Marie Forleo, CEO of Marie Forleo International
Marie Forleo: How to Build an 8-Figure Business With Heart
In the brave new world of business that has arisen with the growth of the web, there are many types of entrepreneurs. There is the planner, who plots every move from the beginning, never a scandal in sight. There is the accidental entrepreneur, who falls into a business and makes it work. There is the enfant terrible, such as Mark Zuckerberg, who was likely always going to be successful, but couldn’t have anticipated the impact Facebook would have on the world.
And nestled neatly within the pack there is the visionary, the type of entrepreneur that could just as easily pass for a seer such is their knack for knowing what to do and when to do it.
Marie Forleo, the founder of Marie Forleo International, is nothing if not a visionary.
Forleo’s first rule of business is to lead with your heart, and it is safe to say that in 2015, with 14 years of entrepreneurship under her belt and an eight-figure business, Forleo’s heart has served her well.
Marie was named by Oprah as a thought leader for the next generation and one of Inc’s 500 fastest growing companies of 2014. She reaches over 275,000 readers in 193 countries worldwide and leads dynamic training programs that teach individuals to succeed in business and life. She’s the creator of the award-winning show MarieTV and has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Glamour Magazine, Self Magazine, Forbes.com and The New York Times among others. Marie has been interviewed by Tony Robbins as one of the world’s leading lifestyle and online marketing experts and mentored young business owners at Richard Branson’s Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa. Her bestselling book, Make Every Man Want You: How To Be So Irresistible You’ll Barely Keep from Dating Yourself is published in 13 languages. Through her Change Your Life, Change The World® initiative, each for profit training program is tied to a non-profit partner who supports women, the environment and entrepreneurship.
Choosing whether to follow her heart or listen to her head, however, hasn’t always been easy. Forleo openly admits to questioning herself and wondering whether it was all worth it, “but I had this deep feeling in my heart that I was doing the right thing.”
So, how did she do it? It all comes back to that inner voice and a side of hustle.
Do what feels right.
When Forleo graduated college, she went straight to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a place she describes as dynamic. But a nagging voice inside Forleo’s head told her this was the wrong path and that she was meant to do something more with her life. Forleo listened. Her fledgling Wall Street career stopped in its tracks, and Forleo moved on to the bright lights of the magazine industry, taking up positions at Gourmet and Mademoiselle. Soon, however, Forleo started having “that same sick feeling inside.”
“I looked ahead at the editor-in-chief and I was like, ‘Gosh, I just can’t see myself in that role. I don’t think that’s where I want to go.'”
And that is when Forleo’s inner-visionary first kicked in.
“At that time, the Internet was just kind of, you know, coming around,” says Forleo. “And I stumbled across this article about a new profession at the time called life coaching … it sounded amazing. It opened my heart, it felt right, but my logical brain said, ‘Who the heck is going to hire a 23-year-old life coach?'”
“I was skeptical and cynical about myself but at the same time my intuition was speaking louder than it had ever spoken before,” Forleo says. “I signed up for a three-year coach training program through Coach University and I started studying at night.”
Forleo kept her day job at Mademoiselle, and six months later its parent company Condé Nast offered her a promotion: a job at Vogue, long considered the holy grail of fashion magazines. For Forleo, though, this was a fork in the road, another battle between heart and head.
“I had to make a choice,” says Forleo. “I was like, ‘Okay, am I going to stick with the steady paycheck or am I going to do this crazy weird thing that even I’m skeptical of, yet it feels really right?'”
Naturally, Forleo led with her heart.
She quit her job with visions of starting her life-coaching business dancing in her head, and picked up side jobs — bartending, waitressing, working as a personal assistant — to cover her rent and bills. During her off-duty hours, she started building her business.
Fake it until you make it.
Forleo describes herself as a “real veteran” when it comes to doing business online, and she’s not wrong. She launched her life coach business in 2001 with nothing but a digital newsletter, which at the time was a very novel idea. But one of her more innovative moves was to use the Internet to conquer her initial dilemma: would her clients take her seriously? To do so, she employed the unspoken first rule of entrepreneurship: fake it until you make it.
“I was so insecure about my young age that I used the Internet to effectively mask how young I was,” says Forleo. “I never lied but I went out and I had headshots done and they were black and white, and I put on my makeup in a certain way and I had a particular haircut that I probably looked 10 to 15 years older than I actually was.”
“I did my best to create content and to put out newsletters that were as professional as possible, and I started building a client base,” she says. “My clients, because we coached over the phone, had no idea how young I was. They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.”
The move paid off in spades. Soon, Forleo had a fledgling coaching business that gave her the opportunity to understand “how to market and sell effectively, how to connect with people emotionally, and how to really build something from the ground up.”
But just like it had before and would again, Forleo’s inner voice came calling.
Don’t label yourself.
This time, Forleo’s heart was fighting with her head over the focus of her business.
While studying to be a life coach, the importance of picking a niche coaching area had been drilled into Forleo, but she struggled with choosing just one field. Additionally, Forleo felt her other talents — dancing and fitness — were being pushed aside in favor of her business.
“I didn’t want to just be a coach,” Forleo says. “Every time I tried to do that, it felt like I was cutting off a limb somehow. It felt like I was hiding pieces of who I was.”
Forleo turned to business advice books, but “the last thing they would tell you to do, is to do everything” and that didn’t sit well with Forleo’s free-spirited ways. Instead, “I gave myself permission to pursue dance and to start taking classes. I gave myself permission to do all the things I was actually interested in and stopped trying to label myself as one thing.”
For five years, Forleo balanced her coaching business with other endeavors, including teaching hip-hop dancing, starring in best-selling dance videos, and writing a dating book for women.
“It was the best thing I could have ever done,” she says. “It inspired my coaching practice.”
Interestingly, allowing her entrepreneurial spirit to run free helped Forleo to focus, when the time was right. By the end of 2008, Forleo had a vision in place that allowed her to blend all of her talents. Marie Forleo International was born soon after.
