How do you go from a failing SaaS company to starting fresh in a new niche and growing it to $120,000 quickly?
Looking from the outside, most people believe entrepreneurs are successful from the first company they start.
This isn't true.
Entrepreneurship is a messy business. You start doing one thing which turns into another that turns into another.
The thing that makes you successful is almost never the thing you intended and started with.
Mark Ford's story is a classic example.
Mark started a SaaS business that lead to a digital marketing agency that lead to an online course business that makes $120,000 /month.
Mark helps financial service businesses get more clients through digital marketing.
If you want to hear an honest story about what its like being an entrepreneur, this is for you!
Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below?
Here's what we cover:
1. Mark’s start in 2014 with his second SaaS company.
2. Why Mark shifted away from SaaS and focused on digital marketing.
3. When Mark met the limits of his Done for You digital marketing business model.
4. Mark’s motivation to grow and scale his business.
5. The moment Mark knew he was in the right niche.
6. Marks transformation from $0-$120,000/month.
7. Mark’s #1 piece of advice for members: Don’t give up when things get hard. Don’t be afraid to get things wrong and break things.
Do you want to get results like Matt?
Marks transition from $0 to $120,000 /month was made possible by joining the Consulting Accelerator training program (which was previously called The Consulting Blueprint) and then later joining Uplevel Consulting.
The Consulting Accelerator is a 6-week online training program that shows you step-by-step everything you need to know so that you can start your own consulting business, get clients and make money in 45-days or less!
Interested in learning more about Consulting Accelerator?
Sam Ovens: Hey everyone, it's Sam Ovens here and today I have Mark Ford on with us. Mark has been a customer of mine since really the very beginning. I've done some interviews recently with early customers but now we're talking to a customer that truly bought the first product that I ever sold, ever, which was called Cash Flow Consulting. It was pretty much like a Dropbox folder back then. This was back in 2014 when I was just getting started.
That course back then, it showed people how to make money selling websites and digital marketing retainers so that you could fund your SASS business. That's literally how specific it was. That's because that's what I was doing. Mark joined back then because he had a SASS business that had run out of money. He needed a way to float it and make ends meet and do things like that. The course was a perfect fit.
He joined back then and started selling websites and digital marketing retainers to fund the SASS business but then he ended up just going full time into selling websites and digital marketing retainers because that ended up being quite profitable. Then over the next sort of 2 years grew that Done for You digital marketing business up to about 17 to 20 grand a month. That's where the Done for You business model started to meet its limits.
Then in late 2016 and the beginning of 2017 Mark made the switch to selling online training programs instead of doing Done for You services. He also changed his niche and chose financial services or financial service businesses and started helping them get clients online through the programs. Since then, he's been able to scale up to about $120,000 per month. What's awesome about your story is it pretty much mirrors my own evolution because back then, you had a SASS business that needed funding so you did this, that's what I did. Then you went all in under digital marketing, that's what I did.
Then you're like, actually this Done for You thing, it reaches a limit. Now lets go to programs and get a niche. It's cool to see the early stage customers that stuck from the beginning, they just pretty much mirrored my own evolution. I'm really looking forward to digging into your story and exactly how it happened and really seeing the different turning points in there.
Mark Ford: Yeah. Awesome man. Thanks Sam.
Sam Ovens: At the start, let's go back to 2014 when you had the SASS business. Explain what was going on then.
Mark Ford: I started a SASS company, it was in the content management space and we kind of took the normal route. It was my second SASS company, the first one did quite well, exited on that one. Then I thought, "Well let's maybe do another one" but instead of funding it out of pocket I decided to go the VC route. I raised venture capital, we raised about a million bucks and the interesting thing about venture capital, at least for us, was we started to realize we didn't actually have control over the business. They had suggestions, we had ideas but to make the long story short, we started to run out of capital. We couldn't, we got to a place where we really weren't growing all that quickly and so it made it really, really difficult to raise more capital. I was like, "Well I've got a family, I've got a wife, kids. I've got to pay my mortgage. I've got to bring some cash in." The timing, I got this random email from Sam Ovens and I think I had seen an interview of you on Mixergy at one point. I was like, "Oh I think I've heard that name before." I opened up this email and you were promoting this program, which was exactly what I needed at that moment. I had a SASS company, it was underfunded and I needed to make some cash quickly.
That was kind of it, where I kind of first came into contact with you and straightaway I think I bought the course and it was like, 30 days later I had a client.
