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Well I’m back in the saddle after a fantastic week, and I hope that each of you had an amazing Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year…

My biggest personal highlight? Teaching Chase to ride his bike for the very first time…

The look on his face the moment he realizes you’ve let go, and that he’s riding all on his own is obviously priceless…

Now that the presents have been opened, prayers said, and thanks given, I’ve taken the past few cold and rainy days here in Austin to put my thoughts, plans, and biggest lessons learned down on paper for 2016, in what is becoming my “annual report” for you guys…

Last year’s post was titled: “Behind The Curtain: How I’m Going To Build A $450,000/Mo Business From Scratch In 2015…”

So did I pull it off?

Did I build a $450,000/Mo business from scratch in 12 months?

Well I’ll just say this… It was a huge year filled with massive wins like the launch of the Self-Made Man podcast, and a few giant mistakes/lessons-learned that I wish I could take back…

Today, I’m going to tell you about all of it…

So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of everything that happened in 2015, (including my big mistakes), and what’s to come next in 2016…

Twelve months ago, I decided to take the biggest gamble of my entrepreneurial career…

I announced that I was going to start the transition out of my career in the online education space, and start a new company in a completely new industry… Hydroponic food production.

In other words…

I Was Going To Become A Space-Age Farmer
With One Single Mission…

To put clean, healthy, organic food back on every family table, and at a price that everyone could afford. But in order to bring my vision to life, I’d need to build a “virtual bridge” that would allow me to take it from just an idea, to an actual product for mass consumption.

I’d need to spend all of 2015 creating a business model that would do three things…

  1. Produce enough revenue to fund the multi-million dollar development costs of the hydro system so I wouldn’t have to bring on investors. (The goal was $450,000 per month).
  2. Produce that revenue without requiring 100% of my time so I could focus on building the hydro company.
  3. Grow my audience and deliver an incredible amount of value on a regular basis which is what’s required to build and sustain a $450,000/Mo business.

This Was My Plan…

In order to build a 7-figure business, you need three things…

  1. The ability to provide your audience with free, high-value content on a consistent basis in order to build and maintain a relationship.
  2. The ability to acquire customers systematically and at scale through paid advertising. In order to buy paid advertising, (such as paid Facebook ads), you need a product suite that has at least two offers. First, you need an extremely high-value, front-end product that’s less than $99. This product is going to be someone’s first experience as a customer of your business. It needs to turn them into a raving, life-long fan by exceeding their expectations. 100% of the revenue generated from the sale of this product will go back into marketing, in order to acquire more customers. This is called a, “self-liquidating offer.” The ability to put all of this revenue back into marketing is what separates those who make money in a business, and those who don’t. But if all of that money goes back into marketing, you need at least one more product to offer (ideally two+), in order to make a profit.
  3. That means you need the final piece, which is at least one high-priced back-end product that sells for $300 to $5,000+. This revenue is kept as profit.

So 12 months ago, I set out to execute this plan…

Here’s What Actually Happened…

It started with the launch of the Self-Made Man podcast which would serve as my primary platform to deliver incredibly high value content for free to my audience on a weekly basis.

mike-dillard-logo

The goal of the show is to provide a new generation of men around the world with access to mentors who can give them the the knowledge, wisdom, and leadership they need in order to fulfill their highest potential in every area of life… From business, to relationships, to health, to finance, and legacy.

While the show may be geared towards men, the women and children in our lives will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the lessons learned. The podcast format has been amazing. It’s available for free anywhere in the world, which means it has the opportunity to make a real impact on a significant amount of people. And from a personal perspective, it provides an amazing way for me to network and connect with other leaders in these different categories, who I probably wouldn’t meet otherwise.

So I launched the show on April 7th, 2015.