Inject heart and soul into everything you do.
Marie Forleo International offers business and life coaching via a wide array of online content, including snappy videos under the MarieTV banner, a virtual business course under the Marie Forleo B-School banner, regular blog posts, and a digital newsletter.
Although Forleo now has a team that helps produce this high volume of content, she began her business as a solo entrepreneur. When asked, Forleo credits the consistency of her content with taking her business to the next level, and she advises budding entrepreneurs to follow suit.
“Pick one channel, one way to get your message out that you can become really good and consistent at, and then let yourself build from there,” Forleo advises. “Figure out what’s your perfect fit, you know. Do you love talking to people? Do you love podcasts? Do you love writing? Decide what can be a good consistent schedule for you to put out high-quality content, that really matters to people and is true to your voice.”
Equally as important as consistency is quality, Forleo says. But true to form, she has a different set of beliefs on what defines high-quality content.
“High-quality content doesn’t necessarily mean expensive at all,” Forleo says, pointing out that her early videos didn’t feature the quality editing and lighting they now do.
On the contrary, Forleo believes the first key to creating high-quality content is to ensure it is well planned, or more specifically, that “you’ve thought through what you want your reader or your viewer to do, to take action on, to understand.”
“I think it’s understanding why someone is coming to your content and what you want them to take away and making sure that you’re delivering on that,” Forleo says. “Whenever you’re creating any piece of content … ask yourself: ‘What do I want my reader or viewer to do after engaging with this? How do I want them to feel? How can I make this inspiring, funny useful that they are almost compelled to share it?'”
Moreover, Forleo believes it is important to take the time to ensure your content is easy to consume. As an example, she says written content shouldn’t just be text “slammed onto a page.” Rather, it should be carefully edited, the points should be clear, it should be formatted with headlines and sub-headlines, and it should contain a call to action so that readers know exactly what you want from them next.
Unsurprisingly, Forleo sums it up best when she says high-quality content doesn’t necessarily have to equate to high production costs, but it should have “everything to do with the heart, soul, and thought that you inject into your creation.”
Of course, you can give your business your entire heart and soul — and plenty of entrepreneurs do — but it doesn’t mean anything unless you can win the hearts of your customers in return.
For Forleo, winning customers is a two-part process.
The first step is to look for people who are already reaching and engaging the same audience you would like to connect with. As an example, Forleo references Internet marketer Eben Pagan, who she met several years ago and now considers a friend and mentor.
At the time, Forleo had just published her book Make Every Man Want You: How to Be So Irresistible You’ll Barely Keep from Dating Yourself!, while Pagan was in the process of launching his Double Your Dating business to his current audience. Pagan suggested he interview Forleo about her book and share it with his audience, and Forleo jumped.
“I looked at every opportunity to add value to other people’s audiences,” Forleo says.
Once you start reaching new audiences, it is time to employ the second step: figuring out how to keep your newfound audience. For Forleo, that means bringing it back to basics and using rudimentary psychology to hook your customers.
“It’s just about curiosity,” Forleo says. “Our brains actually love curiosity. We love when there’s an unfinished sentence or question, or something that piques our desire to know.”
And when it comes to online content, there is no better place to pique the interest of your audience than in the headline you use. Further, she says, there is no better place to learn about headlines than your local grocery store.
“It’s old school,” Forleo says. “But if you suspend your judgment for a moment, you’ll see the brilliance in this.”
Forleo recommends taking a look at the magazine stand next time you are leaving the grocery store, and paying attention to how editors use headlines to get you to pick up their magazines. Additionally, she says, listen to the news on the television or radio and pay attention to how they hook you to listen to the next segment.
“When you’re first starting out, you have to really pay attention to those headlines and sub-headlines,” Forleo says. “Because let’s face it, you can create the most amazing piece of content but if your headlines sucks, your email subject line sucks, or you don’t know how to write a good social media update … you’ve lost.”
Do what feels right for you.
While Forleo has plenty of advice for budding entrepreneurs, not to mention an extremely successful business development course that has won praise around the world, she eschews the idea that there is a set of hard-and-fast rules for building a business.
The most successful entrepreneurs, Forleo says, know that the most important thing to do is listen “to your own wisdom, despite what everybody else says that you should do.”
Accordingly, Forleo believes it is more important to advise unseasoned entrepreneurs to make smart decisions for themselves, prompting them to cast aside what experts are saying, what the industry is saying, and where the market is heading.
“If it doesn’t feel right for you, for whatever reason, you’ve got to listen to that,” Forleo says. “The people who are truly successful, that’s what they’re able to do. They’re able to listen to their own instincts outside of the noise, and they’re able to go in a different direction and not self-doubt when they do.”
Listening to her own instincts — whether it was quitting her job at Condé Nast with the vision of starting her own business, knowing that she needed to let her entrepreneurial spirit run free if she wanted to feel fulfilled, or realizing that she had to inject her heart and soul into every piece of content she produced — is no doubt what has made Forleo as successful as she is.
Accordingly, perhaps the only piece of Forleo’s advice you should really listen to, which could be worded in a thousand different ways, is her original business ethos: lead with your heart.
Marie Forleo’s 3 Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs
Lead with your heart
Our logical minds are great, but I believe our hearts are the strongest and wisest parts of us, whether it’s related to your business or related to your personal life.
Give yourself time off
I happily admitted how hard I worked and how hard I pushed it, which was necessary. But burnout can take you down if you’re not careful. So make sure to carve out quality time, even if it’s just a little for your family, friends and health.
Find a way to make your business about more than just financial profits. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut checks to charity. It does mean that you find a way to make a difference beyond your own survival. For me, what’s really exciting is to help give birth to a new crop of entrepreneurs worldwide who are committed to more than just what they can get, but who are really focused on what they can give.