Sam Ovens: Nice. It's interesting because I remember back then I was in the SASS game. I had [inaudible 00:05:22] and I was doing interviews and I knew pretty much everyone in my audience was in the SASS game too. But I knew that the biggest problem that I had and that everyone I ever talked to had was this whole cash flow thing.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: It was so much of an issue. I was like, I had to figure out how to solve it myself and then I remember promoting that product and still, to this day, that product sold better than anything else I've ever done in my entire life. I have never been able to match those conversion rates.
Mark Ford: It was so, it literally you reached into my world and was like, "Hey Mark I can solve this exact problem." It was the exact problem that I had. I had a SASS business that was not growing fast enough to generate the cash that I needed to fund operations and everything else. You're like, "Hey I've got a solution for that. It's not too difficult to execute and you can do it fast." I'm like, "Yep. That's for me."
Sam Ovens: That's funny. It was right on the point, that messaging, that problem, everything.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: You joined, then you started to get some digital marketing clients.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Then what made you change to just doing digital marketing and just letting go of the SASS business?
Mark Ford: I was just making more money and it was just way simpler. If the end goal was to, if you're going to spend hours in time to create value and build value not just for your clients but also for yourself, why not kind of focus on something that people are actually saying, "Yeah I really want that" versus something that was like, it was mediocre. It was like, "Yeah it seems cool. We'll try it out." Versus somebody who comes in and is like, "Yeah I'm going to work with you and if we can keep getting results I'll work with you for years."
Sam Ovens: This was my discovery too. I did the SASS thing, I spent so much time and so much money and effort building the product and it was good and we got clients and stuff but there was no profit because I mean developers are expensive and SASS product fees aren't expensive. There's an imbalance there. Something's got to take that slack. I would sell these consulting services on the side and then I looked at it one day and I was like, "You know I spend like, 10% of my time doing this consulting stuff, 90% of my time doing this and I make 90% of my money over here and I make 10% of my money over here." I was like, "This is really imbalanced." I was like, "What if I actually spent 100% of my time over here, would that 10 times the money?" That is kind of what ended up happening for me and then I think the same sounds like the same happened for you.
Mark Ford: Yeah. I never made 17,000 a month in the SASS business. Never close. I think the highest point I made 6 or 7 grand. Then I started making, it was within a year I was doing about 17K a month in the consulting business. I'm like, "Man this is pretty good." It's way less work. It was plenty of work but it was way less than the SASS business. It was totally out of balance. I was like, "This doesn't make sense to keep going doing this SASS thing."
Sam Ovens: For people listening, not all SASS businesses are like this. There is ones that demolish what I make, even now.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: There's SASS businesses that they're incredible businesses but the thing that you've got to have with a SASS business is some sort of radical differentiation. You can't be close to the rest of the market. You can't have a little edge. If you're just a medium SASS business, you're going to suffer anemic returns and then it's going to be horrible.
Mark Ford: Yeah, I think the other thing there too is that you also probably have to have a mountain of cash behind you too.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, either that or some amazing developers from the very beginning that you've split equity up with or something. You need the absolute best developers and you need more than one of them to build something good and you need time. Those people are expensive. Somethings got to happen there. Either cash or funding or just a really good group of friends that pulls together.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Then you started getting digital marketing clients, you let go of the SASS business, then you start scaling it up to 17K a month. You started doing all of this in 2014, now we're in 2016 and at this point you start to meet the limits of Done for You.
Mark Ford: Yeah, because I was like, I was visiting clients, I was going to their locations. I was doing Done for You work but I was also going on site to a number of these clients and kind of meeting with them. I started to look at that and I was like, "Well that's eating up a ton of time. Is there a way to take what I know, apply what I know and scale it out? Implement and pull back the time commitment in this kind of one to one model so that basically I can just replicate what the results I've been getting from my clients."
Sam Ovens: How did you kind of know you were reaching the limits of that model? If there's other people that are thinking maybe it's time that I made the switch over, what sort of symptoms were you suffering?
Mark Ford: It was a lot of just the support of the client. One, it was the doing of the work. Two- [inaudible 00:11:58] three it was always constant focusing on their results and their results really kind of fell largely on my shoulders versus their results falling on their shoulders if they just kind of followed. Sometimes they would follow and sometimes they wouldn't. When they wouldn't they would blame me for the lack of results. I'm like, "This is completely crazy. This doesn't make any sense." Then the other thing I started to realize is that I started to run out of just bandwidth to do all of the work. I'm like, "All right, well, do I start hiring more people? To grow this, do I bring on more people?" That's really the only solution. I'm like, "Well bringing on a bunch more people, that's going to add a whole lot of complexity." While 17 grand a month for one person's pretty good, the margins are different as you start to bring on more people. Now you're introducing a whole operational problem and a margin problem that you also have to deal with.
