Lamar Tyler and his wife Ronnie are changing how the world sees Black Marriage. Unhappy with the way that mainstream media portrays African American families and relationships, Lamar created an alternative community that showcases and supports happy, healthy and productive families ... and created a 7 figure business in the process.
Links mentioned in this case study
Lamar's Infusionsoft link is here.
Lamar's personal website is here.
Lamar's Traffic Sales & Profit FB Group is here.
Lamar's book for free (just pay s&h) can be ordered here.
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Samantha: I'm so thrilled to have my next guest on the show. Lamar Tyler is one of my favorite types of entrepreneur. In 2007, he and his wife, Ronnie, were so fed up with the pervasive negative images of African-American marriages on the mainstream television and media outlets that they decided to start a blog that actually focused on positive images and the positive reality that he and his wife lived, and their community.
They started BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com, and today, they've turned that into a business worth over $1 million projected this year. I really want to share with you their story of how Lamar pitched, as an IT manager in a mainstream media company, some ideas about how to create more positive role models and images of black marriage in the community to his traditional media bosses, and they rejected it. And now, as a result, he has a business that is just so successful. He and his wife Ronnie started using Infusionsoft back in about 2012, and it has helped them grow their business astronomically.
But there's more to this story than just Infusionsoft. It's really about two people that are changing the world. I'd like to welcome my guest today, Lamar Tyler. Welcome, Lamar, to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us.
Lamar: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Samantha: Thanks, Lamar. I've mentioned a little bit about your background, and it's quite interesting to hear that you came from being an IT professional in media, in traditional media shall we say?
Samantha: And you obviously found a passion and followed that passion. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up building the business, Tyler New Media, and where that ended up?
Lamar: Sure. Well, I worked for about 15 years in information technology, and the last position I had before becoming a full-time entrepreneur, as you mentioned, I was the IT manager of a FOX television station in Washington, D.C. And I thought it was exciting at the time. It was kind of like the pinnacle of what I'd been working up to do my entire professional career, to be in management in IT, and that was what I was passionate about.
But I think there was always a part of me that was calling me towards entrepreneurship. And in the past I'd tried different businesses, and I'd had some success, I'd had some failures. But I hadn't tapped into that thing that really would take it to the next level. And how the blog originally came about is that, at my position at work, I was part of different web teams and different focus groups we would have amongst management. And I would pitch these different ideas and they would always get shot down.
I think it was more of an old-school, corporate mentality, because I would pitch different ideas and we'd be in the meeting room and people would say, "Well, we don't have enough people to do that." And I would be thinking that, "Hey, all I need is me and one other person." Or they would think, "Well, how can we get people in to do that without paying them?" And I'm thinking, there are plenty of people who just want exposure, right? And I think that was frustrating to a degree.
I know a lot of people watching or listening can relate with going in and having these great ideas that you think of, and that feeling of feeling deflated when people actually shoot them down. So at some point just went home and I talked to my wife about it and said, "Let's just start our own thing."
Samantha: Sorry to interrupt you there, but especially being the IT guy, right?
Samantha: You're aware of all of this other world of media and capability out there, because you are in IT, you're familiar with technology. But when you're in the corporate sphere, you're the IT guy, so your ideas, they're just not making it. And I know that frustration, and it's incredible. So you came home and spoke to Ronnie about some of your ideas, and where did that go from there?
Lamar: We said, "Let's do our own thing." And when we sat down and thought about it, we said, "What's something that we're passionate about?" Around that time, everyone was just starting to really talk more and more about blogs. It was December of 2007.
Samantha: Mm-hmm. Wow.
Lamar: So the conversation around blogs and the blogosphere, it was kind of turning up a little bit, and we said, "What's something that we're passionate about, so if it takes off four or five years from now, we won't hate it and we won't feel like it's just another job? You know, we traded in one job for another job." And when we thought about what we were passionate about, it was basically family. And then we drilled down further, and instead of just family, it was marriage and then, specifically, marriage in the African-American community and the way it was portrayed here in the United States.
Because we didn't really feel like mass media really did a great job of portraying all sides of the community. And we saw a lot of negative portrayals, but what we didn't see was couples like ourselves that loved each other. And we saw couples in our communities that had been married for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, but we never saw those types of stories on television, in the newspapers, in the movies. So, thanks to the internet, we said, "Okay, if nobody will bring these stories to the forefront then we will."
Samantha: That's amazing. So that passion, if you like, was driven out of just watching shows. How did that penny drop eventually? How did you become so passionate about that particular topic? Obviously, you're watching TV, you're watching movies, and you're seeing this go on. How did you both connect on that particular topic? How did that fire start burning? It's quite interesting to hear that passion.
Lamar: What it was is that we were part of that community that was being overlooked.
Lamar: We were a married couple. Like I said, we loved each other, but when we cut on the TV or read stories, all stories were about, in the African-American community, how there were no men for the women to marry and date. It was about dysfunctional families or broken homes.
Lamar: And like I said, we knew there were other couples like us that not only were married and loving each other, we knew there were homes with fathers in the homes that were loving their children, but never got the recognition and never got the spotlight.