- How Marie Built her Online Business step-by-step
- The importance of building your business with heart
- How to challenge yourself
- The importance of Value
- Marketing & Copy writing hacks that are absolutely essential to know!
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Marie Forleo
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to the “Foundr” podcast. My name is Nathan Chan, and I am your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. Can you hear those birds chirping guys? I’m not sure if you can, but I certainly can. It’s coming towards autumn here in Melbourne, and, yeah, the animals are out to play. So I hope you’ve all been having a great week.
What’s been happening in my world? A lot has been happening. I’ve got some massive interviews for you guys. We’ve got some big things happening with the magazine. I just rolled out our Instagram domination course, and that’s going great guns. Look, I’m loving hearing from you all.
So, nice and short, things are well with me, things are happening. Looks like I’m gonna be going to the states in sometime in July. I will be in touch, make sure you get on our email list, that’s where all communication goes out. But, yeah, I’d love to catch up with you all. If you are in the states, potentially we can have a meet up or something along those lines. But yeah, look, I hope all is well. And I’m really excited to bring you today’s guest, Marie Forleo.
Now something that Marie…I always get these little pieces of gold nuggets from everyone that interview,. The thing that I took away from Marie was, it’s that when you believe in your product, your service, and what you’re selling so much, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to wanna go and put that out and get it in front of as many people as you can.
For some reason for me guys, for a long time, I felt a little bit like a fraud, and I felt that “Foundr,” you know, wasn’t good enough for people. And I still put out that I knew deep down that there was value, but at the same time, I always felt bad pushing it to people, or bad telling people to sign up.
And that was a really sticking point for me, and after speaking with Marie, she’s amazing, she’s really, really insightful, and she shares with us how she’s built an eight figure business with heart, and how she’s followed her heart and followed her gut, and she’s a marketing genius. So, I think you’re really gonna love this episode.
And if you are enjoying these episodes, please make sure you leave us a five star review on iTunes. And as always, I’m gonna plug the magazine. If you are enjoying these interviews, you most likely will love “Foundr Magazine.” That’s where we spend a lot of their time. So that’s it for me guys, I hope you’re all having a great week. And now let’s jump into the show.
First of all, can you tell me, how did you get your job?
Marie: Well, it was an awesome adventure. It certainly wasn’t a straight line. You know, when I got out of college, I worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, and I was really excited because I’m a person who has a lot of natural energy. And in that environment, there’s actually no seats. You can never sit down. You’re on your feet all day, you’re running around, it’s a really dynamic environment. And, of course, especially at that time there was an opportunity from a financial sense, you know, to become very successful.
When I was there, about six months, and I was trying my best, but I realized that wasn’t me. You know, I looked around at the folks that I worked with, and all of them looked forward to just two weeks a year, their vacation time. And inside I kept hearing this little voice that was saying, “You know what? You are not supposed to be here. This is not your path. You’re meant to do something more.” But the problem was, the voice wasn’t telling me what I was supposed to do, just that my current job wasn’t it.
So I had to take a bit of a leap of faith, quit that job, I didn’t have another one, and I really didn’t have any direction besides the fact that I loved business. There’s something really exciting to me about taking something and building it from nothing. And I also was very creative. You know, as a little girl I drew and I painted, and I often wanted…I dreamed of myself as being an animator for Disney or perhaps a fashion designer. So I had this big creative side of me as well. And so those are my only two clues. And I went on an odyssey to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.
And the next best idea I had was to get involved in magazine publishing, because I figured, “Wow, there’s this whole commerce side, and actually there’s a very creative side as well.” And my foot in the door came with a magazine called “Gourmet Magazine.” It’s part of “Condé Nast.” And “Gourmet” is a food magazine. And I’m a girl who likes to eat, I’m Italian. So what was really awesome is that my little assistant seat was next to the test kitchens, so while I was doing my work, snacks would often appear right at my desk, which made me very happy.
But, you know, within a few months I started having that same feeling again. You know, I was sensing this wasn’t where I was supposed to be. And as I looked ahead at the publisher seat or some of the high up account executives, from a very logical perspective, I was like, “You know what? I don’t like what they’re doing, I can’t see myself doing that. So if I’m not aspiring to climb this particular corporate ladder, I’m wasting their time and mine.”
That’s when a little panic started to set in, Nathan, because I was like, “Wow, I had this great kind of dream job on Wall Street, and I quit that. And here I am working for a very successful magazine, and I’m quitting that too.” And so I thought, “Well, maybe I’ve been too focused on business,” Wall Street and then the advertising side of a magazine. So I thought, “Maybe I should shift back and get back to my creative roots.”
So I figured out how to get myself a job at a fashion magazine under “Condé Nast,” called “Mademoiselle.” And I was in the fashion department. And I was like, “Okay, this is gotta be it.” It’s like, I’m going to fashion shows, I’m meeting with these incredible designers, there was a lot more creativity in that particular job, but I got to tell you, in just a few months, I started having that same sick feeling inside.
I looked ahead at the editor-in0chief, and I was like, “Gosh, I just can’t see myself in that role. I don’t think that’s where I wanna go.” Now at that time the internet was just, you know, coming around, it was certainly a thing, but it’s nothing like it is right now. And I was online probably when I should have been at work, and I stumbled across this article about a new profession at the time called “Life Coaching.”
Now, let me set the scene, Nathan. I was 23 years old. So I saw this whole profession of life coaching, it sounded amazing. It opened my heart, it felt right, but my logical brain said, “Who the heck is gonna hire a 23-year-old life coach? You haven’t even lived half of your life already.” And so I was skeptical and cynical about myself, but at the same time my intuition was speaking louder than it had ever spoken before, and it said, “You have to give this a go.” So what I did was I signed up for a three-year coach training program through Coach University, and I started studying at night while I kept my magazine job during the day.
