Craig Garber: It’s a complicated story, but…

I’m Craig Garber and I help business owners do two things:

  1. I build practical, effective marketing systems that get you more new customers and clients than your business can practically handle…
  2. I increase your net profits and net cash-flow, by increasing the value of these new clients – often, dramatically…
  3. Generally, lead conversion rate is also increased significantly, and lead acquisition cost is therefore lowered, as well…

I do this creating and helping you implement unique, personalized lead generation and marketing strategies… using compelling sales messages that push your customers emotional buy-buttons. To date, I’ve worked in over 104 industries with more than 300 clients. I seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to “reactionary psychology” – understanding why people do and don’t react to things – especially consumers. My clients are:

  • Primarily business-owners in the service, consulting, on online e-commerce business….
  • And, entrepreneurs in the information publishing industry – especially in niche “guru” businesses…

Now some background on me: The story I’m about to tell you is a little lengthy.  But at least, by the time you’re finished… you’ll know who you’re dealing with.

Which is important — especially nowadays. So first, let me tell you how it all started…

I got involved in direct-response marketing back in March of 2000. At the time, I was living in Plantation, Florida (just outside of Ft. Lauderdale) and running my financial planning firm.

Craig Garber & kids

Just after I started in direct-response marketing. That’s me, with Sam, Casey, and Nick.

And when I say, “running my financial planning firm,” I pretty much mean “running it into the ground.” See, although I was very good at what I did, and honest as the day is long… I was like most small business owners, when it comes to marketing: I didn’t have a clue.

I grew up in The Bronx, in a violence-filled, rage-filled household — the oldest son of a toll collector and a local savings bank customer service rep. And of course, coming from that kind of a background… I knew absolutely nothing about business.

The only thing I heard while growing up, even remotely related to money, was that “rich people are bad…” “money is evil…” and all the other kinds of cliched and highly inaccurate phrases people who grow up in blue collar homes are probably familiar with.

But as you probably know… taking advice about success and money from a state civil service worker with a gambling problem, is like asking a man how it feels to be pregnant. Even if by random luck… some of what he says might be true… absolutely none of it is based on experience.

Out of college I became a CPA and soon realized the big corporate world wasn’t a place for me. I was uncomfortable with the rigid structure and the politics, and frankly, because of my background, I was ill equipped to handle either, even if I had been comfortable with it.

In fact, at that point, my coping skills were pretty limited, in general. I was like a lost sheep with no shepherd to guide him. All I knew was, this wasn’t for me.

And so, in 1989, I got into sales.

My first sales job was working as a headhunter for Robert Half, placing accountants, controllers, and CFO’s. Great organization, but the sales training at that time, and at that particular branch I worked for, was limited to “dialing for dollars.”

You were constantly chasing the money. Either calling potential employers and pitching them specific job candidates for hiring opportunities they might have… or chasing down your existing job candidates and hoping they’d be honest with you about what was going on with their job search… or trying to find new candidates who might be open to new job opportunities.

Reeling in the bass, off my dock.

But this, too, wasn’t for me. For starters, ultimately, you were selling a pound of flesh. And the lies that are inherent in this business, were too much for me to stomach.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a wimp and I can run with the big dogs in any business or social setting…

I just don’t like lying.

Because in the end, everything always comes out in the wash, anyway.

On the other hand, when your relationships are open and honest… you can pretty much work anything out. There’s just no reason to lie about things — it makes no sense.

Plus, once you start lying, you typically have to come up with other lies to cover up that first lie, so you can keep everything else congruent. And the truth is, I’m just not smart enough to keep track of all these different stories going on, at the same time.

I can barely manage one reality, let alone multiple realities.

My mind can’t think like that. I’m more of a practical, common sense kind of guy living in the here and now.

Anyway, I also somehow believed, there had to be a better way of selling. One where you weren’t always chasing business down.

Because even though, at the time, I knew nothing about “positioning”… I knew a lot about human nature. Enough to understand, when you’re the one doing the chasing… the other guy gets to call the shots.

A couple of years into this, a guy who knew me from my days working as a CPA, called me and asked if I wanted to get into commercial insurance sales.