Sam Ovens: [crosstalk 00:13:18] SASS issue again but without the SASS.
Mark Ford: Yeah, exactly. I was like, I'm not sure I really want to do that.
Sam Ovens: What was the second one you said? You said the first one, I heard the third one but then the internet broke up on the second one.
Mark Ford: The second one? The second kind of problem?
Sam Ovens: Yeah.
Mark Ford: Just the operations and scaling of the time. If I'm kind of capping out at 17K or so a month and I didn't want to work 80 hours a week or 100 hours a week for 17K. That wasn't really my idea of awesome. Then I'm looking at this problem of like, if I want to scale this business up further, then I have to hire more people and now I'm dealing with lower margins. Now I'm dealing with lower margins and I'm also introducing this operations problem and management problem that I now have to also solve.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mark Ford: Now I'm actually increasing the number of problems that I have to deal with on a regular basis for less money.
Sam Ovens: Why not just stay at 17K a month? If you've got one man and 17K a month, pretty good. Why not just keep doing that?
Mark Ford: It just didn't line up with the goals that we have over here. I wanted to go bigger. I knew the work that we were doing was really, really good for our clients and for some of our clients, it kind of changed their businesses. I'm like, well if I've changed some people's lives why would I just be satisfied to just kind of stay where I'm at?
Sam Ovens: Got it. You said the goals we've got over here, what do you mean by over here?
Mark Ford: We're doing about 120 a month right now. The goal that I've got for [inaudible 00:15:27] and that's where we're still growing, we're still building, still introducing innovation to our clients.
Sam Ovens: I mean, back when you were doing 17K a month, you said it didn't really align with the goals that you had. What were your goals back then?
Mark Ford: Oh yeah. My goals back then was I wanted to be right around 25K a month. I've got four kids and being self-employed, we've got to cover healthcare, benefits, all that stuff. I've got to fund my own retirement if I ever plan on retiring, which I don't think I am. The schools are decent around here but I wanted to send my kids to private school. All these things, it costs a lot of money. I live in an area where it's not really inexpensive, it's kind of an expensive area to live just outside of Philadelphia. It's not New York but it's not Ohio either. Cost of living is fairly high.
Sam Ovens: If you have four kids and you want to send them to private school, you're going to need more than 25 grand a month.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: That would be hard on 100 grand a month.
Mark Ford: Yeah. The other thing was, we were a family of six. My wife and four kids. We're living in, I think it was 1600 square feet, 2000 square foot townhouse. It was in a nice neighborhood and all. I didn't fear for our safety or anything like that but space was a bit tight. To kind of level up and get to really a place where we just had more room and more space and a better place that I could operate the business from, that was going to cost a bunch more money.
Sam Ovens: Got it. You weren't happy to stay where you were and you wanted to scale but you couldn't really scale so now you're kind of snookered, right? Its like, I can hire more people to scale but in doing that I'm not achieving what I actually want to do, which is more money and more growth and more space for your family and everything. Then you can't stay where you are either because that doesn't achieve it either. Whenever you're faced with a situation like that when you are truly snookered, A or B doesn't work then you have to change the game. You know? When you're forced into an option like that you have to transcend the game and find new rules. That was the next move which you made, which is moving from Done for You to training programs. This happened in Jan 2017, it sounds like you were plotting it and thinking about it in late 2016. Explain how this transition happened.
Mark Ford: Yeah. In my Done for You business, I was approached by some financial services professionals in my local market. It was like a referral. I started meeting with them and just kind of talking about their business, their challenges, it was actually two different firms. I was like, "Oh man. These are the same problems a lot of my other clients have." The big challenge for them was that they're in a regulated industry and there's a lot of restrictions on things you can do from an advertising perspective. I'm like, this problem is so consistent, if I could solve it for these guys I could probably offer it at scale if I can kind of build a proof of concept. In kind of late 2016 I started to kind of map all that out, how have I been able to get these guys results, what I've been doing. Then that was really the kind of aha moment of, I can replicate this. That was really the point at which I decided I like working with these guys, they're good people. They kind of align. I had a bunch of friends that were financial services professionals and I was like, "It would be great to help these guys. I kind of know their world." I decided to really shift almost everything at that point, late 2016 into 2017, January 2017 I started taking on clients in that niche market. I've been growing pretty fast from there.
Sam Ovens: Here's where it gets interesting because you said you had a Done for You client which was a financial services client.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: You started doing work for them. You got them good results but you enjoyed it, which is a key difference. You know what I mean? One of your clients that you enjoy working on and then you noticed that you have a lot of financial advisor friends. Then you start to notice there's some sort of pattern here. You have some sort of affinity to financial advisors. Were you one? How do you have affinity to them?