Fast forward about six months, I get a call from the HR department at “Condé Nast,” “Marie, we have a job offer for you at Vogue. It’s a promotion. You’re gonna get your own department,” all this kind of cool stuff. And that was my fork in the road, that’s when I realized…I was like, “Okay, I’m about six months with this coach training under my belt,” I was really, really digging it, and then there’s this opportunity to work at the best fashion magazine in the world, and I had to make a choice. And I was like, “Okay, am I gonna stick with a steady paycheck? Or am I gonna do this crazy, weird thing that even I’m skeptical of, yet it feels really right, and start my own business?”
And so I quit my job, and I decided to start my own life coaching business. And I, you know, had a bit of debt as many of us do, we come out of college and we’re just starting our life. I didn’t know how to start a business. I didn’t know how to start like coaching business. So I started bartending at night, waiting tables, doing personal assistant work. Basically, collecting a whole bunch of odd jobs in order to pay my rent and put food on the table while I lived in New York City, so that I could spend the day times figuring out how to build a business.
So what was interesting was that, you know, again, this was about 23, 24 years old, in that range, and I was so insecure about my young age, that I used the internet to effectively mask how young I was. I never lied, but I went out and I had headshots done, and they were black and white, and I put on my makeup in a certain way, and I had a particular haircut that I probably looked 10 to 15 years older than I actually was in that picture. And I did my best to create content and to put out newsletters that was professional as I possibly could, and I started building a client base. And so many of my clients because we coached over the phone had no idea how young I was. They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.
So it was really interesting because it gave me an opportunity to start to understand how to market and sell effectively, how to connect with people emotionally, and how to really build something from the ground up, especially something, you know, a little esoteric at the time like life coaching.
Nathan: Wow, so you actually started and launched with the Marie Forleo brand when you first started out?
Marie: Well, it was my name, but I had…I think I called it “The Good Life.” There was a couple of different iterations, I think I might have started with my name, and then I had this idea. I was so incredibly stressed out, Nathan. I don’t know if you can relate to this or any of your listeners can, but I was so struggling with what to call my business, because I was trying to read all kinds of, you know, magazines and business books, and trying to understand entrepreneurship.
And I would look at these companies and it’s like, “Wow, there’s this brand, and it’s like a name.” Like Apple, or like Virgin, and, you know, it’s a separate kind of thing than someone’s first and last name. And so I certainly struggled with that in the beginning, but I think the first iteration of my company was definitely Marie Forleo. Then I went away from it because I thought, “Well, who’s gonna take me seriously? I should be bigger than that.” And then very quickly I came back to just me because hat was the most authentic and real thing, and as a very creative person, I realized, “Oh my God, no matter what company name I pick, I’m actually gonna get sick of it in a year or two. My name? I’m not gonna get sick of.”
Nathan: Look, I totally feel you there. In fact, the magazine, it wasn’t actually called “Foundr.” It was code something else, “Key to Success,” but I had to change it, because…and I have never spoke about this really over an interview, I actually got sued for trademark infringement. But it’s been a really, really big blessing, and now I can totally relate around feeling like an imposter and wanting to feel bigger than you actually are, and all that kind of stuff. But eventually get over it, right?
Marie: Absolutely. And it was a great journey, but as my business started to kinda get a little bit of traction, and I mean tiny traction, meaning I had like wow, paid coaching clients which I was so grateful for, and so excited about. One of the things that I then began struggling with was this idea that I had to focus down and become an expert in one thing.
And one of the pieces of my core training was around niching down as a coach. And I was like, “Well, wait a minute, goodness. Am I a productivity coach? Am I a spiritual coach? And I a relationship coach?” And every time I would try and choose one, it never ever felt right. I was like, “But I don’t wanna talk about everything.” You know? “What’s wrong with me?”
And my logical mind understood the power of focusing down, but my body, my, kind of, inner knowing couldn’t have any of it. And then even outside of that umbrella of coaching, here was my other struggle, I loved hip hop and dance. I loved fitness. I loved writing. I loved the study of spirituality. So not only was I struggling within my own coaching practice of not being able to choose one niche, but I was also struggling on another level, because I didn’t wanna just be a coach.
Every time I tried to do that, it felt like I was cutting off a limb somehow. It felt like I was hiding pieces of who I was that were very, very important to me. And felt like they were talents or strengths that were underdeveloped, that had all this potential, but I didn’t seem to fit into any mold. Every time I would read a career book or a business advice book, the last thing they would tell you to do is to do everything. You know what I mean?
Marie: It was all about focusing down. And it got to the point where it just became so painful for me, I said, “You know what, screw this. I cannot fit into any of these boxes. I’m never gonna be this age again, and have less responsibility,” meaning, you know, I was renting, I didn’t have a family, a dog, no responsibilities that can sometimes come a little bit later in life.
When it comes to hip hop and dance and fitness, I was like, “I am so passionate about this right now.” And even in the dance world honestly, Nathan, I was over the hill. Most people that get involved in dance, they’re doing it from a very young age, from like 3 years old, or 5 years old, or certainly 10 years old, and I’ve never taken a formal dance class in my life.
So, I just finally said, “Screw it, I’m gonna do it.” And I gave myself permission to pursue dance and to start taking classes. I gave myself permission to do all the things I was actually interested in, and stopped trying to label myself as one thing. You know, so I go to cocktail parties and people would ask me, “Well, what do you do?” And I’d say, “Well, what day of the week?” You know, because there’s a lot of different things.
And for the next four to five years, I had an amazing career in dance and fitness. I created four bestselling dance videos. I taught hip hop all over the world. I was a Nike elite athlete and master trainer, and developed programs with them. I was able to write a book for women about dating and relationships that’s now actually in 13 languages, which I’m so proud of.
But I really gave myself permission to do all the things I was interested in, and it was the best thing I could have ever done. It inspired my coaching practice. It gave me the ability to market in sell in different categories, you know, understanding how to sell dance workshops, understanding how to sell an e-book that was completely based on relationships and, you know, for a market of women. It was awesome.