Lamar: So what we said is, let's create a community, an online community, where we say, "Okay, these relationships, these families do exist in our community. And instead of shining a light and focusing so much on what families lack, let's focus on the families that are doing it right, and the families that are positive, and the families that have awesome stories. So even if you have a family that's lacking some of those things, you can look up and aspire towards that."
Samantha: I'm almost speechless, which is not helpful on an interview, about how incredibly moving and powerful and timely that is. Certainly in Australia, we get access to vision of issues in the States around the portrayal of media and that sort of stuff. I'm quite passionate about women in leadership and the representation of women, and gender equality, and so, equality generally. And diversity is quite a passionate of mine.
It's interesting, I heard recently that only 17% of movie extras are women. And the roles that women are portrayed in in the media, it kind of comes back to what you said earlier around some of the ideas that are being presented to corporate media and old style, they're being run in traditional sense. They're being run by people that perhaps aren't predominantly in some of these demographics, and they're just not interested in these stories. And for you to take action and to then create a channel for people who are looking for more positive influences around is just awesome. Can you tell me how that started? You started out with a blog and you were a minnow, right?
Samantha: Blogging's just starting, right? Not everyone's reading blogs at that stage. So not only did blogs not . . . There weren't a lot of blogs in 2007, relative to today, there also weren't a lot of people reading blogs in 2007. How did you just get started?
Lamar: Starting the blog, like I said, it was December 2007, and we started the website. And pretty much immediately, we knew we were on to something because there was a voice of married couples that would come to the site and say, "Finally, something that represents me."
Samantha: How did they find you immediately?
Lamar: We started out like any home-grown blog would, right? Just with friends and family, and then asking friends and family to share with their friends and family, and beginning to kind of reach out a little bit. Back then, there was no Facebook, but there was MySpace. So we were on MySpace and we built a page on MySpace, and were going after trying to cultivate an audience on that social network. And like I said, I think there was so much of a void there that . . . We really felt like, and we proved that it was true, that if we got in front of enough people in our target demographic they would naturally be attracted to the positivity in the message that we were portraying and putting out.
Lamar: At the same time, around that time there were a lot of other blogs that really aren't even around anymore that helped us out. That was the age of the blog world . . .
Lamar: . . . Where everyone would have on their sidebar a listing of 30 or 40 other websites that they were friends with or that they connected with who were part of a network together.
Lamar: So it was reaching out to those sites and saying, "Hey, this is who we are. We're husband and wife, and we want to promote this positive image of marriage." And a lot of people that, like I said, that had bigger sites than us, they connected with us. And they would put us on their blog roll. And in fact, a lot of people, they don't remember back then, the fact that the name of our website started with the letter B helped, because most of those blog rolls were alphabetical.
And we had the type of website, through BlackAndMarriedWithKids, it spoke directly to what the blog was. And if that was something that provided interest to who you were, as you came down we would be at the top of that blog roll. You would see us and click over.
Samantha: And so, just coming back to that. Right back in 2007 it started out as BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com?
Samantha: And it's still BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com, yeah?
Lamar: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Because even back then we had kids, so we were black and married. So not only did it represent the conversation we wanted to have in the community, but it represented us as well.
Samantha: What were you talking about back then that resonated so much? I mean, what did you start to share on your blog?
Lamar: Sure. Well, in the beginning, a lot of it was Ronnie and myself and our personal stories. So a lot of it would be things that we thought about relationships or about marriage or . . . It was a lot more personal back then, because just the two of us were writing. So it would be, "I had this experience today, and this is how I handled it. How would you handle that type of thing?"
And then there also was the social commentary piece of it, like I mentioned before, where we would say, "Hey, we do exist. We are here. We have a voice as African-American couples in this country who are married, who love each other, and we're not being represented. So we need you to support this cause and get behind us and spread the word as well."
So that's how it originally started. Then maybe a year and half, mid-2008 to 2009 is when we really started to bring on our first writers, because what we wanted to do was broaden the voice of the site. So Ronnie and myself, we both got married, we were close to, like, late 20's, early 30's. But we wanted the voice of a couple that had gotten married and had been high school sweethearts.
Samantha: Yeah, yeah.
Lamar: And we wanted somebody that got married later. Ronnie and I, we have a blended family, a step-family.
Lamar: So we wanted a couple that wasn't a step-family. We wanted to just broaden the scope in the voice of the website, and that's what we were able to do by bringing in different writers.
Samantha: That's fantastic. And were you earning any income from the site at that stage? Were you still doing your day job?
Lamar: Yes, definitely. Because it was zero dollars coming in that first year or two. And when I think about it . . . Actually, just this past weekend I spoke at a conference and I kind of broke down revenue numbers. It was a blogging conference to inspire bloggers about how their path can go. But the first year or two, I really wasn't focused on making money. What I was focused on was building a brand and really getting a footprint. And I knew at that time, even if we made money, the size of the site was so small, it really wouldn't be worth the effort that would be put into it. So those first year, year and a half, two years, I really focused on building traffic, building the audience. I definitely was working.