Within 24 hours it hit #1 on iTunes for both of the “Health” and “Self-Help” categories, and #15 in all of iTunes.

i-tunes

As of today we’re 37 episodes into the project, and in the past 9 months we’ve hit 432,634 downloads, for an average of 11,692 per show.

total-downloads

There are two things that have stood out the most from running a podcast…

1. I’ve gotten more positive feedback from this podcast than just about anything else I’ve ever done. Every single day, I get emails from listeners around the world letting me know how it’s changing their lives on a weekly basis, and for that reason, Self Made Man has become my most rewarding achievement for 2015.

feedback

2. The “stickiness” of the podcast format has been shocking… I release one new episode per week on Wednesday, so there’s always a download spike on that day. But on every single day, there are over 1,000 new downloads of the previous episodes.

download-spike

Think about that…

When you send out an email newsletter, 95% of the “opens” take place within 72 hours and then that email is basically lost forever, even if the content was priceless. But the legs on a podcast are incredibly long, which has been a very pleasant surprise. Have there been any major challenges?

For sure…

The biggest one is finding a constant stream of ideal guests to feature on the show every week.

Each person has to be someone…

  • I want to learn from.
  • Who represents the values of SMM.
  • Who can deliver incredibly valuable content which is useful to my audience.
  • Who has an interesting story to tell.
  • Who ideally has a brand or audience that’s larger than mine.

That last bullet is not necessary, but it’s the ideal situation for at least one episode per month, as having a “big name” on the show allows you to work your way up the ascension ladder. As you host well-known guests on the show, it makes it easier to get even bigger guests.

The most talented and successful people in life are obviously going to be some of the busiest, so I have to be able to justify them giving an hour of their time to jump on a show they probably haven’t heard of before. In order to book that person, I need to demonstrate a certain level of social proof… The first thing they’ll want to know is the size of my audience, then who else has been on the show, and finally, if this is a brand that they want to be associated with. Some of those things are out of your direct control and simply take time, such as the number of downloads, but others, like your brand, are within your direct control and can be acted upon now.

That’s why I invested in the design upgrade for SelfMadeMan.com a few months ago. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best looking brand pages for a podcast that I’ve ever seen.

mike-dillard-website

At the end of the day, all it takes is one breakout guest and episode to take a show to the next level, but in order to hit that home run, you have to be willing to get up to bat and swing 1,000 times. And finally, just a few weeks ago I was able to successfully acquire the trademarks for “Self Made Man”, and “Self-Made” which means that the future for the brand can be as big as I dare to make it.

As Far As Self Made Man Goes,
2015 Was A Huge WIN…

In the past 9 months, I…

  • Launched the show!
  • Hit #1 for its categories on iTunes.
  • Launched an awesome brand website.
  • Averaged 1,600+ downloads per day.
  • Acquired the SelfMadeMan trademarks.
  • And provided an insane amount of value to my audience on a weekly basis!

And as for what’s to come for the brand in 2016, the biggest news on the horizon is the launch of the Self Made Man apparel line…

mens-apparel

We’re finalizing the design selection now, but keep an eye out in February or March for a limited first run of the highest quality shirts and hats you can buy.

Okay, so the first objective for 2015 has been successfully checked off…

Next On The Agenda Was The Creation
Of A New Front-End Product…

During the first half of the year, I had originally planned to continue my monthly coaching program, “Mike Dillard Mentoring” which cost $47/Mo.

But a few months ago, I decided that I simply didn’t have the time to host five new coaching sessions per month, so I cancelled the program, and decided to create a “static” mentoring course instead, in order to free up my time. It took me about two weeks to create the stand-alone training for, “Mike Dillard Mentoring”, (or “MDM” for short). One week was spent creating the outline for everything I wanted to cover in the course, and another week was spent editing the video and creating the website for it.

We launched the product a few weeks ago in November, and the end result is a two hour video training session that walks people through the the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during my 10 year career as an entrepreneur…

It’s essentially a massive brain-dump on how I’ve built two companies from scratch, to over $25,000,000 in revenue each… From how to come up with your business idea, to how to create a marketing funnel, to who does all of my website design, and everything in between…

When we started marketing the course on Facebook, the first thing we did was split-test the price, offering the course for $47, $67, and $97. At the end of the test week, the $47 price point came out as the winner, producing around the same amount of revenue, but more customers than $67 and $97.

So as a front-end product, it accomplishes all of my goals…

It delivers an over-whelming amount of value to new customers who’ve likely never purchased a product from me before. The video format allows me to build a real bond with them (rather than an E-Book). And the sales video successfully converts cold traffic from our advertising campaigns, into paid customers.