And then eventually I got to the point where I’m that my now fiancé, we’ve been together for 12 years, he’s an actor. We start to get to the point in our lives where he would…it was incredible, he would get these movie offers or something would happen, and he says, “Oh, come with me.” And I can’t, I’m in New York, I gotta teach five hip hop classes this week. I have, you know, three bartending gigs.
There was so much that was landlocked for me that it really was a moment where I said, “You know what? I think I’m ready to focus down. I think I see a way to create a company that I can really believe in, that blends all of my talents,” and I just saw opportunities in the market with that weren’t being filled in the way that I wanted to see them filled. So I transitioned everything that I did. I think was probably 2007 or 2008, like, that was a big transition time for me, and it was the beginnings of my business today.
Nathan: Wow. Okay, so there’s a lot I’d like to unpack. First of all, I’m curious, during that period that you described where you were doing the dance videos, and wrote your book, and all those kinds of things, were you still running that online business?
Marie: Yeah, I had a personal coaching practice, where I would have…first of all, I started off having one-on-one clients, and then I started to experiment teaching group classes and having group coaching programs. So I was building a lot of what became the foundation of what I do today, but I was just highly motivated. I kept myself really organized. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying, you know, “If you wanna see something done, give it to a busy person.”
I was so incredibly busy that the times I wasn’t bartending or choreographing or teaching a dance class, those times were carved out for my online business and my coaching business. So I had to get things done in a very short amount of time, which made me a really effective and efficient worker.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. That’s why I asked that question, because you were doing an awful a lot.
Marie: And that’s, I think, you know, part of what my particular DNA is, and I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to this, you know, without getting into labels or classifications, sometimes my mind can feel like it’s ADD-ish, meaning, you know, there’s a lot of things I wanna focus on, there’s a lot of different things I wanna do. So rather than fighting that tendency, which I was trying to do in the beginning by narrowing myself down, what worked for me, and it may not work for everyone, but what worked for me is actually having multiple things to focus on, because I was learning so much.
I’m a very physical person. So being able to teach dance and to be involved in fitness, it was like I was getting paid to workout and to be joyous and to train my body and to help other people do it. But when I wasn’t doing that, it’s like I was so primed and ready to write and create and having to perform. Meaning, if I didn’t show up for work, I don’t get paid. That’s a motivating factor too, because I had to pay rent and I had to eat. You know, no one was taking care of me, so it was like I have to make it happen.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. So from the sounds of things, how long…you’ve had an online business for over seven years?
Marie: Oh, well over that, almost 15 years. It’s had evolution.
Marie: Yeah, but I’ve been online for a long time. I mean, I started my newsletter like I said, once I quit the magazine world, one of the most crucial things, and I am so grateful that Coach University, you know, one of the things that they emphasized was, “You have to have your own newsletter. You have to put out a newsletter and regular content,” which I know for most people in this time they’re like, “Oh, of course.” But, you know, back in 2001, very novel.
Nathan: Wow, so you’re a real veteran.
Marie: I am. I am. I am a real veteran. And it’s exciting, I think, it’s so beautiful to watch how not only the online world has changed, but how online business has changed, and how it continues to change. But, you know, a lot of people sometimes, if they’re not familiar with my work or who I am, and I’m really excited that we’re doing this interview right now, they can say, “Oh, it looks like you came out of nowhere.”
I’m like, “Actually, I’m quite a turtle.” I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve had slow, organic growth. But once you, kind of, hit a certain critical mass, and you start to have the blessing of a little bit of a bigger audience, people somehow assume that it just happened. And I was like, “No, this has been a very long time in the making.”
Nathan: So from this experience, what can our audience learn from you? Certainly from…I’m really curious around the branding piece. You’ve created a seriously epic brand. In the online world like one of my friends, and he’s been doing online business form yeah, probably around the same time as you, he’s name is Yaro Starak. You might know him?
Nathan: And, yeah, he’s just like, “Yeah, Marie is the queen of online business.” And like everyone knows you. What advice would you give to someone that wants to create an epic brand? If you were to start all over again, what would you do fast-track where you are today?
Marie: I think the consistency factor of whatever kind of core content that you wanna put out, right, what something that fits with your strengths, for me I happen to love video. It’s a medium that I just adore. I was with my parents actually, like a week and a half ago, and they whipped out some old, which are now on DVDs, they were VHSs at the time, but it was stuff from when I was like seven or eight years old, and it was me presenting on camera. I was like, “Oh, clearly I was meant to do this. I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl.”
But my point is, is that when you wanna have an online business or brand, you’re gonna have to communicate with your audience. And the way that that communication happens, you can do a podcast, perhaps you love to write, maybe photography and visual images is your thing, maybe it’s video. For most people these days, I think, the thing that is challenging is they probably hear from most sources that you should do everything, that you should be ubiquitous and you should be everywhere.
I think for 99% of people, that’s very overwhelming, especially when you first start out. So if you can pick one channel, one way to get your message out, that you can become really good and consistent at, and then let yourself build from there, that’s what I would do if I was just starting out today to fast-track myself.
I would get that one channel, again, that you feel like you can dominate and be really consistent. And really consistent doesn’t mean every day necessarily, unless that’s your passion and you feel like you can sustain that for a while, not many people can. You know, I was just talking with a new friend of mine, a woman named Grace Bonney who runs probably one of the world’s most popular lifestyle/design last called “Design Sponge.”
I mean, her and her team update their blog like four to six times a day. And when I heard that, Nathan, I wanted to pass out just hearing it. I was like, “Oh, my goodness, that would kill me.” But again, for her DNA and for what they want, that’s the perfect fit. So that’s why my advice would be to figure out what’s your perfect fit. You know, d you love talking to people, do you love podcast? Do you love writing? And what can start to be a good, consistent schedule for you to put out high quality content that really matters to people, that is true to your voice, and that you can foresee yourself doing this for the next three to five years.
