Dan Anton is a digital entrepreneur. He created his first profitable website in 1995 at the age of 15. After graduating college he decided to join the Army immediately following 9/11, but left due to an injury. He gravitated back to his online passion by becoming a software creator.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:14] – Things didn’t ultimately work out for Dan in the Army because he ended up getting hurt
- 01:3 – After leaving the military, necessity became the ultimate catalyst for Dan to focus
- [02:03] – Value Bomb Drop: “Go through the interview process carefully and always make sure you’re solving a problem that people have in the first place”
- [02:50] – If you can solve a problem, you’re already half way home
- [03:27] – What is something you’ve changed your mind about in the last 6 months? “The only way to reach customers for an SEO type of software was to rank organically”
- [03:42] – Pay Per Click has been Dan’s best friend
- [04:30] – Doing Facebook Ads
- [05:22] – Sales happen on live webinars
- [06:24] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: When my website became infected with a virus and my hosting company was forced to pull the whole site down.
- [07:59] – When adversity strikes, it’s important to control your emotions
- [09:22] – Entrepreneurial AH–HA Moment: “I started selling services in online forums and it worked”
- [10:08] – Combining services that work with a sales page
- [10:40]– Dan used his passion for tech and web design to create a profitable service
- [12:24] – All the great ideas in the world aren’t worth anything without execution
- [12:41] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? Dan is working on a new project – Cloud Rank
- [15:35] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “The transition phase”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Work smarter not harder”
- What’s the personal habit that contributes to your success? Remaining very disciplined
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Trello
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – “The Greatest Salesman in the World –there are so many great insights and it’s not just about selling.”
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have – your food and shelter is taken cared of – but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days? – “I would register a domain name for a city + SEO that would give me credibility; then I’d go out and talk to people. Days 6 and 7 I could go out to networking meetings and make connections…”
- [19:53] – Parting piece of guidance: “Focus on what your keys to success are”
- [20:33] – Connect with Dan on Twitter and Snapchat
Dan Anton: John, I’m fired up. I’m ready to do this.
John Lee Dumas: Yes! Dan’s a digital entrepreneur. He created his first profitable website back in ’95 when he was just 15. After he graduated from college, he decided to join the army immediately following 9/11, but left due to an injury. He gravitated back to his online passion by becoming a software creator. Dan, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Dan Anton: Yeah, kinda like what you said, I started out, right out of college, going into the army, and it was just a passion of mine to do that sort of thing. I really loved it. I loved being around different people who had the same mindset and just wanted to work together to achieve a common goal. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. I ended up getting hurt, but that put me in a situation where I had to really figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So, necessity really became the ultimate catalyst for me to focus.
And what I ended up discovering was that I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t want to have just a regular 9-to-5 job. I felt like I was way too creative for that sort of thing. And, yeah, I kind of fell back into some stuff I dabbled in in high school and college, which was making money online through different things, either websites or arbitrage and that sort of thing.
John Lee Dumas: So, you said that your online passion is becoming a software creator, so that’s an area of expertise that you have. So, give us two value bombs in this area, Dan. Like what are two things that you think Fire Nation needs to know about your realm?
Dan Anton: Well, there’s definitely a long way to go about becoming successful in the software industry. I have a minor background in computer science, but initially, I struggled very much with finding the right developers to work on my projects. I had great ideas, but we all know that you need to execute on your ideas. So, trying to find the right team was very trying, a lot of wasted money and effort. So, the biggest takeaway I got from that was: Go through the interview process a little more carefully; don’t just get excited about potentially being able to create a product and not really vetting the people who are going to do it. So, that takes a lot of work to get the right team to even start the product.
And, the other thing would be: Always make sure that you’re solving a problem that people have in the first place. I see a lot of people, even some of my colleagues in this industry, and they create first and ask questions later. And at the end of the day, did people really even want this product in the first place? So, if you can solve a problem right from the get-go, you’re already halfway home.
John Lee Dumas: So, Dan, the world that we live in changes so fast. We can wake up tomorrow and something could be totally different on social media and just the Internet in general. So, what’s something that you’ve actually changed your mind about in the last six months? Six months is an eternity, so what’s something that you used to believe that you no longer believe today?