I liked the challenge of selling a product that was more technical in nature… I liked the annual recurring commissions… and I liked that you could become a specialist in a particular niche or industry. Also, some of the commissions on these policies were pretty large, and that didn’t hurt things, either.

So, I accepted his offer.

One thing I didn’t consider prior to accepting his offer, was… the kind of sales training I would have. The guy who recruited me was so gung-ho about the insurance industry in general, I got sucked in by his enthusiasm, and sort of just “assumed” things would work out.

Well, you know what happens when you assume… and that’s exactly what happened to me.

Because guess how they got new clients?

You don’t know?

O.K., let me tell you…

Dialing for dollars!

Pretty ironic, isn’t it?

Yep, it sure is.

Plus, it seemed like most of the guys working at this insurance agency were older, and already had a ton of contacts in town, who would feed them leads. The insurance business tends to be like this.

So, to get ahead, I started reading sales books and taking sales courses on my own. I knew I needed to up my game, and this is when I first started learning about selling and closing.

With my wife, Anne. Lahaina, Maui, Summer 1998

I also got a boost in confidence at that time, when I met my wife. She really believed in me and encouraged me to pursue whatever kind of learning I needed to do, to better myself.

I was coming off a very nasty divorce and had two young sons, and needless to say, life was very stressful for me, at that time.

For the first time in my life, I started to understand that being ambitious (which I’ve always been), can actually make you more money – if… you know how to apply that ambition in the right direction.

Sounds silly that at 31, I was just realizing ambition can make you money, does’t it?

But really… how else was I to know this?

I’d never met anyone in my life, who sort of sat me down and explained this to me. And up until that point in time, I’d never had any kind of a role model or a mentor. Nor did I actually “know” anyone who was successful.

I was just one of those guys who got by on his own wits, and somehow managed to survive living in the jungle of my house… and the jungle of The Bronx.

Don’t get me wrong – New York City is a wonderful place, and I still visit it almost every year, but… it can swallow you alive, if you’re not careful.

So, I had some street smarts… and I was reasonably intelligent… but until that point in time, I just never had any idea that you can combine the two of them… you can really make something out of your life.

When you’re always living in fear… it’s hard to see beyond that fear. Beyond whatever it’s going to take to escape that fear.

But for the first time in my life, I had nothing to be afraid of, so I was able to take care of myself and focus on what was good for me.

Hey, better to learn this at 31, than never, right?

You bet.

New York City is a great place… as long as you know what you’re doing :)

Now back to selling insurance…

You know the old saying, how… people come into your life for one of three purposes: for a reason… for a season… or for a lifetime?

Well, after a couple of years selling insurance, I realized, the reason this insurance job came to me, was to introduce me to my wife (she was a client of mine), and so I started looking for other opportunities.

I didn’t like the fact that I was still chasing business down, and dialing for dollars was degrading to me.

NOT because you were on the phones, but because you were on the phones and offering your buyers nothing.

“Can I quote on your insurance to see if I can save you some money?” is so needy! It’s also about as compelling as asking someone if you can wash the floor mats in their car.

MAYBE… if you’re lucky… and if timing is right… they’d say yes.

At least that’s what you were hoping for.

But “hope”… and “luck”… aren’t very good business strategies, are they?

No, they’re not.

So I started looking around and one thing that seemed appealing, was selling financial services.

See, one thing became apparent to me: if you actually understand the intricacies of your product, and you were enthusiastic about it… and if you understand how to solve your client’s problems… then you’re automatically a MUCH better salesman than your competition.

And since insurance and financial products aren’t very straight-forward… the fact that I understood these products and could explain them in very practical and “matter of fact” way, and in plain and simple English… usually gave me a big edge when dealing with clients.

Anyway, I started speaking with a few of the larger financial planning firms down in South Florida, about working with them. They loved my background as a CPA, and add to this I’d now had 5 years of sales experience under my belt… it wasn’t hard to get offers from any of them.

But this one company, in particular, I really liked. Not because of the company itself (they were all pretty similar), but because I really connected with the guy who ran the office. I don’t necessarily think he was like a father figure… but for the first time in my life, I felt like I would have a career where someone would mentor me, look out for me, and take a personal interest in my success.