Nathan: That’s great advice. And there’s one thing I’d like to touch on there, you mentioned high quality content. High quality content is key, you grew up put out great content, that’s something that gets thrown around a lot. I’d like to hear your interpretation on how someone can gauge on what they’re putting out there is good stuff.
Marie: Yes, great question. I love this question, because high quality content doesn’t necessarily mean expensive at all. You know, oftentimes, especially because my particular medium of choice is video, people say, “Oh, I can’t do a video like yours.” I’m like, “Hey, did you do see my earlier videos? They’re me looking into the webcam, no editing, no lighting, it was just bababab.” I think high quality content means a few things.
One, well-thought out. Meaning, there’s a point in this article or this video, that it’s actionable, that you’ve thought through what you want your reader or your viewer to do, to take action on, to understand, to be able to walk away from that piece of content, whether you want them to be inspired, whether you want them to take a specific set of steps to achieve a certain end goal.
I think it’s understanding why someone is coming to your content and what you want them to take away, and making sure that you’re delivering on that. And that’s probably one of the best, kind if, little inside tips, whenever you’re creating any piece of content, to ask yourself, “What do I want my reader or viewer to do after engaging with this? How do I want them to feel? How can I make this?” whether it’s inspiring, funny, useful that they are almost compelled to share it, like, “Oh my god, I just saw this.”
And, you know, sometimes with our videos it’s like, “That was so ridiculous. She is so crazy. She just so made me laugh, and I have to send it to my mother, because she’s just silly.” And sometimes if you think about yourself, how do you consume content? What makes you wanna share it? It’s a really great way to think through how to produce high quality content.
And high quality content, again, if it’s written, it’s just, have you taken the time to really edit it, to make sure that your points are clear? That in the online world, it’s easy to read, there’s not just a bunch of text, right, slammed onto a page, that it’s actually formatted well with headlines, sub headlines, enough whitespace, so that makes it elegant and beautiful to engage with, and easy to actually consume.
Have you made it easy for people to share? Have you put a call-to-action? Have you told people exactly what you want from them next? These are some of the ingredients, I believe, to high quality content, that have nothing to do with high production values, and everything to do with the heart, soul, and thought that you inject into your creation.
Nathan: This is great. I’m curious. What advice would you give to getting your content found? What advice would you give to be herded and to, I guess, building your brand?
Marie: It’s a great question, and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions on this. There’s many people who think, “I’m just gonna buy traffic.” And if people have cash to burn through and they’re experienced, with understanding how to, you know,create advertising that converts, and drives it, God bless, that was never me. I never had resources in order to do that.
What I did and what I often recommend is, to look for people who are already reaching and engaging with the audience that you would also like to reach and engage with, and you have to be creative and think about ways to partner with that person, or add value to that person’s life and their audience. So, for example, you know, when I was first starting out, one of the books that…well, the book that I wrote was called “Make Every Man Want You: How to Be So Irresistible, You’ll Barely Keep from Dating Yourself.”
And so I actively looked around and said, “Okay, who is reaching big audiences of women who would be interested in dating advice?” And I remember, you know, being here in New York City I would try and find other online sites where they were looking for perhaps some dating advice. I worked at Crunch Gym which is a crunch here in Manhattan, and I would pitch to some of the managers like, “Oh, what if we do a class with stilettos, and I can also talk about my book?”
You know, you wanna look for ways to get in front of other people’s audiences, not a way that competes with them, but that compliments what they’re doing. So you build up the partner, and you also add value to their audience.
You know, One of my dear friends and a marketing mentor, Eben Pagan, he had a group of women for one of his products that was around dating as well, and he really liked my content. He’s like, “Oh, I should do an interview with you. I love what you wrote in this book, and, you know, you have to share that with my audience.” So for me, I looked at every opportunity to add value to other people’s audiences who already had the audience I was going after.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s a great one. And what about around marketing and driving traffic? Besides partnering, do you have any other strategies, tactics, tips that you recommend, maybe from the psychology or mindset standpoint?
Marie: Yeah, well, I think, from a psychology and mindset standpoint, there’s a lot about coming up with fantastic headlines, sub-headlines, hooks. So, for example, high quality content isn’t just about the actual article that you write, or the video that you create, or the podcast, you know, that you record and wanna share, how do you title that though? How do you create, whether it’s bullet points or subheads, that as a consumer, as someone who actually engages with content would make you wanna click? It’s kind of old school and it may seem cheesy, but if you suspend your judgment for a moment, you’ll see the brilliance in this.
If you take a look at magazines, when you’re leaving the grocery store, things like “Cosmo,” “Glamour,” you know, sometimes some of the tabloids, even if you’re listening to the news and you start to pay attention to how they hook you to listen for the next segment, or how they get you to pick up that magazine and buy it as an impulse purchase, because there are some headlines like, you know…and, again, this is going to sound really cheesy and it might sound a little old school, but it’s about understanding the psychology underneath.
You know, whether there’s a “Seven Never Before Hear of Secrets To Reducing Your Grocery Bill, and It’s All Organic.” So anyone who’s interested in eating healthily is like, “Oh. my God.” You know that organic food can be pricey, and if you’re like, “I love organic food, and I will love to save money. I kinda need to listen to that,” or, “I need to click on that.”
I think that when you’re first starting out, you have to really pay attention to those headlines and sub headlines, because let’s face it, you can create the most amazing piece of content, but if your headline sucks, your email subject line sucks, or you don’t know how to write a good update, you know, the copy whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or Insta that gets people interested, you’ve lost.
Nathan: Yeah, and I definitely feel that with your book, it’s such a great name. Like, even me as a guy, I’m thinking, “Well, what’s this all about?”