I talk all the time about . . . at that time I would work eight and a half to ten hours a day, depending on what happened at work. Then I had an hour and a half commute back and forth each way . . .
Samantha: Oh my goodness.
Lamar: . . . To and from work. Then when I would get home, Ronnie would have dinner ready with the kids. At the time, she had a demanding job. She was a Project Manager for IBM for 17 years, so she would, you know, end that job. Then she'd have all four kids, and then I would . . .
Samantha: And how old were the children at that stage?
Lamar: Around that time, they were probably . . . We probably had one that was around 14, and then the others were probably one, two, and maybe five or six. I mean, it was . . .
Samantha: Oh, so high maintenance stage of childhood.
Lamar: Yes. It was no hands off . . . Yes, very high maintenance. So she would be stressed out when I came home, from the kids and work. I would be stressed out from working traffic. And then it would be dinner time, bath time, bed time. And the work of building the website, of building the business, really didn't start until 9:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m. at night into those early hours of the morning, because that was the only time that was available.
Samantha: And did you envisage at that time that it would become something that would be a whole other income? Or did you think it would be something that would supplement a little bit? Was it always your vision to create an entity out of it?
Lamar: You know, we thought maybe it would supplement. We had no idea it would grow to the scale it has. What people have to realize is that back then there were only rumors of people making money on the internet.
Lamar: It really wasn't like it is now. There are conferences and webinars, and you can see people who do this full-time. Just open up your newspaper and there's a story of somebody who's a full-time blogger or doing all types of different things online. But back at that time, there were only, like, "I heard that somebody on the internet is making money. I don't know who this person is. I don't know how I can. . ." There was no Twitter around. "I don't know how I can find them or connect with them. But I hear there are people." There may be some national news story two or three times a year.
So when we started, what we did do is we said, "Okay, let's position it like it is a business, so that if it does take off and it does blow up, then we'll be already set and positioned that way. And we won't be trying to scramble to clean things up." When we started, back at that time the race between WordPress and Blogger was a lot closer than it is now.
Lamar: And it was a big thing about WordPress, Blogger, or even Joomla, Drupal. Now, people are just WordPress, but back then there was a lot more discussion. But we said, "Okay, we want the WordPress self-hosted because we want to own it. In case it blows up, we won't have to transfer later." Just small decisions like that at the time, which weren't huge, major decisions, but they definitely helped to position us later on down the road.
Samantha: Were you even collecting e-mails at stage? Because I think e-mail automation and marketing probably wasn't as sophisticated as it is today, either.
Lamar: No, and I'm ashamed. I have my . . .
Samantha: You think about all those e-mails you could have.
Lamar: I spent many a night thinking about all those e-mails. And we didn't really start capturing. I mean, let me rephrase this. We collected e-mails, but we collected them in the non-marketer, traditional blogger type of way, which was, "Sign up for my RSS feed." We had a list of people who just automatically got the blog post every day. We never marketed to them, we never tried to sell anything, and we definitely weren't really active in capturing people's e-mails. That wasn't something that really happened until, really, I want to say maybe 2012 . . .
Lamar: . . . When we first got on with Infusionsoft.
Samantha: Yeah, wow. So let's go there. But what I want to do is I want to fast forward. We were talking about, there was zero for a long time. And I'm going to completely fast forward to talk about today. What does the business revenue look like today, and how do you make money from the business today?
Lamar: Sure, sure. You know, we've gone from zero dollars in late 2007 to, we did half a million dollars last year.
Lamar: And we're on track to shoot towards $1 million this year.
Samantha: Fantastic. Congratulations.
Lamar: Thank you. It just really has been phenomenal to see the growth, but then I still feel like there's so much more potential and growth in what we do. So I really don't see us ending up as a million dollar a year business. I think the goal now is to get to a million, and then go from one to three, and from three to five, and to keep moving forward. Because what we've seen is that, again, there's a need for what we do. There's a need for the promotion of positive images in our community. There's a need for . . . What we later found out as well is that we had a lot of people that were coming to support and rally around what we were doing, but there were a lot of marriages that were in need as well, and that were in trouble.
So we started creating products and services and different things that we could actually sell to those couples to actually help them in their relationships. So we still . . .
Samantha: I'd like to talk about that just for a minute.
Samantha: In terms of those revenues, what do you produce? What are your products? Is it tools to help marriages be successful or is it media? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Lamar: Definitely. It's a combination of both. Our very first product was a documentary film. I had met a guy that did documentaries. And this was 2008 going on 2009. I met a guy that did documentaries and I told my wife, Ronnie, I said, "What can we do to further build the brand and to get the name our there?" And I said, "How about doing a documentary?" And she said, "Maybe that would be a good idea," but we were going back and forth about, should we hire somebody to do it? If we hire them, how would we have to pay them? We didn't have the upfront money.
