This week’s interview is with Yanik Silver, who runs Surefire Marketing. His business model is very different to most of you – he runs a $3M business out of his house, with very high profit margins, no employees, and only works 5 hours/day. If any of you are feeling burned out, you may want to consider his model.
Full Interview Audio and Transcript
Hobbies and Interests: Ice Hockey, Beach Volleyball, Fine Wine, Unique Adventures: Running with Bulls, Space Flight, Baha Racing.
Favourite Sports Teams: Washington Capitals.
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) by Robert B. Cialdini
- Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want by Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, and Shannon Waller
- Top Book List Posted on His Blog
Favourite Entrepreneurs: Sir Richard Branson, Virgin; Felix Dennis, Dennis Publishing; Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com.
Personal Blog: http://www.internetlifestyle.com/blog
Company Website: http://surefiremarketing.com
Adrian Bye: Today, I am here with Yanik Silver who runs a $3M direct response business out of his house. Yanik, please tell us about yourself and what you do.
Yanik Silver: I’d like to think I live the ultimate Internet lifestyle. In 2000, I literally woke up at 3:00 a.m. with this idea for a website called Instant Sales Letters. The website has sales letter templates for small business owners to copy and paste to use in any type of business.
Then people started asking me how I did it and what I do online. That’s when I started teaching Internet marketing where I specialize in how to sell information. That’s really what I’ve been doing from little e-books for a couple of dollars all the way to my $20,000 mastermind program.
Adrian Bye: The instant sales service at www.instantsalesletters.com was your first Internet product. Were you doing direct response before that?
Yanik Silver: I studied direct response for a while. I fell in love with the whole aspect of knowing that you could put out X number of dollars and see X+Y come back.
My family emigrated from Russia in 1976. My dad, who is one of my heroes, had $256 in his pocket and did not really know the English language. He built up a medical equipment sales and service company.
I started working in the family business when I was 14. I was telemarketing for latex gloves, calling my own leads, following up on them, sending samples, and such. I hated it, but it was great sales experience at a really early age. When I was 16, I was cold calling on 50-year-old doctors. It was pretty interesting that anybody would even talk to me.
One of my clients gave me a Jay Abraham tape. I thought “Wow!This is pretty amazing stuff.”I read, listened, and learned as much as I could about direct response. I started using it in my father’s business where we’d have full-page ads selling a pretty complicated piece of medical equipment that we previously only sold directly through sales reps.
People were sending us their credit cards and signing up for appointments. Essentially, we were generating a lot of interest for these really complicated pieces of medical equipment. I actually remember one ad I wrote had an 1800 percent return of investment.
Adrian Bye: It just naturally led to doing something like this online?
Yanik Silver: I started consulting on the side with some doctors, and they were seeing results in getting more patients. I decided to package what I was doing into a $900 three-ring binder course. I could then leverage my expertise instead of just working with doctors one-on-one. I started by selling a course to dermatologists. Then I moved on to cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologists, and other doctors who wanted more cosmetic patients.
Adrian Bye: How did that then lead to the Instant Sales Service product?
Yanik Silver: I saw people were selling digitally delivered information through e-books. I thought it was a great model. You don’t have to pay for shipping or product creation. People just give you their credit cards and download your material.
I literally asked myself, “How can I create an automatic money-making business that makes money while I sleep, provides a great value to people and wasn’t just an e-book.” Then I had the idea for Instant Sales Letters.
Adrian Bye: How did you start testing that?.
Yanik Silver: The first way I had sales actually was from Joe Vitale, who I had hired to help with a press release. I wasn’t ready. We didn’t even have our credit card authorization stuff set up to integrate automatically with anything we were doing. I remember waking up, and there were orders for $29.95. Not many at first but still enough to get you excited. I still remember the very first customer we had. I started buying some Pay-Per-Click and bought from ezine ads. I just slowly built it.