I felt that with Tom’s help, I’d get the kind of sales training I needed, to achieve the kind of success I wanted, and deserved.

So, even though the office was 35 miles away (a solid hour plus, in morning and evening traffic), I happily accepted a job working at this organization.

They promised me a proper sales training program, and compensation potential was awesome.

So, Anne and I go and get married… we spend two weeks in Hawaii on our honeymoon (this is 1994)… and I come back to the office on a Monday morning all pumped up to start my new career!

And what happened?

Classic Craig Garber stuff: Apparently, some time during those last two weeks, when I was on my honeymoon in Hawaii… corporate comes in out of nowhere, and restructures their entire system. They demote Tom, after something like 15 years of running a very successful branch operation… and they bring in some corporate tool to run the office, instead.

So now, my hopes and dreams of finally working with a strong mentor and leader are immediately crushed. Tom’s now a producer just like I am, and he’s got to go out and produce to feed his own family.

And since he’s now effectively competing with me… of course he wasn’t in a position to give me any kind of guidance or advice.

On top of everything else, it turns out their “sales training” was…

Yes! Dialing for dollars!

Holy shit, this is almost unbelievable, isn’t it?

It was like a bad penny that kept turning up.

No matter what I did or where I worked, no one seemed to know how to get business, other than getting on the phone and begging for it.

Talk about letting all the air out of my sails…

I went from being filled with passion, to being riddled with anxiety, literally overnight.

Because even though I was earning nothing, I still had to make those child support payments, and… because my sons were being neglected by my ex, I was also now in the throes of a full-blown custody battle.

To say my life at that point was filled with stress, is an understatement.

Remember, this was 1994 – when the courts still automatically placed kids with mothers, regardless what was going on – so we had a hell of a fight ahead of us.

Today, my sons are young men. Anne, me, Casey and Nick.

(I eventually did get custody of my sons, who are both grown young men today.  And… I’ve been with my wife since January of 1993, so… this part of the story has a happy ending.)

Anyway, I worked my ass off “dialing for dollars.”

I had the largest phone bills in an entire office filled with financial planners. The telephone sales pitch was, once you had the business-owner on the phone, you asked if they would like to get a free booklet about “Estate Planning,” mailed out to them.

And in case you’re not familiar with estate planning, it’s about as interesting as belly-button lint.

Most people said “Yes,” just to get me off the phone, and… I can’t blame them.

On top of that, the booklet that was mailed out (which cost me $7 bucks a pop, including postage) was absolutely God-AWFUL. It was some corporate mumbo-jumbo that no one would be able to understand, presented as stoically and as un-empathetically as a letter from the IRS might be.

Needless to say, the appointment ratios from these calls were VERY low. One out of 20 people would be interested in this free booklet. And then, MAYBE you’d get one out of ten appointments of these people… and MAYBE one out of every 5 of these people you met with (spread out over a 100 mile radius all across South Florida, mind you), would allow you to come back for a second appointment.

(If I told you how many times I drove over 60 miles one way, only to get a “no show”… you’d be astounded.)

Management’s answer to this, of course, was “make more phone calls.” Which is like telling someone who’s already eating only 800 calories a day, and still not losing weight, to eat less.

Makes no sense, right?

No, it doesn’t.

One thing I’ve learned, is when you’re in a rut and you’ve dug yourself into a hole you can’t get out of… most people tend to think the answer is to “dig faster.” That’s just human nature.

But it’s been my experience that the better answer is to stop digging. To put down your shovel… and climb up out of the hole and try something else.  Something entirely different.

However… my experience wasn’t “management’s” experience.  So, you’d sit in these meetings with “management” during your weekly training, and they’d come up with some revolutionary concept like, “Hey, you need to back into your goals.”

Week-in and week-out, the conversations would go like this:

“Look, Craig — if you’re closing one out of every 5 people you meet with… and one out of every ten people you send reports to, lets you meet with them… and you need to make 500 calls to send out three booklets, then all you need to do is make 27,000 cold calls a week and then you’ll hit your numbers.”

Huh?

And I’m not kidding about this, either.  This is how things went, like clockwork.

I’d sit there and say to myself, “Surely… something has GOT to be wrong with me. Am I the ONLY one in this room who thinks this is a crock of shit?”