I was afraid it would blow up and be huge, which it wasn't huge like that. It really didn't matter in the long run. But I was afraid that if it blew up, how would we have to split the money? Because I've been in business situations before where that got ugly. And Ronnie said . . . We had just bought a camera, just to do web video stuff on the website, and she said, "I think you can do it." And I went out with no experience. Because even though I worked at a TV station, I never worked a camera, never touched a camera. And I went out and did it, and the rest is history.
We released our first movie in June of 2009, and over the next three years we released three more. So we did one each year for the first four years, and those were our primary products. And they were documentary films, full length documentaries about marriage and family in the African-American community.
Again, there was a void. There was an audience of people that weren't being spoken to, so we would rent out a theater and sell that theater out. And it went from the first year, selling out theaters that were 160, 150 seats, to selling out 200 people to selling out 350 people to, by the time in 2012, we screened . . . In Washington D.C., we actually moved from a movie theater to a playhouse because the playhouse sat 500 people. And then we sold that out and added an additional screening, a matinÃ©e, to get another 300 people in.
Samantha: That's incredible.
Lamar: And then when we went to Chicago, Illinois, we actually did several screenings and then they gave us a two week theatrical run, all independently, because people were coming out to hear this message.
Samantha: I have goosebumps. That is fantastic. It's such a great story in terms of your business. As you've grown, though . . . We talked a bit before, and you mentioned you found Infusionsoft and automation, that kind of stuff. Can you tell us a bit about how that happened, and what drove your search for a tool like Infusionsoft? How did you start looking for things that would help your business in that way?
Lamar: Sure. It's funny because I really didn't find Infusionsoft. It's more like Infusionsoft found me. I received an e-mail from someone. I was just on their e-mail or newsletter list, and at the bottom I saw that Infusionsoft logo. I mean, how many people . . . This is the story of probably millions of people across the globe. So I clicked that icon and I got the demo page, and I filled it out. And I watched some of it. Not even the whole thing. And then I clicked away and I said, "I'll come back later." And then a little while later I got a phone call saying, "Hey, we noticed you watched some of the video. I wanted to know if you had any questions." And in that very first call with a sales rep from Infusionsoft, what I quickly realized is that we had a lot of different platforms but we didn't have any systems. We were using Eventbrite for tickets, we were using for e-mail a company called FanBridge, and then AWeber and MailChimp. We were kind of floating around different e-mail providers. For e-commerce we didn't even have a shopping cart. We just had the PayPal button embedded directly on our WordPress site, and none of it talked to each other.
Samantha: And when was this? How far into it was this?
Lamar: This was late 2011, because when we actually joined on . . . I think it was December 2011. By the time we joined on, when we started it was January of 2012.
Lamar: The very first conversation I had with them, I directly realized that this is what we were missing. Because at that time, we had great traffic, great organic traffic, coming to the site. We probably had, if not, close to 100,000 people a month coming to the website. But in that conversation, I realized we weren't capturing those people. We weren't getting those people on our list. We weren't doing anything to really capitalize on the traffic.
Samantha: And at that time, your annual revenue, if I recall correctly, was around about $75k? Is that right?
Lamar: Yes, yeah. It was in that ballpark. Around that time it was between $75k and $135k. We were, kind of, in that flow. And what happened is, none of that revenue really came from our direct customers and our readers. The majority of that revenue actually came from advertising clients.
Lamar: Companies and ad agencies and brands that wanted to advertise on the site to reach African-American families. So we a dilemma there as well, because what we found ourselves doing was creating more and more content to go after more advertisers and brands. And what that essentially did was turn our backs toward our readers, who we were trying to make into customers. Because you can't serve two different sets of people and serve them both well.
Samantha: Yeah, wow. That's an incredible realization but a difficult one because that's . . .
Samantha: At that stage, were you still in your day job?
Lamar: No. I left my job in 2010, and Ronnie still worked her job while I tried to build the business up more to bring her in as well. Even that was a tough transition, but it was good. It was good because the first year I found out, okay, the business can sustain us.
Lamar: Or sustain me. And then the next year, like I said, we did more to work towards bringing her in. And then, once we got Infusionsoft is when things really took off, because that allowed us the ability to begin to make that shift. And the shift was from going after those advertising dollars towards doing a better job of capturing the readers that would come into our site and then turn them into customers. And then once we got them into customers, being able to sell more to them and sell them more frequently, and really just blowing the lid off of our business.
Samantha: And so where did you start with Infusionsoft? You'd spoken to the consultant. How did you start out with it? Because it can be quite an overwhelming application initially, particularly in some ways for people who . . . In some ways, not knowing a lot about it before you actually sign up for it can be a good thing, because you're not overwhelmed by all it can do. How did you start out with the application? What was the first thing you did with it?
Lamar: The very first thing we did actually worked out great for us. What it was was just a customer follow-up sequence. And why . . . I know someone's saying, "Okay, that's not a big deal," but for us it was. Because at this time, remember, we had several movies. And what would happen is, every year we would release a new documentary. And when we released it, we would sell some, we would do a tour and do different screenings around the country, and then we would always meet someone from Washington, D.C., for instance, that would say, "Hey, when's your next movie coming out? I loved your last one." And we would say, "It just came out a few months ago." And then they would say, "Well, are you doing screenings?" And we would say, "We just did a screening there two weeks ago."
