Brian Horn is an entrepreneur, author and writer for the Huffington Post on authority marketing. He helps entrepreneurs clearly define their magic, position them as authorities, then get national media coverage for them. He’s been profiled and featured on the Howard Stern Show, Wall Street Journal, Perez Hilton, Forbes and Inc.
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Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment
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Best Business Book
- Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
John Lee Dumas: “Entrepreneur on Fire 794.” Fire Nation in the house. John Lee Dumas here, and I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Brian Horn. Brian, are you prepared to ignite?
Brian Horn: I am.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Brian is an entrepreneur, author, and writer for the Huffington Post on authority marketing. He helps entrepreneurs clearly define their magic, position them as authorities, and get national media coverage. He’s been profiled and featured on “The Howard Stern Show,” Wall Street Journal, Perez Hilton, Forbes and Inc.
Brian, I’ve given Fire Nation just a little insight, so share more about you personally, and then expand upon the biz.
Brian Horn: Sure. It’s good to be here, John. As you said, I do what’s called authority marketing. We help business owners transform themselves into celebrity entrepreneurs for their niche. I do that by really helping them define what their offer is, and help them create their own blue ocean that nobody else is offering, and then help them craft it into a pitch so they can get national media exposure.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, I love this blue ocean stuff. That’s something I kind of want to talk about a little bit more in this interview because a lot of people seem to love to swim in that red ocean where the competition is fierce, and the sharks are circling.
Before we get into all this jazz, give a little personal explanation about yourself.
Brian Horn: Okay. By personal explanation, do you just mean my –?
John Lee Dumas: You got it, bro.
Brian Horn: All right. I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, ever since I was in the fifth grade and I started my lawn mowing business out in the country sticks of Texas mowing huge lawns for $20.00 to raising Dalmatians to actually doing a mobile DJing business back when I was in junior high and high school.
John Lee Dumas: So there is grass in Texas. That’s what you’re telling us.
Brian Horn: Yes. There’s a lot of grass, and a lot of mosquitos, and it’s really hot and humid in the summers.
John Lee Dumas: Why am I just picturing a huge dust bowl? I don’t know. I need to get out more. Keep going.
Brian Horn: After the DJ thing, I did the corporate world for a little bit, realized that’s not for me, and fell into SEO and internet stuff, and have been in the entrepreneurial world since then.
John Lee Dumas: Nice. We are going to be focusing on that journey. Before we do, we always start with a success quote and why you chose it.
Brian Horn: This is a recent one that I’ve started using. It’s “Success isn’t owned, it’s leased, and rent is due every day.”
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Who said this quote? Expound.
Brian Horn: J.J. Watt, defensive player for the Houston Texans. He’s just the biggest celebrity in town right now. He’s doing really well, and that was one I stumbled across. He’s a really hard worker, and that just resonated with me. No matter what I achieve or what our business achieves, the next day it starts all over. You have to keep going.
John Lee Dumas: So true, Fire Nation, on so many levels. Success, frankly, is unknowns. It’s leased, and the rent is due every single day. I have to get up every single morning and flat-out work. Fire Nation, you need to get up every morning and just flat-out work. That’s how we progress. That’s how we continue to grow these businesses that we’re growing, so I love this mentality. You can see J.J. on the field every Sunday. He makes sure that he earns that rent every single Sunday when he’s on that football field.
Brian, I’d love now to kind of shift, and I want to shift to your journey as an entrepreneur. I want to get specific with you for a second here. Let me break down “Entrepreneur on Fire.” We tell stories, Brian. We go right into that moment in time that you had a failure, that you fell flat on your face. Don’t pull any punches. Don’t get aerial. Take us to that moment in time. I want to be there with you, Brian, when you failed. Go.
Brian Horn: I was having some success creating products and services around SEO. That was my main thing I was doing. This was a few years ago. Then all of a sudden, the local market really started to take off within the internet marketing world. Everybody was offering local marketing courses, how to sell local marketing services to businesses, and I decided that’s popular. Everybody else is doing it. I’m going to jump right into it.
It was a complete failure. It was a really bad course. It was just kind of made up of other people’s stuff that was out there. It wasn’t at the same quality as what I had put out before, and it was a total failure. I actually had flown over to sell it an event over in Australia. It did okay there because it was somewhat new there, but it still was not like the numbers I usually pull in. It was not the quality I usually pull in. That was a complete failure for me.
