in selling over the Web?
I have one piece of advice. Buy Corey Rudl’s Internet Marketing Center program. (Corey was killed last year in a car accident)
Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly
Q. Finally, how has running your sites impacted your personal and professional life?
It has given me more time with my family and stopped me from having to worry about losing my job or downsizing. I do kind of miss my old job, but I get over that feeling quickly.