And the issue was, not only were we not capturing readers, we really weren't capturing our customers at the time. And a lot of people we were pushing through Amazon, but Amazon in 2010 stopped giving us the e-mail addresses of people that actually purchased them. We could no longer run those reports. So we had an issue where we weren't capturing people, so we couldn't remarket to those people. We had another issue where they would purchase from us and then, when the next movie came out the next year, we would get a batch of people that would say, "Hey, I never got my movie." And we're thinking, "Okay, you never said anything about not getting your movie."
So that very first campaign, what it did is when people came in and they purchased from us, one, it would record who they were, and we had their information. It would tag them with what they purchased.
Lamar: Because before that, we were doing a thing where we would have a sale, we would have an offer, we're promoting a movie, we're promoting it out to everybody, including the people that already have it. So now we have a tag in the system of who actually purchased what. And then the next thing it did is it sent out a series of e-mails, and the first one would set the expectation and say, "You purchased, thank you. This is who we are and this is when your film should arrive." Then about a week later they would get another one saying, "Hey, by now you should have received it. If not, let us know." And that was big, because when someone didn't get it then we could make sure they got another copy in the mail and that they were happy with getting their actual product, and pleased.
And then we'd send another e-mail that will say, "Hey, by now you should have actually gotten a chance to actually view it. Let us know what you thought about it." And what that did is that gave us, really, an endless stream of testimonials that automatically will come in from people day after day. And if we did a big sale we would have a bunch of them come in at once, and I just would file those away into a folder in my e-mail, my Outlook, so that whenever I need a testimonial, whenever I was trying to show somebody and validate who we were in the proof of the impact that our films made, I'd just pull out a real e-mail from a real person. And I never had to call people, I never had to try to go out and drum up support, because those e-mails were automatically always coming in.
Samantha: Wow. And that was your first campaign?
Lamar: That was the very first campaign, so I was very excited.
Samantha: And did you build that yourself, or did you get help with that campaign? How did that work?
Lamar: Actually, that was the first campaign I built with the Kickstarter.
Lamar: So with the Infusionsoft training, yeah, you know, we . . . and it was funny, I tell people all the time, we got on the phone . . . Just to show how much I didn't know at that time, we got on the phone and the guy said, "Hey, I'm with Infusionsoft. What do you want to build?" And I'm like, "I don't know, what do you want to build?" Because I don't know anything. I don't know anything about marketing. I know that we have a blog, and how to get people to my blog and how to satisfy them with content. But I really didn't know how to sell, and how to cultivate that relationship.
And what I will add as well, outside of actual campaigns, Infusionsoft pretty much automatically paid for itself.
Samantha: Yeah, wow.
Lamar: And that's something I always tell people. If people, they're concerned about the pricing, they're getting into it . . . Before you get rich, just make it pay for itself so that you're not losing money.
Samantha: Yes. And how did it do that? How did it pay for itself?
Lamar: It was so simple, because with our films again, what would happen is you would be online, you would see a trailer to the film, you would see the website for the film, and you would go and buy it and leave. But the thing was, people that saw those films, they never really knew that we had other films to go along with them. So when we actually set up a real shopping cart with all the films, and then, in the Infusionsoft shopping cart we did the actual in-shopping cart upsale . . .
Lamar: . . . Where we could say, "Hey, if you purchased this movie, this is normally $20 but we'll give it to you for just $15 if you purchase this as well." And just by doing that and leveraging it as an offer, we went from always selling one movie to 80% of the time selling two movies.
Samantha: Wow. What kind of increase in revenue would that have been at the time? Do you know?
Lamar: Like I said, I think around that time is when we moved from $75k to, like, $135k. So it definitely pushed the business. But, for that first year in 2012, we still were part of the 10% club that only used 10% of Infusionsoft. Because we had the one campaign going for follow-up, we had the in-cart upsales, but other than that we were just sending out sporadic e-mails. And it really took learning more information about what Infusionsoft . . . Really, what happened, to tell you the truth, is I went to the conference for the first time.
Samantha: Yes, yes.
Lamar: When I went to the conference and I could see how other people used it, then it really opened up my imagination. Because I knew it did all these things, but I just didn't know exactly what it did and how they would apply to my business.
Lamar: So going to the conference really opened up my mindset, giving me a mindset shift to show me what was available, and gave me new ideas about campaigns I could implement.
Samantha: And what did you start doing then? Did you build progressively from there, or did you take away a whole heap of ideas and just start building it yourself? How did that work?
Lamar: One of the first things we did is that we realized that we were leaving money on the table. So we hired somebody to actually build out a more advanced campaign. So we hired GetUWired, who was located here . . .
Lamar: . . . Here in the United States, in Georgia, where we are. So they built out our initial lead magnet campaign, which was an eight-video web series that we eventually scaled back to four, because we tracked engagement and tested with it.
Samantha: And . . .