John Lee Dumas: Let’s take us to that moment in Australia. A lot of people hear about going to conferences, selling products, maybe selling from stage. What does that mean? Really take us to Australia. Have us be there with you when you’re selling it. What do you do to sell it? How do you have some success, and why did it end up flopping?
Brian Horn: Okay. I’d been there the year before and sold an SEO-related thing. I sold from the stage, like an hour and a half talk, and made $240,000.00, so I had a really good day. To go for an hour speaking and making that much is really nice. They wanted me to come back and make a different offer.
John Lee Dumas: Let me hit the time-out button right here. On that specific $240,000.00 hour, what did you do right?
Brian Horn: I spoke to something I really knew well. In authority marketing, it’s what we call a micro specialization, a very specific thing that I was good at. At that point, that was about ethically and white-label building links for your website. It wasn’t about a blanket thing, spamming, or getting links. It was ways to build really good links.
John Lee Dumas: What year was it?
Brian Horn: This was in 2010.
John Lee Dumas: In 2010, the rules were different. In four years, Google has done a lot of things that have changed the landscape. There were a lot of white-hat ways to really grow your ranking and authority on websites back then. So continue.
Brian Horn: Yeah. So I did that, and it was really well. They asked me to come back the following year to another event but to offer something different. I said, “Okay,” so I was under pressure to create something new. They asked a few months ahead of time.
I said, “Local marketing is really taking off right now. There’s a big market for it. Let me do that.” I created something, put it out there, and it sold okay. I think I did $70,000.00 or $80,000.00 off of it.
John Lee Dumas: What were your expectations?
Brian Horn: Over $100,000.00 or $200,000.00 is what I was looking for. It wasn’t even the sales that were bad. What was bad was just the quality of it. I didn’t have the passion around it or the knowledge, so it wasn’t something I was really giving people brand-new information on. It was really getting information from other sources, putting a little bit of a different angle on it, and putting myself into it to help it achieve that, but it wasn’t the quality of what I delivered before. That’s really what it was.
John Lee Dumas: Are you seeing higher refund rates? What was saying to you that this wasn’t a good product?
Brian Horn: There were some refunds. I don’t remember them being particularly high, but there wasn’t the level of success of my customers that I had before. With the other one, we were at a 95 percent rate of people that saw positive changes and were raving about it, and were wanting to continue with me getting other products and services from me. With this one, it was more of a web-based training. After the fifth lesson, the interaction dropped off to almost nothing. People weren’t really refunding it. They just stopped using it because they weren’t getting results from it.
John Lee Dumas: This is actually something I’d love to talk about briefly. This isn’t the main takeaway that I want Fire Nation to have, but it is a reality that we need to face as content creators. There are some crazy numbers out there, Brian, and I’d love for you to maybe comment on these from what you’ve seen from your own products and others as well.
There always seems to be this 2 percent and 2 percent phrase that gets thrown around where really only about 2 percent of people who purchase your product are ever going to go through all the courses that you’ve created within that product, and only 2 percent of that 2 percent will ever see massive results from that, or ever see the results that you want them to have. That seems like a really tiny percentile.
Personally, being somebody who creates courses and has communities, that can be a little disheartening to hear. What are your thoughts on that?
Brian Horn: I do not see numbers like that in ours. We’ve gone from more of a pure information type course that we create to much more interactive. We include the Facebook groups or communities, like what you’ve done also. I see numbers much higher. It’s still small overall compared to what you would think it would be, but it’s definitely higher than that.
John Lee Dumas: I love the advance of the Facebook groups and what that brings.
Brian Horn: It’s wonderful.
John Lee Dumas: I had over 1,000 people in Podcasters’ Paradise. Now we have over 1,700 members in Podcasters’ Paradise. At the time, we had over 1,000 members in a forum. I was like, of course with 1,000 people all obsessed with podcasting, and logging in to our community to watch the video tutorials, and the webinars that we’ve done, and the resources, of course this forum is going to be thriving, but forums –
Be forewarned, Fire Nation. If my forums don’t work with Podcasters’ Paradise, they just don’t work, and I’ll tell you why. I’d like maybe your feedback, Brian. The first time you have somebody log in to a membership site, log in to the forum, go find a thread they like, reply on it, and then go about their day, then maybe the next day they get reminded somehow, “Oh, let me check back and see if anybody has responded to my thread.”
Then they go back, log in to the membership site, log in to the forum, go find the thread, which is somewhere buried probably, and then they see that nobody has responded. They’re like, “Wow. That was a lot of effort for me to get in there to just find that nobody even commented. This is insane.” That’s where forums die a quick death.