Dan Anton: I think something that I used to believe was that the only way to really reach customers for an SEO-type software was to rank organically in the first place – natural search results. But pay-per-click has been my best friend these last six months, so whether it’s Facebook advertising or even some long-type funnels through Ad Words, content-type marketing, there are definitely a lot of different ways to bring in those revenue streams.
So, just because you’re doing SEO and the people in the know would say, “If you’re doing pay-per-click, how are you an SEO expert? You should just be ranking organically,” that’s great. You can make a lot of money and drive a lot of traffic just through natural search results like that, but you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not embracing pay-per-click to a degree.
So, there are so many different facets and ways to drive traffic.
John Lee Dumas: Well, let me dive into one, though. So, what’s the specific tactic that you’re using right now with pay-per-click – and let’s use Facebook ads – to drive a successful funnel?
Dan Anton: Yeah, so I’m doing a lot with Facebook ads right now. So, anyone who’s done any Facebook advertising knows that you can really laser-target your audience. The problem with Facebook ads, though, is that it’s an interruption. It’s not something people are actually searching for. So, in order to really capitalize on it, you have to capture their attention immediately, whether it’s through something you’re giving away or maybe just a piece of content, which you can then retarget them later on for maybe a webinar or something else.
So, Facebook, for me, I’m not just putting my product on there and saying, “Here it is. Buy it.” I’m saying, “Here’s a piece of content that you’ll probably like because of your interest that I’m targeting, and then, from there, I’ll be retargeting you down the line for other things, until ultimately, I try to capture your attention into a webinar funnel.” And that webinar will have a pretty high close rate, as most do.
John Lee Dumas: Sales happen on live webinars, and, Dan, I’m really glad that you ended with that because it’s just so clear to me in all of the different things that I’ve tried and areas that I’ve tested, it always comes back to live webinars and making sales on those live webinars.
So, Fire Nation, if you’re not willing to step up and create a system that’s going to lead to a live webinar so you can present valuable content to an actual audience that’s there, remove their barriers, give them a shout out, be like, “Oh, Dan, what’s going on, brother?” that is the end of the funnel that I’ve always found works by far the best. If you’re gonna put so much time, energy, and effort into the beginning part of the funnel to get people somewhere, hopefully it’s gonna be to a webinar that you’re gonna do live that you’re actually going to just really work on to convert and to make it better over the process, over the years.
Now, Dan, I kinda wanna head back into your journey as an entrepreneur. And again, you’ve had the ups, the downs, the military experience, but what was your worst entrepreneurial moment to date? Take us there and tell us that story.
Dan Anton: When I first was getting out of the army and I realized I needed to do something, I kinda started out with this video game website, which was more of a passion project. So, I tried to combine a lot of my knowledge into building this video game community. And it was actually going pretty well, and Murphy’s Law came into play, where I had a major, major video game blog do a nice write-up on my website, explaining what I’m trying to do. And, of course, an hour after that, my website was plagued with a virus, and then they immediately pulled down the article off of my website.
So, I went to this huge spike in traffic – I was just ecstatic – and then hit a huge low, and the website was compromised due to one of my developers, I guess, had a vulnerability on his computer, and it led to a virus being on there. And then, it got called out, and then I lost credibility on the website, and it was just a downward spiral from there.
So, that was a big eye-opening experience for me, realized that security is extremely important, backups are extremely important, and you can’t just have any old developer that you trust. You need to really build a team and make sure you can avoid those types of situations in the first place.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, hindsight is always gonna be 20-20, so you just can’t beat yourself up when things like this happen. They are going to happen to everybody at some point on some levels. It’s just a reality of living in this world that’s far from perfect. And so, just going back to an earlier interview that I did this week, you just need to maintain your emotions. You just need to say, “Listen, I know that I’m on this roller coaster.”
There’s going to be these great ups, like Dan had when he was featured; the traffic was through the roof. But then, immediately afterwards, he crashed because of all of that that he just explained, and that is so crushing when you work so hard to have that and have it all pulled away so quickly. It’s just like, “Ugh, look how that happened.” But just realize that is part of the process, and what you need to do going forward is implement those systems and those processes that are going to help you.
So, Dan, that’s my big takeaway, but what do you wanna make sure Fire Nation gets from that story?
Dan Anton: From that experience, I learned that I can’t just have some random person in charge of my website. I needed to build that team and have someone that I can trust, and they’re on a salary, and I have a little more visibility on what’s going on on the website and the servers. You don’t necessarily need to be a tech guy, but you need to understand what’s happening and make sure that you protect yourself because that website is an asset.