Lamar: But once we . . . I'm sorry, go ahead.
Samantha: Sorry. And GetUWired helped you with the ideas and the implementation is it, for that lead magnet?
Samantha: And to crystallize some of that thinking?
Lamar: Yeah, definitely. They helped with the ideas and implementation of that first eight part video series lead magnet. At the same time, they also did a website redesign for us. So we kind of stepped up the look and appeal of the brand. At the time, we brought on more writers to add more content to the site. We improved our graphics. So it really was a major overhaul for us in 2013. And that was the same time we said, "Okay we need to get serious about Infusionsoft." Because we knew we had this big engine behind the company, behind the website, but we knew we could no longer use just 10% of it.
Samantha: Yeah, yeah. And we will also, for our listeners, include a link to GetUWired in the show notes so they can also reach out and connect with those guys as well, because I know that they've got an incredible reputation and are very good in the industry, and particularly with their capability with Infusionsoft and websites and that kind of stuff. So we'll include that in the show notes.
So you built your lead magnet out. You're starting with some arguably, in the scheme of things, smaller campaigns. How did that progression grow? How much is Infusionsoft and automation a part of your business today?
Lamar: It's a huge part, because what happened is, by doing those initial campaigns and kind of getting our feet wet, then going to the conference and seeing how other people were using it, it really sparked different ideas and innovation in us. Then we joined Jermaine Griggs's automation clinic . . .
Samantha: Yeah, yeah.
Lamar: . . . And his pinnacle club. And then, just really watching it and working with other people, and finding other people in the community, what they were doing. It really helped us to figure out, "Okay, what else can we automate? Okay, how can we attract more people?" So we went to, I think in 2012, we probably captured about 10,000 people, which was huge for us at the time, to capture 10,000 e-mails over the course of that year, to now we capture, on average, we capture 12,000 in one month.
Samantha: Wow, that's incredible.
Lamar: It's all because we had the systems in place. Now, I build out the majority of our funnels. Not all of them. If it's a big job or a big task, I try to remove myself out of it so it doesn't take too long. So I work with a lot of other developers as well. But a lot of stuff, I'm in there doing and tinkering around with myself and setting up different things. But I feel confident just knowing that I have something that can handle it. I know, if I can think of it, most likely I can do it with Infusionsoft.
Samantha: I'd like to ask you a couple of things. One is, if you were starting out, and I think you've kind of given us an idea about where you're starting out, but knowing what you know today, if you were starting out with Infusionsoft, where would you start right away?
Lamar: If I was starting out with Infusionsoft, I would start with making sure I did a great job of capturing traffic. We were getting traffic, and we were paying for traffic. No matter how that traffic came, I would definitely use Infusionsoft to capture that traffic to make immediate offers, because that's something that we weren't doing at first. So when that traffic came onto the list, and then actually making sure we actually nurtured that traffic and presented offers to them down the line. Just like what we're doing now, being able to tag different people, being able to segment those audiences since we do marriage work, we actually have a large number of singles that come to the site as well, because they want to be married one day. So we segment based on whether you're married or single. And if you're single, are you divorced or have you never been married? Because those are two different conversations.
Lamar: And then segmenting based on why they're coming to the site. Is it because of communication issues? Are they looking for help on money related issues? Is it because of infidelity? So I definitely would make sure I capture those people. I would do a great job of segmenting, and then putting the correct offers in front of those people at the correct times.
Samantha: Wow. And so that's where you'd start at. And if there was one automation campaign that you think every business should have, and it may be answering the same question, it may not, what do you think it should be?
Lamar: It definitely should be a campaign . . . I would probably say the same thing, a campaign that actually brings people in, it captures them, and then nurtures them along the way. Because I think, with the nurture component, what it allows you a great job of doing is actually educating your audience on who you are, on what you sell, on what your USP is, and what is different about your product or service. And, really, preparing them for the sale.
Samantha: Wow, okay. And is there anything you think shouldn't be automated?
Lamar: That's a great question, because I know some people are afraid of automating too much. But what we found in our business is that automation actually brings us a lot closer to a lot of our clients, and to a lot of our readers and customers. So the first few messages they receive may be automated, but then they'll respond back to one of those messages, and then I'll respond back with a live e-mail to kind of close that loop. And during this time, they're just so excited. We've gotten so many e-mails from people responding to automation e-mails about how great our customer service is, about how small businesses never reach out or never talk to them the way we do. And I would definitely not be able to do that with myself and with Ronnie and with the small staff that we have.
Samantha: Yeah, yeah. And in terms of . . . Now that you're using Infusionsoft fairly comprehensively in your business, what would be your favorite part of it?
Lamar: My favorite part would definitely be . . . I mean, I have a favorite campaign, and it's a campaign that had an offer in it at one point, but we actually took the offer out of it because we just wanted it to be all about serving our customers and our readers. But my favorite campaign is actually an anniversary campaign that we built. What it was is . . .
Samantha: So tell us about that. What does it do?