Mark Ford: It's kind of interesting. When I was in high school and thinking about going to college, university, I remember having a conversation with my parents of, I wanted to work on Wall Street and I wanted to go into the financial services business. But my parents at the time, dad's an engineer, mom was kind of a stay at home mom. My mom was like, "Oh no you don't want to do that. That's a sales, those are sales positions. You don't have to go sell and do that sort of thing." At the time I didn't really understand [inaudible 00:22:00] but I was like, "Well my parents are good parents and I trust them. They're probably right." I kind of pushed that off to the side. It was kind of as far back as I thought about a career path, a professional path it was in financial services.
Sam Ovens: What career path did you take instead?
Mark Ford: Engineering.
Sam Ovens: Ah. But you always somehow were drawn more to financial services.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: This is where it gets interesting. This is why I started probing around in here because generally someone's niche that they take off in doesn't just happen by mistake or someone approaching someone. You know? Someone can approach someone about something but if they're not really deeply fascinated and interested by it, it won't flourish. The same exact thing happened with Rob Bailey, whose interview I did recently and in Matt [Koffman's 00:23:06]. He went through lots of therapy when he was growing up and so then he somehow just attracted therapy Done for You clients. He's noticed that when he was going out for dinner and stuff, he was having dinner with therapists. Then the books he was reading was on psychology and the mind and all of this. He just didn't, it's unconscious. It's like a subconscious thing that's going on. But then it became conscious and he was like, "Something's going on here." He was like, "We need to make this our niche." Then when they made that their niche they took off. The same exact thing happened to you. You were doing generalist Done for You stuff for a whole bunch of businesses but you started to notice that there was a client in there, the one that you're most passionate about, all of your friends and then you think back to your childhood and you've suppressed that hunger. You wanted to do it and you did what your dad did instead.
Mark Ford: Its interesting because there's even another leap in there in that after I was working, I had a professional job and I found myself working in the World Trade Centers at the time. I would commute up to New York City, it was about an hour and a half, two hour commute every day. Wall Street was literally right across the street.
Sam Ovens: For people listening, you don't find this thing right away because you're not even conscious of what it is. Just like all of the, if you watch Rob Bailey's one, Matt [Koffman's 00:24:41] one, and Mark's one here, these are fascinating because they all have the same thing that occurs. You've kind of got to do some generalist stuff and kind of pick a niche, focus in it to figure out you're not really interested in that but there will be some little clues and some little hints in there. Then all of a sudden you can see. You're like, "Oh my God, this is it" like you did. Then when you go into that, it's like a fire just ignites. You know? You went from 17K a month boom into 120K a month pretty quick. What was that moment that you know that, "All right, financial advisors or financial service businesses, this is it. I'm going to go all in on this."
Mark Ford: I think the moment was that after I was, when I was doing some work with some of these guys, they kept sending their friends over. I'm talking to these guys and I'm like, "Oh my goodness. This is the same thing. Same problem." Then before I even launched I was like, "You know what? Before I ever create any marketing collateral, before I ever create any funnels, I said I'm going to dig in deeper and see if this problem remains, is consistent. I interviewed, it was probably like 20 financial services firms. I would just reach out to them and be like, "Hey I'm just conducting some market research. Would you be willing to spend 15 to 30 minutes with me just answering some questions." I interviewed people at kind of all stages of the business. Guys who were making millions of dollars a year to guys that were in the business for a year not making barely anything. The thing that I noticed was that the problem that people starting, they kind of had this problem of getting clients and then the guys that were doing millions of dollars a year, they still had the same problem but they've just been at it longer. It took them like, 20, 30 years to get to where they are but they still are manifesting the same problem that they started with.
Sam Ovens: What is the problem? We keep calling it the problem but what is it? Let's explain this piece.
Mark Ford: Yeah. 90% of financial services professionals, they will, when they start in the business 90% of them will fail. They'll wash out within 5 years.
Sam Ovens: Why?
Mark Ford: Because all of the training and all of the mentorship around how to get clients is, "Go bug all your friends and family. Ask them for referrals and essentially be the black sheep in all social circles because no one is going to want to meet with you or talk with you. Certainly no one is going to want to give you referrals." But what winds up happening is these professionals, they'll get some of their friends and family and then they're literally, they'll hit kind of a brick wall. They'll stop, they'll run out of friends and family. Then they're stuck. Because all the training is like, "Go get your friends and family" and then they run through all their friends and family, their referrals, now they're nothing. Now they have to go find, just go into a cold market. Because the cold market, it's like in financial services it's one of the biggest advertising dollars. From an advertising perspective, more money goes into financial services than I think any other sector. Insurance is another one.