Marie: Right. And it’s just about curiosity. And I know a lot of people can have resistance to that, because they say, “Oh, that’s so manipulative,” or, “Oh, that feels so cheesy.” But I always counter with, “Look, we human beings have brains. Our brains actually love curiosity.” We love when there is an unfinished sentence or question or something that piques our desire to know or to fill in that thought loop, right, to solve that problem, like, “Make Every Man Want You.” “Wait a minute, that’s kind of bold. It’s a little sassy. I don’t know if I believe it. What’s in this thing?” And all the sudden, you’re, like, wanting to engage with a piece of content. That’s a beautiful thing.
And I also say this, Nathan, most of us, and I hope everyone listening to this interview. We don’t go into business just to make money. We go into business to make a difference. We wanna change people’s lives. We wanna create positive ripples in this world. And when you have a product or service that you actually believe in, that you know with your heart of hearts does actually help peoplet is your responsibility to do whatever you can do to get people to engage with it.
So there’s nothing slimy or manipulative about it, it’s like, “Hey, you’ve got something awesome. You’ve gotta get people to pay attention.” Because like it or not, our world is filled with noise and static. And if you don’t train yourself on how to get people interested, sometimes that’s using humor, sometimes it’s using curiosity, you have to be clever. Because, otherwise, you’re gonna have all this great knowledge, or these great products and services, and you’re gonna be crying in the corner because no one pays attention to you.
Well, it’s not their fault, because it’s not their responsibility to come find you, it’s your responsibility to get out in front of them and be creative enough to get them to pay attention.
Nathan: That was awesome. Okay, look, we have to work towards wrapping up. There’s a few more things I’d love to talk to you about. One, you mentioned Eben Pagan, he’s one of my favorite marketers. I listen to all of his stuff. I’m curious, can you tell me what has been the biggest game changer or one of the biggest game changer, things you’ve learned from him that you would like to pass on?
Marie: First of all, I love Eben so much. Just to give him some props, when I was first starting out, the way that Eben and I met was actually…do you know who Dean Jackson is?
Marie: So Dean Jackson was teaching a class that was within my coach training, about how to use e-books as a marketing tool for your coaching practice. And I was so into that class, and I had done all my homework, and I submitted it to Dean, and that’s where the idea for “Make Every Man Want You” came from. And Dean said, “You have to meet my friend Eben, he is writing a book called ‘Double Your Dating For Men.’ You guys should totally talk.”
And so Eben and I became friends over the Internet, and he was so generous and kind to me. He had more experience than I did, and he was a bit more down the journey. And he so took me under his wing, and just wanted to share marketing ideas with me. And I’m so grateful for that.
So to answer your question, I think, one of the most important things that I’ve learned from Eben is just the value and the importance of smart marketing. Like there are so many things that we as business owners need to pay attention to. Obviously, there’s hiring, there’s the legal things. You know, there’s the accounting. There’s all these different things that we need to rightfully understand.
But what Eben really drove home for me and made clear, was how vital marketing was to everything else. And he really opened my eyes to all these different ways to do it, and I just love him for that, because he’s been a friend for of years, and I just continue to, you know, give him virtual high fives, and we love to catch up and see how each other are doing. But, I think, the importance of marketing is what really came through from Eben.
Nathan: Okay, and when it comes to successful entrepreneurs, you know, you’re absolutely kill it right now…I know you have many other friends that are extremely successful, want are two characteristics that you see?
Marie: You know, where might be a little, kind of, an orthodox. One is a trait of really listening to your own wisdom despite what everybody else says that you should do. I think one of the, kind of, you know, sand traps that we have to look out for as entrepreneurs, especially as you’re in the online space, there are so many people telling you what you should do, how you should grow, all the different platforms you should be on, and your head almost starts to spin.
And one of the things that I try and stress, and I try and do this to the best of my ability, is to teach people how to make great decisions for themselves. Because no matter what every other expert is saying, no matter what the industry is saying, no matter where everything is going, all of us have the wisest teacher inside, that even though a deal might look good on paper, even though everybody else is “doing this and killing it,” if it doesn’t feel right for you for whatever reason, you’ve got to listen to that. And there are so many times that the people that I see that are really successful, that’s what they’re able to do, they’re able to listen to their own instincts outside of the noise, and they’re able to go in a different direction and not self-doubt when they do. So that’s one thing.
The second thing is, that the money is not bottom line. The people that I see that are the most successful, of course, it’s a business, of course, you have to be profitable, we’re not taking away from that. However, there’s something deeper that drives them. There is this strong, burning desire to make a difference, to create something high quality, to really take care of people. There’s this fire underneath them that goes beyond the profits, it’s not like they ignore the profits, but it’s something deeper that drives them, and everybody else who’s purely chasing the money, they crash and burn.
Nathan: Yeah, I know, I can definitely feel that.
Marie: Well, they make moves, and they’ll make decisions that are usually based on short term gains rather than the long term health of their business or their reputation, and that will catch up to you. One of the things that we do in our business, Nathan, is…I was actually meeting with a friend today who runs…his business is, you know, over 100 million, incredible entrepreneurs, been at the game a long time. He said to me, he’s like, “You know, Marie, I love how much money you turn away, like, all the time.”
You know, one of things we don’t really do, affiliate promotions. We don’t mail out for anything. You know, our whole model is, if I believe in something and I love something, I wanna put someone on “Marie TV” so that they can share about what they’re up to, they can teach us something. And then if people really love it, you know, go find them, go work with them, go buy their book, go do whatever it is. And I don’t need to, you know…it’s not like…does that make sense?
Nathan: Yeah, you care.
Marie: Absolutely. And I want my audience to make wise decisions on their own. And when and if we do promote someone, and I am a proud affiliate, it’s like the first thing I say, is like, “Here is what it is. I am an affiliate. I love this and here’s why.” So that we’re completely transparent to the best of our ability, so that people know why I’m recommending something, and there’s never a question or a doubt about my intentions.