Lamar: Sure. I was at the Infusionsoft conference one year, and I heard someone on stage talking about a birthday campaign, how they had this campaign that reaches out to customers on their birthdays. So I said, "What if we did the same thing but for anniversaries?" Because nobody does that. I may get one or two postcards on my birthday, but nobody remembers your wedding anniversary. So we said, "Let's set it up."
And then it really was special, because a few weeks later, Infusionsoft actually released in the marketplace a free birthday campaign.
Lamar: And all we had to do, because anniversary is actually a field in Infusionsoft, we actually had to just go in and change the birthday field to anniversary. So we already had a built-in campaign that we didn't even have to build from scratch. So we implemented that and we were capturing, through an Infusionsoft form, a survey we were doing, once you would opt into our primary lead magnet you would come to a survey. And a lot of people filled that survey out, and one of the fields was actually asking for their anniversary date. So when they get the campaign, the first e-mail goes out two weeks before their anniversary and it says, "Hey, here are ten questions or ten conversations you should have leading up to your anniversary."
Lamar: Then, seven days before their anniversary, they get another e-mail saying, "Hey, your anniversary is coming up. Here are a few different date night ideas, because we're tired of people going to just dinner and a movie. So we want to give you. . ."
Samantha: Yeah, great.
Lamar: " . . . Some original date night . . . "
Samantha: I think I might just sign up and give you my anniversary just to get those ideas.
Lamar: Exactly. So then, on the actual anniversary day, they get an e-mail from Ronnie and myself. It's kind of like an e-card. It has a picture of us and the year, and we're celebrating with them because we say, "Hey, you made it another year. That's no small feat. If you're in trouble, we have help and resources that can improve your relationship. And if you're doing good, we just want to pat you on the back and say 'Hey, we commend you. And our community needs you. Keep doing what you're doing.'"
And the feedback has been amazing. One of my favorite e-mails ever, I saved it and I keep it with me, is an e-mail we got from a reader in Nairobi, Kenya, who responded to the anniversary e-mail. She sent us a picture with roses and chocolate candy that her husband had given her that day, and just told us how much our articles and our website and our resources have kind of sowed into their marriage, and really allowed them to blossom and have a better relationship with each other.
Samantha: I've got more goosebumps in this interview than I think I've ever had. That's beautiful, and I can understand why that would be your favorite campaign. And for all of our listeners, you could think of a way to implement something like that for your business. You may not be in the business of helping people with their marriages and promoting positive images and relationships associated with marriages, but you can do that. You can create that connection with your customers and make that difference in their lives, which is just awesome. So that's got to be my favorite, favorite feature, that's for sure.
Lamar: If I could just add, it makes people feel special.
Lamar: It makes them feel special. So what we're actually going to do, the next progression of that campaign is we're actually going to call out our top 20%, using the Pareto principle. We're going to call out the top 20% percent of our customers that are in that bunch and then actually send them a text message on that day as well. And then actually send them some type of physical gift. So whether it's a gift card or . . . Something small, some small token of appreciation to kind of take it even to the next level. To say, "Hey, we appreciate you and we notice you and we support you and celebrate you."
Samantha: And actually, you've just reminded me of a question that I had for you, which is, do you use other tools to plug into Infusionsoft to help with some of that automation? Is that something you would use to something like send out cards for? How will you do that? Or, what tools do you use to connect with Infusionsoft at the moment?
Lamar: Yes, we do use other tools. We use PlusThis . . .
Lamar: . . . For a few different things, namely for connecting . . . Because we do different webinars and training, so we do use PlusThis to connect with GoToMeeting, and then kind of run campaigns based on who shows up for webinars, who doesn't show up for webinars, that type of thing. We use Fix Your Funnel for SMS conversations, and then what we do . . . Actually, I used it just this past weekend, because since we do speak a lot we'll provide a phone number that they can text and it has that conversation that allows us to capture information into Infusionsoft, and then automatically kicks off a campaign to deliver them whatever I promised and then kind of start an engagement program with them as well.
Samantha: Okay. And actually, you mentioned that you speak a lot. And your business has been so successful that I'm sure that you get asked to speak quite frequently, but do you now consult on your business or Infusionsoft? Where do you speak and how has that kind of success manifested in terms of future opportunities and future things that you're doing?
Lamar: Sure. It's been fun, and it's been steady growth, so we're excited about it. Originally, we were already speaking a lot around marriage and relationships anyway. But now, we've begun to progress into my other passion, which is assisting entrepreneurs, and especially small business owners. And even more specifically, those people who have that small business and they're really trying to get it going, they have a great product or service, but don't know how to get it out there or sell more of it online. Or they hear people talking about social media and they have no idea what in the world they're talking about. They just see it as a time suck.
So what I've realized is that the three biggest buckets I see people having issues with when I speak with entrepreneurs are traffic, sales, and profit. So I've actually created a free Facebook group. I invite everyone who's listening to join. It's on Facebook. It's called "Traffic, Sales, and Profit with Lamar Tyler." And in addition to that, I'm creating a self-study system that I'll be releasing soon. It's actually in beta now. I have some people in that program. And what it does, it just lays a foundation that I find most people are missing. Because they're focused all the time on building a great website, like we did. They may have traffic to it, they've got a great product or service, but they just don't know how to get it in front of people. And then when they get it in front of people, how to actually convert those sales. That's what we want to help them do.