Alternatively, with Facebook groups, that beautiful red notification tab that just tags people and lets people know when people have commented on their threads, they’re tagging them as people, whatever it might be, is an absolute game changer.
Our Facebook group, which now has over 1,700 members in Paradise total, is unbelievably thriving. What are you seeing?
Brian Horn: Exact same thing. We have a couple different Facebook groups for different courses or groups that we have. To use your word, they’re on fire. They take off. We have one that’s a community type thing where we’re helping other marketers or consultants that want to sell authority marketing services. We have tools and stuff for them to do that.
That one is just amazing. That one has built a really strong community. They’ve developed their own language, and terms, and it’s become a very organic group that’s just grown into a really powerful community. It’s amazing, and it would not happen – like you said – with a forum anymore just because people are on Facebook all the time. They can jump in. People that don’t want to comment on stuff can just hit that little like button to interact in some way. It brings them in as part of the group.
John Lee Dumas: It’s unbelievable. Quick side note, Fire Nation. If you’re even considering creating a community, tribe, or anything, utilize Facebook. It’s the best in show right now. It might not always be the case, but it definitely is right now. That’s where I run all of my communities for Fire Nation Elite, Webinar on Fire, Podcasters’ Paradise. Brian is echoing the same sentiment. Truly, every online marketer that I talk to is always saying how powerful the private Facebook groups are. Let’s take that as a takeaway.
Brian, I kind of want to wrap up this section, which is your struggle section, with my takeaway from what you did. Your biggest mistake, Brian, from my eyes, from hearing your voice, is your lack of passion in that product, your lack of really follow-through with creating something that you know could be a game changer from what you knew as an individual creator of that course.
Because of that, people sensed it, and they kind of trailed off over time. In the podcasting world, we call it pod fade. They kind of fade over time. People faded out of your course. That’s my biggest takeaway, and believe me, I’ve created courses that have gone down that same route.
What would be your one takeaway that you want our listeners to walk away with from that experience?
Brian Horn: Echoing what you said and going back to what I said earlier about keeping your own micro specialization, or that blue ocean, just really narrowing down to a very specific and granular level what you are really good at, and who you can help the most.
It’s not even as much about who will buy from you the most or who will sing your praises the most. It’s really about who you can help the most to move them from a point of pain to out of that pain, and focus on that one thing. Just get really specific about what you offer, and who you offer it to. That makes all the difference in the world for me.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, let’s shift. I just went from third gear to fourth gear right now in our virtual car. We’re going to talk about an ah-ha moment. We’re going to talk about an epiphany you had that didn’t result in what you consider a failure although, believe me, a lot of our listeners, myself included, would love to make $70,000.00 in an hour on stage.
Talk to us about an ah-ha moment, a time that you just said, “This is me. This is Brian Horn,” and your success echoed that. Tell us that story.
Brian Horn: I’ve got a good story for this one. It actually has a little story with it. I was working doing SEO consulting for a lot of people. One of those people was Dan Kennedy, the well-known direct marketer with a big, big following. He was one of my clients. I’d followed him for a while, and I was a little scared of him because he has the grumpy, curmudgeon type of image.
John Lee Dumas: Curmudgeon. Perfect word.
Brian Horn: Or he’s going to get after you, and yell at people, and be really hard, so I was a little scared. I went up to sit on one of his platinum-level masterminds. The first night, the group went out to his horse stable. He likes to racehorses, so we went out to his horse stable. We’re all out there, and then Dan comes out. I’m still just terrified of him. I don’t know why. I just think he’s going to yell at me or something because I just started working for him. These other people were seven-, eight-, nine-figure earners, and I was just starting off.
Anyway, he comes out and was walking through showing us his horse. He goes up to his horse, and starts kissing his nose and talking to it like a little baby. He said, “Aw, that’s my little precious horsey. That’s my little precious,” and was giving it kisses, and rubbing its head.
That’s when it clicked that he is not the grumpy curmudgeon. It was just a character that he created to be more interesting in his marketing. It’s still a real part of who he is, so it’s not a fake type of thing. He still is that way sometimes, but they’ve really exaggerated it in his marketing to be more interesting.
That’s when a lot of the copy stuff that he teaches, and that other ones teach about putting that personality into your copy really clicked for me. It is about being a character and being entertaining. When I say “character,” I don’t mean being false or putting on a false front. It’s about being entertaining, and adding something to your copy, and who you are that makes you an interesting character that people would want to read about in fictional copy, or want to watch on television, and not just give information. That really clicked for me.