Nathan: So what did you have to give up to get where you are today? Can you tell us about some sacrifices that you’ve had to make?
Marie: Oh, sure. I mean, especially in the beginning, Nathan, I missed out on so many, kind of, big life events from my friends, like weddings, bachelorette parties, birthday parties. You know, there were a lot of personal things that pained me to say no to, but for the first couple of years, I worked nonstop. I am grateful that I had the energy, but I would literally work seven days a week, because that’s just what was required, you know what I mean? For me to make everything happen. I couldn’t do anything else.
And I was also very ambitious, I knew where I wanted to go. So there are a lot of times that I missed out on things, but I’ll never be able to get that time back. But the truth of the matter is, I did my best to stay in touch with the people that mattered the most. I explained to them honestly what was happening, and I have to say my friends I’ve had ever since college, they totally get me. And new friends that I’ve built up along the way totally understand. And, you know, it’s less now than it was then, but even still sometimes, there’s times when, you know, you have to make hard choices about what’s most important. But in the beginning for me, there was a lot of personal sacrifice, and it was a lot of time with family and friends.
Nathan: Yeah. No. I’m really getting the feeling that you just hustled so hard, and you just wanted it that bad. And you’ve just made it work, and then here we are.
Marie: Yeah, yeah. No. it certainly wasn’t easy. And I did not happen fast for me. I would not change anything in the world. But, yeah, I spent some time crying, and I spent some time questioning myself, “Wow, what am I doing all this for?” But I had this deep feeling in my heart that I was doing the right thing. And I knew if I could reach a certain level where I was able to support myself and start creating a team, you know, completely online and have a digital, virtual company, that I would be able to make the kind of impact in the world that I knew I was born to make, and I’m very happy, knock on wood, that that has come around.
And, you know, in more recent years, I’m able to take more time off. You know, I’m able to get to those things now. And while they’re having kids now, instead of getting married, I’m able to, like, participate more which feels really great.
Nathan: I’m really curious, two last questions. One, can give us an insight into your team? How many of you are there?
Marie: Yeah, that’s actually a great question, because we have just hired a bunch of new people and I don’t even know the exact number, which for me, that’s insane, because I’m so hands on, but my team has been kicking butt, and taking care of business behind the scenes while I’m focused on other things. But there’s about 10 of us now, and there are some folks that have come on board, we’re so grateful for, that are gonna be seasonal, because B-School is a really beautiful, ever growing, kind of, its own entity and universe.
And our commitment we strive for outstanding customer service. And so at that time, you know, there’s a lot more volume than other points in the year, so we have a new, kind of seasonal folks coming on, and we’re getting them trained up. But that’s how it looks and we are still a digital company. So, we have a studio now here in New York, it’s the first time. I grew this business…
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Marie: Yeah. We don’t hardly work out of there, that’s where we shoot “Marie TV,” but that didn’t exist again for such a long time Nathan, it’s like the most growth happened before that came.
Nathan: Wow, I see. Oh, jeez. I’m really curious now, like, what is your number one tool to collaborate and keep in touch with that team and manage?
Marie: Google Docs. We love the Google Docs, and that’s…I mean, we’re on email and Gchat and Google Docs a lot, it’s our primary tool. And then we’ll use other tools, like, if you don’t know about this or perhaps any of your readers don’t know about this, it’s a really cool app called InVision, which is great.
Nathan: No, I’ve never heard of it.
Marie: Yeah, check it out. InVision app. What it’s awesome for is when you’re pulling together new website designs or mobile designs or anything like that, and you’re collaborating visually, because people can throw up, you know, some wire frames and, you know, some static images. And it’s so easy to comment on visual projects. It’s fantastic. So I would highly recommend that if anyone’s working on a lot of visual things for your online business. But Google Docs is, like, killer, it’s so simple and you can access it anywhere, and it really helps. We still use Basecamp from time-to-time, but a little bit less, but, yeah.
Nathan: Awesome, thank you for sharing that. So last question. What can listeners take away from you online marketing skills, your entrepreneurial skills, your life skills? Like, you know, you’re actually killing it, and I feel really blessed to be speaking with you. Can you give us three actionable items?
Marie: Three actionable items, absolutely. So the first and the most important is to lead with your heart. Our logical minds are great, rational minds are great, but I believe our hearts are the strongest and wisest parts of us, whether it’s related to your business or you’re related to your personal life, I have learned this lesson, lead with your heart.
The next actionable item is to really give yourself some time off. I know in the beginning, you know, I happily admitted how hard I worked and how hard I pushed it, which was necessary, but depending, you know, on what stage of your life you’re at, and what’s happening with the rest of your outside of business, family, kids, so vital to carve out, even if it’s a little quality time that is not connected, there’s no iPhone, there’s no Internet, there’s nothing pulling at your attention. That’s super-duper vital.
And number three, if you don’t have this already in your business and baked in, to challenge yourself, to find a way to make your business about more than just financial profits. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut checks to charity. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to give away products or services. But for me, what’s really exciting is to help give birth to a new crop of entrepreneurs worldwide who are committed to more than just what they can get, but who are really focused on what they can give.
That can look like how you treat your team, your company culture, the vendors that you choose to use, what you stand for, your values, what you wanna shine a light on. You know, if there’s any social issues or local issues that you wanna take your spotlight and shine it on. I think it’s really, really important for all of us to dig deep and to get clear on what we stand for, and to use our businesses as a vehicle for change beyond the products and services that we sell.
Nathan: Wow. That was awesome. Thank you for sharing that.
Nathan: Well, yeah, you’ve been amazing, Marie. We’ve gone or all sorts of ways. We’ve touched over so many different things, and you’ve provide a lot of gold. So thank you so much. And, yeah, I’m just blown away, so thank you.
Marie: Thank you very much for having me on. It was an honor.
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