Sam Ovens: Is insurance part of financial services?
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: I know insurance is the largest advertising thing, it's the most spent on Adwords and everything is insurance.
Mark Ford: Yep. Now, these guys are literally competing with billion dollar budgets and the newer guys are competing with guys that have been in the business for 20 years. Now the guys that are hoping to make it, they kind of grinded out but they know that if they're going to get to a place they want to get to, it's probably going to take 10, 20 years. What I observed was that it didn't need to take that long at all. If you just implement some of the right things that it can go way, way faster. What we've been able to do is we've been able to help guys just starting out really grow pretty significant businesses very, very quickly and then for the guys that have been in the business for 20 years, this is pretty cool. A lot of people talk about helping people to get to seven figures, I've got one client, they were making about two million, they made about two million last year, they made like, two million in the first quarter of this year. They're going to quadruple their business. That's simply because they just need kind of the right strategy, the right solutions and then their business can literally explode.
Sam Ovens: Got it. What have you found that solution to be? Now we understand the niche, financial services businesses, which is a bunch of different businesses. Then the problem, they're stuck in this archaic method of which, probably was a great method before the internet existed.
Mark Ford: It pretty much sucked then too.
Sam Ovens: Really? I think back when there wasn't social networks and back when there wasn't the internet, the only way to form a network was to actually go and physically meet or call people. That was the only way to make nodes connect or mail or something. Now with the internet it's just made this thing so insignificant, you know?
Mark Ford: Yeah. It's interesting, the solution that we apply is to help our clients to define a smaller niche market and establish a specialization in that market.
Sam Ovens: Give me an example of how someone would have been broad and then how you got them niched.
Mark Ford: Yeah. One of our clients, he did the friends, family, referral thing, would meet with just about anybody, all different profiles of people and the first thing that I worked with him on was he [inaudible 00:31:58] why don't you work with these? He was like, "Well they don't have any money?" I'm like- [crosstalk 00:32:05]
Sam Ovens: Sorry the internet just broke up there. Why don't you work with who?
Mark Ford: Teachers.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mark Ford: This guy has a teaching background, I'm like, "Why don't you work with teachers?" He's like, "Well they don't have any money." I'm like, "Well, you think they don't have any money but you don't actually know that." I was like, "Please just conduct some market research and before you kind of create any marketing just do some market research and find out." He's like, "Okay." What he found out was that sometimes the individual teachers, at least early on in their career, didn't have a whole lot of money but some of these people after working in the school districts, they were making 90, 100,000 a year and they actually did have money. Not only that, but as a household income and household finances, many of them were doing quite well. He's like, "All right." Then I helped him to create a message specifically to teachers. Before ever spending a dime on advertising I said, "Just start reaching out. Just grab some emails and start reaching out to these people and invite them to a video that you're going to put together." He put together and he's like, two weeks later he gives me a call. I was like, "How did it go?"
He's like, "Yeah, well I reached out to seven people." I'm like, "Okay that's really not lighting the world on fire but how was that?" He's like, "Well out of the seven people that I emailed, I got seven appointments and I got seven clients in two weeks." Seven clients in two weeks for a lot of financial services professionals, they're happy if they get one a month.
Sam Ovens: This is a good listen for people to learn because two things are going on here. One is no financial services people are probably contacting teachers at all because they probably all assume that teachers don't have any money. They're probably not hearing from anyone ever. You've got a total blue ocean kind of thing over here. There's never been any sharks in it. Then this guy comes along, approaches a teacher and he used to be a teacher. He gets accepted. He's trusted because he's like them. Kind of like how you got into financial services, because that was, since you were a kid that's what you somehow were just attracted to and you loved it so they let you into their pack. But you also had some digital marketing knowledge from your agency. That's how you were able to apply that. This guy was in financial services, he had a teaching background so he did what you did.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: This is how it always happens. It's fascinating to look at. What does someone have affinity to and how can they combine this other knowledge in there to help them? That's how you get in and that's how you just start getting ridiculous results like that.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: You help pretty much all these financial advisors find that point of focus and find that point of difference and then I guess it's harder for anyone else to really compete with them.
Mark Ford: Yeah, because if somebody is coming into the market and they're like, "Yeah I meet with anybody" and then you have somebody who's like, "Yeah I don't meet with anybody but I solve these problems for teachers" or "I solve these problems for nurses" or "I solve, help solve tax problems for business owners." The generalist advisor, they don't stand a chance.