Yes, I was. The inmates were running the asylum there, and as a result, I knew this wasn’t going to be the place I retired from.

Casey, Nick and Sam.

Having grown up in a home atmosphere filled with fear, where you walked on eggshells constantly… I sure as hell wasn’t going to work in a place like this, as well.

So after four and a half years of banging away at this, like waves slowly wearing down rocks… I somehow built up a halfway decent practice… and I set off on my own.

I didn’t have a ton of business, but… my commissions would be higher, I’d get to call my own shots, and I’d never again have to be forced to listen to someone who made no sense and had no sense, tell me how to run my business.

I’d been doing “OK” for myself — better than working for the man, but I wasn’t exactly making a killing, either. Sure, I had a couple of good years, here and there, but they were born out of hard work, nothing else. You know, not letting things get pushed aside… being great with follow-up… and providing fantastic service.

But still, I had NO predictability in my business. No reliable way of attracting new clients.

What helped me was… even though I didn’t have tons of clients, the people I did work with, tended to give me ALL their business. So for example, initially I would come in the door offering to help them with either their business succession planning, or their family tax planning… and I’d get paid a consulting fee for this.

And then… they’d also wind up buying large life insurance policies from me. Next, they’d put LOTS of money under management with me… and then they’d buy disability and long-term care insurance, as well as other financial products… if it made sense for what they were looking to do.

I was an eager beaver and a very trustworthy guy, and that’s how I’ve always been.

Even now, I have members who subscribed to Seductive Selling – my offline marketing newsletter back in April 2006 – when I first started publishing it – and many are still with me, today. (Note: I stopped publishing Seductive Selling after 10 years, in December of 2015.)

Many of these members own every single marketing program I have ever released, and have spent hours and days with me.  Some, on the phone… and some, in-person, working on a variety of consulting projects.

I’ve always had the philosophy that, if you just take care of your clients… they’ll take care of you. And thank goodness it’s worked out like that, without a hitch.

The trick is, you just have to learn how to attract and qualify your clients or customers front, in the first place.  This way, only the clients who share this same philosophy, are the ones you wind up working with.

Make sense?

Good.

Life’s a LOT more fun once you can start generating qualified leads. With Anne at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, in Orlando.

So now let’s get back to where we first started, with me running my financial planning business into the ground…

I knew how to convert new prospects into clients – that wasn’t a problem. Understanding how to press people’s emotional buy-buttons, at this point… was something that came natural to me.

And as I said, I also knew how to take care of, service, and look after my clients, as well. In fact, I still get Christmas cards from a few of my old financial planning clients — even though I walked away from all my clients back in 2003!

And by the way, by “service,” I don’t mean “kissing their ass.” I mean, giving honest answers to honest questions – and sometimes, challenging them by asking if they’re really being honest with themselves… and asking themselves the right questions.

Because as you know, you can’t get a right answer from a wrong question.

And thank goodness, I still operate the same way today. But I’m even better at it now, simply because I’m older and I have more experience and much more confidence.

But… the one thing I was missing back then… the one mystery I’d never discovered, was how to GET new clients.

Well, the door to that mystery suddenly opened, in March of 2000. Actually, two things happened.

First, I stumbled across an ad in a trade magazine offering me a Life Insurance Selling System. The ad said something like, “you’ll learn how to get qualified leads come to you.”

Although I believed this was possible, I’d never actually seen something like this.

At this point, it was still a myth to me – like the elusive Unicorn, or Bigfoot.

So with “healthy skepticism,” I immediately ordered this program and that’s pretty much how everything else started.

The program was based on emotional direct-response marketing principles, and it opened SO many doors for me, I didn’t know where to start at the time.

So, I pretty much walked through all of them at once.

The second thing that happened, was… I began devouring direct marketing materials and writing sales copy, like a fat man devouring pork ribs down at your local Chinese buffet.

I was literally up night after night into the wee hours, studying… 7 days a week.

I remember reading, writing, and studying, until 2 or 3 am, every single night… and then, waking up a few hours later and racing down to my financial planning office, to implement what I’d just learned.