The entire purpose of this product from a business perspective, is to offset my advertising costs…

Here Are The Initial Advertising Stats…

For example, here’s a few stats from one of my optin pages that we’ve been testing on Facebook during the month of December…

So far, we’ve spent $6,584 on advertising. For that money, we’ve acquired 1,773 email subscribers, for a total cost-per-lead of $3.71.

Those numbers are “OKAY”. They’re not great, and that’s because our current capture page is converting at 21%.

We need to split-test new pages until we get that conversion rate up to 35% or higher, and then our cost-per-lead will drop by almost half.

None-the-less, our $6,584 on ad spend also acquired 83 new “MDM” customers, which produced $4,156 in revenue. Which means our out-of-pocket cost for those 1,773 new subscribers is only $2,428, and that brings our cost-per-lead down to $1.37.

So as you can see, all we need to do is increase the conversion rate on our capture page, and we’ll be producing new subscribers for free.

And that brings me to the 3rd item on my agenda for 2015…

The Launch Of List-Grow…

Next up on my 2015 to-do list was the creation of a back-end product.

As you saw above, all of the revenue generated from any front-end products, get’s put back into covering your ad-spend. Which means you need at least one, (ideally more), back-end products to sell in order to make a profit.

Back on June 18th, I launched “List-Grow” which was the most detailed, step-by-step training program that I’ve ever produced.

And when I say step-by-step, that means I literally walk students through the entire setup process, click-by-click in 25+ hours of screen capture videos.

We start by registering your domain name, and go through the entire process until you have a fully-functional business that will build your list, build your audience, and that has the potential to produce a 6 or 7-figure annual profit stream in any niche that you choose.

It was based on the exact same business model I used for my mentoring program in 2014, which produced 7-figures in revenue within six months. (You can see the entire case-study in this free training webinar).

The launch of the program did well, with $1,258,336 in sales during the 14 day promotion of the course.

sales

So at this point I had raised the capital I needed at that time to officially start the development of the hydroponic system, and I also checked off the final box for my 2015 goals, with the creation of the “List-Grow” back-end product I needed to complete my business model.

So far, 2015 was looking good…

  • I launched my free content platform with SelfMadeMan.
  • I launched my front-end product with MikeDillardMentoring.
  • I launched my back-end product with List-Grow.
  • And I started the development of the hydroponics system.

From the outside looking in, I had indeed accomplished all of my goals for 2015.

But with that being said, time has come to show that I had miscalculated on a few very important expectations…

My Biggest Mistakes In 2015…

Everything took much longer to build than expected.

1. Instead of launching the podcast in January, it went live three months later in the beginning of April.

2. I didn’t expect that I’d have to cancel my monthly training program due to a lack of time, and then have to re-build it as a static product.

3. I thought I’d launch List-Grow by March of 2015, but it didn’t go live until the middle of June. Once the first group of students were in, it took me almost four months to complete the program and then make it available for sale again.

So while everything on my list for 2015 was checked-off, December represents the first month where the entire funnel is up and running…

Which means I have capture pages, a front-end, a back-end, and a paid FB traffic campaign up and running. So there simply wasn’t enough time to hit my goal of $450,000/Mo in revenue in 2015. But with that being said, all of the pieces are now in place as we enter 2016, and things are off to a good start.

So far in December, (which is a really slow month for education products), the business has produced $118,479 in revenue. That number is GROSS revenue, which means it does not include refunds, ad-spend, overhead, etc.

revenue

But it’s a good starting point. As we constantly split-test and improve our marketing campaigns, we’ll be able to steadily increase those numbers every month.

4. And finally, that brings me to the biggest mistake I made in 2015, which was prematurely declaring my retirement from the online education space.

When I launched List-Grow, I did so with the full expectation and desire that it would be the last marketing course that I ever produce, and that it would signify my retirement from online publishing. By that time, I had mentally and emotionally moved-on from my career in that space, and had energetically transitioned to my hydroponic startup.

So after much thought, I made the decision to declare that List-Grow would be the final course I ever produce during its promotion. Burning a bridge like that is a huge move, but it felt like the right thing to do.