When I started building that into what I do, it completely changed everything.
John Lee Dumas: I have a lot of things I want to pull out of this because it’s a great story, but how did you get into a platinum mastermind with Dan Kennedy when you were just starting out?
Brian Horn: There was a guy in the mastermind that found me online. He actually posted a question – and this shows how many years ago this was – posted a question in a forum, and I answered it. It was an SEO type of thing. He contacted me. We got to talking. He ended up hiring me to do SEO work for him, and he was in the bankruptcy recovery space, and I got him ranked No. 3 for just the term “bankruptcy.” He got a ton of traffic, so he mentioned me in there, and Dan just brought me in and hired me pretty quickly after that.
John Lee Dumas: Okay, Fire Nation. You see I asked that specific question to get this result. What I want you to take away from what Brian just shared is to add value. Be a person of value. Get out there. Get into these communities, these forums, whatever it is where you can actually be answering questions on your knowledge base, on your topic, on skills you have, and just help people. You never know where that’s going to lead. That’s been the power behind “Entrepreneur on Fire” interviewing successful entrepreneurs. That got Brian in a platinum mastermind with Dan Kennedy. Unbelievable all coming from a place of value.
Brian, this is kind of what I want to talk about for a second here. We are all, as content creators, looking to create intimate connections, Fire Nation. We are looking, as podcast hosts, for our listeners to know, like, and trust us. As YouTube creators, for our viewers. As bloggers, for our readers to know, like, and trust us.
That’s going to happen when you give a little bit of yourself, of your own personality to what you’re doing, like Dan Kennedy did when he was kissing the little horsey’s nose. That’s so cute. It’s nothing that I would ever do. That’s not my personality. Something I talk a lot about, Brian, is the fact that I love going paddle boating out here in the Bay in San Diego. That connects me with a lot of my listeners who like water sports as well. Those are the little things that go a long way.
Brian, from that ah-ha moment, what’s the one takeaway you want Fire Nation to really absorb?
Brian Horn: Put a lot of yourself into your copy, your products, your communications with them, and don’t hold back. A lot of people think they have to either look cool, or look like the smart person, and that’s not what people want. People want the real you. Just be the most extreme version of you as possible. Drop down all your guards. Put your protection down, and let people see the real you.
John Lee Dumas: Don’t hold back, Fire Nation.
Brian, what is your proudest entrepreneurial moment?
Brian Horn: It has to be when I was interviewed on “The Howard Stern Show,” even though that’s not an entrepreneur type of thing. I was a fan for a while.
John Lee Dumas: It’s pretty huge. Let’s be honest.
Brian Horn: It was pretty cool. That’s about 6 million or 8 million people listening to him every day.
I’ve written articles for Huffington Post about the branding lessons from Howard Stern. Almost immediately, I got Twitter messages from somebody on his staff that said, “Hey, we want to talk to you. Would you be willing to talk to us?” Yeah. Sure.
John Lee Dumas: Let me check my schedule. Yes.
Brian Horn: Yes. That was really kind of a cool moment.
John Lee Dumas: Again, Fire Nation, what are we taking away from this great stuff? When you have value to share, and you share it in powerful ways, like maybe I’m going to write branding lessons from Howard Stern, that could be a pretty powerful venue and door opening into his world.
A quick side note, Fire Nation. When I recently wrote a post – or to be completely transparent when Kate wrote a post – about the top books that were recommending on “Entrepreneur on Fire,” The 4-Hour Work Week happened to be No. 2. That was one of the most recommended books on “Entrepreneur on Fire.” I let Tim Ferriss know via a little tweet saying, “Tim, you’re mentioned in this post right here,” never expecting anything. Well, that guy shares it on his Facebook wall, drives 140,000 unique visitors to my website in two days. Now Kate’s actually writing a blog post called “The Tim Ferriss Effect” which is going to show exactly what that one little tweet that I wrote ended up doing for our website.
Not to mention that, a week later, I’m hanging out in San Francisco on a mastermind with just three other buddies. Out of the blue, I’m like, “Tim just shared a great post from my site. I’m going to shoot him an email. I know he lives around the corner from here, and just let him know he can come over if he wants to jump on the hot seat and do a little mastermind with us.”
That dude came over for four hours and hung out with me and three other people in a room where we just talked about business. Then he came out to dinner with us. Then we went and had a drink. It was all because of that one tweet.
Fire Nation, don’t underestimate the power of connections, what Brian did with Huffington Post and Howard Stern, what I did with an article we wrote, by the way, that was published a year ago that I tweeted out to Tim Ferris. There’s amazing opportunities waiting for you around the corner.