I tore through all the direct-marketing, copywriting, success, and direct-mail books I could find. John Caples, David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz, Joe Sugarman, Frank Bettger, Victor Schwab, Maxwell Maltz, Dick Benson, Ted Nicholas, Rosser Reeves, George Haylings, Maxwell Sackheim, and more!

I began re-writing, by hands, great classic ads written by Gary Bencivenga, Claude C. Hopkins, Eugene Schwartz, Christian Godefroy, and the holy grail of copywriters still alive at that time, Gary Halbert.

There were some nights I literally fell asleep with a pen in my cramped had, resting on my notebook… sprawled across my living room floor.

But that was O.K., because suddenly… after a while… I began seeing results!

Leads were actually coming to me! I wound up selling insurance using direct mail, in five different states throughout the southeast, all out of my little office in Plantation, Florida.

The big “a-ha” moment for me was discovering two-step lead generation – and learning how to attract leads, instead of having to chase them down. From there, I learned about positioning. And today… writing copy, lead generation, positioning, and creating compelling USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) are my specialty.

In addition, understanding how to consistently charge high prices, and selling high-ticket goods and services (which is actually a natural by-product of applying all these strategies I just mentioned)… is also something I’ve proven to be good with.

But if you think about it… these are all the things I was STARVING for, all along!

It’s kind of like being the nerdy guy who couldn’t even talk to a woman until he was in his mid-thirties… and then, suddenly… you learn how to attract and connect with as many women as you possibly can. A lot of guys in this situation, would probably become absolutely obsessed with going out with as MANY women as they possibly could, because of going without, for so long.

And I think that’s what happened with me.

I became obsessed with this information and applied it every which way till Sunday, in every situation possible.

I also got to spend about 6 months working directly with Gary Halbert himself (long story for another day), which was obviously a tremendous learning experience. Halbert promoted me at one of his seminars, where I picked up my first of many copywriting clients, and the rest, as they say… is history.

As I said earlier, at this point in time, I’ve worked with over 300 clients in more than 104 different industries, all around the world.

I love the creative process of sitting down and coming up with ways of attracting qualified leads, and then developing multiple sales funnels that allow these leads to experience the best you have to offer.

And, I have several unique, and quite successful ways of following up with your unconverted leads… that wind up converting a significant percentage of them into high-paying customers and clients, much sooner than any normal industry standards.

Which winds up putting bushels of money into your pockets, you’d otherwise be missing out on.

That’s the premise of my book, How To Make Maximum Money With Minimum Customers. It reveals the exact strategies I used, to generate almost $600,000 of revenue in one year, from a virtual handful of customers, and with a TOTAL online list size (buyers and non-buyers) of less than 5,000 names.

What makes this even more unusual, is… I accomplished this without spending one thin dime on advertising, and virtually all this money was earned at 90% profit. And… I did this with only one full time employee besides myself. (And that employee was my wife, actually.)

On top of the world — quite literally. Me and Sam on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Today, I work with a handful of new copywriting clients each year. I spend much of my time publishing and consulting with clients on their marketing and on their own copywriting. And, I also work in niche industries – typically creating qualified lead generation programs, integrating both online and offline aspects of business, and using both online and offline media.

In 2005, we moved from South Florida to a beautiful lake-house in a nice quiet former citrus town, just outside of Tampa, Florida. And while life is FAR from perfect, it’s getting better every day.

My wife and kids have always been there for me, and this has been one of my strongest assets.

If there’s anything you find particularly interesting, and you’d like to talk about a project you have in mind… or about doing some consulting work together, just e-mail my assistant Anne: Anne at kingofcopy.com or… call us and leave a message at 813-333-2463. All calls and messages will be promptly returned.

And, if you think this is a fairly interesting story, or you want to hear all the details about how I wound up working with Gary Halbert, then check out my book, where I share all the really dirty, dysfunctional details of my life and how I somehow managed to still make it from Point A to Point B.

You can order it from us and you’ll also get Free Shipping and a Lifetime Guarantee.

Or, you can also order it from amazon.com. It’ll cost you a few bucks more, but if you feel more comfortable with amazon, then by all means, have at it.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to read this information, and hopefully you and I will get to chat some time.

I wish you great health and loads of success, always.

Craig Garber

Christmas in Florida :-)

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