Everyone can get hacked – it happens to the biggest companies out there – but you need to just be able to turn on a dime and fix it. And I was unable to do that, so it was a big problem for me at that time, and the high and the low came very quickly.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, what’s an aha moment you’ve had? You’ve had a lot of ideas, of light bulbs, but take us to one of your greatest that you turned into success, and walk us through that process.
Dan Anton: Even though that video game website pretty much bombed, the process of working with it really was the genesis of everything I have today. I learned how to do SEO. I pretty much taught myself how to do link-building, along with my brother. He was kind of ahead of me on it, my partner, and he taught me a lot as well.
But my aha moment was I was learning, and I started to rank small AdSense sites, and I started to get good at it, and I realized, “Wow, I know how to use a lot of these different softwares and tools in order to rank websites, and I’m sure other people probably need it as well,” so I started selling services on forums, back when some of the major forums were the big players in the day for this kind of thing. And I had a marketing background, so I knew how to make a nice little sales page. And when you combine a service that works with a nice sales page, it brought in a lot of sales for me, and I started to make a decent amount of money just providing services to people that needed to rank their websites using my methods.
So, that was a major aha moment for me, where I was able to take all of my knowledge and experience with these tools, and turn it into a profitable service. And that, ultimately, led to me having my really aha moment in terms of software because the more I did that, the more I realized that I needed to index and power up my back links.
So, it was 2009, I believe, and I was trying out these different indexing services, and I came across a few different methods that worked, but there was nothing that really combined everything into one nice and neat package. And I started figuring out how to do it manually, so I would do one method here and then one method here and then combine it all, and I realized I could do this with software.
So, I went back to finding a developer, even though it had burned me in the past with my video game website, and found a guy who could build this software for me. It took quite a while, but once it was ultimately done, this thing was a machine, and people soon realized how good it was, and the sales just flew in as I got more and more credibility for it.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, Slack – I could go on forever because they are absolutely endless in the examples. It’s a company that solved its own problem, and now so many people are using Slack around the world. And Dan did the exact same thing. He was just like, “I need to do this,” and then he found a couple of good solutions but none that were great. He went back and created a robust solution that was solving his specific problem that was the solution to what he was looking in the exact manner. And then, people were just like, “Wow! That’s exactly what I need, too.”
That is the world that we live in. And what does it take? It takes actually being in the game, actually taking action, moving forward and just saying, “You know what? Things might not be working out right now, but I’m gonna be waking up every single day. I’m gonna be learning. I wanna be trying to talk to people. I’m gonna be trying to solve their problems. I’m gonna see if I have any problems that can or should be solved.” This is huge stuff, Fire Nation.
So, Dan, that’s my big takeaway from your aha moment, but in just like one sentence or two, what do you wanna make sure Fire Nation gets from that story?
Dan Anton: You can have all the great ideas in the world, but it’s worth nothing without execution. So, plan all you want and learn all you want, but ultimately, you’ll go nowhere until you execute on it.
John Lee Dumas: Execute, baby! So, Dan, let’s talk about one thing you are most fired up about today.
Dan Anton: Cloud Rank. We’re not even public yet, but essentially, it’s gonna be able to rank videos like nothing else out there.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! Is that gonna be on YouTube specifically?
Dan Anton: Specifically, YouTube, live-stream type stuff, but it also does work with Vimeo and Dailymotion. But it works best if you use YouTube. This thing is a beast. We’re excited about it. I’m really fired up about it. We’ll probably do a public launch here in a few months, so I’m sure the name will be out there.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, it probably will be, but if Fire Nation wanted to learn more, do you have a landing page right now?
Dan Anton: Yeah. If you go to CloudRank.me, just that, there’s an opt-in email list where you can just get on the early list, and once it’s available, I’ll send that email out.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Fire Nation, if you’re into video, this is something you definitely wanna be on that list for.
Now, speaking of just announcements and awesomeness and coolness, we have all those things coming up in the Lightning Round, so don’t go anywhere. But we’re gonna take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors.
Dan, are you prepared for the Lightning Rounds?