Sam Ovens: If you try and compete on Adwords or something like that, you're going to get slaughtered, going up against Geico and all of the biggest, baddest [crosstalk 00:35:59] players in time and talent.
Mark Ford: Yeah. You don't stand a chance. You know?
Sam Ovens: Is there anything else you teach them other than like, the focus and specialization part?
Mark Ford: Oh yeah. I teach them how to develop their message. I teach them how to run, build campaigns and run them. I teach them, this has been kind of an evolution but helping to reduce the complexity of the tech so that they can get up and running and do so efficiently. But not only that, the other things is, we don't just focus on just the digital stuff because what we've seen is even some of the direct mail stuff still kills it with different markets. We teach them that too.
Sam Ovens: This is interesting because it reminds me of this guy I met and he had been an insurance salesman for ages, selling health and life insurance I'm pretty sure. Then he got into Crossfit. Then he found that there were some insurance companies that gave you a massive deduction if you did Crossfit and could prove it. It was a huge reduction. He was like, "Whoa, how come no one knows this? I didn't even know this." He got the massive deduction. Then he thought, "I bet you there's a lot of people like me. What if I go around to all these different Crossfit gyms and find all these people and be like, 'Hey, I can cut 50% of your thing.'" That's what he did. This guy was crushing, he was making about a million a month selling insurance just in that niche. He was selling life insurance and health insurance to Crossfit people.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: That's another example, that is financial services I guess. Right?
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: In a niche.
Mark Ford: Yeah, in a niche.
Sam Ovens: Can you imagine the normal dude just sitting there trying to sell life insurance or health insurance to anyone, cold calling through the phone book. Man, nothing is going to happen there.
Mark Ford: Nope. You don't stand a chance when the specialist shows up, the generalist, they don't stand a chance.
Sam Ovens: Now we understand how you got into this niche, what their problem was, how you solved that problem and how that all came together. But now let's talk about how did you get your first client for this program?
Mark Ford: I ran some ads.
Sam Ovens: On what?
Mark Ford: I ran them on Facebook. I ran ads on Facebook targeting this specific market, financial service professionals and then I had put together, I conducted a bunch of market research on really the problems, I already had some results from my Done for You stuff. I put that together into my presentation to the market and then I just moved people from my presentation to set up a call with me.
Sam Ovens: Did you go Facebook ad to VSL, which is just like a 20 or 30 minute video for people listening that explains the problem, solution, if you want to learn more, schedule a call. Then a calendar, then a survey, then you got on the phone with them and had a strategy session.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Pretty much right away did you see results or did it take some time? What kind of happened then?
Mark Ford: It happened pretty fast. First month I think I did like, 20,000. Second month was a little lower, I think it was like 12. Third month was, we did 32 but 16K of that was in the last week. Then the fourth month we did 120,000.
Sam Ovens: Okay. How did that happen? You jumped from what to what? 20 grand to 120 grand or something?
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: How? What happened there? I'm sure you didn't keep doing the same thing and that just popped like that.
Mark Ford: No. I kept iterating my message to the market. To really just dial it in because what I started to notice on the strategy calls that I was having with people was I started to notice different language patterns they would use. Like I was talking with a bunch of people and they're like, "Oh I wish I could make it rain. I used to be the rainmaker." I'm like, "Hm." I'm like, "I wonder if I put that in my ads if that will kind of make a difference." Then I put together this one ad and I call it the rainmaker's ad but I've been running it for over a year and it still pulls. That was one ad that literally, I was like, "Oh my goodness. It's really pulling hard." I just kept doubling down on ad spend. I was basically, I would make a sale, I'd reinvest it, scale ad spend up. I just kept doing that over and over and over again.
Sam Ovens: Got it. The margins weren't good enough in those initial months for you to really be confident in pumping big money into it.
Mark Ford: Yeah. Plus I didn't have a huge surplus of cash just kind of sitting there. Plus the other, the ads weren't crushing it. They were doing okay. It was costing me about 300 bucks in appointments. I would close one in three or so. At first, the beginning stage, the first [inaudible 00:42:01] but then I wrote this new ad, after running a number of strategy calls because now I was getting this feedback. I had this feedback loop of hearing what people were talking about, hearing the language patterns they were using and then I just made notes and I fed those language patterns back into creating an ad and then put that back into the market.