While it made sense with the expectations I had at the time, it’s now become clear that it was premature.

Here’s why…

Progress on the hydroponics company has been awesome…

I ended up contracting with www.WhipSaw.com in Silicon Valley to design the system, and they’ve done an amazing job.

whipsaw

As many of you saw a few weeks ago, we’ve also filed our first set of patents for the product, and we’re currently working on the final steps in securing the trademark.

patent

In addition to that, I’ve also brought on some amazing partners/advisers to the company who’ve literally changed the world in their previous ventures.

I absolutely cannot wait to tell you the name of the company, and show the system to you, but I’m going to wait until we’re about 60 days out from the launch in order to protect the idea from competitors.

Despite All Of This Progress,
Some VERY Big Questions Remain…

Bringing a high-tech physical product to the market for the very first time, is like walking through a minefield. When you don’t know what to look out for, disaster looms with every step.

For example, we’ll be testing the prototypes here in the next few weeks in Austin for the very first time. I have no idea if they’ll work as planned, or if we’ll have to go back to the drawing board for another few months. If so, that would destroy our launch timeline, and mean a huge unexpected increase is dev costs.

Once we’re delighted with the performance of the prototypes, I have no realistic idea of how long it will take to identify the right manufacturer in Asia, or how long it will take for them to create the tools and spin-up for production.

On average, it costs around $50,000 to create each “tool” or mold that’s used to make the parts for a product. If your product has 10 parts, then it will cost you $500,000 just to make the tools before you can even start production.

Once the units are being produced, I need to figure out how long they’ll take to get shipped to the US and make it through customs. And all along the way, things could go wrong as they recently did for the “Coolist” cooler.

You probably remember the crowdfund campaign for this product last year, as it was the 2nd most successful crowd-funded product in history, with $13,000,000 in pre-orders.

Uh-Oh…

Well in a crazy twist of fate, the manufacturing plant in China that produced the blender motor went on strike, and the coolers were delayed by months as a result. This has caused a huge PR problem for Coolist, and they’ve been running out of cash.

coolist

Fortunately as of last week, the strike has come to an end, and the motors are on their way once again.

Like I said… Unexpected landmines.

So as much as I’d love to set an expectation for the launch of the hydro product, the knowledge I continue to gain when it comes to manufacturing suggests that it will take longer than expected, cost more than expected, and that the worst possible scenario is to run out of money in the meantime.

I don’t have control over the manufacturing and design process of the hydro system, but I do have direct control over my publishing company. That’s where I can make the most impact, and produce the revenue needed to ensure a successful launch of the new system.

The moral of the story is that the last thing you should do when you’re raising new calf (the hydro company), is shoot the cow that’s currently producing your milk.

So Six Months After Declaring My Retirement,
The Smartest Thing I Can Do Is Swallow My Ego
And Eat Some Crow…

The bottom line is that I need to make Self Made Man, and Mike Dillard Mentoring as strong, and healthy, and profitable as I can, until the hydro business actually launches.

Which means I need to get back to work, and I need to produce.

So my first goal for 2016 is to produce three of the most amazing education products I can over the next six months under the Self Made Man banner.

With the mentors who’ve participated in the show, I have an opportunity to create products that will have a lasting impact on men’s lives when it comes to money, wealth, family, and legacy, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Assuming all continues to go well, my second goal is to launch the hydroponics company before the Presidential election in November, which is another interesting twist we’ll have to account for in our timeline.

So that’s basically where things are at…

2015 was awesome, and I want to say THANK YOU for your continued support. None of this would be possible without you, and I’ll continue to do my best to make a positive impact on your life in every way that I can.

Oh and by the way… Speaking of making a positive impact… I forgot to mention one giant highlight from 2015…

Thanks to YOU, we raised over $50,000 for CharityWater.org in September!

That means we raised enough money to drill 5 new fresh water wells!

Please… Wake up every single morning with a smile knowing that 1,600+ men, women, and children will now have access to fresh, clean water each day. They’re prayers were answered because of YOU.

my-birthday

With love and gratitude…

Mike

Resources Mentioned In this Episode:

MikeDillardMentoring.com

List-Grow

SelfMadeMan.com

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