Samantha: Okay, fantastic. And where would people go to find out about that? Is that lamartyler.com? Is that your site to go to for that?
Lamar: Yes, definitely. They can visit my personal website, LamarTyler.com. And like I said, to join the Facebook group, it's an amazing community on Facebook of entrepreneurs helping each other. They can search on Facebook for " Traffic, Sales, and Profit with Lamar Tyler."
Samantha: Okay, so "Traffic, Sales, and Profit with Lamar Tyler" and LamarTyler.com are the best places to reach out to you. Do you frequent Twitter at all? Can people reach out to you there, or are you more a Facebook guy?
Lamar: I'm on both, but I'm definitely more Facebook. I think people are either one or the other. I think either Team Facebook or Team Twitter, but I have a presence on Twitter and Instagram, just @LamarTyler. I'm definitely on Facebook more, but if you're a Twitter person or Instagram, you can reach to me on either one of those places and I'll see it as well.
Samantha: And so, in terms of the beta program . . . Or, beta program, sorry. I'm talking Australian English here, not U.S. English. The beta program, when will your tutorials and your self-study program be launching live? Do you have a date for that now, or should people sign up at lamartyler.com and they'll be notified when? How does that work?
Lamar: Sure. Just sign up on my site, lamartyler.com. Join the Facebook group, we'll definitely keep you abreast of updates. But right now we're looking at late July. Between late July and early August. We have some people going through it now, and we're taking their feedback because we want to make sure we really help people with where they need the help and will overcome the challenges that they're really facing in their businesses.
Samantha: Fantastic. All right, that's terrific. I've got to . . . You do speak at conferences a fair bit, both on marriage and on business now.
Samantha: Do you have any events coming up that people might be able to connect with you at, if they're attending or they might be thinking about attending?
Lamar: The best way to . . .
Samantha: You probably just finished. . .
Lamar: Yeah, the best way . . . And actually, we've been speaking so much, it's hard for me to even forecast what's in the . . . I really do it week by week. I just spoke four times in the last five days, so my mind is kind of on edge, like, "Okay, this is what we have to do this week" kind of basis. But the best way, definitely, to keep up is either on Facebook. . .
Lamar: . . . Or Twitter. On social media. Because I'm always sharing on those outlets where we'll be . . .
Samantha: Where you're going to be.
Lamar: . . . What crowd I'm talking to and what I'll be speaking on. Definitely.
Samantha: Okay, fantastic. Thank you. Now, this is one of my favorite questions, and probably one of the trickiest. If you had to start all over again . . . So imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and everything you've built to date is gone and you know no one. You still have the experience and knowledge that you currently have, and you have the pressures of everyday life, like paying a mortgage, feeding your family, all of that stuff is still real. But all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Lamar: Wow, what would I do in the next seven days? I would put up a website, a, with social media channels. So that's just a few hours out of that first day. I would create content for that website. I would create a series of videos using my webcam on the laptop so that I could actually create and package our product, and then I would the last of that money to push traffic into the website, to capture people in towards that product.
Samantha: And what would be your preferred choice to push that traffic? How would you source that traffic?
Lamar: I would use Facebook. Facebook definitely my favorite right now. So I would definitely use Facebook to drill down, get granular with who I was targeting and going after, and go from there.
Samantha: Fantastic. So really, that's a roadmap for people in the next seven days that are in that very position. Thank you, that's a brilliant idea. I think I'll take some notes from that. And there's lots to learn from that. So, thank you so much, Lamar.
I know you shared so much with us today. It's been an incredible interview. I really appreciate your time, and your openness with us and with our audience. I really love your passion and Ronnie's passion. I think it's making a difference in the lives of your community, and in the community generally. I think that messages such as successful African-American marriages is something that we need to promote more and more and more.
So one of the things I would ask our listeners to do is to connect with Lamar on lamartyler.com, reach out on the Facebook group, and also go to the website, understand . . . Increase your education about African-American marriages and the community, because it is a beautiful community. And it just sounds like you're doing wonderful things there, and I really want to help promote that and ask our listeners to become more and more familiar with that. Because I think it's creating a more connected world, and I really appreciate the work that you're doing there, which is fantastic. So, thank you so much for your time today, Lamar. Really appreciate it.
Lamar: Thank you.
Samantha: And good luck on the next stage of your business. I have to have you back when you're at the 1.5, 2.5, 10.5 million mark.
Lamar: Yes. Definitely. And thank you for just providing this platform. Like you said, I invite everyone to come check out the site, whether you're black and married with kids. We have people always ask, they say, "Well, I'm white and I'm married and I've got kids" or, "I'm single, and I don't have kids." Everyone is welcome. There's information everyone can learn from.
Lamar: Just thank you so much for having me on your show today.
Samantha: Thanks, Lamar.
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