Sam Ovens: If only everyone learned this lesson because this is like, once you understand this, you can't not be successful. What most people do, I notice, is they'll run an ad and a funnel and it won't work that well initially. They'll be like, "Oh I knew it. I should change my niche. I should do something different" or "I should give up." No one ever starts great at anything. It's like riding a bike. You fall over, "Okay don't lean so far over this time." Then you don't. Then you lean too far the other way, then you graze your other knee, you're like "All right, don't do that." Over iterations you get it going. The same thing happens with ads and funnels and all this stuff is you run one and it's a good guess. It kind of works but it doesn't have that much bite to it. Now you're on the phone to at least some people. You might not be getting them as sales but what you learn on those calls is worth so much money you just haven't collected it now, you know what I mean?
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: It's like you're getting so much intelligence. You're talking to the market. They're literally just telling you all of their problems. Then over 30, 50, 100 of those calls your mind starts picking up on the patterns that keep repeating. These little words or these little phrases and then you're like, I'll give you a prime example. I notice big time in all of the testimonials that we've collected in our program from people that are over 50, the phrase, "I used to think you couldn't teach an old dog new tricks was true." I was like, "Wow that thing has gotten in and done a lot of damage to people." They think that phrase caused chaos there. In your market, you found this phrase, rainmakers. Somehow that thing got in there like a virus and went around and everyone has this dream of being a rainmaker whereas, to someone in a different industry that means nothing. You can only figure out this stuff by being on the phone to the market and doing a lot. Then you spot it. Then when you take that little thing and you put it back in there, then it bites more and then you're back on the phone, you find another piece, you feed it back, boom. All of a sudden it's just poof. Just explodes.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: You went from 20K a month to 120K a month just by tweaking all of these things and then bam, you got something that struck.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Then what happened when you had that thing that struck? It obviously did better on Facebook but what started happening in other areas like on the sales calls and all of that?
Mark Ford: I mean, conversions, we're pretty consistent on conversions. Typically on an okay month we'll convert about 20, 25%. On a good month we'll convert about 40%. But what was interesting about that ad is that people coming in were like, "Man I don't read these things on Facebook. I get the ads, I see them, I don't read them. They don't but that one ad, that was like, the only ad I've ever clicked on." Now you have somebody who is like, you spoke to my world. Just like you spoke to my world when I had a SASS company all the way back. I was like, "Man this guy gets it, gets me. He understands the problem." Now you have somebody showing up on this call and they're like, "You get me. How much does it cost?" I literally had one guy like, "Just how much does it cost and let's just do it now."
Sam Ovens: It's like you can write a page in their diary.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Something powerful happens when you do that. When you can accurately describe someone's situation better than they can themselves, they subconsciously believe that you have the solution.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: Then things, it's like a hot knife through butter now. Then you scale it up to 120 and how long was it after you made your first sale of the program to when you got to 120 grand a month? What was that horizon?
Mark Ford: It was four months.
Sam Ovens: That's pretty impressive. What now? What's next for you? Where do you want to take this thing to in one year, five years, ten years?
Mark Ford: One year, the goal is to get to 250. We've been building, been adding a lot of new stuff to our program. We've been focused on the foundation right now versus just growth. Now we're kind of coming out of that cycle to have a much better foundation for scaling even further. We're working on some different joint venture partnerships. One just came through, or is coming through. We're kicking that off next week. That stands to generate 20 to 50 clients a month. We've been working to kind of put the right foundations in place to really take this to the next level. Five years, I think we get this to 10 million a year, maybe bigger but right now I'm just kind of focused on this year and next and just executing the rest of this year.
Sam Ovens: What's your grand vision, mission thing for what you're doing here? Is it purely financial related or is there something else in there as well?
Mark Ford: For sure I mean there's some component of that, of this that it's financial for myself and my family but I get charged up when I'm talking to clients. I had an interview with a client kind of like we're having now and the guy was like, "Hey I want to double my business." I was like, "Okay when?" He's like, "Well I'd like to be able to do that in five or six years." I'm like, "Well how are you going to make that happen?" He's like, "I have no idea." He's like, "I've got a million dollar business now but everything I've tried, nothing's worked." We've been working together for about six months and he's like, "I added 15 million to my book in the first quarter." He's like, "I'm going to add another 50 million by the end of the year." He's like, "I'm going to double my business in two years. Before working with you, I didn't have any way of doing that at all in five or six or ten."
I get super excited about that. Really, when I hear my clients getting results, it drives me to create more innovation, build a better product, help them out even more. Even for some of the guys that we've been helping that are just starting out, we've helped them to literally change their life because they were on a path of making a couple of grand a year for the next five years. Now they're making 10 a month.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Cool. How many people are in your company now? Is it just you at 120K a month?
Mark Ford: No. I have two full time guys and a part-time guy.