Dan Anton: I am ready to go.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Dan Anton: I don’t think anything in particular was holding me back because I’ve always had that mindset. The army isn’t really an entrepreneurial type job, but I always said that if I wasn’t gonna do what I loved in the army, I would go into business for myself. Now, the transition phase was a little difficult, actually, because I was married at the time, divorced now, and I think there was a lot of negativity in terms of can I do this from my ex-wife. Not to bash her or anything, but she only knew me as being in the military and didn’t really understand what I was trying to accomplish online. In her mind, when I was on the computer trying to figure things out, I was just wasting time. So, that was an obstacle to overcome.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dan Anton: It’s actually from a cartoon when I was a kid. I remember this, and it stuck out to me. It was, “Work smarter, not harder,” and this was a line by Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales. It’s kinda random, but honestly, it’s such wise words because it just makes sense. You’ll never be wealthy if you’re working 24 hour – and you’ll never enjoy it. You need to make money while you sleep.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Dan Anton: So, I still remain very disciplined, and I’ve kept that in all aspects of my life. I still wake up early. I have a routine I like to stick with. I work out regularly. I eat right. I’m not saying this is how you have to operate. That’s just what works for me. I like to be disciplined in all areas of my life, and it just spills over into my business life as well. So, I’m organized, I have good time management, and you have to make a decision quick. If it’s the wrong decision, at least you know that much and you can go in the other direction.
John Lee Dumas: Can you share an Internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation?
Dan Anton: Yeah. So, I’ve been using Trello a lot, T-R-E-L-L-O. I do a lot of communication with my developers and my VAs, and the best way to stay on track, for me, and to communicate where we are with all things is using Trello. We used to use Asana quite a bit. I use that a little more internally now for myself, but Trello’s been the big one lately.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend just one book, Dan, what would it be and why?
Dan Anton: I would say The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. This was a book that my dad actually turned me on to as a kid, and there are just so many great insights in that book. And it’s not just about selling. It’s about just being the best that you can be, and putting yourself forward, and selling yourself because that, at the end of the day, is what you’re really doing anyway.
John Lee Dumas: So, Dan, this is the last question of the Lightning Round, but it is 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 is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Dan Anton: How many lottery tickets can I buy?
John Lee Dumas: You have $500.00.
Dan Anton: All right. Day 1, I think I would probably register a domain name for a city, and not necessarily the city I’m in, but one that doesn’t have very high competition for “city name plus SEO”. So, it wouldn’t be Atlanta SEO but a smaller city like that. That would give me credibility. I could probably rank that within five days, I think, a small city, and that would just give me credibility to go out and talk to people.
So, Day 6 and 7, I could go out to different networking meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetups, and make connections, and show people, “Hey, look! I rank for this city plus SEO.” They wouldn’t know that it’s not very difficult, but it shows that I know what I’m talking about. It gets my foot in the door. And then, I could sell them, on just my knowledge alone, on what I could do for them for their business.
Going that route, I don’t think it would take very long to get at least one client, and one client can easily be worth over $2,000.00 per month, depending on the business. And from there, you could just grow and expand. And for me, I wouldn’t wanna stay in client SEO just because it’s not the direction I really wanna take, but it’s the easy way to make money, in my opinion, and I could just take that money and then eventually funnel it into my other projects and passions.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance from you, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Dan Anton: A lot of people out there are always in the learning stage. They’re always studying and learning, and they’re afraid to, again, back to that word “execute.” So, if you’re all over the place, and you’re just kind of in this perpetual learning state, get out of it. You probably know more than most of the people you’re trying to communicate with anyway. And just make it happen. So, focus on what you’re trying to do and then execute on it.
I don’t know if that sounds a little bit like a cliché, but it’s very true. Most of the people I speak to, it’s that they’re saying, “Oh, I still need to learn more before I can do this and do that,” and I don’t think that’s the case. Learning is a constant process. You’re always gonna be learning and taking in new skills, but that should never hold you up.
And I guess the best way to reach me, contact me, I’m on Facebook. I’m also on Twitter. _DanAnton is my Twitter handle. If you can follow me on my Snapchat, I show a lot of my renovation in Puerto Rico right now, which has been going like six months strong, so hopefully it’s over soon. But my Snapchat handle is AntonDB, A-N-T-O-N-D-B.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with DA and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type “Dan” in the search bar here so his page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore.
And, Dan, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Dan Anton: Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it.
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