The first month, I did $1,800 for a $30 product. The second month was about $3,600. The third month was about $7,400. By the third month, we had so many people asking about an affiliate program that we opened one by the third or fourth month.
In the fourth month, it was somewhere around $9,400 or $9,600 in revenue. Pretty quickly it built into a nice six-figure business. I haven’t touched the thing in years, yet last year we did $220,000 to $240,000.
I did raise the price to $40, and there’s definitely some up sells, which I think are really important. I originally started doing an up sell on an intermediary page with an opt-in order form that would say, “Because you’re ordering today, you can get the special gold version of Instant Sales Letters for just $15 more, and here’s what it includes.”
However, we don’t stop there. At the actual order page, there’s a checkbox to add software to create headlines. The price could go up from $40 for the original product all the way to about $91. It’s all extra revenue.
Adrian Bye: You have different segments to your business. Can you talk about some of the back ends you have?
Yanik Silver: I have various back ends. One is a seminar called Underground Online Seminar that we run once a year. I bring in people who are for the most part unknown or under the radar. They’re average people making extraordinary amounts of money online, and you would never really know it. At the seminar, they present what they’re doing. It’s been really well received, and it is sold-out weeks in advance. It’s not cheap, but it’s also a very good value for $2,000 to $3,000 per ticket.
For the seminar week, we do a different spy theme each year. Last year, it was Mission Impossible, and I brought in Peter Graves from the Mission Impossible TV show. The year before that it was an Austin Powers theme, and I brought in Mini-Me. I really try to have a good time as well as make it really educational and worthwhile for people.
There is also my monthly newsletter called Underground Secret Society, which is $87 a month. I also run my Mastermind Groups. I have two groups, a six-figured group and a seven-figured group. They are small, intimate groups that meet three times a year. I usually do one little workshop a year, like a small 20 to 40 person workshop. We’ll create and sell workshop-in-a-box products with the DVDs and manuals.
Adrian Bye: What is the primary source of leads into your business now?
Yanik Silver: We get people in through a multitude of open doors. We have a pretty large affiliate network of about 43,000 to 44,000 affiliates. Obviously, not all of those are active affiliates, but they do generate a significant amount of traffic and a nice amount of revenue.
Adrian Bye: What kind of hours do you actually work? How hard do you really push things?
Yanik Silver: I’ll typically work two hours on the weekends. Then during the weekdays, I’ll be lucky if I have maybe five hours in a day.
There are certain times, like a product launch, when I’m definitely pushing to get stuff done because there are deadlines and things have to happen. Other times, let’s just chill-out a little bit more, enjoy things going on, work on some new projects, get those going, and let the other stuff pretty much run itself.
As far as the five hours, I’d say about an hour or two a day are used to maintain. The rest of that time might be writing content for things such as my monthly newsletter. I could be spending a day and a half or two days writing my newsletter or working on e-mails for promotions.
Adrian Bye: One of your strengths is being able to craft the words that really get people’s attention. What got you into that?
Yanik Silver: Copy is one of the most effective activities you can do. That’s why I started studying it, applying it, and really trying to hone it because I can write a sales letter or direct mail and do that work one time. I can literally call in millions of people that come visit our website or millions of people that we can reach via direct mail. I figured it’s one of the skills I can really develop to help increase my income and revenue tremendously beyond the hours that I work.
I have really learned from the old mail order people who didn’t have the benefit of the Internet, e-mail, or fax machine, and they had to get responses from people. Those people really knew how to create the words that elicited action and persuaded people to give them money for something.
That’s really what we’re doing on the web. We have other tools at our disposal now such as adding video or audio to our sites that can help create more sales.
When it comes down to it, copywriting to me is about understanding the human psychology. My favorite book on that is Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I have a whole blog post on my top10 books at Internetlifestyle.com.
It’s a really, really exciting time to be part of the Internet and be able to build your business around your lifestyle, your passions, and what is exciting to you. To me, that means everything.