Sam Ovens: What do they do?
Mark Ford: One guy is operations and support. The part-time guy is on the support side. Then I have a full-time sales guy.
Sam Ovens: Got it. What do you spend most of your time doing, day to day, right now?
Mark Ford: Right now, day to day, I'm still doing sales and also product development and then client support.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Cool. Well, what would you say, on your journey, you went through all of it because you started back when you had a SASS company and now you've got a financial services training company, which is quite different. That just goes to show, I always tell people don't worry about, you're not married to your niche. My niche was helping SASS companies do digital marketing to create cash to fund their SASS company. Now it changed to just digital marketing then to training programs and stuff. The thing is, your market will follow you if your always optimizing for what's best for them. Human beings just always want to know what's best for them, you know what I mean? They'll often move with you. You're not stuck there. You've been through all of that. Through that journey there, what would you say has been the one most transformative thing of all the training you've done with me?
Mark Ford: You know, we've been working together for a while and I've seen these iterations in your business. These kind of progressions. I've been doing the same thing. Just having this mindset that we're going to iterate this thing and we're not going to stop because a lot of times, people stop because they give up or they lose hope. Well, I didn't really ever lose hope that things would work. I was just like, "All right" maybe this comes from the engineering background of kind of all the years of study I had there. It's like, there's a solution to this problem, we've just got to find it.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mark Ford: I think one of the biggest things that I've observed and really try to model from what I've been learning from you is just this practice of iteration.
Sam Ovens: A lot of what you learned was from observation of what I was actually doing.
Mark Ford: Yeah. Then just doing it. It was almost like a natural extension.
Sam Ovens: Got it. You've been in the community for a long time, probably the longest amount of time possible because you joined when, from day one literally. What would your, I'm sure you've observed all the different people in there, the different problems they have and all of that. What would your number one piece of advice be for them?
Mark Ford: One is don't give up. I think it's very easy when things get hard to just be like, "Oh I'm going to give up on this thing." Usually when that happens, it's like you're right on the cusp of a breakthrough. Not giving up and then also [inaudible 00:54:18] from any type of internal criticism or external criticism of you're not doing something right or you're going to break something. You've got to break stuff. You've got to do stuff. The only way to iterate and to grow is to literally get stuff wrong and be like, "Okay that didn't work." Rather than using that as a feedback of self esteem or something like that, just use it as a data point to continue on and be like, "Okay that didn't work. Let's try something else."
Sam Ovens: That's good advice. It's a scientific experiment, not ego.
Mark Ford: Yep.
Sam Ovens: We're going to put this on YouTube as well so the public will see this as well as our members and stuff. I'm sure some people are going to look at this and they might be advisors themselves and realize that they need your services or someone might know someone who could benefit from what you're doing. How can people find you and learn more about what you do?
Mark Ford: Yeah. They can go to my website. Our website is www.castorabbott.com. That's C-A-S-T-O-R A-B-B-O-T-T .com.
Sam Ovens: Got it. The best place to go is just castorabbott.com, go to your site and then you can find everything about you there.
Mark Ford: Yeah. Any of the buttons will kind of take them through a path to set an appointment with us, if we can help we'll have a chat and we'll go from there.
Sam Ovens: Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for jumping on and sharing your story. I'm sure it's going to help a lot of other people. I'm sure it's going to inspire a lot of people to really look for that thing, that childhood thing that they suppressed because that's, what I've noticed so far and that pattern, it's funny because we talk about noticing these patterns. From these interviews now, I think I'm at number 40 and it started to get clear at number 38, 39 I was like, "Oh wow this niche thing, it happens with this affinity to something." Everyone always explains it.
They're like, Matt [Koffman 00:56:43] said, "I put this ad on CraigsList and the first person who called me was a therapist." He kind of thought that ... I was like, "Bullshit. That isn't how it actually happened." I was like, "You must be interested in that. You must have some sort of affinity to it and that showed in how you wrote that ad and how you talked to him when he called and then how that turned into everything." These things, they happen like that. When you said that you got approached by some financial advisors, I was like, "It has to be deeper than that." We go back to your childhood story and all of this. For people listening, find out what that thing is, that's what your niche is going to be. That's when you're really going to take off but sometimes you've just got to get started doing anything for the patterns to start emerging and then you know where to go.
Mark Ford: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: It's awesome hearing your story and exactly how that came to be. Thanks for sharing dude and looking forward to interviewing you again in another four years. Hopefully you're at 20 million then.
Mark Ford: Yeah, sounds good.
Sam Ovens: Cool man, see you later.
Mark Ford: All right. Thanks Sam. See you.