Brian, speaking of opportunities, let’s talk about a current opportunity, specifically the one thing that has you most fired up right now?
Brian Horn: It’s seeing how client sales processes become so much easier when they apply the authority marketing strategies. Most people that are doing well, and we usually have coaches and consultants as our main customers, and they’re usually doing pretty well. We can make a couple tweaks to really help with their authority positioning either getting them some media exposure, or helping them put their book out and make it a bestseller, and that kind of stuff, and making these small little tweaks and things that completely change how their prospects see them, and how much easier it is for them to sell after that.
John Lee Dumas: Exciting stuff. It’s coming up to 2015, Fire Nation. I have no doubt Brian Horn is one of those guys you’re going to want to keep your eye on as he continues to do just this: add incredible value.
Brian, we’re about to enter the lightning round, my friend. Before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Brian, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Brian Horn: Absolutely.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Brian Horn: The fear of not having a guaranteed check.
John Lee Dumas: Scary thing indeed.
Brian Horn: Terrifying.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received.
Brian Horn: Outsource as much as possible. That one took me a while to grasp. Once I did, it took off.
John Lee Dumas: Share one of your personal habits that you believe contributes your success.
Brian Horn: I hire coaches for everything now, even outside of just business stuff. I have a personal trainer. I have a nutritionist. For everything I want to get better at, I hire a coach just to get faster results.
John Lee Dumas: I couldn’t agree more. By the time this goes live, it’ll be over a month since I’ve done it, but just recently I hired a personal fitness and nutrition coach, Shawn Stevenson from “The Model Health Show.” Fire Nation, if you haven’t checked out his podcast, that alone could be a mentor from afar, just that podcast. It’s unbelievable. I said, “You know what? I need to just get him in my life,” so I’m one of his five quarterly students. That’s going to take my fitness and nutrition to the next level. Exactly what you said, Brian, I couldn’t agree more. It’s so important.
Brian Horn: Very.
John Lee Dumas: Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Brian Horn: With www.HemingwayApp.com, you can copy, and then whenever you’re writing an email, or sales letter, or whatever, or blog post, it will go through and tell you how complicated it is to read, and give you what grade it is, like if it’s an eighth-grade level or a tenth-grade level. It gives you suggestions on making it simpler, and it’s really nice to use.
John Lee Dumas: I can’t remember at all what the Hemingway quote is, but I know it’s something along the lines of, “The simpler the prose, the better.” We try to get so fancy, nifty, and clever as writers. It just doesn’t make for good reading, and Hemingway knew it better than anybody else.
Brian, if you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Brian Horn: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. It’s one of the books about creating good things in your life by positive thinking. Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon and came to realize that people who were going in there really unhappy with the way they looked, even after he gave them the plastic surgery, they were still unhappy. It was a psychological thing.
It’s a really interesting book. It’s one that completely changed the way I look at myself and how I manage my life.
John Lee Dumas: Cool. Fire Nation, I know you love audio. If you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book like this one for free at www.EOFireBook.com.
Brian, this next question is the last of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand-new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter are taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Brian Horn: Very similar to what I’m doing right now. I would sell the authority marketing services to local businesses that have high customer values. It’s wide open. It’s super easy to sell to them. Right now we target other people now because we have reach in other markets, but that would be one where I could just put my laptop in my backpack, and go start knocking doors, and selling stuff.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, one thing I see over and over again is that we chase clients that don’t have any money. it’s time to sit down and think about going after clients that actually have disposable income, and actually rely on utilizing disposable income to increase their client base, that flow. That’s exactly who Brian is talking about: lawyers, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, you name it. They’re out there. They have money to spend. Be that person they spend money on.
Brian, let’s end today literally on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Brian Horn: Go to www.AuthorityAlchemy.com. That’s our website. We’ve got some podcast episodes on there, blog posts. We’ve got some free video training, all kinds of cool stuff. It’s www.AuthorityAlchemy.com.
John Lee Dumas: Share a parting piece of guidance.
Brian Horn: Create your own blue ocean. Find that micro specialization. Really go through the process, and look at over the last year what you’ve done specifically that has helped people most, and look at exactly who it’s helped the most, people who have benefited from your advice, and find ways you can offer that to more people and learn more about that specific way you are helping people.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with Brian and myself today, so keep up the heat and head over to www.EOFire.com. Type “Brian” in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with all this great stuff.
Brian, thank you for sharing your journey.
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